January 2008 Archives

A friend of mine sent me this informative and beautiful documentary the other day providing valuable insight into the places that U.S. migrants come from.

This was originally posted on my MTV Think profile for the Street Team.

All bloggers have their issues.  Each and every one of us has a special something that we add to the digital universe.  It results in a diversity that is beautiful at the same time that it is ugly and contentious.  Even with all of our differing views there is one thing all bloggers can unite against: traditional media attacks on our new mediums of communication. 

As someone who was interviewed for, and saw first-hand how Jenn Abelson of the Boston Globe went about writing her piece "MTV wants digital army to bring back the buzz", I can say that Abelson not only wrote an unfair new media attack piece, but she also went about gathering her information with what seemed to be the explicit purpose of undercutting the legitimacy of new media.  You only have to read the first two sentences of Abelson's piece to understand where I'm coming from:

Borders, Schmorders

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  immigrant rights now --.jpg The other day, a colleague and I were talking and the topic of borders came up.  Now, this may sound like an odd topic, but we're both sociologists and we're both highly interested in globalization and, let's face it, if globalization (from the top down) is about anything, it's about bulldozing borders.  At least, if you're a member of one of the elites, it is.  If on the other hand, you're just another poor sap, part of the hoi polloi, then borders and boundaries of all kinds -- between races, genders, ethnicities, classes, and above all perhaps, countries -- are, as they say, carved in stone.  "Why is that?" we asked each other.  If borders are part of a truly basic reality, then shouldn't they be the same for everybody?  They're not.


pack your bags

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"I still can't believe this is happening in America."

So said the sister of a U.S. citizen locked up by the government for weeks and nearly deported because he couldn't produce a U.S. birth certificate and the government couldn't be bothered to check its own records. 

Thomas Warziniack was born in Minnesota and grew up in Georgia, but immigration authorities pronounced him an illegal immigrant from Russia.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement has held Warziniack for weeks in an Arizona detention facility with the aim of deporting him to a country he's never seen. His jailers shrugged off Warziniack's claims that he was an American citizen, even though they could have retrieved his Minnesota birth certificate in minutes and even though a Colorado court had concluded that he was a U.S. citizen a year before it shipped him to Arizona.

Breaking Free

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God bless the Palestinian people.

Which brings me to a new definition of "border" as put forth today by Luis Alberto Urrea:

BORDER, n. 1. An imaginary line imposed on an indigenous landscape by men who are not from that landscape; 2. A line that unites two different cultures and forms an unbreakable bond between them.

It is important to remember that, while universally praised and honored in America today, during his lifetime, Martin Luther King, Jr. was a deeply controversial and divisive figure.

Fringe views that still exist today (which I won't dignify with links) condemning King as a dangerous radical, a socialist, and a communist, were the views of much of the mainstream press during the 1960s.  King was viewed as such a disruptive force by the U.S. government that Attorney General Bobby Kennedy disgracefully authorized J. Edgar Hoover's FBI to wiretap King's phone.  Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Hoover's FBI worked to undermine and destabilize civil rights groups like King's SCLC, all in the name of national security and American unity.   

This was originally posted on my Think profile for Street Team '08 at streetteam08.com:

U.S. citizen youth vote for more than themselves, they vote for the betterment of others. When it comes to issues like income inequality, social stratification, the environment, human rights, and multilateral foreign policy, looking out for the people around us is high on our generation’s list of priorities. Voting altruism is a revolutionary idea. Voting selflessly, not selfishly, might even seem counterintuitive. But in a flat world strange things start to make a lot of sense. 

Memories of Mexico

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As I see things like this and these, I am increasingly heartsick.  How wrong it is, how immoral that indigenous peoples should be so maligned, so brutalized, so disrespected.  How wrong it is that they should have to fight for their space, for their survival, for their lives.  And as I watch these political candidates (and others) openly trying to turn indigenous immigrants into a collective enemy so that uninformed U.S. voters will act to shut them out, I am reminded of my trip to Mexico last March.

I had the great fortune to be allowed to accompany some students to Cholula for eight days and I will never be the same.  When I returned, I blogged about it at Why Am I Not Surprised?, but now, with all that's going on, I want to re-publish my post -- basically a string of memories -- here.  It's admittedly (and I'll warn you now) long.  It took more than a few words to capture the sense of what I learned on that trip.  But I think what I learned is very pertinent to why it hurts me so to see my sisters and brothers so ill used across the mainstream media in the U.S. now.

So when you have a little time, come take a trip with me to Mexico, where I left a bit of my heart and found a bit of my soul.

In researching a forthcoming post, I stumbled across this remarkable video about rural Kenyans who have gotten the rights from the corporation that owns the Simpsons to produce and sell handmade soapstone carvings of characters on the show.  They receive $6 for each carving, which they use to support and educate their families.  The spokesman from the group is very pleased about the work and the impact it has had on the community. 

