Celebrated actor, playwright and composer Lin-Manuel garnered friendly headlines again with his release of the music video "Immigrants...We Get The Job Done", timed to intersect with the patriotic thematics of the July 4th holiday. But those headlines and the well-timed release actually seem quite ironic, given some of the song's anti-American lyrics.
Fusion (the former ABC-Univision joint venture hollowed out by Gawker and soon to be renamed Splinter) gushed over the video, calling it a "stirring celebration of immigrants". Per Anne Branigin's writeup:
The video pays tribute to the work of immigrants and their diversity. As the camera moves through a series of narrow rooms, corridors, and trains, you see people of ages, ethnic backgrounds, and occupations. A doctor, a butcher, a construction worker, and a room full of immigrants literally stitching together the American flag.
The 'Immigrants' soundtrack was actually released late last year as part of the Hamilton Mixtape, but the just-released video was designed to call attention (and fundraising dollars) to the Immigrants: We Get The Job Done Coalition. Truth be told, the video is very well executed. Catchy hook, bouncy beat, skilled MCs and sterling production come together with the intent to deliver a compelling tale of immigrant triumph in the face of difficult odds, just in time for Independence Day.
This was, at least, the sunny story that gushing reviewers told their audiences as they pushed the song out in advance of the holiday weekend. But the exact opposite is true. Far from a triumphal expression of immigrant resilience, the song is an anthem of grievance and entitled rage.
From K'Naan's "And we all came America trying to get a lap dance from Lady Freedom/ But now Lady Liberty is acting like Hilary Banks with a pre-nup" in the first verse, to Snow Tha Product's "We're America's ghost writers, the credit's only borrowed/ It’s a matter of time before the checks all come" in Verse 2, to Riz MC's "Even if our bombs landed on them like the Mayflower/ Buckingham Palace or Capitol Hill/ Blood of my ancestors had that all built/ It's the ink you print on your dollar bill, oil you spill/ Thin red line on the flag you hoist when you kill/ But still we just say 'look how far I come'" in Verse 3, the pattern is there for all to see.
It is at that point that Univision recording artist Residente takes the mic. Residente, who you'll recall from his recent defense of convicted FALN terrorist Oscar Lopez Rivera, goes far beyond the first three verses, evoking the theme of a Mexican "reconquista" of former northern lands, and celebrating the Sandinista movement in Nicaragua.
By land or by water
We jump over walls or float on rafts
We fight like Sandino in Nicaragua
We are like plants that grow without water
Without an American passport
Because half of Gringoland is Mexican land
One has to be a real son of a bitch
We plant the tree and they eat the fruit
We are the ones who cross
We come here to seek the gold they stole from us
We have more tricks than the secret police
We packed our entire house in a suitcase
With a pick, a shovel
And a rake
We built you a castle
What's the hook, mother****er?
Immigrants, we get the job done
Residente's lyrics are a spectacular disservice to the cause and image of immigrants in this country, and certainly do not reflect the feelings that the vast majority of immigrants have toward the United States.
On the contrary, if anything Residente's lyrics only serve to spur and feed anti-immigrant animus. Taken literally, they actually reinforce the worst nativist stereotypes about those newly arrived to our shores.
I will also note Residente's insistence in caping for leftist heroes (this time, Nicaragua's Sandino, for whom the ruling Sandinista movement is named) while simultaneously denying that he is a socialist. One wonders whether he sobbed with gratitude, as did Lin-Manuel Miranda, upon learning of Oscar López Rivera's commutation, or whether both will join up with the bombaker when he visits Nicaragua later this year.
Andrew Breitbart always used to say that politics is downstream from culture. Sometimes, though, they ride along the same current.
P.S.: In addition to the "Immigrants...We Get the Job Done" project, Miranda also raises money for Planned Parenthood.
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