May 1, 2007: The Last Days of the Republic?
May 1, 2007 is, of course, the worldwide worker's holiday. Today, millions of people will celebrate and honor the contributions of labor to the world we inhabit.
May 1 has also come to be a date in the history of the immigrant justice movement here in the United States. Last year at this time, millions of immigrants and their supporters marched in the streets of major American citizens, demanding attention to the increasingly punitive attitude of lawmakers toward the men and women who work in some of America's most dangerous and difficult industries. These marches brought immigration reform before the minds of many. However, over the summer of 2006, lawmakers stumbled and the possibility of any legislation passing by the end of the year evaporated.
Immigrant justice supporters are trying to revive the movement by planning a series of events, marches, rallies on May 1, 2007 around the nation. In some places, supporters are being asked to wear white, red, or blue shirts to show their solidarity with the movement and with the ideals of justice in America.
A recent editorial by Peter Phillips raises some very troubling questions about whether those ideals of justice have any room in the United States any longer. Phillips argues that the threat of illegal immigrants pouring over the border has been used to justify the building up of a national security state that really dispels the idea that this nation is a democratic republic. Increasingly, Americans claim that the only major institution they trust is the military--more so than Congress, or the President, or the news media. In this discussion from Harper's Magazine of 2006, military officals discuss why they think that a military take over of American society would be unlikely--but they admit that a large scale terrorist attack might push leaders toward that kind of militarization. As Phillips points out, with new federal legislation enacted this year, the President has the ability now to station regular Army and National Guard units on the streets of the United States without having to have the consent of local officials.
As thousands of immigrants and their supporters gather today, seeking to demonstrate their willingness to share in the fruits and burdens of American society, perhaps we all need to stop and ask: What kind of society are they asking to be a part of?