Maybe This Time?

I’ve written before about gun control and our nation’s status as the shoot-em’-up capital of the industrialized world.

Seventeen people in Florida are dead because one angry man believed the AR-15 was the solution to all this problems. This uniquely American mindset apparently never manifests itself in the youth of, say, Belgium or Australia or Japan.

It’s a mystery — right?

Now, I’m certainly not going to get into all the defenses of the Second Amendment that we hear from conservatives every time there’s a mass shooting. These arguments range from the semi-principled to the clearly illogical to the completely bat-shit insane. So why put ourselves through it again?

I also don’t want to discuss the shooter. There are conflicting reports about whether he is a Latino, or a white supremacist, or some oddball combination of both. But ultimately, let’s skip it, because the less said about this pathetic loser, the better.

Instead, I want to dwell on the tiniest shred, the thinnest shard, of hope that this latest mass shooting might be a catalyst toward sanity.

Many of us feel that way, primarily because of the activism of teens and young people who are fed up with being viewed as target practice and/or acceptable losses in the fight for “freedom” or battle against “tyranny” or whatever vague, paranoid rationale gets tossed around as justification for allowing bloodbaths to occur with regularity on American soil.

Yes, there is already rumbling that “Hey, these kids aren’t as anti-gun as you think.” And even if every millennial demanded more gun control tomorrow, the political and cultural barriers to real, lasting change are daunting.

But we do know that one of the leaders of this youth drive is Emma Gonzalez, whose powerful speech has become both viral sensation and rallying cry.

This once again proves that if you want something done, turn to a Latina.

So maybe, possibly, we have turned a corner on this madness? Do we dare hope?

 


Big Guns

No doubt, you’ve heard about Trump’s proposed budget, which includes things like billions for a border wall that will never be constructed and, presumably, a million or two for hush money to porn stars and/or Russian operatives.

But setting aside the minor facts that this budget would completely fuck over poor people and, maybe, destroy the planet, there is something else that caught my attention.

Defense spending would rise by 10 percent.

This is not a huge surprise, of course, as Republicans have a bizarre fascination with warfare, and members of the GOP are constantly threatening to invade one country or another, even while distancing themselves from the last disastrous war (a campaign that was, of course, all their idea in the first place). Hell, Republicans are happy to spend $30 million on a damn parade just to show off our super-awesome military hardware.

But a fair question is whether all this military spending is making us any safer.

After all, we already spend more cash on the military than any other nation on Earth — by far, actually. In fact, we spend more on our military than the next eight nations combined.

So when we will it be enough? Should we spend more than the next ten nations combined, or the next twenty? Should we spend more than the rest of the planet put together?

Because if it’s true — as Republicans have often said — that our military is in disrepair and needs to be rebuilt, I would ask, “Why can’t we get something decent for the 16 percent of our budget that we spend on defense?”

I mean, if the US military still sucks after all the hundreds of billions that have been thrown at it, maybe we should call off this whole defense idea and go the way of Costa Rica, a country that has no army. Incidentally, Costa Rica is never the target of terrorist cells and doesn’t get threatened by nutjobs with nuclear weapons.

Of course, that’s a bit of apples to oranges. But stay with me on this point.

You see, it appears that the more we spend on defense, the more likely we are to go to war. All those tanks and bombers and missiles apparently will themselves to be used.

Perhaps it is the same principle behind the fact that the states with the most firearms have the highest gun-death rates.

Just as having a gun in your house makes you more likely to get shot, maybe having more soldiers makes it more likely for a country to get into a war.

I don’t know whether than is true or not. But I do know this: We are the most fearful and paranoid nation in the industrialized world. No matter how much we spend on bombs and bullets, it will never make us feel safer.

 


Going Incognito

In the good old days, you could always tell who was what.

For example, just a few decades ago, every Latino in America — at least according to pop culture — was Mexican with dark brown skin, and probably worked as a gardener. I mean, it was pretty simple for Americans to get out their handy bucket of clichés and then start stuffing Latinos into them.

Life was simple.

But then things got messy. Hispanics started coming in different shades, with terms like “second generation” banded about, and not all of them spoke Spanish, and some even went to college when nobody was looking. And don’t even get us started on “Latinx.”

