A New Day is Darkening

So I was standing in line to vote yesterday, and I was feeling cautiously optimistic. As it turned out, of course, I should have placed more emphasis on the “caution” than the optimism.

In any case, a woman exited the polling station and, perhaps brimming with civic pride after casting her ballot, spoke to all of who were waiting in line.

“Just remember,” she said. “Whether your candidate wins or loses, tomorrow we will still be the United States of America. And we all need to come together.”

ihearts

And I thought her sentiment was nice — and also naïve and ridiculous.

After all, we have just elected a racist, misogynistic bully who will be the only president in history with no government or military experience, and who has total contempt for the US Constitution.

I mean, what could go wrong?

Well, for example, I wouldn’t be surprised if Trump’s first trip overseas ends with him snapping at Angela Merkel to go fix him a sandwich or he’ll nuke Germany.

Now, there are those who say that Trump’s obnoxious behavior will disappear once he is inaugurated. But saying Trump will calm down once he is in office is like saying your boyfriend will stop punching you once you get married.

Still, the country will survive this travesty. It is not the end of the world — well, hopefully not. And I’m sure many lessons about politics and progressivism and racism and delusion and class conflict and all the rest will illuminate us in the future.

And we have to imagine that this future will be brighter than today is.


Sympathy, Part Two

Picking up where I left off, in last week’s post I asked the following: Why should we feel sorry for the white working class?

Yes, that’s harsh, but we’re talking about a demographic that prides itself on straight talk and not being politically correct and so on and so on.

Of course, claims about being non-PC usually mean, “We like to talk shit about minorities, who better not say a damn thing back, and watch your mouth when you’re addressing white Christian America.”

In any case, the WWC, by almost any measure, is not doing particularly well.

sisyphus-image-01c

 

However, to be brutally honest about it, these people are white — still the majority in this country — and as such they enjoy the benefits of white privilege. They have more economic clout, more societal influence, and more cultural power (obvious in that we are constantly talking about how they feel and think and live).

At the very least, one cannot argue with the inherent contradiction that their anti-immigrant stance has created. Namely, the white working class prides itself on its deep roots in American society. They have been here for generations, with great-great-grandparents who came from the good countries (i.e., Europe). The WWC is not fresh off the boat.

OK, but here’s my question to them: With such an overpowering head start, why are you struggling so much? You’ve had generations to build up wealth and establish your families. Why are you still slaving away in coal mines? Isn’t that what your ancestors in Great Britain were trying to escape?

Taking this point further, how can a group of swarthy outsiders who don’t even speak English — and are supposedly lazy and stupid — be so thoroughly kicking your ass? What are you doing wrong?

“But they’re stealing our jobs!” the white working class screams.

First, this is not true, as many studies have shown. Second, even if it were true, perhaps the WWC should be annoyed at the corporations that are kicking them to the curb in favor of immigrants (and yes, voting Republican will surely show corporate America a thing or two). And third, if you’ll permit me to use a conservative talking point, that’s just an excuse.

You see, whenever someone tries to explain the cycle of poverty that engulfs many African American or Latino communities, a huge right-wing chorus rises up to dismiss the hard data and sociological theories and economic realities that show why poor communities stay impoverished.

Instead, we hear that all those blacks and Hispanics just need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and stop whining.

I never — and I mean, never — hear this argument applied to the poor regions of Appalachia. Not once have I heard a politician tell laid-off blue-collar workers in white towns that they need to take responsibility for their decisions and stop blaming others.

Actually, I’ve heard the opposite, which is that the WWC should blame immigrants and nobody else.

In addition to this illogical, hypocritical, misplaced blame, there is often a powerful sense of entitlement — supposedly anathema to conservatives — that pervades the white working class. For example, there are members of the WWC who are “sick of hearing in job interviews” that certain positions require Spanish.

Now, as I’ve written before, learning Spanish is not some magical skill beyond the reach of mere mortals. My own fluency is marginal at best, but I can tell you it’s not difficult to learn the basics and, with some effort, become proficient.

But hostility toward a bilingual world is a chief way in which the WWC tries to flex its entitlement. After all, if a job calls for being an expert in Microsoft Word, or knowing how to fix a carburetor, or identifying the cortex after opening up the skull, or knowing whether to snip the blue wire or the red wire, we don’t stomp our feet and say, “But I speak English, and that should be good enough!”

No, we accept that those are the requirements for the position, and the skill sets of the past may no longer apply.

America, as we all know, is evolving rapidly. And the stubborn refusal to acknowledge this — the overt battling to prevent this evolution — is one reason the WWC is in such a messed-up situation.

So again I ask, why are we bending over backward to spare the feelings of poor white people?

Well, an immediate answer is this: Because we should. They are human beings and deserve the support of their nation and their countrymen.

And despite my harsh words in some of this article, I do feel sorry for the white working class (I’m just a bleeding heart that way).

