Wednesday
May292019

Lo Siento Para Hablando en Español

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you are walking down the street, and you pass two people having a private conversation. You overhear them, and to your shock and horror, they are not talking in English.

Do you immediately turn around to berate them for not speaking god’s favorite language? Do you seethe in anger that they are offending every decent American by speaking Mandarin or French or Klingon or whatever the hell that noise is (but let’s face it — it’s probably Spanish)? Or do you mind your own damn business and just keep walking, barely even noticing that non-English words had briefly buzzed around you?

Well, if you are a white conservative, the odds are about even that you’ll get pissed off. Yes, a new survey has found that 47 percent of white Republicans say it would bother them “some” or “a lot” to “hear people speak a language other than English  in a public place.” In contrast, just 18 percent of white Democrats say this would bug them.

Keep in mind that conservatives regularly accuse liberals of being “too sensitive.” A fair question is, what could be more hypersensitive than getting offended at total strangers having a private conversation, using rights that are constitutionally protected, performing actions that will not affect your life in even the smallest way?

Talk about fragile snowflakes.

In any case, the study also found that “among all racial groups, whites are most likely to be bothered hearing foreign languages.” More than one-third (34%) of white people clench their teeth if they overhear a “muchas gracias,” but only about one-quarter of African Americans (25%) and Asian Americans (24%) are similarly repulsed. Meanwhile, a mere 13% of Latinos get irked when people start jabbering in some foreign tongue.

Now, the good news is that a strong majority (70%) of Americans rated their level of unease at “not much” or “not at all” when it comes to hearing a different language. However, only about one-quarter of white Republicans (26%) fall into this category.

Clearly, this is a group that is very uncomfortable with different ethnicities and the changing makeup of America. Sure, we all knew that already, but the study puts some disturbing numbers on this commonly accepted idea.

For example, did you know that 37% of Republicans believe that “having a majority of the population made up of blacks, Asians, Hispanics and other racial minorities” would be bad for the country? And in case you’re wondering, yes, this is indeed the highest share among any demographic group surveyed.

Hell, more than half of Republicans (60%) believe that a majority nonwhite population will “weaken American customs and values.” Whew, it’s a good thing that it was “economic anxiety” that motivated Trump voters. Otherwise, I might start to think there was something racial  going on here.

Ahem.

Of course, there is more in the study that implies the GOP is not the place for ethnic minorities. For example, “Republicans also stood out in the survey for their skepticism of interracial marriage.”

In 2019, who the hell is “skeptical” of interracial marriage? And is this the message that the GOP wants to send to all those multiethnic Millennials 

The key point to remember is that a powerful trope of conservatives — one that is hammered home every minute on Fox News and relentless driven into the psyche of the nation — is that Republicans are the “real Americans,” and that their values represent mainstream thought. For example, certain right-wing commenters bemoan “radical” progressive ideas and mock the idea of diversity.

However, most Americans (57%) say it is “very good” that “the U.S. population is made up of people of many different races and ethnicities.” Just 39% of Republicans agree with that statement, meaning that they are the outliers when it comes to diversity.

So who is out of touch here? Who is outside the mainstream?

Hey, look at the numbers and do the math.

I’ll leave you with one final statistic: More than 20% of American residents speak a language other than English at home.

This means that, statistically, if five different people invite a white Republican to their place for dinner, there’s going to be a screaming argument in at least one of those houses. 

But hopefully, everybody will be shouting in English.

Wednesday
May222019

The Incredible Disappearing Wall

I recently received a manifesto (there is no other word to describe it) from a longtime reader who hates me.

Over the years, this reader has frequently sent emails calling me an idiot and/or a racist, with colorful phrases throw in that describe his feelings about Latinos in general.

In any case, he is — shockingly — a hardcore Trump supporter who has been clamoring for that fabled wall on our southern border, which his messiah promised back in 2016. But this same reader just wrote me to say that he is now completely against the wall and thinks constructing one would be a disaster for America. 

Has he seen the light and renounced his bigotry? Has he realized that the wall is nothing more than a moronic campaign slogan? Did my writing influence him to change his flawed thinking?

Ha… no.

My longtime pen pal has informed me that he’s uncovered the brilliant double-cross, long-con, super-duper reverse psychology that leftists have engineered. He says that liberals only claim to be opposed to the wall, when in actuality, they want it built. In his words, “the bloodthirsty socialists are going to seize power” after the last brick is put in. At that point, the wall will be a barrier to trap all good, decent Americans in the hellhole that leftists have inflicted on this nation. He just wanted to let me know that he’s on to this, and that “patriots are not going to support your plot to turn us into East Germany.”

Damn… we progressives almost had you there.

Now, besides illustrating the bottomless depths of paranoia that passes for conservative thought, my faithful reader has also shown that the wall — once a symbol of Trumpism — has turned into a farce of epic proportions and the biggest reason why the word “boondoggle” exists.

