Monday, December 3, 2007

Comparing Tragedies: A Letter from a Mexican American in China

This is a great piece by Miguel Diaz. Scroll down to see what else he's written. -Dra. Valenzuela

Comparing Tragedies: A Letter from a Mexican American in China
New America Media, Commentary, Miguel A. Diaz, Posted: Dec 02, 2007

Editor’s Note: As a Mexican American living in China, commentator Miguel A. Diaz has a unique view on the immigration debate. Diaz is a graduate of the Department of Political Science at the Univ. of California, Berkeley. He is living in China and working on a book titled “Unbecoming American.”

A Canadian Jew and a Mexican American talk in China. While on the subject of the negative reader feedback which the latter has been getting as a result of his writing on Mexicans in the United States, the Jew comments: “Sometimes it’s better to keep your opinions to yourself.”

Astounded to hear this from a Jew, the Mexican American asks: “What if people took on a policy of silence concerning the Holocaust?”

“That was a long time ago!” The Jew snaps back.

Though the Holocaust occurred more than 60 years ago, new books are still written about it and the world is constantly reminded by Jewish writers, survivors, and politicians to: “Remember not to forget.” In fact, a survivor came to my high school and showed us his tattoo. More than one visited my university. Even today black and Hispanic kids in American barrio and ghetto high schools are taught more about Anne Frank and Eli Wiesel than about Nelson Mandela or Rigoberta Menchu.

Similarly, Bill O’Reilly stirs up Americans with his opinions every night. An article in USA Today reporting on the hundreds of deaths that occur each year in the deserts on the U.S.-Mexico border draws hundreds of opinions from readers. From behind the safety of cute online monikers they are perfectly honest. One suggests placing landmines or stationing sharpshooters along the border. Another calls the desert dead “coyote poop.” And one expresses satisfaction with the desert deaths.

Why then should humanitarians in general and Mexican Americans in particular keep their opinions about the human tragedy which has been unfolding for decades in Mexico, at the border, and in the United States to themselves?

My friend’s comment was all the more surprising considering his late mother was imprisoned at Bergen-Belsen and Auschwitz. I know some will protest my use of the Holocaust in the context of other human tragedies. “It’s sacrosanct: don’t you dare compare it to anything else!”

I am not comparing it.

Others will argue one tragedy is worse than the next. Nobel laureate Doris Lessing, for example, was quoted saying that, “September 11 was terrible, but if one goes back over the history of the IRA, what happened to the Americans wasn't that terrible.”

But engaging in such discourse avoids the real issues entirely. The bottom line is that a human tragedy is a human tragedy whether it’s the Holocaust—the genocide at Darfur—or the millions of economic refugees who have been pushed out of Mexico by hunger and political corruption.

The problems start in Mexico: a country that has never known true democracy, job opportunity, and free and compulsory public education. I really gain no comfort knowing that the world’s richest man is Mexican. Then they move to the U.S.-Mexico border where millions of desperately uneducated and hungry Mexicans have managed to breach the fences of the most technologically advanced society in the world—something the Russians failed to accomplish. America’s undeniable need for cheap Latin American labor can largely explain halfhearted border policies.

In the United States, overburdened taxpayers pressure politicians to solve the illegal immigration problem. Politicians respond by tighten up security at the border a little. Together they label Mexico’s economic refugees “criminals.”

This “criminal” label complicates matters. While some who enter the United States from Mexico are the nefarious criminal types that no governments anywhere want, most are honest and hard working people whose first and only serious crime in life has been (and will be) entering the United States. An illegal act, I know. But there really are degrees of law breaking and deception: some lies can ruin a dress, while others can destroy an entire nation. Hardened criminals won’t cross any desert just to eat—and they’ll never mow lawns for minimum wage.

Mexican American civil rights leaders also have it all wrong. Instead of fighting to have the millions of immigrants recognized as economic refugees, they present a platform of blanket amnesty and entitlement that Americans find offensive. Mexico lost half its territories to the United States long ago; now they are trying to lose half of their poor.

Civil rights leaders would accomplish more if they shifted their activism from one of entitlement to a humanitarian one instead. They should lobby Washington to pressure Mexico’s government to get its act together. If this doesn’t work then Amnesty International or the United Nations can be summoned. Maybe the Dalai Lama can say a word or two about Mexico’s refugees.

I suppose Americans won’t reclassify the millions of undocumented Mexicans from “criminals” to economic refugees because that would mean they would have to stop exploiting them economically.

I write about the United States from China because I see parallels in the economic benefit that Americans derive from the exploitation of illegal Mexican immigrants and cheap Chinese labor—and the denial thereof. I can’t tell you how many times Americans living in China have warned me that it’s an oppressive communist country with no respect for human rights. Oddly enough they are here profiting. And so is the United States. Americans as a whole are by far China’s number one customers and Wal-Mart its largest single buyer. These opinions I just can’t keep to myself.

Related Articles:

Mexicans in China - The New 'Model Minority'?

Paying the Price for Our Parent's Deportations, Then and Now

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