Archive for April, 2006

“innate charm,” my ass.

A letter I’ve written to Time Out NY in response to a recent article about finding apartments in NYC:

The low-income people of color and immigrants who live in “on-the-verge nabes” (“Apartments 2006,” TONY 552) are being pushed out of these “hot” neighborhoods by a wave of gentrification that TONY seems to be endorsing. The article speaks of neighborhoods like Bushwick being “widely discovered”; however, just as with the “discovery” of the Americas by white Europeans, there are already people there. Your article completely ignores the negative impact that gentrification has on these residents, focusing only on the self-interest of people who can afford the ever-rising rents. While these neighborhoods may seem affordable to some, they are rapidly becoming too expensive for their current residents, who are forced out to make room for the relatively wealthier swarms searching for a good deal.

The “innate charm” of such neighborhoods fades when contrasted with the harsh realities of life for many current residents. Bushwick has some of the highest poverty and unemployment rates in the city, as well as sub-par and landlord-neglected housing. Innate charm, indeed.

The background:

My girlfriend and I subscribe to Time Out NY; I’m not really sure why, given that we barely ever make it to any of the events that they list, nor can we afford to dine at many of the restaurants that they review. It can be good for movie reviews, though. Anyhow – this week’s issue arrived and the cover announced the Apartments 2006 feature; one of the blocks of text read something about giving the scoop on five “on-the-verge” neighborhoods where one could get great deals. Immediately, I knew this couldn’t be good. I flipped open to the article and, lo and behold, those five neighborhoods were much what I expected them to be: East Harlem, Bushwick, Sunset Park, Inwood, and Hunter’s Point. Aside from the last neighborhood (which is in Queens, and I know very little about Queens), I know that all of these areas are populated largely, if not primarily, by low-income people of color, many of whom are Latinos, many of whom are immigrants.

The language used to speak of these neighborhoods was classic, a thorough embracement of gentrification, quite reminiscent of colonialism. Here’s some gems:

About Inwood: “Another gentrification indicator: the emergence of a visible gay population.” Right. Because gentrification by (white) queers is GRRRRRREAT! I mean, they actually speak about gentrification by a “gay population” as a good thing! And, of course, there wasn’t a visible gay population there before, because visibly gay means white and gay, not Latino and gay (unless, you know, there were absolutely no queers living in Inwood before white people moved in.)

About Bushwick: “…or that sit next to hot spots, like Williamsburg’s neighbor to the east, Bushwick (this one’s been widely discovered, so move fast).” Oh yeah, discovered – kind of like america was discovered when the white Europeans arrived, right? Because you can’t fucking discover something if there’s already people there. Back then, it was the Native people who got robbed; now, it’s Latino immigrants who are getting pushed out. Different brown folks, same white folks, same mentality, similar effects.

Also about Bushwick: “By now you’ve surely heard the hype, but even a “Sunday Styles” article can’t spoil this Brooklyn area’s innate charm. Besides the giant lofts that can hold a bunch of friends (and their turntables), there’s more traditional housing stock to be had. Near the Jefferson Street stop on the L, you’ll find industrial infrastructure and family houses—a mix that adds up to a pretty cool vibe (though the area definitely still has dangerous pockets).”

Un-fucking-believable. Has the writer ever been to Bushwick, aside from dashing between one of the L stops and their hipster friends’ lofts – because who else are they talking about with those turntables? Does the writer know anything about Bushwick besides the fact that it’s “cheap” and near Williamsburg? I bet they don’t know these facts about Bushwick, lifted directly from the website of Make the Road By Walking, an awesome organization based in the neighborhood:

  • Over 40 percent of Bushwick residents live below the poverty level, and almost 40 percent rely on means-tested government benefits.
  • Median family income in Bushwick is less than half the national average while the official unemployment rate in Bushwick is over 10 percent, which is more than double the national rate.
  • The percentage of children born into poverty in Bushwick is 75.8 percent, the highest rate in Brooklyn. (as I copied and pasted this statistic I started crying)
  • the high school dropout rate in Bushwick is close to 70 percent.
  • Sixty-five percent of the community is Latino and almost half of these Latinos are legal permanent residents who cannot vote.
  • Bushwick’s housing stock comprises many old and deteriorated buildings, mainly tenements with absentee landlords or tax-foreclosed properties owned by the City. These buildings are contaminated with lead paint, and lead paint violations number 64.4 per thousand children, twice the Brooklyn average.

