Progressive Writers Bloc

Us vs. Them?

Uncle Bill Warner

Uncle BillI had a friend once tell me that life is "us" against "them". When I worked with the Sheriff's department, it was the "good guys" versus the" bad guys." As a kid, we played "cowboys and Indians" (guess who the bad guys were?). We could go on forever, but you get the idea. We have a binary system built into our brains whether by Nature or by nurture, that likes to see things as black or white, and we seldom think in terms of shades of gray.

On a bell curve of intelligence, half the population is below the median. However, in Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon, "...all the children are above average." Somehow, even the most stupid and the most vicious people on Earth always think of themselves as in the top half of any scale of intelligence or morality. So how about the rest? Ah, they are the enemy?

Back in my Marine Corps days, there were Marines vs. everyone else. Today's "us" vs. "them" has taken on the form of us, the good guys, and the un-documented immigrants (seen by many as the "bad guys" despite the fact that they are doing much of the work that keeps our economy going). Unfortunately, "black-white," "on-off" thinking still dominates. To start with, ALL of us are basically undocumented immigrants at some point in history. You may say that your immigrant parents had the correct legal documents, which makes them OK...but where did these documents come from? From the early invaders of this continent, which did not have the permission of the people who already lived here, that's where.

The people who moved into Mexico (now Texas, California, Arizona, New Mexico) from the East did not produce papers which gave them permission from the Native American and Hispanic residents. They came in with sabers and guns, which made them the legal owners. To their way of thinking, "might maketh right," so winning the Mexican War proved they were in the right.

The situation with undocumented immigrants today is different. Their only weapons are their hands, which are used to prune the fruit trees and pick the grapes. The argument is that this is displacing the rightful "legal" labor force, and in a way that is true. They are willing to work for less, which allows for the growers to make more profits. Still, the realities of the situation we are: 1) the way we do business encourages employers to pay as little as they can for labor, 2) by blocking the entry of potential workers, the labor pool in Tulare Co. was down to where there were not enough workers to pick the orchards clean before the freeze, and 3) human beings are human beings: the fact that I was born in Michigan rather in Michoacan does not enhance my worth in the eyes of God.

There is a great need at the moment among the unemployed farm workers, and especially among the undocumented, who do not have the same access to relief aid as others do. The need is not just for food. People need a roof over their heads and a vehicle, without which finding work in this county is nearly impossible. All the while the children are suffering in poverty.

My friends, I submit that it not an "us vs. them" situation. We are all "us." Contact the AFSC Proyecto Campesino, 733-4844 if you would like to do something to help those most in need at this time: our undocumented brothers and sisters.

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