Tag: Barack Obama

WTF, Indeed

Yes, that was me driving down Sunset Boulevard while listening to a podcast on grammar. I was keepin’ it real.

Although I’m usually blaring an audio book, I’ve recently gotten into listening to podcasts, which I know puts me behind the curve, but who’s keeping track of such things?

In any case, I tuned into a few episodes of Marc Maron’s WTF. I listened to the much-hyped interview with President Obama (very cool to hear the leader of the free world in a relaxed setting) and also tuned into the Robert Rodriguez interview (that guy is a one-man Latino empire).

But for me, the most intense moment of my WTF crash course was Maron’s interview with Sir Ian McKellen.


I’m a big fan, of course. In fact, if I had to have my life narrated, I would choose his voice to do the honors.

McKellen ended his interview by performing a Shakespearan monologue. And he didn’t go with an old favorite like Richard III’s opening speech or King Lear’s crazy talk.

No, he picked an obscure passage from Thomas More (not really a Shakespeare play) that was all about… wait for it… immigration.

I have to believe that someone has socially conscious as McKellen did not pick this speech by accident.

As others have pointed out, McKellen “managed to make a strong moral point, important to the current social and political situation… merely by doing what he is most famous for, reciting Shakespeare beautifully.”

Here is the beginning of McKellen’s monologue:

Imagine that you see the wretched strangers,

Their babies at their backs and their poor luggage,

And that you sit as kings in your desires,

Authority quite silent by your brawl.


It goes on, asking the listener what he would do if he had to leave his country:

As but to banish you, whether would you go?

What country, by the nature of your error,

Should give you harbor?


And it ends in breathtakingly powerful fashion:

Would you be pleased

To find a nation of such barbarous temper,

That, breaking out in hideous violence,

Would not afford you an abode on earth,

Whet their detested knives against your throats,

Spurn you like dogs, and like as if that God

Owed not nor made not you, nor that the elements

Were not all appropriate to your comforts,

But chartered unto them, what would you think

To be thus used? This is the stranger’s case;

And this is your mountanish inhumanity.


Wishing and Waiting

I’ve edited over 100 books, from thriller novels to dense histories to self-help diatribes. Only a few of those books have lodged in my memory.

Among them was a manual written by a prepper. If you don’t know this term, it refers to someone who makes active plans to survive a catastrophic disaster, typically by stockpiling food, ammunition, and other supplies, and/or by creating some kind of well-protected shelter.

Preppers anticipate calamities ranging from a worldwide economic collapse to a military coup d’état to a Katrina-style cataclysm to, well, just about anything big and scary.

The book was well-written, and the author was intelligent and polite. And even if I found his worldview to be a bit, shall we say, paranoid, it would be incorrect to write him and his peers off as lunatics.

After all, if there’s ever an extinction-level asteroid impact or a zombie attack, then preppers will have the last laugh.



But what struck me about the author’s mindset wasn’t his fear-based attention to detail and insistence that sooner or later, all the shit will hit all the fans.

No, it was my realization that at a certain point, he was no longer preparing for a worst-case disaster. He was actively hoping for it.

You see, if his doomsday predictions never materialize, he has wasted a great deal of time, money, and effort for absolutely nothing. Indeed, he will have squandered a solid chunk of his life, while pinning his very self-identity on nonsense.

So a lot of preppers aren’t just waiting for end times. They are counting on catastrophe to justify their life’s work, even if this wish is subconscious.

How does this relate to the current political climate?

Well, look no further than the renewed demonization of immigrants and, by extension, all Latinos.

We have major political candidates (who shall not be named) who imply hordes of Hispanics are swarming into this country for the express purpose of raping and murdering Americans — that is, when they’re not pumping out “anchor babies” and stealing jobs.

Of course, fear-based campaigning — especially among conservatives — has a long and effective history.


And it’s tempting to dismiss GOP shrieking as a side effect of the party’s reliance on religious fervor and apocalyptic thinking. Keep in mind that about 20 percent of Republicans honestly believe that Obama is the antichrist.

But while building upon those ignoble foundations, this new conservative mindset amounts to something else.

You see, those on the right wing who despise Latinos (and there are many) aren’t just motivated by personal gain. They are true believers, who sincerely think America is doomed if Hispanics continue to increase their political, cultural, and demographic influence. To this contingent, the “browning” of America is the beginning of its end.


But what if this never happens? What if recent Latino immigrants become an integral and beneficial part of American society, just as so many other immigrant classes have?


In that case, a lot of conservative leaders have wasted a great deal of energy on nothing. Their predictions have failed to come true. And all that screaming and ranting and raving added up to nada.

