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March 21, 2017

Chalk up another win for bullies after Cinco de Mayo party cancellation

South Philly celebration of Mexico's independence has drawn 15,000 each year since it began in 2007

In many ways, the appropriated Cinco de Mayo holiday offers a well-timed excuse for people to party even if they don’t know why they’re doing so.

(Fun fact: It’s not a Corona-created event; rather, it commemorates the Mexican Army defeating French forces at the Battle of Puebla in 1862.)

In one local way, it’s now become a case study of everything that’s wrong with using elected office to intimidate a group of people you’ve blanket-villainized in the minds of your mouth-foaming minions.

I’m talking, of course, about news that organizers cancelled Philadelphia’s largest Cinco de Mayo celebration, El Carnaval de Puebla, which has drawn some 15,000 to South Philly each year since 2007. Make that had drawn.

They nixed this year’s event out of fears that the gathering could serve as a fish-in-barrel environment for a jack-booted Immigration and Customs Enforcement deportation sweep.

I can’t begrudge them that.

Even though ICE claims that’s not how they roll, the culture emanating from Donald Trump’s swamp instills fear in many people, even some white citizens who haven’t been stereotypically otherized.

The human wall they’d build to protect those celebrating the holiday would have been an indelible image of Americans pushing back

Our Philadelphia already finds itself at the heart of an ongoing sanctuary city controversy.

You know what I’m talking about: the whole issue that has closed-minded state and federal officials feeling all toe-curled tingly inside as they threaten to withhold funding from the city like the extortionists they are.

Threats like that make people’s lives so uncomfortable that some already started packing bags anticipating a door knock that may or may not ever come. It’s the epitome of bullying to get your way in an issue for which you face logical opposition.

Mayor Jim Kenney – he of the refusing to back down from his sanctuary city stance – said that he was “devastated to hear that ICE has had such a chilling effect that Philadelphians no longer feel comfortable engaging in this public celebration.”

“While we can't stop ICE from conducting these raids, I want our immigrant community to know that we want them here, we remain committed to being a 4th Amendment City and protecting these values, and we will do whatever we can to help them feel comfortable bringing this celebration back in the future,” he continued.

But Kenney’s words are just that: words. He can't stop the raids, so he let those who rightfully felt intimidated know that people here do and will support them against a policy that emerged from nativist fear rather than American compassion.

This is important in these trying times, so spare me your “immigrate the right way” retorts and inane “Build the Wall” chants.

They have zero effect on someone who sees through the knee-jerk bullying of marginalized communities in a land that was great before y’all voted for an orange bully who called for the executions of innocent black and Latino teens.

Immigrants – legal or illegal – aren’t the enemy. They are people. Just like you, and just like your red-capped buddies.

Buying into unnecessary fear that they’re out there on the streets incessantly killing, raping and injecting infants with heroin? That shallowness of thought is the enemy. It violates morality. It violates Christian tenets. It violates the very notion of caring for the tired, poor huddled masses in America’s healing embrace.

For every example of an undocumented human committing a crime against a citizen, there are dozens of examples of documented citizens doing the same – if not worse. (Saying the perp shouldn't have been here in the first place = saying a citizen shouldn't have had an illegal gun. Fact.)

In light of all that, part of me wishes they didn’t cancel the event. Sure, that’s an easy position to take as someone who isn’t at risk of deportation to Ireland.

If they had followed through with the event – after talking about fears of deportation clouding it – it would have been a chance to push back against the policies that destroy families while lending public support to fellow human beings.

Had ICE swept in with their cuffs and rendition vans, the world would have seen that all Americans – and residents of the nation’s birthplace, specifically – aren’t caught up in an isolationist frenzy.

The human wall they’d build to protect those celebrating the holiday would have been an indelible image of Americans pushing back against policies they abhor. Many of the 1,000 words that picture would've been worth would redeem the notion of America across the globe.

Alas, that’s not for me to decide and people in the crosshairs thought better of it.

What bothers me most about that is how they were forced into a decision which is emblematic of bullies getting their "the others are scared, yeehaw!" way.

What should bother you most is how that dynamic is a case study in American morality further eroding into the shining seas to its east and to its west.

If it continues, America will not only cease being what it once was; it might find itself in a place from which that greatness will never return.