The Power and Permanency of Our Names

They came, these ancient names – these Alcalás and Guevaras along with the families González, Pérez, Hernández, Ramírez, Sánchez and de la Garza and García and Barrios and Rubio and Martínez and many more – originally from different places in Spain, with heredities in the rest of Europe and Africa and the Muslim nations.

From the low hills of Burgos they came, some from Sevilla, others Valéncia, others Austurias, others Córdoba.  They came speaking Spanish and the dialects of the time. They came to what would become the Americas.  They came as Catholics, arriving in this country two centuries before the founding of Jamestown.  They came as Jews. One of the first synagogues in what would become the United States was founded in Rhode Island by Portuguese and Spanish Jews.

Many of those who crossed the ocean and were at sea for weeks would land along the would-be Mexican coast in galleons under the colors of the Catholic kings and queens of Spanish kingdoms to join a story already in progress on the new continent.  From those families, we came, converting our genealogy into a permanent voyage.

Their names return us to the very past that make us here in the present make the future.  Gazing into the past, we can see how our names comingled to form our families and our history.  We see ourselves in those names and wonder how we are who they were.

Picture them standing on wooden decks, the wide ocean around them. Imagine their faces, the wind upon them.  Consider more so the courage pushing them forward. They came seeking religious freedom or fleeing oppression or both or seeking the gold discovered in the mountains and hills and streams of New Spain, what would become México and Texas and the lands all the way to Alturas in northern California just below its present-day boundary with Oregon. Spanish explorers and Basques and Cataláns pushed as far north as Vancouver Island and now-Alaska.  In la florida, they skiffed the waves from ships anchored in emerald waves to create San Agustín and raise other cities in the hemisphere.

Like those who preceded us, we are on a voyage of discovery – and rediscovery.

If they were anything, they were hard workers, toiling upon and tilling the land, fishing the waters and forging the future.  They were a conquering people, regrettably at times treating those already here often with neither dignity nor compassion.  But, amid the mayhem, they fell in love with new, indigenous faces and made a new people. They came to love the new places, new rivers and new vistas that the people already here loved and with whom they began to parent a new chapter in history – a history we are still learning.

The mountains became the Sierra Madre and the rivers the Rio Grande, the Nueces, the Frio, the Medina, the Guadalupe, the Llano, the San Sabá and the Colorado.  Their new homes became Laredo, San Antonio, and El Paso del Norte. To the north and west, the Sacramento, the San Joaquín and the Gila helped create Albuquerque and Santa Fé and San Diego, Los Ángeles and San José and San Francisco – names now fixed in geography and in our genealogy.

Here they grew a new culture, surviving flood, fire, drought, famine, pestilence, revolution, exclusion and oppression.  All the while they worked hard.  They grew in number to help build a country, and today we – their descendants – sustain a nation whose population otherwise would recede into history. Bequeathed with beautiful names, we serve in the military, in government, in our churches, and we work in business and commerce, in schools and colleges, factories and stores and in our neighborhood, always building.

We are a growing community, instinctively yearning to find out who we are to know what we can become.  Our creative and entrepreneurial progenitors adapted to the new, while clinging to family – to ourselves – and made us the intermediaries between the past and the future, when the new that became old becomes new again.

We come from Juan and María de Jesús, Evaristo and Ana María, Manuel and Paula, Justo and Cecilio and Eulalia and Santiago but also from the indigenous already here.  We are Catholics, Protestants, Jews, agnostics, nonbelievers, freethinkers, evangelicals, gay, straight, lesbian.  We are Democrats, Republicans, independents, socialists.  We are married, intermarried, single, divorced.  We name our kids Javier and Courtney and Rafael and Heather.  We redeem the American Experiment and evolve within the American Experience.

And we give way, one generation to the next, as Nature and Nature’s God require.

While here, our genealogy infuses us with the spirit of those who long came before us, now gone, their music still in our souls, their memories lingering in space and time, their prayers our prayers.  Their spirit commits us to country, faith and home.  It is a spirit of commitment to the porvenir, the yet-to-come, and of dedication to democratic governance and human rights.  To tolerance and love, for we seek to be in union again with all of ourselves.

Our names and surnames accompany our sons, daughters and us generation upon generation. Our names are more than label, record or artifact.  They are the standards of our heritage; accords between past and future and adjoining lands.  The memories attached to our names — and the names themselves — are cherished signposts of the voyage of our families through time.

With gratitude and perspective honed by history, we remember; and with life anew are reborn to discover yet again, to find out who we are.

We have never said farewell to the past as we land in a new future.

For we are here, at home.

And always will be.

The Name is the Thing

Reading about her in the newspaper in Austin, readers came to know little about Debra J. Camacho.  Nor do they now possess insight into the lives of Telesforo Chavez Casarez; Jose Antonio Hernandez; Lydia T. Pena; Herminia Perez; Janice Arelene Quinonez; Efrain Rodriquez Esquivel.  Nor  Julia Ybarbo.  Readers do know that they died.  Theirs were eight of 40 obituaries that The Austin American-Statesman published on Sunday, August 21, 2016.  Each was a human being, beloved, no doubt, by family and friends.

