Tag: assassination

American Tragedy

For the past year or so, I’ve been critical of Arizona, and with reason. But now is not the time for rehashing SB 1070 or the state’s attempts to whitewash its culture.

Instead, all of us are sending positive thoughts, good karma, and, yes even prayers to Tucson.

The assassination attempt on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords left six people dead and a dozen wounded.

We have no idea if the gunman was, as many pundits presume, motivated by right-wing vitriol or Sarah Palin’s crosshairs or some other conservative fear-mongering tactic.

However, it would be the ultimate elephant-in-the-room moment to avoid bringing up the unsavory connections.

After all, we’re talking about a psycho in a red state who took advantage of lax gun-control laws to carry out an attack on a Democrat. The guy spouted conspiracy theories that are close to right-wing talking points, and he expressed hatred for the government. Let’s face it: It’s unlikely that he’s an Obama man.

Still, we don’t know what this domestic terrorist’s agenda or motives are, and we’ll set aside the hyper-defensiveness of right-wingers who are tripping over themselves to shout, “It wasn’t us, so don’t you dare even bring it up!”

Instead, what interests me is the story of Daniel Hernandez, the young intern who is credited with saving Giffords’ life. Five days into his job, he wound up running toward gunfire, taking action to prevent his boss from choking to death on her own blood in a Safeway parking lot.

The irony, clearly, is that in Arizona, a lunatic can obtain a Glock without question, while a hero named Hernandez may be stopped by cops and asked to present citizenship papers.

It should also be noted that the maniac in question is a native-born American. I mean, I thought undocumented immigrants were causing all our crime. But here this suburban thug raised in comfort has caused more death and destruction than whole neighborhoods of illegal immigrants ever have.

It’s all very depressing, of course. But even this most grotesque of events has its black-comedy moments. For example, the gunman was apparently obsessed with grammar, and he believed that the government controlled people through the manipulation of the English language.

Who knows; maybe he would have been less crazy if he just spoke Spanish.


Saint or Commie?

As I’ve written before, I dropped out of the Catholic Church when I was a teenager. I haven’t become an atheist, although I see nothing wrong with that philosophy. It’s just that I prefer to keep my distance from religion. However, I’ve also been upfront about my belief that one reason Latinos don’t make bigger social and economic gains is our overreliance on the Church.

So perhaps I should excuse myself from a debate taking place across the Hispanic community, Latin America, and the Catholic Church. The cause of this debate is that old rabblerouser himself, Archbishop Oscar Romero.

For those of you who don’t know, Romero was the head of the Church in El Salvador from 1977 to 1980. During this time, he spoke out against the brutality of the government and the oppression of the poor. For having such crazy ideas, he was assassinated, presumably by members of a right-wing death squad. Following his death, a civil war ripped the country apart and killed tens of thousands of civilians, including members of my mother’s family.

In the thirty years since his death, Romero has been lionized as a martyr for the cause of social justice, or criticized as a dupe for communist agitators, depending on whom you talk to. The Catholic Church has been considering him for sainthood for years, but weirdly enough, they can’t seem to go ahead and canonize the guy.

The debate over Romero goes to the heart of the Church’s standing in Latin America. Is it an institution that upholds the traditions of the culture, even if those traditions include exploitation and enforced poverty? Or is it a force for peace and compassion, which is what that famous hippie Jesus espoused?

The perception of the Church in Latin America has a direct impact upon U.S. Hispanics. Many of us who are first-generation, for example, saw an organization that gave lip service to helping the poor, but supported corrupt regimes in our parents’ home countries. Priests like Romero, far from being supported, often earned Rome’s disdain. The dichotomy (some would say hypocrisy) was not endearing.

But Romero’s legacy may finally be thwarting the establishment culture that shunned him during his life. In a truly surprising moment, my mother’s home country of El Salvador has finally gotten around to acknowledging its most famous citizen.

The LA Times reports that “For the first time, the Salvadoran state is publicly commemorating Romero. Through most of this month, marches, concerts and debates have honored the priest.”

Furthermore, the country’s president, Mauricio Funes, recently asked forgiveness on behalf of the state for Romero’s assassination. Funes said, “This is something that should have been done a long time ago” and added that his government would “end the decades of silence” that have been Romero’s official legacy.

If El Salvador can finally acknowledge that Romero was killed because of his strong drive for justice, maybe the Vatican can get around to saying that he was a pretty good guy.

By the way, and at the risk of taking a cheap shot, it seems like the Catholic Church’s current issues prove that it’s not the best judge of morality and saint-like behavior. But then again, what do I know? I’m just an ex-Catholic.


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