"Don't waste any time in mourning. Organize."
Those timeless words were uttered exactly 98 years ago this week -- on November 19, 1915 -- by labor activist and songwriter Joe Hill, at a time when the movement he had fought so hard for seemed to be on the verge of dying. Almost a century later, the immigrant movement could truly take heed of Hill's no-nonsense plea for action. After years of marches, "bipartisan" talks, and civil disobedience tactics, we find ourselves in a familiar spot: Duped. Stood up. Let down. It's hard to shake off the sense of failure and powerlessness, the sense that our community is always losing. And honestly, it's infuriating enough to send it all to heck.
But then, you see, giving up is EXACTLY what the opponents of the immigration reform movement would LOVE for us to do. Their evasion of the issue and lack of action are common manipulation tactics: They know that to win against this movement, they must first make us surrender, raise up that little white flag in our head.
Yet apparently, they don't seem to know who they're really up against. The general public consensus for fixing the immigration issue has been steadily mounting: 71 percent , according to recent polls. Yes, Americans overwhelmingly support immigration reform, and ignoring this new reality will ultimately cost these politicians the ONE thing they hold dear: Their cushy spots in office.
They've forgotten they are simply temporary gatekeepers to reform, but we can't forget: Our task is now to continue rallying the support of the American people, the real force behind for any kind of large-scale social change. Immigration affects every single aspect of our lives: from the food we put on our table, to the economy, to the highest technological advances the country needs to remain competitive. An issue with so many positive repercussions must come out of the ghettoized place in America's consciousness and become something everyone roots for, for the sake of the country.
It is we, the people, who allow them to govern the country. It is WE who give them power, and -- you better believe it -- we can take it away. We must all take our rightful ownership of the daily American political process. Being civically active doesn't just mean going out to vote every four years, if ever. It means making sure our rights and those of others are being upheld and respected EVERY SINGLE DAY. It also means we must smack the dormant parts of our electorate awake, through education. Once our people finally connect the dots and realize that politicians are not "TV personalities" with no bearing in our everyday lives, and that DC is not "a kingdom far, far away," but a place where we ALL have a say, our power will become unbeatable.
Building a mass movement of this magnitude is not easy task. Martin Luther King Jr., Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, Joe Hill: They all faced moments when there seemed to be no hope for daylight. Keeping the spirit alive at times like these hasn't been easy for any single movement in the history of social movements... And no, it won't be easy for us. What made the efforts of people like Hill, King, Chavez and Huerta successful was their refusal to quit. They kept on against all odds, against forces that -- at the time -- seemed insurmountable. Thanks to their undying perseverance, the world has changed forever. Justice, like truth, always prevails. And justice will soon smile upon our cause. The time has come.
We may seem to be on the verge of losing the battle this time, but as the cliché goes, we will not lose the war. At times like these, to paraphrase Hill's famous words, we shouldn't mourn, we should organize. Our main task right now should be to regroup, recalculate, recharge and refresh. This means we must stop the pettiness and infighting. We must stop being reactive instead of pro-active. We must learn to be strategic about picking our allies... and about persuading our enemies. We must stop buying into the rhetorical hogwash designed to divide us, run our morale into the ground or worse, rush us into accepting proposals that put a band-aid on the issue. In other words, we need to get our game together. Let's keep our heads high, our vision clear, our purpose immutable: Our people, EVERY SINGLE ONE of them, deserve a real solution that allows them to live with dignity.
The next couple of weeks will be hard to bear, knowing that the holidays will be much less jolly for the millions still living in the shadows. For them, for us, I say: Let us grieve, let us lay blame, let us swing our imaginary chanclas at our bullyraggers... But whatever we do, for Goddess sake, LET US NOT GIVE UP.
See what online Latinos think should be the next steps in the immigration fight on my Facebook page.