I’m going to attempt to write this piece without using “in my day…”. I grew …
In 1996, DC Comics released Kingdom Come, a four issue comic book mini-series written by Alex Ross (JLA Secret Origins, JLA Liberty and Justice) and Mark Waid (Irredeemable, Superman: Birthright). This isn’t going to be a review of this classic comic, but a commentary of where we are in the United States now, after this presidential election, and how a 20 year old comic seems to reflect shadows of lessons we have yet to learn.
I’m am immigrant. I came to this country with my folks when I was a year old. Vietnam was still fresh on people’s minds and anti-Asian sentiments were still making it’s presence known in parts of the country. Despite the harsh criticism, the oil embargo of 1979, and New York City crime in the 1980’s, my family stayed and we officially became US citizens a little less than a decade after arriving.
Immigration has always been a hot topic. Whether it be during the creation of this country, when colonials sent both criminals and non-protestants to the Americas in the 1700’s, the backlash of the Irish escaping the potato blight in the 1840’s, the Chinese Exclusion Act of the 1880’s (that proceeded anti-Asian riots), Italians during the late 1800’s (that led to the mass Italian American lynchings in 1891) and then again during WWII, Japanese Americans put into internment camps during WWII, the Vietnamese interment camps during the Vietnam War, Cubans during Castro and the Cuban Missile Crisis, Iraqi refugees during the Persian Gulf War, Somali refugees, Syrian refugees, the list goes on. The US, the country of immigrants, where every one of us is a product of immigration, in one form or another (unless you’re a full blooded member of one of the Native American tribes), recently elected a president who’s rhetoric is essentially non-American. Although the race was tight, it was ugly, and neither candidate was able to fully win over the American people. 46.6% of those who registered to vote, didn’t, which allowed the impassioned extreme right, who had felt disenfranchised during the eight years of Obama’s administration, to come out and win all three levels of government.
If you’re not familiar with Kingdom Come, the story line follows the Justice League, after they’ve retired and gone on their separate ways while a new superhero, Magog is now in charge, except, he’s willing to kill, if necessary. Metahumans are becoming more common, with occasional fights breaking out between heroes vs. villains in the streets, to the peril of the average human. During one of these incidents, a battle goes completely south, and a large portion of the American Midwest becomes subject to radiation poisoning. Because of this, everything dies: crops, livestock, and people, triggering a nation wide food shortage.
Here’s one of the panels that really hit home:
Throughout history, the backlash of a new immigrants vs the established has always been fueled by the fear of lack. Either one group taking jobs, money, services, housing, opportunities, etc., potentially from the established group, regardless of whether these things were wanted or unwanted, is used as the impetus. If you weren’t aware, the below quote is mounted on the inside of the Statue of Liberty:
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
-Emma Lazarus, American poet
The panel above seems to mirror the sentiment that many Trump supporters have toward many incoming immigrants. Questioning the validity? NPR’s “This American Life” podcast (go to 13:04) released an episode, pre-election, on one man’s confusion on the actions of his fellow Republicans in his district in Minnesota, who started calling for a ban on Muslims, and these Republicans were not alone.
Since Trump’s win, many of his supporters have felt emboldened enough to start verbally and physically attacking minorities and women in the streets. Because Hillary won the popular vote, many of her supporters across the country have taken to the streets to openly protest, attempting to find ways to legally stop Trump from stepping into office next year. Others are preparing for the midterm elections in two years to oust the predominantly Republican house and senate, while attempting to find ways to keep groups like Planned Parenthood and other targeted groups from closing shop.
Here’s some sobering facts:
- The current government is responsible for this mess, and we’re a party to it.
