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Dead Demos

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In some paranormal circles, “dead time” refers to the period when otherworldly spirits are most likely to be active.  Even though it’s not official – and really, nothing in the paranormal realm is considered official – it’s generally believed to occur between midnight and 5 a.m., with the two to four o’clock hours considered the key time.  Nothing in the political arena – especially here in the U.S. – is considered normal either.  But, for those who didn’t vote for Donald Trump in last fall’s presidential elections, dead time started materializing just as Tuesday, November 8 was turning into Wednesday, the 9th, and it appeared the bombastic real estate magnate was going to be our nation’s 45th Chief Executive.  Trump’s entry into the race nearly two years ago surprised few; his name had arisen more than once since the late 1980s as a potential candidate.  But, as he marched forward – taking out one competitor after another – the mainstream Republican Party stood dumbfounded; recoiling as each individual dropped from the race quicker than a Texan would drop a bottle of warm beer.

And, for the second time in sixteen years, Americans found themselves with a president-elect who didn’t win the majority of the popular, but still managed to garner most of the electoral votes.  The vast majority of liberals and moderates were shocked – and appalled – that such an event could happen again within so short a period of time.  As the Democratic National Party scratched its head, people began to question the validity of the Electoral College system that original framers of the U.S. Constitution had created as a means of spreading the generosity of power.

U.S. intelligence had surmised last summer that Russian hackers were trying to infiltrate our voting system.  Now comes proof they actually did manage to sneak their way into it.  Exactly how they were able to do that remains uncertain.  Were votes eliminated, or were votes added?  Was someone in the Electoral College bribed?  Even if no one hacked into the system, would Trump have won anyway?

It’s bad enough that both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump garnered their respective party’s nominations last summer.  But they plowed through the campaigns with the lowest favorability ratings of any presidential candidates in U.S. history.  In other words, no one really liked either of those fuckers, but felt compelled to vote nonetheless.  Voting is more of a right and a civic duty than it is a privilege or an inconvenience.  I have to admit that – for the first time since I began voting in 1992 – I went rogue and selected Green Party candidate Jill Stein.  I knew Stein had as much of a chance of getting into the White House as I do of going a month without a mixed drink or a glass of wine.  But it’s always the thought that counts, right?

I’ve always liked Bill Clinton, but Hillary never had much appeal to me.  Most of my friends and relatives voted for her.  A few criticized me for choosing Stein over Clinton; emphasizing that I was inadvertently voting for Trump instead.  I don’t care.  Opting for the lesser of two evils isn’t much of a choice.  I did that in 2004, when I voted for John Kerry.  Regardless, I wasn’t going to be swayed by party loyalists this time.  While Trump is atrocious, Clinton is as hollow as the empty bottles of hair dye she leaves on the bathroom floor.

Yet, as the world looks at the United States – that self-proclaimed beacon of democracy and freedom – with a mix of horror and amusement, the Democrats are still patching up their emotional scars and sorting through the morass.  But let’s pretend for a moment that no one had hacked into our voting system, or that any such attempts were successfully uncovered and squelched months before election day and that Trump still managed to win.  The Democratic National Party would still have to undergo some serious soul-searching and understand what they did wrong.  I can help and have narrowed the fiasco down to three primary issues.

 

Affordable Care Act (ACA) – While millions of average Americans were losing their jobs, their homes and their life savings because of the 2008 economic meltdown, the Democrats curiously focused their efforts on one issue: health care.  Yes, it’s great if people don’t have to choose between a flu shot and the light bill.  But ensuring that citizens will have adequate health care is not nearly as significant as ensuring they have gainful employment.  I don’t know why the Democrats went off into an ideological black hole with this issue.  That Democrats seemed more concerned with the ACA than boosting the economy was matched only by the Republicans’ determination to destroy the program.  Both parties operated within a vacuum.  Nothing else – mainly that economic thing – seemed to matter.

Inequality – The “Great Recession” almost completely destroyed the U.S. economy.  So many factors contributed to the calamity, but the USD 8 trillion housing bubble burst was the primary culprit.  More people than ever before were buying homes, which would normally be a good thing.  But, in this case, people were getting into homes with little or sometimes zero money down.  How reasonable does it sound for someone earning roughly USD 30,000 a year to buy a USD 500,000 house without making a down payment of even 5% of the structure’s value?  Such a practice was inconceivable two decades ago.  But that’s exactly what people were doing.  And both financial institutions and homebuilders were part of the fiasco.

When I got laid off in the fall of 2010 (in the midst of a fragile recovery), my top concern was the job market; not whether I could afford to get my teeth cleaned.  By the end of that year, the “Great Recession” was, from a purely technical standpoint, over.  But to those of us trapped in its putrid residue, it was alive and well and sucking up our savings and maxing out our credit cards.