I lived in Bushwick for two years before moving to my current neighborhood in Brooklyn. And while living there, I agonized about the gentrification that I could see happening around me. Over those two years, I saw more and more white hipsters getting off the L train alongside me and scurrying to and from their lofts. Let me tell you, I saw far more white people within a one block radius of the subway stop than I ever did just a couple more blocks into the neighborhood, as if they were afraid to venture any deeper. And you almost never saw them in the local supermarket right across the street from the lofts, either; most often, they were toting their Whole Foods bags from Manhattan. The more of them I saw getting off at Dekalb over time, the madder I got.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I don’t absolve myself, either. Sure, I’m Latina, as was my roommate at the time. But we were both also college-educated U.S. citizens with white-collar jobs, and no matter what our race or class backgrounds or how little extra money we had, those things made us decidedly more privileged than many of the people in the neighborhood. Our privilege was ultimately most evident in our move out of the neighborhood, both of us to more expensive apartments in “nicer” (read: less poor, lower crime rates, prettier) areas. That’s an option that most of our neighbors didn’t have. Despite the obstacles we face because of our race, our genders, our sexualities, we were both upwardly-mobile in a way that most of our neighbors were not. We left Bushwick for greener pastures; if these folks move out of Bushwick, many of them will have been forced out by rising rents, and many of their destinations will not be any greener.

My roommate and I spent a whole lot of time seething over the very visible evidence of gentrification in our neighborhood. When it’s white folks moving into a primarily POC neighborhood, it can look and feel very much like an invasion, all these white faces popping up where you used to only see brown ones. But we also spent possibly an equal amount of time thinking and talking about our own participation in the gentrification of Bushwick, and how to be more accountable for that culpability. I was as guilty of shopping at Whole Foods as those white hipsters, but I also knew that supporting local businesses was important and tried to shop in the local supermarkets as much as possible. When my white girlfriend moved in with me for a while, I felt intense guilt and inner conflict about basically bringing yet another white person into the neighborhood.

And you know what pissed me off the most? My roommate and I, neither of us being white, neither of us being rich, thought about this shit all the time, and did what little we could about it. But how many of those young white hipsters we saw moving in spent a fucking second worrying about what negative impact they might be having on the community? Did they even have a moment’s hesitation before signing those leases on those “amazingly cheap” lofts they were moving into? Did they try to find out more about their darker-skinned, poorer neighbors, about what they were facing in the neighborhood, about what they could do to somehow help and somehow try to lessen the impact of their own presence? Probably not. That was the kicker. But that’s always the case, isn’t it – people who have less privilege, who experience more oppression on a first-hand basis, are always going to think more, care more, and do more about the oppression of others than folks who don’t experience very much oppression at all.

I know that there are no easy answers here. I know that gentrification seems to sweep across the city like an unstoppable wave. I know that rents in NYC are fucking insane, and that many of those young white folks I saw moving into Bushwick probably don’t have a whole bunch of extra money to spend on rent. But it’s this attitude of entitlement, of selfishness, of ignorance and blindness to what’s happening to people around you, of making up excuses to save a little money – that’s what really pisses me off. I know it can be hard to find affordable housing in NYC. But can you at least try to move somewhere where you won’t be pushing people of color and poor folks out, instead of jumping at the next hot deal? And if you absolutely have to move there, can you at least try to do something to lessen the blow or to work for the people living in the neighborhood? At the very least, can you acknoweldge that you and your ilk are probably screwing a whole lot of people over? Is that too much to ask?

