The Legend of Wooley Swamp

What ever happened to nuance? Jabberwocky is being spewed up by the left and right as they try to drag us into their Wonderlands. This blog charts a path out of this swamp of simple truths and false certainties. And from time to time, it'll be a place for more light-hearted musings.

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Location: Palms - L.A, California

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

"Si se Puede" - an Immigrant Afternoon on the Mall

And so the immigration rally - the link is to the official April link - took place and the turnout was at least as good as forecast (click on the headline for a nice panorama shot). I made it down just in time to catch the tail end of Senator Kennedy’s trademark passion. During his speech - amidst interspersed "Si se puede's" - the crowd began chanting his name like he was Bono. And for an afternoon, he was indeed a Bono of Massachusetts.

(c) AFP, Mandel Ngan

But the real rock stars were those in the crowd. As someone memorably coined it: “We decided not to be invisible anymore”. And visible they were. So many people who live, work and study in the Washington Metro area. I can only assume that many folks who live comfortable, sheltered lives would have been taken aback by this show of peaceful protest and celebration. Sure, they may have a gardener or nanny, but do they pause to think that they are not the only ones? And that immigrants have all kinds of jobs?

From the Washington Post’s reporting on this rally and the others across the country:

“Hundreds of thousands of pro-immigration demonstrators mobilized on the Mall and in scores of cities across the country yesterday in a powerful display of grass-roots muscle-flexing that organizers said could mark a coming-of-age for Latino political power in the United States…
Unlike some national marches in the past, the pro-immigration rallies have had a bottom-up, organic quality that often surprised organizers and opponents alike. But not everything was spontaneous. In contrast to earlier rallies, which featured Mexican flags and produced a backlash, yesterday's events were awash in American flags after organizers and radio disc jockeys urged demonstrators not to give their opponents something to criticize.
"We had American flags because this is our home and we also wanted to bring part of our heritage," said Salvador Carranza, an organizer of a rally in Madison, Wis. "We believe we are part of this country, and also part of our heritage, so we don't think having other flags is disrespectful.
(click here to continue reading the article)

For a stunning slideshow, click here.

(c) Reuters, Robert A. Reeder

As the article points out, the rallies were largely peaceful even if there was palpable disappointment following last Friday’s immigration bill debacle in the Senate. They were also heavily American with pledges of allegiance and plenty of flags. This won’t dampen the nativist rant that the immigrants are anti-American, but then again nothing will.

What struck this observer was both the diversity and the lack of the same in the crowd. The diversity was that of Latinos and Hispanics from all quarters – flags, banners, and yes, awesome soccer jerseys from Colo Colo, Club América and the Strongest to good ol' D.C. United.

As this was officially an immigration rally, the absence of other ethnic groups was somewhat unfortunate. To be clear, representatives of African and Asian ethnic organizations were there, but the crowd was mostly Latino. The diversity of the American people is its strength and the more one reminds the xenophobes and restrictionists of this, the better. I realize that people may have thought this was not their battle (or disagreed with the forum) and of course people were working. Still, next time I hope the grass roots wave reaches more folks.

Manuel Herrera in NYC (c) Reuters, Chip East

Given the inevitable comparisons with past Civil Rights demonstrations (read the Swamp on this); it was good to see several African American speakers on the podium if not in the crowd. This included U.S. Representative Albert Wynn, who represents parts of Prince George’s County (that’s where my home in Laurel is) and Montgomery County (gerrymandering anybody?). Speaking for his constituents – a very heterogeneous mix of white, African American, Asian American, Hispanic Americans – he dismissed those who would see some kind of difference:

“You are beautiful….We are America. If you live here, work hard everyday, if you raise your children here and if you pay taxes: You are American…” (my transcription from the C-Span broadcast, check it out for the vibe)

Other than CASA de Maryland, the organizers were mainly unions and most significantly religious organizations from across the spectrum. Muslim and Jewish leaders spoke as did representatives of other faith-based groups. But it was the position of the Christian churches that proved most interesting.

