Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The Postville Legacy: Do You Want Lies With That Hot Dog?

My dear blog friend Border Explorer has been diligent and passionate in her series about the Postville Raid. Called "the biggest immigration raid in American history," this raid has also opened the largest meat packing scandal since Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle, about the corruption in the meat packing industry in the early part of the 20th Century.

And here we have history repeating itself. Sinclair wrote about horrific working conditions, the exploitation of children and women, about workers falling into rendering tanks and being ground along with animal parts into beef lard. Sinclair wrote about a system that was supposed to bring progress to our nation; instead, the increased industrialization bred chaos, amorality, greed and a kind of individuality that has no regard for human dignity - forget about animal rights.

Agriprocessers, in Postville, hired illegal immigrants, mostly from Guatamala. The employees were coerced, threatened, beaten, kept in what they describe as a "slave-like" environment. The raid was conducted not as an immigration raid, but instead as a criminal raid with the main thrust being about "identity theft." Workers had been given "cooked" social security numbers. The immigrants, mostly unable to speak or read English, had no idea what they were being given. Opps. Their bad.

Much has been made over the fact that Agriprocessers is also the largest Kosher Meat and Poultry producer in the USA. Believe me, this has nothing to do with Orthodox Jewry. Nothing. This is about the over-industiralization of our economy.

The Meatrix is a small website I found after watching Fast Food Nation. This film shows the dark side of the fast food industry, from the ground up. The exploitation of illegal immigrants is a huge part of this chain of greed. Franchise America builds itself on cheap labor (subtext: illegal immigrants), sloppy production, and lies. Hey, Neocons? You want to stop illegal immigration? Shut down McDonalds.

At the Eat Well website, I put in my zip code: I am within 20 miles of 22 farmers markets, 2 restaurants, and 13 stores. There are actually more organic restaurants that they don't have on the list - but the telling piece is the 22 farmers markets. I go, weekly. They are local California farmers, with either Certified Organic or one step below Certified produce. I save money, I eat better, and I support the local economy. Give this a try.

Another site, Sustainable Table, gives all kinds of tips for building community, healthy eating, and defying the conglomerates. It is a way to connect us to our land, our food, and with each other.

The tactics used in the Postville Raid bespeak a totalitarian society. We know what we've become over the last eight years of the Bush Administration. But I contend this has been going on for far longer than Bush has even walked this earth. Greed is not new, nor is the exploitation of the poor and disenfranchised. But we can speak out, we can do more. We really can.


Randal Graves said...

I actually returned 43 hits (including a personal chef?) when I put in my zip, far more than I had anticipated. We usually shop at a local farm closer to my in-laws in another country.

It's amazing and disgusting just how much of our economy is built on the backs of the exploited.

Border Explorer said...

Diva, I am verklempt.
Tell you what--here's a deal: I'll feed you topics and YOU write them up. Woman, you are one hot blogger.
I love your passion on this post and this subject.
Thanks for the links and for shining your big searchlight on this evil.
Yes, we can make a difference.

DivaJood said...

Randal, there was a film a couple of years ago called "A Day Without A Mexican." In the film, ALL the Mexicans in Los Angeles stopped working - immigrants, legal or not - just all stopped. And the entire city ground to a halt. It was funny, but not so much. We are a nation of greed.

Border, you are too kind. Your passion, your research, your work is what shines the light. I'm in awe of you. I just wanted to suggest a way we can become healthier - not just in terms of our PHYSICAL health, but if we go back to the land, it helps our economy as well.

Randal Graves said...

That should say county, not country. Damn Canadians.

I'd love to see that nationwide, every single low-wage worker not work for a day. People would have a fucking cow and not know what to do.

DivaJood said...

Randal, it's funnier with Country, not County. But it's tragic that I can laugh over a typo.

Utah Savage said...

I'm wildly entertained with your comments. Upton Sinclair was my hero when I first read The Jungle. Nothing much has changed, but the nationality of the exploited.

I'm convinced I have enough preservatives in my system to actually be the living embalmed. I'm a little afraid to get too healthy--it might just kill me.

Thankfully I have neighbors with organic gardens. Odd that they let me eat their produce, since I contribute nothing.