Yes, it’s gotten so complex that very real questions about identity and culture are cartwheeling through the Latino community, with the result that voices get raised, metaphysical quandaries turn into quagmires, and your basic simple-minded racist can’t even keep straight whom he is supposed to hate now.

Because the truth is that “Hispanic identity is fluid to begin with,” and “the gray area that Latinos inhabit in this country’s historical black/white binary inevitably leads to shifts in identification.”

Basically, who or what is Latino has always been a question, and it has never been more open to debate. Even age-old signifiers of culture are fading away.

For example, even in my generation, just about every Hispanic person was also Catholic. Being a member of La Raza and displaying an almost fanatical devotion to the pope was a natural combo.

But leave it to those wild, trend-setting, selfie-lovin’ youngsters — the millennials — to mess with that.

You see, “Latino millennials, overall, are becoming less religious the more they assimilate to American culture.”

Yes, we could point out that this might not be Latinos assimilating to America, as much as the other way around, but let’s save that debate for another time.

The basic truth is that “the longer Latinos are in the United States and the more Americanized they become, the more secularized they become.” In fact, “the fastest growing [religious] group among millennials is the nones” (i.e., those who align with no specific religion).

Of course, many of these Latinos are still spiritual, in their own individualistic kind of way, but many others are becoming straight-up atheists, a trend that is also true for America overall.

I guess many Hispanics are finally asking exactly what, other than eat up a lot of their Sundays, has the Catholic Church ever done for them. Personally, I believe this is a very fair question.

However, for now, let’s turn our attention to another sign that it is getting more and more difficult to pinpoint those Latinos among us.

A recent study has found that “although recent immigrants identify as Hispanic at a rate of almost 90 percent, this number drops to around 50 percent after the fourth generation.”

The reasons for this are complex. One motivator is simple self-loathing, as many Latinos who can pass for white sometimes prefer to do so. Another variable is fear, because slipping below the radar of Trump supporters is “a strong motivation for avoiding identification as Hispanic.”

Some commentators theorize that the lessening of ethnic pride “in later generations can be due to increased assimilation.”

Finally, there is the fact that the longer Latinos live in America, the more likely they are to intermarry with other groups and produce multiethnic children, and this can lead to “U.S.-born Hispanics who sometimes find their identities challenged by natives of their home countries who don’t think they’re Hispanic enough, and come off as too American.”

Regardless of the specific reason, at present, “11 percent of adults with Hispanic ancestry do not identify as such, and 23 percent of Hispanics most often refer to themselves as ‘American.’”

So what does it all mean? Well, it could indicate that in the near future, Latinos will be considered white Americans, whether they want to be or not.

Indeed, many people have pointed out the historical parallels to the Irish, the Italians, and the Jews — all of whom were considered non-white until the intensity of cultural change and the force of societal pressure suddenly made each of them, more or less, white.

Or maybe white people just got together for a secret vote and decided to let the O’Reillys and the Rizzos and the Goldsteins in — I don’t know for sure.

Regardless, it is undeniable that it is a time of great change for Latinos, and this shift can be difficult to notice when Hispanics have more concrete issues on their minds — like surviving three more years of a xenophobic toddler who would gladly depart everyone with a Z in their last name.

But it is happening.

Life is no longer so simple.

 


Don’t Ask Me Why

I haven’t shared my correspondence in a while, mostly because the hate mail has simmered down for some reason. I can only assume that my most virulent detractors have grown weary of repeatedly emailing me vague threats and hyperbolic insults.

I mean, really, there are only so many times that you can call someone a spic racist idiot communist before you move on to harassing women or trolling Muslims or screaming at gay people. Hey, I understand.

Instead of my usual hate email, I’ve been receiving questions more along the lines of “Hey, I thought this site was about Latino issues. Why the preoccupation with Trump?”

Well, it’s a fair question, although to be blunt, it’s also a bit of a naïve one.

You see, the focus of this site has shifted in the last year from chronicling the highs and lows of Hispanic culture to discussing the lows and lows (and lows and lows and lows) of the current occupant of the White House.

And this is because America has never had a president who hated Latinos more.

And yes, I’m including James K. Polk, who provoked the Mexican-American War solely so the United States could grab the West Coast (it’s true). And I’m also including Eisenhower, who instigated a massive deportation campaign called Operation Wetback (also true).

