Tag: Islam

Don’t Feed the Animals

As many of you know, I am the father of the most awesomeness, coolest, greatest multiethnic little boy ever (and no, I’m not biased in the least).

And as many of you parents out there also know, being a toddler’s dad means that you spend a lot of time at the zoo. I’m talking yearly membership and don’t make any other plans for Saturday mornings — that kind of thing.

Now, many people have issues with zoos, based on animal rights and other noble ideas that I really don’t want to debate right now. But suffice to say, I’ve encountered a few protesters on occasion when I’ve taken my son to the zoo. They have all been polite and reasonable, by the way.

So I was unsurprised when I approached the zoo gates this past weekend (chasing after my turbocharged kid, of course) and saw a man with a bullhorn.

bullhorn_full

 

I figured he was a PETA supporter or was angry about Billy the elephant or something like that. But no, he was yelling about racial discrimination and the evil bigotry that went on at the zoo.

This naturally got my attention.

He was a gangly white guy, clearly on his own, with no protest signs or marching compatriots or petitions to sign. He was just screaming about Mexicans (and by this, I assumed he meant Latinos in general) and their supposedly shoddy treatment at that most nefarious of places: the zoo gift shop.

Yes, he insisted that the zoo gift shop discriminated against Mexicans. To be honest, I’m not sure how they supposedly discriminated, because his ranting was a bit hard to follow. Apparently, the zoo gift shop was refusing to hire Mexicans, or refusing to sell items to them or exploiting their labor or some combination that I didn’t quite understand.

In any case, I was mildly impressed that this white guy would take time out of his day to stand up for his Hispanic brethren.

This era of good feelings lasted about twenty seconds.

Because then the guy shouted, “And do you know who the gift shop helps? All those filthy horrible Muslims!”

Yikes…

I’m still trying to figure out this man’s rather precise prejudice. After all, he apparently liked Hispanics. But in accordance with the new pyramid of bigotry prevalent in America, he despised Muslims — completely abhorred them, in fact, because he went on yelling some pretty grotesque things about Islam and Mohammed and sharia law and on and on and on.

Let’s be clear: this is the kind of support we Latinos most definitely don’t need.

My son did the wise thing and ignored the bigot at the front gate, and we went in to see the gorillas because they’re his favorite.

When we came out, the nutjob protester was gone. But I couldn’t help but think of him on the drive home.

More specifically, I couldn’t help but think of my favorite Lou Reed lyric: “Well I know one thing that really is true / This here’s a zoo / And the keeper ain’t you!”

Tell ‘em, Lou.

 


Look Back in Horror

I am the child of an immigrant. My mom is from El Salvador, so I grew up with the tastes and influences of a typical American teenager, all mixed with a strong awareness of Latino culture and history. I’m pretty grateful for the combo.

You know who else is the child of an immigrant? Omar Mateen, the psychopath who murdered 49 people in Orlando a few nights ago.

orlando-shooting-0612-large-169

Mateen and I clearly had different interpretations of the dichotomies that come with being members of the first generation to be born in America. For example, I blended a love of hamburgers with an appreciation for pupusas, and I gave the music of my mother’s homeland a fair listen before popping in a Soundgarden album. It was a bit of a mezcla.

But Omar Mateen wasn’t interested in mixing cultures. He found it easier to just embrace the problems, prejudices, and anger of his parents’ country. Mateen latched onto his father’s homophobia and the religious mania that is widespread in his family’s homeland. And in so doing, he set out to be more culturally authentic than his parents ever were.

This is not an issue of assimilation or integration, as so many people believe it to be. No, it is more of a cultural mindset.

It is a mindset that provokes young men, born and raised in America, to adopt the radical politics of their parents’ homelands. It is a mindset of fear and fury.

The massacre in Orlando — and the fact that so many of the victims were Latino — got me thinking about how this cultural perception forms one of the many roots of bigotry and violence.

Let’s ask, why are there no Latino terrorists, going on shooting sprees or strapping on bombs to avenge the pain and misery that the United States government has inflicted upon El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, and other Latin American countries?

Indeed, there is ample reason for Hispanics to be more than a little pissed about our treatment and standing in the United States.

And yet, survey after survey shows that Latinos are more optimistic about the future and more positive about life in general than just about any other American demographic. We are pretty much the last people to use the injustices of the past to justify abhorrent behavior.

One reason for this is so obvious that it borders on the simplistic. But here it is: Latinos tend to look forward.

We pack up and move to new countries in search of better lives. We assume our kids will do better than us. We have faith that circumstances will improve.