DivaJood said...

Utah, it's the paint thinner that really keeps us young. Trust me.

Tom Harper said...

Rightwingers had a hissyfit over the Postville raid, because of all those icky brown people from another country working there. Oh, you mean about the inhumane working conditions? No, the Right doesn't care about that.

enigma4ever said...

great post Diva...and yes, Border has been covering this issue in a very thoughtful, inspiring way....better than any MSM...of course...Sinclair would have much heartache over our current mess....and wonder if anyone read his book....

Paint thinner huh? gee and I have been breathing Tilex thinking that was good for me...doing wonders for clearing the fog...

DCup said...

Diva - Thanks for coming by with your comment today regarding the difference between Dems and Repubs in how they expect perfection from their candidates. or don't in the case of the Repubs.

What you said was exactly what I wanted to say, but I just couldn't find the words. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

DivaJood said...

Tom, I never understand how the right wing justifies their convoluted reasoning. They're anti-illegal-immigration, but love an economy that demands cheap labor. How about getting Jenna and Not-Jenna to work in a meat processing plant for a while? Put them on the kill floor. Oh, never mind.

Enigma, Tilex is good too - keeps the sinuses clear. Forgive me my snark.

DivaJood said...

Dcup, you're welcome. I think we're smoking crack if we think a Democratic victory is assured. We Democrats seem unable to come together. All I can think of is REM's refrain, "It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine."

Dean Wormer said...

What's funny is now you see even big box supermarkets installing organic aisles.

Not sure I'd trust their definition...

DivaJood said...

Dean Wormer, it depends on what day of the week it is regarding those Organic sections: if it's Tuesday, the stuff isn't really organic, it's almost organic, or maybe it was organic last week.

Mary Ellen said...

We have a farm stand about a half mile from our house and I buy most of our produce there in the summer. Then in the winter months, I end up buying our produce for a grocery chain and the vegetables have no flavor. I keep saying I'm going to start canning, but I'm a lazy slacker so I don't do it.

I'll never go to a McD's. I got food poisoning from them when I was a teenager and I haven't been in one since. Just looking at those golden arches is enough to give me the heaves.

Oh, and that movie "A Day Without a Mexican"...I remember hearing about it but never had the chance to see it. Do you know if it's on DVD? Maybe I'll check it out this weekend.

DivaJood said...

Nunly, yes, "A Day Without A Mexican" is out on DVD. It's a little polemical, but what the hell, what isn't?

I used to go to McD's in college after we'd get completely loaded - frequently we would park in front of the golden arch, staring at it for an hour or so until someone would go in and purchase about two dozen burgers. This was in the days before Big Macs.

McD's was for pot; White Castle was for being drunk.

okjimm said...

Well, gees and stuff..... this whole issue boggles me..... crack down on Illegal immigrants....but not illegal employers.

I am for people justice, not political justice.

Employers who stoop to such shit should be fined out of existence.

ME....//I keep saying I'm going to start canning//

call me up, sweetie....I never heard it called 'canning' before.

// ..another country.// I never thought of Cleveland as another country.... I think you may shop on another planet, though.

susan said...

This is yet another example of just how crazy the crazies are in this country. Thanks for bringing it to the attention of more of us.

Spartacus said...

Diva, I'm on vacation with a limited time to read blogs and such and a slow Internet connection, so I only clicked on the food store place. All I can say is that I have to move off of Long Island. There were several places within 20 miles of where I live in which to shop for organic foods. But only one within 15 miles and all them in what are considered wealthy nabes. It'll cost me as much to get to one of these places as it would to buy and eat well.

As for the immigrant plight, same story. Only here, the workers are landscapers and day laborers who regularly get harassed by the cops and other people who don't give a damn about the service they provide.

Nice post, Diva.... I really like this one and thanks for turning me on to Border Explorer.

DivaJood said...

okjimm, People Justice indeed. And illegal employers should be fined, and brought to trial.

Susan, sometimes I wonder if we'll be able to get back on a track of decency, or even if we ever were?

Spartacus, you have fun on vacation with the kids - and don't worry about shopping at the hoity-toity stores - grow your own!

Missy said...

Preach it sista--good ideas.