From one war on people of color to another

From a CNN report: “An amendment cutting Bush’s Iraq request by $1.9 billion to pay for new aircraft, patrol boats and other vehicles, as well as border checkpoints and a fence along the Mexico border crossing near San Diego widely used by illegal immigrants was adopted on 59-39 vote.”

Really, when is the War on Illegal Immigration going to enter the official political lexicon alongside the War on Terrorism and the War on Drugs? Which are all essentially euphemistic pseudoynms for Excuses to Wage War on People of Color, when you get down to it.

Also: those politicians and other people who have hardline view on immigration should read this article about a Senegalese high schooler who has struggled for years to stay in america, stay alive, stay in school, only to face possible deportation now. As I’ve written before, I’m wary of the sort of appeals that pit “good immigrants” against “bad ones” – “Look at this brilliant, well-behaved high school student! Clearly, he deserves to stay in this country, unlike those other sorts of immigrants.” No, I don’t go for that sort of thing, and I hope that this article doesn’t encourage that kind of thinking. But you’d have to be a cold-hearted bastard to read something like this and yet still support legislation that would make this kid a felon and force him out of the country.

We’re sure he’ll do a helluva job

Bush has named Scott McClelland’s replacement as White House press secretary: FOX News Radio host Tony Snow.

I’m too tired and my brain is too Linux-addled to write much, but this really seems to me like the final consummation of the unholiest of unions after a rather long engagement. As Jon Stewart said when Snow’s selection was only a rumor: “In other words, the White House is considering paying a Fox News reporter to tell the public what they want the public to hear. I hope he’s up to the job.”

Edited to add: Ah, false alarm, folks. This guy is no Bush lackey; in fact, he’s a Bush critic! I’m sure he’ll bring that fair and balanced viewpoint for which Fox is so famous to his new job – because remember, he’s been reassured that he’ll not only be the White House spokesperson, but he’ll also be actively involved in shaping White House policy. (Whew, aren’t you relieved to hear that? I certainly am!) He’ll now get to personally deliver critiques like this to the President on a regular basis:

“His wavering conservatism has become an active concern among Republicans, who wish he would stop cowering under the bed and start fighting back . . . ,” Mr Snow wrote last November after Republicans failed to win the governor’s race in Virginia. “The newly passive George Bush has become something of an embarrassment.”

A press secretary and, apparently, policy advisor who’s even farther to the right than Bush? Just what we needed.

And another edit to add: Lest you wonder whether Snow has a shred of decent race politics: a couple of years back he declared on Fox News Sunday that racism is no longer a big deal. Another one of those memos that I must not have gotten! And in his free time, Snow also enjoys bashing Kwanzaa and slandering African people as a whole in columns that are later featured on the websites of white supremacist groups. What a gem!

behold, another blog

Poplicks recently posted a list of 30 more facts that are difficult to face (guess I missed the first list), which includes the following fact, amongst other horrors and amusements: “According to Harper’s Index, a new blog is created every second.”

Well, I’m happy to say that I contributed to that particular statistic today by launching my new technology blog. On which I will blog about, you guessed it, all things tech – news, gadgets, accounts of my own (mis)adventures, that sort of thing. I’d been wanting to blog about tech stuff for a while but didn’t really want to get it all mixed up in this blog. I like my blogs to be nice and discreet. Which may result in me launching yet another blog in the near future for personal stuff (though maybe I’ll just use my Livejournal for that.)

So, yes – if you like tech stuff, check it out!

