Recently, the good people at Simmons College asked me to take part in their blog carnival.

Well, how could I say no to anything with the word “carnival” in it? Will there be rides? Will there be virtual cotton candy? Can I get my picture taken next to the bearded lady? (Note: it is no longer socially acceptable to make fun of women with facial hair, so please mentally delete that last sentence).

In any case, it turns out that the blog carnival is part of the #MoreThanALabel campaign to shine a positive light on immigrant communities, defy labels, and combat the stigmas of being an immigrant.

Now, I am not an immigrant. I was born in New York City, which many conservatives will tell you is not part of the “real America,” but alas for them, it technically counts as the USA.

As I’ve stated many times, being born here is not an accomplishment. It is pure luck.

My mother is an immigrant. She came here from El Salvador in the late 1960s, and she has now been an American citizen for longer than she was a resident of her native land.

Many of my cousins are immigrants. They came here as kids and have become citizens, started careers, and raised their own children.

One of my cousins has done multiple tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. I mean, really, how patriotic can you get? 

But ultimately, it doesn’t matter how successful the immigrants in my family have been. Nor does it matter that immigrants have lower crime rates than native-born Americans. And it doesn’t even count that immigrants pay plenty of taxes and have a net positive impact on the economy.

That’s because a huge percentage of Americans are convinced that their lives suck because of all those people who were born south of Texas. And those Americans cannot be reasoned with.

So while it’s great that the #MoreThanALabel campaign is working to improve the image of immigrant communities, I’m just too cynical to contribute much of an uplifting narrative.

You see, I’m through with trying to convince xenophobes that immigrants belong in America. That is backward logic. It is the racists who represent the worst of the USA, and they always have.

And before everybody gets crazy, let me issue an obvious disclaimer: I’m not saying that everyone who has issues with immigration reform or is a conservative is a racist. That would be absurd.

But the racial element is there, winding around the debate. It makes movements like  #MoreThanALabel a necessity. No other group has to take such great efforts to convince a segment of the American population that they are human beings.

Still, the good news is that immigrants will persevere. Each new generation of arrivals struggles to its feet and establishes itself as part of American culture. It is an inevitable process, and it will go on and on.

So, if you need me, I’ll be hitting this blog carnival’s Tilt-a-Whirl. See you there.



As you may have noticed (well, hopefully you noticed), I’ve been on hiatus from this site. I haven’t updated in a while, which is a rare break from my semi-rigorous schedule of writing at least one rant per week.

You see, I’ve been ill — absurdly sick — with an especially nasty cold and/or flu virus.

At least I think it was the flu, as I’m an extremely unlikely person to catch Trump Fever.

In any case, I’m feeling better now, but for a few days there, it was all I could do to stay upright. And waging literary war against the forces of xenophobia and racism wasn’t on my agenda.

Now that I’m feeling almost human, I will get back to that — stay tuned.



The Demonization of Latinos and the Coming End Times

I’ve edited over 100 books, from thriller novels to dense histories to self-help diatribes. Only a few of those books have lodged in my memory.

Among them was a manual written by a prepper. If you don't know this term, it refers to someone who makes active plans to survive a catastrophic disaster, typically by stockpiling food, ammunition, and other supplies, and/or by creating some kind of well-protected shelter.

Preppers anticipate calamities ranging from a worldwide economic collapse to a military coup d'état to a Katrina-style cataclysm to, well, just about anything big and scary.

The book was well-written, and the author was intelligent and polite. And even if I found his worldview to be a bit, shall we say, paranoid, it would be incorrect to write him and his peers off as lunatics.

After all, if there’s ever an extinction-level asteroid impact or a zombie attack, then preppers will have the last laugh.

But what struck me about the author’s mindset wasn’t his fear-based attention to detail and insistence that sooner or later, all the shit will hit all the fans.

No, it was my realization that at a certain point, he was no longer preparing for a worst-case disaster. He was actively hoping for it.

You see, if his doomsday predictions never materialize, he has wasted a great deal of time, money, and effort for absolutely nothing. Indeed, he will have squandered a solid chunk of his life, while pinning his very self-identity on nonsense.

So a lot of preppers aren’t just waiting for end times. They are counting on catastrophe to justify their life’s work, even if this wish is subconscious.

How does this relate to the current political climate?

Well, look no further than the renewed demonization of immigrants and, by extension, all Latinos.

We have major political candidates (who shall not be named) who imply hordes of Hispanics are swarming into this country for the express purpose of raping and murdering Americans — that is, when they’re not pumping out “anchor babies” and stealing jobs.

 Of course, fear-based campaigning — especially among conservatives — has a long and effective history. 

And it’s tempting to dismiss GOP shrieking as a side effect of the party’s reliance on religious fervor and apocalyptic thinking. Keep in mind that about 20 percent of Republicans honestly believe that Obama is the antichrist. 

But while building upon those ignoble foundations, this new conservative mindset amounts to something else.

You see, those on the right wing who despise Latinos (and there are many) aren’t just motivated by personal gain. They are true believers, who sincerely think America is doomed if Hispanics continue to increase their political, cultural, and demographic influence. To this contingent, the “browning” of America is the beginning of its end. 

