Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Race, Politics, & Immigration

With the new law in Arizona which allows local police personnel to act as immigration agents many people fear that it will lead to widespread arrest and detention of Latinos legal or illegal. While this is a valid concern it really misses the whole point of the law. Except for some small town sheriffs seeking to use this for political or personal gain most local police have their hands full with the crimes they already enforce and will not have the inclination or desire to add this onerous duty to their already busy schedules. So if there is little chance of real enforcement of the law then why propose it and sign it into law?

What we are seeing in Arizona is similar to the sundown laws in the south during Jim Crow. The real purpose of these laws is not to be enforced but to intimidate. They are designed to say to all Latinos not just in Arizona but all over the southwest that we can mess with you anytime we want so don’t get comfortable. Historically whenever some whites have felt disenfranchised they have enacted these draconian and odorous laws to inflict psychological damage on those who they feel are the culprits. Do we really think that most local police will stop investigating crime and begin to focus on illegals? No, this law has broader implications and is a heavy-handed attempt to put Latinos back in their place. Don’t think for a minute that there won’t be some cowboy sheriff with a posse that won’t try to make some local political hay out of this, but overall police will continue to pursue local crimes.

I believe because this is an election year and the media can’t seem to get enough of the angry white voter, the politicians in Arizona decided to pander to the worst of our angels and send a message to that socialist in the White House that we have no intentions of just sitting back while our precious America is overrun with this brown tide of illegals that you seem incapable or unwilling to stop. I think everyone agrees that we need to secure our borders. Every country is entitled to know who comes in and who goes out of its borders, but let’s not use this as an excuse to marginalize a whole race of people. It seems important to some folks to be able to intimidate other folks but that solution has never been useful in bringing about positive change. It only seems to allow chaos and confusion to replace dialog and mutual understanding.

I find it interesting that there has been no major outcry from the libertarians or the tea-partiers concerning the fact that a government official can stop Americans and ask for their “papers”. Hell, I didn’t even know we had papers in America. I can’t imagine what I would do if a policeman stopped me on the street and asked for my papers. In my opinion the only way this could be even remotely constitutional is if we were all required to carry papers to verify our right to be in this country. Could you imagine the outcry from these patriotic white Americans if they were forced to carry papers to verify their being in America? You see it is ok for “those people” to have to prove their citizenship, but not those pure blooded Americans. When I heard about this law my first thought was did I accidentally be teleported back to an episode of “Hogan’s Heroes” and we now had Sgt. Schultz guarding our southern border?

I believe we must do more to secure our borders and for those who have to face this issue daily I sympathize with their frustration. I agree with those who are calling for a larger or even military presence on the border to stem the tide of undocumented. But the border is only one facet of the problem. We have millions of people who are residing in this country right now. What are we to do with them? What about the businesses that make it profitable for illegals to cross the border and work here? Do we ignore their role in this? Despite the decision of the folks in Arizona this is a complicated issue and one that requires more than a knee-jerk reaction. The time is overdue for real comprehensive immigration reform. We need reform that will recognize the complexities of this issue and balances the rights of current Americans with those of the immigrants. I hate to burst the bubble of the wing-nuts but you were once an immigrant in this country yourself.

It is vitally important that we implement immigration reform. We need a bill that strengthens our borders and protects this nation, but that also makes it simpler for good people to become Americans. - Dave Reichert

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

You’re Surprised

Hell and destruction are never full, so the eyes of man are never satisfied. – Proverbs 27:20

I find it amazing the degree of surprise so many people are feeling while witnessing the level vitriol being spewed at President Barack Obama the first non-white president in our nation’s history. Who thought that a country who only less than 50 years ago allowed black folks the right to participate in our democracy and still have not fully integrated non-whites into our society would quietly accept this change with open arms. It never fails to amaze me how dumbfounded white folks are when they have to face the racism of their fellow citizenry. I remember the horror of my white friends as they watched the dogs, water hoses, and bombings televised on their television sets as they were forced to accept the hatred that has permeated America for centuries.

The thing that surprises me is that racism is now being used to make a profit for those who are willing to traffic in it. At least in the old days the leaders were true believers and not hucksters marketing gold, books, and other trinkets. Unfortunately, today there are plenty of folks who are willing to exploit the true believers hatred for short-term political and personal gain. Not only do we have individuals willing to profit from the spewing of hatred but also major media outlets in which to disseminate it. My question is how do you win national elections if you continue to alienate persons of color? The demographics of this country do not lie. The days of white majorities controlling elections on a national scale are over and no matter how much the tea-party protests they are not coming back.

