May 30, 2011
This past week my online students in the USA have been discussing immigration. Their ideas represent the manner in which media has influenced a negative and selfish response to values of social responsibility and humane responses in a system of global politics which has impoverished two thirds of the world. Divide and conquer has been a centuries old strategy of rulers, royals and elites. Citizenship was constructed with the legal and social concept of nation-state for the purpose of advancing nationalism, imperialism and colonialism. It divides human beings into an inside/outside or us and them idea of sovereignty centered around a legal construct of borders based on wars and violence that benefits the most powerful and wealthy in a region. Borders are imposed as boundaries sacrocanct in educational and media outlets maintaining the necessary line in the sand to separate a more civilized "us" from a more terrifying "them" despite the facts that the majority of violence and harm is perpetuated by governments and their militaries and para-militaries. Additionally, Corporations and their private para-militaries enforce boundaries with weapons at checkpoints, factories and headquarters.
Historically, encounters along borders both contest and reproduce imposed imperialist supremacist collective identities based on who is the imperialist of the day--Spanish, British, French, or USA. Those not with the imperialist are defined as "savages", and the "other". For the United States in particular, citizenship serves to mask the violent and genocidal origin of the country.From the time of the development of the USA as a national entity the concept of citizenship has denied certain inalienable rights to natives, Africans, women, children and immigrants. Notice how American citizens are now referred to as "native-born" citizens in several different forums while the other is an "alien". This constant denial of collective humanity maintains order and legitimacy in a system that is inherently disorderly and predicated on a set of colonial and imperialist assumptions about the order of things.
As part of the enterprise of nation-building, the state employs legal, media and academic managers to construct and label some humans as immigrants unsuitable for citizenship. Why? Perhaps, nowhere is this more apparent today than calls by lobbyists and legislators to eliminate birthright citizenship. The state constructs and reconstructs these categories as it sees fit, marking and containing migrating human beings within a temporal space and time. Yet, we must continue to think critically about who benefits from dehumanizing people into categories of citizen and alien instead of thinking about people as human beings who have a right to life!
People who have been long-time undocumented residents are among the current wave of human beings in the waiting lines for inclusion into the state's designation of citizenship. It’s harsh and repugnant but also doomed to fall apart as soon as the disenfranchised peoples are perceived and accepted as part of the fabric of America. And that is how the concept of citizenship serves nationalism and the nation-state. Immigration reform advocates have long approached the problem of a broken immigration system by buying into the state discourse of citizenship. Movements have centered around inclusion into the system. After years of dialectic and non-dialetic struggle, political violence and trauma, new arrivals are assimilated into the system.
Clearly there is need for a truly humanitarian and social justice oriented immigrant rights struggle that focuses on decentering the relevance of citizenship as it pertains to human rights. True liberation may just mean seizing the concept of citizenship from the enterprise of imperialism and globalization. It sounds complicated but it is rather simple to envision a world where your rights as a human being don’t disappear at an arbitrary border simply because you don’t have stinking papers.
Oddly, over time corporate owners have legally defined their corporations as individuals who have the rights to "free trade" They now move freely across borders and boundaries to manufacture and trade at the expense of people and the planet. These corporations need no citizenship papers to move globally; they need only their money and power and private/public militaries to make it so. They care nothing for nations or borders nor do they have loyalty to any people other than those who serve their class interest. We, the people, must examine the larger historical and political contexts of these concepts of borders and citizenship to see if these concepts are fostering stewardship and social justice or dividing the people from each other in a process of dehumanization that makes the people more easily controlled and managed because they are divided against themselves. New concepts must be developed and introduced that critically embrace all human beings and the planet while honoring indigenous identities absent of notions of supremacy and exceptionalism
In Solidarity for the Liberation of the Oppressed,
Dr. June Terpstra
"Preventive war was an invention of Hitler. Frankly, I would not even listen to anyone seriously that came and talked about such a thing." - Dwight D. Eisenhower
Prohibition on Assassination. No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination. Executive Order 12333 -- United States Intelligence Activities