Archive for February, 2018

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.

 


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