Wednesday
Aug142019

Hunted

I’ve been a lot of things in my life. Among them are the following: 

 

A son

A quiet kid

An opinionated adult

A husband

A father

A bad guitarist

An aspiring writer

A published author

A sullen Gen Xer

A Monty Python fan

A Latino

 

And now, thanks to our current president, I can add the following: 

A target

 

You see, there can be no doubt — if there ever was — that Hispanics are not just objects of derision and scapegoats for America’s problems. In conservative circles, we’ve had those roles covered for decades now.

But in Trump’s America, we are also human bullseyes for paranoid racists with access to heavy firearms. And considering that there are thousands (perhaps millions) of paranoid racists storing up millions (perhaps tens of millions) of guns… well, it is not a time to sit back and get comfortable if your last name ends in Z or if you bare even a slight resemblance to Selma Hayek.

We all know that the El Paso gunman who murdered 22 people carried out the “deadliest attack targeting Latinos in recent American history.” 

The gunman “drove more than 10 hours … specifically to find and kill Latinx people.” He wrote a racist, xenophobic manifesto“posted online minutes before the massacre, in which he warned about aHispanic invasion’ of Texas.”The document also bemoaned the increasing Latino population and included “a decision by its writer to target Hispanicsafter reading a right-wing conspiracy theory asserting Europe’s white population is being replaced with non-Europeans.”

And, oh yeah, the El Paso shooter came right out and told a detective after his arrest “that he was targeting Mexicans when he opened fire at a Walmart.”

But according to conservatives, this is just total coincidence. And also, Trump and Fox News have nothing to do with this despite their constant screeching about immigration and labeling Mexicans as “rapists” and throwing around the exact terms the gunman used and demonizing Latinos every single chance they get. And another thing, I am the real racist for pointing out these facts and why can’t we all just be nice to the president, so there.

However, back in reality, it is clear that right-wing hostility toward Latinos has moved beyond insults and physical assault and threats to deport everyone who is just a little too tan. 

No, we now have white supramicists gunning us down while doing back-to-school shopping.

Indeed, it is “quite a transition from being invisible to being visible in a lethal way,” and hurtling past “the basic darkness of racism” into homicidal rage.

Yes, I know there are those Latino conservatives out there who will insist that this incident does not reflect upon the xenophobia of their cherished GOP. However, their self-loathing fidelity to bigots is no safety net. El Paso shows that in the eyes of rabid nationalists, “it doesn’t have to be you who crossed the border. It just has to be you who are not Anglo.” 

Of course, our fumbling, incoherent president — who cannot even fake his way through a display of basic empathy— addressed the shooting by blaming “the internet, news media, mental health and video games, among others.” But at no point did he “take responsibility for the xenophobic rhetoric that he has frequently used to demonize and dehumanize Hispanic Americans and immigrants over the past four years.”

Hey, it’s not his problem. And his main supporters, the fabled Trump base, will likely never feel the existential stress of being targeted for extermination, for no other reason than the way one looks or speaks.

But for Latinos, “it’s really hard to be alive right now and to not be sick and exhausted.” 

It feels like being hunted.

Thursday
Aug012019

Be Afraid—Be Perpetually Afraid

My power went out again.

My family lives on an ancient electrical grid in Los Angeles, so every now and then, our lights go out. It happens during heat waves, heavy rain, or if a person sneezes too loudly in the transformer’s general direction.

One would think America would invest a little more in our crumbling infrastructure. After all, a recent report found that the network that underpins our modern way of life “gets a D+ grade,” and that the country “needs to spend some $4.5 trillion by 2025 to fix the country's roads, bridges, dams, and other infrastructure.”

But we’re not investing in any of that. Nor are we providing affordable healthcare to our citizens, enacting student-debt relief, or spending more cash to combat the homelessness epidemic.

You see, we don’t have a dime to spare, America, because we’ve got a motherfucking wall to build.

Yes, recently, our xenophobe in chief got the US Supreme Court to go along with his fake emergency, and now at least $2.5 billion is being pulled from military programs and launched at the most pointless, ineffectual, counterproductive major project in U.S. history (i.e., Trump’s wall).

Now, the money — which again, could be going to non-racist endeavors that actually help the country — will fund construction for about 100 miles of barriers.

Keep in mind that Trump’s promise was for a “big, beautiful wall” that Mexico would pay for. Needless to say, 100 miles of barricades that American taxpayers will cover is very different from 2,000 miles of wall that a foreign nation will fund.

Apparently, even Trump’s fans — who never met a goalpost they wouldn’t happily move— are lukewarm about this victory for bigotry. Oh, they’re pleased that the president can officially claim success, and if the new barrier keeps out even one undocumented woman and her traumatized child, they’re thrilled.

