• Rudy Atencio 2020

Woke America and the Peace Campaign

Updated: Jun 25

Rudy Atencio

U.S. Congressional Race Texas CD 8 (R) 2022


The 2016 election of Donald Trump was a display of polar forces switching momentum like a pendulum stopping for a fraction of a second in mid-swing and then changing direction.  The pendulum I speak of is of course the tendency to swing back and forth in a bipartisan system. Oregon recently has come under scrutiny for its heavy criticism in the face of changing views about how a democracy should treat its most fragile populations including its undocumented citizens. According to Sara Roth (2017) of Portland’s KGW8 news station, Oregon currently houses 130,000 undocumented workers out of the 11,000,000 undocumented illegal immigrants living in the U.S.  currently.  The Portland Mayor has thus decided to politicize the immigration crisis in an opportune moment to shed light on how our undocumented population should be processed at the point of interception. And so i approached a young protester, who currently works at a checkout counter in Portland but who's identity i have decided to never disclose, in the spirit of good qualitative research. The young rebel identifies as "they" an agent of the place of employment, and so the views best represented the consensus of this small establishment, whose views are centered in pluralism. My opinions strictly observational. 


The Portland immigration conflict is one that is considered risky by Roth (2017) because the local system does not have measures in place that would alleviate the conflict. Roth (2017) goes on to say that cities like “Portland, have declared themselves sanctuary cities without enacting any laws to back up that claim.”  Portland, Oregon, is an example of where culture, power and agency can inflict violence by creating an environment of uncertainty, affixing pronouns like “undocumented illegal immigrants”, or that through identity bias, and religious colonialism, we are led in the direction of defacing the detained immigrant populations. We might also assume that because Mexico and South America share the same type of monotheistic religiosity that both cultures are rooted in “I” based face saving approaches. Portland is a city that could benefit from face saving negotiations that employ the use of multicultural face saving awareness, non-binding pronouns, understands the concerns with universalizing the immigrant’s reasons for entering the U.S., resisting the temptation to use relativism as a position as it tends to cut a divide between pluralistic and individualistic societies, while also creating a path either towards or away from citizenship that is clear in its delivery and intent.

            When we think of institutional violence we think of the ways in which the system can either infringe on our universal human rights or disturb the sovereignty of the person in such a way that leads to their detriment. One of the ways that institutional violence is being generated systemically, is the way by which the plutocracy of American hegemonic oligopolistic interests, have created a paradoxical divide between advocates of socialism and those of hegemonic oligopolistic capitalism. The two forces appose each other so much that they have carved out what seems to be a perpetual state of indeterminism (Pascale 2008) by which the illegal detainees and the American people are not given a clear path for immigrants to move forward either towards or away from citizenship. Keeping us constantly guessing is making the problem worse. Thus the Portland community is living in what is an artificially and politically motivated perpetual state of indeterminism or not knowing.

            If we look at some of the structural components that are increasing the level of indeterminism, I would look at authority relationships like the one we see between the president and the mayor of Portland (Omisore 2014). According to Omisore (2014) small companies will experience conflict internally between upper and its lower level management teams. You also have Goal differences (Omisore 2014), whereby the republican lens is framing the issue of immigration as that of a safety concern, and the democratic lens frames it through the lens of universal human rights. The idea of universal human rights violations is an interesting one, and raises the question, are the parties involved at risk of polarizing the very same thing they are fighting for. For example, if Universalism is one pole, and universal human rights according to Dembour (2001) falls under the umbrella of universalism; do we run the risk of universalizing and affixing the issue of human rights to the issues of illegally crossing a border?  If so, are the participants in the narrative of universal human rights headed towards an even deeper paradox, that being that framing the issue of human rights tempts into existence the polar opposite that universal human rights is relative (Dembour 2001). 

Do the rights of an illegal border crosser relatively infringe on the rights of those living legally within the system? For example, if an illegal border crosser is able to commit a regulatory infraction and the sanctuary cities position is to release him/her due to universalistic views on human rights, then do the damages incurred by the other party whereby the illegal border crosser had committed a regulatory infraction like a misdemeanor, become relative to the other parties? It would appear that the universal human rights issue is affixed to the border crosser, and thus relatively diminishes the rights of the legal citizen (Dembour 2001). The comparison between making one issue relative to the other seems logical but is in stark contrast to the universal principle. The relative vs universal issue draws a paradox and polarizes the other whereby one could not exist without the other. Thus we see the conflict of universal human rights for the border crosser and the needs of the domestic electorate come into direct conflict and will continue until the issue of human rights is reframed in a way that creates a concrete process.

As universal human rights take center stage in the immigration debate, conflict specialists must consider ways by which individuals are dehumanized in order to reframe the context of the conflict. For example, naming an individual as an undocumented illegal immigrant affixes a pronoun to the individual that might trigger individuals who can identify illegal citizens and cause them to participate in a hate crime.

            Judith Butler (2004), frames the issue of gender identity through the lens of conflict. Butler (2004), tells us that our bodies are not our own, that because we are subject to others identifying us in a certain way, that we are not as free or sovereign as ideally and universally thought. Others can impart force onto our bodies, including juriditical and procedural systematic uses of force. We are not free from the gaze of others and thus identification of others (Butler 2004). Thus, using identifiers like “undocumented illegal immigrants” can generate a public image of illegal border crossers that puts them at risk of harm, and thus polarizes the public in either the direction of universal human rights or relativistic views (Dembour 2001).