And this forward-thinking mindset, this cultural tendency to dismiss the woes of the past, helps us to maintain optimism in the face of economic and political tribulations. It helps us to set aside our pain and disappointment, rather than hoist them upon our backs for all to see.

In contrast, angry and hate-filled people tend to look backward, toward some vague past, and then they threaten to make America, you know, “great again.”

And other people, like Omar Mateen, not only look backward — they glare at it with a white-hot obsession and rage. They believe that their culture’s best days are long behind them, that the present holds nothing more than humiliation and despair, and that someone — maybe American society or gays or left-handed dentists or whoever — is to blame.

Omar Mateen, in addition to being a pathetic and homicidal loser, was an unimaginative, scared person who had no faith in the future. And someone taught him that mindset, inculcating him with the belief that it was reality.

As for his victims — people with names like Almodovar and Guerrero and Rios and Flores — they most likely had great hopes for tomorrow and next year and the next decade. But that optimism and those dreams were cruelly taken from them by a furious man who could do nothing better with his life than stare backward into the distant past.

 


Perception or Reality?

In the wake of last week’s horrific terrorist attacks in Paris, many U.S. presidential candidates are lining up to say how uber-tough, how mega-manly they are and how they would wipe out Isis in a weekend (three days tops) if given the role of commander in chief. It’s quite a display of fortitude.

Close up of man's arm showing biceps

Forgive me if I’m a bit incredulous.

But let’s leave questions about homicidal religious nuts and complex military strategies aside for now.

Instead, let me bring up a related topic, which is the GOP’s continuing image problem. And I’m not just talking about the Republicans’ struggles to connect with Latino voters.

You see, many Republicans come across as hostile to the poor, fearful of immigrants, and paranoid about the world. In addition, many conservatives are hypocrites about their ardent pro-life stance, in that they seem obsessed with fetuses but indifferent to children once they are actually born.

Fortunately, GOP presidential candidate Chris Christie has the solution to the Republican Party’s branding crisis. Christie doesn’t buy that he and his fellow conservatives are irrational, cold-hearted xenophobes who hate kids.

And that’s why he wants to prevent five-year-old Syrian war orphans from getting into this country and blowing us all up.

Hey, thanks for the perspective, Governor Christie.


Um… thanks?

On the surface, there doesn’t seem to be much of a Latino connection to the Charlie Hebdo attacks. Oh of course, civilized people everywhere — regardless of color, creed, ethnicity or religion — are horrified and outraged.

notafriad
And as a writer who has received hate mail (but thankfully no death threats), I’m in solidarity with those who were targeted for expressing their opinions, even if those opinions were occasionally loathsome.

But again, I didn’t see a clear relationship to Hispanics — at least until I caught this nugget on an internet message board from a commentator who inexplicably wished to remain anonymous:

“I never thought I would be grateful for our illegal immigrants. But at least the Mexicans sneaking across our border are Catholics, not Muslims. And they only steal jobs and welfare. They don’t blow shit up.”

That’s high praise indeed. I’m sure we can look forward to more thoughtful analysis like this in the future.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to helping Mexicans steal jobs and welfare. But remember, we don’t blow shit up.

 


And No Religion Too

One of my fondest memories of childhood is attending Christmas Midnight Mass at my family’s Catholic Church. My cousins and I would bask in the glittering pageantry, well aware that as soon as we got home, all the presents beneath the tree would be vanquished under our attacking hands.

I’m about to become a father. Naturally, I should look forward to taking my own son to Midnight Mass.

Well, I’m not. Because he will not be raised Catholic. In fact, he will not be raised with any religion at all.

To continue reading this post, please click here.

 


Crystal Clear

Just a short drive from my apartment in Los Angeles stands a monument to religious excess.

It is the Crystal Cathedral, built back in the 1970s when an evangelical preacher named Robert H. Schuller had a great idea to rake in the parishioners. All he had to do was spend millions on an architectural marvel that undermined everything the Bible says about modesty and humility.

To continue reading this post, please click here.


Inshallah Allah

In the pantheon of current American villains, Jose Padilla holds a prominent spot. The New York native, who is serving time in federal prison for conspiring with al-Qaida, was among the first of the so-called homegrown terrorists to emerge after the September 11 attacks.

Padilla scared Americans not just because he planned to incinerate many of us with a dirty bomb, but because he is a citizen. The guy isn’t one of those crazy foreigners who apparently hate us for our freedoms.

Within the Latino community, Padilla was another black eye, one more Hispanic thug who made us all look horrible. However, even the most ardent of Latinophobes didn’t claim that Padilla was representative of the Hispanic population in general. The guy was just one bad apple.

To continue reading this post, please click here.


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