But yes, they want more. And this is one reason that “the president has not been boasting about the transfer authority he maintains, suggesting he’s still unsatisfied.” 

Apparently, boasting is the only way that Trump can signal satisfaction. So now, “many Republicans are trying to redirect the president to other immigration fights, even if they are just as unwinnable as one over the wall.”

That’s correct. The leaders of a major political party are trying to appease a cantankerous old man by diverting him into a different, less-obnoxious fight, even if it is “unwinnable.” This is similar to the strategy that one employs when attempting to distract an agitated toddler.

In any case, “GOP leaders hope they’ve secured enough releases to keep Trump from picking a border wall fight that ends in another shutdown.” 

However, I can tell you that Trump and his allies will continue to obsess about the wall, and it will get ugly.

And the reason is clear: It will never be enough for them.

For people who live in perpetual fear— like Trump and his hardcore supporters — an enormous wall to keep out all the Latinos is just the beginning, not the end.

Their terror over dark-skinned people, and the changing demographics of the nation, is impervious to logic. Their anxiety is impossible to assuage, and cannot be soothed or vanquished. Their fear is a constant motivator and lifelong companion. It will never go away.

So let’s say that Trump builds his wall — all 2,000 miles of it. What happens then?

Will his supporters stroll about their suburbs and small towns, content that the invading horde is being held back? 

Or will they get uneasy when they see a Hispanic family move in next door? Will they become flustered when they hear Spanish at the supermarket? Will they have heart palpitations when their daughter starts dating some swarthy kid named Gonzalez?

Even if the wall were built, Trump supporters will imagine migrants finding a way over, under, or around it. They will visualize Mexicans and Salvadorans and lord knows what else tunneling and leap-frogging their way into the country. 

At that point, will they advocate for machine guns on top of the wall? How about land mines at strategic locations?

Yes and also yes. But it will still be insufficient.

So will they demand funding for klieg lights that keep night from ever descending on the border? Maybe an enormous moat filled with crocodiles? Lasers that zap any organic life?

It will never end. Because at no point will they feel safe. Never.

It will never be enough for people who live in perpetual fear, and who despise people who are not like them. 

The solution to such unbridled terror and hatred is clear.

Let’s just make a big playground out of the border. It’s a much better use of our money.

Wednesday
Jul242019

Love It or Leave It Is Not Our Only Option

I’ve never gotten into the concept of hate-watching movies you despise, or hate-reading the Family Circus, or having hate sex with someone you loathe.

It’s a weird drive to embrace that which repulses you, but the closest I get is when I peruse one of those clickbait articles that features interviews with hardcore Trump supporters.

Why do I do this, when I know, well in advance, that it will do nothing but drive up my blood pressure and further diminish my rapidly evaporating faith in humanity?

For example, a recent article interviewed Trump fans at the site of the president’s infamous North Carolina rally. You know the one — “Send her back! Send her back!” — yeah, that one.

In any case, these lovers of authoritarianism denied that the president was racist (predictably) and insisted that his issues with the Squad were grounded in principle.

Well, there was that one guy who referred to the four progressive congresswoman as “disrespectful wenches.” But hey, nobody asked about misogyny, did they?

In any case, one trait of Trump supporters is their embrace of the idea that if a given American has issues with this country, he or she should promptly and immediately get the fuck out. 

So I am sure that these Trumpian patriots would be the first to demand the deportation of any person who said the following critical statements:

 

—“The idea of American Greatness, of our country as the leader of the free and unfree world, has vanished.”

 

—“Other nations and other countries don’t want to hear about American exceptionalism. They’re insulted by it.”

 

—“Our roads and bridges are falling apart, our airports are in third-world condition, and 43 million Americans are on food stamps.”

 

Why, how dare someone insult our flawless nation with such a pack of hate-filled, anti-American, horrible… what’s that? 

Those are all statements by Trump himself?

Oh dear. 

Yes, it might shock those presidential admirers who believe that “You hate the country, you don’t like it, you trash the country—get out of the country! Move on!’” 

But the fact is that no one has been more critical of America in the last few years than the guy who insists it’s unpatriotic to be critical of America.

This is a person whose campaign slogan was famously “Make America Great Again,” (which obviously implies that we are no longer great) and whose inauguration address bemoaned “American carnage,” (which remains an awesome name for a punk band).

Trump wrote a book (well, paid a ghostwriter to writea book) called Crippled America. He has sneered that the nation’s leaders are stupid and that the country is a “laughingstock.”

And he equated America’s moral standing with Putin’s Russia, snapping, “You think our country’s so innocent?” 

I’m trying to imagine what Fox News would say if AOC uttered that same question.

By the way, for a pack of supposed commies, it’s interesting to note that “no Democrat in Congress has praised the economic performance of communist countries” or said that he had fallen in lovewith a communist dictator who has often threatened to destroy America.

