As the Mayday marches approach, I hear the pattering of well-meaning, but worried hearts. Some have told me that they are worried that Mayday may become low-turnout day. Though normal and to be expected, especially in a climate so toxic with state and corporate media-sponsored hopelessness, such fears need to be recognized and dealt with, for such personal, internal negotiations in times of global crisis are the stuff that the best political dreams are made of.
So, as we ponder whether to move our bodies to march in an age when politics and, especially, “progressive” politics, have given way to the important, but largely disembodied politics of the web, here are a few things to consider:
1. Marching Matters – we might want to remember what ACTUP, Latin American and other activists taught and told us: silence=death. As the Pentagon propaganda scandal makes chillingly clear, the domestic war, the war within the borders is primarily psychological and symbolic. Elites know this and so should we. Add to the equation the physical war targeting migrants and you get a situation that demands that we demonstrate self-respect and courage in the face of such serious repression. Rather than simply absorb the messages of hopelessness and discouragement coming out of our TVs and computer screens (and even from some of our friends and families), let’s move our bodies against the state and the elite interests controlling it. One of the best antidotes to the fear and isolation propagated by the media, government and other interests is to march with others. Marching helps us realize that, in a pathologically ill country, migrants and their supporters are, indeed, “aliens”; Marching reminds us that, yes, we are not alone. Regardless of how many of us march, it’s critically important that those living in isolation and fear, especially our children and young people, need to see some of us raising our fists and heads before injustice. Next time someone tells you “marching doesn’t matter”, just ask them what marching might mean to those undocumented parents who’ve never participated in marches or anything political and who’s small children watched them come out of the political closet of undocumented status for the first time in their lives.
2. The Government has Spent Billions to Attack Migrants and Destroy the Immigrant Rights Movement – in case you didn’t realize it, in times of war and declining empire, immigrants and those who defend them become enemies of the state, useful enemies that help militarize life within the borders of the “nation”. Just look at what happened after 9-11, especially after the marches of 2006: raids and home invasions by the thousands, massive deployments of thousands of heavily-armed ICE agents and national guard troops, billions spent on defensive walls, electronic surveillance and military equipment,..the list goes on and on. The exponential amounts of money, imprisonment rates and the state violence aimed at migrants should make abundantly clear what we’re witnessing: a domestic war on immigrants. Local, state and federal governments have spent billions to destroy us, yet still we march.
3. The mainstream media is fatally ignorant of -and antagonistic towards- immigrants and immigration issues – you might remember that this is the same media that repeated mantra-like that the marchas of 2006 “came out of nowhere”; the same media that then proceeded to report on the marches without context, reporting as if Mojadopotli, the God of the Undocumented, magically moved DJ’s as he/she rained millions of marchers down on hundreds of U.S. towns and cities. Rather than worry that your local and national media are already reporting on the marches as a failure because “far fewer” people are “expected” to show up, you might stop for a moment to consider that the media is simply doing its political job-and then march anyway. And there are much better, even funner ways to spend your Mayday than taking in gobs and gobs of messages from the most sophisticated and private sector-driven spin and propaganda system ever devised.
4. Movements have their ebbs and flows-and we’re ebbing right now – if your political commitment depends on the fix of massive marches for you to feel good or inspired, you might consider checking into a political detox facility immediately. Such conjunctural logic fits perfectly into the “look, their marches have diminished” “reporting” that we even hear from the Spanish language and broken-Spanish-inflected reporting of some Latino surnamed reporters. Not to march means we further enable the diverse and cowardly interests aligned against migrants: Minutemen, the Bush Administration, the media, Democrats and Republicans and others. The moment we forget that the true measure of movements that inspire social and political change is what happens in the heart and mind is the moment we allow the whispers and hollers of our adversaries to crystallize inside of us. This dark, defensive moment will pass only if at least some of us continue to carry the candle of hope.
5. Immigrants Still Lead the Way – more than anything, Mayday should serve to remind us of the power of immigrants to alter history. It’s because of immigrant workers that children (at least most working class children) no longer languish in factories; it’s because of immigrant workers that there’s an 8 hour workday; it’s in no small part because of immigrants and other free, partially free and wholly unfree workers that any “freedom” exists in the cold heart of the most powerful and most rapidly declining empire ever.
So, in the face of the unholy alliance of interests aligned against us from above, let us march if only to connect to the tradition of freedom brought from below.