Tag: changing demographics

Where Do We Even Begin? 

Nazis are bad.

There, was that so damn difficult to say?

Well, yes, if one is a black-hearted egotist whose only concern is keeping a clammy, slippery grasp on power. In that case, it can be quite difficult.

As we all know, our straight-talkin’, tell-it-like-it-is president was unusually quiet last weekend, when fascists, racists, and violent thugs descended upon Charlottesville. The man who tweets every umbrage or perceived slight had nothing to say when the KKK started throwing punches, and white supremacists chanted Hitler-era slogans.

He then came out with a baffling, condescending condemnation of “both sides” of the violence. I suppose he was trying to be fair to both homicidal bigots driving their cars into people, and the demonstrators who should be blamed for… well, I don’t know what — perhaps for violently putting dents in the car or cracking its windshield when the vehicle plowed into them. Yeah, both sides are clearly to blame.

Of course, Trump did eventually come out against white supremacy, which proves that he will indeed take a moral position — provided that both sides of the political spectrum, millions of Americans, and every half-respectable media outlet scream at him for days to denounce fucking Nazis, which let’s face it, is the absolute minimum qualification for being considered a decent human being. But hey, he did it, right?

No, because he changed his mind the next day and went back to equating sign-carrying liberals with deranged Nazis who murder people, setting off a shitstorm of outrage and disbelief. So there was that.

Now, there are only three possible motivations for Trump’s false-equivalency nonsense:

  1. He is an impulsive man-child who lashes out at others even if it is detrimental to his own cause.
  2. Some dark part of his soul — perhaps a bigger part than his followers would like to admit — agrees with the white supremacists.
  3. He is a chickenshit politician who is scared of offending his base, which is ironic when one considers that he is supposedly the anti-politician who is not afraid to speak his mind.

All three of these options are terrifying. In all three scenarios, the guy who is the face of America, and its political and even moral leader, has abdicated his responsibility (and possibly his humanity) so that hate-filled men shouting anti-Semitic slurs can feel good about themselves.

Of course, it’s perfectly obvious to me that someone should have told the president that the fascists in Virginia had mocked his tiny hands, or pointed out his dismal approval ratings, or brought up his disastrous leadership skills. If that had happened, he would have lacerated those bastards in a furious speech before they could finish saying, “Seig Heil.” But that didn’t happen, and now we have to wonder about the following:

Is this a turning point?

I don’t mean that in the political sense. We all know the gutless GOP will not turn on Trump unless and until he has outlived his usefulness to them. Otherwise, they will just keep apologizing for his maniacal outbursts and ugly tirades, or looking the other way, or somehow coming up with a twisted rationale for it (like, “liberals made this happen”). Hey, I guess it helps them sleep at night.

No, I’m talking about a cultural turning point.

After all, there can no longer be any doubt — if there ever was — about the kind of man Trump is (i.e., the kind who coddles Nazis). There could not be a clearer contrast between his delayed scripted words of false comfort and his spontaneous, appalling endorsement of racism.

Similarly, those who have excused his abhorrent behavior to this point have finally run into a non-negotiable, unambiguous, swastika-shaped look into his loathsome mind. Any defense of his stance goes beyond the usual pathetic, infuriating, illogical, baffling excuses that Trump supporters have offered for other transgressions (and there have been a lot of them).

This is so sickening, so reprehensible, so concrete in its evil that it threatens to permanently brand anyone who defends it as either a spineless coward or a sociopathic villain.

Witness that prominent conservatives, corporate CEOs, and military leaders are all blasting Trump. These are hardly liberal snowflakes getting riled up by fake news.

So it’s fair to ask if this is Trump’s Katrina moment. Could this be the final outrage that pushes his casual supporters over the edge and solidifies his calamitous reputation?

Already, a majority of Americans — not just progressives, but most of the country — is aghast at their president’s unhinged craziness. A full 40 percent want his impeachment.

Those numbers will only increase. The sense of disgust will only snowball. And because Trump burned up so much good will mere months into his presidency, it is difficult to imagine the trend ever reversing.

For Trump supporters, after this point, there is no turning back. Which of them wants to be the last deplorable standing, waving his Make America Great Again hat around as the rest of the nation looks away in shame and horror?