Nobody wants to see his or her life’s work rendered irrelevant, or worse, dismissed as histrionic, wrong-headed idiocy.

To prevent that, many conservatives have morphed into extreme preppers, warning everyone of the coming Armageddon, while secretly hoping that it will arrive right on time to prove them correct.

The good news for right-wing preppers is that they have an inexplicable degree of influence in this country. So instead of working to prevent the coming apocalypse, they can help to usher it in, via self-fulfilling prophecies and overt policy decisions.

For example, Latinos have lower graduation rates than other ethnicities, so rather than improve public education, right-wing preppers try to gut it.


Hispanics have higher rates of poverty, so rather than balance the playing field, right-wing preppers reinforce an economic system that is rigged for the upper classes.


Latinos have limited socioeconomic power, so rather then look at institutional barriers, right-wing preppers deny that racism even exists.

Yes, there’s lots of ways to ensure that we get the America that some conservatives envision — the future that they supposedly fear but are weirdly attracted to at the same time.

Fortunately for me, I’ve made back-up plans. You see, I’ve recently built this secret bunker stocked with guns and water, and when the time comes…

Never mind, I’ve said too much.

Many Languages, One Voice

When my cousins from El Salvador first came to America, they didn’t speak English. Of course, they were kids, so they rapidly learned it. Today, everyone in my family, except for my abuela, embraces English as their primary mode of communication. My cousins’ children (and mine) will have to make an effort to be bilingual and not leave Spanish in my family’s past.

But other families don’t face the dilemma of losing the mother tongue. In fact, about 5 million children in the United States don’t speak English as their primary language. This constitutes 9% of all US public school students. Now, that number includes a lot of kids who speak Tagalong or Russian or Mandarin or something else that most of us don’t recognize.

But it’s fair to say that many of the children who speak English as a second language (ESL) communicate only in Spanish.


Because we’re hearing more Spanish than ever in the country’s schools, the Obama administration recently issued the nation’s first set of federal guidelines on the rights of ESL students. The guidelines remind school districts across the country of their obligations under the law.

Among other things, all schools must identify ESL students in a timely manner, offer them language assistance and provide qualified staff and resources to help them learn English. In essence, ESL students have the same rights to a quality education as students who speak English, and schools must avoid segregating English learners from other students.

I know this is a shocker to the nativist crowd, but you can’t just yell, “Speak English, damn it!” at perplexed kids.

The decision makes clear that students who speak Spanish, or other languages, are becoming more common, and the American educational system has to meet their needs. The Obama guidelines are a welcome indicator of that fact.

Of course, it’s a little sad that anyone has to be reminded of this in the first place.

The Even Greater Outdoors

Few demographics are more environmentally conscious than Latinos. I mean, we are more likely to lead green lifestyles, buy green products and support efforts to fight climate change. And on a personal note, let me remind you that I was once a Boy Scout, and I can still start a fire without using matches… probably.

Anyway, the point is that we really love nature. So maybe it’s not a big surprise that Latinos are also taking the lead in creating new national landmarks and preserving natural spaces.

When President Obama declared part of the San Gabriel Mountains in Southern California to be a national monument, it was with the hearty support of Latinos. Polls showed that almost 90% of local Hispanics supported the San Gabriel Mountains designation. You can’t get 90% of Hispanics to agree that salsa is better than ketchup. But when it comes to nature, we’re overwhelming in our agreement.


Yes, there are even organizations like Latinos Outdoors, Green Latinos, and HECHO (Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting and the Outdoors), and they have worked for the protection of areas like the San Gabriel Mountains and the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in New Mexico.

So why do Hispanics show all the love for mountains and streams and lakes and trees and such? Well, one theory is that our legendary focus on family drives our desire to maintain the environment for future generations. Another is that because we tend to be recent immigrants, or the offspring of recent immigrants, we have more of a connection to the pristine environs of Latin America.

That certainly makes sense. But I also think it’s because we’re less likely to be right-wing industrial polluters who only care about the bottom line and think climate change is a left-wing conspiracy.

But maybe that’s just me.


Living in the Past

Right around Christmas, President Obama freaked everybody out by announcing that we are normalizing relations with Cuba. That’s right — Cuba, the home of this guy.



It’s not like we’re going to be all buddy-buddy now. I mean, who does Cuba think it is? Our real friends are places like Vietnam, where we fought a long, bloody war that killed thousands of Americans for nothing. And then there is Saudi Arabia, which isn’t hostile or repressive or hosting tons of people who would love to slit our collective throats — nope, not our good allies.

It’s Cuba that has vexed multiple presidents, tantalized us with its proximity yet unapproachable nature, and provided the storyline for at least one X-men adventure. And now the United States will begin discussions with the nation to re-establish diplomatic relations. America plans to re-open an embassy in Havana, and the Obama administration will allow some travel and trade that had been banned under the decades-long embargo.

