Friday, July 4, 2014

Twilight Zone's Last Gleaming

Welcome to our annual day of forced patriotic revelry, mattress sales, and Founding Fathers in bad makeup peddling crappy cars on TV.

And, of course, the roar of the flag-waving crowds:

That was the scene this week in Murrieta, California. It once was a nice, quiet, All-American little farming town, founded a scant hundred or so years ago by a (ahem) Spanish immigrant who later turned his land over to a sheep-herding brother.

 And like most victims of the Wall Street Greed Machine-fueled housing bubble, Murrieta experienced a radical population surge of more than 200% in the first decade of the New American Century. Among the top ten employers of this teeming cauldron of humanity are Target, Walmart, Home Depot, Lowes and Sam's Club. Oh, and a health insurance company and a Bible center. It's been rated the safest city in Riverside County. It even has an annual Town Song contest! Life, despite the usual hardships, was imagined by the citizenry to be pretty good in Murrieta.

And then came the busloads of brown-skinned refugee children fleeing from crime-ridden countries, where there are no Sam's Clubs but plenty of the same American-made weapons and ammo they sell in Sam's Clubs. And all-American hell broke loose. You probably saw it on TV. 

The only good thing coming out of this is that although the buses were forced to flee by the angry mob, the spectacle was sickening enough to get some people re-thinking the whole "let's deport em all" mantra being sung across the allowable political spectrum: all the way from Point A (Fox News) to Point B (Hillary "It Takes a Village" Clinton and the conservative Democrats.)

The national backlash forced the libertarian mayor of Murrieta, one Alan Long, to protest that his townsfolk are not as rabid as they seemed on TV:
 We’ve heard some of those passionate people seeing the clips on the news and coming to a conclusion that Murrieta’s not compassionate,” Long told Fox News. (my bold) “It’s a shame that two minutes of video time on the news channel really stereotypes our city.”
 Video surfaced on Wednesday that showed protesters from Murrieta blocking Homeland Security buses full of undocumented children and adults from entering the town to be taken to facilities for screenings. Protesters held signs that read “Stop Illegal Immigration” and “Illegals Out!” The buses were rerouted to San Diego out of fear for the safety of those on the bus.
Taking a cue from President Obama, who insisted about a year ago that his drone strike war against innocent civilians is Not Who We Are, Long sputtered: “Showing a bunch of angry people isn’t really a true reflection of Murrieta."

To prove it, he boasted that the town contains 700 different charities. (Charity does begin at home, after all.) And when he urged the townsfolk to protest, he thought they'd do the right thing and contact their elected representatives. Never mind that he is an elected representative. And gosh oh golly, never in a thousand years did he imagine that his ovine flock could turn into a verbal lynch mob. His main concern is that he didn't want the innocent interlopers to be jailed in detention centers.

City Manager Rick Dudley posted a similar message on the town's official website. It reads, in part:
Sadly, too many people took this as encouragement to protest the arrival of buses carrying the women and children to the Border Patrol station in Murrieta.  Protesters came from around the southland to oppose the arrival of undocumented immigrants to Murrieta for processing.  In the face of the protest, three buses were turned around and the protesters claimed victory.  This was not victory.  It was a loss for the city of Murrieta, for the community that we live in and love.  It made this extremely compassionate community look heartless and uncaring.  That is NOT the Murrieta that we all know and love. 
There appear to be two sides to this issue – those who believe Mayor Long was encouraging them to stand in front of the buses in protest, and those who believe that Murrieta does not recognize that the US is the envy of the world and that people want to migrate here, even at the risk of their lives and the lives of their children.  Both sides are wrong.  We understand that people want to come to the US to seek a better life for their families, and we are a compassionate people who want to help.  But we also are a country whose legal system is based on the rule of law, and the people migrating must do so within the boundaries of the law.  The protests resulting from the incorrect interpretations of Mayor Long’s comments have given our community a black eye. 
They want to have it both ways. They totally ignore the conditions that made the Hondurans and Guatemalans embark on the dangerous flight from violence, poverty and corruption in the first place. They still think these people can be sent home and then go through some sort of bureaucratic process that involves waiting in some nonexistent line.

