A few weeks ago I went to Lou Dobbs town hall forum on immigration. Unlike many people I was stuck in the upper deck with my coworkers. We didn’t have to sit stone faced for the cameras as many of the people in gallery did. My natural defense mechanism was of course to act like an adolescent male and coax a comrade to do the same. We turned a very horrendous experience into one where we were laughing and making obnoxious jokes. We all deal with tragedy in our own way I guess.
One of the benefits of sitting off camera is the television set you get to see. One of the images that truly tore my heart into was Lou Dobbs blaming job loss on undocumented immigrants while a member of SEIU sat behind him wearing his purple and gold. That single image terrifies me. For a person who does not listen to what is being said, and I fear the number that does not listen is ghastly high, sees a man defending workers (Dobbs) and a proud union member right behind him. Of course that member was not endorsing anything Dobbs said, but it does not really matter. People see what they are shown, and that image burns strong in my mind.
After I got away from the event, I had a nice ride back with another comrade, but lying in bed that night I started to really hate the people at that event. I hated the old man who scowled when I booed Dobbs. I hated the people who applauded when Barletta rejoiced in families escaping in the middle of night. I just kept thinking that we should have done some sort of action. I wanted people on the floor to rush the stage and knock that racist pig to the floor. I would have loved to have seen someone haul off and hit the guy from the Heritage Foundation, but I didn’t get any of that. I was also angry at “our” side. For the most part the speakers who represented the good guys were wasting time trying to persuade the other speakers why they should not be assholes. I would have rather seen them make an argument to the people watching, that Barletta, the Heritage Foundation, etc ARE assholes.
It is disgusting that Lou Barletta is considered a mainstream leader in the U.S. Barletta’s family I assume cast their vote for Mussolini back in the old country, but until I know I can’t blame them for their kin. Barletta is a fringe whack job and he should be held up to the light. Instead we talk to him like he is justified in his racism. But, why shouldn’t we? He was democratically elected by the people of Hazleton.
And that is when I started to hate the people of Hazleton. How could one town be so chock full of fascists. They were at the event in droves. They seemed like nice normal people. They didn’t come in wearing brown shirts or knee high boots, but had Phillies caps, and bad polo shirts. Hell, the smoker circle hanging around outside, didn’t seem too different than the smoking circle outside of the events I go to. How could these small town folks applaud the expulsion of people because they were “illegal?”
For those of you who have read Christopher Browning’s Ordinary Men, he sets off on a study of how everyday people could commit genocide in modern Europe. Though it is not a fair comparison there should be some points pulled from the study. There was nothing uniquely terrible about the German people. No “evil” gene existed, nor were they a particularly nasty lot from birth. They were merely ordinary men, who after years of accumulated radicalization, were unwavered by the order to murder someone. This is why I must fight everyday not to loathe the people of Hazleton. If any person in this drama must be saved it must be them, because left unchecked, they are simply lost, and what seems shocking to us to even discuss in the future, may not even begin to shake their moral fortitude.
Lenin wrote an article once upon a time titled Capitalism and Workers’ Immigration, and though a piece I would be weary of us using much it ends very simply. And at the end of all of this, my sadness for those around me, my anger at the media, this line reminds me what this is about.
“The bourgeoisie incites the workers of one nation against those of another in the endeavor to keep them disunited.”
I will not hate the people of Hazleton, as much as I want to. I do find them despicable and their actions utterly atrocious, but they are merely pawns in the same struggle. We have to win them back, because they will destroy themselves and everything they hold dear. We are here to fight for the working class and to make sure that they work to benefit the working class. The bosses will cut our throats any chance they get, and right now they have workers crushing each other. It is up to our members to win those who are on the wrong path back, and that gives me hope.