Saturday, May 26, 2018

The New Old Nationalism

(By American Zen’s Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari)
In Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York, modern day America was introduced to a new villain who was actually an old villain. Through Oscar winner Daniel Day-Lewis' epic if highly fictional portrayal, latter-day American audiences became acquainted with Bill "the Butcher" Poole (renamed Cutter for the movie). Bill Poole was a large figure in Lower Manhattan in the 19th century. He was a crime boss, Bowery Boy gang leader and Nativist political activist who headed the Know Nothing Party.
     Poole made no bones about the fact that he was bitterly opposed to the massive influx of Irish Catholics flooding into the Battery (used for immigrant entry before Ellis Island). The Scorsese movie would have you believe, among other things, that he was deeply in bed with Boss Tweed's Tammany Hall (the closely-followed template for today's "Democratic" Party). But nothing could be further from the truth.
     The former Bowery Boy commonly waged fist fights and gang wars with Tammanyites who, while they didn't have any special love for the unwashed rabble who sought refuge from the Potato Famine, nonetheless cynically used them, handing out bread and soup at the docks and perhaps an occasional job to the disembarking Irish. All Tammany required were their votes and their loyalty. And there was a certain cynical genius in doing so- Boss Tweed's Tammany Hall were essentially the only people in New York who were willing to give the Irish a voice and some middling power in their self-determination. Poole hated Tammany for that and he hardly acted as an enforcer for Tammany Hall during elections as the movie had portrayed.
     Poole represented the most virulent strain of short-sighted Nativism the 19th century could offer. His brief reign of anti immigrant terror would come almost exactly between the 1830 Indian Removal Act of Andrew Jackson and the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 that kept Chinese men from being reunited with their wives on American soil.
     Bill the Butcher was shot in a barroom brawl in late February 1855 (In spite of being shot multiple times, once in the heart, it still took him two weeks to die). At his funeral on Broadway, 5000 mourners showed up, plays on the aptly-named Great White Way were hastily rewritten so actors portraying Poole would take the stage at the end and say, "I died a true American!" (A line repeated by Day-Lewis after being mortally wounded by the fictional Amsterdam).
     Poole didn't actually say that. In fact, after being shot in the heart, he scrambled to his feet and his last recorded words were, "I'm going to cut your living heart out of your chest!" But the fact that Poole became a martyr to his rancid and ultimately losing cause to the point where Broadway plays were rewritten to include him and words he never, in fact, uttered, showed how popular the anti-immigrant movement was.

Vanilla ICE
Let us now move forward 163 years after Poole's death. Another New Yorker, like Scorsese a native of Queens, is against all odds still squatting in the Oval Office and the Nativist movement, now operating under different labels, is stronger and more institutionalized than Poole ever dared imagine. Nowadays, the Irish Catholics are not being ostracized and marginalized for the simple reason the Irish have become so ingrained in American society. Because now, we've found an abstract bad guy (America is never happy unless it has someone to demonize) that we hate more than the Irish Catholics, the Chinese or the Native Americans- Latinos.
     Hardly a week goes by when we don't hear some horror story or another about one of the Gangs of Washington or another ripping families apart, carrying out raids. And at its root is the toxic strain of Nationalism that's rapidly becoming mainstream, if it already isn't, from one Donald John Trump, the grandson of a German criminal and whose mother came from Scotland. It has nothing to do with border security, drug or human trafficking or anything that cynically noble- The ICE raids and crimes committed by the Border Patrol at the nation's southern border (There's a reason why we don't have nearly a viciously-protected northern border protecting us from nice white Canadians) are the actualization of Trump's irrational hatred of dark-skinned people, particularly Hispanics.
     We all know how Trump feels about African Americans. He likes them as window dressing, human scenery during photo ops and as tokens. When he rails about NFL players taking a knee during the anthem, he's really saying he has a problem with black players protesting unwarranted police violence against their people. And he made his thoughts on how much more he prefers white people to darker ones after last year's race riot in Charlottesville that left a white woman dead. The Muslim bans in his earliest days in office (and struck down by four federal judges), showcased his Islamophobia.
     And now we're hearing that even immigrants lawfully presenting themselves to Border Patrol agents openly seeking asylum are having their children ripped from their arms and scattered to the four winds. It's what Chief of Staff John Kelly, himself a noted racist and whose ancestors would've been reviled by Bill Poole, recently called, a "tough deterrence" to illegal immigration. Such children "will be put in foster care or whatever" he carelessly said on the 11th.
     The problem is, neither ICE nor the Border Patrol or any other monolithic federal agency tasked with immigration matters has a single policy in place for reuniting these frightened children, some as young as 18 months old, with their parents, especially if the latter had been deported. We also don't know who these so-called foster parents are. The government even had to recently admit that they lost 1500 such children since Trump took office before adding they weren't "legally responsible" for keeping track of them.
     And despite what Kelly said in his disturbingly cold-blooded manner, it is intolerably cruel to separate for long periods of time, if not permanently, parents from their young children. It's even crueler, not to mention abjectly inhumane and even inhuman, to agree to process claims at the border for immigrants but on condition they give up their flesh and blood in exchange for an asylum application. And losing track of 1500 immigrant children necessarily invites a connection between human sex traffickers and a federal government that pretends to be so heavily invested in combating it.