Remind me never to even glance at FOXNews.com

For some clearly ridiculous reason, I decided to follow a Google News link to an article on the Faux News website. On their sidebars, there’s a video section. Three videos in a row had to do with immigration. I didn’t bother too look at any of them – I’m not that stupid, nor am I masochistic (well, at least not for that kind of pain.) But the titles and captions say plenty:

  • Border Disorder: A look at issues that drive many Mexicans to enter the U.S. illegally (sounds good in theory, but somehow I think there’ll be a whole lot missing about america’s culpability in creating those issues that drive immigration)
  • Get in Line!: Millions wait for a chance to legally come to the U.S. to work (Boy, how I wish the Native Americans could have issued that command to the white bastards who stole their land. Get in line, and then we’ll turn you away anyhow! Yeah, that’s how it should’ve been.)
  • and, the best of all: Border Garbage: Illegal immigrants blamed for trashing the border (WTF? They’re really digging for even more bullshit that they can blame on undocumented immigrants, aren’t they? I can just see the orders issued in the Faux News Pressroom – “OK, now go out and find everything that an illegal immigrant ever did wrong, and let’s make a video about it!”)

What’s good for the gays…

…is apparently not good for the soldiers.

As reported in this article from the New York Times, 31 states have either passed or are considering legislation that restricts demonstrations at a funeral or burial. Additionally, Congress is expected to address the issue of protests at federal cemetaries. This legislation stems largely from responses to the most recent disgusting behavior of Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Cult, I mean, Church. It seems that Phelps and his despicable cohorts got tired of spewing their virulent homophobia at the funerals of queer folks; now, they’ve taken up conducting similar demonstrations of hatred at the funerals of american soldiers who were killed in Iraq. In their truly twisted logic, soldiers are dying because of the wickedness of american society, which has apparently embraced queer folks. Funny, I didn’t get the memo letting me know that we’re no longer largely maligned and discrminated against by american society and law. Wonder how we missed that one.

So, in turn, politicians are turning towards legislation to limit the effect that these protests can have on grieving families.

“Repugnant, outrageous, despicable, do not adequately describe what I feel they do to these families,” said Representative Steve Buyer, an Indiana Republican who is a co-sponsor of a Congressional bill to regulate demonstrations at federal cemeteries. “They have a right to freedom of speech. But someone also has a right to bury a loved one in peace.”

“I haven’t seen something like this,” said David L. Hudson Jr., research attorney for the First Amendment Center, referring to the number of state legislatures reacting to the protests. “It’s just amazing. It’s an emotional issue and not something that is going to get a lot of political opposition.”

Now, don’t get me wrong – I think that what these people are doing is disgusting and, while I worry about laws that infringe upon first amendment rights to free speech, I do think that people have the right to mourn their loved ones without having to endure such harassment. I can’t imagine what it must feel like to be a grieving friend or family member and to see these fuckers desecrating your loved one’s memory. Well, I’d probably feel something like Jonathan Anstey, who spoke to the Times about his experience at his friend’s funeral: “It’s hurtful and it’s taking a lot of willpower not to go down there and stomp their heads in.”

Yet still, I can’t help but think: where was all the outrage when Phelps and company were pulling the same awful bullshit at the funerals of queer people? I didn’t see much outcry (outside of the queer community, of course) when that was going on, and they’d been at it for nearly a decade before they started picketing soldiers’ funerals. There was certainly not this remarkably widespread political response. There were no vets on motorcycles circling the families and trying to shield them from the awful chanting and sign-waving, as there are at the soldiers’ funerals.

And why is that? Did those queer folks, some of whom died of AIDS, deserve to die more than the soldiers did, by virtue of their sexuality? Did their families not deserve to grieve in peace as much as the families of the soldiers? Were their memories less sacred and less deserving of dignity than those of these soldiers?

Of course, my answers to those questions are no, no, and no. But I can’t help but take away that, for many of the politicians and other people taking action now, the answers would be yes.

Welfare in NYC: not as pretty a picture as Bloomberg would like to paint

Last week while listening to NPR, I heard news of the drop of welfare rolls in NYC to a 40-year low, a statistic that Mayor Bloomberg is touting as a major success. From a City Limits article published today:

“We promised to move New Yorkers to self-sufficiency and we are delivering on that promise in a historic way,” Bloomberg states. Of those who leave welfare for work, 88 percent keep their jobs for at least three months, and 75 percent still have them after six.

