What is this?! A Saturday post?! Yes, indeed it is!
I’m posting today because Sunday – my usual posting day – is my anniversary with Leo. September 26th will mark one full year of bein’ hitched. I’ve never spent my first anniversary with my husband an entire continent away because of countless injustices before, so I really can’t say how I’ll be feeling, and therefore I don’t know whether I’ll be up to the task of posting an entry.
Of course, I’m not sure what else I’ll have to do since I will not be spending my time enjoying a romantic dinner of fresh-caught local salmon with Leo and taking an amorous stroll along the beach… in the rain (it is Vancouver after all)…
So without further ado, a post about Steven Colbert.
Steven Colbert is a great comedian. He shows us a darker, greedier, and more ignorant side of ourselves that we’d never have the grit and guts to explore if it weren’t through laughter.
Steven Colbert is fairly average when it comes to congressional testimony. But then again, he was walking a fine line between character, venue, and issue.
I didn’t find his insight into the plight of migrant farm workers to be especially enlightening or anywhere near one of his funniest pieces; it's sad when even the Swiss Federal Assembly looks like they're having more fun discussing dried meat exports. I’d wager, however, that there’s not a joke in the world that could escape the smothering weight of congressional self-righteousness.
Still, I was glad Colbert went before Congress and that numerous people tuned in who would have otherwise gone through their entire day, week, or month without a single thought about undocumented workers.
The thing that I find most disempowering and downright frustrating about the immigration issue is that white, native-born America has a tendency to go through their entire day supported by the labor of immigrants -- be it the food they eat (picked and prepared), the buildings they work in (swept and dusted), or the neighborhoods they live in (built and maintained) -- but that the source of that labor remains invisible to them. It’s part of a larger lack of mindfulness about our connections to other people and places through our consumption, but when it comes to undocumented workers, it’s a missed mental link to America’s invisible engine.
I don’t think that anti-immigrant groups or the political and media opportunists that feed off of their emotional refuse are to blame for Congress’s failure to pass an immigration bill. I wish they’d cut it out, but I don’t hold them wholly responsible. I think that the majority of the blame rests with the largely reasonable middle to whom immigrants are invisible.
Those out front holding hunger strikes for DREAMers and seeding the desert with food and water have pretty thin ranks. The rabid nutters, however, are also rather sparse. The epic battle between the two groups is over the middle’s lukewarm “I guess I kinda agree with that.”
So I’m happy that Colbert went to Capitol Hill. I don’t think that he changed minds; immigrant allies found him underwhelming, and anti-immigrant activists probably foamed at the mouth a little more than usual (why miss out on an opportunity to spit, spew, and froth, after all?).
But I think that a handful of the middle YouTubed the event, and that’s a (minute) victory in my book.
Does it mean that they’ll think about undocumented immigrants tomorrow? I sincerely doubt it. Will they become righteous avengers of the downtrodden? I would be utterly shocked. But for a few minutes immigrants weren’t totally invisible – even if those moments had to be accessed via a white, native-born American male (an ally is an ally is an ally, after all).
Maybe a few of the middle thought about immigration policy long enough that the notion became a distinct and legible inkling. Maybe a few more imagined the life of an undocumented immigrant and incorporated a whiff of the experience into their emotional lexicons. Maybe one person out there called their Congressman! Who am I kidding? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves…
So if as close as the folks in the middle got to the immigration debate on Friday was Steven Colbert and if they have a better subconscious association with the issue now because if it, well, then it’s start, and I’m not going to reject any contribution – if only in spirit and no matter how small.
I don’t expect folks who haven’t lived with the immigration question like an elephant in the marriage bed to understand it as well as I do – and, God forbid, as well as my husband does. I wouldn’t wish a brush with America’s immigration laws on anyone. Anyone. Yes, there are some people who I’d like to thoughtfully consider their own roles in what has been an exhausting, frightening, and marginalizing experience for me and my husband – namely members of Congress, the media, and those intellectually clumsy, small-penised, gun-toting, self-appointed defenders of an imaginary America who think that menacing unarmed, thirsty, tired, and terrified border crossers somehow makes them a Big Man and lets them forget their own misattributed failure to reach the American Dream.
I would like those people to consider for a moment how their actions and ideas have influenced the trajectory of my life and the lives of countless others. But I still would want to protect them from living without rights (like Leo) and without a country (like me) – with only a house of cards to keep them warm.
But for everyone else, watch Colbert. Think about it for a second... Think about us for a second… Thank you.