Friday, June 02, 2006

Us and them.

Every time the talk turns to keeping people out of Mumbai and driving the ‘aliens’ back to where they belong (and it has been happening more and more frequently of late), I’m reminded of the notorious international precedent for such a course of action. Where do you think it occurred? In the magnificent bastion of freedom and democracy, no less. The hapless and desperate victims of the Dust Bowl seeking work in California (much like the Joad family in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath attracted to California, portrayed as ‘the land of milk and honey’ in the bogus ads for fruit pickers placed in Oklahoma newspapers in order to drive down the minimum wages) were deported from Los Angeles by the police. The Los Angeles Examiner, 8 February 1936, featured this event under the photo caption “And Don’t Come Back!” The report said inter alia: “Facing an influx of thousands of undesirables, Los Angeles police are taking drastic action. Here the ‘unwanted’ are being deported by train. Courts are questioning the rights of police to bar them.” Now that we’re taking a cue from The Empire in everything from lifestyle to morals to junk foods, maybe the day is not far when the Los Angeles high drama is re-enacted right here in our railway and bus terminals. (Read the entry under ‘1936’.)

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