Wednesday
Mar162016

Semi-free Speech

I try to avoid the whole WWJD game.

And I don’t apply this rule solely to Jesus. I also avoid asking what would Gandhi do, or Abraham Lincoln do, or Jimi Hendrix do.

The reason is that we can’t possibly know what these individuals would think of modern problems because they are so very, very dead. And whenever someone asks that question, the answer is inevitably, “Well, Jesus would agree with my exact political views, of course.”

However, I am going to break my personal rule by asking what would MLK think of last week’s Trump rally in Chicago, where fistfights erupted, some crazy old lady flashed a Nazi salute, and the frontrunner to be the Republican nominee for president cancelled his speech.

As I understand it, Martin Luther King was in his fair share of tense situations. And yet I don’t recall hearing of a single time when he shouted down someone who disagreed with him, or reveled in acts of violence. He simply didn’t do that.

And yet, I see plenty of liberals out there who insist that we “won” in Chicago. What kind of odd reasoning is this?

Shutting down one bigot for one night is hardly a victory for tolerance and respect. Because “even the most ardent anti-Trump among us should lament that a political speech was canceled due to fears of violence.”

Yes, I know that Trump is loathsome and would happily take away your freedom of speech if he could. That’s not the point. The issue is that “no matter how right you think you are, you are never so clearly right, never so without fault, never so pure, that you have any moral authority to shut down the other side with violence.”

So preventing Trump from speaking in Chicago was not a bold cultural statement. It is also not going to change anyone’s vote in November.

All is did was make leftists feel good about themselves for a couple of hours.

Now, I understand the frustration. And I don’t know why apparently rational Americans are supporting a man who loudly proclaims his bigotry and misogyny.

Maybe it’s what the late, brilliant monologist Spaulding Gray believed, which is that there are times and places where malevolence just appears. As Gray said, there is “perhaps an invisible cloud of evil that circles the Earth and lands at random in places like Iran, Beirut, Germany, Cambodia… and America.” 

Friday
Mar112016

Now or Never

So the 2016 presidential election will come down to Latinos… or millennials… or Latino millennials who live in purple states and have flirted with veganism and have bought at least one Kayne West album. Who really knows?

However, the best predictors we have are that the so-called Trump factor has increased Hispanic voter registration, especially among young Latinos. This would seem to spell doom for the GOP, except that, as many Americans have seemed to forgotten, “Hispanics have historically turned out on election day in lower rates than other groups — a factor compounded by the high percentage of young people, who also vote less frequently than older Americans.”

Yes, there’s an undeniable appeal to the image of millions of 18-year-old Latinos standing up, saying no to racism, and eagerly casting their ballots against a megalomaniacal billionaire. But it’s unlikely to happen in the real world.

Still, Hispanics will have a stronger impact in 2016 than they have previously. For example, some experts say Latino turnout will top 13 million this year, up about 17% from the last presidential election. And this would also represent about a 9% increase in the Latino share of the vote. Those are all good numbers.

Furthermore, “this is bad news for Republicans given that a recent analysis shows that even if 60% of the white electorate votes for the GOP (which hasn't happen since 1988), Trump would still have to get between 42-47% of the Latino vote to win (Mitt Romney received only 27%).” 

In addition, “hardline immigration policies and racially charged rhetoric from Republican presidential candidates have all but ensured that Latinos will turn out for Democrats in the general election.”

Wow, this thing looks to be over before it’s even begun.

But we’ve seen predictions like this before, especially regarding Latinos. In fact, Hispanics been referred to as a sleeping giant so many times and for so long that perhaps we should create an ethnic flag and make that image our insignia.

As such, it truly seems that 2016 is time to put up or shut up. Either Latinos are finally going to vote in numbers more indicative of our strength, or we’re going to continue leaving the fate of the country to octogenarians who are inexplicably more motivated.

After all, this year we have a bigoted loudmouth insulting us to our faces. What more do we need?

Friday
Mar042016

Help Is (Not) on the Way

I’ve never been in therapy. I don’t say this as a boast, just as a simple acknowledgement of luck.

You see, I’m fortunate in that I’ve haven’t been afflicted with depression or addiction or any of the myriad issues that arise when brain chemicals go all kabloowy. Nor have any of my personal traumas been so severe that I had to address the PTSD of it all.

But as we all know, many people aren’t so lucky. It’s estimated that around one in five Americans suffers from mental illness at some point in their lives

And now comes news that for Latino youth, the numbers are on the rise. A recent study showed that “an alarming rise in the psychiatric hospitalizations of Latino children and young adults in California, even compared to the youth of other ethnicities.”

Between 2007 and 2014, the rate of mental health hospitalizations of young Latinos (age 21 and younger) jumped 86 percent.