Now, when I heard those figures, I was immediately skeptical. Those numbers sounded good, but it’s easy to make numbers sound good by leaving the bad stuff out. And, as the City Limits article reports, it seems that’s precisely what’s going on here:

But the press release [put out by the mayor on April 5] never explains that those numbers apply only to the 23 percent of former clients known to have jobs at all. The other 77 percent aren’t tracked by HRA, according to spokesperson Robert McHugh.

Most of those 77% simply stop showing up for their appointments. Welfare advocates say that much of that drop off is due to the severe difficulties, obstacles, even hostility that people face when attempting to access welfare benefits. As Jillynn Stevens of the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies says in the article, “There is every attempt to not sign people up, to exclude them from eligibility, to make it as unfriendly and difficult as possible to be a welfare recipient.”

Bloomberg can dress up the numbers all he wants, but the truth remains that welfare reform has done far more to harm poor folks than to help them. To his credit, Bloomberg is currently seeking to make it easier for some adults to get food stamps, but there’s a lot more to be done to redress the harm done by the anti-poor policies of current mayor and his predecessor Giuliani.

how much longer are we stuck with this jerk?

Have other New Yorkers been keeping abreast of Pataki’s recent budget veto spree? It seems like he’s trying to piss everyone and their mother off by both tremendously cutting spending on state services and also cutting tons of tax cuts. Some of his spending cuts include $650 million stripped from Medicaid and $4.6 million from legal services for poor and low-income New Yorkers. The New York State Bar Association is decrying the veto, saying that if allowed to stand, it will result in “a drastic reduction in legal services to the poor.” As if poor folks in New York don’t have a hard enough time already accessing legal services.

Apparently, much of this is part of an attempt on Pataki’s part to show just how fiscally conservative he can be and to demonstrate that, even as a lame duck, he’s still got some punch left in him – all with a view to bolster his 2008 presidential bid. Let’s hope that it backfires, as this NY Times news analysis suggests it might:

The governor’s strategy is not without its risks, especially for someone who is still flirting with a run for president. Vetoing more than $1 billion in tax cuts is not the kind of thing that plays well in Republican primaries, and is the kind of factoid that has been known to make its way into attack ads. How will the veto of $200,000 for a tractor rollover protection program play with those Iowa farmers he has been courting?

Let’s also cross our fingers and hope that Spitzer (who seems pretty much set to take the governorship in November) is a far sight better than Pataki. I admittedly don’t know too much about him, but somehow he makes me a little nervous. As I suppose most politicians do, especially the white male variety.

migraphobia

Today’s post title comes to you from this funny and smart animation by Mark Fiore, which I discovered by reading a great post of the same name by Junichi over at Poplicks. Check that blog out for good reasons why we should be thankful that the immigration reform “compromise” bill wasn’t passed (and hopeful that something that actual resembles justice does get passed in the end.)

Yesterday’s rally was actually one of the best, most fun, and most inspiring I’ve ever been to. When my girlfriend and I arrived at Canal and Broadway, the end of the protest was right there on that block – very impressive, though possibly also a partial result of the weird spacing that the police caused with their stupid penning tactics, now familiar to any New Yorker who has seen or attended protests in recent years. The going was slow but eventually we made it down to City Hall, lots more people still flowing in behind us even though we’d gotten to the protest pretty late.

Part of the effectiveness of the protest was that it was felt very focused – it really did feel like we were all raising a unified cry for justice and immigrants rights. The mood was optimistic and almost festive – yes, there was the gravity of the matters at hand and the anger and frustration at how immigrants are abused in this country, but there was also the high energy and high spirits of many peoples gathering together to fight for something that they really think they might get – that hope is really important and I think is often less evident at many protests.