The move is hugely popular with Latinos. In fact, 75% of Hispanics support re-establishing diplomatic ties with Cuba, compared with 64% of Americans overall.

But some Latinos, especially Cuban exiles, are infuriated. These are the people who fled Castro’s regime and took enough cash with them to set up a staunchly conservative community in Florida. For as long as I’ve been alive, Cuban natives have been the one subgroup of Hispanics who vote Republican.

So when Obama announced his decision, the predictable protests erupted in Florida. Senator Rubio declared that we were coddling dictators, and to hear some people talk, we would all be legally required to wear those annoying, pretentious Che Guevara t-shirts six days a week.

However, there’s something funny about Florida’s Cuban American community. Yes, polls show that 53% of Cuban immigrants oppose Obama’s plan, which I think is actually low. But there is a clear generational split, because 64% of U.S.-born Cuban Americans support Obama’s policy. That means almost two-thirds of the Cuban Americans who were born here — and who have little or no direct experience with Cold War politics — are saying, “It’s been half a century, so give it a rest.”

Of course, the older generation is aghast at this. They had Castro on the ropes… in that he is ancient and will soon die peacefully in his bed. But still, we just needed to give the embargo a little more time! Another decade or two would do it.

Leave it to the younger Hispanics, the ones born and raised in America, who are willing and eager to change the failed policies of the past. If they hurry, they might make it to Cuba and see the authenticity of their homeland before Starbucks moves in.

Here’s hoping.

Pissed off All the Time

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. Still, it’s always a good idea to reflect, and to pinpoint areas for personal growth and good stuff like that. So in 2015, I will try to be more patient and less quick to anger.

Of course, we Latinos are known for our fiery tempers. We’re also known for being excellent lovers, great artists, and unemployed… well, some stereotypes are more positive than others.

The point is that I know my temper is not the best. But it apparently pales in comparison to some of my fellow Latinos. And that is part of a larger problem.
You see, ethnic minorities in general are often portrayed as overly emotional and aggressive. Just look at the stereotype of the angry black woman.

Now, if we are angrier, it may be because we have more to be hostile about. Just look at the economic data, or the quality-of-life statistics, or, I don’t know, the trend of us getting shot more often.

But there’s something more going on here, besides justified anger. It is in the best interest of the establishment to portray minorities as angry, unreasonable, and illogical. After all, it is a lot easier to dismiss someone’s grievances if that person is always flying into rages over every little thing, or if she/he perceives every minor slight as a major injustice.

anger green

And being dismissive is a most effective tactic. Think of how many issues have been erased with the offhand remark that it was all just so much misplaced fury and political correctness.

By the way, I’ve written before, nothing has been PC since the 1990s, and this lazy rebuttal no longer means anything. I mean, some people believe that being against torture is PC — and how crazy is that?

But I digress. The point is that whenever Latinos, or any minority, complain about an injustice or societal problem, there will be plenty of people who offer a smirk and the calm, apparently reasonable explanation that we are just being angry because we’re, you know, prone to volatility and irrational behavior.
Earlier this year, when President Obama declined to address immigration reform before the midterms, we heard how many Latinos were in an eye-popping rage. It was an easy concept to Google.

Or to present a less politically charged issue, consider the case of Banditos, a San Francisco restaurant. When Hispanic leaders pointed out — calmly and respectfully no less — that the name was a negative stereotype, the owners agreed and changed the name.

But message boards decried the apparent appeasement to angry Latinos, and many people vowed never to eat there unless it changed its name back. The irony, of course, is that the angriest, most threatening people in the whole situation were the ones screaming that Latinos are unreasonable and demanding. But the label will not stick to them like it does to us.

So what can we do to avoid appearing perpetually hostile?

Well, if I knew that, I wouldn’t be so annoyed nonstop.

Summing Up Our Favorite Topic

It’s the end of the year. So let’s address immigration one last time.

Listen, if you don’t know by now that most Americans support a pathway to legal status for undocumented immigrants, well, I can’t help you.

But I will point out that President Obama’s recent executive decision doesn’t offer an actual route to citizenship. I know, I know. You heard that this was amnesty and the end of America and all that. But the people who are telling you this lie don’t know the difference between amnesty and Amway.

Basically, the administration is deferring the deportation of undocumented immigrants whose children are U.S. citizens or legal residents. The order also expands protection to more children who entered the country illegally with their parents (that’s right — the Dreamers). The president’s decision could mean that up to 5 million undocumented people will be allowed to stay in the country, without threat of deportation.

