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Fear Grips the Nation

After the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X was blasted by the American public for saying that it was a case of "the chickens coming home to roost."

Today, as the United States seems to be gripped by terrorism and the fear of terrorism, one might argue that it too appears to be the work of chickens. Nevertheless, the TWA disaster and the deadly Olympics bombing has put the entire country on edge.

After last year's Oklahoma City bombing, politicians immediately blamed foreign terrorists and demanded that we close our borders. Once we knew the culprits were not foreigners, Congress moved boldly and decisively and calle for hearings--not on the threat posed by militias, but on the government's role in the Waco tragedy and the siege at Ruby Ridge.

Meanwhile, the president's response was the anti-terrorism bill whose toughest stipulation was to eliminate the "suspension of deportation" provision of our nation's immigration laws. This provision allows undocumented immigrants to become or make legal their immigration status, if they've been in the country for seven years or longer. It has nothing to do with terrorism, yet eliminating it sounds tough. John Wayne would be proud--blame it on the bandidos.

The president actually wanted tougher measures, but they would have been at the expense of individual freedoms, such as allowing for the expanded use of wiretaps and weakening the Miranda Rule, which requires that suspects be rea their rights. Ironically, staunch conservatives in Congress--who generally oppose civil rights--should be credited for leading the fight (both last year and this year) against the provisions in the bill that would have eroded everyone's rights. This is especially surprising, considering it is civil rights leaders who have traditionally been targeted for harassment, not right-wing fanatics.

Perhaps the reason politicians immediately suspect foreign terrorists is because, throughout the Cold War, the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. armed and traine proxy irregular forces with highly sophisticated weaponry. So, there is a genuine fear that, given their market value, weapons are now in the hands of other terrorists, many of whom may now clandestinely live here and have begu to aim their weapons at U.S. targets.

While we appear to be in the throes of a siege, the media's attention to the nationality of terrorists is at best diversionary and inflammatory. It allows us to continue to ignore a festering domestic militia problem and, at worst, gives us a false sense of security. Thus, it validates our society's penchant for dividing everything into good vs. evil, white vs. black, and native vs. foreigners.

As we know, the world is not black and white. Yet the script we've been handed by most politicians and the national media would have us believe that everything neatly conforms to their simplistic view.

According to this perspective, Middle Easterners are terrorists, and clampin down on the U.S./Mexico border will somehow stop them. All this translates to more money for the U.S. Border Patrol, more walls, and even senseless demands to use the military against civilians.

Yet nary a word on home-grown terrorists who are engaged in a self-proclaime white rebellion. Many of them are disgruntled ex-military and ex-law enforcement types--some of whom have actually fought as mercenaries on foreign soil and who believe that America has now become enemy, or foreign, soil.

We can only imagine the response of the U.S. government if the militias were black or brown guerrillas, training in a similar fashion and advocating rebellion.

At minimum, Congress should convene hearings on terrorism, and specifically, investigate whether these groups pose a threat to the stability of the country.

On this subject, the politics of the Clinton administration resemble that of Mexico's ex-president Carlos Salinas de Gortari. Before the guerrilla army of the Zapatistas burst onto the scene on Jan. 1, 1994, the government of Mexico knew of their existence, yet pretended it didn't, for fear that if th world knew of it, it would adversely affect the outcome of Salinas's pet project: NAFTA.

Similarly, the Clinton administration has been well aware of white supremacist militia groups, yet it has acted as though they are simply overgrown Boy Scouts, despite the fact that the avowed mission of many of these extremists is to overthrow a government that they see as controlled by Jews and pandering to people of color.

Why this inaction from the government?

Perhaps the Clinton administration actually fears triggering the race war that these fanatics are preparing for. More than likely, Clinton's inaction towards militias is designed to protect his right flank. And his overreaction, which would strip individual freedoms, rather than actually combating terrorism, is no doubt designed to keep his pet project alive: His reelection.

Zapatistas Inspire Grassroots Leadership Worldwide

A fundamental change in political leadership is taking root not only in the United States, but in the entire world, says Maria Jimenez*, one of the nation's most respected human rights activists.