            On the other hand religious intolerance also is at the forefront of the universal human rights issue. On one hand you have the expressed desire to attract immigrants that favor U.S. Christian muscularity, and hegemonic masculinity, while on the other it raises the question of are we committing a form of religious colonialism? Do we prefer Christian Roman Catholic, Latino immigrants to displaces Muslim ones? Or, does the fact that Latinos for the most part lack physiological qualities similar to those portrayed in the white muscular Christian hegemonic male image, contribute to bias against the assimilation of those trying to enter? According to Cornwall (1994), it was the British Empire, that: “introduced boys to an idealized, hegemonic masculinity associated with white racism, muscular Christianity and colonial power.”

            One of the tactics conflict resolution specialists employ is that of face saving negotiations. In order to understand what a person is experiencing while undergoing due process, one should try to understand where that person is coming from. Western culture, in particular, highly democratic systems are usually highly individualistic and embrace an “I” based identity. Whereas typically eastern cultures are seen as more “we” based identities and therefor the “we” and “I” become key in relating to the other side (Ting Toomey 2007). 

Stella Ting Toomey (2007) tells us that pluralistic communities will save face by defacing themselves in order to save the “we” and westerners are more “I” centric. The truth is, that “we” based systems or more pluralistic ones are much more common in brown cultures than they are in western ones. This is important at the border because what we see is that some immigrating populations are more “we” based pluralistic ones including the Latino community. Rodney Hero (1992) comments in his journal titled “Latinos, and the U.S. Political System” that Latinos are much more pluralistic than previously thought. For Latinos according to Hero (1992), pluralism means that Latinos tend to focus on “within group abilities and resources”. Thus for Latinos, bias is seen as an issue that addresses “minority political groups” whereas an “I” based structuralist might see bias as stemming from “prejudice and discrimination” (Hero 1992). As a result, the conflict is defined along philosophically distinct lines, one sees bias as prejudice based the other view is rooted in access.            

            The situation at the border is one that desperately needs the construction of policy and one that will require social psychologists to identify the identity based needs of the parties and draw up a negotiation that is ready to try to bridge the needs between individualistic identities and that of more pluralistic ones. So how do we do this without prescribing a model that might be construed as one that quashes the needs and rights of a group based in a different narrative than the views of the domestic culture they are seeking to be assimilated by? Is the system of selecting individuals based in a preference for muscular Christianity and hegemonic masculinity one that might create issues with self-love and self-worth by brown children?

            According to Bergner (2009), in a study titled “Black Children White Preference: Brown v. Board, the Doll test and the Politics of Self Esteem” children subjected to white Christian values chose to identify with a white baby as opposed to the doll resembling their own race and color. The structure of “I” based cultures must be held together by monotheism and thus monotheism is the glue that holds the individual affixed to his/her community. If the child identifies good as white and evil as black or white as virginal and a black dress as death, then its no wonder that they identify the black dolls as less desirable and thus the system imparts a form of psychological damage to children unable to parse out the meaning behind the image of “pure white Christianity” (Bergner 2009). Thus in the immigration debate, sensitivity to one’s cultural identity and religious beliefs must be respected at the risk of institutionalizing bias against non-white Christians. According to Gould (1997) the relative bigness of the system risks swallowing the relative smallness of the child. Also, the relative bigness of religion and the unarguable authority of the white Christian almighty could also swallow up the smallness of the child.


            If I were elected to U.S. Congress i would assign a task force via legislation to conflict specialist mediating cases on the border, I would first probe for mutual interests, and also ask the individuals drawn into the conflict how do they typically deal with conflict. If one parties says they prefer to deface themselves, and the other is blaming an individual then we might be dealing with an individualistic need on one side of the table while also dealing with a pluralistic identity on the other. In a case where the identity needs are “I” v. “We”, I would use or at least recommend a cross cultural elicitive model (Loode 2011). The cross cultural elicitive model would incite a narrative which would give the mediator a window into where the parties are coming from, while also create a dialogue (Loode 2011). It is this dialogue that would lead to empathy, and humanizations of the other side thereby avoiding the temptation to use pronouns which dehumanize the other sides. If the parties are able to use channels of empathy, and humanization this would help turn the temperature down and thus lead to a decrease in conflict by eliminating the pronoun and shifting the focus towards talking about the parties wants and needs. I would try to explain why one side might be drawn towards a more social agenda to one party while also through shuttle diplomacy explaining the reasons for the other side to be attracted to individualistic needs. This increases information about each other making each side intelligible towards the other assuming one side is the system that is processing them. Lastly, I would try to hammer out a concrete deal as the perpetual state of indeterminism is escalatory in nature.

            As I look at the conflict in Portland I am realizing that this is one that stemmed by affixing pronouns, thereby endangering and in some ways engendering the other group. That the conflict has drawn itself up on the philosophy of the existence of the other side, that by universalizing the issue, we risk increasing hegemonic control by the other. Similarly, that by making the other side more relatable and relativistic, you risk pulling away from the universalism of the issue. That the existence of one pole creates the existence of the other. For example, if pole increases in recognition the other thus must decrease. That as one pole becomes more apparent the other becomes less and less apparent. One final point that I don’t really talk about is that as an agreement is generated to address immigration, it would create a norm, but what about those being held in ICE camps that do not want to follow the norm? If the new norm is to create a path forward, then what happens to those who do not follow cultural and procedural norms? 



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Pascale, Millemann, & Gioja (2008). Disturbing complexity. In Pascale et al., Surfing the edge of chaos(pp. 151-170).

Roth, S. (2017, January 25). What is a sanctuary city and what does it mean in Portland? Retrieved from

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