I’m sure those guys disliked Latinos, and some of our presidents were more racist — like Trump’s hero, Andrew Jackson, who wasn’t terribly fond of Native Americans, and just about every Founding Father who thought black people were good for nothing other than forced labor.

But none loathed Hispanics as much as Trump. Remember, the very first group he attacked, as he announced his candidacy, was Mexicans. And how much of his limited mental energy has been taken up with daydreams about massive walls and kicking out Latin Americans immigrants? The man really is obsessed with us.

Furthermore, no president has ever been as transparently bigoted as Trump, at least within the context of his culture. By that I mean we can all agree that Woodrow Wilson was a virulent racist, but a hundred years ago, when he lived, most white Americans were overtly prejudiced. Wilson was just worse.

Trump, in contrast, is living in enlightened time, when racism has been defeated, and people aren’t discriminated against, and… I’m sorry, I couldn’t finish typing that line without gagging.

The point is that our culture no longer defaults to bigotry, our government no longer enforces laws that are blatantly racist, and being a loudmouthed supremacist is frowned upon.

Within that context, Trump is egregiously racist.

Of course, you could argue that our culture does indeed default to bigotry, our government is once again enforcing laws that are racist, and being a loudmouthed supremacist is no longer frowned upon. But if that is true, we’ve regressed only since Trump was elected, which just reinforces the point that this guy has made racism acceptable again and moved our nation backward.

I mean, his prejudice is so well-known, so widely acknowledged, that even his supporters are acknowledging it now.

So when you’re dealing with the most anti-Latino president of all time, it’s difficult to focus on other topics. Believe me, I would love to get back to discussing the differences between Dia de Los Muertos and Halloween. And no doubt, I will soon.

But for now, it’s all I can do to keep up with this administration’s constant assaults on democracy, common sense, and basic decency.

And that’s why I keep writing about it.

 


Save Your Outrage

The government shutdown is over, amounting to little more than a long weekend for federal employees. It is now fashionable to insist that, on this issue, the Democrats caved or lost or ran away screaming into the night — whatever phrase suits you — as the GOP trounced them.

 

Indeed, I would have preferred if the Democrats had fought harder for Dreamers, or emerged with some kind of pledge for immigration reform. But that didn’t happen.

Instead, we have smug Republicans claiming they won, and pissed-off liberals shrieking that they will never donate another cent to Democrats unless the party runs a vegan socialist woman for president in 2020.

However, the truth is that Democrats were probably correct (at least on a political level) to compromise. It was becoming clear that the GOP’s idiotic assertion that “illegal immigrants” were getting preferential treatment over good, hard-working, red-blooded, god-fearin’ Americans was resonating, and the longer the shutdown went on, the more points the GOP would earn.

So the Democrats cut a deal and got CHIP refunded, which is hardly a minor thing. We’re talking about millions of poor children receiving health care (why exactly Republicans — the supposedly religious party — would be against this is a discussion for another time).

In addition, the Dreamers live to fight another day. Yes, we’ve been reduced to that vague concept of “hope” when it comes to DACA, but I remain optimistic that a program that has the support of the vast majority of Americans will eventually pave the pathway to citizenship that the Dreamers deserve.

And the further good news is that, as of right now, we’re not allocating any money to Trump’s damn wall, which remains the most simplistic solution to a complex issue in the history of American politics, as well as the biggest con on rural voters ever.

By the way, I’ll say it again: There will never be a wall — not a real one anyway. I can’t imagine the disappointment among white nationalists when, years from now, there is not even a brick on the Mexican border where there was supposed to be an impenetrable barrier.

Actually, their disappointment will be dwarfed with the realization that there are now more Latinos, Muslims, out gay people, and assertive women than ever before, and their emperor-god Trump did absolutely nothing to stem the tide,

But now I’m predicting what will happen years from now, which is always tricky business. So I’ll stick to prognosticating about the end of 2018, specifically the midterm elections in November.

No, I don’t know if Democrats will ride a fabled blue tsunami to victory, or if Republicans will once again find a way to cling to undeserved power. But I do know this: Months from now, nobody will even remember this shutdown, and whether the Democrats won or lost. This skirmish will not matter in the larger war.

And there are many more battles to come.

 


I Shouldn’t Have to Explain This

In case you’re confused, here’s a hint: When Nazis applaud you, it means you’ve probably said something racist.

