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.


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.


Live Forever

I’ve mentioned my abuela before. She is 97 years old and doesn’t care what you think because you clearly don’t know the half of it. 

The woman smoked into her 60s and drank into her 70s. She does not possess the bubbly, joie de vivre personality that psychologists tell us is necessary for long life. And as for stress, well, let’s just say that she’s witnessed more than her fair share of death, destruction, misery, and heartache.

And yet she is pushing 100.

How is this possible?

One possible answer is the fact that, statistically, U.S. Latinas just live longer. In fact, “at 84 years, Latina life expectancy is second only to Asian American women.”

Yes, there are exceptions to this rule. On a personal level, I have to admit that one of my favorite Latinas recently departed all too soon.

However, the statistics show that “first- and second-generation Latinos tend to have better health outcomes than U.S. non-Hispanic white counterparts despite their lower socio-economics in what has become known as the Hispanic Paradox.

I’ve written before about the Hispanic Paradox, which despite all odds, is not the title of an upcoming Marvel movie starring Michael Peña and Zoe Saldana.

No, the Hispanic Paradox refers to the fact that Latino immigrants tend to be healthier, which many experts believe is tied to the cultural values of strong familial and social ties. 

It applies less to Hispanic men, who have an average life expectancy of just 79.2 years. But keep in mind that this number is still better than the life expectancy of white men, or of African American men or women.

Now, before Latinos start planning for that lengthy retirement, please note that “the Hispanic paradox decreases with subsequent generations.” Basically, the longer a Latino family lives in America, the more likely its members are to pile on the bacon, lead solitary existences, or go 90 mph on the freeway (maybe all at the same time).

So the key is adopt the healthy habits of our ancestors — or is it?

Because the disappointing thing about adding extra years to your life is that all those bonus days tend to come at the very end. 

As researchers have pointed out, “living a long life can be a double-edged sword— great if you’re healthy, but less of a blessing if you are ailing and feeling isolated the last 20 years of your life.”

And it’s not just the aches and pains of aging that can be burdensome. There is also the unpleasant fact that old age “can bring health and financial challenges, and Latinas tend to be poorer and rely heavily on Social Security for their retirement income.”

In fact, research shows that the “financial challenges facing Latinas are striking,” in that 25% of Latinas over the age of 65 live in poverty, “and without Social Security, the number would jump to 60%.”

So is living to be a wizened elder a blessing or a curse? We will have to ask our abuelas, because they will outlive us all.


This Is No Time to Be Neutral

Hands up

If you're broken but find a way to stand up
Give it up

If you're hopin’ to never give it up

Stand up

So we know who’s here

Who wants to open up the machine

And rage against the gears?


Stand Up (Let’s Get Murdered)— P.O.S.


It’s always intriguing when 15-year-old girls display more leadership potential than elected senators.

I’m talking about Aleida Ramos, a young Latina from Texas who recently celebrated herquinceañera. Although Ramos had every right to bethe center of attention at her own party, she dedicated part of the event to a bigger cause.

You see, Ramos devoted a section of the hall where her party was being held to the Latino youth advocacy group Jolt Initiative, “so it could register her mostly Hispanic guests to vote.” There were all the traditional activities of a quinceañera, but “slipped between the speeches of thanks to family and friends and the dances with her uncles, Ramos and her father spent a few minutes urging their guests to register to vote.”

Yes, we are living in an age when even quinceañeras are getting political. 

And it’s about time.

Because the truth is that right-wing fanaticism has never been more powerful in this country than today. For years now, Nazis have been cavorting in the streets like they own the damn place, and overt acts of cruelty have become commonplace in an administration that mocks the very idea of compassion.

Hell, there are even packs of teenage racists punching out grown adults, without fear of repercussions. 

And in response to the surge in hate crimes and the fact that there are now concentration camps in America, the Republican Party has said, “Hey, what can we do?”

So clearly, Americans do not have the luxury of claiming that they are apolitical, or implying that they are staking some moral high ground by remaining neutral. 

First, it is not admirable or morally pure to be in the middle on social issues. It is a political position defined by a lack of passion — nothing more.

Second, if you are indecisive about whether it is ok to, for example, stuff children into cages or joke about raping women, then you have abdicated your responsibility as a human being.

So fucking speak up already.

Listen, I understand your hesitancy. America prides itself in being civil (even if our history is one of constant bloodshed), and maybe you’re concerned about offending your high school ex on Facebook (who, weirdly enough, is not concerned about offending you with a constant stream of pro-Trump memes).

But perhaps you can take inspiration from this:

The magazine Teen Vogue has been fiercely anti-Trumpsince he took office. If a publication devoted to fashion and makeup tips can take a stand, so can you.

Or consider the situation at Wayfair, where hundreds of employees walked out of work to protest the online furniture retailer's sales to migrant detention centers.

