Deja Vu

Apparently this country has made no progress in the last 150 years.

Back then, the big issue was the Chinese. During the gold rushes of the 1840s and after, many Chinese came to America in search of a better life. And, because life sucked so badly for so many in China, those workers who came to the US were willing to take any job at pay rates far below what white workers demanded. Corporations, seeking as always to maximize profits, actively recruited Chinese laborers and paid them as little as they could.

And millions of Chinese took those jobs because they were still better than anything they could find at home. Some of them were probably illegal immigrants, but as far as I can tell, most of them had entered the country legally.

At least until 1882, when anti-Chinese violence persuaded the government to ban all immigration from China–a ban that was renewed in 1892 and 1902.

Of course, banning further immigration didn’t do anything to improve the lot of those immigrants who were already in the country. By the mid-1880s, there were riots across the western US, most notably in Rock Springs, Wyoming Territory and Seattle, Washington.

Let me note, by the way, that when I went to school in Seattle in the 1970s and 1980s, the Seattle riot wasn’t discussed in History class. Somehow I doubt that’s changed; if anyone in the Seattle area knows differently, I’d love to hear it. Those who don’t remember history…

Anyway, the Seattle riot is noteworthy if only for the sheer pointlessness of the actions taken by the rioters. A loose coalition of labor leaders and Socialist activists rounded up 350 Chinese residents of Seattle’s Chinatown and marched them to the docks.

When the captain of the ship they chose demanded payment to carry the Chinese, the rioters passed the hat and raised funds to cover the fares. In short, roughly two hundred of the Chinese were deported. Not back to China, but down the coast to San Francisco. Arguably, the original expression of Seattle’s NIMBY spirit. As for the rioters, a confrontation with the militia resulted in serious injury to three rioters and two militiamen and the imposition of martial law, which lasted for two weeks.

So here we are, a century and a half later. We’ve got corporations fighting against minimum wage laws and a president who wants to cut off immigration, ostensibly to protect American jobs.

Deja vu, anybody?

PS: Something more cheerful tomorrow, I promise. Oh, and don’t forget that my monthly newsletter for August comes out on Monday. If you want a sneak peek at my current work in progress, sign up now!

6 thoughts on “Deja Vu

  1. MOre like Joseph Heller’s presqu’a vu. NPR broadcasted an immigrants’ rights speaker who essentially said, so, who’s going to take up all the unskilled-labor jobs when our population ages? And then there’s the fight for clean-air standards that even California may not be able to uphold, the health-care debacle, and the entire clown show in the White House.

    I’m feeling a conspiracy-theory-type thing about our planet being besieged by an alien force bent on killing everything on the planet in order to take it over. Or maybe, just “bent” is the best descriptor.

    Thanks for another great post.


    • I’m going to disagree. Sorry. Presque vu, for those who don’t want to look it up, is the “It’s on the tip of my tongue” phenomenon. It implies a sense that you’re about to remember something.

      What we’re seeing today is a complete failure to remember. In many cases, I suspect it’s a deliberate failure, though that may be beside the point.

      That said, you’ll get no argument from me about your conspiracy theory.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Here’s the “Catch-22” quote: “He knew, for example, that it was called paramnesia and he was interested as well in such corollary optical phenomena as jamais vu, never seen, and presque vu, almost seen.”

    The literal French translation is “almost seen,” in fact. I know this because I’ve converted to French because I prefer their president. The situation with the Chinese was a definite parallel to this heartlessness, but unless I’m just victim to being in present times and have little idea of what past times were (although the country seems to be heading in that direction), the situation in the 1890s had nothing on this one.

    I’d advise you to tweet a link to this post to @therealDonaldTrump, but it would go to waste on that jackass.


    • To be blunt, the rioters in Seattle were downright civilized by comparison with what went on elsewhere. Anywhere else, rather than passing the hat to ship the Chinese out of town, they’d have just found cheaper and more permanent ways to get rid of them.

      As for the link notion, well, it might get me blocked. That might be worth a bit of street cred.

      Liked by 1 person

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