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Thursday, February 3, 2011

¡ VIVA LA RAZA!




Like many Anglo-Americans, I remember Hispanics marching in the streets with Mexican flags in years past to demand rights for undocumented immigrants. I also remember the term la raza, which I took to mean “the race” and to refer to the Hispanic people. It puzzled me that these human rights advocates would refer to their people as a race when they are a genetic mix like any other population.  Why would they present themselves as different from other Americans when racism was responsible for many of their problems? Just as confusing, I wondered why they would carry Mexican flags when it was Anglos they had to convince to assure they were treated with respect for their human rights by the US government.

Having marched with groups of Hispanics and their supporters during the protests of Arizona’s SB 1070, the law designed to give police the power to profile Brown-skinned people, I now have perspective on what I saw a decade earlier. Hispanic rights groups have learned from experience that if they want to live in the U.S. without persecution, they need to build a broad coalition of support to fight for their rights as human beings. I was told that the term “la raza” refers not to one “race” but to the human race. In these rallies and marches, Hispanics no longer carry Mexican flags but rightfully part of the melting pot that the United States was meant to be.

To solve any problem, we need to start by identifying the cause. In all the fuss about what to do about the flood of illegal immigration to the U.S. the obvious solution has not been discussed. The underlying assumption is that migrant workers will always come to the United States because workers here have better wages.  It is true that the average wage in the US exceeds that for comparable work in Mexico and other Latin American countries. However, those concerned about the effect of immigration on job availability and wages who are demanding tougher sanctions rarely acknowledge that it is the United States government that has caused the doubling of the immigration rate since the passage of NAFTA.

The North American Free Trade Agreement was the first such deal with other regions and nations authorized after the U.S. became a signatory to the Global Agreement on Tariffs and Trade under Clinton and a Republican Congress. The effect of GATT was to surrender sovereignty of the U.S. in trade negotiations to an unelected body of corporatists with the authority to impose sanctions on any member nation that dared to pass laws restricting “free” trade. Most importantly, these include   laws protecting workers and environmental regulations protecting all the people in member nations. As a result, the U.S. government has ripped up the social contract not only with its people but with its neighbors to the South.

The assumption of Clinton and the opposition Congress was that the U.S lacks the economic power to compete against the tide of globalization that was sweeping the world as technology made us all more conscious of our economic interdependence. Nothing could be further from the truth. The efforts to loosen barriers to outsourcing jobs to third world countries were motivated by the pure greed of the economic elite who dictate law and policy of the U.S. government. The made a conscious choice not to encourage the development of a self-sustaining economy at home and in other nations because it benefited an increasingly small number of wealthy power brokers to whom life is a game of Monopoly.

NAFTA was sold to the American people as a means to create jobs while lowering prices of “American” goods produced in other countries. Ross Perot warned of the “giant sucking sound” of American jobs that would follow if this abominable legislation passed, but the people were not ready to listen. The fact that unions objected confirmed in the minds of average Americans convinced that unions were the cause of the fading economy of the U.S. that they should accept the deal.

The effect of NAFTA was as not catastrophic for the American worker as it was for the average Mexican worker. In Mexico, wages fell 20% as Archer Daniels Midland and other giant agribusinesses moved in. At the same time, food prices increased almost 125%. The corn that was used to make the staple food of tortillas on which the average peasant family survived became much less available and more expensive. The prosperity of these corporations was dependent on the misery of the average Mexican.

The Mexican farmer was faced with becoming tenant laborers for foreign bosses who paid wages that could not support their families. Their only option became illegally immigrating to the United States to earn better wages there. Despite facing death in the desert at the hands of unscrupulous coyotes or death from neglect and abuse by American farmers, they traveled to the U.S. in droves. It should thus come as no surprise that the immigration rate has doubled since the passage of this unconscionable giveaway to the corporations. It would not have happened of the U.S. government were not in the hands of those who pay for the obscenely expensive races for Congress that leave the elected officials in the U.S. beholden to them. Now, Columbians and workers in Central America face the same grim prospects as their Mexican brothers and sisters.

After the fact, it is obvious to anyone who understands the issues that one of the main reasons for tax-avoiding corporations to outsource jobs was free trade agreements. The other of course is the lack of penalties for corporations that ship jobs overseas. This is an issue that both liberals concerned about human rights and conservatives concerned about jobs should unite on. Unfortunately, in recent decades the American people have become victims of propaganda campaigns by the corporate media that keep them fighting each other instead of the corporate plutocracy that is the root of the problem.