But Trump has.

In essence,Trump’s supporters believe that a black woman or Latina who points out issues in America “justifies her banishment, but Trump’s similar transgressions justify his presence in the White House.” It’s a tricky balancing act, to be sure, but one that rests on the premise that “under Trumpism, no defense of the volk is a betrayal, even if it undermines the republic, and no attack on the volk’s hegemony can be legitimate, even if it is a defense of democracy.”

And yes, volk in this quote means, “White, straight, conservative Americans.”

So how many Republicans would take their own advice (i.e., never criticize America) when it comes to, for example, gay marriage? After all, if you don’t like the fact that two men can get married in this country, maybe you should just leave.  

And for the sake of consistency, I’m positive that every pro-lifer — knowing full well that Roe vs. Wadehas been American law and a constant in American culture for almost a half century now — never criticizes the decision and is now packing to get the hell out of here.

Hey, love it or leave it.

Still, for a moment, let’s set aside the very large issues of hypocrisy and racial animus. The whole idea that it is treacherous to criticize one’s nation is dubious at best and vile at worst. 

It should be common knowledge — but it is not — that Americans don’t pledge allegiance to one person (say, a xenophobic president), nor do we jettison our First Amendment rights and cultural value of freedom of speech simply because it might be too unpleasant for jingoists to hear.

And on a practical level, what nation could possibly thrive, or even survive, if every critique of the country’s political situation were viewed as out of bounds?

I’m trying to imagine this argument in 1776: “Hey, Thomas Jefferson, if you don’t like British rule so much, why don’t you just leave the colonies?”

The United States would still have slavery, women would not be able to vote, and all our children would work in coalmines if we listened to people who said, “Don’t question our greatness, or you are out of here.” 

No thank you. It is cowardice, not patriotism, to refuse to examine a nation’s standards. 

And to improve one’s country — to inch it closer to its ideals and create a better nation for all its residents — not only should you stay, but you should shout, and you should fight against all the people trying to hold it back.

Wednesday
Jul172019

Blinders

Only twice in my life have I been told to go back to my own country.

For a Latino of my generation, that is extraordinarily low, but I guess I live a charmed life (hey, don’t we all, blessed as we are to live in Trump’s America).

In one case, the implication was that I should pack up and head out to some nameless Latin American nation. In the other, I was told, specifically, to “go back to Japan.”

Considering that I was born in Wisconsin (and I’m not even slightly Japanese), both of these demands were misguided.

And oh yes, there were also racist as fuck.

Just about every ethnic minority and/or immigrant will tell you that it is a bigoted, hateful attack to tell someone to get out of America and, to use the president’s phrasing, “go back [to] the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”

Fortunately, our guardians of racial sensitivity — white, male Republicans — are here to tell you that there is nothing racist about this verbal bromide. And they should know, because they’ve been told many times to go back to Europe or the Caucasus Mountains, or something… ok, no. That shit never happens.

Because telling someone to go back to his own country is an insult aimed exclusively at ethnic minorities. It simply doesn’t work if hurled at a white person.

And with this latest tweet-storm, “not only is Trump rekindling a nasty historical talking point about immigrants, he’s apparently otherizing brown-skinned members of Congress by implying they are foreigners who … may not love this country.”

And yet, we have the president’s defenders insisting that his tweets weren’t xenophobic, or that he meant the members of the Squad should visit their home districts more often, or that liberals are the real racists, or that those pesky ladies are communists (really, is it 1982 again?). 

Mostly, the GOP has remained silent, as they will even when Trump has moved on and left their party a disheveled heap of shell-shocked quislings.

The real problem, as is so often the case, is not Trump. We all know that he is a bigot. Hell, even some of his biggest fans admit that he is a white nationalist.

No, the core issue is that even after witnessing the most transparently racist action by a sitting president in recent history, more than 40 percent of Americans support the current occupant of the White House. The man’s approval rating actually went up among Republicans, and some political experts are saying it is a good re-election strategy to attack ethnic minority women.

The vexation here is that unless Trump goes on national television and shouts the N-word repeatedly, there are millions of Americans who will deny the obvious truth. They will do this to defend their past decisions, to justify their current actions, and to avoid facing unpleasant realities.

They will do this, presumably, until the day they die. 

And nothing will ever change their minds.

Thursday
Jul112019

Prime Motivators

In our lesser moments, we have all accused our political opponents of being crazy, foolish, ignorant, or just plain stupid.

Such tactics do nothing to advance the culture and minimize the chances of finding common ground. Plus, it’s just not very nice.

So we should never refer to our political adversaries as lunatics or hate-filled ignoramuses. 

Unless, of course, we have scientific studies that verify our insults.