 


Who Could Have Guessed?

There are few advantages to being Gen X.

We’re a much smaller generation and therefore less culturally powerful than the Baby Boomers and the Millennials. We’re too old to be hip and cool, but too young to collect Social Security (which will be long gone by the time we’re senior citizens). Also, we were born too late to see Led Zeppelin in concert, but born too early to have our own cell phones as teenagers.

Also, our rock icons keep dying on us.

But there is one advantage we have, and it is this: We are cynical as fuck.

I’m not making this up. Studies have verified that Gen X is the most skeptical group of Americans in history.

Now, you might not think being cynical is an advantage. For the most part, it’s not. But when it comes to existing in the world in which we live, it is a damn lifesaver.

Take, for example, the recent poll numbers for our illustrious president.

In November, when Trump won — due to that archaic relic known as the Electoral College — about 60% of Americans “said they were mostly optimistic about his presidency.” But that number is down to 43% today, and furthermore, “core groups that carried Trump to victory are not immune to the deteriorating optimism around the president.”

I’m not a political scientist, but I’m pretty sure the phrase “deteriorating optimism” is not one that presidents like to hear.

Keep in mind that all these numbers came before the president threatened to start a nuclear war.

In any case, “optimism has slipped more than 20 points — from 74% in November to 51% now — among whites without a college degree.” Keep in mind that this demographic is the most hardcore of Trump’s hardcore support.

Apparently, for some inexplicable reason, back in November, many Americans somehow thought that electing a narcissist with no governmental or military experience, who had a history of racist statements, misogynistic behavior, and unethical actions, and who had the temperament of a spoiled toddler was somehow cause for optimism.

Why any rational adult would think this is completely beyond me.

Even people who knew firsthand about Trump’s insanity seemed to think a 70-year-old bully would somehow become more humble by winning the election. Witness the New York Times columnist who was personally insulted by Trump, but only recently addressed his boorish behavior by stating, “I have to admit that it did not occur to me he’d keep doing that kind of stuff as president of the United States.”

How did this not occur to you? How could this be a damn surprise?

Maybe it’s just not Gen X cynicism, however. Maybe it’s also because I’m Latino, and as my fellow Hispanics — and no doubt most African Americans and Muslims and gays as well — can attest, we never thought the guy would be anything other than a disaster. We never thought he would mellow out, or suddenly become presidential, or really be anything other than what he appeared to be, which is a corrupt, conniving liar who cares about nothing but himself.

It seems that many other Americans are now snapping out of their collective naivety to admit reality. Although I remain baffled why it’s taken people so long to acknowledge the perfectly obvious.

However, if you still think I’m being too harsh, just remember this fact: In spite of everything that has gone wrong with the Trump presidency, 84% of Republicans still support him.

So would you like to ask again why I’m cynical?

 


Plays Well with Others

We’ve heard a lot of shouting about “safe spaces,” and how liberal college students across America are pampered little snowflakes who crumble at the slightest sign of conflict… while simultaneously being violent thugs who will gladly pummel the first conservative they see.

Yes, like a lot of conservative tropes, this one relies on contradictory oversimplifications.

In any case, right-wingers are clearly not fans of higher education — or, it could be argued, of education in general.

Damn that ivory tower.

Valley News – Shawn Braley

However, for those conservatives who still value learning, knowledge, and non-alternative facts, there is good news.

A recent study has shown that there is a way to improve the effectiveness of elementary school education. Grade schools that possess one specific trait tend to have more productive students.

Yes, it turns out that the best way to make a campus safer for its students is to embrace that most feared of liberal schemes: Diversity.

You see, the study found that kids “who attend racially diverse schools feel safer, less lonely and less picked on than their peers at more homogenous schools.” And by the way, this was true of all kids, including the white ones.

The researchers say that the emotional well-being of children “is important because their state of mind affects their ability to learn” and that “if you’re afraid in school, you’re not even going to raise your hand in class.”

This makes sense, of course. But the news that racial diversity is good for all kids — not just ethnic minorities — is bound to upset some people, sort of like the fact that racially diverse movies tend to be bigger hits (which is true, by the way).