The five women and three men averaged 66 years of life and work.  Some presumably bore or fathered children, and almost all presumably started life with names that carry proper accents. All carried names easily found in the Spanish lexicon.  But in the final public record and testament of their lives, some of their names were stripped – perhaps carelessly – of the dignity bestowed on them by proper accents.  Their names, in effect, were misspelled.  They should have read:

Lydia T. Peña

Telesforo Chávez Cásarez

José Antonio Hernández

Efraín Rodríquez Esquivel

Debra J. Camacho

Herminia Pérez

Janice Arelene Quiñonez

Julia Ybarbo

Whether the printing of their incomplete and unfinished names offended the relatives of these now-gone is unknown.  The dead at the end might not have cared either about their names being misrepresented.  The dying have other things on their minds.  And any individual has the right to pronounce, spell, write and accent his or her name any way he or she desires.  The First Amendment at the very least protects how one chooses to write and pronounce his or her name.  So an individual or family can choose not to pronounce and accent “Peña”, for example, properly.

Yet Peña without the ñ becomes pena, which in Spanish to knowledgeable readers means pity or pain, instead of the more positive group of supporters.  Peña without the ñ also sounds vulgar – hardly the expression families would want in a death notice, the last public evidence of a human being’s existence.

Unless a family chooses to not use accents, wanton disregard of accenting Spanish names and surnames amounts to journalistic malpractice, especially as the country’s new demography asserts itself.

Editorial negligence occurs every day in hundreds of newspapers throughout the country when a Spanish name is not accented properly.  It happens every minute across the airwaves when television producers fail to properly accent names of individuals on the screen and when their reporters do not pronounce names properly.  The same holds true on radio when an unknowing announcer massacres a name in any frequency that like any other name personifies worth and demands respect.

Journalists who do not spell or pronounce names of individuals and places correctly violate the most basic of journalism’s rules to report accurately the facts.  A journalist’s integrity takes a hit each time any name is presented improperly or mispronounced.  Beyond disrespecting human beings and devaluing them mindlessly, a journalist diminishes his or her professional integrity by demonstrating incompetence.  It is not just Hispanic/Latinos who notice.  An increasing number of non-Hispanic/Latinos now know Spanish and Spanish names and surnames.

By not requiring their staffs and systems and processes to treat Spanish names and surnames properly, media organizations chip away at the very credibility that abets the amorphous muddle that the market has become.  Some news executives have struggled – and some have failed miserably – trying to adapt to a new market in which an estimated 90 percent of Hispanics/Latinos in the United States carry an accent in at least one of their names.

Growing a news entity these days is a formidable challenge.  But at the very least, news executives should make sure that the most basic tools of their trade are not lost.  In a world in which every margin is important and new, niche markets created, the growth of the Hispanic/Latino market alone might not be a matter of life or death.

But media entities should at least keep alive and in some cases revive solid journalistic principles and practices.

The Wrong Guy(s)

Sometimes you hire the wrong person.  It just does not work out.

That is what the polls are showing now about Donald Trump.  But it is going to be hard if not impossible to fire him.  And that almost certainly will prove ruinous to the nation.

But the same thing can be said about Democratic Party activists, strategists and those on-air know-it-alls whose election-loss records reveal something other than mastery of campaigns, politics, messaging and issues.  They, too, are hard to get rid of, or at the very least it is difficult for them to understand the political realities of the country today.

I am not going to comment about how to get rid of Trump institutionally.  The ways and means set out by the Constitution are there for use.  Whether there are enough Republican members of Congress or of the Cabinet courageous enough to put country before party remains to be seen.  I rather doubt it, however sad, and much can be written about that, however desperately.

But the only way or means available to the public to be rid of Trump and the disaster that is the Republican majority in Congress are the 2018 and 2020 elections, which brings me back to the Democratic political establishment.

There is growing suspicion that Hillary Clinton – whom I love – is setting about to see if she might yet make another run for the office that slipped through her hands twice.  I have heard it from enough people who believe she has a winning argument that the Trump campaign in collusion with the Russians stole the election from her.  I can see the logic of it, but it does not resonate with me, I am sorry to say.

The problem is not Hillary.  Anyone who has read anything I have ever written on this website, the least-visited of the planet, knows that I believe she is eminently qualified to be President and that Trump being in the White House and not she is the cruelest moment in U.S. history.

But being anti-Trump is not enough.  That is what the Democratic political establishment does not understand.  Democrats have to offer more.  What the GOP offered in 2016 was a vehicle of resentment about things as they are.  Many voters took the ride of anger and hate that Trump offered.  In contrast, too many of us believed that in comparison to Trump, Hillary was a slam-dunk, and so what we offered was not well said and projected by the campaign.

And that is where we erred, with most of the responsibility landing on the decision-makers who now go on television with handy excuses related to Russia, Jared Kushner, Russian-owned banks, shadowy financial magnates and, of course, the now-infamous James Comey.

Yes, let that be part of the way we win what most voters wanted in 2016.  The anti-Trump sentiment at the Democratic grassroot-base is real, and it will grow as the GOP in Congress and the Supreme Court head down a road that most voters do not want to travel.

But that is not enough because the components of the voting electorate favor the Republican Party.  That might sound oxymoronic given that Hillary won the popular vote.  But that proved not enough.

