In an era when SB 1070 can be passed, neo-Nazis have seen skyrocketing recruitment, and border militarization is seen as a bipartisan issue, there is little question that support for the DREAM Act is the correct political line for radicals and leftists.
But, while “waiting for the perfect bus” is by no means a viable strategy, we need to at least understand if this bus is even going in the right direction.
Before even leveling criticism against the DREAM Act, we should first take a look at another left-dividing issue that illustrates the DREAM Act in better light: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Let’s be frank, DADT should not exist, but the ability to serve in the military is NOT an equal rights issue. Instead, the decision to serve often comes from a complete lack of equality and opportunity. To be denied entry into the military is a blessing that many who died in Vietnam and this current war would have begged for; and militant queer groups such as Bash Back! have taken the stance that the only solution to the DADT dilemma is to dissolve the military. No military, no issue. This gets into the leftist whack-a-mole that we find ourselves faced with in regards to the DREAM Act: if we try to stamp out one problem without creating structures to support the social transformation required, the problem will resurface elsewhere in more resilient ways. If we want to address DADT from the simple perspective of social access, then we must be prepared for the conversation of what alternative we want, and how to create that. It is clear that the lazy, liberal perspective of giving open gays and lesbians the same ability to kill Iraqis and Afghanis for the benefit of Capital is getting on a bus going in the opposite direction.
If you still believe that repealing DADT should be a priority for the LGBT community, let’s think about this in another way. In congress, this is being presented as a military issue–essentially, that accepting homosexuality in the military is necessary for a STRONGER MILITARY. In an ideal world, any legislation that the left pitches as equality and the political establishment sees as beneficial to maintaining military hegemony over the entire world, should be examined much more closely.
Those close to the immigration movement should be concerned that the DREAM Act is being pushed as part of a Defense bill. And anyone who has done anti-recruitment work, or who even understands that many who join the military do so because school is not an option, should be weary of the “books or bullets” choice which forms the foundation of the DREAM Act. Especially in California, where the greatest number of people would benefit from the DREAM Act, the dream of college is rapidly slipping away from many due to a terminally ill University of California system. If the American Dream puts poor white kids in combat rather than college, where do you think poor latinos will fit in?
As a blog which has consistently been critical of the educational system as a whole, we also take issue with even the college side of the DREAM dichotomy. Paul Ortiz, in a “Letter to Progressives,” argues that the DREAM Act creates incentives for latino kids to finish high school and go on to college. What is high school besides assimilationism and historical revisionism, giving kids of every color the skills necessary to work low paying jobs and make someone else money? Is there even a school that can give students a critical and complete education, one that teaches them worthwhile and relevant information and critical thinking skills, rather than breaking their wills? And then college, which is too expensive to see as anything BUT a career investment? Just like DADT, in many ways, the push for access to the current system of education takes for granted the desirability of the economic and political systems, and further promotes their stability and growth.
Besides, the military won’t be left out of education either. If it can’t steal the bodies that can’t make it into college, it’ll find some way to profit from the university. Beginning in Kindergarden, the educational system is designed to normalize and justify military involvement in other countries, including the theft of giant expanses of land from Mexico, even on top of the theft of the entire US territory from indigenous tribes. Later on, schools promote groups like the Boy Scouts, which provide an even greater diet of militarism and offer clear paths from an early age into the military; they make a career in the military sound like “fun.” In high school, rather than just brainwashing students, they open their doors directly to military recruiters, who offer free stuff and lies to students to further make the military seem like everything that it’s not. And for those fortunate enough to not enlist out of high school, the rest are imbued, involuntarily, to acceptance if not support for the military and militarism. I think the question to ask ourselves is clear enough: do we want latino kids, especially undocumented students, to buy into this American lie? Or do we want them to understand what America has done to Latin American countries and to latinos in this country, consistently, over the past 200 years?
So if we now recognize the flaws of the DREAM Act, yet still find it necessary to support it, where does that leave us? Rather than consign ourselves to the reality that there is no perfect bus–in fact, we might have gotten on the wrong one–it is necessary to really start thinking about what it is that we would rather have. Let’s write our OWN DREAM, rather than accept the ones that those in the ruling class hand to us. Let’s start our own alternative educational structures, or even promote and expand the ones that already exist–ones that teach relevant history and allow critical thinking rather than try to squash it. And let’s continue popular community organizing to support immigrants and workers and students, rather than abandon all efforts every time a legislative option comes around. Those who say we need to continue supporting the DREAM Act, despite its flaws, because it is still a start, are pragmatically right, but we can only justify this qualification if we are prepared to continue fighting in non-legislative arenas.