Author Archive

Proving the Theorem

Well, everything is all official and shit, and America has finally gotten the cage match that it has long been clamoring for: a former senator, secretary of state, and first female nominee of a major party versus a short-tempered, short-fingered billionaire who despises everyone who isn’t a white male and who casually utters treasonous asides in public.

Yes, it should be a quite entertaining few months.

But before we go into the pros and cons of the respective candidates, let me refer back to my most recent post, in which I pointed out that the Republican Party has a strong pillar of racism propping it up, and that moderate GOPers are in denial about this.

Denial

I could point out that the RNC featured any number of speakers making veiled bigoted comments. Or I could mention that one Trump delegate proudly tweeted what the GOP later called a “racially insensitive” term (i.e., the N-word) and that this is fresh proof not only of bigotry but denial.

Note #1: The N-word is not “racially insensitive” or anti-PC. It is as flat-out obscenely racist as it gets. And why do I have to point that out to people?

No, instead I would like to refer to this article, in which a well-known conservative intellectual, Avik Roy, says that as bad as Trump is, the GOP suffers from “a much bigger conservative delusion: They cannot admit that their party’s voters are motivated far more by white identity politics than by conservative ideals.”

So the guy agrees with me.

Roy goes on to say that the lament of liberals that many conservatives are racist is “an observation that a lot of us on the right genuinely believed wasn’t true — which is that conservatism has become, and has been for some time, much more about white identity politics than it has been about conservative political philosophy. I think today, even now, a lot of conservatives have not come to terms with that problem.”

No, they have not.

We see it not just in the outright insistence of many conservatives that racism doesn’t exist in the GOP — or indeed, in America. We see it in the strange reaction that Trump has provoked in those conservatives who have refused to support him.

I would like to think that many Republicans are taking a stand against bigotry by refusing to vote for Trump, and indeed many of them are. But a disturbing number of Republicans say they are against Trump not because he’s a misogynist or hates Muslims or sees every Latino as a potential rapist.

No, they say it’s because he is not sufficiently conservative. By this, they mean Trump doesn’t despise gays as much as they do, and he once said a few nice words about Planned Parenthood, and he has issues with free trade.

This is so backward and bizarre, so perplexing, that it defies belief. It’s sort of like saying you hated Limp Bizket not because their music sucked, but because you didn’t care for red baseball caps.

Note #2: Limp Bizket really sucked.

To ignore Trump’s racism, in favor of focusing on his conservative bone fides, is yet another example of GOP denial. Maybe these Republicans are happier with the vice presidential nominee, Mike Pence, whose views are just as bigoted but more reliably in the GOP mainstream.

Yeah, that’s the direction they should go in. It will all work out great.

 

 


It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over (Yeah, It’s Over)

This week, there were few images sadder or more pathetic than the sight of moderate Republicans desperately clinging to the hope that they could somehow, against all odds, stop Donald Trump and not have him be the GOP nominee.

Moderate Republicans refused to accept the reality that this is what happens when you associate yourself with bigots for decades on end. Yes, eventually the bigot becomes your flag bearer.

trump-supporters-guns-08

Of course, refusing to accept reality has been a hallmark of the GOP for a while now. In the conservative mind, Iraq did have WMDs, climate change is a hoax, and Obama was born in Kenya.

So Marco Rubio riding to the rescue and winning the nomination at the last second was another naive fantasy, the latest in a long line of truthiness. It was Republicans yet again insisting that reality would bend to their wishes, and the world would be the way they wanted it to be, rather than the way it actually is.

And this brings us to the biggest truthiness of them all, which is the Republican insistence that their party is not attractive to racists.

“No,” they shriek. “That is a liberal lie.”

Well, somebody better tell all those white supremacists and neo-Nazis who are celebrating Trump’s victory that they are mistaken. Clearly, the Democratic Party is the place for them.

Now, let’s be clear about this, because it always bears repeating. The vast majority of Republicans are not racists. In fact, the vast majority of Republicans want nothing to do with racists.

However, to deny that there is a virulent strain of bigotry in the GOP is to once again deny reality. And as Exhibit A, I give you their presidential nominee, a man so prejudiced that members of his own party regularly call him out on it.

And we’re not even getting into the infamous Southern Strategy and the dog-whistles that have helped the GOP build a base of white resentment, all while moderate conservatives held their noses and rationalized it.

Strangely, it is now — when all doubt has been removed about the bigotry in their ranks— that conservatives have indulged in the most far-fetched of all scenarios, which is that racism is not only nonexistent in their party, but in America as a whole.

Cops aren’t killing unarmed black men, and Latinos aren’t the targets of hate crimes, and Muslims are absolutely beloved, and on and on.