Between the fall of 2008 and the summer of 2009, the U.S. economy lost 8.4 million jobs, or 6.1% of all payroll employment.  It was the worst job loss since the Great Depression.  When people mention inequality, they’re not referring to racial or gender disparities.  They’re talking about the wealth gap; that ever-widening abyss that separates the middle class from the upper class.  After-tax income has been shrinking for the past three decades, while the cost of living has been increasing.  Sen. Bernie Sanders made this a key point of his own bid for the presidency last year, and it certainly gained a great deal of attention.  But the Democrats seemed more intent on denigrating Donald Trump’s character and highlighting his personal foibles.  People working two or three jobs just to stay afloat financially don’t really care if the real estate mogul fondled a young woman at a beauty contest.  They want to know if they’ll ever be able to stop working so hard for so little.

Illegal immigration – For decades politicians have said, if they want to appeal to Hispanics, they have to devise a comprehensive immigration plan; meaning that illegal immigrants from anywhere in Latin America must be treated better than others.  This ideology assumes two things: that most Hispanic-Americans are immigrants and that we only care about providing sanctuary for people who emigrate to the U.S. illegally from Latin America.  Immigration – legal or illegal – is NOT the top priority for most Hispanic-Americans.  As a group we’re concerned about the same things most other Americans are concerned about: jobs and the economy.

Obama’s demeanor – Barack Obama is one of the smartest and most verbally gifted men ever to ascend to the nation’s highest elected office.  He had the right message with the right tone.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.  His demeanor is as remarkable as it is unimposing.  It’s one of his greatest attributes.  But, once in the White House, it became one of his greatest faults.  You’d think someone who came of age in the rugged world of Chicago politics would be a little more forceful.  But I felt Obama was too conciliatory, too nice, and too willing to compromise.  The Republicans made it clear from the moment he won the 2008 contest they were determined to ensure he wouldn’t garner a second term.  Their efforts didn’t pay off: Obama won again four years later.  And, as Obama himself stated in his 2016 ‘State of the Union’ address, there was never any doubt he actually won.  But the level of disrespect and recalcitrance the GOP displayed towards Obama has been unprecedented.  From Rep. Joe Wilson shouting “You lie!” at Obama during the 2009 State of the Union address to Arizona Governor Jan Brewer jutting her finger into Obama’s face (later claiming he intimidated her), I can say without a doubt Obama endured more shit than any of his predecessors.

I’m certain race played a major factor in their behavior.  A gaggle of (mostly) old, White men just couldn’t fathom that a half-blooded Negro actually won the presidency.  So, instead of working on behalf of their constituents (that is, doing their jobs), they opted for the asshole category and tried to stifle Obama at every turn.  If he tried to compromise, he’d be viewed as weak; if he talked back, they’d consider him uppity.  He just couldn’t win no matter what he did.  And I know he could see this.  Therefore, he should have responded accordingly.

Politics in any nation is a blood sport, and the United States leads in the sanguinary nature of this.  Obama needed to get ugly with those clowns.  And not just ugly, but fuck ugly; telling them, ‘Look, I’m president and I run this joint.  You either work with me, or I’ll use my executive powers to slaughter your ass.’  That wouldn’t have earned him any fans among the right-wing crowd.  But he might have earned their respect.  I’ve learned that the hard way; sometimes you just have to stand up and scream at people to get their attention and make them bestow upon you the dignity and deference you deserve.  It’ll definitely piss off some people.  But in politics, like in business, you have to draw the line somewhere and tell people to shut the hell up and listen.  It’s just the nature of both realms.  You may not win any friends like that, but you’ll generally get the job done.

 

Overall, though, I’m satisfied with the Obama years.  One person – even the President of the United States – can only do so much.  History will be kinder to him than his contemporaries.  It’s already treating George W. Bush with more compassion than he deserves.  If the Democratic Party intends to remain relevant in the future, they need to be tougher with their opponents.  But they also need to be more forward-looking and emphasize that we can’t go back in time when things seemed simpler and calmer.  Otherwise, they’ll be digging an early grave for themselves, and only their most devout followers will be in attendance.

Demos.