In political circles it is known as the development of a third force, or the rise of independent political leadership--not right, not left, but indigenous.

Jimenez, a representative of the Houston office of the American Friends Service Committee, a civil rights organization, just returned from both the jungles of Chiapas, Mexico, and the site of numerous protests outside a political jungle called the GOP convention, in San Diego.

In Chiapas, the site of the intercontinental summit convened by the Zapatistas in early August, Jimenez says that, unlike the 1960s when leftists from Latin America tried to impose a European ideology on the Americas, this time, human rights activists from throughout the world came to learn from the indigenous Zapatistas.

"There is no longer one formula for resistance," says Jimenez. Exploited communities such as the people of Chiapas are creating their own forms of defiance, fueled by hundreds of years of racial discrimination and economic exploitation, and they're speaking for themselves. "The Zapatistas are authentic voices of the oppressed and their revolution has sparked hope worldwide."

The Zapatistas maintain that the economic restructuring taking place in North America--which places an emphasis on maximizing profits using sub-minimum wages, temporary, non-unionized and replaceable workers--is also taking place globally, and is impoverishing masses throughout the world.

In Chiapas, as a result of economic exploitation by the land-owning elites and government neglect, many Mayan children die of disease and malnutrition, while in countries like the United States, the economically displaced--who are normally people of color--wind up unemployed and marginalized, and increasingly, incarcerated. Meanwhile, jobs that were normally available in the inner city are now shipped overseas.

The struggle against this global restructuring, as the Zapatistas envision it, is creating economic development alternatives that emphasize people before profits.

Jimenez says that the Zapatistas, who rebelled against the Mexican government three years ago, and are still encircled by the army, sent out the message: "The best way to help us is to resist from where you are." In other words, people should fight their own local battles.

The Zapatistas, says Jimenez, have a special bond with Chicanos/Mexicanos living in the United States and thus met with a large contingent of them after the summit. The Zapatistas consider it a "priority relationship." "We recognize no borders," Comandante Tacho told the delegation. The Zapatistas recognize that Chicanos/Mexicanos in the United States live parallel lives--of exclusion and discrimination in their own homelands.

Jimenez also witnessed a leadership transformation in San Diego during the various protests of the GOP convention. The protests, which generally were ignored by the media, showed a division between the old leadership and the new, with the former stressing voter registration and citizenship, while the younger protesters exhibited an impatience with the traditional forms of accessing power--an ideology of resistance that more closely resembled that of the Zapatistas.

While she supports the efforts to increase the amount of Latino voters, she says that a political movement that only stresses the importance of voting is operating on a flawed strategy because history has shown that voting, in and of itself, is no guarantee of rights or power. As an example, notes Jimenez, Puerto Ricans, Native Americans and African Americans are all citizens, yet their votes have not earned them equality.

Among the Chicanos/Latinos protesting in San Diego, all sectors--from the mainstream National Council of La Raza to the militant Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan student organization--agreed that both political parties are shamelessly guilty of using immigrants and the Chicano/Latino community as political scapegoats.

It is that discontent that is breeding a new, independent political force, which will be on display in the nation's capital on October 12, as hundreds of thousands of Latinos, immigrants and the poor are expected to converge at the Lincoln Memorial. Protests are also planned at the upcoming Democratic Convention.

This discontent is similar to that which fueled the Zapatistas's rebellion, and in a sense, that which has propelled the senatorial candidacy of the virtually unknown teacher, Victor Morales, in Texas, says Jimenez.

"It's not the established leaders who are organizing the march. It's immigrants. It's women, unions, students and the youth," says Jimenez. "The same people who said Morales couldn't win [the democratic nomination] are the same ones saying the march can't happen.

"What we are witnessing worldwide is the transformation of [political] culture."

* Maria Jimenez can be reached at 713-926-2799.

New Citizen Sends Message to the President

Some polls believe 23-year-old Matilde Gabriela Sanchez
is the embodiment of who, or what, is causing all the problems in the United States.

Sanchez, whose mom died at childbirth, committed her first criminal act at age two--when she was brought to this country by an aunt who raised her.