More than half of the undocumented immigrants from Mexico and Central America are now eligible to remain in America. But again, they would not be eligible for citizenship.

It’s not surprising that Latinos overwhelmingly agree with Obama’s approach. One poll shows that 90% of Hispanics support the president’s plan. Wow, you can’t even get 90% of us to agree that Shakira is hot (she is, by the way).

shakira 99
Now, undocumented immigrants themselves almost universally desire a way to legalize their situation. But many of the immigrants who are eligible for citizenship aren’t taking advantage of the offer. In fact, less than 10% of the 8.5 million immigrants who are eligible for naturalization have applied so far.

Why is this? Well, some still struggle with English, and they don’t feel confident they could pass the English-proficiency language exam. Others can’t afford the naturalization process, which usually costs $680 and is often multiplied by several family members.

Some still intend to return to their homelands, even if they have been in America for years. And yet others are afraid that it’s all a scam, and that some notario will fleece them. Remember, con artists love to take advantage of hopeful, desperate people who are reluctant to report fraud.

OK, so immigrants — Hispanic or otherwise — aren’t necessarily in a big rush to become citizens. But having the option is more than a nicety. You see, undocumented people who live in constant fear of being deported exist in a perpetual hell. And if you don’t care about that, perhaps you will care about the chain reaction of misery that cascades down upon actual citizens.

For example, many Latinos — born and raised in America — haven’t signed up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act, because they worry that doing so could cause family members to be deported. They’re concerned that giving detailed info online will cause the INS to come knocking on their door. That’s not true, of course, but it’s understandable. And that has a very real effect on the ACA’s effectiveness and our health care system in general.

Oh wait, if you hate the president’s executive order, you probably hate Obamacare too.

Well, that explains a few things.



By now, you’ve heard about President Obama’s executive action on immigration. The plan could help as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants avoid deportation. It marks a major development in the ongoing debate over immigration, and millions of Latino families could see their entire lives changed because of the decision.

Republicans, of course, are apocalyptic. It’s amnesty, or an impeachable offense, or the downfall of America, or some combination of all those things.

No, they really don’t like it.


Already, we’ve heard the GOP say how Hispanics are now going to overrun America and start ethnic cleansing. I’m not exaggerating. This GOP guy thinks it’s a possibility.

Now, I’ve addressed the countless myths, untruths, and slurs that have been hurled at undocumented people over the years. So I’m not going to get into it all over again.

Suffice to say, nobody really knows what effect this decision will have. But it is, as the kids say, a game changer. And it will have very real effects on myriad Latino households.

Of course, if we do start ethnic cleansing, just say that you’re a regular reader of mine. I’ll put in a good word for you.


More Than Skin Deep

What Latino doesn’t love President Obama? Well, what Latino who hasn’t had a family member deported?

But I kid.

In the last presidential election, Hispanics overwhelmingly supported Barack Obama, and their affiliation with the Democratic Party is well-established. Now, it didn’t help much yesterday, when Democrats were trounced by a political party whose leaders include a hog-castrating nutjob.

But maybe some Latinos are jumping on the GOP bandwagon after all. You see, a new study implies that there is a “relationship between skin color and partisan preferences among Latinos.”

black to white
The research found that Latinos with the darkest skin showed a 98% chance of voting Democrat, while those with the lightest skin showed just a 43% chance. Put another way, “lighter-skinned Latinos are more likely than darker-skinned Latinos to identify as Republican and to vote for Republicans.”

So apparently, the lighter skinned you are, the more likely you are to believe that climate change is a myth created by gay socialists who are trying to force everyone to have abortions. And that’s true even if your last name is Rodriguez.



Whenever I write about some subtle act of bigotry, I get comments that I am indulging in race-baiting, and that racism is more or less dead (except to agitators like me who keep bringing these issues up).

It’s much harder to make that claim when the act is overtly racist, especially if it occurred in the distant past. As such, I expect no slapdowns over the recent news that President Barack Obama gave the Medal of Honor to 24 Army veterans, who “if not for the hue of their skin or their ethnicity…would have received the prestigious medals for their valor long ago.”


Yes, it seems that back in the day, the US Army was riddled with bigots who didn’t take kindly to handing out the nation’s highest military honor to anybody but white guys. As such, these men — who displayed “gallantry above and beyond the call of duty for their combat actions in Vietnam, Korea, and World War II” —were denied proper recognition.

The Obama administration ordered a review of the records, which is how the US Army found that two dozen of its bravest soldiers were dissed. So the men are now receiving their medals, decades later.

Sadly, “only three of the soldiers are alive to receive the recognition.

The rest—soldiers with last names including Garcia and Weinstein and Negron—are dead.”


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