By Daniel Campos
On the Friday after Thanksgiving Day, I went to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. My visit sparked a vision for creative resistance, for immigrants in the United States and our friends, in the troubling times to come.
Years ago in Philly, I dealt with the bureaucracy of the U.S. government to do all my immigration paperwork so I could become a permanent resident in this country. Sometimes I'd have to drive to the city from Central Pennsylvania, and back, on the same day, several times per month, often for a minor errand like fingerprinting for a background check. At one point, toward the end of my process, the Immigration Service even lost my file. They found it a very long week later.
Perhaps due to the haste and stress of the whole process, I never had the time to visit the Art Museum. So this time, when I made plans to see a friend in Philly, I suggested that we meet at the museum.
It was a felicitous idea. I arrived early and had enough time to see carefully the current exhibit: "Paint the Revolution: Mexican Modernism, 1910-1950." It reviews the artistic movement that surrounded the revolutionary process that transformed Mexico, portraying the lives of agricultural peasants and industrial workers as the changes unfolded. In the wake of the recent U.S. presidential election, in which xenophobic rhetoric directed at Mexican immigrants was applauded by a significant proportion of the electorate, it felt good to observe the depictions of the lives and cultures of indigenous and mestizo Mexicans at such an important cultural institution - a sanctuary for art in the very city where a group of revolutionaries, more than 200 years ago, met to declare this country's independence and then to establish a Constitution that aspired to justice.
As I saw a video that showed the whole length of the murals by Diego Rivera at the Department of Education in Mexico City, I thought: "If they build a wall, we should paint a mural, and dig an anthill underneath."
The idea of a colorful, expressive mural arose from the art by Rivera and his contemporaries. The vision of an anthill comes from the song "El hormiguero" by the Puerto Ricans of Calle 13, in which millions of ants defend their dignity while living and working in the United States: "If I work here, then I make my home here."
We - immigrants and our friends - should continue to paint with our lives a beautiful metaphorical mural as a sign of love to those who reject us. We are already hardworking people, good neighbors, dedicated students, loving family members, caring friends. Meanwhile, we should also dig a metaphoric anthill for resistance. Creative resistance will be important.
In 1849, Henry David Thoreau stated a philosophical principle for resistance to civil government. At that time, the U.S. Constitution still permitted slavery, the U.S. government had started the Mexican-American war in foreign soil, and the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 would soon be passed by Congress. Thoreau objected to all of these. He wrote: If an unjust law "is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law. Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine. What I have to do is to see, at any rate, that I do not lend myself to the wrong which I condemn."
When the U.S. government intensifies its persecution of immigrants - especially, but not exclusively, those who were brought as minors and registered for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, it will be requiring grave injustice from collaborating citizens. At that point, all of us who are committed to justice - not to unjust written law or policy - must disobey, disrupt, and let the government feel the full force of our principled resistance.
Thoreau not only stated his principle, but actually refused to pay his poll tax as a way to resist. Mahatma Gandhi, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and others, following Thoreau's principle, devised original strategies for resistance. We can do the same, creating sanctuaries at schools, university campuses, churches, and other civic spaces.
It is clear that they are coming for us. We should be ready to resist, lovingly and creatively.
Daniel Campos is a philosophy professor at City University of New York Brooklyn. email@example.com