Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Great Leap



Thanks to those who've e-mailed or left comments with recommendations for my upcoming "vacation". I'm all set and particularly a-quiver about seeing Wanda Jackson.

Anyhow.

Xenophobia is fun. Every culture since the beginning of time has practiced it's fear of the "other" in some form or another, from rock throwing and mudslinging to the horror of genocide. In this, the United States of America is hardly alone, but it is our arrogance and hubris that pinpoints us. While pretending to the throne of The Great Society, we collectively forget history but for the deeds of Great White (apparently) Men, never-you-minding the backs broken on the wheel of labor and the stew, the olio, of culture that forged an impressive stamp on the malleable foil that we call a Country. We are moving from a land of color to a land of Black and White, a photo negative resounding in merely good and bad, all things reduced to it's basest reaction. I've never trusted anyone who says they see no color. It's important to see color, to acknowledge the difference inherent. I don't mean in terms of race and skin tone (though those always seem to play a part), but in the intricacy of interaction, and the values we place on ideal.

I watched the leader of the free world (ahem) tonite, practicing his own brand of fear and loathing on national tv. Many in this country agree with the idea we need to tighten our borders, spy on our citizens (Hi Mr. Cheney!), create a singular language, and eradicate any and all who make us fearful, for whatever reason we wish to create. We're addicted to spin, but not so much substance.

My father was from a coal mining family. Union workers all. My mother came from Quaker stock, and her family were farmers. Both had grandparents who could claim to be from somewhere else. Another time, another country. If they were alive, I wonder what rift would exist between them in regards to immigration, two forces of labor who might be diametrically opposed to the issues facing us in this present hour.

But I was raised on equal sides to believe the measure of a man and woman was taken in their labor, their work. I was also raised in equal part to believe that that measure was leavened by their compassion and humanity. Not very trendy sentiments this day and age.

I believe in the absolute dignity of all humans. I think everyone wants to provide food for their family's table, and a roof over their head. And when you take that away, when you take a man or woman's dignity away, you are poisoning the well we all have to drink from.

I honestly don't know what the answer to the immigration "problem" is. Both sides are very passionate about issues of rights and legality. It's tricky, and I wish we could all tread more lightly, more thoughtfully, less reactionary . The proposed solution seems to have some economically questionable roots, but I am no economist, so I really couldn't speak to that, and it's problematic when we start referring to human beings in terms of numbers and indicators. At its best, though, if we insist on approaching the issue in terms of black and white, the issue smacks of xenophobia. At it's worst it reeks of racism. Now, I'm being reactionary. I have an obvious political bias myself. Which takes us right back to the beginning, and here we go round again.

Some believe that the land belongs to all, and that it is not only impossible, but immoral, to claim possession of that which was given as a gift to all by some deity or spirit or somesuch. But we like our possessions. We like to own stuff, and we like the manufactured security it give us. And we will shoot anyone who tries to take it away, or make us share. Hell, we've already started shooting. A long time ago. And it's going to get worse. We're so very afraid.

What am I trying to say? I don't know. All this rhetoric seems sinister though, and I can't help but suspect the sentiment runs deeper in its implications than merely protecting jobs nobody wants to do, and protecting a language the President can't even speak. The long festering culture war has escalated, and may the whitest man win.

Woody Guthrie: This Land is Your Land (mp3)

Billy Bragg: Waiting For the Great Leap Forward (mp3)

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8 comments:

ang said...

I could just about kiss you. Your heart is still as big as the sky. And you are so right. I currently live in a county where the sheriff thinks he's Custer and the Hispanics are Native Americans... the goon is on a rampage against "illegals", to the point that every Hispanic feels under suspicion. Smacks of post-9/11 arab-bashings, and it annoys the hell out of me. It is a worthwhile struggle to want to be hands and voices of mercy, and flickering flames of hope in these darkening times.

G-Dub said...

I'm tired of being called xenophobic (and often worse) because I believe that immigration should be done legally and with at least some semblance of order.

It's easy to seem compassionate while spewing platitudes about dignity and fairness. But I see nothing but self congratulatory laziness here. Oh yes, you care about the plight of the poor and downtrodden.

No you don't. You care about how you feel about the poor and downtrodden.

If you really gave a shit, would you want to perpetuate a system in which Americans hire people who can't go to the authorities for fear of being deported when they face unsafe working conditions, When they are denied overtime for longer hours, and paid jack squat to start with?