Yes, our favorite demented, immoral leader slurred entire nations last week when he said, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?”

Now, there’s been a lot of defensiveness over comments that are, prima facie, indefensible. Yes, some Republicans have criticized the president, including those who took personal offense. Of course, this is just further proof that many conservatives only care about an issue if it affects them personally, and seem to be incapable of basic empathy for others, but I digress.

However, most members of the GOP have embraced the same spineless cowering that has exemplified their party’s meek surrender to the mad emperor.

 

And a few have even tried to cover for him with excuses that range from the pathetic to the improbable.

In any case, all the outrage over one word — shithole — is understandable. But it’s not the main point. Because the thing that should really concern us is not the vulgarity or the specific linguistics, but the clear mindset and sentiment behind these words.

To show you what I mean, let’s look at some of the statements Trump could have made that would be merely reprehensible, unpresidential, and vile — but perhaps, maybe not full-blown racist, irredeemable, and grotesque. He could have said any of the following:

“Those countries are shitholes. I can see why people want to come to America.”

“Those countries are shitholes. I feel sorry for people stuck there.”

“Those countries are shitholes. We should try to improve those places.”

And so on.

But he didn’t say that. Again, he said the following:

“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?”

In other words, those countries are shitholes and (more importantly) everyone who lives there, comes from there, or has ancestors from there are, by extension, useless pieces of shit themselves.

And of course, adding that you’re fine with immigrants from the whitest nations on Earth just reinforces the bigotry.

In essence, the president’s argument is indistinguishable from the rambling of some old racist drunk. Go ahead, make it a party game. See if you can identify the differences between Trump and your average bigot on a barstool. You cannot.

Now, as I’ve mentioned before, my family is from El Salvador — or as it’s known in Trump’s world, Central Shitholeia. I’ve been very upfront about how troubled that country is.

But every nation, every group of people, has inherent dignity.

The ranting of a sad, old man who lucked into a position of power cannot change that.

 


Not Exactly a Plot Twist

If you’re like me, you spent the first week of 2018 striving to achieve your goals and keep your resolutions. In my case, that means trying to gain weight, start smoking, and focus on the big things in life (yes, I’m a contrarian).

But one thing I did not do is spend any time — I mean, zero minutes — perusing articles on what the Trump Administration “might” do with regards to the temporary protected status of the 200,000 immigrants who have fled my family’s homeland of El Salvador. These individuals were given protection after a series of earthquakes hit the country in 2001.

A couple of headlines proclaimed that Trump faced a big decision, or that the administration was weighing the pros and cons, or that the Salvadorans still had a shot at gaining citizenship, blah blah blah.

Come on, people. No one could seriously believe, for even the briefest scintilla of a moment, that this administration would say, “Sure, all you Latino immigrants. Please stick around.”

The only shocker is that Trump minions are not going door to door, rounding up Salvadorans and cattle-prodding them onto trucks.

To extend protections, or to offer a pathway to citizenship, would require the White House to analyze the political situation, embrace empathy as a virtue, and end its ceaseless hatred of Hispanics. None of those things is going to happen any time soon, let alone all of them at once. There is just no chance.So the Salvadorans have until September 2019 to seek permanent residency in the United States or risk deportation. As immigration experts have pointed out, “these are people who have been living by the rules … getting background checks every 18 months, getting their fingerprints for 20 years.” But America is so over that whole “give me your tired and meek” pabulum. Now, it’s more about “Serve your masters or get out now.”

In any case, “the Trump administration did not consider the gang-perpetrated violence in El Salvador when deciding to end the protected status.” If it had, perhaps it would have realized that terminating the program “will not make America safer and will undermine U.S. efforts in the Western Hemisphere to better protect America from drug trafficking and gang violence.”

In addition, “by sending back 200,000 workers who have been in America for 17 years, the Trump Administration will actually increase the flow of migrants from El Salvador.” The move will have a negative impact on remittances and “displace already economically precarious workers in El Salvador, who will migrate to the United States out of desperation.”

Yes, leave it to the Trump Administration to placate its hardline nativist base with a decision that is “not in line with American values” and that may actually increase illegal immigration.

It’s something that only a really stable genius would do.

 


Open Secrets

“Who could possibly have known?”

Sorry, that wasn’t overwrought enough.

Let’s try it again: “For the love of God, who — who? who? who ? —could possibly have known?”

