Tuesday, May 29, 2007

My Girlfriend's Editor's Ex-....


was thrown into a detention center a couple of months ago in Batavia, NY after being grabbed off an Amtrak train when he was unresponsive to a question about his nationality. He knew if he lied he might be thrown out of the USA forever so he just didn't say much, although his English is fluent. He was on his way here (Los Angeles) , but when the train arrived, the editor returned from Union Station with only his friend's luggage.

A colleague who teaches with me at UC Santa Barbara told me that he sees more trucks with day-laborers pulled over on the side of the highway lately, as the police line up the occupants and closely search the vehicles with a brutality more appropriate for Al Qaeda suspects than for a few guys about to do some leaf-blowing.

And today I heard a local report on the NPR affiliate KCRW about a van that was being pulled over for a supposedly routine stop, or perhaps a DWM (Driving While Mexican). The driver, aware of the new role southern California police are eager to play in apprehending undocumented workers, took off and the car crashed. At least some were injured and perhaps there were fatalities as well. (I cannot find any documentation of this event on the internet just now but will update this post when that becomes available.)

This isn't Nazi Germany circa 1940, but it is pretty damn close to what things looked like for Jews in 1935, when the population was required to carry identity cards that used their nationality, i.e., Israelites, for determining their possibilities of employment, education, housing, and so forth. Today's actions are unlikely to result in genocide, but the nativist anxieties and rhetoric of victimization, also similar to that of the Nazis trying to rally Germans from their World War One malaise, is leading to an imperial military policy and domestic punishments that are being normalized in ways that are shocking and even obscene. Anyone who drives by as the police are arresting undocumented aliens, taking possession of their property, severing them from their communities without notice or legal counsel, because of the belief that the outsiders are taking their jobs and wealth, gets to know what it was like for the "normal" Germans in 1935. (The image is from a site devoted to a French resistance fighter who gave people false papers.)

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