In any case, by embracing racial diversity in education, we can do what’s right for kids while acknowledging a simple fact about changing demographics — a double whammy of societal goodness.

Wow, it’s never that easy. So let’s savor this one.

 


This Is Your Ad Campaign on Drugs

If you live in the fine state of Washington, you might have been driving along recently, minding your own business, when you were suddenly and rudely accosted by the following billboard.

Yes, Washington state’s Department of Health thought it was a good idea to spend $100,000 on the billboards, which aim to dissuade marijuana use among Latino teens by… well, I’m not sure what mechanism they’re going for here. Apparently, Hispanic kids won’t try the evil weed because they’re so very inherently cool (by default, no less).

Now, I suppose I should be offended at this.

But to be honest, I find the ad so bizarre, so baffling, so hilariously misguided that all I can do is laugh.

It reminds me of the infamous “Users Are Losers” campaign back when I was a kid. That simplistic jingle — a pathetic attempt at telling teens to stay off drugs — did indeed provoke a powerful reaction in its viewers: Fits of giggles, especially if you had just taken a massive hit from the bong.

In any case, the Washington state campaign aims for the same kind of hip-adults-talking-the-hip-lingo approach as those misbegotten ads of the past. But this time with a racial element thrown in.

As you can imagine, the billboard is not a hit.

Many people complained that the billboard implied Latinos are more likely to abuse drug, or conversely, that non-Latinos are more likely to abuse drugs (I told you the campaign was baffling). Others said the ad implied that people who take drugs are cool, which is exactly the opposite of the intended message. And of course, many people just thought the ad was some combination of tasteless, inflammatory, and lame.

To be honest, we haven’t seen such an immediate, overwhelmingly negative reaction since… well, whatever the last thing it was that Trump did.

With no small degree of embarrassment, Washington state has apologized for the fiasco and removed the billboards.

However, this botched campaign could serve as a ham-fisted metaphor for the whole War on Drugs. As we know, that cataclysmic attempt to end drug use in America only served to destroy countless lives — mostly those of ethnic minorities — and didn’t keep one person from getting high for a single day.

Then as now, we have government officials who are too busy demonizing pot to address the root causes of drug abuse, and we have a phalanx of government resources aimed directly at ethnic minority communities that, we are told, are cesspools of moral degeneracy and helpless pathology.

By the way, that’s not how those same governmental officials view, say, the opioid crisis that afflicts white working class communities. Locking up meth-addicted white people and throwing away the key isn’t a popular option, even though it remains the go-to tactic when it comes to blacks and Latinos smoking reefer.

Yes, it all makes me glad that I don’t smoke pot.

But of course, I don’t have to take drugs. I’m Hispanic, so I’m cool by default.


Full Count

We’re at the All-Star break, and my team is currently in first place. This is a major deal to me.

Yes, like a lot of Gen X Latinos, I’m a huge baseball fan. In fact, I recently achieved a fatherhood milestone when I took my 4-year-old son to see his first big-league game (he enjoyed it, even if he kept yelling, “safe!” and “out!” — usually at random).

I’m also a fan of science, which is one reason I’m not a Republican. Ha, just having fun there, my GOP friends… anyway…

Among my favorite science writers was the late Stephen Jay Gould. He wrote an intriguing essay titled, Why No One Hits .400 Anymore, in which he argued that while .400 hitters were fairly common in the early days of baseball, it’s become nearly impossible to reach that milestone today.

 

 

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Karma, Baby, Karma

So as I have mentioned before, my mom is my personal hero.

This is not just because she’s my mom, or even because she’s triumphed over serious adversity multiple times. While those are major factors, there are many other reasons why I admire her.

Among them it is this: The woman doesn’t take anybody’s shit.

You see, in the city where I grew up, my mom is (as the kids say) kind of a big deal. Until her recent retirement, she helped run the town.

During her closing days of wrestling with municipal politics, she interviewed candidates for key city positions. And she was commuting to City Hall one morning when she encountered that most American of moments: road rage.

 

A young white man took offense at her driving and — as young white men often do — decided he had every right to let everybody know exactly what he thought. So the guy pulled up next to my mom’s car and made several obscene gestures, punctuated with the shouted comment, “You fucking Mexican!” Then he drove off at an unsafe speed.

