There is a joke going around about Arizona's spate of anti-immigrant legislation: it may be fascism but at least it's a dry fascism. Welcome to Arizona, the home of dry heat and dead-end bigotry. The DC metro area, at least climatically, couldn't be more different. This is a town where summer means the kind of muggy humidity that soaks you to the skin. On Sunday at high noon, the dry nativism of Arizona collides with steamy weather and steamed immigrant rights activists at DC's Nationals Park. The Arizona Diamondback baseball squad is coming to town and, as Major League Baseball has learned all summer, that means a protest at the park. It means a rambunctious rally greeting the thousands coming out to the ol' ballgame and leafleting them with a simple call to action: contact MLB Commissioner Bud Selig and tell him to move the 2011 All-Star Game out of Arizona.
As Mackenzie Baris of DC Jobs with Justice commented to me, "Turning the tide on hateful laws starts with sending a clear message from the rest of the country to Arizona that what's happening there isn't acceptable, and there can't be business as usual anymore. Moving the All-Star Game would be a powerful statement, not to mention a real economic sanction. Actions like the one planned for Sunday not only put pressure on MLB, but also help to wake people up to what's going on."
Rosa Lozano, the youth organizer for CASA de Maryland, shared this sentiment. "Baseball is an iconic American sport," she said. "What better way to acknowledge and celebrate the diversity of this country than to have such an institution like Major League Baseball move their All-Star game out of Arizona and send a clear message that there are real concrete consequences for promoting hate?"
This Sunday's game however contains several twists from the typical ballpark demos that have been shadowing the D-backs all summer. First of all, Nationals rookie phenom Stephen Strasburg is set to pitch. That means a game between two dreadful teams which would have normally drawn more crickets than people, will now be packed and garner national media attention. And secondly, there will be an opposing rally in front of the park by the utterly unhinged right wing anti-immigrant organization, Help Save Maryland. As Help Save Maryland's call to action reads, "Radical, anti-American groups like La Raza and CASA of Maryland continue to threaten Arizona citizens and Major League Baseball. Using their illegal alien clientele as protesters, they are demanding the 2011 Baseball All-Star Game be moved out of Phoenix, Arizona as part of their state-wide boycott. It's time for the citizens of Maryland and the Greater Washington Area to fight back...Let's use this game to show our support for Arizona's crackdown on illegal aliens and increased border security!"
After their rally, Help Save Maryland will be sitting in their own section of the stadium where they will root on Nationals players like Ivan Rodriguez and Alberto Gonzalez. Clearly the one thing they haven't "saved Maryland" from is irony.
Here is how the SPLC defines nativist/extremist groups:
"Organizations identified by the Intelligence Report as nativist extremist are groups that go after people, not policy... Some conduct armed "citizen border patrols." Others confront Latino immigrants congregated at day labor centers or informal roadside pick-up sites. Some conduct surveillance of apartment houses and private homes. Almost all of them disseminate vicious, immigrant-bashing propaganda."
Now they're taking this political program to the park. This in and of itself demands a response. While the debate on immigration in the halls of Congress and the Sunday morning talk shows has veered toward frightening territory, the ballpark has been the one place this summer where immigrant rights allies have been able to congregate and get their message out with terrific publicity and purpose. This Sunday is about preventing Help Save Maryland from claiming that space and turning Arizona Diamondbacks games into celebrations of the "nativist-extremist" brand of politics so in vogue from Wasilla to Washington.
It's particularly galling that they are using the platform of baseball, that historic symbol of community and cohesion, as a staging ground for their hate. In the name of Jackie Robinson, Roberto Clemente, and every player who has spoken out this year against Arizona's laws, people should show up Sunday and say to the hate-mongers and their foot soldiers that enough is enough. Immigrants aren't the problem. Immigrants didn't bankrupt the economy or drag us into multiple wars or jail two million of our citizens. What ails this country, tragically, is home grown.
[For those who want to contact Bud Selig and ask him to move the 2011 All Star game, his office number is (414) 225-8900 / FAX (414) 225-8910). For additional resources check out movethegame.org]
first run at thenation.com