New Clear Vision


constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted


Transgender Migrants

June 14, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Devon G. Pena, Politics

State Violence and Comprehensive Immigration Reform

by Devon G. Peña

“Death is unspeakable. It is silenced by the austere and pious rhetoric of nationalism, ‘honor’, ‘compassion’, and the ‘culture of life’ itself.” — Stuart J. Murray, “Thanatopolitics,” p. 196

“Death is not a biological moment but a political decision.” — Lindsay A. Hall, “Death, power, and the body,” p. ii

Let us never forget Victoria Arellano. She was a 23-year-old transgender immigrant from Mexico murdered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security while in detention in May of 2007. It has been six years almost to the day and no one has ever been charged with her murder or even discharged from staff positions at the Customs and Border Enforcement (CBE) detention center on Terminal Island in San Pedro, California where she was killed. It is ironic that until the 19th century Terminal Island was known as La Isla del Muerto (The Island of the Dead).

I was reminded of Victoria’s death this morning after awakening from a restless sleep. This may sound odd but what woke me up was my inability to stop thinking about the implications posed by the passage of the current Gang of Eight immigration reform packet, as it now seems it might. What will it mean for Mexican and other undocumented immigrants? I am finishing Dispossession: The Performative in the Political (2013), a book in which Judith Butler and Athena Athanasiou engage in a lengthy conversation about the conditions and struggles of people who are dispossessed — those who have lost land, property, citizenship, or even a sense of a broader belonging to the world (alienation?). (more…)

Guns and the Ecology of Fear

January 29, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Current Events, Devon G. Pena, Politics

Challenging the Symbolic Politics of Hate

by Devon G. Peña

The ongoing debate on gun violence is certainly long overdue. As it unfolds within the mainstream media, it also strikes me as a discourse filled with revealing blind spots and shameful silences.

Blind spots and silences in the gun control debate

Let me start with some of the blind spots: Largely absent in this discussion is the fact that the majority of victims of gun violence are poor or persons of color. It is seldom noted that young black men are constantly under assault every time they step out, especially in any state like Florida with a “stand your ground” statute. It is seldom mentioned that young black and Latino males are already targeted by white men who can concoct any unfounded allegation of “feeling threatened” to justify shooting these young men.

It does not help matters that many of these killings are at the hands of the police. Silence surrounds the problem of police violence against people of color yet it has long been endemic. Proposals to put armed guards and police in schools will certainly not make the parents of black or brown students feel any safer since many school authorities have been sued and held in contempt for blatant racial profiling and harassment of students of color. (more…)

Cynical or Kynical?

July 09, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Current Events, Devon G. Pena, Politics

Exposing Rightwing Propaganda Through Leftist Humor

by Devon G. Peña

Given recent events in Arizona and Texas, I have been thinking a lot about ideology. So, yesterday I was re-reading the Slovenian social critic and philosopher, Slavoj Žižek considered by many to be the “Elvis of social theory.” He’s good, but I would not deify him.

Anyway, I went back to Žižek’s 1989 book, The Sublime Object of Ideology (London and New York: Verso Books) and found a familiar passage that has been in the back of my mine ever since I first came across the Texas Republican Party Platform and reported it in the piece I did last week on Fear and Loathing in Texas. Žižek makes the following fascinating statement:

“The most elementary definition of ideology is probably the well-known phrase from Marx’s Capital: ‘Sie wissen das nicht, aber sie tun es’ (‘They do not know it, but they are doing it.’) The very concept of ideology implies a kind of basic, constitutive naïveté: the misrecognition of its own presuppositions, of its own effective conditions, a distance, a divergence between so-called social reality and our distorted representation, our false consciousness of it.” (more…)

Dirty No More!

May 29, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Diane Lefer, Family, Politics

Cultural Recuperation and the Case of Southern Italy

by Diane Lefer

Last month I learned about a genocide I had never known of before. It happened not in an isolated unknown part of the world, but in Southern Italy, the ancestral home of members of my own family. Even more shocking to me, Southern Italians themselves are only now beginning to learn the facts of this ethnic cleansing, in large part thanks to the books of Pino Aprile, journalist and Southerner. Terroni: All That Has Been Done to Ensure That The Italians of The South Became “Southerners” had an electrifying effect on my friend Enzo Fina who comes from Lecce, in the heel of Italy’s boot. Enzo is half of the duo Musicàntica, the other half being Roberto Catalano, ethnomusicologist from Sicily. Based in Southern California, they keep the music and traditions of Southern Italy alive.

“You grow up knowing there’s something that isn’t right,” Roberto told me.

“You have feelings, even if unconscious,” said Enzo. (more…)

Memorial Day Redux

May 01, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Diane Lefer, Economy, Family, Politics

Working Smarter to Save Workers’ Lives

by Diane Lefer

According to US Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, more people die in the American workplace in a single year than have been lost in nine years of war in Iraq. “Each day in America, twelve people go to work and never go home,” she told the audience at the Action Summit for Worker Safety and Health held at East Los Angeles Community College on April 26, one of many events leading up to Workers Memorial Day, April 28, an annual date of remembrance for those killed, injured, or sickened on the job.

María Elena Durazo, Executive-Secretary-Treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, reported there were 500 work-related deaths in 2011 in California and “Workers are still being fired for speaking out in order to avoid death.”

This loss of life and countless serious injuries, continue to occur although the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), intended to protect workers, was signed by Richard Nixon 41 years ago. (more…)

Welcome to America

April 12, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Culture, Devon G. Pena, Politics

Connecting Indigenous Autonomy and Immigration

by Devon G. Peña

A recent poster prepared by Michigan State University assistant professor and artist,  Dylan Miner, asks that we “decolonize immigration through indigenous and migrant solidarity.” On seeing this beautiful artwork, I was compelled to once again reflect on the perverse nature of U.S. immigration law. The struggle to decolonize immigration law and policy challenges an unjust, racialized, and convoluted history, and reveals the highly problematic qualities of modern state sovereignty in the policing of borders across a region that remains a resurgent indigenous homeland.

I recall the sorrow and discrimination provoked by Arizona’s SB 1070 when numerous Native American elders were suspected of being “illegals” because they could not produce birth certificates to prove otherwise. Imagine that: natives seen as “illegals” and deemed subject to deportation under the state of exception for failure to provide documentation of their right to live on their native land. A deeper injustice and more banal contradiction is not possible, since the authors of 1070 arrived in Arizona but a mere night ago and are now dictating the legal status of peoples inhabiting the bioregion for tens of thousands of years. (more…)

From Planton to Occupy

December 07, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, David Bacon, Economy, Politics

Unions, Immigrants, and the Occupy Movement

by David Bacon

When Occupy Seattle called its tent camp “Planton Seattle,” camp organizers were laying a local claim to a set of tactics used for decades by social movements in Mexico, Central America and the Philippines.  And when immigrant janitors marched down to the detention center in San Diego and called their effort Occupy ICE (the initials of the Immigration and Custom Enforcement agency responsible for mass deportations), people from countries with that planton tradition were connecting it to the Occupy movement here.

This shared culture and history offer new possibilities to the Occupy movement for survival and growth at a time when the Federal law enforcement establishment, in cooperation with local police departments and municipal governments, has uprooted many tent encampments. (more…)