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Yes on M88, no to the fear and hate

October 12, 2014 - 6:00am

Somewhere around 1760, Daniel Barnhart and his kin landed in Virginia. They were Puritans escaping religious persecution in Germany. In the New World, they found a freedom Daniel’s offspring – including me, ten generations later – continue to enjoy.

They did so, of course, by wiping the native people almost entirely off the face of the planet.

This is the stupidity, and the gross inhumanity, of borders: they only work when someone has the power to enforce them. From 1492 onward, the people who had lived on the American continents for tens of thousands of years no longer had that power. Soon – and this is the perversity of borders – they had lost not only the right to control those borders, they had lost the right to live in the lands within those borders. This is our American history: millions of people living here for tens of thousands of years, and in the course of a few short years, over-run, over-whelmed, and over-and-out.

This is part of my disgust with our current “debate” over borders, immigration, deportation, and so on. Every border the United States claims as its own was stolen, by force, from other people. Our ancestors invaded, slaughtered, and took by extreme force the lands of the people who had been living here centuries before Europe could even pretend to be civilized.

But these are “our” borders. God gave them to us, you know.

The other disgusting part of the border/immigration “debate” is, of course, racism. There are those in this country who truly do believe that “diversity is a code word for white genocide”. Which is effing stupid, but the combination of hate, fear, and self-righteous does tend to result in appalling outcomes. The fears of people who have nothing to fear from brown hordes and other “invaders” are fanned by politicians and media hacks who have much to gain from fear-mongering.

And white people like me, for the most part, are silent in letting this injustice continue.

Measure 88 is a straight-forward, limited, and just ballot measure. It allows residents of Oregon to drive a car and to do so while insured — even if they are undocumented residents. That’s it: a driver’s licence and nothing more. No citizenship. No amnesty. Just a driver’s license.

On May 1, 2013, Gov Kitzhaber signed SB 833 which directed “Department of Transportation to issue driver card to applicant who does not provide proof of legal presence in United States but otherwise has complied with all requirements for type of driving privileges and has resided in Oregon for more than one year”. You don’t have to be a lawyer to understand that SB 833 had nothing – nothing – to do with citizenship in any way, shape, or form. That didn’t stop the hate-mongers, the racists, and the desperate-for-anything-to-save-their-sorry-party Republicans from either voting no on SB 833 or referring it to voters as M88.

As a tenth-generation white male American who has benefitted greatly from our country’s violent racist past, I say: Enough. Our fixation on color, borders, and any type of otherness is killing us. From the wars in the Middle East to the children sick and starving in Oregon, our refusal to acknowledge our common humanity is killing us. M88 is another nail in the coffin of that humanity.

Defeating M88 would be a crime against humanity. Voting against M88 is a hate crime. If you can’t figure out what the measure actually does – which is to make sure everyone driving in Oregon has a valid licence and insurance – then you have no place in our democracy. We liberals are far too nice with those who are poisoning our country with their hate and ignorance. As far as I’m concerned, we need to tell organizations like Oregonians for Immigration Reform, which was behind M88, to go to hell. They are making life worse for the people of Oregon, not better.

As a white American, I have absolutely no fear of those who seek to come here and work, live, and fulfill their dreams in freedom. It’s what my ancestors did, and they were part of one of the great genocides in history as a result. My freedom and my prosperity, limited as the latter may be, is built on that genocide. I have no moral right to demand closed borders or to insist “America for Americans”.

That’s bullshit. That’s hate speech. That’s a suicide pact with history.

M88 is an embarrassment: not the measure (Vote Yes), but the fact that it’s even on the ballot. OFIR is playing on the fears of too many ill-informed Oregonians in order to advance their racist/nativist agenda. Voting no on M88 is an abject surrender to fear and hate. Vote yes, defeat the fear-mongers, and let’s set our sights on making America free. Not chained and imprisoned with borders built from violence, fear, and lies.

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