Tag: 1980s

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.

 

 


What’s the 414?

I was a teenager a million years ago.

OK, it was the late 1980s.

In any case, once you cross 40, a lot of your teen memories start to fade, or get augmented in unintentional ways, or just get merged with John Hughes movies.

One truly unpleasant memory that I had not conjured up in years came back to me recently.

The catalyst for this flashback was an article by Sarah Hoye, who wrote about her childhood in Milwaukee, the city that recently suffered a fall-blown race riot and which CNN implied was the worst place in America for black people.

 

milwakee-riots

Hoye wrote that “more times than not, when I tell people that I am from Milwaukee, I get a sympathetic head tilt followed by, ‘I’m sorry.’ And that was before the recent protests.”

OK, I relate to that. Because I too am from Milwaukee. And it might pain my Wisconsin crew to know this, but I’ve often received that exact same “I’m sorry” reaction from people when I mention where I’m from. My hometown’s reputation is not a good one.

Now, I haven’t lived in Milwaukee since I graduated high school, but I go back often to visit friends and family.

I spent my childhood in the Latino section of town, an enclave on the South Side that is still heavily Hispanic to this day. Yes, I’ve written about this era and place more than once.

When I was a teenager, we moved to a quasi-suburban area (still within the city’s limits), where all of our neighbors had German or Polish or Serbian ancestry. Our house was all the diversity you were getting for many blocks in any direction.

To be clear, I have fond memories of this time. However, even then I knew that all was not right in my city. You see, Milwaukee has long been the most segregated municipality in America. Growing up, I assumed all cities had stark lines separating the ethnicities (and indeed, to some degree, they all do). But I had no idea Milwaukee was such an extreme case.

And this brings me back to the creepy memory that I had long ago shifted to my brain’s attic.

No, it’s not about the many times I was called spic or wetback or had someone “joke” that I had jumped the border. Hell, I remember those things just fine.

The memory I had forgotten was about my friend J.

I won’t use his full name out of respect for his privacy, even though we lost touch after high school, and it’s highly unlikely he’s reading this right now.

Just in case, however — hey J!

J and I were teammates on our high school football team. We weren’t close friends, but we got along well, and one day after practice, I invited him back to my house to play video games.

Later that evening, he walked to the bus stop for the long journey home. Yes, he was African American, and as such, he lived on the North Side — several miles away and a whole other world socioeconomically, politically, culturally, etc.

I kept him company at the bus stop. We were talking the usual teenage shit — girls, school, football — when we noticed a car slow down as it approached us.

I’m sure both of us considered the odds that the car’s driver was lost and needed directions, or that the vehicle was stuffed with hot cheerleaders just roaming the city looking for a couple of hunky football players to keep them company.

But come on, we both knew what it was.

As the car passed, a young white man leaned out of the window and yelled, “Fuck you, nigger!”

J rolled his eyes, like he had gone through this a million times already that day, and such bullshit no longer fazed him.

The car stopped at the corner, as if preparing to turn around. J and watched to see what the driver would do. After a moment, the car sped off, leaving us in peace.

J’s bus arrived a minute later, and we high-fived, and he left. On my walk home, I realized that I had never, not even for a moment, been afraid that some thugs would jump out of a car and take a swing at me just for being brown.

As I said, I had received my fair share of insults and vague threats. But the real potential of physical violence was alien to me.

After all, it’s not like I was black in Milwaukee.

Instinctively, J and I both knew, without discussing it, that a black kid couldn’t stand around in that neighborhood for more than a few minutes without someone yelling an epithet at him or the cops being called.

And we just accepted it as normal.

I doubt J even remembers this incident, because it was most likely among the milder forms of verbal abuse that he has received in his life.

Indeed, in Sarah Hoye’s article, she writes that “in the Milwaukee I know, I have been called nigger more times than I can count.”

Hoye ends her story with a burst of optimism, saying that “I truly believe, as idealistic as it may sound, that there is hope for a city in pain, and hope for a way forward.”

I share that hope.

 


Instant Karma

Although I was raised Catholic, I’m not a religious person. I’m more of a quasi-secular humanist, borderline atheist with Buddhist tendencies and Judeo-Christian influences (I mean, as long as we’re labeling here).

About the only supernatural concept I believe in is the idea of karma. Even that comes with a qualifier, because I think karma is more the result of our human decisions, good or bad, and less of a vague, mystical force.

yingyng

I’ve been thinking a lot about karma since reading Susanne Ramirez de Arellano’s article on the Murrieta protests. She covered the war in El Salvador in the 1980s, and she theorizes that the legacy of that war “is sitting on buses in Murrieta. The violent street gangs that now plague Central America, especially El Salvador, were conceived during this dark period.”

To continue reading this post, please click here.

 


Rearview Mirror

It is an axiom that no culture can look upon its sins objectively without flinching. Actually, I just made that up, but it certainly sounds axiomatic to me.

For example, here in the United States, we went decades before admitting that putting Japanese Americans in camps during World War II was a bad idea. And that was positively light speed compared to how long it took us to apologize for slavery or to acknowledge that we weren’t exactly nice to the Native Americans.

Before we beat up too much on the USA, keep in mind that nations such as Germany, Turkey, and China all have trouble acknowledging that at some point in the past, they kind of, sort of, did some unpleasant things.

That’s why it’s fascinating that Guatemala is the first nation “in the Americas to prosecute a former head of state, in its own domestic courts, for the ultimate crime.”

The crime is genocide, and the defendant is former dictator Efraín Ríos Montt, whose forces wiped out whole villages when he was in power during the 1980s.

The outcome of the trail, of course, is of great interest to Guatemalans in the United States, many of whom fled here during Efraín Ríos Montt’s reign of terror.

On a larger scale, however, the trail shows how it’s never too late for a nation to face its past, no matter how unpleasant the process.

 


Power Play

Perhaps you didn’t notice when a national political leader said that America was entering the “Decade of the Hispanic.”

You can be forgiven, because the speaker was Henry Cisneros, and he wasn’t talking about our current decade. He was talking about the 1980s.

To continue reading this post, please click here.


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