This is Issue 62.2 of Digestable, your thrice-weekly mouthful of things happening in the world.
Today’s news, fermented:
Things on my mind: seemingly endless failings of the Biden administration, and constant affirmation that US exceptionalism is absurd.
First, the Biden administration. I know I have railed endlessly on how this political ‘shift’ means almost nothing, and is just a distraction to get left-of-center folks to stop paying attention. This week has illustrated that; the things that turned out people who’d never been in the streets before are still just as bad or worse under the new admin.
Remember the ‘pussy hats’ and the Women’s march? Biden’s Department of Justice is defending Trump’s attacks on a woman he raped.
Remember the airport protests and chants of ‘no ban no wall’? Kamala Harris told Guatemalans to “not come” to the US, despite the US’s role in decimating that country’s population, economy, and natural resources.
Remember the know-your-rights trainings and protect your neighbor spreadsheets? Biden’s proposed to give ICE even more money than under the previous two administrations.
Remember the disgust at Trump’s ‘America first’ policies? Biden’s trying to start a new cold war with China.
Remember the massive racial justice uprisings last summer? The current admin is just as committed to keeping white kids uneducated about racism as any of its predecessors.
If you’re not paying attention to the fact that Biden is in fact just another old white guy committed to defending American empire and everything that props it up—systemic racism, fossil capitalism, patriarchy—now is a great time to start.
Back to the exceptionalism piece. In a NY Times guest essay (by an immigration organizer and an Indigenous Guatemalan) about Harris’s visit, this line jumped out:
“For too long, U.S. policy has been guided by the assumption that everyone south of the border aspires to make a new life in the United States, and that tackling undocumented immigration requires a unified regional approach. But this approach has done little to stem the myriad drivers of migration from the region…
Prospective migrants tell us that they aren’t chasing an American dream. It’s a Guatemalan dream they’re after, but they need to go to the United States to attain it.”
In short—Guatemalans aren’t leaving because they believe in the American dream. They’re leaving in desperation, resulting from a lengthy civil war that the US is largely responsible for, as well as the massive export of resources and the ensuing decimation of land and culture. To achieve the Guatemalan dream, folks must overcome the tremendous barriers that this legacy has left, which often looks like earning in dollars instead of quetzales.
I recently read the stunning and crushing How Beautiful We Were, which also illustrates how projecting an imaginary pursuit of the American dream onto people who otherwise have no interest in it is violent and cruel.
So, what is the action to take here? I believe it is an internal one, for those of us who were indoctrinated into the belief that this country is where it’s at, and everyone else in their right mind should want that too. This is just wrong—our homework is to have conversations with ourselves and our communities about how to stop believing this (so we can dismantle American empire once and for all).
Back on Friday from the superb Latifah Azlan.