The wholesale slaughter of children sparked an unprecedented opening for change in this country. Killing children broke something fundamental in our culture. On that sad day, it felt as if there was a giant ripping in our society — yielding a gaping hole in all that was sacred and right. It was like watching the Twin Towers collapse all over again, but now it was our children. Many have asked if we have waited too long for action, the answer is simply no. Babies and guns do not belong in the same sentence. Assault weapons must never again be used to kill children.
It’s that opening – the gaping wound — that is inspiring our President Obama and Vice President Biden. This unlikely duo appear to be fueled by the fire of what is possible, and are driving a Mack truck through this opening right now — whether it is to push through the broadest gun safety legislation; or enact comprehensive immigration reform; or to raise the minimum wage; or end violence toward women; or to support gay marriage.
Watching our President Obama the evening of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School – it was clear that he would leap tall buildings to save the children and people of this country. It had become a Holy Crusade and compromise is off the table. Witness the fervor with which this team is working to move their Cabinet nominations forward even for beleaguered Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel. Republican shenanigans are not being tolerated even on their home turf, the House of Representatives. These folks can rant and rave for the cameras (and they do), but are falling flat with no run way. The President’s approval ratings are soaring even in the shadow of the latest, manufactured financial machination of the ‘sequester.’ And it is this fundamental lack of empathy and understanding that may be the down fall of the Republican Party as we know it today.
Frankly, the President is done turning himself into a human pretzel and for this we must rejoice. You just can’t compromise with folks that hate you and all that you stand for. It’s a travesty that it took this horrific loss of lives in Sandy Hook to galvanize the American people – but it did. Unbelievably, today one child still “dies every three hours from gun violence in the United States.” Everyone knows that gun safety legislation is not about the Second Amendment, but rather about sustaining a modern civilization.
The winds of change are upon us. Just witness the President’s news conference today on the impasse over what is called sequestration. He’s not backing down.
Suppose — just suppose — the people who advocate harsh treatment of non-citizens are successful in their efforts, and our government starts an effort to locate and deport them. How do we identify who is here without authorization? This is a practical question.
Americans are not required to “carry papers.” We do not have checkpoints, and inside of the country we do not have to prove that we are traveling with proper authorization. We certainly do not have to prove that we are citizens. Many of us could never even locate the documentation necessary to prove citizenship if we were, in fact, required to prove it.
One answer that comes up frequently is to deal with the immigration question through employment. The reason people come here is to try to have a better life, which means employment. So this opens up a two-pronged approach. One, attack the undocumented resident problem through the employers, and the other is to help the countries south of us to improve their economies so people are not desperately trying to come here so they can feed their families. (And opening up markets of people who can afford to buy things we make here, by the way.) Meanwhile, employers here are taking advantage of desperate people for their own gain.
So to approach this problem though employment we ask employers here to check for documentation when hiring. This is a natural time to do this, because people already need to show they are who they say they are when applying for jobs. An employer who hires an undocumented worker is the one committing the crime.
But what happens to families and lives if we cause people working now to be fired? What happens to neighborhoods, businesses, already-eroding housing prices, local tax bases, and all the other things that can be affected if hundreds of thousands — maybe even millions — of people are suddenly without jobs and forced to move? Perhaps part of the answer to the problem is to freeze any new hiring of people who are not citizens or have resident status, so the problem at least stops getting worse and ever harder to solve. But it is not a good idea for human and economic reason to punish people who are already living and working here.
The current discussion of immigration is so focused on the word “illegal” and that word helps turn human beings into a faceless, criminal “them.” But it really is human beings, with families and lives just like everyone else.
Ckick through to Speak Out California to join our discussion there.
This post originally appeared at Speak Out California
Earlier this week I wrote about how “conventional wisdom” says that politicians acknowledging reality and offering solutions that could actually fix the state’s problems is considered “political suicide.”
Here is something else that is considered political suicide: Acknowledging that undocumented residents live and work here and are members of our communities. But it is a fact. A lot of people have come across the country’s borders and settled in California, especially across the southern border.
Economic conditions have forced people to come here to try to find work. This is something that each of us would do if the situation were reversed. Heck, if the financial crisis that we are reading about in the news continues we might be doing just that very soon.
It is especially dangerous for a candidate to acknowledge that undocumented residents drive on the state’s roads and suggest that while we work out solutions to the documentation problem, we test and license them so they can be insured. And so instead there are lots of unlicensed and therefore untrained, untested and uninsured people driving. This endangers all of us. But woe to the politician who actually tries to suggest realistic and workable ways to fix this.
Second to this on the political suicide scale is acknowledging that these undocumented residents are human beings, just like the rest of us.
The challenge here is to find solutions that fit our progressive value system. As progressives, we recognize and celebrate the humanity of every person. We don’t ignore reality and we don’t condone lawbreaking. We must look for practical, humane, innovative, equitable and democratic approaches to resolving these difficulties. We must always look for progress.
The election is a year away and the Republicans are working hard to set the stage and prime the public for their campaign themes. Here are my predictions for the 2008 election environment the Republicans will try to set up.
1) Iraq will not be in the news, and the Dems will be blamed for any failures. If there is failure the “stabbed in the back” narrative will be perfected. If things are calm, the Democrats will be blamed for trying to get us out prematurely.
And, above all, even if nothing changes, never forget that on Oct. 26, just before the 1972 election, all the headlines read “Peace is at hand!”
2) Immigration: Republicans assuredly have polling and testing that show this as a strong issue. This week’s elections saw them testing messages to find out what works. Don’t think this was beaten back, it was only field-tested. They’re going to use this to divide us and drive wedges between us and split groups apart — it’s what they do.
3) Accusations that we have a Do-Nothing Ineffective Congress — Republicans are filibustering everything, and Bush is vetoing the rest. Every single bill. The media is already running with a “Dems won’t compromise’ and “Dems can’t get anything done” narrative and Congress is at a record low approval. You bet we’ll be hearing this – they are hard at work developing it. Unless the Democrats start making a lot of noise about this and sustain it -and get the media to report the facts – the Republicans will get away with it.
Summary: Following President Bush’s speech on immigration, CNN aired a special edition of Lou Dobbs Tonight that consisted largely of a roundtable discussion moderated by show host Lou Dobbs, with four other white men as guests: conservative syndicated columnist Tony Blankley, Republican strategist Charlie Black, CNN senior political analyst and American Enterprise Institute resident fellow William Schneider, and CNN host Wolf Blitzer. Missing from the discussion was the perspective of a Democrat, a progressive, a woman, or a Latino.
Why would any Latinos, women, Democrats, representatives of unions, Progressives or young people be invited on TV to talk about immigration?
Go look at the picture, too.
The Republicans passed a law making it a felony to be an undocumented immigrant. (Obviously targeted at Mexicans, not Canadians or Europeans, talking about how “they” will do certain jobs that “we” won’t…)
Hispanics – incuding American citizens – react to the racist insult with mass demonstrations. They are obviously angry enough to vote in large numbers.
How do the Republicans solve the huge problem they created for themselves? Very simple, do what Republicans always do — just lie. Republicans are running Spanish-language ads saying that this was a Democratic bill, passed by Democrats. Also this from AP.
Problem solved. The Seeing the Forest Rule: When Republicans accuse, it means they are doing what they are accusing of. Update – More here.