Archive for the ‘Violence’ Category

Much of the polarized debate on undocumented immigrants in the U.S. springs from emotional and tribal fears. But that tribal outlook is not just about fear. Ironically, it also about hope.

Although far from a majority, a large portion of the U.S. population wants to make it more difficult for immigrants to enter this country. They also want to send those who are here, with and without papers, back to their ancestral homes. There is fear and hopelessness in these responses. Disappearing jobs and stagnant wages have made some Americans into extremists. They are willing to think of the worse as they hope for the best. This is true even for those who came here as immigrants, or are themselves people of color, or who may also agree that the undocumented are hard-working and make a lot of contributions to this country. None of this matters any longer.

For many Americans, the undocumented are simple “lawbreakers.” They don’t care if these young immigrants have dreams. They resent the fact that their own dreams have no way of becoming true. So, they hope to dash the dreams of the undocumented. Yes there is resentment, racism, and bitterness there. But it is more.

Deep inside, most of these deniers believe that they are righting the scales of justice. The Dreamers may be hardworking, young, and innocent. But they are still lawbreakers and deserve to be punished. This punitive action is not likely to make their own dreams come true. But it will satisfy a thirst for some kind of justice.

For Joe Kleve, 21, a senior at St. Mary’s University of Minnesota in Winona, the argument that the young immigrants had been brought by their parents held no weight.

What if someone’s parents were caught sneaking their whole family into a movie without paying, he asked. “Are they going to just kick the parents out?”

For Mr. Pham, 39, the issue was personal. He, too, arrived in the United States as a toddler, as a legally admitted refugee from Vietnam. But until his family could find American sponsors, they were parked in a refugee camp overseas for more than a year.(NY Times “Most Americans Want Legal Status for ‘Dreamers.’ These People Don’t.” January 25, 2018)

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They want justice against those they hold responsible for their losses. They don’t blame the titans of industry or the politicians, of both parties. It’s the Dreamers they accuse. These young people whose early lives were spent at the bottom rungs of this society as marginal and utter dregs in a fast flowing and increasingly unequal plutocratic country. But why this relatively small, deprived, and non-threatning group of young immigrants?

It’s because the Dreamers now have educational and professional achievements to their name. They have the temerity to show that huge obstacles can be surmounted. These Dreamers were seemingly able to brush off discrimination, poverty, and segregation and move upwards and so easily through the maze of globalized job losses and occupational hazards that thwart the dream-deniers. They hate that the Dreamers could overcome. The last thing deniers want to do is to bring Dreamers over the finish line by giving them legal status too.

This is why DACA supporters are making a mistake by suggesting that support for these young people is a kind of moral test. Yes, they were brought here as innocent young people. But that innocence doesn’t touch a significant sector of despondent Americans of many races and immigration status. Those who want them out are not persuaded by the economic contributions DACA young people have and will make to this country.

Not all of these deniers are nativists or racists. But most of them simply don’t want to see this country work for others. This is what Make America Great Again means to a lot of them. Perhaps this country cannot be kept white. But they aim for a future that can suddenly become positive and hopeful for them, without Dreamers. Perhaps, just perhaps, those well-paying and stable jobs Dreamers have or aspire to will again become available to them if ICE can push them out.

This all sounds dystopic and sad. There appears to be no easy way out of this penurious and delusional reaction to Dreamers. But it does not have to be. It’s possible to imagine a different, more realistic, and positive path. But to get there, DACA supporters will have to change their strategy. The goal should not be to continue the claim that Dreamers are not only innocent but hard working and successful. That just irritates too many Americans who see themselves as being equally hard working yet not as successful in education or jobs as the Dreamers. Latinos and Dreamers must appeal to the American sense of fairness and justice.

These young Latinos were brought to America by their parents. But their parents did not decide to go to America voluntarily. Their parents were encouraged and pushed to leave their country. This must be part of the messaging. Each Latino sender country has a history of American corporations buying up huge tracts of agricultural land and leaving campesinos, the Dreamer’s parents, without any real economic options to survive in their own countries. NAFTA institutionalized this process. The impact NAFTA has had on Mexican agriculture is largely responsible for the Mexican and Central American undocumented migration into the U.S.

