Dispatches From Trumpland: The New “New Colossus”

We’re no longer taking your tired, your poor, or your huddled masses.

Lest some Americans forget… [Image description: “The Mortar of Assimilation — And The One Element That Won’t Mix” by artist C.J. Taylor in 1889. It portrays woman wearing the American flag stirring a bowl filled with immigrants. The bowl says “Citizenship” and the spoon stirring it says “Equal Rights”. The Irish immigrant is portrayed as acting violently with a bloody knife.]

America has always been a land of contradictions when you think about it. The Declaration of Independence states the following:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Yet, as this was written, there were already thousands of slaves throughout the colonies:

At the time of the American Founding, there were about half a million slaves in the United States, mostly in the five southernmost states, where they made up 40 percent of the population.

See, what I mean? That’s why it really should come as no surprise that Muslims and poor, undocumented immigrants would be the pariahs du jour. Congratulations, guys! You join some distinguished company in the Halls of American Fuckery like the African-Americans, Irish, Italians, Germans, Jews, Japanese, Chinese, Filipinos, Mexicans — you get the picture. I just find it interesting that in 2012, James Anaya, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people, found that the United States should give back some of the land it stole from the Native Americans:

Anaya visited an Oglala Sioux reservation where the per capita income is around $7,000 a year, less than one-sixth of the national average, and life expectancy is about 50 years.
The two Sioux reservations in South Dakota — Rosebud and Pine Ridge — have some of the country’s poorest living conditions, including mass unemployment and the highest suicide rate in the western hemisphere with an epidemic of teenagers killing themselves.
“You can see they’re in a somewhat precarious situation in terms of their basic existence and the stability of their communities given that precarious land tenure situation. It’s not like they have large fisheries as a resource base to sustain them. In basic economic terms it’s a very difficult situation. You have upwards of 70% unemployment on the reservation and all kinds of social ills accompanying that. Very tough conditions,” he said.
Anaya said Rosebud is an example where returning land taken by the US government could improve a tribe’s fortunes as well as contribute to a “process of reconciliation”.

To put it bluntly, some Americans are living on land illegally. Wouldn’t it be a treat if that land was returned to its rightful owners, with said owners telling everyone to get the hell out? Leave your house, your car, your friends, and your life behind. We’re dropping you off somewhere in Maine, a place you’ve never been to, but it’s the state where you or your parents were born decades ago, and whence you came.

I’m not going to lie. This is a fantasy that I’ve been pondering often. The Dakota Access Pipeline battle was the catalyst to my inspiration. I started wondering what would happen if pigs flew, and the United States gave back all the land it stole from the indigenous people it belonged to. What would that look like? I figure that quite a few people would be deported. It would be the strategic move. That’s also a scenario that I find very intriguing.

Imagine if the new government issued edicts ordering Americans of more than a certain percentage of a European descent to leave back to their ancestors’ respective countries of origin. How would some of these folks survive in their “old” countries? Who’s to say they would even be accepted? They’d be immigrants, too.

Anyway, I find it incredibly effective (and endlessly funny) to tell xenophobes calling for the banning of Muslims and undocumented immigrants that their ancestors came here illegally by today’s standards, and are living on stolen land that should be returned to its rightful owners. They get very upset when I do this for two reasons, I suspect: 1) They’ve never been othered before; and, 2) They’ve never had their American “credentials”, their very American identity questioned, minimized, and discarded.

Try it and tell me what happens.

[Image description: “Looking Backward” by J. Keppler for Puck Magazine in the 1800s. It is a cartoon that features the shadows of past immigrant ancestors over their descendants. Their descendants are visibly wealthy while protesting a newly arrived immigrant.]

I always recoil in disgust when I see the progeny of immigrants who came here long ago partaking in these xenophobic rage orgies online. The lack of self-awareness is stunning. The need for acceptance is cringeworthy. They advertise, “My great-grandparents came here LEGALLY. So, these people can wait their turn and follow the laws!” Well, the legality of their ancestors’ immigration to the United States is questionable, and, quite possibly, non-existent.

Yes, some of your Nanas and Pop-Pops didn’t come through Ellis Island. Just saying…

I went to my second protest a few weekends ago after the Muslim ban fiasco (and national shame) hit the country. There were more people there than there were for the anti-inauguration protests. There were so many people that simultaneous rallies broke out. It was awesome.

I had the pleasure of meeting Seattle councilwoman Kshama Sawant while marching with her yelling at the top of our lungs that we will not accept any bans without one hell of a fight. I say again, she’s small, but she goes off. I hope to learn more from her.

Overall, it was such a great rally and march. I saw Lebanese, Peruvian, Mexican, American, and other flags in the crowd. I was able to put my naturally loud voice to good use a few times which made me chortle. Why? Well, it reminded me of the other times I marched. Back then, however, I was marching in uniforms and extolling the virtues of the military industrial complex. (Side note: I’m not complaining. It was fun. 10/10 would do again.)

The irony, was not lost on me. The funny thing is my military service — along with my faith — prepared me for a life in service of others even if I was supposed to use that training to serve imperialists. As we used to say in the Army, “Hooah!”

The cops and the protesters were calm, cool, and collected so, that was a plus. Two bike cops gave me directions because I got lost. Several protesters in front of me thanked the officers as they walked past.

There were quite a few kids there. They weren’t just dragged there, mind you. From what I saw, it could have been the kids who dragged their respective parents. It was really nice to see kids out there witnessing that important (and possibly historic) event. I’m so hopeful for their futures.

Good luck and Godspeed, amigos.