But what if this never happens? What if recent Latino immigrants become an integral and beneficial part of American society, just as so many other immigrant classes have?

In that case, a lot of conservative leaders have wasted a great deal of energy on nothing. Their predictions have failed to come true. And all that screaming and ranting and raving added up to nada.

Nobody wants to see his or her life’s work rendered irrelevant, or worse, dismissed as histrionic, wrong-headed idiocy.

To prevent that, many conservatives have morphed into extreme preppers, warning everyone of the coming Armageddon, while secretly hoping that it will arrive right on time to prove them correct.

The good news for right-wing preppers is that they have an inexplicable degree of influence in this country. So instead of working to prevent the coming apocalypse, they can help to usher it in, via self-fulfilling prophecies and overt policy decisions.

For example, Latinos have lower graduation rates than other ethnicities, so rather than improve public education, right-wing preppers try to gut it.

Hispanics have higher rates of poverty, so rather than balance the playing field, right-wing preppers reinforce an economic system that is rigged for the upper classes.

Latinos have limited socioeconomic power, so rather then look at institutional barriers, right-wing preppers deny that racism even exists.

Yes, there’s lots of ways to ensure that we get the America that some conservatives envision — the future that they supposedly fear but are weirdly attracted to at the same time.

Fortunately for me, I’ve made back-up plans. You see, I’ve recently built this secret bunker stocked with guns and water, and when the time comes…

Never mind, I’ve said too much.



25 Random Things About Me (Part 2)

As promised (threatened?), here are the additional items from my original list of 25 random personal facts.


13. My first celebrity crush was on Princess Diana, when I was ten.

14. I am obsessed with time and being punctual. But I have never worn a watch.

15. The sensation and smell of milk on my skin is one of the most repulsive things in the world to me. Whenever I handle the liquid, which isn’t often, I treat it like explosive nitroglycerin.

16. I am probably the only person in history to go to both a Sandinista rally and a meeting of the John Birch Society. They cover the extreme ends of the political spectrum, and in neither case was it my idea to attend.

17. The only time I have actually partied with rock stars was back in the 90s, when my wife (then-girlfriend) won front-row tickets and backstage passes to the Spin Doctors (!). Considering we were not huge Spin Doctors fans, it turned out to be fun, and the band was very approachable. And yes, they played “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong.”

18. I’ve been to about 200 major league baseball games, yet I have never caught a foul ball or homerun. This annoys me.

19. I got into a lot of fistfights when I was a kid, and I never lost one. My last fight was when I was twelve, so I would most likely get my ass kicked today.

20. If I had to choose a last meal, it would be a slice of pizza (the house special) from Imperial Pizza in NYC, accompanied by a glass of Krug champagne. 

[Addendum: Imperial Pizza has unfortunately closed. I have to think of a new last meal].

21. I’ve broken bones four times in my life, all while playing football.

22. No theory of the afterlife (heaven, hell, reincarnation, merging with the cosmos, never-ending sleep, etc.) seems entirely correct to me.

23. I have been known to judge people by their knowledge of proper grammar.

24. I cannot stand the taste, smell, or even the idea of vodka.

25. The people I admire most are my wife, my mom, the Dalai Lama, and John Lennon. 

[Addendum: I am adding my toddler son to this list].


25 Random Things About Me (Part 1)

A few years ago, I responded to one of those Facebook fads that stated “once you've been tagged, you are to write 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you.”

So I did it, and it was actually kind of fun. Since then, I have rejected just about every other Facebook request for games, lists, or petitions (and I haven’t regretted it). However, this original list is still pretty good.

I will post part 2 of the list next week. But here are the first dozen random facts about me, with addendums added to indicate new info since I first wrote the list.


1. On the morning of my 30th birthday, I left my apartment in Hollywood and impulsively drove to Venice Beach to get a tattoo. The only shop open that early was manned by a 300-lb guy who learned his craft in prison. He did a good job, and the tattoo looks great 

[Addendum: I have since added another tattoo].

2. If money were no object and I could live in any city in the world, I would move to London.

3. When people ask, “Do you have any siblings?” I still have to think about how best to phrase the complicated answer.

4. My wife and I met at a house party in college. I was there with my girlfriend at the time.

5. For a brief time in my late adolescence, I was fluent in Spanish. I am currently passable, at best.

6. I have no memory of ever believing in Santa Claus.

7. On two separate occasions, years apart, I tried to help a stranger who had just been hit by a car. I was of limited usefulness, but they both lived.

8. By my estimation, I have stayed up 24 hours straight about 100 times. Most of those occasions were in the first 25 years of my life.

9. I taught myself how to swim.

10. My first job out of college was in a New York publishing house. It paid $17,000 a year and required about 60 hours a week. And my boss was insane.

11. According to my wife, I have cried only once in the 19 years that she has known me. That was 7 years ago, when our cat died 

[Addendum: I have cried twice more since then, once when our other cat died, and once when our dog died].

12. I have four guitars of varying quality, but I have little time to play them. [Addendum: I am down to three guitars].