They have indeed been screwed over by politicians, corporations, and a rigged societal structure. And I don’t believe it’s as easy as pulling themselves up by their bootstraps. All that is true.

I’m just asking why our cultural sympathies are so easily tapped into when it comes to the WWC. Why do we feel for a white person mired in the economic misery of dying small town, but we mock blacks and Latinos who struggle in inner cities?

More important, what can we do to lift people of all backgrounds out of poverty, without making them go all Hunger Games on each other?

Well, I know that telling the WWC that they are right to feel rage at immigrants, and are correct to get pissed at a changing world, are not productive ideas.

So now that we’ve embraced the exact wrong thing to do, can we somehow adjust and do things the right way — for all our sakes?


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.

 


Debunked

We all know math can be scary. In fact, I recently wrote about how intimidating all those numbers and figures can be.

But math is never more terrifying than when it crushes our deeply held beliefs and contradicts our political agendas.

For example, a recent study has shown that despite all the screaming and cries of calamity from the right wing, immigrants are not taking Americans’ jobs.

no-stealing

The study “found little to no negative effects on overall wages and employment of native-born workers in the longer term.” Basically, this means that when the GOP candidate for president slams immigrants — especially Latin American ones — he has no idea what he is talking about.

Of course, we all knew that already, but it’s nice to have hard data confirming that the guy is a lying shithead.

In any case, the report went on to state that immigration is “integral to the nation’s economic growth” because immigrants “bring new ideas and add to an American labor force that would be shrinking without them, helping ensure continued growth into the future.”

Specifically, high-skilled immigrants, especially in technology and science, have a significant “positive impact on Americans with skills, and also on working-class Americans. They spurred innovation, helping to create jobs.”

Furthermore, by flipping this argument on its head, we see that the GOP candidate’s plan to deport undocumented workers “would result in four million lost jobs by 2030.”

OK, so it’s settled that immigrants are not stealing jobs, and in fact, they may be kickstarting the economy to create new ones.

But what about that side claim that immigrants cost the US government bazillions of dollars each year in handouts and “free stuff”?

Well, the math is a little fuzzier on this one, and it may be true that recent immigrants cost more in government expenditures. However, any deficit is gone by the time the second generation (i.e., kids of immigrants) enters the work force, and “by the third generation, immigrant families contribute about $223 billion a year to government finances.”

The bottom line is that the net effect of immigration is positive, especially when one looks at the long term.

So I’ll ask again — don’t you just love math?

 


Revenge of the Whigs

 

Remember that political party that vowed to make America great again?

No, I’m not talking about that one. I meant the Know-Nothing Party, which has the most pitifully truthful name of any political group in American history.

In any case, the Know-Nothing Party originated in 1849. Its members strongly opposed immigrantion. Their whole thing was about preserving what they felt was the perfect America — one in which (by sheer coincidence) they held positions of power.

Well, it didn’t turn out so well for that party, as we know, and it collapsed into disgrace.

And that reminds us of the Republican Party — no, not the current one.

I’m referring to the Republicans of the 1930s. That version of the GOP gave our nation the most horrific piece of legislation with the most hilarious name: the Smoot-Hawley tariff, which helped kicked off a little something called the Great Depression.

Regardless, the 1932 GOP platform boasted that the “restriction of immigration is a Republican policy” and featured unabashed “hostility to almost all immigration.” This didn’t work out exactly as they hoped, in that it “contributed to the defection of ethnic voters to the Democratic Party and to Democratic dominance of the political scene for more than a generation.”

There are other examples of political groups basing their appeal on anti-immigrant feelings, and in every case, this approach has backfired.

Hey, just ask residents of the state I live in, California, why the Republican Party is basically extinct here. It can be traced back to Governor Pete Wilson, who led the GOP on an ill-fated anti-immigration crusade.

You see, anger toward immigrants has never worked — as a political strategy — in American history.

And this brings us back to the current GOP, and its insistence that it will make America great again, which is really just code for this:

makewhiteagasinss

Even if Trump wins the election — a nauseating thought that is mercifully unlikely to happen — the prospects don’t look good for the Republican Party in the long term.

Don’t take my word for it. GOP strategists have admitted that Republicans “must find a way to appeal to more nonwhite voters” and that “the math is only going to get worse” when it comes to ethnic minorities and immigrants.

Again, every political party that has pushed an anti-immigration agenda has either been obliterated or had to rebrand itself decades later. It has never worked in the long run.

So why would Trump’s version of the GOP be any different?


2+2= KKK

As a writer, I am supposed to despise math.

Look at it, looking all smug with its cosines and discontinuous divisors and irrational numerators.

It’s just so absolutely certain about the world. I must hate it.

math2f

But I don’t. Although I’ve always been drawn to words, I’ve never been intimidated by numbers. I did pretty well in math in school, although I never went past pre-calculus.