There is, of course, no line. For the poor and the dispossessed, there never has been and never will be.

This being Fourth of July weekend, the SyFy channel is running its Twilight Zone marathon. One of the most popular episodes of the whole series is a cautionary tale called "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street." Written by Rod Serling during the height of the Cold War, it tells the story of a nice little town that becomes a victim of mass hysteria. The townsfolk go completely nuts as they convince themselves that they're being invaded by aliens. Of course, they are only invading themselves with their own suspicions and paranoia and group-think. The results are tragic, neighbor turns against neighbor. And as the aliens themselves look at them from above, they realize that these humans don't even require an alien invasion. They're self-destructing, all on their own.

As Serling narrated at the end of the story,
The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices - to be found only in the minds of men. For the record, prejudices can kill...and suspicion can destroy...and a thoughtless frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all of its own - for the children...and the children yet unborn. And the pity of it is...that these things cannot be the Twilight Zone.
Happy Independence Day, everybody.


ste-vo said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you. I just knew in my little old heart that you would not let me down on this wonderful day. It makes me so fucking proud to be 'merkan.

Denis Neville said...

The tired and poor huddled mothers and children aren’t welcome in Murrieta.

“Nobody Wants You.”

“We are being overrun and turned into a third world country.”

“With the diseases these illegals are bringing we could see a full born pandemic.”

Ant-immigrant resentment has been a gold mine for the radical right.

“And slime had they for mortar.” – Genesis II

Much of the economic and social distress, as well as the gangs and drugs and violence, those families are fleeing are linked to the United States.

Our plutocrats and government have chosen to put profits before people, money before morality, dividends before decency, fanaticism before fairness.

How many corrupt and oppressive regimes have they backed for their economic gain? Too many have a selective memory loss of what happened in these Central American countries as a result of St. Ronnie Reagan’s anti-communism crusade.

How many Central American farmers have had their livelihoods cut out from under them by subsidized US agriculture?

Isn’t putting our nation’s insatiable appetite for drugs and our failed war on drugs before the unspeakable agonies of others a crime of silence?

History doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme.

Today’s hysteria echoes the time when my family, being Irish immigrants, was not welcome in America. Their Catholic faith was feared and despised as a threat. During the mid-nineteenth century anti-Catholic riots struck the major eastern cities and vandalism against Catholic institutions became such a common practice that many insurance companies refused to cover Catholic schools and churches.

The Irish were said to have brought the cholera as well as their wretchedness and want.

The Know-Nothings were a group of white Protestants who felt threatened by the surge of immigrants – predominantly Irish, German and Polish Catholics – coming into the U.S. during the early- to mid-1800s.

It is a tragic story that many Irish Catholics, forgetting the legacy of oppression and discrimination back home in Ireland, collaborated in the oppression of African-Americans in order to secure their place in the white republic. If only they had formed an alliance with their fellow oppressed blacks to wage a class battle against the dominant white culture which ruthlessly pitted them against one another.

Yelling “USA!” “USA!” “USA!” at those poor mothers and children?

“Man would fain be great and sees that he is little; would fain be happy and sees that he is miserable; would fain be perfect and sees that he is full of imperfections; would fain be the object of the love and esteem of men, and sees that his faults merit only their aversion and contempt. The embarrassment wherein he finds himself produces in him the most unjust and criminal passions imaginable, for he conceives a mortal hatred against that truth which blames him and convinces him of his faults.” – Blaise Pascal, Pensees

annenigma said...

I'm impressed by this invasion of undocumented/illegal/immigrants/migrants/refugees, or whatever they're being called today.

I think it's about time that masses of people give the finger to The Man and ignore the laws they believe are unjust and don't deserve respect. They're just looking out for own welfare after all, which is exactly what the rich have been doing forever at the expense of everyone else.

Not only that, these people are willing to actually take to the streets after they get here to publicly demand what they want, such as legal citizenship. Talk about gutsy! If only American citizens would follow their example and make demands.

