Tag: Arizona

Backfire

As we all know, the quickest way to convince people to do something is to tell them they are forbidden from doing it. Currently, legislators in everybody’s favorite state — Arizona — are learning this most basic principle of reverse psychology.

You see, in 2010, Arizona lawmakers passed a law to dismantle ethnic studies in that state. The official reason was that such programs promoted “the overthrow of the U.S. government” and created resentment toward white people.

capitol_fire_flag_sm

Now, the ban must have been successful, because the U.S. government is still intact. And there have been no reports of rampaging crowds of young Latinos terrorizing the white people of Tucson, which no doubt would have happened if they attended a single ethnic studies class.

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Listen Up

“Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech.”

—The First Amendment

We’ve seen some ugly incidents aimed at Latinos in the past year, such as the racist girls from Arizona and the marching band that chanted slurs.

Incidents such as these provoke outrage from people who point out, rightly, that such behavior is offensive. But then some flustered individual will defend the racist girls or the marching band or whatever by proclaiming, in full-on righteous fury, “Whatever happened to freedom of speech in this country?” The implication is that daring to criticize someone for vile behavior is antithetical to American values, and maybe even illegal.

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Why the Bombshell?

OK, this is going to come out as self-righteous, but I’m going to say it anyway.

I’m a straight guy who was raised Catholic. I grew up doing things like Boy Scouts and high school football. When I was a kid, depictions of gay people were rare, and overwhelmingly negative. But despite my relentlessly religious, hetro background, even as a teenager I couldn’t understand why anybody had a problem with gay people.

So I’m mystified why, after decades of social pressure, grown adults are only now saying, “I guess it’s not cool to hate on gays.” Of course, even more amazing is the fact that millions of Americans are still saying, “Yes, it is, because God told me to.”

President Obama’s decision this week to come out in support of gay marriage is breathtaking not only for its boldness, but for the fact that there is any controversy at all. I’m sorry, but try as I might to respect everyone’s religious beliefs, I can’t get past the idea that the supposedly principled stance against homosexuality is nothing more than fear, ignorance, and prejudice.

Now, those are subjects that Latinos know a thing or two about. Perhaps because we’ve felt what it’s like to be on the receiving end of those emotions, support for gay marriage is higher among Hispanics than among the general population. Yes, as I’ve written before, Latinos are no longer as socially conservative as they once were, and Republicans who insist that Obama will lose the Hispanic vote because of his announcement are deluding themselves.

In essence, twenty or so years from now, when gay marriage is legal in every state, you will have a hard time finding anyone who will admit that they once voted to deny fellow Americans their civil rights. It will be just like the old Southerners who insist they never called a black person a derogatory name in the 1970s.

Who knows, maybe even Arizona, by that point, will stop frisking Hispanic kids. We can dream.

 


Sez Who?

We all know about Martin Luther King Jr.’s resistance to the unjust laws of the Jim Crow South. King believed that achieving justice sometimes necessitated breaking the arbitrary rules that flawed humans had devised.

Similarly, in Latin America, where many of our families originated, priests often took a stand against the repressive authority of the oligarchies. Sometimes, as with Archbishop Oscar Romero, they paid with their lives.

So it’s clear that religious leaders should urge their followers to disobey laws that are unjust or run counter to the principles of their faith…right?

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The Frisk

I’ve toyed with the idea of instituting a Wordless Wednesday feature on this site. But of course, I update on the weekends (more or less), and I usually can’t shut up once I get writing, so just slapping a picture online isn’t going to happen.

But as an experiment, I’m going to sidestep my loquacious tendencies and simply post a photograph with minimal text.

Here we have a young Hispanic boy whose parents are taking him to a school board meeting in Arizona. This is how he was greeted at the door.

Draw your own conclusions.


The Slow Fade

The New York Times recently reported on a small rural town where longtime residents complain about “young Mexican men working construction and driving down wages, the children of laborers flooding crowded schools…and strip clubs springing up on roads that used to be dark and quiet.”

Is the town in Wisconsin, Kansas, Alabama, or even (shudder) Arizona? No, it is “a precolonial Mexican village outside Oaxaca City, filling up with fellow Mexicans.”

It seems that the urge to hate immigrants — even of the same nationality — is universal.