There has to be a spokesman or spokeswoman who is able to say persuasively – unlike Hillary – this:  That America can solve its problems, especially those larger than abortion, transgender bathrooms, guns and immigration.  What makes the learned Democratic establishment think that the majority of Americans gets up in the morning thinking about these causes and that they want to hear about them every moment the television in on?

I am all in favor of women’s right to choose, for the protection of the transgender community, for common sense on guns and for the protection of immigrants.  But I and many others do not have to be labelled as less progressive because we do not want to be so wedded to ideological litmus tests that we lose the greater reality that if we do not win we lose on all fronts, not just bathroom bills.  Most Democrats did not support gay marriage but they do now, having been brought there by party activists who then convinced the country of their argument.  Fine – and good.

But surely we can be more inclusive of voters whom we somehow do not hear who believe we have gone off the rails.  We can them back because most Americans are good people.  There are too many activists afoot within the Democratic Party who suspect that too many Americans are not good because they are not as enlightened as the established elites.

This above all must be our game plan:  To turn perceived negatives into positives – a message that could resonate with, for example, many Hispanic/Latino men who showed less willingness to vote for Hillary than we presumptuously thought.  That is just one component of what we should worry about as we head into 2018 and 2020.  And you are not going to see too many pundits or experts on television or at party conferences talking about that kind of detail, which is where the devil is.

The fact of the matter is that we have the numbers to prevail — even in off-year elections.  But we shave off our majority status when we project the cause rather than the common good.

Unless we win next year and in 2020, we will have ruin and be even more desperate.

Jesús (Jesse) Treviño is the former editorial page editor of The Austin American-Statesman.

Reading the Times and my Morning Joe

I have not been watching as much television as before Nov. 8.  But I did go to bed resolved to watch Morning Joe at 5 a.m. and monitor the three major news network in light of The New York Times breaking the latest revelations on Trump-Russia.  Morning Joe is not a bad place to get a sense of how official Washington is initially reacting to an overnight development.

Having seen the “shows”, I believe that enough of the GOP on the Senate side is moving to make Mike Pence president.  My judgment might not matter.  I wrote that Hillary Clinton was going to win, and easily.  But elections are not fact until after the voting stops.  In comparison, you cannot get more factual than live intelligence intercepts, to which the Times presumably has access.

Everyone should understand something very important:  This has nothing to do with Trump cavorting with prostitutes in a hotel near Red Square.  I believe the military-intelligence establishment and others have concluded that Trump jeopardizes and already hurts the national security of our country.

Even if there were nothing in the intercepts, Russia now can control Trump.  If Russia doesn’t like what Trump does, it can simply build on and confirm the stories that are out there right now.  Whether the stories about cooperation are true barely matters.  If Russia confirms a cabal, Trump is in trouble.  Russia can expose him if they don’t like the line he is taking.  Trump is therefore compromised and so is our national security.  And that is what responsible parties in Washington do not like.

Take Sens. Bob Corker on MSNBC and Lindsey Graham on ABC this morning.  Politicians and other leader-types get animated when they get defensive or want to make sure that they justify their actions.  Unconsciously, Corker started to raise his arms and his voice, and he did everything to keep his eyes from popping out of their sockets the more he spoke.  Graham was the kid barely suppressing his giddiness at finding a bag of candy on the sidewalk he is keeping secret from his parents.

The straw that most likely has broken the camel’s back are the comments made by the active general in charge of special operations in Florida who said Washington is in chaos.  Do you know how many conversations that general had to have with fellow generals before he opened his mouth?

I should not have been surprised by how quiet John McCain and Graham were on Trump’s Cabinet appointments in general.  That they let Rex Tillerson skate into State now makes more sense, as does briefly watching former CIA director Michael Hayden on television two weeks ago.  Up until then he had been careful to mince his words as he has all his career.  Now Hayden seemed full-bore against Trump.  It would have been unthinkable last month that Hayden would have authored the op-ed which appeared in the Times two weeks.  What caused him to move?

When Trump dissed the CIA, the NSA, the intelligence units of State and Defense etc., some within – those just angry and others motivated by fear of Trump’s incompetence – moved all they knew, I suspect, over to McCain or some other place before Trump could take full control of their agencies.  They then laid the groundwork for what we see now, starting with the release of the dossier on Trump compiled by the British spy or former spy.  How on earth did BuzzFeed get it or parts of it?  Did someone mistakenly leave it at the Dairy Queen on Route 50?  I don’t think so.  Then came news quickly on CNN that parts of the dossier had been corroborated.

And when nine sources confirm the intelligence reports, it should be clear that McCain and company have much bigger fish to fry than Tillerson or Betsy DeVos — with a lot of help.  Rather than a Sam Dash at the Watergate select committee years ago orchestrating events, this drama seems to be a full-scale attempt by the military-intelligence establishment to rid us of a dangerously incompetent chief executive.  Michael Flynn being forced off the National Security Council is nothing compared to what seems to be building.

If the grounds existed to force the resignation of Flynn, then forcing the resignation of Trump would be easy in normal times.  But it most likely will require the threat of a looming impeachment before he goes on his own.

We should suspect by now that the McCains, Grahams, Portmans, the Collinses, the Murkoswskis, the Rands would not be hard to get to vote for conviction of Trump in the Senate if the facts support it.  In the House, at some point, Paul Ryan, who nauseatingly bides his time in classic political fashion, will have to act.  He might be pushed by GOP members like Michael McCaul and Will Hurd.

