Free-Floating Hostility

Sunday, April 30, 2006

You Save France, I'll Wash Up

I looked up the etymology of the word boycott today. I was a little concerned that it might have gender implications, but it was actually named after a dude, one Charles C. Boycott, who was the object of such an action in 19th Century Ireland.

Tomorrow's Day Without Immigrants boycott sounds highly promising to me. I first heard about it when one of my partners for a group project said she couldn't meet on Monday since she'd be at the march. That in and of itself isn't so newsworthy in Berkeley, but it was the girl in question. She's kind of old- fashioned, a diligent and responsible student, personally gentle to the point of shyness and not subject to displays of political opinion that I've noticed. So that caught my attention. I knew that her parents, with whom she is close, immigrated illegally when she was a child. She herself is legal. Her participation gave me the feeling that something big was going down. I think I was right, too; Bloomberg is reporting that Tyson Foods and McDonald's are already planning to close some locations or limit their operations.

The concept of the boycott I think is very savvy. What better way than a strike in boycott's clothing to point out our economy's reliance on cheap-because-illegal immigrant labor? There is a great deal of public ill perpetuated by our shared denial of a systemic flaw. Right now we have the worst of both worlds. We neither have a strict but fair regulation of immigration nor open borders and the free flow of labor to match the free flow of capital. In the interest of disclosure let me admit that I favor the latter extreme. But worst of all to my mind is the corruption that is inherent in underground economies. Who is more vulnerable than a person who cannot legally admit to his own existence? Arguably the most exciting project at the Center where I worked last year was my boss's proposal to conduct a long-term study to characterize the health of farmworkers. Right now, no one even knows so much as what health problems farmworkers have because there are so many reasons for illegals not to complain, or hell, just not to talk to American strangers. By the way, a few investigators told me by word of mouth that the single most common response to "what health problems do you have" is tooth pain. Psychological problems and nervios are also high priorities often overlooked by the health fields. Public Health is just the tip of the iceberg of course.

I think recognition of the scope of the illegal population is an excellent and critical stepping stone to the solution of larger problems. Therefore, even though the aims of the various events going on around the country are disparate and sometimes unclear, I've decided to participate in some form of organized protest tomorrow. I haven't decided which, though. I feel ambivalent about boycotting classes, particularly as I was meaning to attend a lecture on malaria tomorrow, which is as much a topic of social justice as disease. I also am unclear on what my participation would signify, since I am a US citizen. I'd kind of like to call up my classmate and ask to join her and her family at the march in Oakland. More likely I'll simply attend the rally on Berkeley campus in support of fair wages for UC's immigrant employees. I'll let you know what I see and hear, whose ideology irritates me and whose thoughtfulness impresses me.

For the obscure reference police: The title of this post is a reference to The 2,000-Year-Old Man, specifically the part about how he "went with" Joan of Arc. The next line is, "She in her way, me in mine."

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