Monday, May 01, 2006


SEEMS like only yesterday the FRIENDS OF the MINUTEMEN were trampling each other in their rush to get in front of microphones to denounce people in the demonstrations about immigration reform for waving Mexican flags. What a difference a day makes. Now those who FOM at the mouth are exercised because the immigrants and their allies are wrapping themselves in the American flag.

We hear over and over again that the FOM have no problem with immigration per se, and are absolutely not motivated by any prejudices about the countries of origin or the races of the immigrants. But look at what they choose to get excited about. First of all, you don't see the Minutemen and their supporters turning out to harrass Irish workers. You don't see them lining up along the Canadian border. Secondly, their position on language, to the extent that I can understand their attempts to express their position on language, has little to do with the legality of the speakers. Witness the furor over NUESTRO HIMNO. You'd think this "WE ARE THE WORLD" for our time,
featuring a range of guest artists from Wyclef Jean to Gloria Trevi, would have found a happy home among patriots of all stripes.

But no . . .

President TEACH BOTH SIDES OF THE CONTROVERSY OVER EVOLUTION George W. Bush is of the opinion that our national anthem should be sung in English. OK -- so maybe old British drinking songs go better in English, even after Francis Scott Key contributes new lyrics. (Hey, Key grew up on a plantation his family chose to call TERRA RUBRA -- guess they hadn't gotten the English-only message. Key's family, as it happens, had their own approach to immigrant labor issues -- they owned slaves. To his credit, once he had become an attorney, Key sometimes represented slaves attempting to gain their freedom.) But hasn't anybody noticed that our nationl anthem itself has multinational origins? Did we ever get a copyright clearance for the melody? And let's not even get started on what Americans have done to the lyrics of GOD SAVE THE QUEEN.

There's a lot of history we could bring up here. The constitution of California was originally published in bilingual form. The people who brought us Texas, Bush's home state, were allowed by the Mexican government to move into the territory and develop the land under an agreement they all signed on to that they would become Catholics, take Mexican wives AND LEARN SPANISH. Keep that in mind next time you join the Minutemen in remembering the Alamo.

The United States has always had a strange relationship to May Day. In some neighborhoods, children still make up May Day baskets and dance around May Poles (remember what our Puritan forefathers thought of THAT!). Meanwhile, we pointedly celebrate LABOR DAY on a different day of the year from the rest of the world, mostly celebrating by going out to the mall to pick up sale items made overseas with cheap labor. So this May Day, thousands of people of all races and national backgrounds have gone out into the streets to celebrate our history as a nation of immigrants, a nation of hard-working people, a nation that should show more respect for its own history.

That seems lost on the FOMers -- I just heard one of them express his disbelief in response to a speaker who'd said that the majority of the demonstrators were legal residents. Now, the point here isn't in fact the legal status of the marchers, or even what their status should be. The point is that the FOMer makes assumptions about the legal status of the marchers based only on what they looked like and the fact that they were in the march. A large portion of illegal immigration remains invisible to these people because it looks like them. A large portion of legal residents are questioned by the FOMers because they do not look like them.

They look like Americans to me -- They were waving the US flag and, for god's sake, eating hot dogs, hamburgers, tacos -- all that good native American cuisine.

This is what America looks like -- for sure, hombre.

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