The image and the idea of the Minuteman is attractive: the patriot, the typical working guy, prepared to take up arms at a moment’s notice to defend his country. Minutemen and Minutewomen too: the ordinary people fighting the good fight to protect the American way of life: a good job, a home, a living wage, health care and education, and some left over for entertainment and eventually a retirement with dignity.
The contemporary Minutemen, mostly white guys with guns, have taken their stand on the Mexico border. The stand with binoculars, gazing South, yearning to fire off a few rounds at their enemies the immigrants.
The problem is that the Minutemen are mad at the wrong guys. The guys they want are back East. The enemies they’re after are not short, dark-skinned guys with names like Jesús Martínez but tall, fair-skinned fellows with names like Jack Welsh, Sam Walton and Richard Farmer.
Answer these questions, and you see where the Minutemen have gotten lost.
Who closed the auto plants and steel mills taking away hundreds of thousands of unionized jobs with high pay and good benefits? Who sent the auto parts plants, television plants, hospital supply plants, and many others to Mexico? American corporations sent them South looking for lower wages. The foreign workers had no hand in it and weren’t even allowed to say a word.
Who declares bankruptcy to take awake workers’ contracts, wages, benefits and pensions? Not immigrant workers. American corporations like LTV, Goodyear Tire and Rubber, United Airlines, Delphi have turned to bankruptcy to screw workers. The immigrants worker now takes a job in a place that plays little more than the minimum wage-but the employers drove down the wage, not the immigrants.
Who took your son or daughter-or is about to take them–and sent them to kill or die for oil in Iraq? An American politician, a congressman, probably a former corporate lawyer, threatens your kids’ lives-not the immigrant worker. Most immigrants I know oppose the U.S. imperial wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Who lowers income taxes for the rich and raises sales taxes on the poor? You can bet it was politicians who receive money from corporate PACs. Immigrant workers didn’t raise our taxes. Most of them can’t even vote and congressmen pay even less attention to them than they do to us.
Who was it that–after they got rid of the union jobs–hired the immigrant, paid her or him low wages, denied them basic benefits like health care, and worked them like they were pack animals? Who advertised for immigrants in Mexico or Central America, brought them here illegally, hired them illegally, and often worked them in violation of the wages and hours act? Well, it wasn’t Juanita.
Who discriminates against African American workers, preferring to hire Latin American immigrants who have no rights? It’s the boss-not the immigrant worker.
Who was it that destroyed Mexico’s economy with NAFTA, forcing the Mexicans to come here? Who was it that supported Guatemala’s dictators as they turned Indian communities into killing fields, leaving many Guatemalans with no alternative but to come here? Who was it who destroyed the economies of South America, creating mass unemployment followed by mass migration? I think you know who it was, and it wasn’t the wretched family trying to cross the Sonora-Arizona desert with a few gallons of water, a few dollars in their pocket and a prayer on their lips.
Who should you be mad at, Minutemen? It wasn’t the foreign worker and it wasn’t immigrant who took away our jobs, high wages, good benefits and decent working conditions. It was that congeries of scoundrels and lawyers, that complex of interlocking directorates and corporate hierarchies, that network of good old boys with Texas oil money and that clique of New York bankers with sheaves of stocks and bonds, that system of political payoffs, favoritism and nepotism that taken all together we call the American power elite–what the old school called the ruling class-that’s who did it. They’re white guys, they wear ties, and they live on this side of the border.
If the Minutemen want to guard America from lying, thieving, murdering bastards who would destroy our country and its values, then they are shooting in the WRONG DIRECTION. Go East young Minuteman!
If the Minutemen want to protect us, then they should throw their guns in their jeeps and go to Washington, D.C. to get those guys who cut the taxes on the rich and raised the taxes on the poor.
Or, instead of taking pot shots across the border, they should take their troops to New York and visit the offices of the insurance companies and health care corporations that keep us from getting single payer health.
They might jump in their half-tracks and head to the headquarters of the oil companies whose avarice drives us to war in Iraq while opposing measures that would conserve our resources and save our environment.
The contemporary Minutemen don’t seem to me to be in the tradition they claim. The original Minutemen didn’t go out shooting at poor farmers coming to town looking for jobs, they fought their government-then the British government-and they fought the wealthy English Loyalists. The original Minutemen fought the power-not the powerless.
I could support the Minutemen, once they get straight who the enemy is. And it isn’t Jesús and Juanita. It’s guys like Sam Walton of Walmart, Jack Welsh of GE and Richard Farmer of CINTAS, corporate CEOs who drive to amass profits and power who have fought labor unions, killed the good jobs, driven down wages. How about the Minutemen mount up, gather up the posse, and get those guys. That would be a task worthy of their historic name.
DAN LA BOTZ is a Cincinnati-based writer, teacher, and activist.