By Dean Patterson
A couple weeks ago I wrote on the necessity to re-imagine a nation state which has lost its identity to the throws of international capitalism. The fracture of the community has everyone feeling nauseously out of place. Citizenry is now secured through adherence to a security regime that legitimizes itself through enactment of force. It exists because it acts forcefully and it acts forcefully because it must exist [Mbembe, 03]. It seems as if only within prison walls, where health care, food, and shelter are guaranteed as the reward for giving yourself over to state power, can one feel secure in their place as an American citizen. Our nation exists as a community of the lost as we migrate between disciplined zones of labor, school, religion, and consumption [Anzaldua, 97]. National identification is only sustained by the political border itself, where these zones are limited by and weighed against. All things that are to be recognized, both public and covert, people and commodity, must either pass through or always-already exist from within them. To cross between these borders of work, school, prayer, and play that overlap, dominate, and submit to one another is the essential element of movement. The government then lays claim to all things on the basis of that transitory relationship – regulating interstate commerce, tariffs on imports, state militias turned into national guard during the wake of the Central High integration crisis – all bring the state to presence on bodies through the constant re-articulation of where the federal government rests and where it chooses not to. As border imagination exists as the means of which the state can bring itself to presence in activity, the biggest danger to the essence of a state lies in entities that come to presence more spontaneously such as non-state terrorist actors that claim empire wherever their flag rises, and stockbrokers that accumulate massive wealth over a celestial internet. However, many of these fluid actors are new phenomenon. When our identity is threatened the fascist within us has a reaction to clamp back on what has been a constant presence of not porous borders but the social relocation that those borders threaten. Thus, the migrant has once again become the scapegoat of the destruction of the nation state. “Comprehensive Immigration Reform” is a vague action where mainstream politicians have found prominence in plans for violent responses to the flow of immigration. Not in tactics, those are too forward, but in the culture of a bordered identity that feels threatened in a possible allegiance of the non-citizen to powers outside of the borders they rest in. To have someone inside a hierarchal pyramid that fills another triangle can see the new angle collapse the group. We find leaders that seek to fulfill the creed of the 19th century Know Nothing’s, “I know nothing but my country, my whole country, and nothing but my country.” [Condon, 1910] To regurgitate the migrant, vomit them back into the void from whence they came, then forget, is to exhale those that may extinguish us as the light within darkness. For the nativist Know Nothings, the antagonist was the Irish-Catholics in the north east and the Chinese on the west coast, who filled slums and took laborious jobs. The void of the 19th century was the hole that is the institution of chattel slavery, and the white supremacist class had to expand who was subhuman as a means to justify their ownership of marked bodies [Mbembe, 03] . In modernity, the Hispanic migrant sees a nation that eats food grown on the land they were swindled off of, and uses the resources from their nation that American trade deals have monopolized. To come to the United States is to journey for a claim on the product of their labor. The right-wing rectification of the borders, the urge to “build a wall”, is a defense of a map-drawn stability that is believed to be impenetrable always, and therefore the migrant must be some type of evil wizard with magical border hopping powers. The migrant is magic and is a wizard, but not the kind that Donald Trump or your Uncle Carl wakes up in a cold sweat to [Anzaldua, 97]. Instead, migrancy offers us an opportunity of retrospection on our own movement through borderlands, those spaces of transition in between two parts of a whole – the walk from the parked car to the house, or the dead zone between the Mexican and American borders. We owe a consideration to the Hispanic migrant to re-write the definition of where recognized life begins, because an escape across the Rio-Grande is not, and has never been, a guarantee of safety. Nonetheless, the debate over “Immigration Reform” repositions the age old journey of the migrant into the hands of the distant political. Rather than allowing the state to depersonify the issue, unseat the individual from the excursion and use it them as a figure of fear and nationalism, we should give the issue fully over to the realm of the individual themselves.
