“Speak softly and carry a big stick.”
President Teddy Roosevelt popularized it and it is usually attributed to him (but the term actually originated from an African proverb).
If you’re paying attention in history class (pay attention! those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it), you know that the premise of the idea is to negotiate peacefully while demonstrating the ability to be able to strike with military force. It’s realpolitik, which is essentially about getting realistic and materialistic. If you pose no threat to power, who is going to pay attention to your cause? Get real. If you don’t have the ability to damage, embarrass, or shame those in power, who is going to pay attention to your cause? Get real.
So walk softly, and carry a big stick.
Our walk? We make clear, concise policy demands. Access to education. A path to citizenship. Open market competition for scholarships and financial aid. We bring our research and our talking points, and we negotiate.
Our stick is another story. Are we willing to hold our politicians accountable? Do we have the capacity to strike? How hard? What does it look like? Pro-migrant voters stay home on election days? Walk-outs? Marches? Strikes? Are we willing to “break rank” if they break their promises?
There’s another term that I’ve heard some people use- “This dog bites,” as in, mess with us and you’ll get bitten. If your dog doesn’t bite, people will walk all over your yard.
This country’s big political players know this. Last year, Congressman Luis Gutierrez threatened to leave the Democratic party if the DREAM Act or any equivalent pro-migrant progress didn’t happen.
“We need to decouple the movement for comprehensive immigration reform and justice for immigrants from the legislative process and from the Democratic Party process,” Gutiérrez says. “They are too linked.” Daily Beast
But this dog doesn’t bite. He hasn’t led any kind of Latino Revolt. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus, major labor groups, Beltway Latino/pro-migrant organizations, our champion Senator Durbin, and the Democratic party have all stayed duly loyal to each others political interests. They won’t be breaking rank anytime soon. 2012 is just around the corner, and there’s politicians to re-elect, email lists to activate, and most importantly, big money for voter registration projects. Immigration, once again, is sacrificed at the altar of winning an election, and slips to the bottom of the pile of national priorities. There’s no stick. There’s no bite.
American politics is, for better or worse, an adversarial process. Organizers in the field sometimes choose to say “decision-makers” instead of “targets” when they refer to those in power, and valid as that may be, we are all ultimately asking for change from somebody who doesn’t want to give it to us. They are our adversaries and our targets.
We don’t need those in power to love us. We just need them to respect us. We need our dog to bite.
Immigrant students are getting shut out of colleges. Secure Communities is lauded as a successful program by Janet Napolitano. Deportations continue at record levels, beyond those of former President Bush.
A Kansas legislator suggests shooting immigrants as if they were feral pigs. Far right neo-Nazi groups harassed immigrant youth in Chicago holding Coming out of the Shadows events. Threats on our comment boards and hate-filled emails abound here at DREAMActivist.Org.
It’s time to take things into our own hands. This dog must bite.