That’s better.

I was just providing some tips for all those staunch Republicans who have justified, rationalized, or otherwise legitimized the reign of Trump.

You see, as I’ve written before, people who voted for Trump will someday be so embarrassed at their moral lapse that they will outright deny it. They will insist that they didn’t cast a ballot for a deranged racist who dragged America into a dark period of rage and hatred. Nope — that wasn’t them.

What I didn’t expect was that the day of reckoning would come so quickly.

As you no doubt know, the book Fire and Fury has revealed that Trump is an ignorant, befuddled, tantrum-prone egotist who didn’t even want to be president and is appallingly unqualified for the job. Oh, and his inner circle knows it too, because according to the book, “the people around Trump, all — 100 percent — came to believe he was incapable of functioning in his job.”

And that’s where the denial comes in. Because all of this — the delusion, the incoherence, the blind rage, the rambling that may actually be dementia — was obvious on the campaign trail. It was perfectly clear.

And yet more than 60 million Americans chose to overlook it, and the Republican Party continues to deny it.

So when it all finally crumbles into disaster, when it becomes so piercingly obvious that no one can refute it, that’s when we will hear the sickening chorus of “Who could possibly have known?”

The answer of course, is “You knew. We all knew.”


One Down, Three (?) to Go

We have somehow made it through the first calendar year of the worst president in modern American history (and quite possible the worst of all time).

When it comes down to it, the most positive thing I can say about 2017 is this:

At least Prince and David Bowie didn’t die again this year.

Anyway, I’m taking the rest of the year off. If you need me, I’ll be checking out a matinee of The Last Jedi.

Happy New Year.

 


Stats for the Holidays

Just a quick post this week to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and give thanks that we all live in the greatest country in the world.

Well, actually, there is no “greatest country in the world,” at least in the sense of some objective standard or measurement. We just all say “greatest country in the world” and assume we’re talking about the USA because, I mean, come on, who are we kidding?

Of course, if we did use objective stats to analyze how well America is doing, how absolutely A#1 amazing we are, we might pull out this one:

“The US has the second-highest rate of poverty among rich countries,” and for black and Hispanic American children, “the poverty rate is even higher.”

Hmmm… that statistic isn’t so great, is it? Well, how about this one:

“The US has the highest income inequality of all rich countries.” And of course, that just got worse with today’s massive GOP tax cut for the wealthy.

OK, this isn’t going so well. Let’s try again.

Although “Americans spend enormously” on healthcare, we remain “in relatively poor health.” For example, America “has fewer physicians, hospital beds, and psychiatric care beds than most other economically advanced countries, ranking towards the bottom in each of these parameters.” And as if we all didn’t already know, the United States “remains the only advanced economy in the world not to have full health coverage of its population.”

But look on the bright side, we’re also the most obese industrialized nation in the world.

About now, you’re probably wondering where I’m getting all those disturbing statistics.

Well, the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) put together a report that found “the US performs dismally in most areas — such as healthcare, education, and violence.” In fact, the analysis “proves that, while Americans may be doing relatively fine, ‘best country to live in’ is a serious stretch.”

Yes, according to the OECD, “child mortality is higher in the US than any other advanced economy, and adult Americans also live shorter lives.”

Hey, if you want to live longer, move to Japan or one of those fancy, effeminate European countries where they simply don’t understand that dying young just proves how tough you are and is clearly the patriotic thing to do.

The OECD gets a little personal when it claims that America “stands out as one of the only countries in the world where maternal mortality has increased, rather than decreasing, over the past 15 years.”

But of course, that’s just one of the ways in which it sucks to be an American woman. Because according to the report, the “share of US women who experience violence in their lifetime is much higher than the OECD average,” and “the gender wage gap is also bigger in the US.” But don’t worry, because another thing we have going for us is the fact that America is “one of only two countries in the world that do not mandate paid maternity leave.”

How’s that for American exceptionalism?

Now, my intention is not to bring you down this holiday season.

It is simply to point out that much work needs to be done, and shouting how we’re the “greatest” isn’t going to accomplish anything.

We cannot address our problems if we refuse to acknowledge them, or if we dismiss disturbing facts as fake news, or if we insist that we have nothing to learn from any other nation because we’re just the damn best.

We’re only 200+ years old. Maybe we have some growing up to do.

 


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