NAFTA_s Vicious Cycle

The stories we tell to support the Dreamers should be about their parents. The parents may be guilty of sneaking into this country. But they are also victims of corporate avarice and economic domination…in their own country. They were economically battered, pushed out, and, as a result, had to sneak into the U.S. This is a story of loss that many American workers, even dream-deniers, may understand.

Dream-deniers have also been victimized by bank foreclosures, globalization, and job lay-offs. Many corporations have also come out publicly against Trump policies and actions, like the Muslim ban. Trump supporters and corporations are not necessarily clear allies. Trump and his supporters are more likely economic nationalists and authoritarian statists. Now, it’s likely that the dream-deniers will respond, like Trump, by also denying that U.S. corporations and government have ever done anything wrong in Latin America or anywhere else in the world. Yet Trump has also provided a possible conceptual bridge between the two.

Trump recently connected the Dreamers to white American deniers who feel dispossessed and hurt by the global economy. In Trump’s 2018 state of the union speech, he proclaimed “Above all else, we must remember that young Americans have dreams, too.” This statement, in a sober but largely incoherent speech, shows that Trump is crafty and very aware that the word “Dreamers” represents a beautiful “marketing coup” designed by Latino and Democratic leaders.

The word Dreamer gives undocumented youth a veneer of innocence and vulnerability that is difficult to attack. Trump’s goal was to take the word Dreamer back from Mexicans and Latinos and connect it, instead, to those Americans who want to deny Dreamers any sanctuary and any legal path to remain in the U.S.  Trump sought to make the deniers pure, innocent, and hopeful.

Latino leaders should accept Trump’s inversion of the word. Accept and invert it once more. Make American deniers into Dreamers who, like Latino Dreamers and parents, have also suffered at the hands of corporate and government elites who don’t have their interests at heart. But do so by linking the political economy of Latino undocumented flight into this country to the political economy of middle class and working class job and wage losses in the last 40 years.

Not all Trump supporters are nativists who simply want to whiten the country and keep non-white people from living in the U.S. And polls continue to show overwhelming public support for legal status for Dreamers. The latest poll shows 84% of Americans support granting legal status. But we don’t have to change how all deniers see the true Dreamers. Getting this done really means getting Congress to support Dreamers too.

What stops Congress from supporting Dreamers? First, there are the gerrymandered districts, full of the small percentage of anti-immigrant extremists, that elected so many of them into office. Those nativist extremists won’t forgive such betrayal. And Congress is hated so much by the American public, only 18% approval in the latest poll, that they have to hitch their wagon to the slightly more popular but legally vulnerable Trump.

This conceptual slight of hand may even turn the tables on Trump. It may get him to support this linkage between the Dreamers and his erstwhile “dreaming” supporters. I don’t think we can wait until the next redistricting maps (after 2020) or for a Democratically controlled Congress to change the policy on immigrants. Waiting will not protect Dreamers or Latinos from the rising nativist tide of violence and oppression.

The existential threats are immediate and palpable for Dreamers and Latinos in general. Changing the conversation, words, and perception of what Dreamers represent is a necessary first step. It may create the critical geographic and popular support that can sway Congress to support Dreamers. It may also help protect Latinos from the growing anti-immigrant and nativist movement that is already resulting in deadly physical attacks against Latinos, Dreamers and non-dreamers alike.

It’s time for Latino leaders to swing for a home-run rather than for a single. Dreamers, Latinos, and other working Americans can be saved only by making the case that capitalism cannot solve the problems caused by capitalism. The case against trade is that it is not only bad for the American working class, it is also bad for the working classes in Latin America too. Establish a class alliance to make support for Dreamers possible. Wishful thinking? Perhaps. But none of the strategies being pursued now are likely to deliver legal status to the millions of Latinos here without papers.