By the way, my mom is from El Salvador, not Mexico. But I digress.

In any case, my mom brushed off the guy’s idiocy (she’s very Zen about such things), and drove on to work. Later that morning, she joined the rest of her team in a conference room for a group interview with a finalist for a job.

You probably saw this coming, but yes, the person being interviewed was the asshole who cut her off in traffic and yelled racial slurs at her.

Now, he didn’t recognize her. Guys like him never notice any details about the people they harangue. They just move on to the next person to castigate.

But of course, my mom recognized him. She was perfectly polite during the interview. She’s a professional, after all. However, when it was time for final questions, she asked the following of the young man:

“Would you say you are respectful of other people’s cultures?”

The man smiled at such an HR softball of a question. He gave a practiced, interview-safe answer that just about anyone in a corporate setting would offer. It was all very, “Yes, I have the utmost respect for every creed, race, ethnicity, sexual preference, vegetarian or carnivore, smoking or non-smoking, tall, short, fat, and skinny example of god’s creatures, blah blah blah.”

That was all fine and good. But my mom had a follow-up question:

“If that’s true, then why did you call me a fucking Mexican this morning?”

I think we can all agree, this is not your standard interview question.

The man blanched and gasped. My mom’s co-workers were intrigued. But my mom just waited for his answer.

The guy denied it was him, said it was mistaken identity, then doubled back and gave conflicting, incriminating statements that proved it was indeed him after all. Then he tried to justify his road-rage outburst, backpedal on his previous comments, and wound up floundering so hard it’s amazing the mayor himself didn’t walk into the room to just shoot the guy and put him out of his misery.

But of course, it was all useless. Because let’s face it, there is no good answer to the question, “Why did you call me a fucking Mexican?”

The interview was over.

The guy didn’t get the job.

And my mom got back to work.

 


We’re All in This Together… Aren’t We?

Well, this is depressing as hell.

You see, with all the debates over authenticity and intersectionality and mutual struggle, one idea is largely unstated but heavily implied. And that is the concept that all ethnic minorities share a bond. After all, we are united against the bigotry and xenophobia of Trump’s America.

But like myriad other political and cultural assumptions, this one may not be true.

One only has to point at George Zimmerman to see that some Latinos are just as terrified of black males as your most racist white person. And even if we dismiss Zimmerman as an anomaly —to the point of insisting that he’s not really Hispanic — what do we make of Jeronimo Yanez?

You know him. He’s the cop who shot Philando Castile, an African American motorist, for the crime of… well, for basically doing nothing wrong. Yanez just opened fire because (and this is the cop excuse for just about everything) “he feared for his life.”

Yanez — who is positively, one hundred percent Latino — had the same reaction that so many white cops have when they encounter a black man: fear. And this fear has provoked many cops to do some very bad things to African Americans.

Clearly, this reaction of pure terror — based on racist assumptions — afflicts many Latinos as well. It’s obvious, then, that we are not always there for our African American compatriots.

Another societal ill, Islamophobia, has also leaked into the consciousness of some Hispanics. We all know about Nabra Hassanen, a Muslim teenage girl, whose alleged killer is a Latino man. The crime is being portrayed as extreme road rage.

But come on.

Does anybody think the girl’s headscarf had nothing to do with provoking this guy’s fury? Furthermore, does anyone believe that all the hatred aimed at Muslims hasn’t infiltrated the minds of at least a few Latinos?

We cannot assume that the simple fact we are often the targets of bigotry somehow means that we ourselves cannot be bigoted.

It just doesn’t work that way.

 


The End Is Near… Supposedly

 

Is there anything more gauche than quoting yourself? Well, maybe starting an article with a rhetorical question is worse, but…

In any case, here is an excerpt from something I wrote last summer: “If there is one thing that the candidacy of Donald Trump has taught us, it is to never count him — or his followers — out.”

I was writing about the latest polls at that time, which showed that Donald Trump had as much chance of winning the election as Noam Chomsky did of landing a triple salchow to clinch the gold.

I mean, it was absurd to think Trump might capture the Electoral College — just ludicrous. Ha ha ha ha.

