The following is an essay I wrote in reaction to the documentary Farmingville for my Politics class this past semester. I like it, so I thought I’d share it with y’all.
In the town of Farmingville, many values were competed between the townspeople and the undocumented workers, of these values the most significant was America itself. Not in the physical sense; sure you could argue the residents were fighting for the land they were indoctrinated to believe was being invaded, but more importantly they were fighting for their abstract perception of America. Oddly enough, the undocumented workers were fighting for this same value, or at least a similar one- a place to find work and a make a living to support their family, in other words have a life. For much of the (white) people in Farmingville, these new workers were far too threatening by their presence alone, they were foreign to their white world and seemingly caused a disruption to their perfect American Dream. In reality, that American Dream was already fading and the Mexican workers were merely targets of fear, ignorance, and even hatred. Most of Farmingville’s denizens are not bad people, but they do foster some, even if minor, racist tendencies that alas seem to be augmented when they feel threatened by their new “neighbors.” They feel abandoned by the system: losing jobs, unable to afford that American Dream, and rightfully pissed off. When finally they win the vote to not have the hiring center there is a feeling of triumph that they never have never experienced; they sing “God Bless America,” an apropos number for this context. Clearly, their choice of… music… was purposeful. They love their country and their rendition of the patriotic song displays this. When most of us win some sort of competition we sing Queen’s “We Are the Champions,” though this would be oddly amusing if the women sang this, it would not have the same effect. Point being, the song had to be American to reflect the underlying motif of Americanism in the film. The workers, by and large, see Farmingville as an opportunity for jobs, a land of opportunity, if you will. Sound familiar? It’s about as American as it gets; essentially both groups of people share the same values, yet the tension (racial, social, political) between them has caused this competition.
It is incredibly difficult for both sides to come to any agreement, let alone, get along because they are foreign to each other. Both parties are foreign to one another, for the most part, and this causes tension. In general, there is always some sort of tension between whites and Mexicans within a large community (not necessarily between individuals) and now there is this racial problem consuming (figuratively and literally) the small community of Farmingville. All of their prejudices are going to explode making it extremely troublesome to meet halfway or even try to meet each other at all. It should be noted that overwhelmingly much of this lack of interest in coming to an agreement comes from the residents of Farmingville and not the Mexican laborers. They see it as their community, why should they give it up, why should they compromise. They already feel threatened and powerless, making any compromise can only weaken them, it seems. Naturally, that is not really the case, but you can’t blame them for feeling that way. It appears that the undocumented workers understand this and are perhaps far more willing to cross the aisle, but the opportunity never seems to arise. They do, however, make admirable attempts to become a part of the community through organization: the Soccer game(s), cleaning up the fields, and so forth. Also, it is understandable for these workers to be disinterested in getting along or coming to an agreement with a bunch of people that do not want them there and possibly hate them for the same reasons their (the white folks) ancestors came here in the first place. Farmingville hasn’t exactly given them a gigantic welcome sign, to say the least.
Discussing who is right and who is wrong within this case is far too simple. Like just about everything else in life, depending on who you are the response will change. Firstly, we have to ask ourselves what is right and what is wrong? and then whether or not one group or another fits under either category. This is an exceptionally subjective issue to label official rights and wrongs on either side. But, for me, the people of Farmingville are “understandably wrong.” I sympathize with them, but their rational is the weaker of the two. They are not being “invaded,” as the reactionary right wing media has fed them, their loss of jobs for the most part cannot being attributed to the new workers, and overall they demonize these Mexican people, reducing them to “aliens.” Many of them complain that when their daughter rides her bike to 711 she has to ride by the MEXICAN WORKERS as if they are some group of Gargoyles preying on their next victim. I am sure these parents have the best of intentions (the safety and well being of their children) but it does not justify such prejudice comments. One could argue that the workers are wrong for coming over here illegally. Well, there was never a statistic to show how many were legal or illegal, but for all intents and purpose let’s say most of them were illegal. I suppose this is wrong because they violated the law, but I do not place the law above all morals. It would be better if the workers migrated legally, but the process may be too strict and harsh that they have to come over illegally to make it over at all. If I was in their shoes I would probably do the same thing to make a living for my family. Either way, let’s say all of them were legal immigrants and we can prove it. I bet you there would be just as much of a fiasco or at least just as much anger. To put it bluntly the people of Farmingville do not want this massive influx of immigrants in their tiny community. The illicit nature of their migration merely serves as a point of justification for the citizens’ frustration. In the end, we can only hope that overtime when people see that the world isn’t over, their town is still intact, and Betty Sue is free to ride unscathed, that maybe both groups can come to some sort of consensus about this ongoing issue in America.