Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Every sweet has its sour; every evil its good.” And so it is with Congress. For within hours of passing legislation to repeal the military’s ban on gay and lesbian soldiers, the Senate failed to pass legislation granting a path to citizenship for thousands of undocumented immigrant students.
And so it is not without a significant taste of sourness on my tongue that I congratulate America’s undocumented immigrants for being the latest winner in the ugly reality show that is our nation’s constant search for an underclass to bear the brunt of all blame and punishment for whatever happens to be wrong at the moment.
No, America’s big bank CEOs and Wall Street titans didn’t win this year. Despite record breaking bonuses paid for with tax dollar bailouts — and despite the fact that their economic policies have driven undocumented immigration all along — the super-rich are sponsoring the judges so… the results shouldn’t be that surprising. It’s not like Tyra Banks is getting backed by a bunch of farmworkers in a field…
Few were surprised that immigrants finally took the top of the punching bag totem pole this year. After all, they’ve already been blamed for everything from high unemployment to rising healthcare costs to global warming. Now that the gay folks have finally won the repeal of the blatantly discriminatory and un-American law banning their service in the military, watch for immigrants pick up the slanderous slack. Soon, we’ll be blaming undocumented immigrants for America’s divorce rate and for the fact that more and more young boys are emulating Adam Lambert (whose ancestors were reportedly immigrants).
Leaders of the culture war have yet to figure out how to reconcile blaming their old nemesis the gays for not procreating with attacking Latino immigrants for procreating too much. “We have to figure this one out or we’ll just look stupid,” said one insider with information about the turmoil within Right wing organizations.
That’s not to say that the gays will have it easy. The fact that same sex couples still can’t marry or even visit each other in the hospital and the ongoing prevalence of violence against and suicide within the gay community will keep the gay contingent in the running for next year’s Top Scapegoat competition. We’ll see how the absurdly offensive call for separate showers in the military plays out.
Anyway, some in the gay community were sad to lose this year. “I’m so used to being part of the most hated, demonized sub-group in America,” said B. G. Kween. “At least if I wasn’t treated as a full part of America, I could connect to the long and sad legacy of people’s throughout history who have been stepped on and spit on by the ruling elite.”
But as a gay non-immigrant myself, I’m happy to concede at least something to the undocumented immigrant community. I mean, after being forced to flee their homelands by economic conditions many of which the United States created, being coaxed to our country by corrupt companies to do dangerous and underpaid work and then being constantly treated not only as less-than-American but, frankly, less-than-human, it’s about time undocumented immigrants win something. Yes, the Next Top Scapegoat contest isn’t much fun to win — and the prize, even more discrimination and injustice at the hand of demagogues, is even worse. But as Emerson said, at least the sour can have something sweet — the pride at knowing that in a nation historically obsessed with producing and maintaining oppressed communities, your community is the top of the bottom of the heap. Congratulations!
And let me also pass on my thanks to the United States Senate, who managed to stand for the best of our nation’s values and the worst of our nation’s narrow-mindedness within the same 24 hours. That’s quite a feat!
Sally Kohn is a community organizer and progressive political commentator. She is the Founder and Chief Education Officer of the Movement Vision Lab.
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