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Our People

In the spring of 1983, while I was a first-year student at a community college in suburban Dallas, I took a historical geology course as a science requisite.  About midway through the semester, the instructor brought in a guest speaker; a man who described himself as a “water rights activist.”  It was a term I’d never heard before; in fact, no one else in the class I knew had heard of it.  Water rights, of course, are part of the overall environmental movement, and people are giving it much more scrutiny now as climate change becomes critical.  The man (I can’t recall his name) explained how large populations in any given location can stress out the area’s natural resources.  And, water is the most basic of all natural resources.  But, amidst his light-hearted dialogue, he suddenly mentioned illegal Mexican immigrants.  He was concerned that more people taking up residence in Texas and the rest of the southwestern U.S. were unnecessarily straining the region’s valuable resources – mainly water.  It was – and still is – a compelling argument.   And, I would have agreed with him, if he hadn’t blatantly classified all Hispanics under one group: illegal immigrants, Mexicans, “Chicanos.”

“Or, whatever those people call themselves,” he said, inciting a few chuckles from the crowd.

‘Those people?’ I repeated to myself.  He might as well have stared at the handful of Hispanics in the room and said ‘you people.’  I’ve had that thrown at me a few times.

During his speech, he pointed to a large map of the state of Texas he’d brought with him; one that displayed population centers in comparison to water resources.  “Now imagine this minus a few Chicanos,” he said, before proceeding to explain further what it was all about.

I forgot what he said because I’d lost interest in him.  He was no longer jovial and quaint; he was arrogant and bigoted.  Every fact he uttered after he presented his map was lost.  I had grown angry.  I already knew by then that my father’s paternal ancestors had been in Texas since the 1580’s.  My father’s later genealogical research proved just how much influence our family had on Texas some 200 years before it joined the United States.  But, in 1983, I was a rather naïve 19-year-old who was just becoming aware of his surroundings.  I’d already faced some prejudice in high school.  But, here I was in college; higher academia; in a science class.  And, a 50-something Anglo man essentially referred to me as a “Chicano” and an “illegal immigrant.”

He then did something totally bizarre; he extracted a guitar and belted out a homemade tune about some long-standing Texas politician.  Again, I forgot the name because I was too annoyed with the “water rights activist” by now.  When he finished squawking, the classroom erupted into delighted applause.  I remained mute, my hands on my lap.

After the next class, I approached the instructor and asked if she could make time for a meeting in her office.  I wanted to talk to her about that guest speaker.  I wanted to be a diplomatic.  She said yes, and I met her later in the day.  I explained how offended I was by his verbiage, adding that me and most other Hispanics were born and raised in the U.S.  She was surprised by my reaction.  She literally had no idea and fumbled an apology.

That was in 1983, and now, nearly two decades later, with the clown show known as the 2012 presidential campaign season in full swing, I’m almost contemptuous of politicians’ attempts to placate the Hispanic vote.  Moreover, I’m still annoyed to find that the issue of immigration – specifically illegal immigration – seems to be the only concern of the Hispanic American community.  I know many Hispanics give that impression with their own focus on immigration.  But, like most people in the U.S., my biggest grievance is the economy, along with unemployment.

Hispanics have a longer history in this country than any other ethnic group, save Indigenous Americans, with whom we share a common heritage.  Spaniards established the first permanent European colony in what is now North America.  But, in modern times, we still had to work hard to attain our fair share of the American dream, combating blatant racism and the old guard status quo that dictated where we could live and work.  Now, we’re mixed up in this awful immigration fight with no easy solutions; a fiasco that has people on all sides paranoid and angry.

I don’t support illegal immigration – from Latin America or anywhere in the world.  The laws are very clear: you cannot enter the United States without proper documentation.  Hispanics have fought long and hard for equal rights in employment, housing, education and all other aspects of American life.  Sneaking across the border under the cover of darkness is not one of them.  It never was and it never will be.  That viewpoint has made me a traitor in the eyes of many other Hispanics; both American-born and immigrant.  But, I structure my opinions around other people’s sentiments.  I consider myself an American first; a proud mix of Spanish, Mexican Indian and German extraction.  Some of my own ancestors fought for Texas against Mexico – including one with my exact name!  The much-heralded Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie, along with most of the others, were outsiders; that is, non-Texans.

Many Americans are upset with the mass influx of illegal immigrants who have disregarded our laws.  If only the latter group would show some respect for our country and emigrate legally, there wouldn’t be much of a problem.  But, their actions have generated an unprecedented level of fear among some folks – especially the narrow-minded – and allowed all Latinos to be branded with the unsavory title of “illegal alien.”

While my paternal ancestry in Texas extends back to the late 16th century, I am also the son of an immigrant.  My mother was born just outside México City.  But, she was already a U.S. citizen at birth, since her father was born in Michigan.  After my maternal grandmother died in 1940, my grandfather moved his four kids to Dallas where he’d found a job in the midst of World War II.  His mother-in-law, who already spoke fluent English, came with them.  My grandfather got his children social security numbers immediately and insisted that they speak only English in that household.  Some Hispanics laugh at me when I tell them my mother was born in México.  They get even uglier when I tell them my grandfather was German-American.  You don’t make friends with people by mocking their families.  It’s ironic though; in high school, it was the Anglo and Irish kids who hurled racist statements at me.  Now, it’s other Hispanics.

