Friday
Jul052019

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.

Thursday
Jun272019

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?

Wednesday
Jun192019

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.

 

Wednesday
Jun122019

If There Is a World Worth Saving

You are familiar, no doubt, with the following phrase: Youth is wasted on the young.

We never state the reverse, which is that experience is wasted on the old.

But the last few years have taught us that old people (i.e., Baby Boomers) are not particularly wise, despite their head start on the rest of us. We’ve learned that Baby Boomers are more than the largest, loudest, most self-absorbed generation in history, with a penchant to claim everything for themselves in a narcissistic orgy of materialism and shallowness that has pinned every successive generation under the rock of their arrogance and delusion.

No, they are also out to destroy the world.

You see, the Baby Boomers would like credit for civil rights marches and the sexual revolution and Led Zeppelin. But really, their final legacy will likely be their fervent, almost fanatical embrace of Donald Trump (who was born in 1946 — the ultimate Baby Boomer year). Support for Trump among Baby Boomers is consistently over 50 percent, the only age group in which a majority approve of his performance.

Ergo, it is Baby Boomers, far more than other Americans, who support stuffing children into cages, cutting off people’s healthcare, kowtowing to vicious dictators, denying the very existence of climate change, and so on.

Does any of that sound like wisdom to you?

Now, because I’m member of Generation X, I am too filled with cynicism and disdain to offer any constructive solutions that aren’t subtly ironic. So I will leave saving the world to the millennials.

I know it’s fashionable to pile on that generation. Hey, I’ve done it a few times myself (like when I roll my eyes over their incessant need to be with their friends at all times, even on their damn honeymoons).

But I admire the millennialwillingness to question American norms. For example, old people shout, “Work hard!” And millennialask, “Why should I slave away at a shitty job just to make more money for rich people and drown in the ocean of my student debt?” 

That, my friend, is an excellent question.

In any case, another reason that I respect millennial— and why you should be rooting for them — is because they are the ones who will truly make America great again.

You see what I did there? Got all ironic on you. Hey, you were warned.

Here’s my point:A recent study has shown that, to phrase it bluntly, “young people are staying liberal, and conservatives are dying off.”

Yes, conventional wisdom held “that young people would naturally grow more conservative as they age, or that their Democratic loyalties were an idiosyncratic response to Barack Obama’s unique personal appeal.” But in truth, younger voters are “wildly more liberal than older ones. The youngest voters have nearly five times as many voters with liberal views than with conservative views.”  

Baby Boomers, in general, are “conservative, white, and Republican, and the youngest voters are the most liberal, racially diverse, and Democratic.” Keep in mind that there is “absolutely no sign the dynamic is abating during the Trump years. If anything, it is accelerating.”

Another survey shows that 57 percent of millennials “call themselves consistently liberal or mostly liberalOnly 12 percent call themselves consistently conservative or mostly conservative.”

I’m pretty sure that if a political party can count on the future votes of just 12 percent of a generation, it will not be a major political party for much longer.

Today’s generation gap “is not based just on temporary intellectual postures. It is based on concrete, lived experience that is never going to go away.” Young people despise Trump and his xenophobic appeals to an overwhelmingly white America that is unlike their culture — an environment that would exclude them, their friends, and their families. Hell, a full 63 percent of young people say the president is a straight-up racist. 

OK, so young people aren’t abandoning their progressive ideals as they grow up. What does that mean? 

In the short term, say the next presidential election, it means that Baby Boomers and older generations are expected to account for less than 40% of eligible voters. Most eligible voters in 2020 will be younger, and less likely to clamor for, say, imprisoning women for having abortions.

In the longer term, it means that “Republicans are living on borrowed time,” and that the attempt to “suppress voting among poorer and nonwhite voters (who tend to be younger and also more progressive) should be seen for what it is: A last-gasp effort to extend older and whiter generations’ disproportionate power in a country becoming more secular, more diverse and more progressive.”