My guess is that the only way this strategy can work is by marginalizing the non-whites while you play up the fears of whites to the point that it becomes an us versus them scenario. This strategy may have worked 50 years ago, but today even the white population is too diverse to accept this obvious ploy. How many times have white supremists attempted to start the dreaded race war by providing provocative acts to rally whites only to not be able to find enough takers to materialize. It is difficult to find revolutionaries when you have all the money, systems and power. Despite the claims of the tea party and their ilk that white folks are being discriminated against in this country by this black president and his extremist white sidekicks there appears to be few outside the movement who are taking these claims seriously. And who could argue with the numbers. Nearly twice as many whites as non-whites graduate from college, 91% of the richest 1% of the population is white, and the average net worth of white families is 10 times higher than black families.

There is fear in this country today among whites that they are losing their wealth and it is not completely unfounded. The problem is not that non-whites are stealing wealth from whites. The problem is that rich whites have stolen wealth from middle-class whites. We have witnessed the greatest transfer of wealth in our nation’s history and that wealth has moved from the middle income brackets to the top income brackets. The wealth that middle-class families once had in their homes, stocks, and retirement plans has evaporated. The wealth was not taken by non-white home invasion robbers; no it was taken by greedy white men in suits. You have to admit though that they are good, they have turned attention away from their pillaging of the national treasury by putting the focus on folks who are barely making a living in this country.

Whether it is Arizona or Washington, DC the game is the same. Despite many volumes being written by white authors about the corporate and individual thefts of our economy by their white brethren we still have the racist rants of the tea-partiers and their corporate overlords distracting the debate from the real culprits to some “bogeymen” who are not like us. If we as a nation following this corporate theft of historic proportions cannot recognize once and for all that we are not each other’s enemy but are all at risk from the rich and powerful then we will surely deserve our fate.

The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie -- deliberate, contrived and dishonest -- but the myth -- persistent, persuasive and unrealistic - John F. Kennedy

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Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Ugly American

In my class and place, I did not recognize myself as a racist because I was taught to see racism only in individual acts of meanness by members of my group, never in invisible systems conferring unsought racial dominance on my group from birth. - Peggy McIntosh

As the flames of revolution are being stoked by the loyal opposition, the tea-partiers, and libertines everywhere I think it is interesting to note what issue is at the heart of this fervor. It seems odd to me that when George W. was spending money like a drunken sailor, dismantling the financial regulatory system, and expanding government that these angry mobs were nowhere to be found. So if we strip away the deficit spending, the expansion of government, socialism, radicalism and all of the other red herrings we are left with only a handful of possible issues. I think the largest and most dangerous is the issue that has always been simmering just below the surface in American history. This issue has never gone away but becomes more pronounced during periods of economic uncertainty and general fear by the majority population.

In spite of the great opportunity American presents to the world that people from different countries, races, and religions can live harmoniously together that opportunity has never truly been realized because at our core we are a very tribal nation. We have accepted the false dichotomy that in order for one tribe to prosper another has to decline so during times of economic uncertainty each tribe begins to protect what it perceives as its right to the remaining assets. The problem with this scenario is that it is based on the false premise that we are operating under a truly free market system and of course we are not. The system we are employing is akin to placing magnets on the roulette wheel in Vegas. It is slighted to one group over another already. I believe that a lot of the anger that is being displayed is legitimate. Hell, I’m angry. But I think it is being misplaced.

Instead of focusing on those who are using house money to make extravagant bets and when they win they keep their winnings, but when they lose their loses are being covered by the house. Imagine going to Vegas with 100,000 of someone else’s money and placing bets and if you win you keep all of the winnings, but if you lose the house pays your losses. We are the house and we are paying the winners and the losers. My problem with this round of protests is this. The majority of us are being screwed. The difference is that if you belong to the majority group you are getting lubricant while the rest of us are not, but make no mistake in the morning all of our butts are sore. My question is that if you wake up and your butt is sore and so is mine why would you blame me for what happened. It would seem to me that the logical thing to do would be to find those folks who do not have sore butts and ask them why not.

But the reason this is not happening is because of a little thing we have in this country called “white privilege”. To show how deep this runs in our society imagine if a group of Latinos would show up at an immigration rally armed or a group of blacks would show up at a affirmative action rally strapped what the reaction would be. You see the media and the talking heads debate the appropriateness of the venue of being armed but never that you have an angry mob of armed white folks talking revolution. White folks have an inherent right to be angry when their perceived privilege is threatened and this right goes without question, it is considered patriotic. However, when any other group replicates this behavior it is considered treason and a threat to our security.

