Ethnicity/Immigration blog #6

Happiness & Freedom vs. Imagination & Responsibility

(spoiler alert for the film Dirty, Pretty things that we had to watch in class).

I was in full agreement with Dr. Allen when he talked about the antagonist in Dirty Pretty Things, Señor Juan aka Sneaky, being the image of capitalism.  The most telling moment of this is when Señor Juan is trying to get Okwe to join his shady business dealings as he offers…
“You give me your kidney; I give you a new identity.  I sell the kidney for ten grand, so I’m happy.  The person who needs the kidney gets cured.  So, he’s happy. The person who sold his kidney gets to stay in this beautiful country, so he’s happy.  My whole business is based on happiness.”

This lack of imagination and responsibility is at the center of what keeps people perpetuating broken systems of economy, government, poverty, and violence.  This post by Ian Hanson captures a brilliant moment in Haruki Marukami’s Kafka on the Shore when one of the characters is musing about Adolf Eichmann. This Nazi mathematician later defended his lack of moral responsibility for his work not of not ethnic cleansing and enslavement but mathematical efficiency.  Perhaps that is because he lacked the imagination.

One hegemonic notion in the US is that “our whole business” is based on freedom.  The formation of the country, the foreign policy, and economy are based on freedom.  If you don’t like it, you must not like freedom.

How many times in your life have you heard a politician sound similar to Señor Juan,  spouting off about freedom while we spend a trillion  dollars on wars in Afghanistan and Iraq?  When we talk about building a wall across the Mexico-US border?   When we try to move on after centuries of genocide and denial of reparations for the enslavement of Africans and their decedents?

I felt happy at the end of Dirty, Pretty Things because I was surprised by the poetic justice  for the villain and outright victory for the heroes.  I have a similar skepticism for the world we live in.  I carry it along with my hope to be surprised.

Ethnicity/Immigrant Experience class blog #2

Native Americans Used to Call it “white people.”

Facebook is a funny way to make huge statements.  When my friends join groups like “I bet I can get 1,000,000 to ______” I almost always wince.  A real life friend got me thinking about how these sorts of things are really effective for advertisers to mine huge groups of people, which is kind of creepy.

However, sometimes my friends “like” a statement that tickles me.  One interesting statement lately is “Illegal immigration is not a new problem, Native Americans used to call it ‘White People’.”  This is kind of clever.  I love the kind of thinking that this idea can get us doing and maybe even good discussion.  It immediately reminded me of the t-shirts worn of the Gary Ballard design featuring a picture of great Chiricahua Apache leader Geronimo and company in 1886 with the caption “Homeland Security-Fighting Terrorism Since 1492.”

Geronimo!

I have a problem with the statement about so-called white people causing an immigration problem with the Natives.  I think the Europeans indeed caused problems, but they were not immigrants for a long time.  Groundwork was laid to come and to dominate, not to integrate, with a few notable exceptions such as the Roanoke Colony in Virginia (now North Carolina).  Immigration started when Europeans had effectively controlled enough natural resources and developed a common identity away from their countries of origin.  By that point in time, most Native Americans didn’t have a ton of input into the process.

It is wise for us when thinking about immigration in the United States to keep in our frontal lobes some people movements in the past 500 years rather than the past few decades.