In philosophical issues where we attempt to affix ourselves on an examination of the plane of identity, with all its warped and queer angles of expressing humanity, it is critical to distance ourselves from the self in re-examination. One must become a Deleuzian “Body Without Organs” that purges ideological, and, more importantly, racially positioned perceptions that subconsciously drive our beliefs, and examine the body that remains. In this exercise we are no longer American, but alien, in the sense of the extraterrestrial, that has never been to Earth, but approaches it for study. The space ship we approach on can only observe American political discourse and the words of policy makers and leaders, for that is the representation our nation presents as truth. When we listen, we hear the politicians refer to the migrant as a statistically measured commodity that moves between physical points of travel – the United States and Mexico. Some commodities are smuggled, “prohibited, forbidden” [Ibid], others are “legal”, but there is no talk on what is the essence of either the legal or illegal migrant; their contributions to society are strictly their labor. Rather, in electoral politics, legal Hispanic immigrants are a statistical category themselves. The fact that the migrants have voting allies is the only reason that the migrants may ever find themselves defended, “So and so hopes to win Mexican vote with BOLD immigration reform policy”. Otherwise, we do not hear a word about immigrant sacrifice, or the struggle of travel, rather only that “they built this country”, like cinder blocks – then why do they not control it? The communication machines in our spaceship will not receive word of the immigrants personality, home, or name, although archaeology finds Chicano culture has a 25,000 year history in Texas [Ibid]. We would not know even basic facts of the land of the migrant, what they left behind, or what they hope to find on their journey. Their past home is irrelevant, it is south and so it is conquered by Earthly situation and, therefore, they are people from below. We would observe them but only through categorization – present, deported, or legal. Yet, we extraterrestrials would not know what the government intends to do with the millions, rather only that the leaders intend to destroy their presence here, or grant them blanket amnesty, but still to remain coldly distant. As aliens, we could only derive from the political discourse of American leaders that the word immigrant meant a packaged good we trade for, with other countries, to use for labor, like a box of hammers in surplus. You are confused, because that slick politician that Politico keeps writing about says in a speech that American hammers are self-evidently superior, and the suspiciously similar looking people in the board room all nod their heads in agreement. They must keep the pure tucked away. Visible. Smile! You’re on camera.
Considering this, we must posture a radical reconsideration in the way we view the flow of people, pivoting towards hospitable reorientation open to those that cross our southern border, [Ibid] and, therein, a reorientation in our approach towards all others. Even party houses are asked to be kept quiet, and confession booths are sacred areas. No one doubts that there are borders, purposes, outlines for their existence that keep them essential and are not violated. Yet, police do not guard the doors to study corrals in the Hendrix library. Rather, people flow between them still in packs, concerned for the well-being of one another, and, above all, considerate of the community that they take part in. Borders become stringent, without the necessity of violence, when the community itself is inclusive. The borders of the Rio Grande have always been something that the Chicanos have cared for, with the knowledge that their spirit rests in a distinct area, Gloria Anzaldua writes:
This is her home
This thin edge of
Anzaldua bleeds pure struggle through her poetic philosophy Borderlands, “Today we are witnessing la migracion de los pueblos mexicanos” [Ibid] – the return of a mass migration from South to North brought on by American policies. NAFTA centralizes Mexican farms that have existed for thousands of years and replaces the human with the machine tiller, the prohibition of drugs creates an illicit war south of the border that feeds our Cocaine and Marijuana habit (the drug war extends into our African American and youth communities as well, but state violence is at least contained by its own tautological logic, compared to drug kingpins who use capitation like the Jewish brigade of Inglorious Bastards collected scalps). The movement across these borders is not peaceful, rather the American government has taken the violence of hundreds of years of war that it took to create the modern borders and seized it south. All that pass through must then recount that suffering. That is why those that make the trek are queer outcasts, enemies of history, time travelers from a world where the genocide of the natives did not occur and America never began a war with Mexico. They have brought a survivors past and future to impress on all the delimitation of time in the present. To understand a person that has decided to relocate themselves from a space they too hold close, to a land where their official status is estranged and not-wanted, we cannot overlook the necessity of communal acceptance that preempts and, rejects the necessity of, genuine experience with the other. We must not expect to understand, the white establishment has forfeited that privilege, only embrace with hospitality. To rethink our collective identity when the dominant paradigm has been privatized, we must we cannot base our thought on what has been said, but rather what has not been said. The extraterrestrial alien feels at home in the borderlands, where strife flows through the soul, only stopping to leave a foot print – a track mark – an impression behind, and there we see an image of a community of movement between borders that has already existed. We must break out of our failed attempt to manage spaces and allow the essence of another to be embraced as a total subject. Let your guard down for once, and don’t just open our southern border– abandon it.
Mbembe, Achille. Necropolitics. Duke University Press, 2003
Anzaldua, Gloria. Borderlands: The New Mestiza = La Frontera. San Francisco, California: Spinsters/Aunt Lute, 1987.
Condon, Peter. “Knownothingism.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 27 Oct. 2015 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08677a.htm>.