Or how about the fact that “the publisher of a 73-year old apolitical children’s magazine felt the need at this time to speak out about how completely fucking inhumane our government is.”

Or consider that Axl Rose — an aging, hedonistic rock star with millions of sexist fans — has ranted that “most of us in America have never experienced anything this obscene at this level in our lifetimes.” Yes, that’s from the guy who wrote One in a Million.

This is the world we live in. No one would begrudge Aleida Ramos, the workers at Wayfair, or the publishers of Highlights for refraining from messy political statements. But they are doing it because to remain silent is to acquiesce. Apolitical equals amoral.

Do you really want to be the last American to say, “Yup, this is bad, and I’m against it”? 

Who would ever believe you?


Up and Running

Look, it’s not like we were using the place for anything.

Yes, I’m talking about Fort Sill, a 150-year-old military base in Oklahoma that was once the site of an internment camp for Japanese-Americans during World War II.

Think about that prestigious history. Throwing people into hellish camps to rot, in direct violation of their civil and human rights, based on nothing more than blatant racism and xenophobic terror — yeah, there’s a serious contender for America’s finest hour. 

Well, the good news is that Fort Sill now has another shot at glory. Because the Trump Administration will now detain 1,400 migrant children there, to be held indefinitely.

What’s that?

No, I don’t believe that the Trump Administration is trying to be darkly comedic or the slightest bit ironic. For starters, those traits are far beyond the capacity of sociopaths. But also, they are doing this because our beleaguered bureaucrats are running out of room for migrant children at government shelters. 

You see, “apprehensions of children at the border are already nearing record numbers.” U.S. Customs and Border Protection released data that showed a 74% increase over last year. Several children have died while in U.S. custody, but that wasn’t quite horrific for our president, so recently, the administration “cut funding for classes, recreation and legal aid at detention centers holding minors,” and for an extra dash of horror, “37 children were locked in vans for up to 39 hours in the parking lot of a detention center in Texas.”

Progressives say that all this is “snowballing proof of a racist, lawless administration.” But conservative defenders say… well… they really have no defense other than to shout that the “illegals” brought this on themselves and that Obama’s policies were a thousand billion times worse, so nah-nah-nah. 

One would think that undocumented immigration, near record lows just a few years ago, would not be straining the U.S. government so much. But of course, the president’s heartless and incoherent policies have not only failed to curtail undocumented immigration. His bumbling threats and bizarre proclamations have actually backfired and made the problem much worse.

Among the most terrifying aspects of this fiasco — and really, there are myriad terrifying aspects to choose from — is that there is no end game to this catastrophic maelstrom of incompetence and hatred.  

That’s because “Trump has made it clear that he wants to stifle all non-white immigration, period.” As such, it is a never-ending project, and the “mass arrests, iceboxes and dog cages are part of an explicitly nationalist project to put the country under the control of the right kind of white people.”

So let’s go ahead and be honest about this project, which is nothing less than a “growing system of American concentration camps.”

In fact, our good friend Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has said as much, pointing out that the Trump administration’s detention facilities at the U.S.-Mexico border are “exactly like concentration camps.” The GOP, predictably, has come for her head.

But as many historians have pointed out, “things can be concentration camps without being Dachau or Auschwitz.” The detention centers that have sprung up are the natural results of  “the rhetoric that Trump deploys to justify the system and his unconstitutional power grabs.” Eventually, the rise of these camps creates “a self-fulfilling prophecy or a positive feedback loop that just keeps radicalizing the treatment as the policy itself becomes radicalizing."

No, it’s not genocide. But the drive to dehumanize is the same. 

And if you don’t believe me, perhaps you should ask some of those aforementioned Japanese Americans who got locked up decades ago. Recently, many “former World War II detainees, now in their 70s, 80s and 90s, along with their friends, families and descendants, [joined] the protesters calling attention to all immigrants being subjected to mass incarceration today.”

The use of Fort Sill in particular has angered many who believe that “our country is once again incarcerating children in facilities used previously to incarcerate Japanese Americans,” and that this tactic “is like a gut punch to the Japanese American community, many of whom continue to feel the effects of the inter-generational trauma inflicted from their families' incarceration experiences.”  

Furthermore, the Japanese American Citizens League has stated that “the damage being done to these children is immoral.”

But hey, who are you going to believe on this subject? The people who went through the hellish camps and their descendants, or a pampered billionaire with a history of racist statements and his xenophobic friends?

It’s a stumper.

By the way, Fort Sill did serve another function during World War II. The base was also used to hold German prisoners of war (or as the Trump Administration refers to them, some of the good people on both sides).

Of course, we no longer put Nazis into camps. Now we let them run immigration policy. 

Am I exaggerating? Well, in Trump’s America, I’m not sure that’s possible anymore.