Ha ha.

Ha…

Yes, we’re all still laughing five months into this monstrosity of a presidency. Our laughter is not joyous, of course, nor is it resigned or world-weary. It’s more like the collective lunatic howling of the damned, which I guess still counts as laughter nonetheless.

 

Regardless, my point in that article was to be skeptical of all the experts who assured us that Trump would flame out in spectacular fashion and that America would never hand over the car keys to a man who isn’t even qualified to be the assistant undersecretary in the Federal Bureau of Weights and Measures, much less the fucking chief executive of the nation.

No, we were all a little too relaxed about the possibility of a Trump presidency. And I’ve written before about the liberal tendency to insist that this time — really, really, really this time — it’s all over for Trump.

As you recall, he wasn’t going to win the nomination, he wasn’t going to win the election, rogue electors were going to deny him the presidency, he would get impeached on his first day, he would resign in disgust immediately, and so on and so on. He would this, that, and the other thing.

All of this would prevent us from living in a world where the president of the United States repeatedly insults an ally just hours after that ally has suffered a terrorist attack, or makes America the undisputed bad guy in the history of climate change, or just in general resembles an evil, sputtering old man planning to slip razor blades into apples next Halloween.

And just today, we have confirmation of what we all knew, which is that this president is even more corrupt than Nixon and thinks “obstruction of justice” is some kind of fancy French dessert.

Well, here’s the truth: None of this really matters, because Trump’s base doesn’t care about any of this.

Hell, white supremacists and conspiracy nuts and right-wing hatemongers are all for the man, more than ever. And until just about everyone else in America says, “Enough of this shit,” his supporters are numerous enough to keep Trump’s wobbly, haphazard administration upright. The alt-right and the bigoted will not be dissuaded. They are a multitude of furious fire ants keeping the anthill from toppling over, even after repeated sprayings from the flummoxed homeowner.

And so, none of these scandals are nearly enough to end our nightmare.

Of course, the impeachment-o-meter is hovering around 40%, so what do I know?

 


A Question of Motivation

Once again, I have unintentionally created a trilogy of posts. You see, my last two articles were about the conservative mindset regarding the deep state and climate change, respectively.

So in this post, we get right to the heart of the conservative struggle — the whole basis of the right-wing worldview.

And that basis is this: Liberals are evil bastards who want to destroy America and instill a globalist empire that enslaves humanity.

At least, that’s the gist of it, as far as I can tell.

Oh, I know plenty of conservatives are all about tax cuts or small government or traditional values (whatever those are), or some combination of Republican talking points. I’m not talking about the moderates or the dabblers.

I’m referring to the increasingly powerful right wing of the Republican Party. You know, the guys (and a few women) who spout crazy shit that would have gotten them kicked out of Thanksgiving dinner in 1998 but that today leads to leadership positions in the GOP.

We don’t need to go into the details of blatant xenophobia and misogynistic displays and neo-fascist overtures and actual physical violence.

Yes, let’s please skip the details.

Instead, we can look at science, which is not terribly popular with Republicans, but we’re going to embrace it anyway.

First, there is a wealth of data that implies “conservatives are more sensitive to threat,” making them more prone to a “bias that can distort reality, fuel irrational fears, and make one more vulnerable to fear-mongering politicians.”

So if a fear-mongering politician who distorts reality just happens to come along, well, he will find a highly receptive audience within the conservative base… ahem.

But you know what seals the deal with such individuals? That’s right — a common enemy.

Because according to science, conservatives also “emphasize patriotism, group loyalty, respect for authority and moral purity.”

So a right-winger sees a liberal mouthing off about Norway’s healthcare system or daring to question whether American is truly the greatest country in the world. The conservative views this as unpatriotic, disloyal, and disrespectful. And if the liberal happens to be gay too, well that’s just plain morally impure.

As such, the progressive doesn’t just have a different opinion. He or she stands against everything that the conservative believes in, and is therefore an irredeemable enemy.

Of course, this works the other way too, in that plenty of liberals believe every conservative is a racist who kicks puppies just for fun (and it is indeed bizarre that so many Republicans seem happy to live up to this stereotype).

