Tuesday, April 27, 2010

2010 Elections Approach: Immigrants Now Under Fire (While We Bring Out Red Silk and Lace)

A few weeks ago, Chris Hedges at Truthdig did an interview with Noam Chomsky, in which Chomsky says that in his long life, he has never seen conditions so reminiscent of the Weimar phase of German history as he now sees in the United States.  In Chomsky’s view, we are now a nation ripe for hate, and ripe to have our hate exploited.

Chomsky thinks that the object of our hate will be immigrants and people of color:

What are people supposed to think if someone says ‘I have got an answer, we have an enemy’? There [in Weimar Germany] it was the Jews. Here it will be the illegal immigrants and the blacks. We will be told that white males are a persecuted minority. We will be told we have to defend ourselves and the honor of the nation. Military force will be exalted. People will be beaten up. This could become an overwhelming force. And if it happens it will be more dangerous than Germany.

It’s impossible not to remember Chomsky’s warning words as Arizona now enacts draconian anti-immigrant laws, and right-wing political groups in other parts of the country push for similar legislation elsewhere.  In my own state of Arkansas yesterday, a group calling itself Secure Arkansas, which is pushing for an initiative on the 2010 ballot to target illegal immigrants, is also threatening to file suit against the new health care bill.  This nativist group, which wishes to depict immigrants as a threat to “our” way of life, wants to seed in people’s minds the imagination that illegal aliens will now drain “us” economically through the health care system, as they enroll for health care privileges to which they aren’t entitled. 

The same hate-mongering rhetoric is now also being employed by the lieutenant governor of South Carolina Andre Bauer, who recently announced that “flat-out lazy” people are causing illegal immigrants to flock to his state and sap its social services networks.  One of my fellow citizens, someone who has headed the local chapter of a statewide business group, logged onto this blog on the weekend after I blogged about Mike Huckabee’s recent statements re: gay marriage to suggest that Muslims, secular (as opposed to religious) Jews, gays, and “non-Christian” immigrants, but not African Americans, certainly ought to be subject to discrimination.

This inflammatory rhetoric designed to make people hate and fear immigrants, along with ballot initiatives targeting immigrants, is, of course, part of a concerted campaign by the Republican party to bring disaffected voters to the polls in 2010.  Hate and fear sell.  And when enough of those commodities can be sold prior to an election to get people to the polls, they’ll vote right.  This is the game plan underlying the rash of anti-immigrant initiatives we’re now seeing in various parts of the U.S.  What it accomplished by bashing gays in the past, the Republican party now hopes to effect by targeting immigrants.

And it’s an ugly and immoral game plan, one that is going to foster not merely discrimination but outright violence against hard-working, tax-paying citizens and non-citizens of this nation whose contributions to our society are manifold and constructive.

And, though I’ve seen no one mentioning this as Bishop Slattery’s sermon about suffering and obedience at the national shrine of the Immaculate Conception this past weekend is being dissected at various Catholic blogsites, it strikes me as significant that we’re seeing a simultaneous spike in both anti-immigrant rhetoric and magical, mystical rhetoric about suffering and obedience among Catholic hierarchs.

Chomsky’s interview doesn’t note this, but along with the rise of anti-Semitism in pre-Nazi Germany, there was also the development of a rhetoric about the messianic suffering of the much-maligned German people—a development with which many Christian churches and their leaders willingly and actively colluded.  Along with this rhetoric of misplaced messianism went a strong insistence on the need for an obedient populace to pull together as the suffering people of Germany struck out against their traditional enemies—the Jews, in particular.

Fascism always depends on obedience.  Obedience is the glove to the fascist hand.  The fascist impulse is, by its very nature, coercive, designed to threaten and smash, and when it fails to induce conformity to its dictates by threats and blows, it then moves in for the kill.

The current rise in the rhetoric of obedience among some Catholic clerics defending the current regime, along with the obscene attempt to depict the hierarchy as the long-suffering victims of the abuse revelations, is inherently fascistic.  It does not bode well for the future of the church.  It is morally reprehensible and self-serving to an astonishing degree.

And it certainly—and radically—undermines the attempt of the church to defend immigrants in places like the United States at this point in history.  Red silk and lace will not save the church.  And they will not assist immigrants, who sorely need our assistance, as they are targeted in community after community in our nation with the approaching elections.