Tag: Muslim

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.

 


So Far, So Horrific

We are now approximately 1% of the way through the Trump presidency. That means, mathematically, it will only get 100 times worse.

To be fair, things are actually going great… for white nationalists and people who think immigrants are plotting to kill them in their sleep.

For the rest of us, not so much.

You see, the start of the Trump era is, by many accounts, “the most alarming in the history of the American presidency.”

 

The rate of Trump’s grotesque actions outpaces our ability to react to them. Are we really supposed to call our congressional representatives and organize protest marches and boycott companies and sign petitions every single day?

Hell, we barely have time to unboggle our eyes and force our slackened jaws shut before another monstrous executive order comes washing over the American landscape. The best we can manage most days is to force down our vomit.

But here’s one thought that will keep us focused. One inescapable truism that we should keep in mind at all times.

And it is simply this: Trump means everything he says.

All the talk about whether we should take him literally but not seriously, or vice versa, was overcomplicated nonsense from the start. It should have been apparent long ago that when a wannabe dictator says he’s going to do something, he fully intends to do it.

Trump is not capable of metaphor. I doubt the man even knows that word means. I’m serious — the guy boasts about never reading books.

You see, our tiny-fingered, small-minded president does not engage in subtlety, and the only time that he backs off on some of his more egregious pronouncements is when he no longer has any interest in them and/or because they no longer serve a purpose (e.g., prosecuting Hillary Clinton).

Otherwise, he is remarkably consistent.

This does not mean that he will succeed in his endeavors. For example, that fabled wall with Mexico is never going to be built. But this is only because reality will intrude. This barrier might take the form of logistical issues or— it’s possible — political resistance.

But he will not stop of his own free will. He will not moderate his views. He will not listen to reason or decency.

I have never understood why any sane person would think otherwise.

For example, some conservative Latinos voted for Trump under the bizarre assumption that he would be more respectful to Hispanics or even compromise on immigration. That idea doesn’t look so bright now.

Of course, that’s not as bizarre as Middle Eastern immigrants who just assumed his talk of banning them was, I don’t know, some oddball banter from a kooky billionaire.

Heed their regret. And please remember this for the next four years. He means everything that he says.

That makes it even scarier, doesn’t it?

 


I Can’t Even…

 

Rather than dwell on this week’s inauguration (i.e., the monstrous legitimization of humanity’s most base and vile impulses), I will focus on the future — even though that future may be poor, nasty, brutish, and short.

Perhaps the biggest quandary facing our country — in a cavalcade of complex and stomach-churning quandaries — is what our healthcare system will look like.

You see, the GOP has made it clear that Obamacare is the gravest threat facing America (well, other than the constant dread that grizzly bears will burst into our nation’s schools and eat all the students, but I digress).

So the Republican Congress is working feverishly to replace the Affordable Care Act with something more free market-like, with less big government and more choice and more freedom and blah blah blah. Yes, they have had years to come up with an alternative, and have failed miserably to do so. But to be fair, all their energy was taken up with hating on Obama. So you can see how some minor details — like a coherent proposal on a life-or-death issue — might have slipped through the cracks.

In any case, I have a question, one that I am frankly shocked that our highly paid media pundits are not asking.

Here it is: Why do we have to replace Obamacare with anything?

After all, when the ACA was first being debated, one argument we heard from the GOP and everybody at Fox News was that the America — and this is a direct quote from multiple conservative sources — had “the greatest healthcare system in the world.”

Again, we are not talking about the distant past. This was just a few years ago.

 

Now, at the time, many liberals pointed out that this was nonsense. A five-minute Google search would reveal undeniable statistics that showed the USA spent way more than other industrialized countries, got far worst results, had unhealthier citizens, and ranked shockingly low in terms of nationwide health.

But Republicans insisted that “the greatest healthcare system in the world” cliché was the pure truth, and not just bald-faced bullshit designed to rile up the ignorant and the racially insecure.

So now, years later, the Republican Party should be forced to answer a fair question.

If that was so very true, why not just repeal Obamacare and go back to “the greatest healthcare system in the world”? Surely we can just revert to a system that every American loved and never caused any problems and that got such amazing results.

Can’t you just hear every citizen clamoring for that?

Hmm, that is indeed strange. Because it seems that, even as it faces certain death, Obamacare has never been more popular.

