Many a terrible thing's been going on lately (when doesn't it?), but the immigration debate, perhaps, bothers me the most.
Maybe it strikes close to home because I'm from California. I went to a high school where the Latino students outnumbered the whites at least 2:1. In my lifetime I saw the population of California turn to 51% "minority." (And what a stink it caused!)
It also hits close to home for me today, where "home" means the Twin Cities. Recently the tiny Minnesotan city of Lino Lakes passed a controversial resolution in its city council, to the effect of not spending city money on translating city documents into languages other than English.
Lino Lakes, however, is some dinky-ass quasi-suburb on the outskirts of the metro area. In 2000, it was at least 95% English-speaking. Even if things have changed, there seems to be no need for such a measure. There are no expenses to printing said documents, probably because the majority of Lino Lakes is as whitebread as they come.
It's a conservative test. If they can pass it somewhere, they have an example to point to when it comes time to expand their English-only movement. The stakes have been raised.
It's part of a larger battle, to oppress, exploit, tyrannize, and generally destroy the hated brown-skins. I've seen it all before. "Why do we have billboards in Spanish?" "Why can't they learn to speak English?" "They take all our jobs!" "They're all having babies on welfare!"
I'm sure most people are aware of the Arizona law SB1070 that recently went into effect (with some federal injunctions - the proverbial 3" of knife pulled out). What most people may not be aware of is that there is an arm to this law that essentially attacks day laborers, making it a crime to hire or be hired from a vehicle that is in any way impeding traffic. So, right there, you have an economic front.
It's also illegal to "conceal, harbor, or shield" an illegal immigrant, which strikes me as awfully familiar, but maybe that's only because I had a "liberal" education.
Oh, that reminds me - there are attacks, again in Arizona, on "ethnic studies" in school.
Really the point the right-wing populists are making is that it is not ok to be in America and describe yourself as anything but an American. "We only want you if you jump through our hoops, submit to our re-education, and live according to our customs."
What is it Malcom X said? “History is a people's memory, and without a memory, man is demoted to the lower animals.”
It's clear how conservatives think of Latinos. There is a refusal to treat them like equals, to allow them their own history and culture. A refusal even to allow them to scrape by through working on the fringe of society - ironic, considering this is a country wherein we are "supposed" to "pull ourselves up by our bootstraps." Supposedly our white grandfathers did everything necessary to help our families pull through, but the old Mexican man selling oranges at the side of the road doesn't count for that, he's "stealing" a job, he's ahistorical, he's inhuman, even. And shit on the kids who depend on this man for support.
Arizona is even looking to ban such children from citizenship. That hard-line right-wing that so insists on the sacred immutability of the United States Constitution is willing to look the other way so long as they can attack the enemy they so detest.
It's pathetic. I still remember the mother of an ex-girlfriend of mine, back in California, a woman so loving and willing to take me into her own home, working overnights at the Swanson packaging plant. Her husband, gruff but no less open-hearted, crippled with arthritis after a lifetime of labor. They crossed illegally, contributed their share, raised three brilliant children, all of whom are college graduated (one at least from an ivy league) or at least college-bound. These are parents who are devoted to family and to God - ostensibly the same God that the right-wing supposedly worships.
But if it were up to this right-wing - and I'm not even talking about the extreme right, now, you understand - this family would have been split up, or deported, years ago. The world would indeed be a darker place if not for this family of immigrants.
It would seem, indeed, that the border does cross us.
Immigration reform isn't enough. We need an immigration revolution - we need a solution that shows just how obsolete the idea of national borders has become. Continues to become. This is going to be a turbulent becoming, because it will at the same time destroy what we see as the stability of our status quo. The immigration debate is a part of that, a part that proves how quick we are to blame people whose circumstances are forced on them. Forced by our lawmakers, who have pushed a one-sided agenda of globalization and free-market slavery. "Illegal" immigrants are victims of the same bureaucracy that entangles us all, strangles our livelihoods, keeps us from good jobs, and destroys our potential. A little equalization - scholarships for the children of immigrants, for example - can go a long way, but for every single gain the right-wing hollers and howls and tries to drag in average-joe workers.
It works. Why? Because we want some solution to the economic crisis (created, may I remind you, by our politicians and businessmen). We want jobs, we want less crime, we want a stable and dependable society.
Racism, however, is not the solution we seek.