FERGUSON AND IMMIGRATION
TWO SMALL REASONS TO GIVE THANKS
With demonstrations in over 100 cities last night, including in Ferguson, it seems that some “chord” has been struck around the country. Personally, I was not surprised by the St. Louis’ Grand Jury’s decision not to forward charges against Officer Wilson and this sentiment has been echoed by many around the nation. No one is surprised. That Wilson’s testified that Brown attacked him in his police car and attempted to wrestle the officer’s gun from him is also not surprising. It goes without saying that law enforcement officers – rightly or wrongly; straight up or with a modicum self-serving exaggeration – will put the shooting death of an unarmed man in the best light possible. This too is no surprise. And yet it does seem like folks around the country think there’s something wrong about the decision.
I am currently down in Florida at my cousins for my annual Thanksgiving celebration. Each morning I get the Palm Beach Post. It’s not the New York Times but I like reading local news: the latest shopping center opening; the latest Council Member with his hands caught in the till; the latest DWI arrests. This morning’s front page had stories about Ferguson, the increase in home prices in Southwest Florida, the state’s solar subsidy program and the country’s decision to burn trash again after years of shipping it elsewhere. But what I found most interesting was this morning’s editorial about Ferguson and the nationwide protests. I would expect a NYT editorial critical of the nation’s justice system, about how Black Americans are routinely unfairly treated under it and a call for wholesale changes. Such sentiments would not surprise me. But the Palm Beach Post? Sure. Palm Beach is not the conservative Florida Panhandle up north adjacent to Mississippi and Alabama but the editorial was a “straight down the line” liberal perspective on the issues that Ferguson the death of Michael Brown have brought to the fore in our national consciousness. And that, I would argue, is a good thing shedding a bright light on the current state of our racial affairs after our conservative fellow Americans declared after Obama’s election in 2008 that we were living in a “post racial” society and no longer had to worry about or do anything about “race relations” in America. What’s transpired across the nation since Monday’s (late) announcement of the St. Louis’ Grand Jury verdict gives me hope that maybe, just maybe, there are a few winds of change afoot in the country. Well maybe just a freshet but, then any breeze is welcome.
My second reason for hope this Thanksgiving is immigration. Well, not immigration per se, but Obama’s unilateral “fix” to our immigration “policies” if you can call them that. And not so much about what he’s done but the way in which he defied conservatives and Republicans over the issue. I’ve argued for a long time that Obama needed to stop attempting to “work with” the Republicans in Congress and simply do what he can on whatever his Administration sees as its and our policy agenda. And on immigration, he’s done just that. The Republicans – Cruz, Boehner, et. al. – dared him to do something. Dared him to take Executive Action and by george he did. Long, long overdue. As far as immigration goes, if Congress is truly serious about “fixing” our immigration laws, they need to pass a comprehensive immigration bill. Of course, I suspect that the force at the very heart of our immigration problem – the hiring of illegal workers by our business community – is not going to be fixed anytime soon. Let’s say in my lifetime. Which, come to think of it, isn’t really all that long anymore but you get my drift.
But I applaud Obama’s action and his current defense of both the law and his actions sticking it to some protestors yesterday in Chicago who disrupted his talk. The line of his that gives me hope is the one about the protestors needing to “get the facts.” His admonition was right on target. Getting the facts is something that seems to be a lost art here in the United States of America. Let’s hope that his “get the facts” line spreads throughout our public media and our public discourse just as far and wide as possible. This too is long, long overdue in our public debates where the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage spew contra-factual garbage over the airwaves daily and Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann can announce that “Our Founding fathers worked tirelessly to end slavery.” I don’t think it’s cool that propaganda has so largely taken the place of factual information in the discussion of important issues.
And for me, this too is quite hopeful. Getting the facts, as opposed to voicing one’s uninformed opinion, is a trend that needs to take hold and spread like a virus across the land. So even though we still have a long, long way to go in wrenching our country back from the conservative social, economic and political stranglehold that has been steadily chocking the lifeblood out of our country for decades, even small signs of progress are welcome.