While I was happy to see Bishop Rev. Theodore Schneider of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America spread his gospel, I was even more impressed with Archbishop Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of the Washington Archdiocese. Representing the Catholic Church to which the majority of those in attendance surely belonged, he spoke not only at length but in fluid Spanish. While I was not able to follow, the crowd’s reaction was electric.

Archbishop McCarrick’s stance follows in the illustrious footsteps of Archbishop Cardinal Roger Mahony of the Los Angeles Archdiocese. Last month he propelled himself into the immigration debate by calling for reform along the lines of the McCain-Kennedy bill that came out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He has also issues numerous calls to prayer on the subject, including on April 5th the opening of Lent on which he also called for a show of solidarity through fasting.

Cardinal Roger Mahony at the April 10th L.A. rally

This kind of political activism by religious leaders is not appreciated by all, and this morning I had the dubious pleasure of seeing John O’Sullivan, a Catholic immigrant from the U.K., air his views on C-Span. Mr. O’Sullivan is an intelligent, well-spoken man who yearns for the America he imagined he immigrated to. The America of Samuel Huntington devotees, in which Anglo values form the base of the “tom-ah-to soup”.

By this he means that the U.S. was a tomato soup from the beginning and over time, spices and all made it tastier, but it remains a tomato soup to this day. This analogy, which he prefers to “melting pots” or “mosaics”, appears to be one of wishful thinking. ...the wishful thinking of those who prefer their tom-ah-to soup watery and 17th Centuryesque.

Anyway, please read O’Sullivan’s latest column and watch him on C-Span. Definitely worth it: the xenophobic views of an immigrant always are….When he goes off about the ‘mystic chords of memory’ (abusing a Lincoln quote), the Alamo, Anglo values and tom-ah-to soup, things get kinda wacky (13 minutes into the segment).

For more on the benevolent – and in this country of all countries’, inevitable – involvement of faith communities in the immigration debate, I highly recommend Daniel Wood’s article from the Christian Science Monitor:

“Increasingly, (religious leaders) are making their presence felt on Capitol Hill, where the Senate is now drafting its version of immigration reform. In their own churches, synagogues, and mosques, many leaders are striking a defiant pose toward an immigration bill the US House has already approved….
At stake is the moral high ground on immigration. The religious leaders see new border-tightening moves as intruding on their obligation to care for strangers - no questions asked…. It is none of the government's business who and how religious people serve," says Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, president of Interfaith Alliance, which represents 70 faith traditions. "Would the US Congress have told the Good Samaritan not to help a stranger in the ditch?"
(click here to continue reading)

In the article, you learn the Cardinal Mahony plans to order his priests to not comply with restrictive federal immigration measures. Sure sounds like the Chicago City Council to me!

Lastly, I wanted to give a shout out n' mad props to the youth of the DC Metro area. Many students are themselves directly affected by this, and if not, members of their families may well be. On the Mall the other day, they turned out en masse. In Montgomery County, some students were actually allowed to take off from class and receive credits for participating. This is the result of a progressive (and thus somewhat controversial) community service program. Read about it here.

I am talking about Americans like Jose Cortez:

“I really want to support immigrants," said Cortez, an Einstein senior who was born in El Salvador and immigrated to Montgomery County at 4 to join his father, Mario. "Without them, this country wouldn't be anything. Immigrants aren't here to fight; they're here to work.'' The elder Cortez, who had the day off from his job at Whole Foods, smiled at his son's words… (from Lori Aratani’s article in yesterday’s WP)

Word and Palabra, Jose. “Si se puede” “Yes, we can do it”


(c) AP, Evan Vucci Julio and Rosa Deng

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Blogger Package said...

I know this is your wheelhoust Carl, and we are getting so much conflicting info. Is is possible to craft a program that won't step on toes or be used in a partisan manner? I know schools in OR are swamped, as are the safty nets like the Oregon Health Plan, that actually went under.

5:03 PM  

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