Fortunately — or more accurately, unfortunately — a recent synthesis of psychological research has revealed that all those negative thoughts you have about Trump supporters are, to a disturbing degree, pretty damn accurate.

You see, the magazine Psychology Today has looked at the reasons for Trump’s political invincibility among his staunchest supporters. Or in the words of the researchers, “those supporters who would follow Trump off a cliff.”

The psychologists point out that “not all Trump supporters are racist, mentally vulnerable, or fundamentally bad people,” which is just the kind of disclaimer that puts your mind at ease — right?

The researchers state, however, that is “harmful to pretend that there are not clear psychological and neural factors that underlie much of Trump supporters’ unbridled allegiance.” The authors warn us that the list of these motivations start with “benign reasons for Trump’s intransigent support,” but that “as the list goes on, the explanations become increasingly worrisome, and toward the end, border on the pathological.”

Again, I’m very relaxed reading that statement. Aren’t you?

On a most basic level, hardcore fans of our president tend to “put their practical concerns above their moral ones.” To such individuals, as long as the president delivers on tax cuts and keeps pushing through right-wing judges, “it does not make a difference if he’s a vagina-grabber, or if his campaign team colluded with Russia.”

Remember, this trait is regarded as one of the more innocuous rationales for supporting Trump.

Moving up the list, we see that “the loyalty of Trump supporters may in part be explained by America’s addiction to entertainment and reality TV.” 

Or it could be that “fear keeps his followers energized and focused on safety.” Because when people are scared of, for example, Latino immigrants, they look for a protector, and subsequently “become less concerned with offensive and divisive remarks.” Indeed, who cares about insulting a few easily offended liberal snowflakes when there are hordes of “illegals” raping and pillaging at will?  

Now, the researchers drop a few academic phrases and psychology buzzwords here and there while discussing Trump supporters. That’s why the article lists “power of mortality reminders and perceived existential threats” as motivators. It also explains the truly awesome term “terror management theory,” which would be a kick-ass name for a punk band.

In actuality, terror management theory refers to fear mongering, which provokes people to “more strongly defend those who share their worldviews and national or ethnic identity.” Of course, we haven’t seen any of that among Trump supporters… nope.

In any case, as we climb the list of motivators, we see old favorites like the Dunning-Kruger effect, as well as “a misguided sense of entitlement.” We also run into growing evidence that Trump’s white supporters have experienced significantly less contact with minorities than other Americans.”

The researchers don’t really get cooking, however, until they point out that many Trump supporterssuffer from psychological illnesses that involve paranoia and delusions, such as schizophrenia, or are at least vulnerable to them, like those with schizotypy personalities.”

And in case you’re wondering, the researchers believe that “Donald Trump and media allies target these people directly.”

That can’t be good.

But hold on — we still haven’t gotten to “collective narcissism,” which is an “unrealistic shared belief in the greatness of one’s national group.” Collective narcissism occurs when a group believes it represents the “true identity of a nation — the ‘ingroup,’ in this case white Americans,” who also perceive themselves as being “disadvantaged compared to outgroups who are getting ahead of them unrightfully.”

Go ahead and ask a Trump supporter if he believes immigrants are stealing our jobs, or if certain “urban types” are sponging off of their hard work. 

I’ll wait here.

Things get more ominous when we reach “social dominance orientation (SDO).” This refers to people who clamor for a society in which the “high-status groups have dominance over the low-status ones.” Americans who score high on SDO are “typically dominant, tough-minded, and driven by self-interest.” And they were more likely to vote for Trump.

Finally, we get to the top of the list, which features the one-two punch of authoritarianism and bigotry.

The researchers point out that authoritariansprioritize “strict obedience to authority at the expense of personal freedom,” and often display “a lack of concern for the opinions or needs of others.”

In case you’re wondering, authoritarian personality “is more common among the right-wing around the world.” Trump’s speeches “are naturally appealing to those with such a personality.” In fact, a 2016 survey found that “high authoritarians greatly favored then-candidate Trump, which led to a correct prediction that he would win the election, despite the polls saying otherwise.”

As for racism, the researchers say, “it would be grossly unfair and inaccurate to say that every one of Trump’s supporters have prejudice against ethnic and religious minorities,” before adding that “it would be equally inaccurate to say that few do.”

After all, a recent study has shown that “support for Trump is correlated with a standard scale of modern racism.” And about forty bajillion other studies have found that bigots tend to support the small-fingered con man in the White House.

Still, before you get too depressed looking over this list of, shall we say, less than admirable behaviors, keep in mind that this research applies only to Trump’s hardiest fans, the ones who would support him no matter what.

Of course, many studies put that number at about 20% of the American population.

Yes, that’s a whole lot of deplorables.