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The Revenge of Tony Plush

So my hometown Milwaukee Brewers are bound for the National League Championship Series. And I’m pretty damned happy about that.

It may be awkward timing, or a little bit of a buzzkill, but I just published an article for Being Latino magazine that is critical of Major League Baseball. You can find it here.

Whatever conclusions you draw from it, however, don’t let it distract from rooting for Morgan, Fielder, Braun, and Gallardo. I know I can count on you.


All Aboard

So I was at Union Station here in Los Angeles, waiting to board the Amtrak (more in a future post on what happened once I got on the train). Suddenly I noticed a commotion, and I saw people scurrying around. I checked my twitter feed, which confirmed that ICE was raiding the station.

They were looking for undocumented immigrants, who (if they subscribed to the same twitter feeds as me) already knew to leave the station.

I have no idea how many people ICE nabbed, but I imagine it wasn’t too successful of an operation. I mean, everybody — bored travelers, American citizens, legal residents, little kids, day laborers, you name it — knew what was going on. Let’s just say that the element of surprise was lacking.

But the heavy-handed raid got me thinking. I haven’t written about illegal immigration in some time, which is a relief to me because it’s such an overwhelming, frustrating topic. But it also means that I’ve missed commenting on some truly odd stories.

For example, there was John McCain’s claim that illegal immigrants had set fires in Arizona that were burning out of control. In related news, they apparently also stole his remote control.

And just remember, this guy was almost president.

Perhaps even the residents of Arizona have had enough of the immigrant bashing. After all, they recently recalled the architect of SB 1070. Upon hearing the news, I’m sure the guy muttered, “And after all I’ve done for the nutjobs of this state…”

Meanwhile, in another forward-thinking area of the country, Alabama, the nation’s most repressive anti-immigration law was going into effect. It will, of course, be the subject of myriad lawsuits. But long before the courts make a decision, it’s quite possible that the residents of Alabama will realize that they made a grievous mistake.

For proof of that, they can look to their good friends in Georgia, which also passed tough legislation against undocumented workers. However, now that state doesn’t have enough workers to bring its crops in. Yes, that’s right — U.S. citizens have not stepped in to fill the workers gap, and Georgia farmers are in a tizzy.

Why, it’s enough to make even Georgia Republicans rethink the wisdom of bashing the undocumented.

The continuing crusade against illegal immigration makes even less sense when we find out that U.S. Border Patrol agents, far from being overwhelmed by the dreaded Brown Invasion, are more likely to be pummeled into submission by a more vicious force: sheer tedium. It appears that “agents on the U.S.-Mexico border these days have to deal with a more mundane occupational reality: the boredom of guarding a frontier where illegal crossings have dipped to record low levels.”

Of course, I’m sure if they get too bored, the agents can always snag a little girl (even if she is a U.S. citizen) and kick her out of the country. Or they could take lessons from one our favorite individuals, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and just handcuff legal residents and citizens at will.

Speaking of Sherriff Joe, I’m just as excited as you to know that he has a new underwear line coming out. No, I’m not kidding. You can purchase of pair of pink boxers emblazoned with the phrase “Go Joe!” or even better, “Vamos Jose!”

I’m sure I speak for all the guys out there when I say that it’s not creepy at all to think of Sherriff Joe every time you put on your underwear — nope.

And nothing makes more of a slamming fashion statement than random phrases advocating a xenophobic political position, which I’m sure will impress any ladies who are fortunate enough to see their men strip down to bright pink intimate apparel that has a man’s name splayed across it.

It sounds perfect for a first date. As always, thanks, Sherriff Joe!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a train to catch.


Into the Madness

First off, I’ve been remiss thanking people for their comments. So let me give a quick shout out to Cousin #7, David, Ankhesen Mie, Tara, and Raul for their feedback. I truly appreciate the feedback.

Second, let me tell you about my recent field trip.

I landed at Phoenix airport with more than a little trepidation. After all, we’re talking about Arizona here — the land of SB 1070, hardcore anti-Latino sentiment, general nuttiness, and a strain of social conservatism so intense that anyone to the left of John Boehner has been known to shield his eyes from the xenophobic glare.

According to several Hispanic organizations, I shouldn’t have even been there. The movement to boycott Arizona and everything related to it has been constant and loud.