I don't believe in the myth that there are jobs that Americans won't do. There are jobs that Americans won't do unless they are paid a fair wage, but what's wrong with that? I grew up detassling corn. It was a right of passage to midwestern youth when I was a kid. We learned that hard work can be good for you, how to be responsible and to take pride in a hard job well done. I worked for a seed corn company and saw first hand what happened when the shift was made to contract detassling, with the contracts going to migrant workers. They were predominantly illegal and everyone knew it. As a result, the amount they were paid could be kept to a minimum. What were they gonna do... complain to the authorities? I saw the conditions in which they lived. It was wrong to do this. Did the price of seed corn go down for farmers?

You know the answer to that.

It does nothing for anyones' dignity to allow poverty stricken people to come here illegally and work for substandard wages. It's not compassionate. It's cruel and lazy. Cruel, because now there is a class in America that has nowhere to turn when they are abused, forced to work in unsafe conditions and paid jack squat to do it. Lazy, because it's the easy way out. The problem of poverty and corruption in Mexico cannot be solved by exploiting their labor force.


The myth of the job americans won't do now extends into construction, trucking, and other typical "good jobs" that Americans have done for generations. Do you think it cost's less to buy a new house or ship a truckload of goods across country because now there is an illegal alien being exploited by someone? If you do think that, are you happy about it?

Nobody is being served by a corrupt system that depends on bringing in poverty stricken immigrants and paying them jack shit. I for one would be happy to pay more for my tomatoes and lettuce. It won't "wreck the economy" like corporate America claims. Shit, We're paying $70 dollars for a barrel of oil and $3.00 for a gallon of gas. The econmy is still there. At least the added cost of hiring only legal immigrants or American citizens would end up, to a much greater degree, in this country. We all know who's getting rich on $70 oil.

The problem of poor Mexicans is in Mexico. We are doing nothing to help them with our so-called compassion.

If it makes you feel better, call me xenophobic, racist or whatever you want. It's all about your "feelings" isn't it?

sean said...

Love your site. Your musical taste is impeccable. Thanks for the postings - I check you out daily.

I appreciate your heartfelt comments concerning the immigration debate. I don't agree with most of them but that's OK. For what it's worth - here's my take. First, assimilation is a bitch - a long, arduous process. Always has been, always will be. Second, well the fact that you never see anyone swimming to Cuba means something too.

The test of any sovereign nation is that it has borders. You can bash Bush all you want but whomever is President has the responsibility to watch out for the border. Bush proposed an amnesty program, one that many members of his party vehemently disagreed with. His views sure as hell aren't those of Tancredo. And before you lump all the Republicans into the party of xenophobia, check the history. Which party was the impetus behind Davis-Bacon and what was its original goal? Which party sponsored and promoted all of the major civil rights legislation in the 60's?. Which administration "spied" on Martin Luther King?

Sean Hagearty

The DoorKeeper said...

Ah Mr Mountain Man. ang is right you have heart. It's not easy to talk without taking sides. I'm a foreigner. I don't know the issues. I know exasperation when I here it though.

You're all in this togther.

Just stopped by to say i posted a Hank Thompson track over by the

The DoorKeeper said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ed said...

The matter is not a simple one, and the answers will not be simple solutions.

There is a rift in our nation that grows wider with each day. We have lost control to the fear-mongering.

I lift my glass to you for this post, both your words and your choice of music.

We sure could use a few folks like Woody today.

Mr. Beer N. Hockey said...

Thanks for reminding me what the measure of a man is. Round here four hard working men died, gassed in a mine the other day. Others die at their jobs, seems like every day.

All borders do is provide employment for men of little measurement.

Anonymous said...

Hi again - thanks for the interesting read. I see not problems with what you wrote and would not object to more in future.
Here in Australia we have 2 main political parties as you &, as your response comment, our's have the same self promoting do what it takes to win the next election attittude.I don't like voting for either the Liberals (deputy sheriff, "honest" John Howard - George W Bush's no.1 arselicking pal) or Labour - they are so busy stealing each others ideas that there policies are the same & it needs for some outside occurance to occur for a change of party in power.
Thursday,Mar 16,2006 you posted 8 Irish songs, these were all of great interest to me, however, there was a band width problem - I was hopeful that you may post them again at some stage.
Cop-u-later.
Smutty Chris