You see, we’ve already endured the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, ugly political fights over the power of executive orders and eminent domain, and a misguided reshuffling of our military’s priorities — all to serve the personal whims of a scatterbrained wannabe despot who has “the long-term decision-making ability of an empty chair.”

And still there is no wall.

Things have gotten so desperate that right-wing citizens are raising money to fund the wall themselves. As I’ve previously written, one group has collected $20 million, which is enough to build about a mile of Trump’s barrier. But even that pathetic scaling down of expectations doesn’t look like it’s going to happen because… well… um… the money cannot be accounted for. 

Apparently, $20 million has just gone missing, all by itself.

Yes, the founder of this delusional endeavor is “a prolific operator of hoax pages on Facebook, and money he raised in the past to help veterans’ programs in hospitals never actually went to those hospitals.”

And now, the proposed deadline for groundbreaking on the privately funded wall has come and gone. At this point, “Trump supporters who donated to the crowdfunding effort want to know where their money went.”

It’s a good question. Although an even better question is how could people be so consumed by bigotry that they would give their hard-earned cash to a guy with a shady past to fund a xenophobic project that would accomplish nothing? And as a follow-up, are they aware that, even if the money reappears and is applied to construction, “the vast majority of the border … exists on land owned by the federal government — land where private citizens cannot build their own walls”?

Oh well, at least their hearts are in the wrong place.

With such a cavalcade of corruption, incompetence, and stupidity coalescing around all things related to the wall, it is no wonder that my conspiracy-obsessed reader is now dismissing the barricade that he once so aggressively championed. He says it’s because he has uncovered a left-wing plot to commandeer the wall. But clearly, he just wants to distance himself from total failure. 

It’s hard to say definitively, and I’m not going to ask him to find out.

Because I don’t correspond with crazy people.

Wednesday
May152019

A Quixotic Endeavor

I live in California, where Cesar Chavez Day is a state holiday, and you can’t walk a mile without glimpsing a sign of the region’s strong Latino history and culture.

But most states are not California. 

For example, I grew up in Wisconsin, and at the time, there were so few Hispanics around that my family supplied most of the Latino culture, and whatever I did on the weekend instantly became the state’s Latino history (hey, at least it felt that way).

The point is that despite the many contributions that Hispanics have made to America, and our current status as the largest ethnic minority in the nation, running into public displays of our heritage is about as common as meeting a bilingual Trump supporter who listens to NPR.

In fact, a report last year by the University of California, Los Angeles “concluded that not enough is being done to recognize and include Hispanic contributions, with the report going as far as labeling it ‘a pattern of willful neglect’ toward the Latino population in the United States.”

Hopefully, that is about to change. You see, this month, a group of bipartisan legislators reintroduced a bill in Congress to create a national Latino museum in Washington, D.C. 

The building would be located near Smithsonian museums devoted to the history of African Americans and Native Americans. This, of course, would give us a tightly packed trifecta of museums about ethnic groups that this country has just loved, loved, loved nonstop.

In any case, legislation to create a national Latino museum has been introduced in the past, but the bills have died in Congress. One congressman has said that the proposal “is not a partisan issue, and it shouldn’t be a partisan issue,” which would be cute in its naivety if it weren’t so sad. 

Because the truth is that everything is partisan in Trump’s government. These are the same people who see glaciers melting as a partisan issue.

So will we live long enough to see a national Latino museum? Well, America’s attitude toward Hispanic history has not been encouraging thus far. 

Many historians say that the few sites marking Latino history are often “shabby, largely unknown and at risk of disappearing.”

In addition, many of the historical sites dedicated to Hispanic influence “usually center around the Spanish exploration era, colonial times and Old West settlement periods” because these are regarded as “safe” sites that downplay the racism and segregation Latinos had to overcome.

Yeah — who wants to learn about all that icky racism and segregation? Talk about a buzzkill.

But if you despair that there may never be a national museum dedicated to the history of Latinos in this country, cheer up.

Because you can always road trip to the National Mustard Museum. It’s right there in my home state of Wisconsin.

Wait… I can’t tell if you’re laughing or crying.

Friday
May102019

No Man's Land

The Earth consists of about 37 billion acres of land. And at some point in human history, someone has claimed, fought, lived, or died over every damn inch of it.

The idea of owning land, or having an ancestral tie or mystical connection to a patch of dirt or swath of forest, is an ancient one. Almost every war in civilization’s long, sorry run has involved — or even been solely provoked — by the concept that a group of people have a right to a given plot of land.

So it is no surprise that today, much of our political energy is devoted to arguing over who owns various chunks of the planet. For example, recently, a small and particularly ill-behaved group of“white nationalistsstormed a bookstore in Washington, D.C., to protest an event for a book on racial politics.”

Personally, I believe they were offended at the idea that anyone would read a book. But in any case, did this cadre of neo-Nazi lunatics shriek about the cultural significance of diversity, or point out the economic consequences of governmental policy, or bemoan the ubiquity of Avengers: Endgamespoilers? (seriously, they’re hard to avoid.)

