Archive for October, 2016

Sympathy, Part One

One of the most riveting stories I’ve read this year is the Washington Post article about Melanie Austin. She’s the Trump supporter who has, shall we say, some rather colorful views of the world.

OK, the woman is fucking nuts.

Austin believes that President Obama is a Muslim who is secretly gay, and “that Michelle Obama could be a man, and that the Obama children were possibly kidnapped from a family now searching for them.” Also, Austin thinks that Hillary Clinton is a founder of Isis, and “U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia may have been murdered in a White House plot involving a prostitute and a pillow.”

By the way, Austin is on anti-anxiety medication and was once “involuntarily hospitalized for several weeks” because of a psychotic breakdown.

Now, there are legitimate questions over whether the Washington Post story is morally repugnant. After all, one could argue that the reporter took advantage of a mentally ill person who had no idea how she would be portrayed.

And there is also the valid point that the article paints all Trump supporters as deranged and pathetic, and therefore constitutes a form of libelous yellow journalism.

Those are intriguing arguments, but what I find more interesting is the default mechanism for how Austin and other members of the white working class (WWC) are presented in the media.

She is, for the most part, portrayed as a victim. Even liberals have rushed to push aside her reprehensible, bigoted, and insane statements, in favor of asking, “What did Melanie Austin do to warrant this type of treatment by a national newspaper?” After all, she is a “woman who has suffered so much in her life.”

This is part of larger trend. As a member of the white working class, Austin has the cultural advantage of instilling sympathy for her plight. Other poor people — such as African Americans and Latinos — are more likely to provoke contempt, or even outright hostility and blame for somehow causing the degradation of the WWC and, by extension, America itself.

We see this in the descriptions of the white working class, a subset of Americans that have struggled for generations.

gd45

Most media accounts are careful to avoid stating that poor white people have failed to keep up with a changing world. Rather, these individuals have cruelly been left behind (note the passive voice).

They are not angry and rage-filled. Rather, they are shell-shocked and forced to endure “the collapse of a whole way of life.”

They are not embracing Trump for his xenophobic bile. Rather, they just feel “isolated and disillusioned,” and have made an honest mistake in following him.

The point is clear. The WWC may be supporting the vilest presidential candidate in U.S. history, and they often spew horrific statements and even engage in overt violence. But deep down, they are salt-of-the-earth types who just got a bad deal. Have a little compassion for them.

Why is this? Well, for starters, members of the mainstream media can simply relate better to white people — even poor ones far removed from their elite journalistic circles. In fact, some journalists come from such a background, while reporters who hail from, say, Compton or East LA are fairly rare.

But it’s also because our default setting for empathy and compassion still centers on white people. They remain our cultural mainstays, and the central figures in our stories and the stand-ins for our national moods. To date, the white experience has been synonymous with the American experience.

However, we are living in a new era, and as such, a natural question arises when we think about the WWC who are supporting Trump.

And that question is an offensive one, but here it is: Why should we feel sorry for them?

I will address that question in my next post.


Grand Larceny

Well, that didn’t last long.

The GOP candidate for president had been suspiciously quiet for some time about immigration, and he has even gone a fair amount of time without badmouthing Latinos or saying that we’re a just one huge pack of rapists.

Of course, he’s been pretty busy lately, trying to wave away his open admissions of sexual assault and picking fights with members of his own party and implying that our whole democratic process is a total sham.

But, god bless him, he will always find a way to come back to blaming Hispanics for everything that is wrong in America. In fact, now he’s blaming Latinos for things that haven’t even gone wrong yet, but that might (in his paranoid delusions) happen at some point in the future.

Yes, I’m referring to Donald Trumps’ recent assertion that “there is tremendous voter fraud,” largely because “illegal immigrants are voting all over the country.”

That is indeed a serious allegation, one that I’m sure he has researched thoroughly and for which he has overwhelming evidence.

Ha, just kidding — proof is for chumps.

No, the idea that undocumented immigrants are stealing votes is just another in a long — very, very long — list of conspiracy theories, internet rumors, and baseless accusations that Trump has flung into the faces of the American people, hoping that at least a few million of us will buy his bullshit.

As I’m sure you know, voter fraud is rare in America, and undocumented immigrants casting ballots is even rarer.

Therefore, the idea that millions of swarthy invaders will rob Trump of his rightful victory is so bizarre, so pathetic, that anyone who believes it probably is insane enough to think an alien force, not of this world, is attacking humanity.

Furthermore, insisting that the undocumented will sway the election is the amped-up, remixed version of shouting that “illegals” are stealing our jobs and stealing our country and stealing… well, who knows what else they’re stealing.

 

cookiesstealing

But if you’re a Trump fan, you likely believe this conspiracy theory too. After all, you’ve already accepted the idea that that zombies are more likely to vote for Democrats.

And yes, now that you mention it, this is the perfect segue to plugging my novel Zombie President, being serialized here and soon to be published in book, ebook, and audiobook forms.

In any case, when you go to the polls this November, rest assured that the Hispanic guy in line behind you is here legally, and that you don’t need to monitor him, and that nobody is fixing the machines to register nineteen million votes for Hillary Clinton that she didn’t get.

And when you walk out of that voting booth, just be grateful that this damn election is over.

 


Last Chance

I am going to break several self-imposed rules with this one.