Hey, I’m trying to be sympathetic. It’s psychologically disturbing to say that America has a racism problem, and that if you’re conservative, you’re enabling it.

But let’s not kid ourselves. There is a very strong practical and political reason for this denial. Basically, if the Republican Party continues to insist racism is not a serious problem, then they don’t have to do anything about it. After all, why would you solve a problem that was already taken care back in 1968?

It is this mindset that has given us the modern Republican Party. I have to wonder if the GOP will do anything about it, or if conservatives will just insist that everything is fine.

Just fine.

 


Don’t Feed the Animals

As many of you know, I am the father of the most awesomeness, coolest, greatest multiethnic little boy ever (and no, I’m not biased in the least).

And as many of you parents out there also know, being a toddler’s dad means that you spend a lot of time at the zoo. I’m talking yearly membership and don’t make any other plans for Saturday mornings — that kind of thing.

Now, many people have issues with zoos, based on animal rights and other noble ideas that I really don’t want to debate right now. But suffice to say, I’ve encountered a few protesters on occasion when I’ve taken my son to the zoo. They have all been polite and reasonable, by the way.

So I was unsurprised when I approached the zoo gates this past weekend (chasing after my turbocharged kid, of course) and saw a man with a bullhorn.

bullhorn_full

 

I figured he was a PETA supporter or was angry about Billy the elephant or something like that. But no, he was yelling about racial discrimination and the evil bigotry that went on at the zoo.

This naturally got my attention.

He was a gangly white guy, clearly on his own, with no protest signs or marching compatriots or petitions to sign. He was just screaming about Mexicans (and by this, I assumed he meant Latinos in general) and their supposedly shoddy treatment at that most nefarious of places: the zoo gift shop.

Yes, he insisted that the zoo gift shop discriminated against Mexicans. To be honest, I’m not sure how they supposedly discriminated, because his ranting was a bit hard to follow. Apparently, the zoo gift shop was refusing to hire Mexicans, or refusing to sell items to them or exploiting their labor or some combination that I didn’t quite understand.

In any case, I was mildly impressed that this white guy would take time out of his day to stand up for his Hispanic brethren.

This era of good feelings lasted about twenty seconds.

Because then the guy shouted, “And do you know who the gift shop helps? All those filthy horrible Muslims!”

Yikes…

I’m still trying to figure out this man’s rather precise prejudice. After all, he apparently liked Hispanics. But in accordance with the new pyramid of bigotry prevalent in America, he despised Muslims — completely abhorred them, in fact, because he went on yelling some pretty grotesque things about Islam and Mohammed and sharia law and on and on and on.

Let’s be clear: this is the kind of support we Latinos most definitely don’t need.

My son did the wise thing and ignored the bigot at the front gate, and we went in to see the gorillas because they’re his favorite.

When we came out, the nutjob protester was gone. But I couldn’t help but think of him on the drive home.

More specifically, I couldn’t help but think of my favorite Lou Reed lyric: “Well I know one thing that really is true / This here’s a zoo / And the keeper ain’t you!”

Tell ‘em, Lou.

 


Listen Up

So I had my first author reading, and I think it went well.

I read excerpts from my novel Barrio Imbroglio, which as you know, is burning up the best-seller lists in 148 nations and causing rioting in the streets of cities whose bookstores have run out of copies.

And just in case you didn’t know that, you can always get it on Amazon.

In any case, everyone who showed up at the reading seemed to have a good time, and my only negative feedback was “Next time, speak slower.”

Yes, as a Latino, I speak rapidly. So that’s something to build on for my next author event, which is in the planning stages. I’ll keep all of you posted on that.

The only odd moment of my first reading was when my hosts wheeled out a cake that had been decorated with the book cover and my author photo (because, hey, why not?). A few people seemed overly enthusiastic to handle the knife and slice into the image of me. And several clamored for the right to devour the eyes.

Perhaps I’m reading too much into that.

Regardless, here is a shot of the piece that displayed my eyeball in frosting.

eyeball cake

 

Yes, I may have the cover of my next novel here.


Kiss the Bride

OK, this will be a brief update, because I’ve been away for a little while.

I was back in my homeland of Wisconsin for my cousin’s wedding. That would be Cousin #3 by the way.

In any case, it was a great time, with music and food and dancing and, yes, a little wine and tequila here and there. Hey, it happens when my family gets together.

So a Latina married an African American, and there were lots of white people there and gay people and religious people and… well, I guess the wedding was pretty much America, wasn’t it?

Hey, that’s pretty cool, now that I think about it.

Mazel Tov!

skydive2


A Sort of Madness

You can imagine my alarm when I first heard the term “immigrant psychosis.”

Evidently, this was a very real issue back when Ellis Island was booming, and lots of Italians and Irish people were coming off the boats and making everything in America all weird and strange and different.