Even many Trump voters don’t want it repealed. Of course, one has to wonder why they would vote for someone who said that he would cut off their healthcare. Perhaps it’s because they didn’t take him seriously and brushed it off as campaign rhetoric, which oddly enough, is not what they thought when they heard him babbling about building a wall or deporting every Latino and Muslim in the country.

Apparently, only the threats that applied to other people were to be taken seriously.

But speaking of Latinos, it’s clear that Hispanics have greatly benefitted from the ACA and will be punished severely if it is repealed. In fact, about 4 million Hispanics have obtained health insurance through Obamacare, and the percentage of uninsured Latinos has gone down.

That hasn’t stopped the GOP from attempting its own form of Latino outreach, which I would say is breathtaking in its cynicism and contempt for Hispanics, but come on, look who we are talking about here. The bar is pretty damn low. Hell, the bar is wedged underground at this point.

In any case, the good news is that if Obamacare is repealed, 18 million people will lose coverage the first year, and health insurance premiums would spike up to 25 percent.

You might ask, how is that good news? Well, if the ACA dies and is not replaced, “within 10 years, 32 million more people would be without health insurance [and] healthcare costs would continue to rise every year.”

That’s the bad news.

So again, I have to ask, were Republicans lying when they said America had super-duper healthcare that was the envy of the world? And if so, why the hell should we trust them now?

Clearly, they expect the American people not to remember their mendacity and horrible judgment.

Sadly… that’s a pretty good bet.

 


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.


Sympathy, Part One

One of the most riveting stories I’ve read this year is the Washington Post article about Melanie Austin. She’s the Trump supporter who has, shall we say, some rather colorful views of the world.

OK, the woman is fucking nuts.

Austin believes that President Obama is a Muslim who is secretly gay, and “that Michelle Obama could be a man, and that the Obama children were possibly kidnapped from a family now searching for them.” Also, Austin thinks that Hillary Clinton is a founder of Isis, and “U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia may have been murdered in a White House plot involving a prostitute and a pillow.”

By the way, Austin is on anti-anxiety medication and was once “involuntarily hospitalized for several weeks” because of a psychotic breakdown.

Now, there are legitimate questions over whether the Washington Post story is morally repugnant. After all, one could argue that the reporter took advantage of a mentally ill person who had no idea how she would be portrayed.

And there is also the valid point that the article paints all Trump supporters as deranged and pathetic, and therefore constitutes a form of libelous yellow journalism.

Those are intriguing arguments, but what I find more interesting is the default mechanism for how Austin and other members of the white working class (WWC) are presented in the media.

She is, for the most part, portrayed as a victim. Even liberals have rushed to push aside her reprehensible, bigoted, and insane statements, in favor of asking, “What did Melanie Austin do to warrant this type of treatment by a national newspaper?” After all, she is a “woman who has suffered so much in her life.”

This is part of larger trend. As a member of the white working class, Austin has the cultural advantage of instilling sympathy for her plight. Other poor people — such as African Americans and Latinos — are more likely to provoke contempt, or even outright hostility and blame for somehow causing the degradation of the WWC and, by extension, America itself.

We see this in the descriptions of the white working class, a subset of Americans that have struggled for generations.

gd45

Most media accounts are careful to avoid stating that poor white people have failed to keep up with a changing world. Rather, these individuals have cruelly been left behind (note the passive voice).

They are not angry and rage-filled. Rather, they are shell-shocked and forced to endure “the collapse of a whole way of life.”

They are not embracing Trump for his xenophobic bile. Rather, they just feel “isolated and disillusioned,” and have made an honest mistake in following him.

The point is clear. The WWC may be supporting the vilest presidential candidate in U.S. history, and they often spew horrific statements and even engage in overt violence. But deep down, they are salt-of-the-earth types who just got a bad deal. Have a little compassion for them.

Why is this? Well, for starters, members of the mainstream media can simply relate better to white people — even poor ones far removed from their elite journalistic circles. In fact, some journalists come from such a background, while reporters who hail from, say, Compton or East LA are fairly rare.

But it’s also because our default setting for empathy and compassion still centers on white people. They remain our cultural mainstays, and the central figures in our stories and the stand-ins for our national moods. To date, the white experience has been synonymous with the American experience.

