The Common Good

Glimmers of Hope in a National Nightmare

Someone please pinch me. This must be a nightmare. After all, is it possible that, in this land of freedom, one of its states -- which back in 1993 refused to recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a holiday -- has now legally sanctioned racial profiling? Is it possible in this land of ours that tea partiers decided to organize precisely under the presidency of the first person of color? Speaking about the "perfect" timing of the Tea Party's rise, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Leonard Pitts recently exclaimed:

If they [tea partiers] were truly only worried about a 'socialist' takeover of private industry, they'd have yelped when [President Bush] took over troubled financial institutions. If they were truly only anxious about the budget, they've [sic] have hollered when he spent $128 billion surplus into a $407 billion deficit. If they were truly outraged over their income taxes, they'd have screamed at Bush first, given that their taxes are the same as when he was in office. It is telling that they "discovered" their burning concern for these things shortly after Barack Obama came to power.

Could it be true that in this democratic land of ours a minority of U.S. citizens (tea partiers) -- most of them old and wealthy white Republican men -- have gridlocked our public discourse into a simplistic them versus us rhetoric of fear? Is this country, which came together so beautifully after 9/11, the same land where Facebook groups and blog sites are now calling for the death of President Obama and the other diverse faces that add beauty to our country? No! I must be in the midst of an awful nightmare. Please wake me up.

Lately, however, my nightmares have become more hellish. For the last few weeks, I have been dreaming about a horrible law that would foster legal discrimination not too different from the one experienced by African-Americans during the height of the Civil Rights Movement. In this horrible dream, I witnessed law enforcement officers harassing human beings who weren't white, blond, and with blue or green eyes. I saw cops and Arizona residents constantly tormenting people who spoke broken English, or only Spanish or Portuguese. I shed tears watching parents humiliated before their children, just because they looked Latino. But, even in my dream, I rationed with myself, "Don't worry, César, you'll be up and you'll realize that this was all a horrible nightmare."

Turns out that I have yet to wake up from the nightmare. The good news, though, is that my nightmare is slowly becoming a dream of hope. It is wonderful to live in a country where we have the freedom to boycott states with ridiculously unjust laws, especially laws that remove the blindfold from the eyes of Lady Liberty. In a CNN article titled "Boycotts put Arizona's reputation on the Line," I learned that:

calls for boycotts are coming from across the country. The Boston City Council approved a resolution calling on the ... city to pull investments from Arizona. The Oakland, California, City Council voted this week to boycott Arizona business. Chris Coleman, mayor of the St. Paul, Minnesota, banned city-funded travel to the state.

Kudos to these brave and rational boycotters. I should also note that the city councils of Tucson and Flagstaff are planning to file suit against Arizona's Senate Bill 1070.

Yet, the boycotts and protests go beyond the political realm and into the wide world of sports. As we have recently seen, the Phoenix Suns donned "Los Suns" jerseys for their game against the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night, which also happened to fall on Cinco de Mayo. In recognizing the growing importance of Latinos/as in sports (whether as participators or consumers), the Suns join the Nueva York Knicks, El Heat, Los Bulls, Los Lakers, and Los Mavs.

Major League Baseball, with its overwhelming Latino presence as either players or fans, should consider relocating its 2011 All-Star Game from Phoenix to another venue. Perhaps MLB could hold this important game in a city that reflects and celebrates the diversity of its players and fans. How about playing in a city like my very own Miami, where discriminatory laws against "minorities" would be unfathomable. It should be held in the same city where, after the Florida Marlins won their first World Series in 1997, a recent Cuban immigrant was named World Series MVP and said, "I love you, Miami!"

Many Latinos/as, blacks, Asians, and whites are coming together in this nightmare-turned-dream of hope. In rallies all across the U.S., we are uniting around a single cause, namely human dignity and human rights. Just because something is a law does not mean it is just. For proof, we simply have to look at Nazi Germany, where it was the law to harass and kill anyone who did not meet the "Aryan" race standards. We are blessed to live in a nation of freedom, where theoretically we can fight for a cause so dear to many of us.

If my nightmare does indeed turn into a dream of hope, then I hope to remain in my sweet slumber. But if I remain oppressed in a nightmarish hell, then someone please wake me... NOW!

portrait-cesar-baldelomarCésar J. Baldelomar is a graduate student at Harvard Divinity School. He is also the executive director of Pax Romana Center for International Study of Catholic Social Teaching. You can visit César at his Web site (www.cesarjb.org) and read his blogs at www.holisticthoughts.com.

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