Friday, April 30, 2010
Ah, immigration - sometimes I think it's the visual representation of nearly every major issue people face on this planet. I've tried to stay away from addressing the new law in Arizona that has lit up the United States over the past week. Why? I didn't want to go on and on about how miserable it is, how racist it is, how classist it is, etc. I can do so, but at this point, I don't know what such a display would do.
Maia over at Jizo Chronicles, has a good post about some of the ways in which this law goes against Buddhist teachings, and also a photo protest action being conducted by people on Facebook. I kind of like the photo protest idea, but wonder if it's worth targeting the Governor of Arizona. The issues are so much bigger than a single state, and I don't know if this particular governor is going to be persuaded by anything other than a firm shaking of the economy and by business leaders expressing their frustration. That's the sad state of things - human suffering will often only be addressed if it's tied to profits.
I did something this morning that I really dislike others doing to me - I interrupted a conversation two people were having at the coffee shop I am in. They were sitting right next to me, talking about the man's interest in moving to Arizona, when he broke out in a diatribe about how all the talk of racism in immigration policy is just a smokescreen for failing to address the "real" issue: corporate greed. That's a false dichotomy in my book. These two things are completely intertwined, and as the guy went on about how the level of immigration is unsustainable and whatnot, I found myself growing tense.
After twelve years working in immigrant communities here in the Twin Cities, I've heard it all when it comes to the politics and perceptions of immigrants and immigration. There is tons of ignorance, even amongst people who are sympathetic to newcomers. It's really difficult to remain patient in the middle of all the bullshit being spewed out there.
Anyway, I found myself saying to this guy "Will you ever, ever be asked for your papers in Arizona?" You can guess he was, like myself, a white male. He looked at me, rather pissed off, and said "I'm not getting into this with you!" And I shot right back "You're the one that brought up this hot button issue in a public place!" To which he replied, "I didn't ask you anything. I'm having a conversation with my friend!" A few more rounds were exchanged, but mostly, after he reminded me of my crossing over the line (it's always about crossing the line somehow, isn't it?), I backed off.
The kicker of it all is that a less than a minute after I disengaged he said to his friend "I know racism is part of this." And then a few minutes later, he spoke of his plan to attend the dharma talk at my zen center this Sunday (Reb Anderson Roshi is in town.) It seemed to point to just interconnected we all are, and how foolish it is to be erecting barriers, internally or externally, in an attempt to keep others out. I'm still not sure what a skillful response is to the Arizona law, or to the myriad of injustices in immigration policies all over the globe - (anyone following the British elections will know that immigration policy is a big issue, and the British Nationalist Party, while having virtually no chance of getting elected, has had little trouble getting it's racist, anti-immigrant agenda into the media.). However, I do know that all this fighting over land, borders, and "rightful" ownership speaks painfully to how little we are able to trust other, and how easy it is to hate those who are different from you.