May 04, 2006

Making Noise Versus Being Heard

This past Monday, on May 1st, Mayday, the original Labor Day, immigrants across the country took it to the streets and rallied in protest of legislation that makes being and/or aiding an illegal alien a felony. Rallies were, in general, large, disorganized and peaceful. The rally in Union Square, NY, was reportedly "without incident" according to local news. Having been there, I would agree and I would add that it was a thoroughly hospitable rally. People were not only not fighting, they were smiling. There were dozens of countries of origin represented, several continents and languages to match. However, all seemed to be content to translate for one another as they were able. I heard no obscenities, in either of my two languages. I experienced no pushing or yelling. Attendees seemed calmly pleased.

While many political scientists have suggested that what went on on Monday was illconceived, poorly planned and have warned that it will ultimately be ineffective, I must disagree. First consider the group looking to make noise. They are undocumented immigrants, i.e. according to recent legislation, felons on the loose. These are people who have spent every waking moment of their lives inside the U.S. borders keeping quiet. While they may not have been heard, the simple act of showing their faces and making noise was indescribably empowering. People were smiling with their hearts. They were happy and proud and felt like people, probably for the first time since crossing the border. If we judge the Mayday rallies as a foundation building event instead of a change creating event we may be able to assess them more authentically.