Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Seismic Shifts in America

Looking back on the history of the United States, the most significant (and positive) changes have been ushered in when the people, not the political power structure, have united to demand progress. Liberalism, or progressivism as it is now being referred to around blogtopia (yes, skippy, I know), has always stood for the expansion of rights to all people. Issues such as the ending of slavery, women's voting rights, the ending of segregation, legalization of unions, etc. have all been designed to widen the circle of participation in the democratic process, not constrict it as our conservative brethren preach to their unthinking followers.

Watching the millions of human beings rally and march yesterday for human rights made me realize how much of a seismic shift awaits the United States if the Movement borne over the past several months continues to flourish and grow.
Though there was no way to immediately assess the larger effects of the protests, they did appear to mark a newfound sense of confidence on the part of illegal immigrants, who until recently have generally been reluctant to participate in civic debate.

"For many years, these undocumented immigrants, as well as individuals who sympathize with the plight of this community, have been very quiet and passive," said Harry Pachon, president of USC's Tomas Rivera Policy Institute, a think tank that studies Latino issues. That is changing, he said. "When you have 100,000 people out in the street, that gives reality to potential political power."

There will always be potential as long as there is hope. I can tell you from first-hand experience that the gleam in the eyes of the peaceful activists was exactly that--Hope, or the more colorful way of expressing it--Esperanza.

To truly move forward as a society, the American public must be willing to think outside of the box; especially the political left. There was a time when the spitting vitriol of hate and "Who do you think you are, you have NO rights here" encounters were directed at African Americans who dared speak against their slave masters or at women who had the courage to demand an equal voice at the ballot box. They were the "illegals" in that not-so-far past, they were the ones who were scoffed at when they demanded a chance to participate more fully in society.

Each time the rights of an Other was trampled in the United States, there was always a group of Americans who rushed to their defense and shook the foundations until progress was made and democracy advanced. In this modern day civil rights movement, history is absolutely repeating itself.

O'BRIEN: What do you think is the main message from these marches?

SALINAS: I think definitely [the] main [messages are], No. 1, We want legislation that is fair, that is humane, and that is realistic; and No. 2, We want to be treated with respect.

I think for too long now the immigration debate has been more of a one-sided debate where immigrants feel they have been unfairly attacked and unfairly accused of all the ills of this country.

And this is a way of showing -- not only today but [also] the marches that we have seen in the last couple of months -- it's a way of showing the unity of immigrants, not only undocumented immigrants, but also legal immigrants and U.S. citizens that are of children of immigrants, we could say. (emphasis mine)

If the message of solidarity continues to be raised in the streets and elections of the United States, then I may have the opportunity to remove the black cape and watch that golden lamp shine again on our nation of immigrants. My hope, mi esperanza, is that this whole episode will shake up the political reality of America. If it does, rest assured that it will never knock Lady Liberty off her foundation. Rather, it will cement her legacy forever.

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