But then we find that the carvings can be sold in the UK for ten times that amount, $60 a piece.  Does it really cost $54 to ship a small bust of Homer Simpson from Kenya to Britain?  Perhaps, but I am skeptical.  But I’ll refrain from complaining too loudly since if the project were ended for some reason, the Kenyan artisans would clearly be worse off than they are now. 

As an educated Westerner, objectively I have little to complain about compared to most people in the world.  But when thinking about the trenchant problems people in the Global South face and will likely face for the rest of their lives, lately I’ve been dangerously short on optimism.  It’s just so depressing.  It’s easy to understand why often the first response to such widescale suffering is to pretend that these challenges don’t exist or that they’re primarily unsolvable and of people’s own making. 

So it lifts me up to see people like videoreporter Ruud Elmendorp, who made the piece I’ve embedded here, publicizing daily life in Kenya and elsewhere on his website.  He has some reports on the recent unrest in Kenya.  Check it out

Update: I'm still working on the embed here--sorry to all inconvenienced by the automatic start on the video. I need a tutorial or something ...

Later update: Ok, hopefully it'll work now through YouTube.  Embedding the clip through Typepad proved to be beyond my meager abilities. 

Changeseeker's post reminded me of this the other day.

For Christmas my mother gave me this book compiled by Steve Coffman entitled Founders v. Bush: a Comparison in Quotations of the Policies and Politics of the Founding Fathers and George W. Bush.  In all honesty, the book isn't very good (sorry mom!).  It strings together quotations that I think are unrelated and unfair.  Just to give people the quotations I'm going to cite are contrasted with two of Bush's quotes under the header "Importance of Union" (p. 3):

GEORGE W. BUSH: "I'm a uniter, not a divider."
-Interview with David Horowitz for Salon.com, May 6, 1999

GEORGE W. BUSH: "I care what 51 percent of the people think of me"
-To Oprah Winfrey, September 20, 2000, quoted by Salon.com
Then to my surprise, in the same section, I get blown out of the water by these quotes from George Washington that have startling relevance in the fight for migrant emancipation.

GEORGE WASHINGTON: "The bosom of America is open to receive not only the opulent and respectable stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all nations and religions, whom we shall welcome to a participation of all our rights and privileges, if by decency and propriety of conduct they appear to merit the enjoyment."
-Address to the Members of the Volunteer Association and the Other Inhabitants of the Kingdom of Ireland Who Have Lately Arrived in the City of New York, December 2, 1783

Migrantes del Sur

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This month's National Geographic has a stunning feature on Central American migrants and their journey over Mexico's southern border.  Be sure and check out the photos and the video as well as the article

Kyle is very familiar with the southern border region.  Before other journalists took notice, he was there documenting the Central American migrant trail.  If you haven't seen it, by all means check out his own migrant's journey, here, and here

Thanks to Tomás for his tireless work in bringing articles like this to our attention

Short Blog Round-Up

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Rather than comment on these two entries, I just thought I'd point people to them because they deserve to be read.

I've been meaning to write something on how the prison industry in the U.S. has looked to migrant detention for growth and profits, but I don't think there's a better person that could have taken this on than XP.  I'll certainly be linking back to his post a whole lot.

Also, Renata Avila of Global Voices recently put together an excellent post on migrants.  Yes, she mentioned Citizen Orange but rather than read the small part of the post she dedicates to me check out what some other Guatemalans are saying.  Beautiful stuff.

Together We Are Strong

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    together strong - scw.jpg BULLETINAccording to David Bacon at Truthout, ""Mexican labor authorities seized on technicalities to order an end to the strike at the country's largest copper mine in Cananea, Sonora, on Friday. The Mexican press reports that over 700 heavily armed agents of the Sonora state police arrived in Cananea just hours before the decision was announced, and agents of the Federal Preventative Police were sent to this tiny mountain town as well. Strikers report that the streets were filled with rocks and teargas, and 20 miners have been injured -- some seriously -- in the ensuing conflict. The union says that five strikers are missing."

Additionally, in a piece dated a few weeks ago, but appearing in the January 7th issue of The Nation, Naomi Klein quoted EZLN Subcomandante Marcos as saying: "Those of us who have made war know how to recognize the paths by which it is prepared and brought near.  The signs of war on the horizon are clear. War, like fear, also has a smell. And now we are starting to breathe its fetid odor in our lands."

Researchers at the Center of Political Analysis and Social and Economic Investigations told Klein: "On the fifty-six permanent military bases that the Mexican state runs on indigenous land in Chiapas, there has been a marked increase in activity. Weapons and equipment are being dramatically upgraded, new battalions are moving in, including special forces--all signs of escalation."

Be aware.


The above poster is a product of the highly respected Syracuse Cultural Workers.

