Tag: American Dream

Faith or Delusion?

I’ve written before that Latinos tend to be more optimistic about life and have more confidence in their economic futures.

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Well, a new survey confirms that Hispanics’ “faith in the American Dream exceeds that of whites and African Americans,” adding that this optimism “contrasts sharply with the current economic status of Hispanics.”

Basically, even though the Great Recession hit Latinos harder than most groups, it is those same Hispanics who have the strongest belief that everything will work out fine. According to the survey’s authors, “the upbeat attitude … is due in part to the fact that Hispanic immigrants often start with little and expect to sacrifice much to move up, while native-born adults may have already seen their expectations lose ground in an ailing economy.”

So whites and blacks, whose roots in America are more likely to go back generations, tend to say, “This sucks worse than ever.” But Latinos often shrug off the same bad news with “I’ve seen worse.”

Still, as great as it is that Latinos are remaining optimistic and staying strong, “the reality for most Hispanics is less rosy” than their faith implies.

So the question becomes, is this determined mindset a self-fulfilling prophecy, where hard work and a never-say-die spirit is rewarded? Or are Latinos just saps for still believing “they are more likely to move up than down in social class over the next few years”?

In any case, the survey points out that “the hopes and struggles of Hispanics are of particular interest now as they are exercising unprecedented political clout.”

Yes, it’s good to have faith. But it’s better to have power.

 


Stranglehold

I’ve written before about the asphyxiating grasp that rich people have on the American Dream. As we know, the concept of social mobility is, at best, a faded myth that may never be relevant again. At worst, it is delusional pabulum served up to the masses to prevent them from revolting.

torch-and-pitchfork

 

But just in case you thought you could get ahead by sheer hard work and a can-do attitude, consider the following fact: According to one study, your degree of social mobility depends to a large degree upon where you live.

So for those of you who are poor in, say, Georgia, the odds are pretty good that your children are not going to swing the middle-class lifestyle. But don’t worry, “the chances that affluent children grow up to be affluent are broadly similar across metropolitan areas.” So again, the rich are going to be ok.

But wait — isn’t education the great equalizer? Well, nabbing a college degree is indeed one of the best ways to increase your income. Unfortunately, many kids are being priced out by tuitions that can only be called obscene. Again, however, you don’t have to fret over the wealthy. Because “college students have a better chance of getting financial aid if they come from affluent backgrounds than if they are lower on the income scale.” Yes, once again, the wealthy get a break denied to others, even if — as in this case — they don’t need it nearly as much as people on the lower end of the socioeconomic scale.

Of course, Hispanic kids are less likely to be rich in the first place. And thanks to backward cultural priorities, the odds are good that their children and grandchildren won’t be financially secure either.

Well, at least it won’t be awkward at Thanksgiving dinner, because we won’t have to endure about those rich relatives flaunting their wealth. Because everybody will be broke.

 


What? Me, Worry?

A year ago, I wrote about how the Great Recession hit Latinos hard. At the time, I was hopeful that the worst was behind us. Perhaps that was my natural Hispanic tendency to be optimistic.

After all, Latinos “are worse off, but they are still more positive about where the country is going” compared to most Americans. In particular, “Latino small-business owners are among the fastest growing and most upbeat [groups] in the nation,” and they “worry less about job security and are more positive and humble.”

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Getting Down to Business

So the Baby Boomers, as they are wont to do, are ready to take the money and run. Apparently, many older entrepreneurs will soon sell off their business and retire.

Well, we shouldn’t worry. After all, entrepreneurialism is a cornerstone of the fabled American Dream, and small businesses drive the economy. So I’m sure some young, smart, hardworking go-getters will keep the new ideas coming…unless of course, we’ve decimated educationpromoted ignorance, and ravaged the social safety net to the point that we are unleashing a generation ill-equipped to tap into their own creativity.

OK, now I’m worried.

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We’re Number One…Maybe

There is no room for second place.…If winning isn’t everything, why do they keep score?

—Vince Lombardi

 

Recently, I wrote that American education pales in comparison to other countries’ school systems.

But America is still the place for those hardworking, ambitious people who want a better life, right? After all, one reason so many Latinos have come to the USA is that it is the land of opportunity.

Well, when it comes to social mobility — the cornerstone of the American Dream — we have more of a caste system than most industrialized nations, so “if you want your children to climb the socioeconomic ladder higher than you did, move to Canada.”

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Climbing Out of the Hole

As of right now, America still has a functioning economy. We’re not sure if we can pay all our bills, of course, and maybe China will just take ownership soon and have a fire sale on things we never use, like national parks and the state of North Dakota.

But for now, we’re still standing. That fact means different things to different people, however.

For example, the gap between Hispanics and prosperity has rarely been so vast.

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A Trio of Sensitive Topics

Every now and then, I have to undertake a quick roundup on contemporary issues that befuddle, perplex, or amuse me. Considering that I have been in a nonproductive haze for the last week or so (it’s a long story, and you don’t want to hear it), this is a good time for me to tackle these mini controversies, these bite-sized morsels of interest that might not warrant a full, in-depth post but that should be addressed.

First, as befitting its status, we will start with the female breast. I think we’re all big fans, but this week, the news about breasts took a decidedly Hispanic turn.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Latina moms are more likely than any other group to breastfeed their babies. The study gave no reason for this, but I have to presume that the strong Hispanic emphasis on family (and therefore, upon babies and children) is one reason that Latina mothers are more willing to put up with sore nipples and occasional social awkwardness.

