01 November 2006

Progress on the Immigration Project

The more I go through Minuteman documents and communications, the more I realize that I didn't understand a few important things about their movement:

1.) Its rhetorical complexity
These are not just xenophobic people wanting to keep the other out of their nation; they draw lines between legal (authorized) movement into the country and illegal movement. Nonetheless, their ways of thinking about what it means to be "authorized" are sometimes extremely offensive -- English-only policies, for instance. They wish to maintain their sociocultural hegemony by ensuring that all legal immigrants are "integrated" into our society, and I have a problem with that. That, however, is beyond the scope of this semester's paper.

2.) Its (often shockingly) deep roots in U.S. history -- albeit a very mythologized, ideologically colored version of that history
The Minutemen, as their name implies, seem to envision themselves as the intellectual and ideological descendants of the ragtag group of militia who were ready to fight "on a minute's notice" in the Revolutionary War against King George. From that, their use of military language and ideas readily follows. Interestingly, the modern-day Minutemen seem more interested in maintaining the establishment (as defined by law) than in doing anything really revolutionary. They do, however, see themselves as opposing the Congressional establishment in some very interesting ways.

3.) Its use of military metaphors without necessarily viewing individual immigrants as enemy combatants
The use of "invasion" and "battle line" terminology is extremely frequent in this particular discourse... what's really, interesting, though, is that several of the ground-level folks in the movement go out of their way to paint the picture of individual immigrants as idealistic, hopeful people rather than as enemy troops. The real villain seems, in many ways, to be the politicians south of the U.S. border -- Minutemen have a perception that the politicians are corrupt and unwilling to "fix" their national problems.

The metaphors that seem most common so far are these:

THE BORDER IS A BATTLE LINE

ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION IS A FACELESS FORCE

ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS ARE OBJECTS
(as opposed to subjects) BEING MOVED BY LARGER FORCES

A BORDER SHOULD BE AN IMPERMEABLE LINE OF SEPARATION WITH SPECIFIC CONDUITS

A SEALED BORDER IS A DREAM THAT SEEMS UNATTAINABLE BUT ISN'T

A SEALED BORDER IS A REVOLUTION


I'm trying to arrive at some overarching conclusion as to what big structural metaphors shape this whole debate, but I don't have any solid, final answers yet.

3 comments:

The Lizard Queen said...

This sounds like a really interesting project, in spite of the fact that it's not one I could undertake without my head exploding. :) Best of luck!

ian said...

you really should post that poem you referred to...
and the new look is nice

marshwiggle said...

Well put so far sir..