Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Palestine and the Racist Minute Men--

** This is a response paper that I had to write for a class after watching a presentation about the Minute Men.**

I had mixed thoughts and emotions as I was paying attention to the Minute Man presentation on Wednesday. For the most part, I feel empathy for the suffering of other people, in this case, the Mexicans who try to find economic comfort in the United States. For the most part, I am also in disagreement with the attitudes of neo-Nazi-type groups, although I think that it is very easy for (otherwise normal) people, perhaps many, to be sucked into hate politics, especially when they feel that they’re cause is justifiable. It is not always easy to pinpoint hate when you see it, which is many times elusive.

However, despite my strong disagreements with neo-Nazi type attitudes, I do not feel that the speakers present at the presentation made a particularly strong argument for their rejection of the United States’ border policies, except for perhaps the first woman that spoke. I think that a lot of race-, nation-, and economic-based resentment are the primary culprits behind this conflict, but the speakers appealed to the emotions more than they did to the speakers’ intellect, and particularly to their emotions, which left me unconvinced on many of their points. In all honesty, I expected to be presented with more of a usage of fact, statistics, and evidence, but was not. I feel that they presented the audience with only a slice of the information needed to get a fuller picture of this scenario, and that, by using certain types of rhetoric, expected to pull the audience along. Regardless of this, I nevertheless feel that their cause is justified because clearly there are issues that need to be dealt with, but it seems that they felt that they were “preaching to the choir,” and did not take into account that there would be people in the audience who did not already have their minds made up on the entire issue. (I saw some of the people around me nodding their head in agreement and heard some calling ‘the invterviewees’ names).

For example, the video made by the gentleman did a good job of showing the audience how things looked in some of the areas on the Mexican side of the border, and really tried to get us to feel what he felt. Having said that, I can empathize with his emotions, but it did not go much farther than that. To relate this to one of my own experiences (which is actually not really mine), my grandmother used to tell me about her negative experiences in Libya before she moved to Israel in 1948. She would tell me about the Libyan that murdered her father by running over him and then backing over him again to make sure that he was dead (this was never confirmed), and about the British-freed concentration camps that she found herself in, and my grandfather and her brother reinforced these horror stories when they told me that their shops were closed down and synagogues were burned. I have no doubt in my mind that these events occurred, partially because I trust their memory and partially because I have read of these types of incidents. However, these memories, as trustable as they are, represent a slice of the bigger picture of what was going on in Libya between Jews and Muslims prior to and during the establishment of the State of Israel; there were most-likely times in Libya when Jews lived under tolerable circumstances, as they did in many of the other Arab countries at other times.

But none of this justifies the type of hate that the Minute Men have towards immigrants; it can be said that it is representative of a longer-standing issue that we have here in the United States, a view that white is the norm, and these types of things are very difficult to squeeze out of a society when they have already found shelter within it. It can be said that their resentment is justifiable on certain counts, but even the most despicable of opinions can be backed by certain truths and understandable emotion.

If we view the way that America came into existence, generally speaking, there was a hierarchy of European ethnicities, with Protestants being on top, then Catholics; English above the Irish, Italians, Poles, etc, and Jews were one of the lowest (although not all Jews are European). Then “people of color” came into play, and they “naturally” had a harder time fitting into this society. This social trend continued to play itself out, and it has been improved much in the last two-hundred and thirty years after America received its independence, although there is still room for improvement. The view that the Minute Men hold can be attributed to this view of white superiority, which comes with the notion that to be American is to be white.

However, there were small kernels of truth in some of the things that the Minute Men were saying, but to their misfortune, whatever small amounts of logic they had were obstructed by their racist ideals. Furthermore, the gentleman who made the video did not bother to recognize their perspectives and then logically discuss why there wrong, but rather portrayed them solely as caricatures with comical and dangerous points of view, totally dismissing any kernel of truth that they might have had, and if the audience had thought more critically, he might have drawn away from his own argument.

So if I were to filter out the racist garble advanced by the Minute Men interviewed in the video and tried to unearth some of logical motives behind their flawed perspectives (which should have been the job of the video-maker), I would say that they feel threatened. Why do they feel threatened? They feel threatened because people look out their window and judge reality by what they see and not by what happened before their lifetime. In reality, it would be good if people did that, but they don’t always. Even the dispossessed, versus the dispossessor, eventually need to grasp reality in light of the present and not of the past, only if for their own mental well-being. These Minute Men feel as if they are being encroached upon, and although this land was not originally theirs, it has become their land by proxy of living on it.

To make a relevant political analogy, Israel, the land of the Jews, has become considered “Arab land” simply because Arabs conquered and settled there after the 7th century, during the one-thousand eight-hundred and seventy eight year-long (70-1948) “hiatus” that was initiated by a Roman invasion. Christians and Muslims, amongst other peoples, subsequently invaded and fought over it on their own terms during this timeframe. Yet today, the international community believes that the establishment of an Arab Palestinian state on Israeli soil is thought of as being the only way for there to be peace in the region. The analogy would be like establishing an American “state,” more like an enclave really – “Minutemanistan,” where Minute Men (and Women) can live in peace. In a starkly similar way that Mexicans are considered illegal if found in America without identification, Jews are confined to “Israel Proper,” (that is, minus Gaza and the West Bank) and are considered obtrusive and illegal settlers, yet their presence clearly had high potential for improving the economy of the surrounding Palestinians. They have already been pulled out of these areas due to overwhelming international pressure, as well as American pressure, yet we have yet to see a policy that will force Mexicans to leave America. Israeli's have to conclude that this pullout was in their best interest, and considering all of their options, it was the best (and the only realistic) one.

American history and the sense of American patriotism was based on the settlement of land, and we cannot expect people to annihilate their sense of self-worth by denying their history, but we can expect them to allow others to succeed in that particular area of land. I would have liked if the speakers had spent more time talking about what the State of Mexico is able to do for its people rather than it having to be brought up by people in the audience in order to be addressed.