These two congressmen from Texas have national security experience and either man would make a better President than Trump.  They probably are alarmed at what is happening.  And other members, some from farming states who are starting to hear from their districts about Trump’s ideas about Nafta and women members who cringe when they see Trump on television – what makes anyone think these Republicans are immune from voting with the simple majority it takes for the House to impeach?

Other than impeachment, the other forced-resignation route could be found if the FBI (or any of the intelligence agencies or even Interpol that want Trump gone) know or uncover something that Trump did himself that constitutes a felony.

All this is enough to get up and watch television again.

Jesús (Jesse) Treviño is the former editorial page editor of The Austin American-Statesman.

Of Dunces and Horses

Walking into a restaurant I frequent in Austin on Jan. 20 a little after noon, a wry smile edged its way across my face.  On any day other than that of Donald Trump’s inauguration, most of the restaurant’s patrons eating alone face the television on the wall.  But not on Friday.  Every customer sat opposite the screen, defiant if not numb to the coverage from Washington.

Before I sat down in the order laid down by the opposition, I saw about five seconds of protesters somewhere fighting the police.  A sign of things to come.  The television that made Trump is going to destroy him, like the tiger that John F. Kennedy warned us in his inaugural address would consume ultimately anyone daring to ride it.

I saw nothing of that day’s usually grand events, which is odd, drawn to history as I am.  I will spend hours in front of the television watching things of historic importance, state funerals, for example, whether for a Kennedy, a Pope or a Reagan.  I watched Strom Thurmond’s funeral, for goodness’ sakes, one of the country’s most reprehensible racists.  Speaking of state funerals, I panicked when I heard that Queen Elizabeth II recently struggled to overcome a cold that sounded more like near-pneumonia, a dire threat to someone of that age, 91.

The idea of Trump going to England to represent the United States were the queen to die in the next four years appalls me.  Trump hauling his red hair and history with women into St. Paul’s Cathedral for a memorial service for one of the most respected figures of the last 100 years would be outright desecration.  And what about Pope Francis giving up the ghost during this specter of Trump? His arrival at so august a ceremony as a papal funeral corresponds to what this country has done to itself:  It went from electing a highly capable Hillary Clinton to empowering a ridiculous man, whose appointments to his Cabinet follow suit.

It is not the purpose of this space to regurgitate what we patently know about Trump’s Cabinet picks:  That across the board the men and women he selected for some of the highest offices of the land are so evidently out of their depth that our once-worry about the future is now real fear.

Rick Perry, the former governor of Texas, did not know before he was nominated to be Secretary of Energy that on his shoulders would fall the responsibility of securing the nation’s nuclear arsenal.  Before I went to work at Energy as a speechwriter to a truly competent man whose desk Perry will now occupy, I myself did know about that particular part of the department’s portfolio.  Hard to believe that the governor of the nation’s premier energy-producing state did not.

Would that the Cabinet gathered only as a dance for dunces!  We could laugh them off and sit opposite our televisions in mirthful spite for a day or two.  But something more profound is at hand, and I am elated this Cabinet does not include a Hispanic/Latino.  No Hispanic/Latino of any note or reputation would want to be associated with what might well come from this crowd.  Should all go up in flames, we might be the ash of history but not responsible for it.

As important, I am glad that Hispanic/Latinos* are grasping – each day more thoroughly, deeply and communally – what Trump and most of his supporters think of our community of more than 58 million:  That we – the demonstrable demographic future of the nation – are not worthy nor important enough to be included in the Cabinet.  Into this oppressive quicksand of reality should be sinking those Hispanic/Latinos who voted for Trump, including a scant few friends of mine.

From this lack of inclusion in the Cabinet comes also an important lesson:  No Hispanic/Latino should ever feel that he or she is not entitled to occupy any office of the land at any level.  But we have to be better than that.  The bar has been set so low that we have to be conscientious about how we raise it in the future when this nightmare ends, hopefully without total devastation.

Observing the Cabinet selection and confirmation process reminded me that we shall never know how the Roman Senate would have reacted had the emperor Caligula named his favorite horse a consul of Rome, an office of superior rank then to that of Cabinet member today.  In our time, the U.S. Senate, being in Republican hands, already has proved too passive letting this Cabinet come into being when more is at stake than was two millennia ago.  An empire then, the whole earth today.

My sister Rosario texted me that she cried when she saw President Obama leave Washington.  But she and we should remember he will be back soon enough.  After a short vacation, he will join Eric Holder, his former attorney general, to lead the fight against the gerrymandered distortion of our congressional representational system that usurps the popular will.  It is the first step to turn this thing around.  And in the name of those three million more of we voters who formed the majority of the electorate in November, Obama will no doubt act to help stave off any direct madness that emanates from this already iniquitous administration.

Still, Obama and Holder and the millions they rally will need the likes of Sens. John McCain and Rob Portman and Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski and other Republicans in the Senate to write their own profiles in courage to avert the clearest and most present danger of our lifetimes.

Heroes can hold in this time of dunces, before the horses.

Jesús (Jesse) Treviño is the former editorial page editor of The Austin American-Statesman.

