Liberal Street Fighter

Why is it that far too many people refuse to see the world as it is, to see other people as they are, rather than to act based solely on myths, preconceptions, hatreds, predjudices and subsumed greed and fear? The same racist, ignorant attitudes drive us today as they drove the colonists centuries ago throughout the Americas, tearing apart the families of people just trying to work and find a future for themselves:

The citizenship of people who happen to be brown, therefore, to protect their civil, Constitutional and human rights apparently carries very little weight with the Bush White House and his mindless followers with that little parenthetical “R” after their names.

“The illegal immigrants are using intimidation saying, and the media are as guilty as they are of saying this, that their civil rights are being violated,” McGill said. “If you are breaking the law and you are not a citizen of the United States, you are not eligible for any rights. They committed a crime when they walked across that border.”

You know how it is: Republicans are real Americans and then there are those whose ancestors either were brought here in chains or colonized. These are the ones who broke their backs for the ancestors of the real Americans who populate the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Notice that it is the powerless who are using “intimidation”! Nothing more “intimidating” than some poor person trying to feed their family, facing down exploitive bosses and law enforcement officers with body armor and high-powered weapons. If you are not recognized as a “citizen”, in other words, a LEGAL PERSON, then you are due no recognition of human rights, and to raise your eyes and voice and insist on being given your due rights as a human being is to seek to “intimidate”. You are subhuman, beneath the gaze of the woman with the scale and the sword. You deserve what you get, and you should be glad that you’re allowed to leave. You trespass, after all, and in the eyes of these self-styled descendents of the conquistadors and General Custer, you should be glad for the Christian charity of not being shot like a stray dog. How dare you try to intimidate OUR jackboot with the back or your neck?!?!

It’s a pattern that repeats throughout the history of the dominant culture that conquered the Americas. A presuppostion that rights and humanness are conditional things, to be offered or withdrawn at the whim of the paler “us” over the darker “them”. XicanoPwr is of course reacting to the recent raids that took place in Colorado, Nebraska, Texas, Utah, Iowa and Minnesota:

At least 1,280 workers have been arrested in a series of immigration raids targeting meatpacking plants owned by the company Swift. The raids took place in Colorado, Nebraska, Texas, Utah, Iowa and Minnesota It marks the largest sweep of its kind ever against a single company.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff justified the raids saying many of the detained men and women were using false or stolen identities.

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union has filed an emergency lawsuit in an effort to release the workers who they say were illegally detained and are being held without access to legal counsel. In Iowa, immigration lawyers have accused the federal government of holding the arrested workers at the military site Camp Dodge near Des Moines.

Like any good banana republic, our government is “disappearing” people, spiriting them away without communication, without representation, without concern for the babies left motherless, the families left to wonder and worry:

A priest’s and nun’s mission to find the mother of a nursing baby was thwarted today after they said officials from Camp Dodge would not let them inside to tell their story.

Sister Christine Feagan, from the St. Mary’s Hispanic Ministry, and The Rev. Jim Miller, who is a priest from the St. Mary’s Parish, both said they drove to Camp Dodge this afternoon to find out the status of a nursing mother who was deported and nursing a baby. They were also seeking a father with an ashmatic child.

They didn’t come with papers showing legal status. Instead, they wanted “to show them the need to be free,” said Miller.

Miller said he knows detainees were located there, because they were permitted a phone call from Camp Dodge and some had called the church seeking help.

He said an ICE officer at the facility “wouldn’t tell us anything about anybody.”

The duo returned to Marshalltown this afternoon to deal with the scores of families trying arrange care for children whose parents have been detained.

At the church’s Hispanic ministry, the baby whose mother was arrested was passed among staff and a community activist who had agreed to help care for her.

They said they don’t know when the girl, whose father is absent, will be reunited with her mother.

The child, whose name was not provided by ministry staff, cried little, and stared at the different faces visiting the ministry. Women speaking a mixture of Spanish and English coordinated plans with how they would take care of children left behind.

Carmen Montealegre is one of the women who is taking care of two of her friends’ children with family displaced by the arrests. One of the children, a seven-year-old, asks frequently why her mother was detained, she said.

“She asked me three times, ‘Did she kill someone?’ I said, ‘She was working under another name.’”

The baby left behind has her own problems.

