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.

Wednesday
Apr242019

Masters of Delusion

If we’ve learned anything from the release of the full (heavily redacted) Mueller Report, it is this:

Don’t trust William Barr to summarize anything.

Seriously, our attorney general would summarize Lolitaas a novel about a guy who has a harmless crush on a younger woman. Then Barr would add that you don’t have to read the book yourself, so just trust him. 

Of course, the full Mueller Report is far more damningof the president’s fumbling, inchoate, fantabulist style of leadership than Barr’s quick dismissal a few weeks ago led us to believe. 

However, we don’t need the Mueller Report to tell us that Trump lives in a universe where his word is law, his ideas are heaven-sent, and his policies never, ever backfire in spectacularly cataclysmic ways.

You see, for most of his life and all of his presidency, Trump has ignored reality in favor of his own simplistic, hate-filled vision of how the world supposedly works, and in the process, he’s created a bizarre self-fulfilling prophecy of his worst fears.

For example, the president has been declaring — shrieking, actually — for years now that there is a crisis at the border. These declarations came despite the fact that immigration was down, with multiple experts saying the border was the safest it had been in years.

But now, in a feat that would be impressive if it weren’t so darkly ironic and disastrous, Trump’s own policies have provoked an actual crisis at the border.

Currently, thousands of migrants are caught in a hellish purgatory that sickens all but the most reactionary among us. This is because Trump's decision to suspend aid to Central American countries, combined with “his determination to build a wall and his grand gestures to demonstrate his desire to cut off illegal immigration” have incentivized migrants “to get to the border as fast as possible.”

The president has “sent the signal that this may be the last best chance to find safe harbor in the United States, and existing laws make handling migrants from Central America — as opposed to Mexico — much more complicated for the administration.”

The result is a humanitarian crisis that Trump is unable to alleviate until “he stops creating more reasons for migrants to come to the U.S., and starts treating them more like human beings.”

Good luck with that.

The president’s delusion has continued, unimpeded, with his idea of sending undocumented immigrants to so-called sanctuary cities, despite the fact that this grade-school-level taunt to liberals has “previously been rejected by administration lawyers in internal White House deliberations, as probably illegal and emblematic of the administration’s failure to conceive of a fair and coherent immigration policy.”

And the president’s insistence that reality bend to his will has infected his most fervent followers, such as the right-wing militia members who have been illegally detaining migrants at the border. These fun-loving vigilantes have kidnapped thousands of migrants in a xenophobic, Gestapo-like maneuver that is not even vaguely legal or ethical. 

By the way, these nativist goons, who often put on full military fatigues… with handguns strapped to their sides, wearing gloves and black facemasks” were also training “to assassinate George Soros, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.”

Yes, someone clearly needs a hobby.

Finally, let us examine the Trump supporters who are trying to build that mythical wall on the border by themselves, without that pesky U.S. Congress getting in the way.

These rugged go-getters have so far raised about $7 million for their quixotic cause, which sounds semi-impressive until you realize that this would finance the construction, at best, of a half-mile of the wall.  This means any migrants arriving at the midpoint of this privately funded structure would have to walk upwards of ten minutes to get around the barrier.

It’s true that the wall backers could give their money to charity, or fund years of chemotherapy for cancer patients, or provide more than 100 kids with free college.

But it is far more crucial to inconvenience a migrant undertaking a treacherous journey, in the hopes that those extra minutes of walking will convince him to turn around.

In the world of the Trump supporter, this is not insane or delusional. In fact, it all makes perfect sense. 

Friday
Apr122019

Saviors on the Horizon

Yes, we’re all surprised that America’s economy is still doing well, considering that we’re two years into the reign of a president who doesn’t understand basic financial systems, seems determined to destroy whole industries, and has had more bankruptcies and failures than anyone should be allowed, to say nothing of the zealots and incompetents who staff his corrupt administration.

Seriously, how are we all not starving to death in abandoned towns and fighting for scraps in hollowed-out cities right now? 

In any case, the economy will inevitably turn sour soon. And when it does, we may all rely on, you guessed it, Latinos to bail out America.

You see, researchers have found that “the Hispanic community in the United States has contributed significantly to U.S. economic growth in recent decades and will continue to do so over the next 10 to 20 years.” In fact, the “outsized contribution of Hispanic immigrants to U.S. economic growth results from thequality of the workforcenot just quantity.” 

In other words, Latinos are one of the main influencers of the American economy, even if certain individuals, media figures, and political parties deny it.

Studies have found that within five years, Latinos will make up about 20 percent of the U.S. workforce and that “the increase in employedHispanic laborcould contribute more to U.S. GDP growth than non-Hispanic labor.” 

Of course, these numbers assume that America will still be around in five years. And if Trump wins a second term… well, it’s best not to finish that sentence.

Now, I know what you’re saying: “Sure, there are a lot of Hispanics out there, stealing jobs left and right. But the only occupations those swarthy immigrants can handle are the low-level, menial gigs.”

OK, maybe you’re not saying that. But trust me, someone in the White House or on Fox News is saying that even while you read this. 

The immediate rebuttal to this sad mode thinking is another data point that research has uncovered, which is the following: “Hispanic arrivals have exceeded contemporary native-born Americans… in their entrepreneurial capabilities and integration into economically relevant parts of the workforce.”

That’s right — when it comes to starting new businesses and creating new jobs, Latino immigrants are far more important than your ninth-generation white working class voter waving an American flag. In fact, “foreign-born and Hispanic populations have become engines of U.S. entrepreneurshipespecially since the Great Recession.”  

Let’s emphasize this again: “The growth rate of Latino businesses in the United States has outpaced the growth rate of all other groups,” and Latino-owned firms “compose a significant — and still growing — percentage of U.S. businesses.”

The reasons for this include the growth of the Hispanic population, the fact that Latinos tend to be younger than the general population, and the truth that throughout American history, there has been a “universal positive benefit that immigrants have on theeconomy and entrepreneurship.”

Of course, if you really want to get exact, Americans should drop to their knees and thank the strong Hispanic women among us. 

That’s because according to a Stanford University study, Latinas are the leading entrepreneurs in United States. Specifically, immigrant Latinas “start businesses at a higher rate than non-Hispanic white women,” despite the unpleasant fact that they often struggle to obtain credit and have “the lowest rate of financial institution-based loans among all other groups of employer firms.” In addition, “the wage gap for women who identify as Hispanic or Latino is larger than that of any other racial or ethnic group.”

Does any of that institutionalized nonsense stop Latinas?

That would be a resounding no.

So when the economy inevitably tanks, and the coal mines don’t magically reopen, and jingoistic Americans across the nation keep repeating, “Who could have possibly foreseen this disaster?” over and over again, just keep one thing in mind:

Ultimately, it will be the Latinas who save us.

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