ag·o·ra·pho·bi·aLast week, I mused about the possibility of a modern-day civil rights movement that would forever shape the course of American society. I think it's inevitable for a couple of reasons.
- An abnormal fear of open or public places.
First, there are a lot of people in this space of land who are immigrants, both documented and undocumented. The Center for Immigration Studies gives the shakedown on the numbers:
The foreign-born population of the United States is currently 33.1 million, equal to 11.5 percent of the U.S. population. Of this total, the Census Bureau estimates 8-9 million are illegal immigrants. Other estimates indicate a considerably higher number of illegal immigrants.With each person, comes influence. Whether through language, food or just the general way they go about living their life, each immigrant makes an impact on those around them. There are several ways to deal with this type of exposure to diversity. One can either bemoan the fact that the American Way™ is being altered or "defiled", which is by far the mainstream opinion in the streets of this country; or a choice can be made to embrace the richness that is unearthered through a sharing of our stories, our customs.
While the sheer numbers of immigrants alone are unprecented, the next reason I feel there will be a seismic shift not seen since the era of desegregation is that we're talking about a passionate bunch of human beings. It was evident to anyone who attended the various marches or rallies to see the families walking in solidarity; many mothers pushing strollers with babies who were most likely American citizens. There was no fear, although there were/are plenty of reasons to be afraid, rather an infectious Hope permeated the crowds.
I am not alone when I see a parallel to this battle to those of the past. Prominent Latina author Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez has this to say:
If you were a Native American living east of the Mississippi river in the 1830s and you decided that the U.S. government had no right to forcibly remove you from the land where you and your ancestors had lived for 10,000 years or more, you were "illegal".That, I think, is the real battle being fought in the conscience of the American psyche. To contemplate the fact that our entire immigration system has been saturated with stupidity and lack of pragmatism overshadows the pie fights being engaged between the enforcement and amnesty camps.
If you were a Native American in the western United States and you disagreed with U.S. Army directives to kill you and all people like you (as a matter of policy) you were "illegal". And then you were dead.
And now we find the nation in a media frenzy about "illegal" immigrants, with those who are most opposed to the notion focusing almost entirely on people who cross at the Mexican border on foot. (For the record, as many as half of "illegal" immigrant in the U.S. come by other means.)
Many of these people say things like, "We are a nation of immigrants, sure, but we are also a nation of laws. These illegals are breaking the law."
The United States is a nation of laws?
But we are also a nation with a long, horrifying history of unjust laws, laws more often than not rooted in racism and sexism. The very constitution of our nation was written with the assumption that many laws would need to be changed as time marched on. No coincidence that the very people trying to scare up a frenzy regarding "illegals" are the same people dismantling the constitution before our very eyes.
Sometimes, as history shows us, it is the law that is immoral and the "illegals" who are on the side of justice.
linkage - go read the whole thing
Those of us who have been watching this whole thing unfold over the past year knew it was coming. It was far too predictable for the Republican Noise Machine to find a new target of their ire to divide voters and whip up their base for turnout in the congressional elections this coming November. The one thing the Sensenbrenners and Roves in the halls of power didn't contemplate, I think, is the fact that they were opening themselves up to a full airing of their incompetence regarding Homeland Security and the miscalculation that the immigrant community and their supporters would not cower in fear when their families had a real chance of being divided by broken laws.
The people are fighting back; and everytime in United States history this type of Revolution has occurred, there has been a tidal wive of progress on the road to equality for all under the law. It is that liberal spirit that guides the masses with or without their consent that leads me to the final conviction that we are embarking on a new era of civil rights. It will force each of us to step outside of our boxes of familiarity, overcoming the fear of the unfamiliar, and embrace a new wave of humanity. You gotta love it. I know I do.
Tags: immigration reform, civil rights movement, agoraphobia