The most glorious image I have seen in years came across my computer screen the other day… the image of families and streams of people crossing the collapsed remains of the wall between Gaza and Egypt. Can there be any sight more affirming to the human spirit than human beings crossing the barriers that keep them from other people… and in our contemporary era, from the things that they need- such as, in this case, food, medicine and fuel?
We cheered when the Berlin Wall fell, and people all over the world should cheer now. And yet this morning, I found myself looking at another curious sight… Counterpunch publisher and Nation columnist Alexander Cockburn endorsing Ron Paul for president in the January 21 edition of The Nation (I know, I’m a week late reading this one). In Coburn’s deeply creepy column, he speaks about seeing the faces of the people with Ron Paul bumper stickers pass him on the highways of his northern California retreat and liking what he sees. I don’t know, Alex… is that because they look like you? White country folk?
I dislike even writing about Ron Paul, who to me is just another small time right-wing nut, like the pathetic two dozen white supremacists who marched in Jena on Monday (surrounded by, according to the AP, ten times their number of counter-protesters), or former presidential spoiler Ross Perot. But lately folks like Cockburn and Stan Goff have been supporting him, and so I feel like I need to come out and say it.
Now I know that the Iraq war is the most important issue in this election, and that Ron Paul has voted consistently against the war- unlike Hillary Clinton or John Edwards (Obama wasn’t in a position to, but has scary enough foreign policy statements). But there are plenty of people who oppose the war these days, and frankly that isn’t enough for me. And here’s why.
Ron Paul wants a more “secure” militarized border. Read— big wall between us and Mexico. In the twenty-first century, this is not only sick and wrong, but it is deeply backwards. Coburn mentioned that he liked Paul’s commitment to “Jeffersonian democracy”, which should tell you something- that Ron Paul is stuck in the early 19th century. Of course he opposed the Iraq war- he’s a nativist isolationist, and his ideas are worthy of the Know-Nothing Party.
True, Paul would avoid certain foreign policy decisions that increase the stimulus for immigration. But it’s too late for that. We have populations in much of Latin America who have been pushed to desperation through lopsided trade policies and other means of economic warfare, and now they are coming here.
You may be asking yourself- what does this have to do with New Orleans?
New Orleans, as a city, is proof of the power of diversity. The greatness of this city cannot even be taken away in our recent ruin, because the gifts New Orleans gave the rest of the world shaped and at times defined world culture in the twentieth century. With our Spanish and Caribbean architecture, our African-American rhythms set to European-American instruments, our African parades, Catholic-French/Latin carnivals, our African and Italian food, we remain the most culturally rich city in the nation. And we owe all of this to our mixed heritage. This was, according to geographer Richard Campanella, the most diverse city in America one hundred years ago, because of large numbers of descendants of slaves and immigrants.
Who are we to say that our ancestors, who created all of this, were the ‘worthy’ immigrants, and the new immigrants are unworthy? It is not only hypocrisy. It is self-defeating. Today Hondurenos, Mexicans and other Latino immigrants are rebuilding this city faster than it ever would be rebuilt otherwise.
To Ron Paul and all of his supporters: this is the twenty-first century, folks- not the nineteenth. Get on board. Walls didn’t work then and won’t work now. And when they fall, get ready to meet your neighbors- “over the obscene boundaries.”