Many American politicians derogatorily refer to Sanchez as an illegal alien--a criminal--a person who steals jobs and leeches off the government.

According to Pat Buchanan, she is the person responsible for corrupting both the culture and morals of the nation.

While living in East Los Angeles in constant fear of the migra, she had the unmitigated gall to defraud the government--by attending school. Kindergarten that is.

Had it not been for the 1982 Plyler v. Doe Supreme Court case, Sanchez would not have been able to complete her elementary school education. The court ruled that children cannot be denied an education as a result of actions by their parents.

Sanchez is actually no longer an undocumented immigrant, although to some pols, she will always be the alien they helped to demonize. That she recently was graduated from the prestigious Wellesley College in Massachussetts does not make her any less a criminal in their eyes.

As a result of the 1986 immigration law, she received amnesty. Just a couple of weeks ago she became a U.S. citizen--and a learned and angry new voter.

So the first thing on her agenda is not to go to Disneyland, but rather to send a message to the President and Hillary Clinton: "Please stop destroying immigrant children's lives."

Sanchez believes the Clintons have not been forceful in using their moral persuasion to halt the war and lies against immigrants.

Sanchez gets angry every time politicians portray undocumented immigrants as criminals or freeloaders. She also gets angry when these same politicians claim the president has been lenient on immigrants, because that is far from reality.

She views all the legislative attacks against both documented and undocumented immigrants as an affront to all Mexicans and all Latinos. She is especially upset that the president signed the recent welfare bill--which denies welfare to legal immigrants and at California Gov. Pete Wilson for his crusade against immigrants, especially his latest executive order which would deny state benefits to the undocumented. She's also mad at officials in Congress who are seeking to legislatively overturn the Plyler decision, and the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees birthright citizenship. (Incidentally, Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole opposes Plyler, whereas Jack Kemp in the past has strongly supported the decision.

However, upon accepting the Republican VP nod, Kemp has now reversed himself.)

"All those who migrate know there's a risk in coming to the United States," says Sanchez. "But no one comes for welfare. Everyone comes to work."

Sanchez has never known any undocumented immigrant who has received any form of government assistance, including emergency services. As a child, Sanchez broke her clavicle. But such was the ethic of her family--of not relying on the taxpayer or the government--that, rather than going to a clinic in the U.S., she was treated in Tijuana, Mexico, 120 miles away.

"We didn't have insurance. We didn't have a regular doctor or dentist. We always lived in fear. We never took welfare . . . and we had the need," she says.

Sanchez says that her family was no different from other families who lived in the shadows. "The vast majority of immigrants are working [two or three jobs] to make ends meet. They know they have no rights, but they pass their dreams on to their children."

Sanchez is passionate about her beliefs. Engrained in her mind is the idea of finding a job that will allow her to give back to her community, particularly to immigrants. She says that politicians have no idea what damage they do, particularly to children, when they scapegoat Mexicans and Latinos. She says she grew up ashamed of being Mexican until she took a Chicano literature class in high school that "finally opened up my eyes.

That's why I want to speak with Hillary, because she wrote a book about children."

Incidentally, upon becoming a citizen, at the behest of immigration officers, Sanchez dropped her last name and is now legally Matilde Gabriela.

She was told by an immigration official that now that she had become a citizen, she was entitled to change her name--without having to pay the customary $300 price tag. She was disturbed by the pressure--it seemed almost a rite of passage--to change her name. "I felt like my umbilical chord was being cut." In a sense, Gabriela is now a woman without a last name.

What happened to her is a not-so-subtle form of "Americanization"--when, as a result of xenophobic pressures to leave the past behind, Miguel becomes "Mike" and Lorena becomes "Lorraine." But Gabriela doesn't feel any more "American." She always has been so and her indigenous connection to the Americas goes back thousands of years.

Despite politicians falling over each other in their attempts to blame the undocumented immigrant for every one of our problems, Gabriela is living proof that amnesty was a good idea and that perhaps amnesty should once again be extended to another generation. We can guarantee that she will never be on welfare.

by Patrisia Gonzales & Roberto Rodriguez

These Articles are Reproduced with Permission from the Authors.

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