Sunday, March 11, 2018

The Almighty Dollar

I didn't want to go out, but I knew I needed to.

By that I mean I needed to get back to interacting with people besides my innermost circle of friends (3 women, with one non-alpha male attached to one of them) even when I don't feel like it (for some time now), but also I needed to go be exposed to something I could learn from (beyond my daily reading) because doing so inevitably makes me feel better.

When I ran into a photographer I know on my way over, she said seeing me headed there meant that it was the place to be tonight. If only she knew how untrue that was these days.

For the past two days, Candela Gallery's exterior has been draped in a giant flag reading, "Puerto Rico is dying," in an effort to remind people that it is day 156 for Puerto Ricans without any return to normalcy. As part of the 3-day event, artist Steven Casanova had illuminated the chandelier he'd made out of a collection of the type of small solar lights that were handed out to islanders with no power.

Even grouped, it wasn't a lot of light. What it was, was a powerful reminder. Ditto the bottled waters handed out to each audience member as the film began playing.  Looking at the bright side, at least we didn't have rolls of paper towels being thrown at us.

Tonight's main event was a screening by the Bijou of "Harvest of an Empire" about the history of Latino immigration to the U.S., beginning with Puerto Rico, although, of course, that's not immigration since they're U.S. citizens.

But it was a good starting point to teach us how the U.S. meddles in the affairs of other countries, always for financial gains, and once the country is destabilized, people flee it for opportunities or asylum here.

I needed to be reminded that Mexico once extended as far north as California and Utah and that while we were technically two countries, it was very much one economy and we desperately needed the labor supplied by Mexico. Or we did until the economy went south and then those workers were easily expendable. And re-hirable at our convenience.

The filmmakers methodically showed how our government had used greed to motivate meddling in the governments of El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Mexico, moves that drove thousands of people to flee brutal wars and regimes and land here.

Where the movie shone was in using accomplished immigrants - a Pulitzer prize winner, a brain surgeon, renowned writers and musicians, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, Geraldo Rivera - to explain their path here. What came through time and time again was how many immigrants fought for this country, were dedicated employees for decades and raised children here to give them a better life.

No one expected a handout, but they did hope for a chance.

Learning all this history was disturbing enough - old colonial habits die hard - but then there's the other side of the coin that we're dealing with today. If it's our government's fault that life in these countries has become intolerable, shouldn't we have a moral obligation to accept people trying to flee it?

I can't hear you, immigrant haters. How can we turn our backs on people who are suffering because of our unlawful actions in their country?

Turns out I didn't get a whole lot of social interaction after all. But I did go out, I chatted with a few familiar faces and I learned a lot.

It's not progress exactly, but I am trying.

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