Also, Latinos know how to make just about everything more fun than anyone else (hehe, sorry other folks, gotta have the Latino pride here.) Other than the Still We Rise march back during the RNC (which probably ties this one for Jack’s Best Protest thusfar), this was probably the most people-of-color-dominated protests I’ve ever been to. Even though me and my girlfriend (who is white) were lost in a crowd of strangers for most of the protest, I felt really happy and all warm and fuzzy inside, surrounded by so many proud Latinos, yelling “¡Sí se puede!” and “El pubelo unido jamás será vencido!” at the top of our lungs.

Speaking of that, though, the overwhelming number of Latinos at the protest made me pissed off at NPR’s local NYC coverage this morning, in which three people with white-sounding last names and american accents were interviewed. Like, come on, they must have worked really hard to find those few white folks swimming in a veritable sea of brown. (Yes, I know, it might’ve been a fluke, and I can’t really say for sure that those people were white or non-Latino, but still.)

One thing that was weird for me was the amount of american flag-waving going on at the rally. Maybe it was in response to the kind of bullshit criticism of the presence of other countries’ flags that I wrote about yesterday, or maybe it was all really genuine sentiment, but either way, there were tons of ‘em, everywhere. I’m not much of a fan of the american flag, since to me it can’t be anything but a symbol of the centuries of genocide, land theft, slavery, imperialism, and other assorted oppression that has been wreaked in the name of the good ol’ u.s. of a. And most of the protests that I attend are critical of the u.s. in ways that don’t seem to prompt a lot of flag flying. I know that immigration protests are a different story – the whole point is about people wanting and deserving to live in this country, so it makes sense that they should carry the flag as a symbol that they, too, are americans. But american patriotism, in any form and for any reason, still kind of icks me out.

On that topic, here’s a good look from the folks at Media Matters at the inanity, the bigotry, and the hypocricy being spewed by some conservatives over protestors carrying the flags of Mexico and other countries. One particularly obnoxious comment from Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review:

Well, aren’t there plenty of Irish flags at St. Patrick’s Day parades, and Italian flags at Columbus Day celebrations? What makes the Mexican displays more ominous is their hint of a large, unassimilated population existing outside America’s laws and exhibiting absolutely no sheepishness about it.

Hmm… now, come on, Richie, is that what really scares you about those Mexican flags? Let’s see… Irish and Italians… ethnic groups who used to be persecuted in this country but have now been well assimilated into the white ruling class. Mexicans… SCARY BROWN PEOPLE AUUUUUUGH! And look – they’re not just serving your food or cleaning your house – they’re all together! And proud! Empowered, even! Yes, for much of white america, I bet that’s a very frightening spectacle, indeed.

All right, back to the protest. About an hour or so of slow as molasses marching (thanks, NYPD!) we reached the point where speakers and screens were set up so that we could take in the speeches going on down by City Hall. We’d missed many of the speakers by that point, but two of the ones I heard – Roger Toussaint of the Transit Worker’s Union (who, in yet another travesty of “justice,” was sentenced to ten days in prison and $1000 for defending his workers’ rights) and a Filipina woman whose name I didn’t catch but who spoke before him (if someone knows who she was, please tell me!) – reminded us of something that I think many americans, especially those who are anti-immigration, tend to forget: america’s role in creating the conditions that force people to leave their home countries in search of a better life in this one. Democracy Now! provides this quote from Toussaint:

Everyone here should think long and hard about what is happening in America today. We have a government that creates immigrants by the millions and then mistreats them. I say the U.S. creates immigrants the old-fashioned way. If you have tyranny and oppression and famine and poverty around the world, you are going to have immigrants coming to the U.S. No wall is going to stop them. No fence with barbed wire on the Mexican border or no frozen moat on the Canadian border is going to stop them. It will just make it easier to arrest and brutalize them. We don’t need a wall. We need a new foreign policy, so people can make a decent living and live in peace in their home countries.