  Thumbnail image for thomas paine.jpg Some anti-immigrationists point to what they like to call the early "forefathers" of the United States of America as examples of the kind of people we want to represent -- so different, they tell us, from those who leave their homelands to come here today.  Consequently, I found it interesting to read that this week in 1776 marked the publication of Thomas Paine's "Common Sense," a pamphlet that is largely credited with being responsible for selling the idea of breaking away from Great Britain.  The vast majority of the colonists at the time, if not totally loyal to the crown, were disinterested in becoming an independent nation.  Nevertheless, Paine's arguments were so persuasive that he managed to sell 120,000 copies of his treatis, going from tavern to tavern in town after town to do so.

So who was this Thomas Paine, this "forefather" we should emulate?

I don't see how the federal government is expected to do anything about the millions of U.S. migrants living in fear when the press does a miserable job of informing the public.  Over the past few days, I've seen the Associated Press blast the comments of Governor Deval Patrick across the nation and fail to accurately inform readers about the context surrounding those comments.
(Picture from the Boston Herald) 

I encourage everyone to write a letter to the editor and leave comments on the websites of the Boston Globe, the Boston Herald, the Houston Chronicle, The New Bedford Standard-Times, the Worcester Telegram, and the Berkshire Eagle.  It is especially important that people write letters to the editors of these papers to counter the inevitable firestorm that will play out in the editorial sections.

Big Things in the Works

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I keep saying that I have a lot of big things going on, most of which I will only be able to reveal when the time is right.  Fortunately, this time around there are a few things that I can report on.  I just got back from training for the MTV Choose or Lose Street Team '08, and some of my photos were recently published in a local magazine, Dollars & Sense.

(Picture from Street Team '08 Platform) 

I'm still trying to iron out some of the details for how what I do with Street Team '08 is going to be incorporated into this blog, but you'll be able to observe my weekly reports and everything I do through my think.mtv.com profile.  In case you haven't seen it yet, the Boston Herald recently reported on what I'll be doing for MTV.

I'm a little bit ashamed of one of the quotes.  I said, "I'm going to be a one-man media outlet for Massachusetts youth".  I was trying to talk about how I'll be producing audio, visual, and written media for MTV, which is what is so cool about new media, but it just ended up coming off as arrogant, and complete against what new media is about, which is multiple voices and collective strength. 

That's it for now, but I'm probably going to compile all of the media reports about me at some point, and there will be a few more articles in future so stay on the look out.
Everything makes sense when I go back to Guatemala.  I've gotten increasingly interested in local politics here in Massachusetts, but going back to Guatemala puts everything in perspective.  While I still have yet to be able to fully articulate it, I think I'm finally starting to get a feel for what matters for the billions of people that inhabit the earth. 

When I put it that way it might seem simple.  But in the world of new media, where it's theoretically possible to make an impact anywhere in the globe, at any time, prioritizing makes the difference between change and keeping things the same. 

It's never been enough to say, "do good", because almost everyone, at least in their mind, feels they are a good person at heart.  It's certainly not enough to say all each of us needs to do is help a few other people, because those with the privilege to do so are too few and those that need help and support are too many.  The question has always been when and how to better the world, and the answers certainly aren't always and however.  That leads to burnout. 

I think my mind is finally grasping the necessary nuance that has always allowed me to prioritize between issues like Boston's rat problem or a "virus of potholes", and malnourished children in Guatemala.

I'm Back

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It's been a long time away from my computer.  Time that has done me good, I feel.  I'm fortunate enough to have wonderful friends that have picked up my slack with insightful posts.  Changeseeker has hit Citizen Orange in full force, and I trust you've all enjoyed her writing as much as I have over the years.  I will write more fully tomorrow about my time away and the new year, but for now I just wanted to let everyone know that it's good to be back.

Treating the Symptoms

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What seemed at first to be a beautiful victory for animal welfare has turned into a gruesome nightmare.

The awful result of the U.S. ban on horse slaughter for human consumption now seems so obviously inevitable, it's hard to believe none of those who rallied for it saw this coming.  The closing of equine slaughter facilities in the United States has done nothing to eliminate the need to put down thousands of our horses every year.  Instead of holding accountable those responsible for our nation's glut of unwanted horses - primarily, irresponsible breeders and wasteful racehorse owners and trainers - equine advocates went after the slaughter industry, which was providing a necessary, if ugly, service.  As a result, the flood of horses into auction houses has not abated one bit, the ride to the slaughter house has just gotten longer, and now takes horses across the border into Mexico. 

This tragic story just goes to show what happens when the focus is on treating the symptoms while the cause of the illness goes ignored.

American Harvest film screening

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You may recall one of my earlier posts about American Harvest, a documentary about migrant farmworkers.  The movie will be featured at the Farm Film Fest in Chatham, New York on Sunday, January 13, with a chance to toss back a few with the filmmaker afterwards.  Sounds like a nice way to spend a Sunday.  Come, and bring your friends.

