Tuesday, August 17, 2010

And Your People Came From Where?

American's seem to be going crazy these days. It feels like folks are letting all the madness, all the anger and rage, all the fear, letting all their angst just hang out with a if you've got it flaunt it feeling. The level of vitriol and sheer craziness is like that of someone who has been contained in an emotional strait jacket and has now managed to shred it to bits, is reveling in the freedom to spew all that had been held in. I mean spewing bile like Linda Blair in the Exorcist, heads doing a 360, faces plastered with a wild grin because hot damn it all to hell if it isn't feeling like this is their moment! Maybe it feels like their patience and single minded pursuit to destroy any sense of comity between white, black, and brown, between left and right, between the poor and each other is paying off. Touched off by the election of Barack Obama and a country that has never dealt honestly with its demons, they now look backward for inspiration to a more blatant period, a more openly racist environment like the 1950s, one that encouraged xenophobia and all of this hate and irrational fear is now being fueled by a 24/7 news cycle and a cowardly media.

The downside of the 24/7 news cycle plays is that coupled with the net, it is like the wild wild west, shoot first and think later. Oh, wait, wait, no, don't think, heaven forbid, no thinking encouraged here! A populace unwilling to exercise their brains coupled with a manifest destiny media plays a huge role fomenting and fermenting all this madness. Nature abhors a vacuum and the net and cable news has rushed in to fill the gap. Egged on by No-News Here Fox, and their compatriot these days Craven Clueless News aka CNN, the pot is stirred to just under a boil in order to keep their licenses. And the Andrew Breitbart's of the world know just how to take advantage of the situation.

So here we sit at the end of summer 2010 on the manic side of bipolarism being edged ever closer to the cliffs dead ahead. There are forces at work in our country, (The Bully Idiot Beck, The Would Be Dictator O'Reilly, the bad Bobbsy Twins Bachman and Palin, and the man without a heartbeat Cheney come to mind. Seriously, to keep him alive Cheney no longer has a heartbeat but then I doubted he had a heart, so I guess I was partially wrong.) that are willing to heighten the contradiction and if that means pushing millions over the cliff, then so be it. If it means painting Mexican immigrants as the other, the new N*#@^^$S, sorry about that but there are millions of folks who are good with that.

So we find ourselves at this curious place where delusional American's have forgotten their family history, let alone their US history. Seriously. All of these folks carrying signs and signing petitions, and supporting legislation to "Send Immigrants back where they came from," must think that their ancestors came over on the Mayflower, or the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria. And even those who can claim that their ancestors were on the Mayflower, they too were immigrants. As the old folks would say, t'ain't nary non a them was Native Americans. (For those who need a translation, not one of them were native either!)

This great wounded seriously bipolar nation of ours is a nation of immigrants. That is a fact, not interpretation, not speculation, not revisionist history, just a bare plain fact. Either by choice or in chains, every single man jack or jacqueline with the exception of American Indians, came here from another country, from Ireland, Spain, Scotland, Italy, Germany, Poland, Portugal, France, Jamaica and the Caribbean, Sweden, Norway, the list goes and on and on. This is our adopted by-force country. Period. End of discussion.

There have been periods when America threw the doors wide open and invited folks to, "Come on in, we've gotten rid of those pesky natives, take this land out here, it's yours, for free! Yeah, there were some folks living here already but, hey, what you gonna do?" And they came, the immigrants flowed or flew in waves and waves and were not treated to parades or welcome mats at every door. Hence WOP (With Out Papers) entered the lexicon along with the Italians, and there was wetback and a slew of other epithets that all meant the same thing, "Go back where you came from." Each wave of immigrants caught on to the idea of telling those coming behind them, "Get back, go back, you're not wanted. This is for me and mine only." (From one perspective one could even say we are all an occupying force in sovereign land. Deeds, title, and broken treaties aside, the contradictions at the heart of our nation will haunt us until we confront it.)

But the opportunity back then to chart a new destiny, to create a new future for them and their families in this land of seemingly endless possibilities proved irresistible. And it does still. Sure, I hear the stupid comments, "They are taking our jobs." Really. Is that right? Well, hell if it is a job you want, then that can be remedied. Get out there with them then, show up at dawn to get in on that back breaking work, working the fields, tearing down buildings, gardening and roofing! Apparently all the work these angry American's are looking for is available for the taking except those damn people keep crossing the border, keep getting up earlier, are willing to be paid less.

It is maddening to hear relatively sane people say things like "They should speak English." Well, I can tell you growing up in New York City in the 1960s, first stop for millions of immigrants, I heard more languages being spoken than you could shake the proverbial stick at, Italian, German, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Polish, Yiddish, Chinese and the list goes on. Today you are as likely to hear a dozen different Middle Eastern, Asian, or Africa languages in major urban areas as not. A nation of immigrants should remember that first generation immigrants rarely make the language transition. It is the second and third generations who strive so hard to fit in, who are embarrassed by their elders who after forty, fifty, sixty years or more in the US, still can't speak English. That's just the way it is. And quite frankly many of times I've come across Americans, especially here in the South, who speak a close facsimile of English, close, but no cigar. It's a case of Pot, meet Kettle!

All of these issues can be worked out, and will be over time. If we don't lose our collective damn minds and go backwards down the rabbit hole. And if those who are relatively sane and brave are willing to confront the madness where we see it, when we hear it then we will weather this storm; we must take our country back.

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