First, I am going to adopt the dreaded open-letter format, which is an arrogant viewpoint for any writer (“Hey, everybody, here is my open letter to President Obama! I’m sure he’s gonna read it!”).

Second, I will employ the second person, which is a ghastly narrative device.

But you knew that already, didn’t you?

And most important, I am going to directly address Trump supporters, something I have avoided to this point in deference to my sanity and blood pressure.

However, we are rapidly coming to the end of this horrific, nation-scarring election season, and I have to say something.

And that is the following: Please, Mr. and Mrs. Trump Supporter, don’t vote for that malignant clown.

I don’t say this out of some partisan desire to get out the vote for Hillary Clinton. We all know that she’s going to win, regardless of your vote — assuming, of course, that there’s not another October Surprise of the magnitude of Trump’s videotaped sexual-assault boast. Yes, unless someone has footage of Hillary Clinton shooting Vince Foster while selling arms to Isis and laughing about Benghazi, her odds are pretty good.

No, I say this because moral tests, on a national level, are actually pretty rare. For example, if you voted for Mitt Romney, history will not be harsh when judging you. Even if you voted for George W. Bush a second time, history might look at you askance and mutter, “WTF?” But you will not be portrayed as the personification of fear, anger, hatred, and bigotry.

But voting for Trump will assure you that place in history. Casting a ballot for or against him has become a moral test.

No, none of us can definitely say how future generations will appraise us. Hey, when I was a kid in the 1980s, it never crossed my mind that girls with sky-high mall hair looked ridiculous. Who knew?

 

malhair

However, please believe me on this one. It’s an easy call. In later years, the name Donald Trump will be lumped in with Father Coughlin and George Wallace and every other hate-monger who has become emblematic of ignorance, inhumanity, and xenophobic rage. Contemporary society shudders at the mere mention of these names.

And the infants of today, once they reach adulthood, will shake their heads in wonder, amazement, and more than a little contempt when they find out that 40 percent of America was so easily led into blind hatred.

Now, I know I’m not supposed to talk to you, Mr. and Mrs. Trump Supporter. As many of my liberal friends are quick to point out, the average Trump supporter is insane, repulsive, and/or outright stupid. You are to be shunned.

And I also realize that this plea is most likely futile. If you are still seriously considering voting for Trump at this point, you are most likely beyond the reach of reason, shame, or basic decency. In fact, you probably think that I am one of those Latino libetards who is hypersensitive about being called a rapist and is actively plotting to destroy America (or at the very least, determined to not let it be, you know, great again).

But I have to give it one more try.

After all, you don’t even have to take a public stand. You don’t have to risk alienation by your social group (however twisted your social group may be) by saying, “I’m with her.” And you certainly don’t have to be a Freedom Rider, risking your life for a moral cause.

You just have to refrain from pushing a lever or blotting out a circle for the most heinous candidate in modern history. It’s that easy.

I will leave you with one final thought. I’m a member of Gen X, so Martin Luther King was before my time. As such, I’ve often marveled at all the Baby Boomers who revere the man. However, common sense and basic math tell us that many of the senior citizens of today once despised MLK. They couldn’t all have loved him — it’s not possible. But they all say they do. And I wonder how many of those Baby Boomers who hated King would now give anything to go back in time and proudly march with MLK, so they could tell their grandchildren that they were ahead of their time and on the right side of history.

But they can’t.

As for you, there is still hope. And if you dismiss this final option, I guess that, several decades from now, you can always lie about voting for Trump. Nobody will find out.

Deep down, however, you will know the truth.

 

 


Gemütlichkeit

Don’t tell me about Oktoberfest.

I’ll tell you about Oktoberfest.

You see, I’m from Wisconsin (specifically, Milwaukee, as I’ve written about). And because I hail from a city that is synonymous with beer and a state that is awash in Germanic culture… well, let’s just say that I’ve partaken a few times in the festivities.

Hint: When you’re drinking from the glass boot with your friends, avoid gulping the heel. It just bubbles up in your face.

beer-boot-funny-square

 

Of course, the tradition of Oktoberfest has spread across America.

Hey, just yesterday, I saw a dozen people dressed in lederhosen, sprinting down the street outside my apartment, in some kind of bizarre footrace for beer. And I live in Los Angeles, far better known for its Latino, Asian, and Armenian influences than its German ones.

In any case, Oktoberfest has become Americanized, just like — yes, it’s true — Cinco de Mayo and Día de los Muertos.

The difference is that there is no movement to sever Oktoberfest from its Germanic roots. And nobody views Oktoberfest as an affront to American values, or complains that everything was fine until those damn Bavarians showed up.

You get the picture.

For some mystical reason, it is fine — even glorious — to celebrate Oktoberfest or St. Patrick’s Day. And there will be no political backlash.

Cinco de Mayo and Día de los Muertos, however, are likely to get at least a few people all huffy.

When we acknowledge Germanic and Irish culture, no one claims that doing so “divides us” or undermines the quest for a colorblind society (whatever that means) or somehow cheapens the label of “American” because we’ve put “German” or “Irish” in front of it.

This is not the case with any holiday that has committed the grievous sin of having a Spanish name.

Well, I’m sure it’s simply an unfortunate coincidence.

So let’s all just relax and have a beer.

 


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