Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Destructive Politics of 'Other'

Photograph: David Kadlubowski/Corbis.

Nero's Fire
By Jim Rigby (pastor of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, Austin) / June 20, 2011

A United States Senator claimed this week that the wildfires in Arizona were possibly started by immigrants. When asked to produce his evidence, he backed off a bit, but the damage was done. Another layer of mythological sediment had settled over the unexamined lives of the American people. Some had come to believe the fires destroying much of Arizona are not the result of climate change, nor poor water management, but, instead, are a curse brought about by strangers in our midst.

The technique has a classic lineage. A leader redirects the attention of the people away from the powerful guilty and upon the weakest and most vulnerable innocents in the population. For Nero it was the Christians, but it could have been any marginal group of outsiders. Immigrants have always made perfect scapegoats. The problem is that blaming our problems on scapegoats also means not confronting the actual roots of our suffering.

To be sure, some fires are probably started by immigrants trying to make do in dried out areas, but there is a larger fire smoldering that threatens to take down our entire nation. Our nation’s infrastructure shimmers and crackles with heat. The rich are getting richer and poor are getting poorer. The poor did not start that fire, but, like Nero, our rich elite assure us that America’s problems come from the weakest among us.

A moment of thought would be sufficient to realize who ever robbed America, would still have the booty. The poor are innocent by definition. The rich are suspects by definition. The real fire was not and could not be set by the powerless. It could only be set by the heartlessly rich and the mindlessly violent.

America’s immigration problem doesn’t begin when someone crosses U.S. borders in search of a better life. America’s immigration problem begins when our corporations cross over into other parts of the hemisphere and destabilize the economies of other nations. Our immigration problem begins when our military is used to destabilize entire nations in the name of “American” interests. America’s immigration problem begins when we in the United States forget that the word “America” refers to an entire hemisphere and not to ourselves alone.

Centuries of exploitation have produced masses of rootless sojourners who wander our hemisphere without a real home. The walls we are building to keep them out are becoming our own prison. Privately run prisons intended to exploit immigrants will easily and unavoidably come to house dissident citizens as well. As the saying goes, “None of us is free while one of us is in chains.”

We who are not rich have two options as I see it. We can wait until we also become pawns in some rich person’s game, or we can declare our solidarity with humanity now while we still have the power to do something. Perhaps if we stopped selling out the weak, we could find critical mass to stand up to the strong. Liberation movements have a chant, “the people united cannot be defeated”. Alone we are helpless, together we can take back our world. It comes down to a choice of whether we will speak up for the universal human rights of all people, or will go on trusting Nero until Rome burns.

St Andrews Sermon 2011-05-29 from St. Andrew’s Church on Vimeo.

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The Term Is 'Refugee,' Not 'Immigrant'
By Telebob / July 2, 2011

One of my pet peeves is that people continue to call the flood of humans coming across our border from Mexico, 'immigrants' and 'illegal immigrants'. I think in order to more accurately describe this issue, it would help if we call them by their true names... 'refugees.'

The racists and reactionaries in Arizona and other places love to depict these people as criminals, drug dealers, social misfits who come across our border seeking to sop up our social services, collect welfare, burden our schools, and prey upon our population with criminal practices of all kinds.

I think it is really important for us to do what we can to use the correct language in describing them. These 'immigrants' come here not so much because they see the USA as the land of opportunity and plenty (it sure isn't easy when they get here), but because they are being forced out of their lives in Mexico by the drug wars, the destruction of the Mexican economy, the destruction of Mexican small agriculture, and a slow decline into literal starvation. The failure of the Maquiladora system along the border, the price supports for American corn (that allows corn to be sold at below growing costs), and the massive demand for illegal drugs in the USA are the prime causes of the virtual failure of the Mexican state. The USA really hates it when the failure of our own policies and the blowback comes and rubs our noses in our own shortsightedness.

By using the words 'Mexican Refugees' we in just a few syllables highlight the fact that these people are here mainly against their own best hopes and will. "Immigrants" signifies a voluntary decision to come here, "Illegal Immigrants" signifies voluntary migration with ill intent, but 'refugee' states the case as it is. People who have been forcibly uprooted from their lives in their native country by circumstances beyond their control or ken.

Maybe when the USA starts to understand that the failure of Mexico is a bigger threat to "the American Way of Life" than ten Al Qaeda's in Afghanistan that they will bring the troops home and save the public treasure to fight a battle that is much more fundamental and important than the politics of oil and opium.

Source / Google Rag Blog Group

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