So I’ve never understood people who freak out about math, or panic at the mere sight of an equation. This fear, I believe, turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy, and soon people are insisting that they can’t do basic addition and throwing up their hands at polling data or stiffing the waiter because they don’t dare try to figure out the tip.

But maybe these mathphobes are on to something. Because to my great disappointment, it turns out that math is a big old bigot.

Yes, a recent book argues that “math is essentially being used for evil,” in that “algorithms and big data are targeting the poor, reinforcing racism and amplifying inequality.”

Now, inflammatory (and completely misleading) claims about math being “racist” aside, the point is clear. Numbers are only as good as the humans who input them. As such, “any algorithm can — and often does — simply reproduce the biases inherent in its creator, in the data it’s using, or in society at large.”

For example, “nearly half of U.S. employers ask potential hires for their credit report, equating a good credit score with responsibility or trustworthiness.” This is despite the fact that the reliability of these reports “has remained in doubt for more than a quarter century.”

But because of our faith in data — or our fear of numbers — we continue to think an equation is “superior to human judgment — never questioning the assumptions that get baked in.”

This is a flawed assumption, and it not only helps reinforce inequality, it taps directly into that most vile of human drives: racial prejudice.

It turns out that numbers are not as culturally neutral and objective as we would like. Again, this is not because the numeral “3” somehow dislikes Latinos or the figure “864” really hates blacks. It is because “while algorithms might work with data alone, it’s always human beings that decide what factors they weigh.”

So what can be done about this issue? To begin with, simple acknowledgement is necessary, combined with the awareness that one can prove just about anything with the right set of figures.

And then we can get the world’s mathematicians to work on creating a formula that will rid the world of bigotry. That will be one truly great equation, and it will, of course, most likely equal 42.


The Pivot That Wasn’t

He did not turn over a new leaf. Instead, he planted another disease-ridden, toxic tree.

Yes, last week, the GOP nominee for president gave a much-anticipated speech on his favorite topic — immigration — that was supposed to illustrate his softer, more nuanced approach to the issue. In theory, we would see a Trump who was free of vitriol and rage and more respectful toward immigrants and Latinos.

Ha-ha, just kidding — the guy double-downed and “baited a fired-up crowd with red-meat rhetoric” about all those illegals before trotting out his dumb-ass idea about a giant wall.

Now, anyone who has actually paid a millisecond of attention this campaign season should not have been surprised that Trump was never going to abandon the right-wing base that has gotten him this far.

And yet, there were people who were shocked — shocked, I tell you — that Trump didn’t get all nicey-nicey.

woman-with-shocked-expression-gesturing-with-hands

In particular, “for many Hispanic conservatives who had advocated passionately for Trump, the speech was not merely a disappointment, but a betrayal.”

I don’t know what is more perplexing: the idea of Hispanics advocating passionately for Trump, or the fact that these same self-deluded souls really believed Trump was ever on their side.

Apparently, many Republican Latinos seriously thought that Trump would “address the immigration problem realistically and compassionately” and “lay out a plan for dealing humanely” with undocumented immigrants.

Excuse me for getting snide, but I must ask these Latinos the following: What the fuck ever gave you that idea?

I’m truly baffled how anyone could be confused about where Trump stands on immigration. And I’m awestruck at the mental contortions that a conservative Hispanic had to undertake to read something into Trump’s words that implied he would ever be reasonable about the issue.

It’s as if the previous year of relentless racism and belligerence wasn’t enough for them. What part of “they’re rapists” is vague to you?

To be fair, there does seem to be genuine confusion about the specifics of Trump’s approach. Indeed, Trump’s advisors have tripped over themselves trying to ascertain whether there will or won’t be a deportation force.

Quick aside — say what you will about Obama or Clinton, but I don’t recall a time when their advisors were forced to painfully decipher their policy positions to the American people. I mean, Obama and Clinton are adults, and they can speak for themselves. As opposed to Trump, who is nonstop when it comes to insults and threats, but needs others to explain his actual ideas. Of course, that’s exactly how one deals with a toddler.

In any case, maybe Latino conservatives can drop the wishing, hoping, praying that the GOP will finally listen to them. They need to just be honest about their self-loathing, like everybody’s favorite Hispanic, Marco Gutierrez, who founded Latinos for Trump. As we all know, Gutierrez recently warned us of an ominous future where taco trucks are on every corner, never putting together that this might actually be pretty cool.

Hey, the guy may be a laughingstock and horrific human being, but at least he knows what he stands for.

 

 


  • Barrio Imbroglio (An Abraxas Hernandez Mystery Book 1)
  • Calendar

    January 2017
    M T W T F S S
    « Dec    
     1
    2345678
    9101112131415
    16171819202122
    23242526272829
    3031  
  • Share this Blog

    Bookmark and Share
  • Copyright © 1996-2010 Hispanic Fanatic. All rights reserved.
    Theme by ACM | Powered by WordPress