Perhaps the late 18th century German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said it best when he wrote "When the dogs bark we know we are riding on horseback".
This past week, the immigrant rights movement in the United States had its share of news that shook us to the core. It's not easy to watch your own country descend to the brink of the abyss of intolerance, dislike of foreigners, and divisive rhetoric, and not react angrily or with uncontrollable sarcasm.
In Alabama, California, and Massachusetts the seeds of discontent most likely sowed by corporate greed, lackadaisical oversight, and world economic disinterest in the middle and working class finally reaped resentment, distrust, and outright antagonism. The target of the collective rage nationwide: unauthorized immigrants.
Divide and rule, the politician cries; unite and lead, is watchword of the wise.
The Alabama known for its spring of social justice and civil liberties returned last week to the dark ages of vigilantism, inequality, and discrimination based on the color of skin, last name, ethnic origin, and now perceived immigration status.
The Beason-Hammon Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act has little to do with the protection of Alabama's citizens and it is definitely a result of the kind of political pandering and lynch-mob mentality that relish on letting loose rabid dogs in mad search of "the other".
Adeptly, Republicans in Alabama have used the community's hunger for answers, whatever they may be, to pin the community against the wall and accept that only without immigrants can Alabama's "Heart of Dixie" beat fastest. They couldn't be so wrong.
In a state where a child's school registration can mean a deportation order for his/her parents, reason and justice is seem to have been thrown under the bus. By Friday, five per cent of the state's student population (1,988 Latino students) had vanished, making true the wish of many in this angst-filled rural bastion, while signifying the darkening of the shadows for many others.
The state of the great bus boycott and civil rights mobilization that shook the nation's conscience, Alabama cannot forego its proud history of resistance, breaking the mold, and going its own way on important social issues.
Alabama has been a beacon of adaptability, respect to hard work, and deference to tradition. Alabamians must unite and lead our nation wisely by exercising a strong measure of common sense and humanity and resist the temptation to blame and segregate immigrants living and working your midst.
None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.
In Milford, MA, the stupidity of a drunken driver left an entire town mourning the untimely death of Matthew Denice and seeking payback by turning against the Ecuadorian community where loved ones of Nicolas D. Guaman lamented the unspeakable crime.
Instead of bringing together both communities, the tragedy pitted immigrants against everyone else. In Milford, Ecuadorian immigrants have been greeted by their own neighbors and local officials with water bottles and tomatoes in a clear effort to drive every one of them out of Milford and the entire state of Massachusetts.
Republicans smelled blood and in packs jumped at the chance to introduce anti-immigrant legislation they said has nothing to do with racism, immigrants, or Ecuadorians. Not wanting to seem weak, Democrats also joined in the cook fest and now are talking just as tough supporting calls by several MA sheriffs to bring back the ill-named "Secure Communities" program, a police-ICE collaboration scheme to identify unauthorized immigrants guilty of serious crimes.
Individual acts of battery, vandalism, physical and verbal abuse, and vigilante-style patrolling in Milford leave much to be desired for a town so vibrant and rich in history. Political posturing in the form of laws that will ultimately prove unconstitutional and costly to all citizens in Massachusetts is but lynch-mob, knee-jerk reaction wrapped in a silk, white veil of self-preservation.
There is no joy in neighbors treating neighbors as vermin. There is no peace when local officials racially profile entire neighborhoods looking to get someone in trouble. There is no honor in destroying one's neighborhood, town and state one anti-immigrant insult at a time.
First and last, what is demanded of genius is love of truth.
In Los Angeles, California, a smoggy urban center has been turning toxic every afternoon on KFI 640AM radio for a little more than a decade. From 3 pm until 7 pm, just when Angelenos' blood pressure raises to its highest level due to the insurmountable traffic, the John and Ken Radio Show ranks up the volume and gets to work on the hearts and minds of the disillusioned, dissatisfied, and unemployed.
John and Ken's fury is targeted at politicians in Sacramento and immigrants. These two thugs with a microphone sprinkle their daily program with taunts, jeers, and outright lies about the unauthorized immigrant community and call it freedom of speech. Although their shtick is to raise the temperature of their estimated 1.2 million listeners, John and Ken are keenly aware that their objectionable and incendiary language leads to more than discontent.
Hate crimes against people of color in the United States are on the rise, as are the number of hate groups. Last year hate crimes against Latinos in California increased by nearly 50%. According to statistics from the Southern Poverty Law Center, hate groups are increasing at alarming rates in the country. A shocking sixty eight hate groups reside in California alone, many of which are in KFI AM's listening area.
John and Ken are equal opportunity haters. In 2005, John and Ken focused their anger against Jasmyne A. Cannick, an African American woman and former press secretary for then-chairman of the California Legislative Black Caucus, retired Assemblymember Mervyn Dymally. In 2009, John and Ken went after the Jewish Labor Committee Western Region's union president, resulting in vandalism to his property. A bit more recently, John and Ken, as part of their ongoing rant against the California Dream Act, decided that I was the evil incarnate and to exercise me they gave out my personal cell number and direct office number for their listeners. The nasty, abusive, and racist calls flooded our phones and have not stopped since.
The question we must ask ourselves as members of a multicultural society like Los Angeles is how much is enough. There is no denying there is discontent amongst the population for many reasons. It's true the politicians in Sacramento and Washington often ignore our pleas for change. But is that reason enough to bypass common sense, respectful dialogue, and disagreement without being disagreeable. John and Ken care little for such banalities and instead go for the throat on a daily basis.
John and Ken work for a radio station that must serve the needs of the community. In Los Angeles, more than 49% of the population is Latino, and most of immigrant descent. Although 70% of Latinos in the United States are U.S. born, the issue of immigration is dear to our hearts. John and Ken seem to miss the mark every time they attack immigrants. Their blinders keep them from offering context to their objections and instead of options they offer venom, hate, and more anxiety.
I for one will not let John and Ken infect our local radio waves with their insensitivity, offhand attitude about immigrants, and their constant badgering of those they disagree with. If true change is what John and Ken look for, they will get it. We will work hard until they have been taken off the air.
The cavavan moves on
The gaping hole left by the federal government's lack of courage to update our immigration system has become a chimera's sanctuary in Alabama, Massachusetts, and California and now we must act to sedate it fast. As the most horrible nightmare on immigration chaos becomes ever more real, President Obama and the Democrat and Republican leaders remain disturbingly silent.
There is no room for second-guessing, Mr. President. Congress and the White House must hold onto courage, heart, and mind to stop the types of ill-intentioned, myopic, inhumane laws such as SB1070 and SB56, and get back to work on smart, humane, and sensible updates to our nation's broken and inconsistent immigration laws.
In the meantime, as the old Arab proverb reads, though the dogs may bark, and some ocassionally bite, our caravan must keep going. There will be time for resting at the oasis of understanding, truth, and healing, just like in Alabama after the turbulent 60's. In the meantime, our caravan must hold on tight because in addition to the rabid beasts, the road is quite bumpy out there.
Follow Jorge-Mario Cabrera on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jmcabrerapr