*Hispanic/Latinos is not a typo. It is an editorial confection to overcome the rhetorical divide between those Hispanics who consider themselves not Latinos and those Latinos who do not consider themselves Hispanic.

From Episcopacy, Legacy.

If you do not follow European soccer, you cannot possibly know who Sergio Ramos is.  For the past two years, Ramos has used his head to score amazing goals at the most critical times for the most important sports team in the world, Real Madrid.  On Sunday, however, the great Ramos headed in a goal into his own net that ultimately cost Real victory.  We all at times score against ourselves.  It is in our nature.  Otherwise, we would be perfect.

Ramos came to mind on my drive back to Austin from San Antonio after paying my respects to the city’s former archbishop, Patricio Flores, who died last week.  In thinking about Flores and Ramos, I was not dwelling on loss so much as considering legacy.  Many more millions of people know who Ramos is than who Flores was.  Years from now Ramos will be remembered around the globe through video clips for his heroics on the field.  Flores will not be as noted nor remembered.  But, of course, it is not the life led nor the name known but that which we leave behind that matters.

Flores was one of those important men and women whom I have known who did matter.  The former Houston priest became the first Mexican-American bishop and archbishop in a land made Catholic by Spanish explorers centuries before and as such Flores heralded part of the beginning of the new chapter of the American story that we are now writing.  We are in a time in which we are going to have to provide a new intellectual context for the Hispanic/Latino community going forward.  It is no longer a question of who was first at this or at that.  It is the new not the old legacy that matters.

This reconsideration of ourselves was destined to start in Texas.  There was a reason why the first premier Hispanic/Latino social and political organizations were all established in San Antonio and South Texas.   However important, the overarching principles of those organizations of the last 50 years – civil rights, social justice, equal protection under law – were not enough.  The well-intended idea that the Hispanic/Latino community would achieve equal status and power by pursuing alone the guarantees of the Constitution ultimately has proved deficient.  We could soon be again where we were before Paul VI made Flores a bishop in 1970.

Whatever you might think of the election and the prospects of a Trump Presidency, we need a new perspective that defines our community and its purpose and gives it energy for the future at hand.  The great repression that might be headed our way will demonstrate the need for unity and action and it will foist on us a new sense of solidarity that, unintended or not, will re-enforce our self-identity.  I am not talking about organizing a separatist model but we need a new model of thinking within our system of democratic governance.

Neither you nor I nor anyone cannot escape what we now confront.  We will be compelled at last to find the voice we have never had but which is now possible because of our growing numbers.   To find a voice to resonate within ourselves, some of us will think of Patricio Flores. In building a new but cogent school of thought that  generates a mission statement that expresses a world view that everybody easily and naturally understands, we would bring purpose to a large mass of human beings still being formed.

The basic tenet of the new thinking has to be that key economy-driving states like Texas will fail if Hispanics/Latinos do not accelerate our social, economic and political progress.  And if those states fail, the nation will fall.  A larger, poorer Hispanic/Latino community will not be able to shoulder the cost of servicing the nation’s growing debt, supporting its aging population and paying for new defense systems in an increasingly dangerous world.

It is incumbent that Hispanic/Latinos* internalize our role in saving the country, and we must inculcate that belief within our community so that it is as common as the rising sun.  We must draw out and build upon the best within us more effectively and fully:  our sense of family, our desire for community, our congenital loyalty, our desire to belong.  More so, our efforts must rest on the need to foster self-confidence and self-belief in our students, and I believe that rests in restoring cultural pride.  The loss of our culture, including respect for our names and surnames, is complicit in our present state of being.

What lies ahead for the world in this new age in which religion matters less and yet matters more no one can know.  Church attendance and reverence is down; religious judgmental fervor rendered into partisan use and terrorist tool is up; indifference to what made religion important – faith – is quotidian, a universal, daily reality and subversive.

We must be careful, then, to use our heads well and not score against ourselves lest we lose the whole game and leave a last legacy.

Jesús (Jesse) Treviño is the former editorial page editor of The Austin American-Statesman.

*Hispanic/Latinos is not a typo. It is a run-in confection to overcome the rhetorical divide between Hispanics who consider themselves not Latinos and Latinos who do not consider themselves Hispanic.

Waiting for Fadó

The noise from Fadó (Fa-dough) – a rowdy Irish soccer bar in downtown Austin – ricocheted in my ears as I walked up Lavaca to get over to Colorado to my truck.  At the last minute, Real Madrid had rallied against Barcelona in el clásico, the most important annual sporting event on the planet.  The walkers-by outside on the streets under the Texas Capitol that Saturday morning in November had no idea that Real and Barça had played – and played more than a game.

At least twice a year, the two Spanish powers bring together 700 million people or more to form and experience a global event simultaneously in real time, generating the largest cache of the most precious commodity of our time:  Attention.  It is the new currency of the global realm.

Other than cash, the key to power these days is attracting attention.  Donald Trump would not have been elected otherwise.  If you gain attention, you gain votes, web hits and followers.  In the most attention-addicted country in the world, Trump prevailed.  He understood that with attention you can stir those once thought un-stirrable to now command global events.

