Saturday, September 15, 2007

Revisionist History

Early this afternoon, my daughter called me to report that she had spotted an eyesore of a handmade billboard just a few blocks from my home. I grabbed my camera, hopped in my car, and made my way up to the intersection of Prince William, Liberty, and West Streets. Sitting catty-corner from the train station in Old Town Manassas, the brazen message from our community of illegals shouted its ugly message to all who passed by. (Click on the image for a readable sized picture)

Not long ago, at this site, an old house had burned down. All that remained was a single, block wall upon which a crude, hand-made sign had now been stretched. I parked, got out of my car, made my way across the street, and took several photos.

Aside from the fact that the sign is no doubt illegal in itself, likely violating the city's zoning ordinance, there are several elements to the message that are blatantly incorrect.

  1. Racism: The Prince William County resolution which spawned this sign, passed in July of this year, mentions nothing whatsoever about a particular race or ethnic group being singled out. The resolution is targeted only toward those people who have entered this country illegally, and who remain here under false pretenses. Forged and/or stolen identities further criminalize the illegals who, in order to survive, have turned to the criminal underworld of false document creators in an attempt to legitimize their presence. As a Letter to the Editor writer so deftly explained, "Illegal is not a race."

  2. Pay Taxes: The sign falsely claims that illegals pay taxes. Granted, those who find work under a false Social Security number do have taxes withheld from their paychecks. But in most cases, the employees claim as many dependents as they can, thus minimizing the deductions from their pay. Furthermore, to "pay taxes" involves more than having money withheld, it also means filing an annual IRS 1040 form, and in Virginia a 760 form. It is doubtful that anyone hired under a false name and ID would risk filing such paperwork.

  3. Jobs We Won't Do: As to doing jobs that we won't do ourselves, such an idea is sophomoric and silly. Of course Americans will do these jobs. We have been doing them for over two hundred years. How, I wonder, did the Empire State building ever get built without these illegals from south of the border? Who built our roads and bridges, our cities and towns before they came? Well we did, of course, and when they have moved on, we will step in and take these jobs again. We just won't do them for the pittance of pay that these illegal interlopers are willing to accept. In order to support a family in this part of the country, a much larger income is required. And while it may be normal in other parts of the world for several families or large groups of people to occupy a single dwelling, it is not normal in this part of the world. Nor, for argument sake, is it even psychologically healthy or safe.

  4. No Slaves: The claim is made that "they" did not bring slaves. Well, "we" did not bring slaves either. Yes, some of our ancestors did, but the practice of "bringing" slaves into the U.S. ended in 1808, nearly 200 years ago. And slavery itself was abolished in 1863 with Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. The first slaves on the North American continent arrived in 1526. But they were not brought here by Englishmen or for Englishmen. It was the Spaniards who first brought African slaves to what is now South Carolina in 1526. Furthermore, that same year, the Spanish imported African slaves into Guatemala and Honduras. El Salvador and Costa Rica entered the slave market in the late 16th century. Slavery continues today in that part of the world with the traffic of young women, sold into prostitution. In the Southwest American desert, where thousands of people, seeking better lives, cross our border, it is not uncommon to see women's underwear hanging from a tree. Such a tree is called a "Rape Tree," on it hanging the "trophies" of a "coyote" guide or his helpers, whose livelihood is derived in trafficking people across the border. In most cases, the underwear belonged to a young girl, usually a teenager, who had begun this trip in the earnest hope of a better life. I have learned that in Mexico, the age of consensual sex is twelve. The charge of rape in that country is often very difficult to prove. Thus, in the minds of many men from this part of the world, teen girls are fair game. A handful of these young women are likely locked in a basement somewhere in our own community this very day. And instead of working at a McDonald's or the Wal-Mart up the street, they are somebody's sex slave.

  5. No Killing of Indians: In the early 1500's, the Spanish Conquistadors, under the leadership of Don Hernando Cortez, entered the ancient Aztec city of Tenochtitlan, and slaughtered thousands of natives. Tenochtitlan lay in what is today, central Mexico. To say "we did not kill Indians" is simply revisionist history, perhaps similar to the historical revisionists in our own American colleges and universities who seek to re-write the past to their own liking. Cortez's bloodbath was of course merely one of hundreds of native slaughterings at the hands of the Spanish and the Portuguese. Who are these people who have illegally entered our community today? They call themselves Hispanics and Latinos. They speak Spanish. Their culture, although distinct from their European Spanish forebears, is yet flavored with some of that Old World seasoning. Still, one cannot deny that their lineage can also be traced back to the ancient native peoples of this continent as well. Like many of us, they are a mixed breed of people, springing both from the conquered, and the conqueror.

The time has come for every one of us get off of our self-righteous "high horse." Let us deal accurately with history, and fairly with those who are a part of it. Ancestral guilt, though often felt, is not even real. It is the guilt of others, previous generations now departed from this world. Their guilt is not ours to own. It is they who will answer to their Creator for their own sins, their own crimes. We each have plenty of our own personal sins to answer for. Let us not burden ourselves with the guilt of other generations.

Racism is not unique to white Americans. Shreds of racism, or xenophobia, seek a foothold in EVERY human heart. The above sign demonstrates no less racism than the targets of its misguided accusations.

In order to live in an orderly, functional society, one that provides opportunity for all, we must have rules. And as members of such a society, we must be willing to voluntarily follow those rules. We are a nation of laws. We do our best to make certain that every law applies to everyone the same way. The Fourteenth Amendment to our Constitution, as troublesome as it is in some ways, makes our collective intent clear. It reads in part:

"No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

Read "citizens."

In a society where so many religions and races and cultural histories collide, the law is our best chance of insuring that all have equal opportunity for success in their individual pursuit of happiness. The law is not perfect. But it does what we ourselves cannot do. In theory, if not always in practice, the law transcends our personal prejudices, residing above those xenophobic feelings that sometimes try to wedge their way into our sinful human hearts. The law is separate from us, and strives to guarantee that the right thing will be done regardless of personal feelings.

It is the best we have. And for over two-hundred years, with some adjustments along the way, the law has done a fairly decent job. Let us not abandon it now, just because some who cannot rationally defend their indefensible positions have chosen the path of least resistance, and labeled us as racists.


At 5:30 PM, Anonymous J King said...

I saw that you reviewed "Gods and Generals" so I thought this might interest you...

At 7:29 PM, Anonymous Missy said...

Great blog, Pop.


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