Saturday, July 17, 2010
Things have gotten a tad dicey in Arizona.
Governor Jan Brewer signed a controversial new immigration law in April which allows police to question a person's immigration status if they suspect someone is in the country illegally. The Minutemen Movement patrols the desert on foot, horseback and in airplanes, reporting suspicious activity to the Border Patrol, which has more agents than ever.
And now Jason "J.T." Ready, an ex-Marine with ties to the National Socialist Movement, has declared his own war on "narco-terrorists." The NSM is a neo-Nazi organization that believes only non-Jewish, white heterosexuals should be American citizens and that all non-whites should leave the country, "peacefully or by force." He and his group wear military fatigues, body armor and gas masks and are heavily armed with both assault rifles and the conviction that they are operating in service to God and country, which history has shown is a most dangerous combination.
"We're not going to sit around and wait for the government anymore," Ready said. "This is what our founding fathers did." It's hard to picture George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, John Jay, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton in powdered wigs with swastikas on their sleeves. Law enforcement officials say that such patrols undermine the work of officers on duty along the border, especially if they try to enforce the law themselves by vigilante "justice." This can only end badly.
The people who came to America, and in many instances brutally displaced the Native Americans, viewed these shores as a place of refuge from persecution, poverty, and a lack of opportunity to pursue success. The United States seems to be suffering a schism of identity in which we still pride ourselves on being a free country which welcomes immigrants while we also strive to keep them out.
The Statue of Liberty welcomes people to New York Harbor with these words engraved on her base: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door." Her upraised torch is a symbol of enlightenment, showing the path to Liberty. She is not in Arizona.
If we no longer believe in the concept symbolized by this statue, perhaps we should dismantle it and return it to France, which gave it to America in 1885 to celebrate the friendship between the two countries and a shared reverence for freedom. But if we fail to control vigilante activity wherever it exists, a statue of Hitler might take her place.