As we all know by now, “many conservatives supported Trump precisely because they were panicked about this trend. So far, Trump is merely accelerating the demise they feared.”

So I guess we can all rest easy, because the nightmare of Trumpism is bound to implode due the unstoppable, irreversible power of demographic change.

Well, except for all the federal judges and Supreme Court justices who will be placed into lifetime appointments, where they will have the ability to make rulings right out of the 1950s until well into the 2040s. And then there’s the long-lasting economic damage that the Republicans have already set in motion, and the grievous injuries that Trump has unleashed on our institutions and norms. And then there is climate change, where the ability to enact meaningful change is being thwarted by old people who deny basic science and will not live long enough to suffer the horrific consequences.

In fact, an alarming new study says that there is a distinct chance that human civilization will start to collapse by 2050. That’s just 31 years away.

Of course, if humanity does get pushed to the brink of extinction, and there are any centenarian Baby Boomers left, I’m sure they will look around at the devastation, deny responsibility for their cataclysmic decisions, and just blame someone younger. 

That’s kind of their thing.

Friday
Jun072019

The Great Regression

What do measles, anti-abortion laws, and overt racism all have in common?

Actually, not much except for this: All three were thought to be eradicated decades ago.

But now, as I’m sure you’ve heard, these three social maladies have made a roaring comeback. Really, when it comes to catching contagious diseases, treating women like cattle, and screaming at ethnic minorities in public, well, it might as well be 1965.

For example, “this the most severe year for measles in 25 years — and it's looking like we're even on track to break that record.” This is because many parents are scared of science and have opted not to vaccinate their children, a truly terrifying combination of ignorance, misanthropy and societal suicide that has been endorsed by the great scientist of our time, Mr. Donald Trump. 

As for Roe vs. Wade, many progressives figured that after nearly a half-century of stare decisisand settled law — and the progress that women have made toward gender equality in the interim — that there would be no way that conservatives could possibly yank away this constitutional right in a fit of blatant misogyny.

Let me tell you something. The hard right wing of the GOP will tell you when they have finally gone too far, and you will have no say in it (and also, their answer will always be, “We have not gone too far”).

That brings us to racism. Oh sure, the more wide-eyed among us thought that bigotry was dead around the time Obama got elected, and that we had entered a post-racial world… sorry, it’s hard for me to type that phrase without bursting into derisive, cackling laughter.

Regardless, most Americans agreed that racial prejudice still existed. But many of us believed that racism was so beaten down and socially unacceptable that we no longer had to worry about, say, a guy mowing a swastikainto his lawn for all his neighbors to see. And the very idea of thousands of neo-fascists marching through the streets chanting racist and anti-Semitic slogans… that was just nuts. Never gonna happen — nope.

So why are we here? How are we here?

There is, of course, no all-encompassing answer. But we can look at one undeniable cause for America sliding into retrograde.

And that is because a certain mindset — making America great again — has been embraced by people who are too fearful, too overwhelmed to face the present day. And fetishizing a glorious past that never existed leaves a culture unprepared for the issues of the future. The yearning for a simpler time only leads to simplistic answers.

One of the prevailing attitudes of America’s bygone decades was blatant ignorance masquerading as charming naivety. With the rise of the internet, information is easier than ever to find. But when facts are too upsetting or truths are too difficult to face, many Americans deny their existence and whiplash toward the bad ideas of previous generations. And people start saying kids are better off without vaccinations, or that women shouldn’t get the right to choose, or that segregation isn’t so bad after all. All the decayed norms that were thought dead and buried long ago crawl out of the nation’s grave.

Perhaps this maddening lurching of one step forward, nine steps back will one day be viewed as a necessary stage of America’s evolution. However, even if we eventually look back on this time and sigh with relief that we made it through, I am positive about one thing:

Nobody — and I mean, nobody — is ever going to glamorize 2019.