We are indeed in a new time.  The global village becomes universal megatropolis, something George W. Bush’s failed to understand when he held the world in his hand after September 11, 2001.  Bush was no different then than most Americans strolling through life today.  In many ways, most of us really do not get it.  With the globe as his audience, Bush muffed it by shouting vengefully to workers upon a heap of rubble through a hand-help microphone rather than using that precious moment to undermine radical terrorists around the world with an inclusive message.  Barack Obama tried to recreate what Bush messed up when the newly-elected President went to Cairo in his first year in office to speak to the Muslim world.  But the moment of billions had passed.

Yet those moments will come again.  For it being only a game, when the clásico gathers 700 million people in all bends and corners and fields of the earth to sit down for two hours to share the same sensations emanating from one soccer stadium in Barcelona or Madrid, do they not create a global impact two times each year?

The very idea that the most watched annual event in the world is between two teams in Spain should be instructive in some way.  My sense is that even the Spanish government has no idea of its potential impact on a growing Hispanic Hemisphere.  Seven hundred million is about three times the number who will watch the Super Bowl next month.  And the vagaries of soccer in Europe could pit Madrid against Barça as many as six of times this year – almost five billion people.  The numbers astonish the mind.

Not astonishing is the disengagement of most Americans – specifically, too many Hispanic/Latinos* in the United States – from an event that demonstrates how state-of-the-art telecommunications could accelerate changes in our consciousness and self-perception.

My parents knew nothing of sports.  We barely had a television set.  But because I went to a Catholic high school in San Antonio – a megatroplis compared to my small hometown 300 miles away in the desert – what we call soccer became a part of my life.  One of our teacher-priests was from Spain.  His black cassock would turn brown in our dusty field on Saturday mornings as we learned the game.  I then would wait for ABC’s weekly Wide World of Sports in the afternoon hoping for reports about soccer in Europe.  Nothing, alas, about el clásico; mostly news from Wembley Stadium in London about English soccer games.

That we can now watch a game live from Madrid or Barcelona – or from Rio or Mexico City or Buenos Aires – means that while English grows as the dominant language of the world, the world is changing simultaneously.  Once seemingly small affairs like Real Madrid-Barcelona are no longer small at all.  Who could have imagined that a 26-year-old fruit seller named  Mohamed Bouazizi angry at the Tunisian government setting himself on fire in the rural town of Sidi Bouzid would set off the Arab Spring and plunge the world into tumult?

The clásico serves as a reminder.  It fixates Spain, Europe and most of the former Spanish colonies in the Americas, Africa and Asia but more so it underscores how far Americans and Hispanic/Latinos of the U.S. variety have to go before we become part of the new megatropolis, whose emergence must mean something new.  If we grow to become more aware of our new world, perhaps we might not be surprised when something unexpected happens or when we learn that we can affect world affairs.

I could watch the clásico at home.  But I would miss the crowd at the bar: The expressive Moroccans, the silent Germans, the dismissive Italians, the tense madridistas shouting for Real and the always-angry culés screeching for Barcelona, the engaged Mexicans and the quiet Ethiopians – and the raucous Irish.  I would miss the world.

The next clásico is in April.

I will be waiting for Fadó.

Jesús (Jesse) Treviño is the former editorial page editor of The Austin American-Statesman.

*Hispanic/Latinos is not a typo. It is a run-in confection to overcome the rhetorical divide between those Hispanics who are not Latinos and those Latinos who are not Hispanic.

The Good Nephew

He is a nephew of my sister’s by marriage.  He has worked for decades for the CIA.  I presume he is still there.  I have not seen him since he was a toddler.  And that was 45 years ago, at least.  I would not know the Nephew if he walked in the door.  Nor do I know his politics.

Neither do I know what the Nephew does for the agency.  I do not want to know.  All I know is the agency posted him to places where we have vital interests and are known to have defended them.

I presume he has put his life at risk.  I wish I could call him and ask what he thinks of Donald Trump dissing the CIA’s conclusion that Russia directly interfered with the Nov. 8 elections.  History will record that Russia caused the best qualified candidate in a long time to lose and the worst qualified candidate ever to win.  Sen. John McCain is right: Russian involvement is a form of warfare.

I bet it rankles the Nephew that Trump is not taking full advantage of the briefings he should be receiving, information for which members of the CIA are risking their lives — today — while Trump meets with Kanye West.

I am so proud, yet worried when I think about it, that the Nephew knows more about world affairs and our national security than the president-elect of the United States.  The Nephew is one of too few Hispanic/Latinos* in the actual game.  Hispanic/Latinos lag in engagement and presence across the entire foreign policy and intelligence establishment.  No Hispanic/Latino diplomat in the nation’s history has excelled at the highest level in the handling of American foreign policy.

Development and management of foreign policy is the area of government in which Hispanic/Latinos might be the most underrepresented.  Some have used theatrics to project themselves as foreign policy experts but few people take them seriously. Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Madeleine Albright, George Marshall they are not.

The short- and long-term implications are serious.  In the short-term, if had we an experienced corps of Hispanic/Latino diplomats, active and retired, they might help mitigate how NAFTA is going to be recast by the least-knowledgeable chief executive in our lifetimes, how immigration policy might be managed and how the impact of the plutocrats Trump is appointing to government might be ameliorated .  In the long run, we will not have enough foreign policy experts to help change, reform or reorient current U.S. foreign policy in the years ahead if — and most likely when — Trump comes up a cropper.