She has been difficult to feed since her mother was arrested, Feagan said.

“The mother was breastfeeding the baby,” Feagan said. “The baby doesn’t want to eat. Another tried to breastfeed, but she knew it wasn’t her.” (hat tip to Man Eegee)

In this age when habeas corpus has been tossed into the toilet and flushed with little care, there is little reason to think that the DHS will even blink at running these people through the meat grinder of some cobbled-together star chamber then shipping them off. Waving the spector of identity theft before the blinkered eyes of the American public, Secretary Chertoff uses a “threat” that could have been dealt with in other ways as an excuse to terrorize thousands of people, entire communities:

AMY GOODMAN: Joining us in the studio in St. Paul, Minnesota, is Mariano Espinoza. He is the executive director of the Minnesota Immigration Freedom Network. The group is working with communities in Worthington, Minnesota. Three guests also join us on the telephone. From Colorado, where the meatpacking company Swift is based, Sylvia Martinez, a leader of the community group Latinos Unidos in Greeley, Colorado. Kim Salinas is with us,immigration rights attorney who was inside an immigration detention center all day yesterday, trying to meet with some of the detained workers. And on the line with us from Washington, D.C., where we’ll begin, is Jim Papian, spokesperson for the United Food and Commercial Workers union. Can you explain the scope of these raids? How did they go down, Jim?

JIM PAPIAN: Yes. On Tuesday morning, 13,000 workers kissed their spouses goodbye. They fixed the lunches for their kids. They took transportation into their meatpacking plants, where they had been working, and they began doing their job. Shortly after that, in the early dawn, in many of those plants, ICE agents surrounded the plants, stormed into the plant, locked the gate, blocked the plant, dressed in riot gear and with military weapons in some of these plants, jumped on tables, began segregating and herding people, terrorizing, you know, 13,000 folks — terrorizing and criminalizing, essentially, 13,000 people who had gone in to do their work that day.

Subsequent to that, they began interviewing and detaining people and then eventually shipping them out to distant cities into other states. Now, why did they do this? Well, they went into federal court, and they got a warrant. They said that there had been some identity theft. People were in effect stealing Social Security numbers from other people and then using those in terms of their I-9 regulation to gain employment.

So, what the ICE agents did was say, you know, ‘We’ve got 170 folks that we suspect of identity theft, but what we’re really going to do is we’re going to terrorize 13,000 people. We’re going to separate parents from children.” Children were left in schools that day, no one there to pick them up. If you see the headlines from around the country, you’ll see from the Des Moines Register, it says “A breast-feeding mother missing in raid.” A Utah headline, “Families ripped apart, communities are ripped apart,” you know, to essentially go in and interview 170 people.

Now, I mean, these plants have HR departments. You know, there is a process for identifying folks for bringing them in for interviews, if that’s necessary, and for the ICE agents to make their determinations. But what the government chose to do in this case was to engage in an act that really can’t be described other than terrorizing an entire work force. So I think that’s — in a nutshell, I think that sums up what happened on that day.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And how many people were actually detained as suspected of being in the country illegally?

JIM PAPIAN: Well, I think that 62 people, I think, were detained for identity theft violations. And I believe somewhere around 1,200 were detained for being here without proper status.

We bring back to el Norte the jack-booted behavior that we exported to the south for decades, mass roundups under the gun. The only thing missing is a bullet to the back of the head, though our military and police state are busy developing other methods to break and discard the unwanted. We come full circle, continuing racist and exploitive policies that have deep roots in the past, all with the certainty that it is our manifest destiny under the watchful eye of God:

Yet it was with visions such as these that a flood of opportunistic adventurers called the Conquistadores began trammeling the shores of the Americas in search of gold. And whenever they encountered these “dark-visaged” natives, they read to them the Requerimiento, by which the natives could swear fealty to the Spanish Crown. It concluded:

If you do so, you will do well, and that which you are obliged to do to their Highnesses, and we in their name shall receive you in all love and charity, and shall leave you, your wives, and your children, and your lands, free without servitude, that you may do with them and with yourselves freely that which you like and think best, and they shall not compel you to turn Christians, unless you yourselves, when informed of the truth, should wish to be converted to our Holy Catholic Faith, as almost all the inhabitants of the rest of the islands have done. And, besides this, their Highnesses award you many privileges and exemptions and will grant you many benefits.