But I was scheduled to be in the state for all of six hours. My latest client, a company that hired me to rewrite its web content, asked me to fly in to their Phoenix office to get a quick overview of the organization.

Considering that it was a reasonable request, and a good-paying gig, I was hard-pressed to say no. Plus, they were covering all my expenses and paying my hourly fee even while I was sitting on the plane, playing Angry Birds and running up their tab by ordering those little bottles of overpriced wine from chipper flight attendants.

In addition, while I have been ever so antagonistic toward Arizona lately, I never said I was boycotting the state. For starters, I think most such efforts are noble but doomed to failure. More important, however, I’ve always wondered if such a tactic nails innocent bystanders (e.g., Latino business owners) more than it does the powerful instigators of the conflict.

Perhaps this was just self-serving justification, however, so I resolved not to spend any money while I was in the state. This turned out to be pretty damn easy, considering I went right from the airport to the company’s offices and back again, with no chance to stop anywhere to buy anything. How’s that for preserving principles?

Regardless, I am pleased to report that everyone I interacted with in Arizona was perfectly nice to me. Granted, I spoke to only five or six people at my clients’ office and a few more at the airport. But no one in this tiny sample seemed like a fire-breathing racist to me.

As such, maybe even in a place as certifiable as Arizona, the majority of people are reasonable, friendly individuals who don’t seek to harass others just for being different. Perhaps even in this place — the sun-baked ground zero for American rage and fear — there exists a surplus of decency that gets drowned out by the sheer intensity of a self-righteous faction.

I would like to think so.

In any case, it was a bit eerie to finally see the land I had written so many words about, and upon which I had heaped so much mental energy. Yes, I had driven through Arizona twice as an adult, and I spent a couple of days in Tucson when I was a kid.

But this was my first time since all the craziness went down that I trod upon its streets and breathed in its superheated air. I was there, among the cactus and not far from Jan Brewer herself. Now that’s a creepy feeling.

And despite the fact that everything went smoothly, and even with the fresh memories of all the nice Arizonans I met that day, I have to admit that I was happy to leave and get back home.


More News at 11…Maybe

A while back, I wrote about the tragic death of Brisenia Flores, the little girl murdered by right-wing nuts in Arizona.

As I stated, what made the story even more grotesque (if such a thing were possible) was the national media’s virtual silence about her murder. Well, I’m happy to report that journalists have learned their lesson, and thus humbled, are back to covering the news that matters.

Yes, of course, I was only joking there.

How else can one explain the news blackout over the death of Jose Guerena, a former U.S. Marine who was gunned down in his home a few weeks ago? Guerena, who served two tours in Iraq, was shot more than sixty times when he grabbed a rifle and tried to defend his home against invaders.

The shocking nature of his death should warrant a mention in the mainstream press. What makes the tale even more interesting, however, is that the invaders turned out to be a SWAT team. They were executing a search warrant, but “no drugs, cash, or criminal evidence of any kind were found in the home. Neither Jose nor his wife Vanessa has a criminal record.”

Also intriguing is the fact that the SWAT team fired more than seventy times at Guerena, who died without releasing the safety on his rifle. And we should mention that, despite a quick call being placed to 911, it took “about an hour for waiting medics to know what happened, and the man is dead before fire crews are allowed into the home.”

And we should also point out that law enforcement keeps changing the story about what happened. Furthermore, “details of the search warrant have not been made public, and deputies would not comment.”

As a kicker, and you must have seen this coming, the shooting took place in everyone’s favorite state: Arizona.

Now I understand that the national media has important things to cover, like whether an ignorant blowhard who has no chance of ever getting elected president decides to run or not. And there are fast-breaking items about pampered British royalty to write, and catfights on one of those 6,308 Real Housewives spinoffs to cover. Yes, I feel for those overwhelmed journalists.

But is it too much to ask that they notice when, for example, a decorated Marine, who was resting after a hard day’s work, winds up getting shot five dozen times in his kitchen by cops? Maybe they could get curious in light of the fact that hostility toward Latinos is sky high in a state where tragic shootings are alarming frequent.

No, I guess not — nothing to see here, folks.

Of course, we have no idea how this story will turn out. Maybe it will come to light that, despite appearances and all indications so far, Guerena was a notorious criminal.

Actually, now that I think about it, that might be the only way to get the press to pay attention.


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