“Who was the congressman who voted against the Mexican-American war in 1848?”

 

On Feb. 20, 2011, Progressive Democrats of America founder Tim Carpenter led us to the Arizona-Mexico border for a prayer/song vigil with activists on both sides of the chain link fence. PDA-AZ leaders Dan O’Neal and Virginia Hauflaire look on as I film with my new, exciting “FLIP” camera (remember those? Preceded camera-ready cell phones.) Tim asks Arizona activists Dave Keeler “Who was the congressman who voted against the Mexican-American war in 1848?” Dave answers correctly, “Abraham Lincoln.” PDA activists know their American history. (Tim goes on to talk about Emerson visiting Thoreau in jail and asking “What are you doing in there?” and Thoreau responds, “What are YOU doing out THERE?” The vigil was a memorial – held weekly by communities in Bisbee and elsewhere – to pray for the immigrants who have lost their lives in the desert, trying to get to freedom. My great-grandfather fled famine in Ireland in 1848. At the time, Irish were hated by Americans whose families had got here earlier (the original inhabitants’ voices were already, for the most part, silenced.) They were considered drunks, thieves, and hopeless as Americans because they’d always give their first allegiance to the Catholic Church, not to the United States. Now of course they dominate the Supreme Court. Immigrants are diverse in views, languages, culture. When America lives by its principles that all are created equal, endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights, we become that melting pot of a rich, nourishing culture that sustains all of our children and makes us a beacon of hope. It’s a choice to reject The Other. It’s a sin to be as cruel as this Administration is to desperate people who have walked hundreds, thousands of miles fleeing persecution and terror. The choice to welcome, to learn from, is where we have to go. Here’s some American history we must also learn and remember: US militarism armed both sides in Central American civil wars. The resentments and vengeance go on. So do stories of love and birth. Brave people who want a future come to America to flee the death that one side or the other, with American guns, promises to deliver to them if they don’t comply with whatever they’re asked to do: comply with rape, murder, robbery.

There is a moral way. It does not mean the vanquishing of a culture Americans have learned to love; but it does mean stretching, accepting, learning, and changing. That’s human life, and it can be beautiful.

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Mimi Kennedy

PDA National Board
Election Integrity Team, Leadership
Follow on Twitter @mimikennedyla