But, if you do not do this, and maliciously make delay in it, I certify to you that, with the help of God, we shall powerfully enter into your country, and shall make war against you in all ways and manners that we can, and shall subject you to the yoke and obedience of the Church and of their Highnesses; we shall take you and your wives and your children, and shall make slaves of them, and as such shall sell and dispose of them as their Highnesses may command; and we shall take away your goods, and shall do you all the mischief and damage that we can, as to vassals who do not obey, and refuse to receive their lord, and resist and contradict him; and we protest that the deaths and losses which shall accrue from this are your fault, and not that of their Highnesses, or ours, nor of these cavaliers who come with us. And that we have said this to you and made this Requisition, we request the notary here present to give us his testimony in writing, and we ask the rest who are present that they should be witnesses of this Requisition.

Stannard notes that in practice, “the Spanish usually did not wait for the Indians to reply to their demands. First the Indians were manacled; then, as it were, they were read their rights.”

Imagining barbarity in others excuses barbarous behavior in the mind of the dominant. It’s kill the beast before the beast can kill you. The landscape of this hemisphere is littered with unmarked graves seeded with those who fell before this cultural bigotry, the grass fed by the meat and bone of those who sought to continue to live and breathe and build futures for themselves and their families:

Of all the weapons the Spanish brought with them, these dogs epitomized the brazen cruelty with which they treated the native peoples, wrought by a worldview that held these human beings as being no more than beasts themselves.

This pattern — weakening the populace with disease, then overpowering them with superior arms and an inhuman ruthlessness and brutality — was repeated endlessly throughout Americas in the ensuing decades, first throughout Hispaniola and the Caribbean, then in Mexico itself, then in Central and South America. The Spanish conquest of the Yucatan and of Mexico were only the first steps in Spain’s larger colonization program in the Americas. The result was the near-utter obliteration of the existing civilizations.

Stannard observes [pp. 94-95]:
From the very beginning — from at least that day in 1493 when a “very beautiful Carib woman” fought off the violent advances of Michele de Cuneo, before being thrashed with a rope and then raped by him — the people of the Americas resisted. None did so more successfully than the Maya, who combined retreats into the deep jungle cover of the Yucatan Maya, who combined retreats into the deep jungle cover of the Yucatan lowlands — where, as one historian puts it, the pursuing conquistadors “soon found themselves adrift in a green expanse of forest without food to eat, souls to convert, or labor to exploit” — with relentless military counterattacks that finally led to temporary expulsion of the Spanish in 1638. And neither did any people resist with more symbolism than they Maya, who made a practice of destroying not only Spanish soldiers but whatever foreign things the Spanish had brought with them — horses, cattle, cats, dogs, trees, and plants. In the end, however, the Maya too lost 95 of 100 of their people — a price for resistance that most outsiders, if they know of it, can hardly hope to comprehend.

By the time the sixteenth century had ended perhaps 200,000 Spaniards had moved their lives to the Indies, to Mexico, to Central America, and points further to the south. In contrast, by that time, somewhere between 60,000,000 and 80,000,000 natives from those lands were dead. Even then, the carnage was not over.

In reality, it had only begun. North America’s native people had only begun to feel the effects of their contacts with European settlers. And the eliminationist worldview of the Spanish was fully intact throughout most of Europe; indeed, the English expanded upon and perfected it as they settled the northern reaches of the Americas.

The twin infections — rampaging disease and a malignant eliminationism — were proceeding on due course in the rest of the New World.

Today we use neglect, paperwork, economic exploitation and the threat of one of the biggest police states and incarceration complexes in the entire world as assiduously as the Spaniards once used dogs, steel and smallpox. A network of reservations masquerading as carefully redlined neighborhoods in our cities, and the long-neglected reservations set up by insincere treaties across Indian Country continue the work begun in the sixteenth century. The raids this past week are just a new shroud wrapped around the same-old darker corpse. Not wanting to face that we still act this way doesn’t make the truth of it go away, and the protestations about the sancity of the law won’t put milk into the mouth of a baby left bereft. Not wanting to face it makes us blind to how our culture is enriched when we WELCOME new and different people into our midst, and serves only to continue a history of barbarity that will fill our descendents with shame.

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