In recent decades, Americans have not been inclined to closely watch their government, preferring to make judgments based on the lies and obfuscations of the corporate media. While some people who consider themselves conservatives have taken to the streets in righteous anger, they are unknowingly fighting against their own interests and for the interests of those responsible for the economic crisis.

These hard-working individuals are angry at the economic devastation that they helped cause in electing the very men and women who created conditions that undermined the economic and social fabric of America. They have bought the deception that only corporations create jobs despite the obvious evidence to the contrary.  It boggles the imagination that they cannot see the inconsistencies in the narrative spun by the “conservative” media. While ready to pillory bankers, they revere wealth because they are under the illusion that if all regulation were ended, government privatized and corporations and the rich did not face the imaginary burden of excessive taxation, jobs would that have gone south would magically reappear.

Meanwhile, liberals feel disempowered to influence the criminally negligent workings of Congress. This was reinforced when the Supreme Court selected President Bush after a systematic undermining of the popular vote in 2000. The fact that illegal vote manipulation continued in 2004 simply convinced U.S. citizens who had seen the evidence ignored in the corporate media that working through the electoral process was useless. They have been trying to build a movement to force reform ever since.

Aside from the obvious fact that Americans cannot change the government without participating in the electoral process, those on the Left have made innumerable other mistakes in movement building. The most important is the failure to consistently support each others' causes and organizations. In the 1960s, motivated by the threat of being forced to serve the corporatocracy in the war for Empire in Vietnam, youth took to the streets in droves. This generation has grown up in a fascist environment that is all they have ever known. 

The more privileged among our youth work diligently to prepare for jobs that may disappear before they graduate. Less fortunate young men and women face a dim future of wage slavery and economic conscription for wars of choice created for the profit of the economic elite that is subjugating them. The common thread is that like their parents, they feel helpless to affect the course of their lives.

It is up to us who are fighting a battle against corporate privilege to build a movement that will inspire and attract our youth. If they become educated and involved in creating a brighter future for themselves and their children, their electoral power can mean the difference between the success or failure of this final stage in the American Revolution. Today’s youth are united in their acceptance of people of all races and nationalities, gender and sexual orientation. They already accept the basic assumption that needs to be understood to build an effective coalition of those fighting for social justice. They will be our natural allies if we can spur them to action.

It should be obvious that the progressive movement can only gain momentum when its members begin to work together to fight for the causes we all care about. The central unifying problem is corporate personhood and it is the issue that each of these groups and individuals should be pressing. Without a Constitutional amendment assuring that the Congressional representatives of the people of the United States cannot be bought by corporate money, we are fighting in vain for the reforms we seek. In supporting each other we advance the cause of freedom and justice for all.

The critical piece that is missing in too many of the efforts of  members of progressive movement is in failing to reach out to conservative thinkers to educate them that conservatism is not under assault by liberals but by a cabal of greedy, self-interested politicians and those who benefit from a fascist system of corporate welfare. Americans can only return jobs to the United States when they are truly united in the effort to restore democracy to the nation. They must continue to build alliances based on the supposition that they are all Americans and citizens of the world.

Democracy cannot exist otherwise because the underlying assumption of the American experiment in democracy is that men and women are capable of acting in the interest of all. This is in turn based on what once was the shared belief that all humans possess the inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. When any nation allows one group to be oppressed, none of us are free. Americans must reform the U.S. government so that it represents the People and not corporations. When this is accomplished, the  solution to the immigration problem will be obvious.

The corporatocracy is convinced that the power of the People cannot overcome their advantage in controlling the levers of power in Washington. For the sake of our children, it is up to us to prove them wrong. A People united in the cause of democracy and justice cannot be stopped by a handful of Puppetmasters who would enslave us all in the mistaken belief that we are incapable of ruling ourselves. We can learn a lesson from other successful Revolutionaries and put aside artificial distinctions to fight together for ourselves and each other.

The solution to the problems posed by illegal immigration is not to build walls but to tear them down.A democratic government not driven by the interests of international corporations and their propaganda machine will surely persuade corrupt Latin American governments to take care of their own People. Once that happens, most Latin Americans would prefer to return to their families in their home countries. Those who have made their lives in the United States and wish to stay there will find themselves welcome as fellow members of la raza.  



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Those interested in this topic may want to read this essay from the online book Stop the Madness: The Diary of a Soldier For Peace in the War to Take Back America: THE WALLS THAT DIVIDE US

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