Why is this?

Well, researchers believe that “a number of social issues play a part in the trend, including the recession, separation and disintegration of families, and the trauma of escaping the violence in their home countries.”

In addition, a “lack of culturally and linguistically appropriate psychiatric services available” means that young Hispanics often don’t get help addressing their festering problems, with the result that they eventually blossom into full-fledged crises that require hospitalization.

Also, one has to wonder if being constantly demonized gets under the skin of young Latinos. But this very fact — that so much of America despises Hispanics — provides another reason why this issue is unlikely to get better any time soon. 

It’s a vicious, and rather sick, circle.

Friday
Feb262016

Fading Into Insignificance

This weekend, Chris Rock will host the Oscars, during which he will — maybe, possibly, in all likelihood — address the fact that the last 40 acting nominees have all been white. He may also mention that the track record of behind-the-scenes nominees (e.g., writers, cinematographers, and so on) is even more dismal.

Now, many people have hyperanalyzed the reasons why the Oscars are so white, and why the film industry lags behind other art forms in projecting America as it actually exists, and whether or not this is all a misunderstanding or deeply ingrained racism.

I’m not going to recap all the backlashes and counter-backlashes that this mess has conjured up. But I do want to point out one very telling, almost universally ignored aspect of this controversy.

You see, the Academy has announced that it is changing the rules, and eliminating people who are no longer active in the film industry from its roster of voters.

This has predictably riled up those long-time Academy members who are in the twilight of their lives, many of whom are crying, “Ageism!” They may have a point.

But what I find interesting is that, in the reasons and justifications for their opposition to this rule change, more than one Academy member has said that it is unfair to ethnic minorities. As many commentators have noted, “if there’s a black Academy member out there who agrees, please do get in touch.” And yet, many people still embrace the idea that altering the status quo to increase diversity is actually a bigoted response.

What does this tell us?

Well, for starters, it shows once again that people who are accused of being racists will often turn around and shout that their opponents are the real racists. It’s a nifty bit of swift-boating.

It also reveals that acknowledging an institution’s biases — and by extension the touchy topic of white privilege — causes people to freak the fuck out and get more than a little defensive.

But more than anything, it serves as direct evidence that white people in positions of privilege, such as rich Hollywood types, feel that they can pontificate on any issue and shout down any viewpoint different from their own.

Think about it. Here you have a wealthy white person deciding what is and isn’t fair to ethnic minorities. He or she isn’t concerned with whether or not ethnic minorities perceive it that way. Privileged individuals are used to having their voices heard, so why should this subject be any different?

In this way, they prove, unintentionally of course, that there really is a racial problem in Hollywood. After all, this is a case of rich white people saying, “There, there, all you struggling blacks and Latinos. We’ve decided that your proposed solution is actually harmful to you, and in our great magnanimity we’re going to fight against it — for all of you, of course.”

It doesn't get any more arrogant.

Wednesday
Feb172016

Genuine Imitation

 

When Senator Ted Cruz won the Iowa caucuses, many media outlets noted that he became the first Hispanic to win a caucus, anywhere. But that milestone quickly became subsumed in a discussion of whether Cruz was really and truly Hispanic. Perhaps he was one of those LINOs (Latino in name only), or as I heard growing up, a coconut (brown on the outside and white on the inside).

 

Personally, I accept both Cruz and Marco Rubio as Latino. But clearly, neither is illustrative of the Hispanic experience. 

For example, picture Rubio playing up his family’s immigration experience to a crowd of Latinos in Texas. “Yes, my family came from Cuba, which means we were granted special status and didn’t have to worry about ICE raids like all of you. Now who wants me to kiss one of their niños?”

Or imagine Cruz talking about his privileged past to a crowd in East LA. That’s about as likely as him playing up the fact that he was born in Canada (which is apparently still a shocker to many Republicans), or denying the scientific consensus that he has a creepy face. 

But it’s much more than their backgrounds, of course. As president, neither would tackle issues crucial to the Latino community. Rubio has flip-flopped so many times on immigration that it’s impossible to know what he believes. Perhaps more refreshingly, Cruz is upfront about his right-wing insanity, so we know he really couldn’t care less about affordable health care or better schools or other touchy-feely concepts that Latinos inexplicably want addressed.

As such, I would never vote for either of these guys, and stats show that most Latinos agree with me and, furthermore, aren’t too wild about the GOP in general. 

But like it or not, they are both Hispanic. In any case, I’m not one to pass judgment on their Latino bona fides.

I’m fairly light-skinned for a Latino. I’ve never been to my family’s homeland (El Salvador). And my Spanish is lousy (ok, maybe a little better than Cruz’s). So does all that make me a fake Hispanic?

I hope not, because in that case, I would have to change the name of my website.