By David Swanson
I’ll grant you that in the United States our two big political parties never nominate a candidate of, by, or for poor people. Nonetheless, we have now established a pattern of stolen elections, and we have NOT taken over our nation’s capital to demand justice. This fact alone would make me ashamed right now not to be a Mexican. The Mexicans are doing the only sensible thing they can, the only thing that can prevent a slide into far more serious dangers.
Here in the United States, however, we don’t just have stolen elections. Our nation’s capital is home to a White House that has eliminated the Congress and the Supreme Court from any serious role in our government, not to mention a Congress that has rolled over and refused to resist. Our unelected president has reversed 800 acts of Congress, torn up half the Bill of Rights, launched an illegal war based on lies, facilitated another one, locked people up without charge or trial and tortured them, and launched massive spying operations outside the rule of law. And, yet, we do not fill the streets.
This Sunday, the truly dedicated will take up residence anew at Camp Casey in Crawford, Texas. On September 5, Camp Casey will move to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and expand into Camp Democracy – an attempt to force fundamental change. One of the groups that will play a lead role in Camp Democracy is immigrants and activists for immigrants’ rights. Some immigrants’ rights groups will also hold a rally and march in DC on September 7. In recent months, the ability of immigrants to turn out and march in the United States has shamed all native-born agitators for justice.
Not only do we all need to learn from the immigrants’ rights movement. We all need to get behind it and support it. The anti-war movement, in particular, should be backing the cause of immigrants’ rights with everything we’ve got. And when non-immigrants lobby their elected representatives on any other issue, they should always raise the cause of immigrants’ rights as well. Because their cause is our cause. Americans’ willingness to abuse Iraqis is not separate from our willingness to discriminate against Muslim Americans and Americans of Arab or Mexican descent. This time it’s not “first they came for the communists, then they came for the Jews.” This time, it’s “first they came for the immigrants.”
And that is the point at which to stop it.
Halliburton is building detention camps for “immigration emergencies.” But what are those? An expansion of NAFTA? A surge in global warming? Or are they the sort of emergencies in which segments of our population become guilty until proven innocent?
My Congressman, Republican Bush-follower Virgil Goode, recently put out a statement arguing for allowing the minimum wage to continue to decrease because restoring any of its value would attract immigrants to this country. Goode can’t seriously imagine that anyone doesn’t realize that non-immigrants, too, are affected by the minimum wage. It’s just that we’ve reached the point at which fear of immigrants is expected to persuade us to abuse ourselves, to pick up the chains and voluntarily slip them on. Bush’s new proposal for detaining people without charge or probable cause or access to an attorney targets citizens, not just immigrants. We are all in this together, including the Iraqis and the Lebanese and the Palestinians. Only a people that has been trained to fear and abuse others could tolerate what our government is doing to those peoples. Recent immigrants know this better than the rest of us, and we should be recruiting them into the peace movement.
(And, by the way, has anyone nationally noticed that progressive pro-peace Democratic candidate Al Weed is rapidly closing in on Goode in the polls?)
Last week an angry Muslim attacked a Jewish institution in Seattle. The Council on American Islamic Relations released a statement urging us not to bring the war home. But the war is, from the start, home. The war is in the heart of every American not camped out in our nation’s capital demanding an end to the insanity and a restoration of the rule of law.
Did you know that many immigrants join the U.S. military as a step toward citizenship (or death)? Did you know that when people become citizens, they must answer whether they’ve ever been a communist or a homosexual? Did you know that they still can never become president… because then we would have needed to ask whether they’d ever slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Arabs or lied to Congress or tortured innocent prisoners.
Did you know that this nation is almost entirely one of immigrants and the descendants of slaves, that recent immigrants do not drain our economy — the war does; that the criminals are in DC, not on the border; and that the “Immigration Problem” is a problem of discrimination and fear mongering, not criminality. If we didn’t want Mexicans to come north, why did we NAFTA them? Even Ross Perot has to have understood that giant sucking sounds are heard on both sides of a border erased by corporate greed, even if rebuilt by the corporate military.
As my friend Travis Morales points out, the current debate in Congress and the media is over how to make things worse. The polls focus on how sad we should be if no immigration bill is passed during this Congress. But, as long as all the bills take us back to a formal system of apartheid, to a legalized second-class status, should we be sorry not to see them pass?
If we are going to change the debate, we are going to have to join forces and recognize that this is all one movement. Immigrants should not be afraid of opposing the war – opposing the war is majority opinion, and the stronger it grows, the more minds are moved away from xenophobia and racism. Peace activists should not be afraid of immigrants’ rights, and should never expect to win respect for distant unseen Iraqis if they cannot win it for present refugees from NAFTA.
Nor should any of us back away from “raising” the minimum wage, which CBS says has 85% support. That’s the same percentage of Americans who back single-payer health care, the solution still feared by the man who had his election stolen in 2004.
Halting global warming, reforming elections and the media, restoring the right to organize a union, beginning impeachment investigations – these are all majority positions led by campaigns that sometimes fail to take on each other’s causes for fear of alienating supporters. This fear is self-defeating.
It is all one movement and will succeed as one movement at www.campdemocracy.org