The emergence of the swine flu has become a moment for our domestic swine to surface with anti-immigrant bashing. What has been amazing has been the intensity of it.
As you may have noticed, the political Right has been using the rise of the swine flu (H1N1) as a way of challenging Mexican immigrants, documented and undocumented.
Right-wing political officials have suggested that the appropriate response to the outbreak is to close the border with Mexico. President Obama correctly pointed out that such an idea would be the equivalent of closing the barn door after the horse was out because the virus was already in the USA.
What President Obama did not say -- and I am not offering a criticism here -- is that no one actually knows where the virus originated. In Mexico the prevailing opinion is that the virus actually started in the USA. Recently a report was made public that it may very well have started in California.
The lesson from the current situation is that the political Right will make use of any and every opportunity in order to advance its agenda. In this case, the demonization of Mexicans is part of the core of the anti-immigrant message.
The political Right hopes to organize its constituency on the basis of fear and racism. This is not unprecedented in that with similar viral outbreaks in the past, the political Right has often targeted particular immigrant groups, e.g., European Jews, as being the alleged source of the problem.
What has been particularly interesting is what the political Right has NOT said. They have, for instance, ignored the fact that the World Health Organization has sent teams to Mexico to ascertain whether the outbreak originated from the massive pig farms [co-owned by Smithfield, by the way] which have become the main means of raising these animals, a practice tied to corporate globalization.
The political Right ignores the impact that tax cuts and other resource diversions have had on our ability to provide public health services to quickly and appropriately respond to such crises.
Instead, the political Right wishes to move its frenzied anti-immigrant agenda. Such an approach is a clear indicator that there is no desire to have a rational discussion about the health challenges that face us all, but rather the creation of a climate that could not only lead to further repression of immigrants, but quite possibly far worse.
The political Right wants no real discussion, not only of the sources of the outbreak, but the sources of immigration. When it comes to immigration, we are supposed to ignore the fact that trade agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement have helped to destroy Mexican agriculture and public services.
We are asked to close our eyes to the reality that the destruction of the Mexican economy has directly led to millions traveling northward.
If there is anything in common between H1N1 and immigration that should be noted it is that the economic forces of globalization are at the root of one (immigration) and quite possibly the other (H1N1).
Addressing the H1N1 virus should be a matter of cross-border cooperation rather than anti-Mexican tirades. There is no room for the irrational in times of crisis.
Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a senior scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies. He is the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum and the co-author of ''Solidarity Divided.'' He can be reached at [email protected]