Tag: Barcelona

Is America Worth Fighting For?

Over the last month, the most popular activities for liberals have included the following:

  • Writing impassioned (and futile) emails to Electoral College voters
  • Muttering insults about the white working class
  • Staring off into space in abject horror and dread

You know what is no longer popular? That would be researching a move to Canada.

Yes, when push came to shove — and then kept on pushing right off a Trumpian cliff — most progressives dropped the fiction that they were packing up for Toronto or Costa Rica or Switzerland or some other place where unstable, genital-grabbing billionaires aren’t heads of state.

Instead, we progressives started talking about how we weren’t going anywhere, and how we had to keep fighting, and stand up for our principles, and never give up, and on and on until the Rocky theme was pretty much blaring over our heads as we spoke.

But I have a nagging question.

Is any of this battling for the heart and soul of America worth the cost?

Now regardless of your political affiliation, you most likely find that question insulting.

After all, conservatives view it as treasonous to even question if America is worth fighting for. And liberals view it as gutless to just acquire and let the right-wingers reshape the country.

But look past the knee-jerking, and you run into some disturbing facts about just how much Americans are awash in contradictions and issues about their country. For starters, both liberals and conservatives constantly bemoan our nation’s status.

Barely half of U.S. adults say they are “extremely proud” to be Americans, which is a new low in Gallup’s polling. Most Americans say the country is on the wrong track. And a large segment of our fellow citizens assume “that life will get worse for them over the next generation” (interestingly, a full two-thirds of Trump supporters believe this).

And if we’re not getting all depressed about America’s decline, we’re busy hating on our fellow U.S. residents. Polls find that “majorities in both political parties view their rivals not only unfavorably, but very unfavorably.” And almost 80% (a record high in Gallup polling) believe Americans are fundamentally “divided on the most important values.”

So if our relationship with America were a marriage, you would have to wonder if it’s time to call the divorce lawyers.

Now, I know it is un-American to just cut and run… well, except for all those times when we have done exactly that. So that’s not much of argument.

I will just point out that — with the exception of Native Americans — none of us would even be here if our ancestors hadn’t ditched their homelands. My maternal family thought El Salvador sucked, so they came here. My paternal family got sick of Ireland and Italy, so they got on a boat for a better life.

And your ancestors did the exact same thing. We come from a long line of people who actively avoided standing up and fighting for their homelands. They all said, “See ya, I got a better deal waiting for me in America,” and today we applaud their courage and fortitude.

So why is it so horrific or treacherous to follow their example, and leave for a better life?

Indeed, if you are a progressive like me, you no doubt are aware that the Scandinavian countries align more with our principles. And they are kicking America’s ass in just about every category, by the way. Why wouldn’t you be happier there? If we’re truly being honest, as progressives, there are lots of countries where we would fit in better and possibly even have a better life.

“Ha,” I can hear conservatives out there saying. “I knew you liberals didn’t love America enough to fight for her.”

Well, I must point out that when Obama won re-election, plenty of you conservatives were mouthing off about leaving the country and/or seceding from the United States. So I would rein in that smugness.

The truth is that whether you lean left or right, you have most likely thought, at some point, that the nation was going to hell. And at those times, it crossed your mind to just get out while the getting was good.

For liberals, such a time is now. In essence, do we have some kind of moral obligation to spend our lives vainly trying to convince our fellow citizens how absurdly idiotic they’re being? Maybe we should take the hint and say, “If that’s the way you want it, the place is all yours.” Maybe it’s smarter to just go live someplace where we will be less stressed.

And then we realize… plenty of people are not in a position to leave. They are tied here, by economics or familial commitments or some other anchor that makes talk of starting over in another country as probable as Trump grabbing a beer with Noam Chomsky.

For those people who do not have the luxury of packing up and flying to France, we would basically be saying, “Hope you’re not Latino, or Muslim, or gay, or anything else other than a rich, straight, white guy. Because you are on your own.”

And at those times, it seems like sticking around and fighting may be the only real option we have.

But if things get much worse… well, I hear Barcelona is nice.


Another Option

It was not my intention to create a trilogy about the Latino publishing scene, but that is what has happened. My previous two articles were about big publishing’s snub of Hispanic authors and the rise of small presses. And now I will complete the triumvirate by detailing the virtues and flaws of self-publishing e-books.

But for this analysis, I needed an insider’s perspective. So I sat down for coffee with Pedro Huerta, Amazon’s Director of Kindle Content for Latin America.

[Full disclosure #1: I have recently self-published a novel on Amazon.]

[Full disclosure #2: I don’t drink coffee. I actually had tea.]

Huerta is excited about Amazon’s second annual Indie Literary Prize for Spanish-language authors. The contest, which runs from July 1 to August 31, is open to any writers who upload their Spanish-language e-books to Amazon’s KDP platform. From the presumably hundreds of entries, five finalists will be named. The winner will be published in print by La Esfera de los Libros, and his/her book will be translated into English and published in digital, print, and audio formats by AmazonCrossing.

“Authors can submit a 10-page poem or a 500-page novel,” says Huerta. “We’re open to all genres, and it’s a great opportunity for new writers to get discovered.”

Of course, it’s fair to ask if winning the contest will really help Spanish-language authors further their careers. After all, self-publishing is a crowded, frenzied mob scene where high-quality books struggle to stand out from the waves of semi-illiterate, self-righteous and just plain insane manifestos that wannabe authors hurl at readers.

No, it’s not pretty.

Mosh-Pit-70-Percent.001-001

Now add in the fact that we’re talking about Spanish-language e-books, which have an even smaller audience in America than English-language printed works do.

However, Huerta is undeterred. He says that self-publishing is the democratization of literature, where even the most outlandish writers can find an eager audience. And he says that if anything, this approach is more relevant for people who prefer to read in Spanish.

“Even in the best bookstores in America, the Spanish-language section is limited,” Huerta says. “What we’re doing is bringing the greatest bookstores in Mexico City, in Barcelona, to everyone in America.”

But will Americans be buying? Well, as we all know, the Hispanic population in America is increasing. And bilingualism, once an exotic and politically suspicious activity, is on the rise as well. Thus, it stands to reason that the audience for Spanish-language books is also getting larger.

Furthermore, Latinos are more likely to use mobile electronic devices than the general population. Because Hispanics are so plugged in, it’s pretty easy to imagine Latino readers devouring e-books on their Kindles, Nooks, and laptops.

Amazon is aware of these intersecting cultural trends, and the company doesn’t want to be left behind.

“Latinos love to read,” Huerta says. “And we want them to read. Whether it is a traditional book or on a Kindle, we want reading to be a daily part of everyone’s life.”

So will winning Amazon’s contest set a Spanish-language author on the path to becoming a household name, a sort of Latino version of Dan Brown or Stephen King? Huerta says that’s a possibility, but he adds that this is not really the point.

“There are Latino authors who want to be the next John Grisham, and that’s great,” Huerta says. “But the goal is increased visibility for all good writers. It’s not just about winning the contest. It’s about encouraging authors to get their work out there, and helping readers discover them.”

Huerta imagines a future where authors take wild, experimental chances because no one can prevent them from publishing online. He says that many writers will create books that are aimed at an audience of a few hundred, or even just at their immediate loved ones. And he points out that another advantage of e-books is that they never go out of print.

“What are the stories to be told?” Huerta asks. “Let’s capture all of them, online, and keep them forever.”


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