The researchers said that “breast-feeding benefits both mothers and their babies” but add that “the longer Hispanic immigrants are in the U.S., the more accepting they are of using baby formula. They also tend to adopt worse eating habits and lifestyles for themselves.” One researcher said, “Their health actually begins to decline.”

So for all those who say that Hispanic immigrants don’t assimilate, here is further proof that you’re wrong. Given enough time, Latinos from other countries quickly grow obese and sickly, just like the rest of us. God bless America!

Speaking of the American Dream, the favorite immigrant of Republicans, Arnold Schwarzenegger, issued yet another idiotic faux pas this week. My state’s governor said that Hispanics are naturally temperamental and “are all very hot. They have the, you know, part of the black blood in them and part of the Latino blood in them that together makes it.”

It’s an interesting theory of eugenics, but then again, it does come from a man who knows a thing or two about mixing races – or mingling circuitry with human flesh, same thing.

I’m not a huge fan of Schwarzenegger’s politics. For that matter, I’m not too crazy about a lot of his movies. So it’s not bias toward the governor when I say that his comments sound more like a moronic attempt to be funny than an outright slur. The target of his joke, a Latina state official, said as much. Therefore, I think we can let the guy off the hook, especially because he quickly apologized. But let’s watch it, Mr. Governator.

This brings me to my final item. It seems that I have fresh competition in the Latino blogosphere. This week, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez announced that he’s starting his own blog. Chavez said, “I am going to dig my own trench on the Internet,” with the intention of spreading his revolution through cyberspace. I, for one, look forward to reading the insights of a touchy head of state who is, quite frankly, a bit of a lunatic. I’m sure it will not be boring.

In addition to these brief updates, let me thank, as always, everyone who has commented on my recent posts. Yes, I’m talking to you, Niall, Clairela, Pete, and Mary Lynn. And here’s a special shout out to Ankhesen, who posted a treasure trove of Hispanic humor in the comments section for my post “A Priest, a Rabbi…”

Take a look.


From the Motherland

She arrived in New York City on an autumn day in 1967. She knew four English phrases: “yes,” “no,” “please,” and “thank you.”

She came here to get a college degree and to see more of the world beyond the confines of her tiny village in Central America. To earn tuition money, she got a job scrubbing floors and cleaning house for a Holocaust survivor. She spent evenings memorizing phrases such as “Does this train go to Grand Central?” and “I would like a slice of pizza.”

Once enrolled in school, she picked up English rapidly, and soon, she was reading books that had been banned in her home country. Some of these books told of the atrocities that her nation’s government had committed. They told of the thousands murdered and the land stolen and the cultures despoiled. She had traveled multiple time zones to learn the truth about her own homeland, but once she knew it, there was no returning to her old life. From that point on, she was American.

Because she was beautiful and exotic (especially for the time), she picked up some modeling gigs, which paid better than housecleaning. On one shoot, she met a divorced photographer a dozen years older than she. The man had three kids and drank too much, but he was smart and funny, and he took her to great parties, where she hung out with Andy Warhol and Bob Dylan and other NYC icons.

She married the photographer and moved to the Midwest. At the age of twenty-six, she had her only child, a boy, to go along with the three stepchildren she was raising.

Her husband wanted to start a new career in real estate, and to cover the exorbitant start-up costs, she got a job as a cashier in a grocery store. Her thick accent in a place staffed almost exclusively by ninth-generation Anglo-Americans caused no small amount of hilarity.

The real-estate business boomed, and the family got a big house in a developing part of the city. Her husband had a flair for making money, but as the cash poured in, his drinking increased proportionally. Before long, cases of brandy were being delivered to the house weekly. Like all upper-class alcoholics, he soon embraced the violence that had always been lurking beneath his smiling façade.

They came to an arrangement: When he hit her, she would fall down. This arrangement was played out often, just to make sure it was still in effect.

The children from the man’s first marriage left to go live with their mother. By this time, her husband’s chief occupation was drinking. So the real-estate company began to falter, and it was only her stepping in to work the details that kept it solvent.

One night, her husband hit her as usual, but she decided that she had endured enough. She went to the shed, grabbed an ax, came back, and walloped him in the head. She used the flat part of the ax head, for which he should have been grateful. After he got out of the hospital, he threatened her just once more, and she knocked him flat. He never touched her again.

She didn’t file for divorce, however, until the night he threatened to blow up the neighborhood, and the SWAT team deployed outside her door. It was a good time to leave.

She found work as a waitress and went back to school. She was a full-time worker, full-time student (making the Dean’s List), and full-time single mother. She still had energy to become a community activist and organize political rallies on behalf of the people in her home country, which was, at the time, a bloody pawn in the Cold War.

In the land of her birth, her brother and sister were murdered. Both died at the hands of a government funded by U.S. tax dollars. She brought over the orphaned children, and together with her sister (who had emigrated years before and started a family of her own), they helped raise the kids.

She made sure that her own son was well-fed, had all the books he could read, and received plenty of Christmas presents.

She worked her way up from administrative jobs to management, and then moved on to government jobs. Before long, she was advising mayors on cultural matters and giving speeches at grand openings and forming subcommittees and chairing meetings.

Today, she owns two houses in the nicest part of town, using the real-estate knowledge she learned salvaging her ex-husband’s business. She has an office in City Hall, where she helps run her adopted city and is one of the leaders of the state. She has met with governors, senators, and former Presidents. Universities around the country pay her to give guest lectures.

It is far removed from the small village of her birth or the NYC apartment floors that she scoured or the runways she walked or the check-out line of the grocery store where she toiled. It is the American experience.

She is my mother, and today is her birthday. She remains my personal hero. 


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