Tag: Europe

Old at Heart

Like many Gen Xers, I’m pretty tired of hearing how great the Baby Boomers were. Yes, they had amazing music, and that whole civil rights crusade is tough to top.

But as they age, Baby Boomers have made it clear that their bell-bottomed, peace-and-love, tune-in-turn-on idealism was a convenience of their youth, or it was the result of a loud minority that never reflected how most of them really felt.

I say this because recent surveys have shown a generation gap (really a chasm) between older and younger Americans on just about every social issue.

Perhaps this isn’t a big surprise, as people tend to get more conservative as they get older. But even with that caveat, some of the attitudes that Baby Boomers (especially white seniors) hold are alarming to Gen X and Millennials.

For example, more than half of white seniors “view the rise of newcomers from other countries as a threat to traditional American values and customs.” Let’s just say that most young people (many of whom have immigrant parents) don’t see things the same way.

And as anyone who has seen footage of a Trump rally can tell you, “much of the older white population — especially less-educated white males whose anger is being courted — appears threatened by the nation’s demographic change.”


Indeed, 60 percent of the white working class believe “that discrimination against whites has become as big a problem today as discrimination against blacks and other minorities.”

In addition to being whiny, narrow-minded, and xenophobic, this attitude is — how should I put this? — fucking suicidal.

You see, the “demographic reality is that America’s youth — and more specifically its racial minority youth — is its future.” That’s because Millennials are the most ethnically diverse generation in American history, and their future kids will be even more mixed. So there’s no going back to a 1950s mythological USA where everybody was white and things were gosh darn swell.



It also means that “because of the growth of Hispanics, Asians, blacks and other races, the United States will be able to replenish its younger population.”

Going forward, this implies that “America will not suffer a European-style demographic crisis as Baby Boomers retire. Young Latinos are stepping into the workplace and paying the taxes that will keep the nation’s fiscal house in order.”

Keep in mind that when it comes to Hispanics, we “are much younger than Americans as a whole, and young Latinos in America are better educated and earn more than ever.”

The bottom line is that “to ignore or wish away the nation’s youth-driven minority growth is short-sighted as a national economic development plan.”

Very soon, old Baby Boomers are going to be dependent on young Latinos to fund Social Security. But try explaining this fact, and you’re likely to be drowned out by a sixty-something cranking up Joni Mitchell’s Woodstock.

Yeah, I guess those were the good old days.


The Paranoia Cha Cha

Recently, I wrote about the fear and loathing that many Americans have for immigrants in general and for Latino immigrants in particular.


Hispanic immigrants are, to hear some people talk, hell-bent on bringing death and destruction across the border. Well, as we all know (or should know), immigration — both legal and undocumented — is way down over the past few years. So that surge at the border is greatly exaggerated.

Furthermore, numerous studies have found that “immigrants—regardless of nationality or legal status—are less likely than the native population to commit violent crimes or to be incarcerated.”

The nativist ignores that part about “regardless of nationality or legal status,” and says, “Well, sure. Those good immigrants from Europe and maybe India aren’t committing crimes. It’s the illegals!”

Sorry, but the data shows that while the undocumented population more than tripled between 1990 and 2013, the violent crime rate declined 48 percent. And violent crime continues to go down across America.

In addition, a separate paper explains that it’s not “well-behaved, high-skilled immigrants from India and China offsetting misdeeds of Latin American newcomers.” The study shows that “for every ethnic group without exception, incarceration rates among young men are lowest for immigrants.” And in a stat sure to annoy conservative alarmists, this “holds true especially for the Mexicans, Salvadorans, and Guatemalans who make up the bulk of the undocumented population.”

Digging deeper into the data, we find that immigrant adolescents — often portrayed in the media as a swarm of Latin King gangbangers — are in fact, “statistically less likely to engage in delinquent behaviors, such as fighting, selling drugs, binge drinking, carrying guns, or using marijuana and other illegal drugs” than their peers.

So if immigrants — even the undocumented Hispanic ones — aren’t committing all these crimes, who is? Or to paraphrase a not-so-wise man, “Who is doing all the raping?”

The answer seems to be, “Americans.” The immigrant boogeyman is no match for born-and-bred craziness.

Now, if we eliminate the immigrant subcategory and look at crime rates among Hispanics, we get a more nuanced picture.

A study shows that Latinos made up about 16.6 percent of all arrests, comparable to our percentage of the US population. We are sadly overrepresented in some categories (e.g., motor vehicle theft) and underrepresented in others (e.g., there are few Latino embezzlers). One stat I found interesting is that Hispanics have a very low rate of offenses against family members and children (6.2 percent of all arrests). Clearly, the legendary emphasis that Latinos place on family isn’t just talk.

In any case, one of the more disturbing aspects of the study is the following: For all the fears that white people have about being victims of crime (often at the hands of some swarthy minority), it is Hispanics who should be concerned.

For example, the homicide rate for Latinos is double the rate for white people.

