Tag: murder

Who’s Next?

As I’ve mentioned before, my family is from El Salvador. I’ve never been there, but I hear that it’s nice.

Actually, I don’t hear that at all. In fact, I hear the direct opposite.

My mom and aunt came to America decades ago, and they have surprisingly little positive to say about their childhoods in El Salvador. One of my cousins came to the United States when he was a kid. He has vowed never to set foot in El Salvador the rest of his life, because the place holds such dark memories for him. And my brother has lived in that country for years now, and he has told me about the struggles of raising a family there.

So no, this isn’t going to be an up-with-the-motherland kind of article.

Because in addition to my family’s subjective experiences, there is also the fact that El Salvador is arguably “the murder capital of world.”

And that is definitely not a phrase to put on the travel brochure.

You see, the legacy of U.S. intervention, a horrific civil war, and a stagnant economy are all major reasons for the country’s problems. And of course, “violence by so-called maras – gangs that originated in the United States and spread to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador – is thought to be the major push factor” in propelling the tiny nation into “a lethal cycle that the government’s current rhetoric and strategy will not be able to break.”

In short, it’s a messed-up place.

What’s interesting is that, as bad as El Salvador would be under most circumstances, a couple of stray variables have turned a horrific situation into a pure cataclysm.

Back in 1999, the government thought the best way to fight the skyrocketing crime rate was to arm its citizens. It was that whole fantastical scenario of a good guy with a gun coming in to save the day. Well, that didn’t exactly work out.

The laws “permitted the private possession of heavy weapons. Instead of reducing violence,” however, these laws “fuelled its escalation.”

Another factor in El Salvador’s demise is its hyper-religious culture. The Catholic Church has such sway over the inhabitants that abortion is “illegal in all circumstances, without exception, punishable by up to eight years in prison. Sentences of up to 30 years have been handed down when a judge determined that ‘homicide’ rather than abortion had occurred.”

When women are denied basic rights over their own bodies, the culture notices. And today, “El Salvador is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for women,” with “the highest rate of femicide in the entire world.”

Now, you might say that this is all very depressing, but that’s life in the third world — right?

Well, look at some of those factors again: a country where citizens are heavily armed, religion is all-powerful, abortion is illegal, and strongmen run the place.

This is the dream of everyone who voted for Roy Moore yesterday. Fortunately for America, they were outnumbered… this time.

For all the fear and paranoia that white right-wingers have about Latinos, they seem absolutely hell-bent to adopt the very worst ideas of Hispanic culture.

Perhaps El Salvador has bottomed out, and can only improve.

But the United States, if handed over to zealots, can get a lot, lot worse.


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.

 

o-ASTEROID-IMPACT-facebook

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.


Safe at Last

As you recall, the town of Murrieta, California, became the symbol of intolerance last year when throngs of protestors greeted a busload of undocumented people (many of them children).

The protestors unleashed a frenzied jingoistic display that prevented the immigrants from being processed in the town, and the bus had to turn around. Yes, it was a proud time to be an American, especially if you’re a believer in mobocracy.

mobruleIn any case, many of the protestors claimed that the recent influx of Latino immigrants had caused crime to skyrocket, and they weren’t going to take it anymore.

Well, I think we can all agree with their concern about crime, considering that recent statistics point out that Murrieta is the second-safest city in the country.

What’s that?

Apparently, all those recent Hispanic arrivals going around terrorizing everyone hasn’t had much of an effect on the place, because Murrieta has the lowest rate of assaults in the nation. The city also has the lowest rate of violent crimes among all large cities in the country. In 2013, there was a total of one murder in the city (no word on whether a Latino did it). Put it all together, and Murrieta is second only to another California city (Irvine) as the epitome of peace and tranquility.

But of course, a busload of undocumented women and children was going to turn Murrieta into Mogadishu overnight.

That was a close one.

 


Parallel Lines

I have not written about the Ferguson situation to this point. It’s not because I am indifferent. It’s because I didn’t think I had much to add on the topic.

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I mean, so many people have addressed the black-white racial divide, our flawed justice system, the increasing militarization of the police, the obliviousness of white conservatives regarding racial injustice, and the fact that an unarmed minority teenager is more likely to be demonized than a white teen who actually murders people.

That covers a lot of ground.

So let me just point out what few people have mentioned, which is that Latino teens have more in common with Michael Brown than a lot of Hispanic parents would like to admit.

You see, “the deaths of Hispanics at the hands of law enforcement officers literally stretch across the country — from California to Oklahoma to New York City.”

Yes, a majority of Latinos agree “that Brown’s killing raised important racial issues, [but] only 18% of Latinos said that they were following the Ferguson news closely.”

Perhaps Hispanics just find the parallels too disturbing to think about. Or maybe Latinos are exhausted from fighting for basic rights all the time, and want to let our African American brethren handle this issue, under the assumption that it’s more of their problem anyway.

But of course, it’s everyone’s problem.

As we all know, “being Latino in some places is enough to be pulled over under the guise of a minor traffic stop and be asked to prove American citizenship.”

And that should be enough — along with the appeal of basic human decency — to pay more attention to the turmoil in Missouri.