That’s crucial to remember: the u.s., along with other western powers (though I think that no one does it quite like the u.s. does), is directly culpable for the decimation of Third World economies and social structures. In turn, the u.s. is directly responsible for the tide of immigration, legal or not, to this country. Should we, as a nation, wring these countries dry for the profit of u.s. interests, then give a big ol’ fuck you to their people when, out of sheer desperation, they come to the u.s. for the only shot they think they’ve got? Apparently, there are lots of people out there who think that’s precisely what we should do. But anyone with a whit of decency and sense should, when presented with the facts, realize that such actions are irresponsible and morally inexcusable.

no one is illegal

let’s try that blog revival business one more time…

The current weather in New York City: sunny, not a cloud in the sky that I can see, 57 degrees.
Sounds like good weather for a protest. Soon as I am able, I’m leaving work and heading down towards City Hall for what will certainly be a massive demonstration of support for immigrants’ rights and condemndation of the racist, xenophobic, perhaps less obviously but still certainly homophobic, and just generally fucked up attitudes towards immigrants and immigration that pervade the US government.

It’s inspiring and exciting to see such a massive mobilization occuring in cities and towns across the country. I know that many years and countless hours of work have made such a mobilization possible. But in some ways it has this magical feel of coming out of nowhere, a popular uprising of people who may not share all of the same politics, philosophies, histories or ideologies but who are suddenly banding together to speak out against the disgusting legislation and its weak derivatives currently being considered and debated by the US Congress. (Well, not quite currently, as they’re in recess right now, but, you know.)

One thing that I’ve found unsettling, though, in listening to coverage about the protests thusfar, is this “good immigrant/bad immigrant” rhetoric that’s present in what some people are saying, protesters and organizers alike. This morning, while listening to NPR, I heard one woman speak about how Latino immigrants aren’t doing anything to harm this country, that they “love America” and just want to become good, hard-working Americans. Then I heard one organizer, speaking at one of the rallies, say something like this: “Nineteen people hijacked planes and participated in the 9/11 attacks, and not one of them were named Gonzales, Rodriguez, or Santiago. But you can bet that many of the people dying serving their country in Iraq are named Gonzales, Rodriguez, and Santiago…” so on and so forth.

I understand that much of this is in response to the whole immigration debate getting wrapped up in worries about “national security” – how the specter of terrorism seems to make allowances for all manner of discrimination, racism and xenophobia, and how countless immigrants are nonsensically made to suffer because of it. However, it definitely seems like a very bad, very problematic move to buy into this sort of dichotomy that pits “good” immigrants or “good” brown folks (here, Latinos) against “bad” ones (apparently people of Arab or Middle Eastern descent – because, you know, the actions of individuals become the responsibility, the fault, the burden of their entire race and religion.) Latinos, like all other immigrants to the United States, deserve to be treated with respect and dignity and are entitled to certain rights and protections because they are human beings, not because they’re good, flag-waving*, American-loving immigrants. No one is illegal, no matter whether your name is Juan or Mohammed, Gonzales or Atta.

* And speaking of flag-waving, apparently you’d better be waving the right flag at these protests, because waving a Mexican or El Salvadorean or other foreign flag might be perceived as “a slap in Americans’ faces.” Apparently, some people were actually insulted to see flags of Latino countries being carried in the protests. It’s gotten to the point where some of the groups organizing these protests are actually asking people to bring American flags instead of their own countries’ flags, which is ridiculous to me. Why should immigrants – or any Latinos or other people of color in this country, frankly – have to kiss the collective ass of a country that’s been doing its best to treat them like total shit for centuries on end in order to “earn” their human and civil rights? It’s beyond me.

Also, the picture of the Mexican flag flying over the upside-down American flag that has Michelle Malkin and all the other conservatives frothing at the mouth – well, I’ve got to say, it warms the cockles of my little anti-American heart. Perhaps it wasn’t the smartest political tactic, but I can’t say that I disagree with the sentiment in the least.