Trump in dealing with Russia, China and Israel already has shaken up the country’s foreign policy arrangements of long standing.  By empowering Russia, basically recognizing Taiwan and perhaps now moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, Trump is going to leave the world a vastly more complicated place for many, many years.  This could mean the beginning of a Thirty Years War on top of the almost Twenty Years War we have fought since September 11, 2001.

And who shall pay the mounting bills?  Hispanic/Latinos?  The very group whose economic and social progress almost surely will be laid waste by a Trump administration and Republican governors and Republican-controlled legislatures across the nation?  The very group that is growing and on whom the nation should depend as the white, non-Hispanic/Latino population declines in share and number?

In the span of four hours on the evening of Nov. 8, our future overnight became evermore dangerous, evermore costly and evermore painful.  No scenario is out of bounds over the next four years.

I do not know at what age the Nephew signed up for duty to serve his country.  I doubt his colleagues and he signed up for their years of dangerous, perilous work to be devalued.  But I hope they keep working and not wander off into much-deserved retirement – not yet.

If he survives the mess Trump seems on the precipice of creating, perhaps the Nephew will be at the right age, time and place to manage the aftermath.

If he were, that probably would be good.

Jesús (Jesse) Treviño is the former editorial page editor of The Austin American-Statesman.

*Hispanic/Latinos is not a typo. It is a run-in to overcome the rhetorical divide between Hispanics who are not Latinos and Latinos who are not Hispanic.

The Miami of My Dreams

From the roof of a hotel at night two years ago, the emerald city below looked destined to unfold as the new capital of the hemisphere.  Knowing what we know about the ongoing economic and demographic integration of the hemisphere, Miami in our lifetimes might still become the new geostrategic center of the 50 or so nations of the Americas.

I thought of my nocturnal musings when news came that Donald Trump’s nominee to direct the Environmental Protection Agency does not believe climate change poses a threat, even as more-knowing homeowners sell their homes in Florida and businesses begin to hedge their bets.  I know this to be true because I had called a friend in southern Florida the week before the election seeking reassurance that Hillary Clinton was going to win the state.

My friend is a seasoned professional, and she had been working for an adjunct of the Clinton campaign for almost a year, and so I was not expecting to hear Clinton was going to lose.  I certainly was surprised to hear, however, that she had sold her house, which she had owned for many years.   “You’re kidding.  Why?” I asked.  “Too close to the water,” she responded.  “But you love that house.”  She became poignant for a moment before regaling me with her troubles when even mild tropical storms push ocean waters her way. “It’s real,” she said of climate change.  And sad.  I grew to love Miami when I lived there. Somewhere in storage in San Antonio is a white Gatsby-like hat I used to wear when I went there to recover from the aftermath of the election of 2000.

I did a pretty good job of recuperating from an election that Al Gore would have won over the disastrous George W. Bush but for Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court.

Miami would be a mirage playing off the waters of South Beach were it not for the traffic.  Without the noise and bustle of visitors, languages and commercial transactions across nations and islands, the light that bounces off the many colors of the city’s buildings creates an eternal rainbow that camouflages an economic powerhouse of immense and global potential.

From atop my hotel, the city dazzled me again.  Most people can visualize Miami as generally the midpoint between Alaska and the southern-most part of South America.  As important, though, is that most of South America rests east of the United States, in time zones more conjoined with Europe and Africa.  Almost all of Central America itself is east of Texas – a difficult concept for Americans who use south of the border to mean anything south of the Rio Grande all the way to Tierra del Fuego in Chile.

Spread across miles of light at night, it seemed to me that Miami, blessed eons ago by the caprice of a small break in the continental plates, was making the best of geology, geography, time and, now, demography to become a super city in the age of globalized trade.  The demographics of Florida and of Miami have fast-become more representative of the rest of the hemisphere than traditional Cuban redoubt.  The blinking lights in near and far signaled the city was about to take center stage in hemispheric affairs – and perhaps more.

Yet it seems the marvel of Miami might one day be our age’s Atlantis, the mythical city said to have disappeared into a watery grave.  The very waters that make Miami so splendid now threaten its very existence.  The sense of the city’s growing grandeur itself might be mirage.  Miami’s dreams could be undone, inundated slowly by the very sea that shimmers day and night.

Or they could be swept away instantly next year or the summer thereafter by the growing size and anger of hurricanes made more powerful and more frequent by changes in water temperature and the climate.  Had Gore won the election 16 years ago, Miami and we might have stood a better chance.  Still, we need to convince the Senate to reject an EPA nominee so divorced from the reality of homeowners selling their homes already.  Certainly, Sen. Marco Rubio has an interesting vote to cast.  Perhaps we who love Miami should give him a call.

When I think back to that night high above the city, I was not Gatsby.  But I did want the emerald, elegiac light to mean more than it did to him.

Jesús (Jesse) Treviño is the former editorial page editor of The Austin American-Statesman.

 

The Media Cometh

I often am asked to identify the most important issue facing the Hispanic/Latino population that has led the country’s demographic transition into the new America our country has fast become.  Defaulting automatically to education, jobs, health care, immigration and equal protection of the laws is easy – so critical are they to how we move forward.

Yet preeminent in my thinking is the media and its workings, both the new and the old.  The Hispanic/Latino narrative, already astonishingly absent in one is being trampled by the other at precisely the wrong time in history.  And greater inattention looms as large events and a larger President suck in all the oxygen in the public space.

