Monday, July 05, 2010
Stephen Jones: Reflections on Two Streets in Silver City
This is a post by contributing writer, Stephen Jones, who is a progressive political activist and a resident of Las Cruces, New Mexico.
I don’t do reflective writing very well. I much prefer the writing that involves research and evidence, or concentrating on a specific issue. However, there’s something that helped keep me awake last night, other than muscle aches from walking the length of two parades. Saturday morning I visited Silver City, New Mexico to take pictures of the first parade for Democracy for New Mexico. Silver City is one of those old-time western mining towns that was a wide-open shoot-em-up boomtown once. Now it’s a center of the arts and tourism in southwestern New Mexico.
At Silver City, all sorts of community organizations had booths up to greet local residents before the step-off of the annual Independence Day parade, a parade a lot like any small town parade. The Democrats looked like Democrats. The men had salt and pepper beards, the women looked like retired schoolteachers. The Republicans looked like Republicans too. They were auctioning off a high powered rifle. All the men were smitten by the sight of the big gun. The placard at the Republican booth had something about the 2nd Amendment; the usual stuff.
The Tea Party crowd had their own little stand with lots of placards opposing immigration, demands for picture ID’s to vote, signs demanding the repeal of “Obamacare,” and all the usual slogans against taxes, and “English Only” signs. They were heavy on the anti-immigrant signs. Lots of signs, but the Tea Party people didn’t have any United States flags. The Tea Party just had that snake thing, “Don’t Tread on Me.” Maybe it was just an oversight, maybe not. They all had red, white and blue t-shirts. It’s not quite the same thing. They sure had a lot of placards about immigration, though.
I followed the Silver City parade south on their main street through downtown, Bullard St., trying to get pictures of the Democratic Party float for this blog. Most of the crowd was happy and upbeat, yet reserved. Silver City’s Bullard St. wasn’t all that packed with people, but it was a good crowd. At the end of Bullard St., the parade crosses over a small creek, which flows through a trench called the “Big Ditch.” The Big Ditch was once the old Main St. until a flash flood swept it away and dug out a little chasm early in the 20th Century.
On the opposite side of this chasm, northbound on Hudson St., it was a completely different crowd, demographically, and in terms of size. On Hudson St. the spectators were pretty much all Hispanic, crowded in ten deep or better on both sides of the street. They were waving hundreds and hundreds of flags, all of them the Stars and Stripes, our flag, “Old Glory.” At the front of the parade the crowd was on their feet cheering. I turned around to see what the uproar was all about.
At the front were all the local soldiers in uniform, and all the veterans, including one veteran riding in a Dodge truck whose name is Pablo Guttierrez, a resident of Silver City and one of the few remaining survivors of the Bataan death march. He was riding alone because he’s strapped to an oxygen tank. Funny thing, though. All those other soldiers and veterans, they were mostly all Latino too, like the people on the sidewalks. Kind of makes you think about Tea Parties, and the like.
My Hispanic neighbors are an interesting lot. They believe if they show the world who they are, the rest of the world will realize they just want to be good citizens and neighbors too, except, of course, some of the rest of that world doesn’t seem to see or hear very much.
I hope this will change for the better, someday. I expect that is will. In fact, I’m sure of it. I just hope that day is sometime before I’m 91 years old like Pablo Guttierrez.
To read more posts by Stephen Jones, visit our archive.
I grew up in Silver City, and the 4th of July parade was always a Big Deal.
Thank you for this. It sounds like it's time for the Tea Partiers to open their eyes and really SEE their neighbors. Okay, it's sounded like that for a long time. But in a small town like Silver City, you'd think people could actually do it, wouldn't you?
Posted by: Fran | Jul 5, 2010 10:04:15 AM
I think you ought to do more reflective writing. I thought this was a gem of a piece.
My family is partly English, with my father's line coming across in 1680. I can imagine my great grandfather standing along a brick street watching a 4th of July parade in his small town in upstate New York, not far from the Erie Canal, which was the Spaceport of its day. Now these streets are quiet and people like my father left a long time ago because opportunities were elsewhere.
I can imagine those 4th of July events, looking very English with very few, if any minorities in the crowd. I think the Tea Party enthusiasts are people who don't want to let go of the way things were or the way they perceive things were. Often, to have a romantic view of the past requires blocking things out.
I remember being in San Francisco and Seattle for a number of 4ths. The West Coast has amazing diversity, which is the future. I hung out in a library in the southeast of Seattle where the language most frequently spoken was possibly not English, but perhaps a Somali language called Amharic or perhaps Vietnamese or Chinese. There were also people speaking Tagalog, Russian, and a dozen or so other languages, including Spanish. I remember a parade in San Francisco that had a lot of people with large feathery Busby Berkeley feathered outfits. The gay scene there can be really spectacular and the freedom people feel is a joy to behold.
To me, the diversity of all that is just electrifying and exciting.
America is an expanding concept. There are those who can see that and who embrace it as a wonderful, unfolding adventure and there are those who shrink from it and wonder how to enforce against it.
As someone with an ancestor who actually carried a musket in the American Revolution, I embrace the unfolding meaning of E Pluribus Unum in all its variety.
Fear of the future was not in the mind of the founding generation and what we celebrate doesn't have much to do with it either.
All those people setting off backyard fireworks, along with the larger display, were not doing so because they wanted to think of reasons to be glum. There is something in us that eagerly anticipate the chance to celebrate what we all have in common, this concept of America, and its future, that can't be defeated by mere economic uncertainty.
We The People have overcome way worse and together, will continue to renew this feeling we have about what we are creating. Damn straight it is something to celebrate.
Posted by: StuartH | Jul 5, 2010 1:48:30 PM
I think you do reflective writing rather well dr. jones.
Posted by: thelonius | Jul 5, 2010 3:26:57 PM
This is not a bad piece. I'm sure I to feel bad for all those brown people who have a love for their country. Those men who have fought for their counrty and are given the respect they deserve from their community. I feel bad that a lot of them speak two or more languages.
I feel for those who died to keep our nation secure to never know that her borders nor sovreignty would mean anything to many. That our forefathers who came and suffered could have just walked on in and demanded everything that they had to work for.
What a great day the Forth of July was this year. A reminder every year of what was sacraficed to get to where we are. I let my children raise the flag a set off fireworks to celebrate. But I also reminded them of the history of our great nation and the work we have to do to keep it that way.
I taught them of the Revolution when black and white faught together to defeat the English and how the English are now our great ally. How great battles have been faught throughout Americans great history and will in the future for some just find a way everyday to hate the USA. Even many who live here.
So I feel that reflective writing is good and keep it up. It is good to see how some people can feel about others just in reading their stuff.
Posted by: Sid | Jul 5, 2010 10:47:46 PM