Thursday, April 29, 2010
Happy Thursday, folks—a day to turn to another of the more serious topics I’ve written about lately.
I’m sure most of our U.S. friends are familiar with the recent Arizona immigration law—if not, you can read about it here on the Huffington Post. Closer to home, at least in terms of blog community, I’d also recommend two recent posts by Citizen K on this topic, which you can read here & here. As is always the case with this redoubtable blogger, K has done his homework on the issue & he provides a great perspective.
I’d like to take a moment to look at the issue from a somewhat different point of view, however, one that's not about party politics & policy, but simply about basic human values. It seems there’s a lot of talk these days about “illegal aliens” & “illegals.” Is it that hard to understand these terms as de-humanizing? These are human beings who are crossing the border—they have families, & they’re looking for work—in fact, migrant workers are subject to probably the worst wage slavery in this country, since not only do they work at very difficult jobs for menial pay, but they’re always subject to arrest & deportation—a chilling grip on any man or woman in the hands of an unscrupulous employer.
As an illustration of the type of work done by migrant farm workers, I’m reminded of a time when I was around 20 years old. I was down on my luck, battling a bad drug/alcohol problem & flat broke. I knew a fellow my age whose family owned an apple orchard in northern Vermont. Besides being tapped out, I was also under the spell of John Steinbeck (without the necessary knowledge to really understand his writing) & decided maybe I’d just chuck it all & become a migrant worker. I remember what my friend told me—he said that sometimes locals applied for work at the orchards but they invariably quit within a couple of days—the work was simply too hard unless you were doing it because everything depended on it. I’ve never forgotten that.
Woody Guthrie recognized this—the tragic humanity of the situation, & the role that these workers were & are playing in a larger (at this point, global) economy. He wrote a song about it—actually, a set of lyrics that were found in his papers after his death. The music was added later by Marty Hoffman. If you’d like to read more about Guthrie’s “Deportees,” I’d refer you to Citizen K’s other blog project, Just a Song. But in the meantime, please take a couple of minutes to listen to Arlo Guthrie sing his father’s words, & ponder their deep meaning. This song's full of the kind of truth that’s so simple & obvious it ought to smack us in the face, but how often we choose to neglect it!