Without appropriate measures of media and informational input into a society as diverse as ours, its democratic output is dubious – ultimately threatening economic growth when economic progress is the key to securing the nation’s future.  To that most gracious end, then, the success of the Hispanic/Latino population is indispensable, for we are more of America than we ever have been and only more so each passing day.  And each day that passes, we do not get back.

In order for Hispanic/Latinos* to succeed, public and national attention must be a positive force, expanded and calibrated to complement our progress.  More, not less, reporting of the Hispanic/Latino story;  more, not less, production of films; more, not less, publishing.

Until we weave the importance of the Hispanic/Latino population into the national consciousness as part of the nation’s lifeline, Hispanic/Latino concerns are flotsam in a sea of partisan hyperbole.  I mean, who can have a serious discussion about the existential challenge of education when more than half of the country thinks most Hispanic/Latinos are in the country illegally?

Without a wide and truthful – and consistent – exposition of the importance of the Hispanic/Latino community to the country, none of the conventional issues matter.  Not enough Hispanic/Latinos will get better educations.  Employment in the lower ranks of the second-largest economy in the world will persist.  Health care will be hit-or-miss, depending on local governmental funding of emergency rooms in public hospitals.  Immigrants will remain vulnerable to economic exploitation and racist attack.  And social and political equality will remain chimera.

Many of the people who run the news business also run the entertainment business, and they are cut from the same slab of media meat.  Holding up their lack of engagement in and knowledge of the Hispanic/Latino community for embarrassment will not prove effective if they truly do not understand the importance of the story.  Since so many of these executives seem unmoved even though they are told repeatedly that Hispanic/Latinos already mean much to their bottom line, they can only represent – to our great fear – how far behind the rest of the country lags in understanding the emerging place of the Hispanic/Latino in history.  After all, the man elected to lead our armed forces knew only after being told by a journalist what constitutes the nuclear triad.

If inattention and failure of awareness in the old, mainstream media were not enough of a problem for us, we have now the invasion of the unregulated, unedited swamp that is the internet with which to contend.  Its loathsome loosening of anger and fear multiplies by many factors hate against minorities of any kind, including Jews and Muslims, and complicates by many more factors the kind of public discussion we need to have in these perilous times.

It is hard to fathom that we have sunk into a netherworld in which soulless individuals fabricate news, and these fake news “stories” reach significant parts of the public, which reads and absorbs them in an echo chamber ever more closed with each reinforcing untruth.  Harder to believe is that the effort to undermine responsible journalism is led by none other than the president-elect, who fabricates numbers and data out of thin air and threatens the press and the First Amendment – on the record.

The lack of a common sharing and acceptance of basic truths and facts across society well spells a point of no return, for with it goes the sense of community vital to a democratic republic.  This genie hardly seems the type to return to the bottle voluntarily.  The furies of the times, in fact, give it tornadic dimension.

However male and white the founders of the republic thought an informed citizenry should be, these men, in fact, were exceptionally informed and well-read.  They produced extraordinary documents that organized a free country that with free markets powered itself into economic and global success and, slowly but surely, to greater social equality.  Does anyone think that a constitutional convention convened today could actually produce again The Constitution of the United States?  Quite to the contrary, sinister forces, creating their own sources and data, are propounding the nonsense that being of native birth in the United States does not carry with it automatic citizenship.  Wow.

Years ago, when the phrase Information Age came into vogue, I wrote in an editorial that it more likely heralded an age of disinformation.  I was laughed at then.  But, oh the travails of Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook!  He now has to manage how to zero out the fake news that spreads through the company’s countless labyrinths as like a plague to all corners of the known world.  Unlike the plague of old that festered in the bad sewers of a Europe that had not caught up to the growth of its population, the modern media plague has no easy fix.  Building conduits for raw sewage is simple; channeling the hate-filth of the internet not so much.

I am often amused by the operatives and the titans of the news, entertainment and publishing world who more often than not blame budgets, etc. for not hiring, promoting, acquiring Hispanic/Latino talent in any form that might help stem this drift.  Which means there is room and a place only for themselves.  But I am not amused when high men and women do not get the more important story: That without the Hispanic/Latino population succeeding, the country is doomed.

I once had the editorial page editor of The Washington Post suggest over lunch he did not have room on his staff for a full-time columnist writing on Hispanic/Latino affairs because ‘I doubt there would be much to write about for a whole week.’  It is tough to get through at times even to enlightened men and women in charge of fateful things.

These days, when I am asked for my advice or counsel, Eugene O’Neill’s play, from which the title for this post emanates, comes to mind.  O’Neill, through the iceman, forces his characters to labor and live under unending self-destructive illusions that they cannot escape other than through death.

We live now in an age of unending illusion, not news.

Yet, only by pounding away at the mainstream media to raise the correct, full implications of the Hispanic/Latino narrative, do we – or Zuckerberg, for that matter – stand a chance.

For the moment, though, all media is killing us.

Jesús (Jesse) Treviño is the former editorial page editor of The Austin American-Statesman.

*Hispanic/Latinos is not a typo.  It is a run-in confection to overcome the rhetorical divide between those Hispanics who are not Latinos and those Latinos who are not Hispanic.