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I have always thought that there was a distinct difference in the way that African Americans and Latinos experienced racism in the U.S. Europeans wanted black bodies, both to exploit and to perceive them as sexual and powerful animals. Europeans saw Latinos, in contrast, as people occupying land that they wanted. Latinos had to be pushed off, physically and metaphorically, from the land they cherished. That difference produces different kinds of interactions for each group. Whites interaction with blacks is both more intimate and more deadly. You cannot possess another’s body without doing serious damage to them. Whites interact with Latinos mostly by not seeing them, by ignoring them, by wanted to wall them off (a la Trump), and by hoping that they just disappear, even when they rebel and become violent (as this article below suggests).

https://www.citylab.com/politics/2017/04/the-forgotten-history-of-latino-riots/522570/?utm_source=twb

As the author claims:

One common element in these disturbances was a perception that problems in the Latino community were being overshadowed by problems in black neighborhoods, or by other Latinos. In the Wynwood neighborhood of Miami in December 1990, hundreds of young Puerto Rican residents took to the streets after the acquittal of six police officers who beat a drug dealer to death. One resident, Clemente Montalvo, told the New York Times, “We want people to know we exist. Cubans get everything; we get nothing.

Uprising, New Jersey: Rioters in Newark on September 1, 1974, after a Puerto Rican festival at Branch Brook Park. The 1970s saw the greatest number of Latino civil disturbances, according to Fountain, Jr.’s research. (AP Photo/DL)

This was the Latino story in Puerto Rico, the Southwest, Central American countries like Panama and Honduras, and Latin American countries like Bolivia. Everywhere, Latinos were an inconvenient presence. Difficult to work and live with. But needing to be removed if American was going to achieve it’s Manifest Destiny.

Trump’s victory is the end of liberalism and the rise of progressivism. Neo-liberalism, in particular, is dead. Trump has not and will not kill it. But he will help mobilize an opposition that will. He will prove to his supporters that he is not the answer.

Destroying Obamacare without a single payer system to replace it, is not the answer. Bombing ISIS families will just create more terrorism. Killing NAFTA will not bring jobs back. Lowering taxes on the rich will not reverse growing inequality. He will not build a wall across the southern border and not just because Mexico won’t pay for it. He may yet surprise us all and not even try to do any of those things. He could have been just blowing hot smoke after all. But his Republicans in Congress will push him towards those goals. And the country will suffer.

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Trump’s victory is a sign that half-measures, like Obamacare don’t work. It is a sign that we want radical solutions to our growing problems, like inequality. It is a sign that people don’t trust our political leaders. And Trump will show that his measures go in the entirely wrong direction. And that is how the country will turn back towards a truly progressive agenda. Many of his supporters will turn against him and his Republican policies. Frustration will increase. People will wonder what went wrong. It will be the responsibility of progressives to deliver the ideas and the organization to point till a true solution.

Get ready Bernie…your time will come…maybe before 4 years are up!

It was during my first year in college and I was a teenager. I showed up at a meeting of a squatters organization on the Upper West Side. None of them spoke Spanish. They found out that the authorities had been tipped off to what we were up to. They had to take the buildings much earlier than they had planned. So, they asked me to lead the families into some buildings one night in August. I said sure. I led about 50-60 mothers and children up Amsterdam Avenue from the 80s up to 111. As we got closer, I saw that there were a lot of cop cars with lights in front of the buildings we were going to take. About two blocks from our destination, I could also see that there were about 30 cops in riot gear waiting for us. I asked the mothers if they still wanted to go ahead and they said yes. We walked up to the cops and I saw that an officer in white shirt was telling the cops to let us pass. They were probably afraid of the bad publicity if they beat us up. So, we went past them and into the first building. We were screaming and running up the stairs and opening up the apartments. It was pure joy. When I got to the top, I heard someone calling my name from the first floor. It was one of the gringo organizers. He told me that I had gone into the wrong building. It was the building around the corner that had been secretly prepped for occupation. Hahaha… So, I led the families out of the building, past the surprised cops, and into the correct building. We squatted, de-squatted, and squatted again…

This was part of a larger squatters movement on the Upper West Side that included Latino militant groups like El Comite. A documentary about this period was done in 1971. It was called Break and Enter/Rompiendo Puertas.