And Latinos experience a higher rate of hate crime than whites or blacks. The data shows that the rate of hate crime incidents against Latinos is slightly higher than the rate for blacks. And the Hispanic rate is more than triple that of whites.

So perhaps it is we Latinos who should be saying, “Crime is out of control” and locking ourselves up in gated communities.

Hey, don’t rule it out.



Plot Twist

My wife is pregnant.

Yes, it’s pretty great news.

Our daughter is due in January. We’ve never been parents, so by next summer, I’ll be one of those annoying first-time fathers who believes the most important thing in the world is his baby’s capacity for drool. Just wait, I’ll be blogging about it day and night. This may cut into the readership of the 19.3 million mommy bloggers out there, so I apologize in advance for usurping their authority.

But with all the hectic preparation for the child’s arrival, and careful time set aside for crippling self-doubt and solipsistic panic attacks, I’ve barely had time to ponder the political ramifications of this kid. That has to change.

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Imm & Imm

My mother came to America from El Salvador. My paternal grandparents came from Europe. All emigrated legally, which is the essence of the American experience – huddled masses yearning to be free, and all that.

However, in the eyes of many Americans, my mother and grandparents were selfish and immoral. After all, whenever a debate starts up about immigration, it’s just a matter of time before someone says, “They need to stay and fix their own countries instead of coming here.”

The implication is that people have an ethical obligation to remain in their homelands rather than try to improve their own lives. Of course, none of the Americans saying this have ancestors who took that advice. As soon as Ireland ran a little low on potatoes, for example, lots of people said, “See ya,” rather than stick around for the sake of rescuing Belfast.

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The One Thing We Do Better Than Them (Besides Football)

As some commentators have noted, the election of Barack Obama has forced Europe to address one of its uncomfortable contradictions. This most progressive of continents has a reputation for being more enlightened than America. Indeed, their health-care policies, attitude toward gays, and work-life balance far exceed our stumbling, nineteenth-century approaches. In comparison to them, we look – and often feel – like beer-swilling cretins who fire shotguns at random while cursing out fancy book learnin’.

But there is one area where Europe can only gaze upon us in wonder. Believe it or not, we do a better job at integrating immigrants, promoting assimilation, and addressing racism than they do. Yes, even with all the screaming about Mexicans taking our jobs and Laotians refusing to learn English and Somalis creating their own ethnic enclaves and what have you, we’re far ahead of our European counterparts.

For starters, we have just elected a new leader who happens to be a biracial man whose father was an immigrant. I don’t see anything similar happening soon in Great Britain or Denmark. In fact, xenophobia is on the rise in Europe.

Or look at France’s National Assembly, which is the rough equivalent of our U.S. House of Representatives. Of its 577 members, only one is a minority. In contrast, of our 535 members of Congress, 75 are minorities (and 27 of those are Hispanics, thank you very much).

That’s just looking at the political breakdown of our leadership. There are other ways in which it is better to be a dark hue in America than it is in Austria, even though it’s clear that we have acres of room for improvement. Still, we’re farther along the path than many other nations are, and one factor for this headstart may be because of our view of immigration.

The writer Naomi Wolf points out several reasons why immigrants strive for a U.S. address, and why they tend to like it better here than in Europe.

First, Wolf points out that our national story is different. With the exception of Native Americans, we all came from somewhere else. To quote “Stripes” and the esteemed philosopher Bill Murray, our ancestors were “kicked out of every decent country in the world” (Ms. Wolf does not employ this reference).

Also, the values of immigration are admired – or at least the initiative and ambition of old-time Ellis Island immigrants are – while in Europe, immigrants are viewed with almost universal disdain. In addition, everyone gets to be hyphenated once he or she gets here (e.g., African American, Italian American, Asian American). See if you can find someone who considers himself a “Turkish German.”

Wolf also points that we emphasize values that everyone (in theory) can share, instead of focusing on a lineage of great kings or the specifics of a tiny geographical area, like they do in Europe. Finally, she stresses how the separation of church and state is vital to preventing a xenophobic culture, which is a point I’ve made several times in these posts.

Obviously, there are also geographical reasons why so many people from Latin America come here. There will never be an influx of Hondurans to, say, Belgium. But I imagine that if most of those Guatemalans who risk it all to emigrate could chose any nation on Earth, they would still look north first.

Despite the enormous obstacles that newcomers face here – some legal and necessary, others cultural and ugly – it’s better to be an immigrant in America than anywhere else. And it’s not just because we’re, you know, America – where everyone has nine iPods and drives hot cars and watches 188 channels of pornography and indulges in freedoms that terrorists apparently hate.

Really, you can have a good quality of life in Spain or Greece. But it would suck to start at the bottom in any of those countries, because that’s where you, your children, and probably your grandchildren will remain. That is often the case here, of course. But we at least offer the hope of progress, and as I can vouch from first-hand experience, one successful immigrant can create a situation where an entire family can thrive.

Is essence, perhaps the main reason America has always been a nation of immigrants is simple.

American is not race or an ethnicity. It is a nationality. More than that, it’s an idea.

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