With the election of President Obama in 2008, the conservative right in the U.S. has experience a sort of “red scare relapse,” becoming hyper-vigilant about the new administration’s perceived effort to introduce elements of socialist ideology into our government.
Despite health care reform and a couple of bank bailouts, we’re happy to report that the country is still the democracy we’ve been making work since 1776, warts and all.
While Commie-phobic watchdogs have been keeping an ear to the ground throughout Obama’s term for the slightest tremor of a socialist future, it’s the efforts of the right, in the form of Arizona’s newly-passed SB1070, that present the biggest threat to our freedom we’ve seen in the last two years.
The Arizona bill, signed into law by Gov. Jan Brewer last week, makes it legal to detain people suspected of being in the country illegally, a law that essentially institutionalizes racial profiling, and showcases the xenophobic, racist attitude that repersents the ugliest side of our country, and are more of a nudge toward the inherently-racist political ideal of fascism then anything that’s crossed Obama’s desk.
Patriotism is a tricky thing to define. It’s not just wearing a lapel pin, it’s not marching in a 4th of July parade, and it’s not firing your handgun into the air. What is most especially is not is an excuse for racist behavior. Every single U.S. citizen deserves equal protection under the law, and SB1070 has just stripped away the concept of of equality in Arizona.
As Saturday Night Live’s Seth Meyers quipped on last weekend’s show, “I know there’s some people in Arizona worried that Obama is acting like Hitler, but could we all agree that there’s nothing more Nazi than saying “Show me your papers?”
The justification for such action usually falls along the lines of “they are taking all our jobs,” and this is a particularly touchy subject during a recession, but the fact is that as long as there are Americans abusing the welfare system, it’s own our homegrown laziness that should be the real target of such ire. Money troubles bring out the worst in everyone, but we had hoped that the “worst” was not this glaringly racist behavior that laws like SB1070 seek to normalize.
It seems misguided and overtly racist to target illegal immigrants who come to our country and risk life and limb to secure the kind of jobs that some citizens are too proud or apathetic to do themselves.
This law, unlike the equally civil rights infringing Patriot Act before it, is thankfully limited to one state right now, but the very idea is wholly offensive and threatens to alienate our country’s largest ethnic groups – the Hispanic and Latino Americans who compose 15 percent of the population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Saturday’s march in Portland in protest to SB1070 drew 500 to Congress Street, but as we’ve seen with such protests in the past, the turnout in left-leaning (left-bent, more accurately) Portland is a imprecise bellweather for the rest of the state, and nation as a whole, but it did send an important message: we will not tolerate institutionalized racism in this country.
Immigrant labor is an integral part of this country, and America would not be the beacon of democracy and capitalism it is today without it. From the West African slaves who cotton-picked America into a powerful economic force, to today’s Hispanic and Latino workers who do the yeoman’s work in the fruit fields of California and the meatpacking plants of Colorado, we owe our immigrant workforce an enormous debt of gratitude.
Acting as if SB1070 is anything but a racist law meant to marginalize and terrorize immigrants is ignorant and dangerous. Writing off such xenophobia as “patriotism” is a deplorable act, and defames the actions of every patriot who fought and died to make the United States the bastion of equality it is today.
So be wary of any law that tries to divide us along racial lines in the name of patriotism, and be on the lookout for intolerance in all of its incarnations. As novelist Sinclair Lewis said in 1935, “when fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in a flag.”