Here is the trailer… 

In a recent Hugh Eakin New York Books interview, Mark Danner does a masterful job of dissecting the voids, contradictions, and failures of the recent Senate report on the CIA’s torture program.  This interview article, “Our New Politics of Torture,” includes many observations and gems. One comment by Danner, in particular, stuck out because it points to a wider and more profound flaw in modern state sovereignty.  Danner concludes that the major problem with the U.S. torture, or “enhanced interrogation,” program was that it was mostly about our fears and, more exactly, the fears of our officials and leaders in the U.S. state. He states that,

“It’s an epistemological paradox: How do you prove what you don’t know? And from this open question comes this anxiety-ridden conviction that he must know, he must know, he must know. So even though the interrogators are saying he’s compliant, he’s telling us everything he knows—even though the waterboarding is nearly killing him, rendering him “completely non-responsive,” as the report says—officials at headquarters was saying he has to be waterboarded again, and again, because he still hadn’t given up information about the attacks they were convinced had to be coming. They kept pushing from the other side of the world for more suffering and more torture.”

Thus, we tortured because we were so afraid of another attack, of being surprised, of being embarrassed and shamed, of the terrorists! Aside from the idea that our fear is exactly what the terrorists wanted… and achieved, there is another very grave conclusion that we can make. It was not just the CIA that was afraid. The American people were very afraid too. And our state leaders, from Bush to Cheney to Rumsfeld to Congress, were very afraid indeed. Why? Primarily, I think, because terrorism strikes at the achilles heal of modern states, especially Super Powers like the U.S.  All of our weapons systems and armed forces are geared to repel and preempt attacks against us by other nation-states. But this is precisely what terrorism is not.

A Shiite pilrim w flag of martyr Iman HusseinTerrorists have no specific land to call their own. They have no military bases. They have no standing army. They operate without a specific chain of command. They operate like independent cells. There is no easy way to destroy its head, no matter how many drone strikes we deliver to eliminate terrorist leaders. Our missiles sit impotently in their silos. Our ships and planes circle “problem areas” but cannot encounter the enemy. We can spend billions and billions more on Defense, without a noticeable impact on our security.

Global travel, communications, and capital flows makes terrorist location, actions, and intentions so much more difficult to trace and block. The U.S. State is reduced to relying on information, and the CIA, in a much more profound and, ultimately incomprehensible way. The information we need is complicated, dense, unreliable, and often complicated by pesky things like human and constitutional rights. One can sense the exasperation of state leaders. Complaints about constitutionality of the bulk screening of U.S. civilian phone calls and emails are rendered irrelevant by the realization that intelligence officials have no other way of knowing what terrorists are up to. Thus, a recent government report lamented that

“From a technological standpoint, curtailing bulk data collection means analysts will be deprived of some information,” said Robert F. Sproull, the chairman of the committee that examined the problem and a former director of Oracle’s Sun Labs.”

That scares the hell out of state leaders. And thus, like a parent, who cannot get a child to behave with mere words and nagging, state leaders feel compelled to resort to violence. Their hope is that it will deliver the cooperation and information they need to not be embarrassed and shamed… by terrorists. But, ultimately, torture does not work.  It just inflames and expands the terrorism.

An interesting New Yorker article by George Packer explains the reasons behind the terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo as a result of the deep alienation of many African immigrants in France. He writes that the product of that alienation is a turn to a religion as politics. Thus he states, “For some believers, the violence serves a will to absolute power in the name of God, which is a form of totalitarianism called Islamism—politics as religion, religion as politics. “Allahu Akbar!” the killers shouted in the street outside Charlie Hebdo. They, at any rate, know what they’re about.” 