Psychologists of the time identified a malady common to the recent arrivals, and these professionals dubbed it “immigrant psychosis.”

Today, we know it by a more common name: Homesickness

Yes, most of the American doctors were generations removed from their immigrant roots, and they had no experience living someplace new and exotic. As such, the concept of homesickness was unknown to them.

headmirror

So when immigrants displayed odd behaviors such as depression and anxiety — combined with the bizarre new emotion of nostalgia — the psychologists gave it a name and insisted it was confined to the Irish and Italians (and maybe those Chinese people too).

Of course, we now recognize homesickness as a common complaint of everyone from college students to people on long overseas trips. It’s hardly a psychosis.

But unfortunately, today’s immigrants often have more to deal with than a bout of sad sentimentality. A recent study found that “the stress and hardship faced by immigrants setting up in a new country could be contributing to an increased risk of psychosis” among new arrivals.

Basically, more immigrants are having issues adjusting to their new lives. And when they do encounter these problems, they have more difficulty getting the mental health assistance that they require.

The study added that “racism and discrimination are certainly one of many things that are contributing” to the increasing mental distress of immigrants.

So this is fresh proof that the whole nativist attitude is psychotic (or at least contributes to it forming).

It’s almost enough to make one yearn for a simpler time… which is ironic because excessive yearning is a sign of homesickness, which is how all this started in the first place. Damn.

 


Look Back in Horror

I am the child of an immigrant. My mom is from El Salvador, so I grew up with the tastes and influences of a typical American teenager, all mixed with a strong awareness of Latino culture and history. I’m pretty grateful for the combo.

You know who else is the child of an immigrant? Omar Mateen, the psychopath who murdered 49 people in Orlando a few nights ago.

orlando-shooting-0612-large-169

Mateen and I clearly had different interpretations of the dichotomies that come with being members of the first generation to be born in America. For example, I blended a love of hamburgers with an appreciation for pupusas, and I gave the music of my mother’s homeland a fair listen before popping in a Soundgarden album. It was a bit of a mezcla.

But Omar Mateen wasn’t interested in mixing cultures. He found it easier to just embrace the problems, prejudices, and anger of his parents’ country. Mateen latched onto his father’s homophobia and the religious mania that is widespread in his family’s homeland. And in so doing, he set out to be more culturally authentic than his parents ever were.

This is not an issue of assimilation or integration, as so many people believe it to be. No, it is more of a cultural mindset.

It is a mindset that provokes young men, born and raised in America, to adopt the radical politics of their parents’ homelands. It is a mindset of fear and fury.

The massacre in Orlando — and the fact that so many of the victims were Latino — got me thinking about how this cultural perception forms one of the many roots of bigotry and violence.

Let’s ask, why are there no Latino terrorists, going on shooting sprees or strapping on bombs to avenge the pain and misery that the United States government has inflicted upon El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, and other Latin American countries?

Indeed, there is ample reason for Hispanics to be more than a little pissed about our treatment and standing in the United States.

And yet, survey after survey shows that Latinos are more optimistic about the future and more positive about life in general than just about any other American demographic. We are pretty much the last people to use the injustices of the past to justify abhorrent behavior.

One reason for this is so obvious that it borders on the simplistic. But here it is: Latinos tend to look forward.

We pack up and move to new countries in search of better lives. We assume our kids will do better than us. We have faith that circumstances will improve.

And this forward-thinking mindset, this cultural tendency to dismiss the woes of the past, helps us to maintain optimism in the face of economic and political tribulations. It helps us to set aside our pain and disappointment, rather than hoist them upon our backs for all to see.

In contrast, angry and hate-filled people tend to look backward, toward some vague past, and then they threaten to make America, you know, “great again.”

And other people, like Omar Mateen, not only look backward — they glare at it with a white-hot obsession and rage. They believe that their culture’s best days are long behind them, that the present holds nothing more than humiliation and despair, and that someone — maybe American society or gays or left-handed dentists or whoever — is to blame.

Omar Mateen, in addition to being a pathetic and homicidal loser, was an unimaginative, scared person who had no faith in the future. And someone taught him that mindset, inculcating him with the belief that it was reality.

As for his victims — people with names like Almodovar and Guerrero and Rios and Flores — they most likely had great hopes for tomorrow and next year and the next decade. But that optimism and those dreams were cruelly taken from them by a furious man who could do nothing better with his life than stare backward into the distant past.

 


One for the Ladies

Well, it looks like our old friend Hillary Clinton has clinched the Democratic nomination for president. We have to wonder if she is the slightest bit worried about the general election, particularly that part about debating Donald Trump.