If you can't make it to Chatham, listen to American Harvest Director Angelo Mancuso on the Dennis Miller Radio Show live on Jan. 10, or stream the show from the DMRS website.    

The Four Freedoms

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justice for all - nezua.jpgThe following words were Franklin Delano Roosevelt's address to the United States Congress on January 6, 1941. That was fifty-seven years ago today. Looking back over all that has come to pass since then and remembering the history of this nation from its beginning -- including the genocide of the indigenous peoples, the brutal desecration of Africa and its children through exploitation and slavery in all its forms to the present, the commitment to disproportionate wealth reserved for specific groups to and by the exclusion of others, and the relishing of the use of global warfare to amass and maintain power -- it is hard to imagine that he could have been sincere. Would that we could take these words down from their airy perch in our history and boldly implement them now. Before it is too late.

You might have read about Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE)'s Gestapo-like tactics in raids at workplaces and homes in New Bedford, Long Island, and elsewhere around the country: sometimes kicking down doors in the middle of the night, other times gaining warrantless entry into homes by misleading the residents inside, using ethnic profiling, trampling constitutional due process rights that apply to both citizens and noncitizens, labeling people with minor convictions from decades ago "criminal aliens" for PR purposes, moving detainees from state to state without notice for the explicit purpose of disrupting legal representation, and using children as bait to catch and lock up entire families.  I guess this is what restrictionists mean when they talk about "rule of law." 

But there's more--I thought I'd share a few recent developments in immigration enforcement in the New York metro area:

News came a few days ago that Eliot Spitzer has failed in his effort to allow long-incarcerated felons some measure of freedom, freedom denied them so far by the Parole Board's categorical refusal to grant parole to inmates convicted of certain crimes.  Reading this story got me thinking.  Spitzer started his term popular and ambitious but then something happened.  That something is known collectively in some circles as the flying monkeys of immigration restrictionism. 

Here is the key passage in Sam Roberts' NY Times article for my purposes today:

With Mr. Spitzer's political capital depleted and the governor hardly eager to embark on another unpopular crusade

By "unpopular crusade," I'm speculating that Roberts primarily means Spitzer's attempt to fulfill a campaign promise to reinstate New York's previous policy of permitting undocumented immigrants to obtain driver's licenses. 

Hillary Clinton's recent dip in the polls ahead of the primaries has also been attributed by many to her "gaffe" on the same subject in a debate a couple months ago.

Political capital is ineffable and notoriously volatile.  Much of a politician's room to maneuver depends on which narrative our media gatekeepers decide is suitable for consumption by the masses.  Those gatekeepers are often easily misled as to the prevailing temper of the public--witness the "Village's" continuing support for the War in Iraq when all available evidence indicates a large majority of Americans oppose the war. 

This ongoing disjunction between reality and media narrative has not arisen organically--it has several causes, among them: fear of being labeled soft on national security, fear of being caught by surprise again after 9/11, ignorance of the substantive details of the issues at hand, weariness of being tagged with the now-pejorative "liberal" label, coziness with power brokers in government and business who profit from the machinery of war, and simple groupthink. 

I propose that savvy conservative activists have perpetuated a similar con on the gatekeepers: the Great Immigration Swindle.  Through a decades-long coordinated effort,  groups calling for more restrictive immigration policies, or "restrictionists" for short, have positioned a media narrative once considered racist and extreme as fully mainstream.

Here are the component parts of the Swindle: 

happy New Year!

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Let's make 2008 a better year than 2007 turned out to be for migrants and their families in the U.S. and elsewhere.  Fash has some good New Year's resolutions for migrants and their allies over at the Open Borders Lobby.  Check them out

This is the first day of a brand new year. And in this sparkling new world of a year, I expect to stretch my wings and fly into several new arenas. For one thing, I have been invited to begin cross-blogging occasionally here at Citizen Orange. I'm both honored and excited about this new alliance and anticipate it being a productive one for all concerned. I'm joining a very adept and savvy team here and will work hard to live up to their expectations as we fight together for justice for all people in the United States and around the world.

In addition to this lovely development, I just learned a couple of weeks ago that a major academic publisher wants to include one of my blog posts from Why Am I Not Surprised? in a reader on social problems this spring. Needless to say, I'm very excited about this for several reasons and frankly long to dance through the doors that it may open for me.

To further complicate my already sometimes overwhelming commitments to teaching, research, and the writing I do other than blogging, there are, believe it or not, several other new projects I very much want to bring to fruition, as well. So I enter this year rather like Dorothy tip-toeing down the yellow brick road toward the Emerald City, the principle difference being that Dorothy wanted to go back to Kansas eventually and I have no idea where I'll wind up.


About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from January 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

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