However, we are living in a new era, and as such, a natural question arises when we think about the WWC who are supporting Trump.

And that question is an offensive one, but here it is: Why should we feel sorry for them?

I will address that question in my next post.


Proving the Theorem

Well, everything is all official and shit, and America has finally gotten the cage match that it has long been clamoring for: a former senator, secretary of state, and first female nominee of a major party versus a short-tempered, short-fingered billionaire who despises everyone who isn’t a white male and who casually utters treasonous asides in public.

Yes, it should be a quite entertaining few months.

But before we go into the pros and cons of the respective candidates, let me refer back to my most recent post, in which I pointed out that the Republican Party has a strong pillar of racism propping it up, and that moderate GOPers are in denial about this.

Denial

I could point out that the RNC featured any number of speakers making veiled bigoted comments. Or I could mention that one Trump delegate proudly tweeted what the GOP later called a “racially insensitive” term (i.e., the N-word) and that this is fresh proof not only of bigotry but denial.

Note #1: The N-word is not “racially insensitive” or anti-PC. It is as flat-out obscenely racist as it gets. And why do I have to point that out to people?

No, instead I would like to refer to this article, in which a well-known conservative intellectual, Avik Roy, says that as bad as Trump is, the GOP suffers from “a much bigger conservative delusion: They cannot admit that their party’s voters are motivated far more by white identity politics than by conservative ideals.”

So the guy agrees with me.

Roy goes on to say that the lament of liberals that many conservatives are racist is “an observation that a lot of us on the right genuinely believed wasn’t true — which is that conservatism has become, and has been for some time, much more about white identity politics than it has been about conservative political philosophy. I think today, even now, a lot of conservatives have not come to terms with that problem.”

No, they have not.

We see it not just in the outright insistence of many conservatives that racism doesn’t exist in the GOP — or indeed, in America. We see it in the strange reaction that Trump has provoked in those conservatives who have refused to support him.

I would like to think that many Republicans are taking a stand against bigotry by refusing to vote for Trump, and indeed many of them are. But a disturbing number of Republicans say they are against Trump not because he’s a misogynist or hates Muslims or sees every Latino as a potential rapist.

No, they say it’s because he is not sufficiently conservative. By this, they mean Trump doesn’t despise gays as much as they do, and he once said a few nice words about Planned Parenthood, and he has issues with free trade.

This is so backward and bizarre, so perplexing, that it defies belief. It’s sort of like saying you hated Limp Bizket not because their music sucked, but because you didn’t care for red baseball caps.

Note #2: Limp Bizket really sucked.

To ignore Trump’s racism, in favor of focusing on his conservative bone fides, is yet another example of GOP denial. Maybe these Republicans are happier with the vice presidential nominee, Mike Pence, whose views are just as bigoted but more reliably in the GOP mainstream.

Yeah, that’s the direction they should go in. It will all work out great.

 

 


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.

 


X Marks the Bigot

I’ve never taken Ecstasy. My understanding is that it makes you breathe heavily and feel like having sex with whoever is dancing next to you.

ravers_baby

However, according to a recent study, “there might be a darker side” to the so-called cuddling chemical. Researchers have found that taking the oxytocin hormone “motivates in-group favoritism” and the “derogation of outsiders.” Scientists say that oxytocin has “a role in the emergence of intergroup conflict and violence.”

Basically, dropping E makes it more likely that you will behave like a racist jerk.

The researchers’ study had Dutch males choose imaginary people to join them in a lifeboat. Guys on Ecstasy discriminated against those “with Muslim or German-sounding names,” but “the men who were given a placebo didn’t pay attention to the origin of the names.”

Apparently, Dutch guys have some issues with both Muslims and Germans.

Now, I doubt that Ecstasy suddenly made these guys more racist, in the same way that alcohol does not inexplicably turn people into raging bigots. All these drugs do is lower inhibitions.

Drunk or stoned or otherwise altered individuals lack the capacity to think, “I better say or do what is socially acceptable.” As a result, they go with their gut instinct or true emotions, which are often prejudicial as hell.

Still, if I ever had a desire to go clubbing and pop pills with teenagers, this study has killed that flickering drive. I don’t want some woman dressed in neon colors and sporting day-glo bracelets to start shouting epithets at me over the drone of house music.

That would be the ultimate buzz kill.

 


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.

 


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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