What many of these protesters are angry about is not a real threat to America, but a perceived threat to their America”. What is “their America”? It is an America where their tribal right’s supersedes the rights of others. An example of this mentality would be when Pat Buchanan on MSNBC stated publicly that the white man single handedly built this country and that the only contribution of Blacks, Latinos, and Asians was the drag they put on the white man’s progress by living off of the system and abusing the kindness of white folks. Not to mention that the blacks were the cause of the “2nd American Revolution” when the Yankee aggressors took away the “states rights” from the peaceful southerners. To rewrite history in this way is akin to Japan stating that Pearl Harbor was a precursor to the Bush Doctrine of preemptive strikes to prevent the western aggressors from enslaving the peaceful Japanese people.

What we are seeing with these latest protests is that because they are really about maintaining white privilege there will not be a groundswell of support from those who are not white. This is just another example of “the ugly American” truth that we are not ready to put tribal differences aside for the sake of something larger like “country first”. Until we realize that we are all taking it on the chin for the sake of a few who are making out like bandits we will continue this tribal warfare against those whom we have the most in common with. All the while the real culprits will continue laughing all the way to the banks we bailed out in the cars we bought. Is this a great country or what?

Many of us believe that wrongs aren't wrong if it's done by nice people like ourselves. - Author Unknown

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Monday, April 5, 2010

Stoking the Fires

Extremists and populist movements are exploiting people's fear of those who are not like us. We can see the consequences in the form of terrorism and racially motivated violence. - Kjell Magne Bondevik

As the rhetoric continues to heat up around our political discourse I think it is important to understand the ramifications of such rhetoric. While there are those who see it as a vehicle to accomplish their short-term political aims, I think we should step back and look at its long-term consequences. It appears that as part of the Republicans long-term strategy of crippling the federal government and making it look impotent in solving real large-scale problems in the lives of its citizenry (except of course in the case of war and national security) they have decided that to help stoke the fires of populist anger they are going to use every tool available in our political system to obstruct the power of the government in any way they can.

While this strategy may yield the short-term political points they seek, what they are either unwilling to accept or willingly hoping to bring about is the total collapse of the faith of a nation in its government. Governments were created for a reason. What governments were created to do was to allow societies to take groups of people with differing selfish pursuits and allow them to unite under a larger purpose. While I would be the first to say that governments haven’t always lived up to their lofty goals I am not ignorant enough to believe that they are unnecessary. We as nation should be always debating the intrusion and scope of government in our everyday lives but the debate we should not be having is the loss of government. Now
there are those who will say that the removal of government is not the debate we are having today, but when you intentionally sabotage the ability of governments to serve their people and then hype up the hyperbole concerning governments over-reaching and inability to serve those needs it doesn’t take a rocket science to figure out what the natural outgrowth of that will be.

So one must ask what would be the benefit to politicians to encourage the loss of government. The answer is simple really without the government to look out for those who cannot look out for themselves the rich and powerful will have unfettered rule over our daily lives. Now while you may believe that having government intrusion into your life is intolerable that would in no way compare to the intrusion that corporations and other tools of the wealthy would exert in our lives. The rules that the government currently have in place to protect consumer safety, equal treatment under the law, and financial regulations would only be obeyed at the discretion of the corporations and the wealthy. Being a student of history I am not willing to rely on the “kindness of strangers” to protect me against the greed and corruption that would be sure to follow any loss of government protections. One only need to remember as far back as…..last year!

There is a reason we have Social Security. Prior to its enactment seniors in America were forced to work until they died. There is a reason we have child labor laws. Children were taken out of school and forced to provide cheap labor. There is a reason while we have civil rights legislation. Minorities and women were systematically excluded from our society. So these populist movements that yearn for the good ole days obviously are not familiar with their history or they are choosing to use some kind of selective amnesia. Either way as we become a more diverse nation the idea of going backwards to some false Norman Rockwell Americana will not hold much appeal to a great many Americans who were not depicted in those paintings. The population that these types of appeals reach out to is dwindling and as their lack of diversity demonstrates it is not resonating with the majority of Americans.

My advice to the folks who are stoking this anger for short-term gain is be careful what you wish for. When hatred and vitriol become your platform you never know who or what is going to jump out of Pandora’s Box. As any lion tamer will attest when the lions are hungry they have very short memories.

Better the occasional faults of a government that lives in a spirit of charity than the consistent omissions of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference. - Franklin D. Roosevelt

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