The greatest part is that once empowered by having their demands met, they're far more likely to be activists their whole life. Actually, they'd better be, because unless they make demands for a better life AFTER they get here, we're all going to be worse off. When they see the income disparity and lack of opportunities, what will they do then? Will our government provide them with more assistance than they currently give to our citizens who can no longer afford food, decent housing, transportation, higher education? Our infrastructure is crumbling but Obama doesn't hesitate to ask for 2 billion emergency appropriation in order to build permanent detention centers for a temporary problem which was entirely predictable.

If the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency didn't see this coming a thousand miles and a year away, they aren't worth the 5 billion dollars a year they get. This has been going on for at least half a year, although the public is only hearing about it from the national media due to increasing local impacts. Why has the government not addressed this until now? It sounds like another case of Disaster Capitalism in the making.

So why would the U.S. Government seemingly ignore this situation for months and only now ship these people around, warehousing them wherever they can find space instead of planning ahead? Couldn't they have called FEMA for help months ago? Perhaps they actually found it more useful to have an urgent but legitimate excuse for building new detention centers without the big public debate that would normally occur in a REAL democracy if there's weren't a humanitarian crisis going on. Defense contractors to the rescue!

I'm starting to get a feeling that our government is treating us/the states as if we were foreign countries - heedless of the impact or expense of their actions (or lack thereof) on the lives of everyday people. Perhaps we should all apply for foreign aid. I think we're all going to be in the same boat soon - the life boat - needing rescue.

Pearl said...

Karen your mention of one of my favorites of Rod Serling, The Monsters are due on Maple Street had a sequel and more up to date so to speak.

From Wikipedia:
A 2003 remake of the episode was created in the latest re-adaptation of The Twilight Zone, but it was renamed "The Monsters Are On Maple Street." The difference between the two is that the remake is more about the fear of terrorism. When the power surge happens in the remake, it is caused, not by aliens, but instead by the government, specifically the United States Army, experimenting on how small towns react to the fear of terrorism. In the end, the neighborhood takes out its anger and frustration on a family who never left their house after the power surge occurred, thinking that they caused it since they still have power.

Pearl said...

Rod Serling

Zee said...

"We, the people are violent and filled with rage: A nation spinning apart on its Independence Day"

The rare article from Salon with which I can find a strange resonance.

James F Traynor said...

Yeah, evade the bullshit and enjoy the 4th. It's something we little guys can enjoy. It's the one day flag waving doesn't bother me; it's part of the scene. On Memorial Day it makes me sick; those guys didn't die for the flag but for each other.

But yesterday, and today, it's about barbecue and beer and screw everything else. The Tea
Party and those menacing the buses (women and kids for Christ's sake), well they're just ticks - something to endure for the day, but for just the day.

James F Traynor said...

But I'm glad I wasn't there, someone (including me) would have definitely gotten hurt.

Pearl said...

Thank you Karen for your great column and your top of the list recommendation with your comment to Maureen.
And to my great fellow Sardonickyites thank you for your wonderful contributions. Here is my comment to Maureen:

"The system isn't working because it is an unworkable system. And all the
vultures are taking the opportunity to feast on whatever they can grab. We
are paying the price for all the decades of putting our heads in the sand,
allowing transgressions of leaders and Congresspeople we voted into office
without thinking of the realities ahead.
Those of us who have opposed what we knew to be wrong and destructive were
silenced by the media headlines proclaiming less than the truth which may
have been too uncomfortable to feed the public.
And so as all empires of the past, we are losing our strength and confused
by what to do about it. I and so many others I know, have tried to warn and
educate all our lives (I am 90 now) and sadly we are no longer surprised at
the mess we are in.
Only the desperation of survival may possibly wake up the younger
generations to learn from past mistakes and have the courage to fight for
their lives.
We will have to start over, clean out the stables, face those who are
plundering the innocent and helpless but I will not be around to witness
this if it comes to pass.
If any young people are reading this, don't dismiss the comments of we older
generations who have lived through a major Depression, several wars with no
winners, and all preventable."