 

hillary-clinton-benghazi-hand-large-169

No, I didn’t think so.

Keep in mind that Clinton is admired, even beloved in the Hispanic community — well, at least among older Hispanics. Younger Latinos are a bit more lukewarm on the former first lady /senator/ secretary of state / etc.

But again, she’s running against a guy who can’t go nine seconds without badmouthing Latinos, so she is most assuredly going to do well with us in November.

In any case, HRC is the first woman to be nominated by a major party for the presidency. This has, of course, unleashed the expected rivers of misogynistic vitriol and hatred.

One of the chief rationalizations you hear from sexists — be they male or female — is that women are too emotional to be effective leaders. You know, they cry too easily and might get pissed off and nuke somebody because it’s that time of the month, and so on and so on.

Well, I have to admit they nailed that point. After all, men are nothing but calm, cool, and levelheaded individuals who rely on pure logic and never get, you know, all emotional and stuff.

After all, men never start bar brawls, or punch out family members, or go on shooting rampages. Nope, they are too emotion-free for any of that.

And male leaders never invade foreign countries under flimsy pretexts, or seize power in bloody coups, or enslave their citizens out of some sociopathic thirst for power. It’s always the women who do that.

Yes, who knows what crazy, emotional thing Hillary Clinton might do if she wins the election.

Maybe she would go after anybody who ever made fun of her hands. Oh wait, that’s her opponent — the guy.

Hmmm… well, that’s awkward.

 

 


Quack Quack

Among the stranger aspects of this bizarre election season is the tendency of Donald Trump supporters to insist that their candidate is not racist. The hyper-defensiveness goes something like this:

When he referred to Mexicans as rapists, he didn’t specifically say, “all Mexicans,” so it’s ok. Right?

And building that wall isn’t xenophobic. It’s a practical way to keep out all those immigrants… I mean, illegal immigrants… wait, I mean, undocumented people… he’s got nothing against immigrants. And neither do I. Ha ha ha.

Banning Muslims would just be temporary. That’s key. And not bigoted at all. Nope.

OK, he wasn’t the quickest about disavowing the KKK, but we’ve all been there… I mean, he said they were bad guys… eventually… after being criticized for days… but yeah, he did it.

And all those unfortunate cracks about “the blacks”… well, he meant, um… Hey, you’re just being PC!

And so it goes. La la la la, not listening to you.

hands-on-ears

 

Oddly enough, liberals seem to have no problem identifying Trump’s many prejudiced remarks. And Latinos, Asians, and African Americans are pretty clear on the fact that the guy is a racist.

On the other end of the spectrum, white supremacists and neo-Nazis are lining up to endorse the GOP nominee. They also appear to have no illusions about where Trump stands on race relations.

Only two groups of people seem baffled about this issue. First, there are moderate conservatives who are struggling to maintain their fiction that racism is dead in America (and who are also striving to justify their votes for a blatant bigot). And there are stray ethnic minorities who explain away or ignore the obvious for reasons that I can’t quite comprehend (although I presume some self-loathing is involved).

Let’s be clear about this. The truth is that if you support Trump, you are aware on some level that the guy has tremendous hostility toward anyone who isn’t a white straight man. And as you stand in that voting booth, sweating through your rationalizations, you will be saying that you are fine with that.

Remember, if it looks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck, it’s probably a megalomaniacal billionaire pushing a racist agenda.

 


American Mystery

Is there another word that conjures such blood-pumping, swooning love and/or as much headache-inducing vitriol as “America”?

Excuse me — make that “America!!”

Regardless of your level of patriotism, you no doubt have some kind of strong association to that simple word. “America” is shorthand for freedom and power and excess and liberty and dozens of other intellectual, emotional, and political concepts.

And what is the source of this four-syllable monument to complexity? Well, as you learned in history class, our mighty nation was named after Italian explorer, navigator, and cartographer Amerigo Vespucci.

Or was it?

You see, what we have been taught for generations may not be, strictly speaking, the truth.

There is a theory that Amerigo Vespucci was an opportunist who changed his name after the New World was christened, thus earning him some level of fame and improving the hell out of his branding efforts.

This theory holds that the word “America” actually comes from the name of an Indian tribe and of a mountain range in Nicaragua called “Amerrique.”

 

amerrique-mountains

Well, consider my mind blown.

Of course, we will never know the real answer, as half a millennium has a way of distorting people’s memories. So the Vespucci angle will no doubt continue to be the dominant story that schoolchildren learn.

But we have to ask ourselves, does it matter that our nation may not have been named after a European male, but rather took its moniker from a bunch of indigenous natives (Latinos, no less)?

Is it true that “to question the origin of America’s name is to question the nature of not only our history lessons but our very identity as Americans”?

You tell me.

 


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