Gangs of Washington DC
The girl shown in the lead image was barely out of her teens. Her name was Claudia Patricia Gomez Gonzalez and she was from Guatemala. After getting a college education in forensic accounting in her native country, she came with a group of other migrants and freely presented herself to Border Patrol authorities in Laredo, Texas. Then, for reasons that have yet to be made clear, a 15 year veteran shot her dead.
     The Border Patrol is now on its fifth version of what happened, each one less menacing than the last, and no doubt, since law enforcement is criminally mendacious, other versions will no doubt be forthcoming. They even cancelled a news conference on the matter. Luckily in the interests of justice, a woman witnessed and filmed the entire incident on Facebook live and now she's being harassed and stalked by Border Patrol officials who stop in front of her house several times a day. 
     This ought to be a turning point in the national dialogue about the safety of our southern border. Namely, all the violence seems to be committed by a street gang known as the US Border Patrol, which has actually partnered in the past if not the present with certain racist Minutemen groups that even George W. Bush called "vigilantes." Among the suspects in the murders of immigrants- Trump's very fine people, or neoNazis.
     And there's a reason why I say all the most serious criminal activity seems to be carried out by the very people tasked with securing our southern border. The day he announced his candidacy, Donald Trump said they were bringing drugs over but two years later almost to the day, a Border Patrol agent was caught doing the very same thing. Donald Trump called Mexicans "rapists" but it apparently all the raping is being done by ICE officials. And then there's the mantra of illegals trying to cross the border without proper documentation but documentation seems to be the last thing ICE in interested in. In fact, just last year, ICE requested they be allowed to destroy the most incriminating documents alleging their own rampant, unchecked criminal activity and Donald Trump recently allowed them to do so.
     Claudia Gonzalez didn't even live enough to get raped or have a child to get kidnapped from her. Our government is committing capital crimes forbidden to the rest of us with impunity and are now allowed to destroy the documentation of the existence of their countless thousands of crimes are doing it on the public dole and in our good names. Claudia was shot and killed by a racist cop who was alarmed that she approached him when all she was wanted was an honest job in forensic accounting.
     It is no longer alarmist to compare these largely hidden crimes of impunity in the name of racial superiority to the genocide artists of Hitler's Nazi Germany. The Master Race, too, thought they were superior to the Jews and did their best to exterminate as many as inhumanly possible. Neo Nazis are marching down the streets of America while being lauded by the first "president" to embrace their cause while African American football players are now forbidden to take a knee during the National Anthem (as during the Civil War, we like it when the "good ones" put their lives at hazard as long as they don't get too uppity)
     It doesn't take a genius to see where all this is headed because we human beings have been down this road all too many times before.

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