But keep in mind that “conservatives tend to be more structured, rigid, and to prefer clear answers.” In addition, “Conservatives approach the situation from the start with greater reactivity to threat, a greater prior belief to the level of danger in the world.”

This combo makes them more prone to conspiracy theories, where one tidy explanation, rooted in fear, ties up everything. In fact, “conservatives are more likely than liberals to believe conspiracy theories that align with their beliefs.”

And that’s how we get to today’s America, where many conservatives sincerely believe that progressives have a secret plot to destroy the country, and only Trump can preserve the nation.

Of course, there is no answer as to why exactly liberals want to destroy America. After all, liberals are supposedly a bunch of rich elitists, so one would think they would want to preserve the system, not upend it. Also, studies imply that “liberals tend to value equality, fairness and protecting the vulnerable,” which indeed sound like the priorities of a progressive. But they don’t sound like the traits of a power-hungry cabal.

Along those lines, I can state that as a progressive, I have always been mystified why conservatives believe that liberals are hell-bent on one-world government. This is not even remotely on my list of utopian goals, but according to many right-wingers, I’m willing to assassinate people to make it come true.

Clearly, it is soothing to the conservative mind to demonize progressives and attribute vile motives to them. Granted, I don’t see how liberals can be both shadowy evil geniuses and idiotic libetards, but conservatives find a way to make it work.

Now, it may seem like a new development that conservatives are insisting progressives want to wreck the country just because… well, just because. However, this attribution of nefarious, ill-defined motives is more blatant than ever before. But it is not new.

For example, a dozen years ago, we liberals were asked, in all earnestness, why we wanted the terrorists to win. Many conservatives truly believed that progressives were rooting for Al Qaeda. Much of this was because we didn’t think invading Iraq was such a great idea.

Today, just about everybody agrees that going into Baghdad was a bit of a booboo. Yet, I’ve never heard a conservative apologize for the smear job on progressives, or even state, “I guess liberals weren’t trying to sabotage America after all.”

Years from now, when everyone agrees that Trump was a horrific mistake, I imagine liberals will receive a similar non-acknowledgement of their concerns in the present-day.

But it won’t matter, because we’ll be too busy, you know, plotting to rule the world.

 


Your Barrio Isn’t Worth Saving

Let’s say that you live in, once lived in, or otherwise have a fondness for a traditional Latino neighborhood in your city.

No doubt, you are aware that gentrification is a powerful force that is either the worst cataclysm in the history of urbanization, or a mighty godsend that will rescue every blighted neighborhood on the planet. Opinions vary.

But let’s sidestep that very real issue for now and address something we can all agree on: Many Hispanic neighborhoods have economic problems that need to be tackled, and improving the quality of life in Latino areas should be a top priority.

Well, I’m here to tell you that’s not going to happen. Because your neighborhood, your barrio, is not going to improve.

You see, we have only so many resources — and more importantly, only so much empathy — in this country. And currently, both are being used up in the effort to rescue small-town America and the white working class.

Now, you might ask, “Hey, isn’t the white working class synonymous with ‘Trump voter’? And isn’t there lots of proof that many of them are racists who have sold out our country because of their fear, hatred, and ignorance?”

Ha, no. I have it on good authority (i.e., the mainstream media) that the WWC are actually the salt of the earth, and they have been cruelly left behind by economic elites, and they have suffered greatly due to myriad other injustices that curiously never get mentioned whenever we talk about ethnic minorities (but that’s a mere coincidence).

In essence, we have unlimited sympathy for poor whites, and vast reservoirs of excuses for why they are free of responsibility for their problems and/or questionable decisions. For those Latinos who live in struggling urban neighborhoods, however, the message is clear: This is all your fault, so quit your whining.

For example, that opioid epidemic devastating rural America? It’s a full-blown crisis. But drug problems in the inner city? Just the moral failures of black and brown people.

Aren’t you glad that I cleared that up?

Oh sure, you might point out that based upon every statistical fact, lower-class white people actually have many advantages over Hispanics, and in some cases even over those Latinos who don’t live in poverty.

It doesn’t matter, because the image of the proud but destitute coal miner — the embodiment of the white working class — is stronger than any silly little facts or figures you could throw around.

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