Several years ago, during the Independence Day weekend, a friend and I went nightclubbing.  We started at a Tejano bar just north of downtown Dallas.  I donned my American flag vest; something I usually wear during the Memorial and Independence Day periods.  But, on that one night, my friend suggested I remove it before we enter that Tejano bar; noting that, if anything, I should be wearing a Mexican flag vest, lest I offend the crowd.

“Excuse me?!” I replied.  “This is the United States; not México!  If someone doesn’t like that I’m wearing this American flag vest, they’re more than welcome to tell it to my face – in Spanish or English.  And then, stand back and watch while I rip their head off and dump shit down their throat.”

He didn’t pursue the matter, and I didn’t remove the vest.  No one complained about it – at least not to me.

Some people accuse me of being confused or conflicted.  I’m neither.  One girl dubbed me a “coconut” – brown on the outside and white on the inside.  “Well,” I told her, “I am White – White as in Spaniard and German.”  It seemed I had to remind her – as I do many people – that Spaniards are “White,” too; as in European, as in Caucasian.  Read my essay, “Name Calling,” and you’ll get a sense how ridiculous that racial stuff can get.

The U.S. is at a crossroads; an uncomfortable fork of its own making.  Some large companies and farms began employing illegal immigrants – mostly Mexicans – so they could avoid paying decent wages and health care costs and skirt OSHA safety laws.  As many states and individual cities target illegal immigrants, some of those farms and meat-packing plants find themselves idle; there’s no one to do that kind of work.  That kind of work is hard and dirty.  The often-spoiled American middle and upper classes can’t imagine themselves in such positions.  If it doesn’t involve Microsoft and a laptop, it seems they want nothing to do with it.  When former Mexican president Vicente Fox stated several years ago that Mexican immigrants do the work in the U.S. that our nation’s Black population won’t, he got branded a racist and a bigot by the usual voices on the far left: Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, etc.  But, I can relay from first-hand experience that, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, large numbers of Hispanic immigrants poured into New Orleans to help clean up and rebuild the city.  While the mostly Black population was airlifted to other cities where they took up residence in hotels and sports stadiums, Mexicans, Guatemalans and the like were making their way into the decimated “Crescent City” to make it habitable again.  I don’t believe the far left complained about that part of the racial divide.

President Obama and his supporters can laud the “Dream Act” all they want.  But, it’s not my issue.  Even though I’ve been unemployed for some time, I’m not likely to run to the nearest chicken slaughter house or peach orchard to look for work.  Mitt Romney, meanwhile, is still trying to figure out how he and his trophy wife can appeal to Hispanic voters without offending the Republican base that has come to loathe Latinos.  Immigration isn’t a Hispanic issue; it’s an American issue.  I want political operatives to stop placing Latinos beneath that single umbrella – immigrants, illegal immigrants, Chicanos.  ‘You people.’  Our people.  We’re American people.  We don’t all look alike and we certainly don’t all think alike.

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Cartoon of the Day

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Cartoon of the Day

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Arizona Sheriff Babeu Outed, Resigns from Romney Camp

Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu speaks at a news conference, Feb. 18, 2012 in Florence, Ariz. (Deirdre Hamill, AP Photo/The Arizona Republic)

 

Sheriff Paul Babeau of Pinal County, Arizona, has resigned as co-chairman of the Mitt Romney, after admitting he was involved in a relationship with an illegal Mexican immigrant man who claims Babeau threatened to have him deported, if he revealed the true nature of their affiliation.  Somebody didn’t get a Valentine’s Day gift!  Babeau built a staunchly conservative reputation by taking a tough stance against illegal immigration; appearing with Sen. John McCain in a television commercial for McCain’s 2010 re-election campaign about the “danged fence;” and attacking President Obama on the immigration issue.  Babeau is running for the GOP nomination in Arizona’s 4th Congressional District this year.  In a press conference on Saturday, the 18th, Babeau admitted his homosexuality and avoided commenting directly about the allegations made by his supposed ex-lover.  He also insists he’s staying in the congressional race against incumbent Paul Gosar.  Not surprisingly, reporters at the press conference wanted to know more about Babeau’s relationship with the man he refers to only as “José,” instead of more important issues, like say, border security.  This is typical grease for the political sludge machine, with yet another conservative Republican forced out of the gay closet; most likely by the opposition.  As more and more of these sex scandals arise, no one really cares – or at least they shouldn’t.  I don’t know about the “danged fence,” but those danged queers are everywhere!

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