Congressmen heckle the President of the United States. Thousands converge on Washington DC for organized hate-fests. Birthers, deathers, and conspiracy theorists feed rumor and misinformation via biased “news” channels.
Looking at the national health care debate, one may begin to think that the United States has lost its collective mind. As implausible as it may sound, this is jut the beginning. I fear that we have yet to see the worst of what the far right has in store for the rest of America.
What could possibly be more polarizing than the current health care debate? Immigration reform. Immigration will open the hornet’s nest that is the conservative right and their rabid minions like nothing we have seen before, save maybe after the 14th and 15th amendments.
In some fashion it’s already buzzing. Hate mongers like Lou Dobbs, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh blame immigrants for almost every ill plaguing America. If you ask a protestor at one of these circus town halls or tea bag parties, you will hear the putrid regurgitation of lies as if they were psalms. To paraphrase one such child of God:
“…Illegals ... send on the first bus one way back to wherever they came from…send 'em home with a bullet in the head the second time.”
The template is clear. Conservatives will claim that America is going into chaos and that this President is the harbinger of death to liberty and democracy. While wrapping themselves in the flag representing freedom for all, they will dehumanize men, women and children whose only crime is not being able to wait on line while their families starved to death before trying and find work and a better life in America.
The right will focus on so-called “amnesty.” They will say the President is caving to criminals, that he is giving the country away. They will make people fear that “illegals” are at every turn, a danger to society. Those who don’t look like their version of “America” will be suspect, even if they have been here for generations. They will say they are doing this to “take their country back.” The question is again – take it back from whom?
The “moderate” voices will mask the same arguments under “fighting terrorism.” They will bring up 9/11, forgetting that many immigrants, some undocumented, died horribly in that tragedy, and many have died or are dying of health complications from participating in the subsequent clean up efforts.
Perhaps most disturbing, the rhetoric that will come from the right will begin a bonfire of violence against those perceived to be immigrants. Already, we are seeing such violence across the country.
How can the rest of America protect itself from this new wave of vitriol coming our way? Preparing ourselves will be crucial, for a nation unprepared for this tsunami will be too late to protect innocents who fall victim to its wrath.
We must strengthen the enforcement of hate crime laws, and make it clear that violence to others based on the victim’s supposed group will not be tolerated.
We must make sure that rumors and misinformation are confronted head on and early by the media, community groups and politicians.
The media must stop giving fringe elements “equal time” for debate in order to appear balanced.
We must strengthen the resolve of our representatives who we elected on a change and reform platform, and let them know they have the support of a majority of Americans, and that we will hold them accountable should they cower under the heavy hammer of the regressionist movement.
Above all, we must all prepare to support reform. Support by talking to friends, relatives, colleagues about why it is crucial to keep families united, to allow for a transition from undocumented to documented status, and allow families to come out of the shadows.
We changed the policy makers through the ballot box, but changing minds happens across the dinner table and at local public forums. This may mean squaring off against red-faced hecklers at a town meeting. If so, supporters should defend their rights to be heard with poise and dignity.
The good news is the right has played their hand early in the “change game.” By pulling out most of the stops against healthcare, we now have an idea of how they will attack immigration reform. The real grass roots movement must rise again and not only defend reform, but protect the people most affected. It will be hard, it will difficult, but change is always difficult, and those who would "conserve" the status quo are not going to give it up without waging the fight of their lives. Neither will we.
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