Shoot First, Ask Questions Never

In a recent post, I wrote about how violent crime is down in states that border Mexico. This is true despite the repeated fear-mongering of right-wingers, who insist that millions of illegal immigrants are swarming American cities to murder, rape, and desecrate at will.

As it turns out, however, this week offered a spectacularly bloody example of violence along the border. Unfortunately, the violence was committed by us.

You’ve heard, no doubt, that a fifteen-year-old boy was gunned down near Cuidad Juarez. A U.S. Border Patrol agent shot the teen, supposedly because the boy was among a crowd of Mexican kids throwing rocks at the agent, who feared for his life. Others have said that the agent freaked out and started firing into Mexico, killing a kid who was no threat.

The victim, Sergio Adrian Hernandez Guereca, was either “a straight-A student” or a “repeat juvenile offender” with a “history of involvement with human smuggling,” depending whose story you believe. Of course, it doesn’t really matter. Either the action was self-defense, or it was murder.

I don’t know if the shooting was legit. From this one video clip, it certainly looks like the Border Agent overreacted. But to verify that, we need an investigation.

One would think this is a fairly reasonable request. However, the opinion of many on the right is that even looking into the shooting is an unpatriotic travesty. We’ve heard that the agent should get a medal, and that questioning his decision to open fire is nothing more than liberal, hate-America, criminal-coddling demagoguery. But that’s not the most intense aspect of this story.

For that, one needs only to read the online comments posted about the shooting. My favorite was the straightforward “One down, 12 million to go.” We’ll set aside the fact that the boy was not actually one of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in America (his body was found in Mexico). The implication, of course, is that we need a systematic liquidation of the undocumented.

I have to assume that the commentator was spouting off and didn’t mean his post to be a call to genocide (of course, who really knows). But many others have posted similar sentiments.

The point is that regardless of one’s opinion of illegal immigration, it is beyond vile to gloat about a teenage boy getting a bullet in the head. It’s particularly grotesque that many of the people who post such comments consider themselves fine examples of American virtue and/or Christian compassion.

Just recently, I wrote that sending more troops to the border seemed odd unless they were authorized to use lethal force. And in such cases, “I doubt that all but the most hardened Minuteman will be indifferent to the inevitable sight of a gunned-down family.”

Clearly, I was wrong. Many Americans are so full of the milk of human kindness that it causes them not one pang of disgust to hear about a child shot down. In fact, to many, it may even be a cause for rejoicing.

I’ve written that the first step in immigration reform is to see the undocumented as humans, rather than as some virus that needs to be eradicated. This seemingly obvious statement, unfortunately, needs to be reiterated from time to time.

Again, when it comes to this case, I don’t know if the Border Patrol agent was justified or if he’s some trigger-happy nut. But it certainly isn’t un-American to ask the question.

Nor is it admirable to do online cartwheels when a teenager gets killed. And that’s true, as hard as it is for some people to believe, even if the kid is Mexican.


Cold Case

As a rule, I don’t follow news stories that contain any of the following elements:

  • Celebrity misbehavior
  • Fashion do’s and don’ts
  • Golf
  • Young, pretty white women who go missing

I have to make an exception to this last category, however, by mentioning the Chandra Levy case. There are two reasons for this.

First, I have an odd personal connection to the incident. No, I never met the woman. But I vividly remember the day that she disappeared, in early 2001.

I was living in Los Angeles, and my wife and I had dinner plans with a co-worker who I thought might become a friend. But I clearly didn’t know him well.

The guy, henceforth called Crazy Eddie, was an acquaintance of Chandra Levy. But one would have thought that they were Siamese Twins by how much he played up the closeness of their relationship. Over dinner, he talked of nothing else but her disappearance, and he did so in a freeform, rambling manner that overwhelmed my wife and me.

I soon realized that what I had thought were Crazy Eddie’s good qualities at our job (ie, unlimited energy, passion for his work, extreme attention to detail) were actually the symptoms of a cackling mania. The guy couldn’t shut up, and he hatched conspiracy theories and metaphorical meanings and personal reflections that all centered on Levy’s disappearance, then swirled around each other and overlapped until none of us could figure out his original point.

It was, understandably, the only time my wife and I socialized with Crazy Eddie, and we vowed to never again dine with a madman. The last time I spoke to him, shortly before I left LA, he tried to enlist me in his scheme to fly to Washington DC and investigate Levy’s disappearance personally. He insisted that, with my help, he could find out what happened to her. I politely declined and then fled the state.

The second reason I’m thinking of Chandra Levy these days is because police apparently cracked the case last week. The alleged murderer is… yes, Latino… in fact, he’s an immigrant… from El Salvador, my family’s homeland… fuck.

This creepy guilt-by-association feeling is what I wrote about in a previous post. We have enough cultural baggage to carry without some moronic thug fulfilling stereotypes faster than Bill O’Reilly can spew them.

It is, of course, completely selfish to dwell on what this means to me and other Hispanics. But seriously, of all the imbecilic criminals to become national news, did it have to be the Salvadoran immigrant rapist-murderer?

In any case, I’m glad that Chandra Levy’s friends and family can find some comfort that her killer has been nabbed. But I have to wonder if, somewhere in LA, my old friend Crazy Eddie is babbling in his apartment, desperate to find a new outlet for his amazing powers of insight.


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