As I'm not going to become an expert on immigration law/issues in the next few days, I think I'll just offer some personal views on what I think is going on in Arizona and what it means. I welcome comments, and please excuse the rambling nature of my posts....
I'm not sure when I first noticed it. I think it was around 2005, when people I knew as individuals began looking at others en masse. They didn't seem to be distinguishing one person from the other anymore. All middle-easterners were the same, so were all black people. Latinos – yup, all one of a kind. White people too: I found myself on the receiving end of broad-brush comments as well as being lumped into a category in which I belong because of the color of my skin.
This was in New York, a liberal bastion of American individualism. It seemed like a delayed reaction to post-Sept. 11 paranoia. I found myself wondering: Is America becoming a Nazi state? It seriously spooked me, and I didn't know what to make of it.
I had noticed instances of this before, obviously. Racial profiling in the USA is a long-standing tradition. Sure, it's illegal, but everyone and their mother does it. Cops do it all the time; after Sept. 11, almost everyone started doing it. It's rampant in business.
In journalism, I first noticed it when I couldn't find my "thing." Many of my colleagues had their "thing" – a black colleague was the race issues person, a latino friend was called upon every 4 years to write about the "latino vote," a gay colleague wrote about homosexuality. As a pretty run-of-the-mill white guy, I wasn't racially profiled. I should have written about US politics like the kids who went to Yale, but I really don't like US politics and I hate Yale. I liked sports, but I liked soccer – and that wasn't really an american sport, it's one of those things Latinos play, a colleague once said.
It wasn't just in journalism that I noticed it. I noticed that friends who saw therapists were being converted into little drones, learning to see things the way the authorities saw them. They had authority issues, you see, and that was bad. So the solution was to have them hide their personal beliefs, maybe even bury them, so that they might better survive. These may have been wackjob therapists, but they were licensed, nonetheless.
Or perhaps they were being converted so that they might better blend in and become loyal followers. Corporate America likes loyal followers, who don't rock the boat and don't blow whistles. And who don't show an ounce of individualism. Fair enough, if your MO is to make money. But outside the office, your life should be your own. I noticed these people becoming increasingly preachy in their real lives, and increasingly conformist and intolerant of those who don't conform. They reminded me of my more extreme religious friends, who would preach their way every time they had the chance.
Maybe I'm making too loose a connection between this – survival in the corporate, real world – and forced conformity and racial profiling. But I began to see it everywhere including socially among friends of mine. I found that some were hiding their beliefs more, and shedding their values to fit in, to not offend their friends, or their circle.
Being half-British, I've always been extremely wary about American patriotism-borderline nationalism, as well as the distinct lack of individuality beneath all the talk of individualism.
Two World Wars and a great depression created Naziism, not genes or some twisted inherent dislike of Jews. Racism, in my view, is possible from everyone, given the conditions. In 2004, more than 62 million Americans voted for George W. Bush – for a second term, after he had already fucked things up in Iraq. What followed were six more years of two wars, an economic collapse and a depression. We got a black president, but he inherited a lot of serious problems.
The Arizona law is not the first consequence of all this, nor will it be the last, in my view. Within the next two years, unless things really turn around economically and vis-a-vis Iraq/Afghanistan, we're in for the emergence of a Nazi America. Unless it's happened already and we didn't even realize it.