Tribute To Victims Killed During Attack At Satirical Magazine Charlie Hebdo At Place De La Republique In Paris

I have no doubt that he is right about how this radical ideological Islamic movement has so powerfully captured the imagination of these immigrant young men. The cause, however, is not the religious ideology. It is the sense of powerlessness felt by these young immigrants, and by non-immigrant young French, caught in maelstrom of the on-going transition from a nationally based economy into something global, more automated, less secure, and requiring higher levels of education. Adding to that is the continuing frustrations of a democratic politics that has been captured by the ultra rich everywhere it claims to exist. Those economic and political transformations affect everybody in modern capitalist countries, but not evenly or without variation.

Terrorism experts everywhere understand that people resort to such violence when they find that other routes towards influencing those around them and the society at large seem closed or ineffective. Terrorism is a tactic used to terrorize a population to accept something (independence, an ideology, religion, etc.) when other methods fail. Thus, terror was used by Irish Catholics, Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolutionaries, Rwandan Hutus, and countless more. States also engage in terror tactics when they sense the population is no longer listening or obedient to the rulers. Thus, dictators like Trujillo in the Dominican Republic, Stalin in the Soviet Union, Tito in Yugoslavia, and many more.

But what makes terror such a prevalent tactic is not only that its users think that other attempted ways to influence policy and politics are not working. Terror is so prevalent because it is so easy to use and to work. Every other form of influencing others requires knowledge about what those others need, want, or desire. In democratic countries, influence comes from following accepted rules and laws (or appearing to) about how to process and channel individual claims and preferences, such as by voting. When we want to influence consumers in a capitalist society, we delve into consumer research with surveys, focus groups, or, more recently, with brain research that identifies how our minds operate. Then we tailor advertising to tap into those discovered preferences or subconscious desires for designer brands, stimulation, sweetness or whatever.

Violence, however, is a method of influencing others that requires very little knowledge of the other party. Nobody has to conduct any expensive research or try to mobilize and organize millions of people. Violence is simple.  In the vast majority of cases, probably 99.9% of all people, we already know that people do not want to be hurt or to die. That makes the threat of violence, like with terrorism, something that is very effective because it is so easy to influence others.

Terrorism, whether it is in France, Iraq, or the U.S., springs not only from the alienated psychological state of some marginalized populations. It springs from the characteristics of what makes coercive force so effective and easy to get. All anyone needs is a gun or bomb or knife or box cutter to get people to obey them…even into permitting their bodies and plane to be used to destroy symbols of Western capitalist power. With rare exceptions, the very vast majority of us are so afraid of harm and death that most threats instill enough fear to either paralyze us or make us more obedient to those dispensing the threat.

Will write more about this later.

There are good reasons why it is racist to focus on bad parenting in black communities as an explanation for their plight. Just as it is absurd to dismiss all charges made by minority people and leaders that racism may be at work in particular incidents. These knee-jerk rejections have little logical or historical support. Poverty is what causes family stress and disintegration. All the data shows, for instance, that marriage rates increase as income and education get higher. That is true in all communities. Divorce is increasing and marriage rates are dropping in the fading white middle class too. Blacks are just a lot poorer than whites… thus, they experience more marriage breakdowns. So, an explanation that claims that it is black family disintegration that explains their economic and social condition is misleading and destructive. It is the other way around.

And I find it funny that conservatives often accuse President Obama or Al Sharpton of stoking “racial hatred” any time they suggest that racism and police brutality are an endemic problem in minority communities. The conservative thinking seems to be that just by uttering some magical words, Black leaders can make “racial hatred” appear out of nowhere!! And yet, the same people adamantly reject the idea that racism from whites towards blacks and Latinos exists at all despite all the CONCRETE evidence SHOWING that they lack proper representation in media, job opportunities, housing, politics, business, education, etc. Thus, real evidence of a racial division counts for a lot less and has much less power than the power of magical words like “police brutality” and “racism” uttered by elected and other Black leaders. Amazing. We now live in a world of magical realism.