No, instead, theystood “in a line before the audience chanting, ‘This land is our land,’ and at least one man yelled white nationalist propaganda into a megaphone.”

Of all the ominous slogans they could have picked, they chose one that implied ownership of American soil and, by extension, possession of America itself.

After all, if one owns the land, one owns the country. And if it is “my country,” it cannot be yours.

This is clear in the conservative insistence that they are “taking this country back” (long a favorite catchphrase of the right wing). It is inherent in social and political policies that restricted ethnic minorities to certain neighborhoods, or pushed Native Americans to reservations, or for that matter, snagged us the whole damn state of California.

And of course, any discussion of immigration will inevitably conclude with shouting about who was here first, and who is the real immigrant, and who cheated whom out of their land.

All of which brings up the following question: Does it really matter who was on the land first?

Ideally, the land of a nation should belong to all the law-abiding residents of that country. The idea that you get dibs because your great-great grandfather happened to build a house that no longer exists is, at its core, an illogical claim.

And of course, if we’re talking about irrational resolutions, foremost among them is that damn wall. 

You see, “after all their invading and butchering and land-grabbing, it’s the white people who want to build a wall to protect them (and their stolen land) from brown people.”

Yes, Trump’s wall is not just racist, xenophobic, idiotic, and impossible. It has the bonus traits of being hypocritical and preposterous.

Because this land is not their land. It belongs to all of us, or more accurately, to none of us. We can never really own it.

Wednesday
May012019

Couldn’t Stand the Weather

Look, if you want action on climate change, it’s best to support a progressive candidate.

But if you want old guys to rant in Congress about how evil the Green Deal is — and to display pictures of Ronald Reagan firing a machine gun while riding on the back of a dinosaur– well, then I’ve got a political party for you. 

Yes, we all know the Republican Party has long denied the existence of global warming. But that ideological stance — which has long hit the sweet spot between appalling ignorance and mind-boggling denial — is wavering. This is because overwhelming scientific data, personal experience, and the influence of young GOP moderates are all merging to make the conservative dismissal of climate change as antiquated as floppy disks and mall hair.

In fact, recent polls show that “a surging number of Americans understand that climate change is happening and believe that it could harm their family and the country.” Even a slight majority of Republicans understand that climate change is a real problem, and not something Hollywood celebrities just made up for the hell of it.

Of course, whenever Republicans admit — through gritted teeth — that the Earth is maybe, possibly heating up, they suggest solutions like “having more American babies to save the planet fromclimate change.”

Yeah, I’m pretty sure that crowding even more people onto the planet will only make things worse, but thanks for trying.

In any case, the effects of climate change have already begun. And as usual whenever something terrible occurs politically, economically, or sociologically, it is Latinos who get hit hard.

You see, “much migration from Central America and, for that matter, around the world, is fueled by climate change.”

For example, in my family’s homeland of El Salvador, up to 28 percentof the coastline may disappear by the end of the century, due to rising sea levels. Once that happens, it’s a fair question to ask what happen to the people who live near the coast. Yes, they will ill need to move — to migrate — somewhere. 

Elsewhere in Latin America, rising sea levels are “destroying the mangrove forests, the marine life that relies on them, and thus he fishermen who rely on that marine life to feed themselves and eke out a meager economy.”

In essence, climate change may make summers in Kansas more uncomfortable. But it will positively fuck up Central America.

But of course, this is not the first time that Latinos have had an adversarial relationship with climate change. For example, a mere 500 years ago, “European colonizers killed so many indigenous Americans that the planet cooled down.” 

Think about that — Columbus and his pals wiped out so many New World natives that the entire Earth felt the chill. You see, a new study shows that when the Europeans brought war, enslavement, and smallpox to the Americas, the result was a death toll that represented about 10 percent of the world’s population at the time, or “more people than the modern-day populations of New York City, London, Paris, Tokyo, and Beijing combined.”

Researchers believe that following such a drastic population decline, “large swaths of vegetation and farmland were abandoned. The trees and flora that repopulated that unmanaged farmland started absorbing more carbon dioxide and keeping it locked in the soil, removing so much greenhouse gas from the atmosphere that the planet's average temperature dropped by 0.15 degrees Celsius.”

As if slaughtering millions of indigenous people weren’t bad enough, the European explorers created an actual blizzard from their bones.

But ultimately, whenever people talk about the Earth dying, or the planet being in crisis, or some other terminology that implies Mother Nature is suffering, it is misleading.

Because the Earth is merely a big rock, without feelings or desires. For the first billion years of its existence, it went from molten lava to airless sphere, devoid of life. And the Earth wasn’t suffering then. And it won’t be suffering if it heats up and wipes humanity off its surface. It is indifferent to our strong drive to keep living and to thrive and to savor all the joys of existence.

Unfortunately, far too many humans share this indifference.