Those that have been a part of the disenfranchised have finally rallied together to bring about their change. If it wasn’t for the DNC, Bernie, who represented the extreme left, would have been the candidate to beat, and more than likely, he would have become the next president. People were sick and tired of the way government had been running on the status quo, ignoring the working class. Although there had been growth during Obama’s administration, and certainly some positives, like healthcare and job growth, the reverse side of that coin is where the money to pay for this healthcare had come from and the messiness of the national debt. Veteran’s services hasn’t been anywhere close to where it should be and there are plenty of people in industrial states like Michigan that have yet to fully bounce back. The unemployment rate has overall reduced, but not with full time employment, and on some level, numbers have dropped because of those who can no longer collect unemployment because they had gone past the 26 weeks, when nationally, the average for those looking for permanent employment has evolved to 3-12 months, and that’s not for lack of trying! Companies have abused the current loophole of how many contractors they can legally take on, and part timers they can hire, forcing many to take on these positions, which offer little to no benefits, and within a year’s time, contractors are sent back to the unemployment pool while part timers are scrambling to find another job to make up the fiscal difference. Absentee ballots, like the 46.6% this past election, only opened the doorway to continue the complacency of the American public, who couldn’t stand either major party candidate, and weren’t willing to offer up their votes to either one of the third party candidates because of lack of information.
- Immigrants have never been the problem, if they were, then we’re all the problem.
Immigrant saturated neighborhoods have a habit of surviving better during economic upheaval. Because they tend to be cash based economies, they rarely are subject to the rise and falls of national debt. My old neighborhood in Queens, during the last recession, was one of the few places in the US that were booming, despite it, and it wasn’t due to government money, as many would assume. Listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most diversified county in the world, Queens, NY, a neighborhood teeming with immigrants, are one of those neighborhoods that not only survived, but saw an uptick of residents moving into the county, listed at 2.296 million, as of 2013. With it’s over population, the neighborhood businesses cater to the quantity, and very few places in the neighborhood have seen much business ownership turnover, most businesses that cater to the neighborhood lasting more than a year. Neighborhoods that cater to an every growing immigrant population, such as Brooklyn’s Jewish, Russian, and Asian, New Jersey and it’s booming Indian immigrant communities, and the like, are seeing the same kind of resilience. If anything, immigrants are generally those that are more likely to take lower paying, highly labor intensive, low-skilled work, that most Americans wouldn’t dream of taking. In many cases, attacks from the immigrant community is a backlash for the actions they’ve experienced from their host country, which is why ISIS has taken full advantage of the anti-Muslim sentiment by using it as a ploy to increase their ranks. Just a note, Islam is the second largest religious group, at 1.6 billion worldwide. That’s 23% of the global population.
- Telling someone to “get over it and move on” only shows how out of touch they are to other’s concerns.
There’s a concrete reason why so many people were fearful of Trump’s candidacy, which has proven itself to fruition, with the news of fresh hate crimes across the country of those outside of Trump’s hardcore constituents. Muslims, Jews, Asians, Hispanics, Blacks, Women of all nationalities, members of the LGBTQ community, and anyone, male or female, of any nationality, that supports any of the mentioned groups, have been subject to attacks since Trump’s win. Despite Trump’s halfhearted request for his supporters to “stop it”, on 60 Minutes, the attacks continue. I’m not saying this is a new occurrence, but it is a startling trend. The US Attorney General’s office released stats from 2015 in regards to hate crimes committed against Muslim Americans, stating it rose 67%. The report also showed a rise in hate crimes against those in the Jewish, Black, and LGBTQ communities. You may think of this as nothing new, but that doesn’t mean it’s right and to be completely dismissive over it only highlights a lack of empathy that those folks have toward their fellow human being. Have we forgot about the genocide of WWII and how that started?
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
-Martin Niemoller, Protestant pastor and outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler
If we learn anything in the next four years, I hope it includes knowing we cannot marginalize folks, thinking it’s the answer, when it clearly isn’t, drop the blind pitch fork mentality, when it only leads to poor judgement, live by our moral compass and have our representatives do the same, stop making decisions based on fear, because that always leads to disaster, and learn to embrace not just where we are now, but what we came from, so we can stop repeating our mistakes.