The end of the year holds promising signs for the country and HispanicLatinos – unless the Republican-held House of Representatives drives the global financial markets into turmoil and drags the economy back into recession and/or various foreign crises detonate. If not for the fiscal cliff, the nation should be able to look forward to start moving again and leaving the blight of the disastrous Bush years behind – finally. With wars ending (and hopefully none soon aborning) and the economy slowly eating away at the remaining distressed properties in an improving housing market, the country can begin to assess what it needs to do to fix itself for the years ahead. Finding the will to rebuild its infrastructure, expand its domestic energy supply and strengthen its educational systems, the nation can deliver on its promise.
Though it takes courage to tackle the issues at hand, a strong economy can salvage much. With the Bush Recession slowly lifting, the oft-misused phrase “the fundamentals of the economy are strong” comes closer to being true. No country’s economy is better positioned to explode – and burn with a flourish. Some of the country’s travails – a plague of obesity, students saddled with hundreds of billions of dollars in debt, a corrupted Washington, a broken immigration system, an increasingly farcical Supreme Court – are redeemable. For that precise reason, HispanicLatinos need to step up their efforts to help resolve the challenges that vex the country.
When Republicans ponder if they are going the way of the Whigs, they do not have to go much further than listen to Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas who aspires to be President. Huckabee said after the tragedy in Connecticut last week that because prayer, according to him, is banned from public schools: Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage? Huckabee’s God evidently tolerates a misanthropic young man pumping hot bullets into 20 kids and six adults because the Constitution allegedly prohibits prayer in schools. Actually, prayer happens in schools every day.
Had Huckabee been elected President in 2008 – he was the frontrunner at one point – and re-elected in 2012, he would have stood at the podium at the White House from where President Obama spoke to a stunned nation on Friday. But would comfort from a President Huckabee have settled upon the shell-shocked, distraught families of the victims or would blame have rained on them for not forcing the local school board to force the kids of Newtown into prayers clubs?
I cannot even begin to fathom what would have driven Adam Lanza to commit the incomprehensible. And neither can I understand the likes of Huckabee whose view of God is so vengeful and small. All of us have sinned, but I doubt God punishes people who do not pray to Him/Her on a daily basis. Huckabee imagines a God who punishes youngsters for the presumed constitutional transgressions of their parents. Huckabee cheapens God. He cheapens children who had not yet reached the age of reason. For some, Santa Claus had more immediate meaning; and most of them could not even have known what prayer is.
Ceaselessly, the babble goes on about the crossroads the Republican party faces after its rejection by almost 64 million voters. And, of course, the discussion misses the point. The usual post-election hand-wringing in the wake of a political defeat has gone beyond usual recrimination. Desperation has turned bitter. Ill-informed and/or cynical political strategists and pollsters had hoodwinked the party’s faithful into thinking they were going to win an election with a nominee who truly considers half of the nation way, way beneath him. Despondency has conflated into screeching on the radio about the old America dying. The resentments that right-wing gasbags with microphones spew into the air unfortunately cloud the opportunity that America has before it.
In my mind the Supreme Court is at the precipice. A majority of the court has come to personate Mitt Romney’s lack of understanding of the new world around us. In deciding to accept a case out of Alabama in order to rule on the constitutionality of critical parts of the Voting Rights Act, the court is placing itself in judgment. No one with a pip of integrity can believe that changes in election laws leading up to the 2012 presidential election had any other purpose – and their authors any other motivation – than to suppress the constitutional rights of certain American citizens whose ballots were to be denigrated if possible.
The willingness on the part of many citizens – and state attorneys general – to engage and use anti-Constitutional means to limit the rights of voters persists, and it can be found in almost any part of the Union. The most blatant example this year occurred not in the southern states and other localities specifically covered by the Act but in Pennsylvania, which is barely included in provisions related to Spanish-speaking citizens. The law that sought to thwart better the rights of voters was enacted in Harrisburg, 100 miles from Philadelphia, the cradle of this country’s liberties, and 40 miles from Gettysburg, where the most anti-democratic force ever organized on American soil was defeated, marking a turning point in the civil war between North and South. To that same Gettysburg did Abraham Lincoln lumber to dedicate a shrine to the fallen of that battle but where, in fact, he rededicated America to the justness of the war and to itself.
Waiting for the circus to unfold this morning as General David Petraeus testifies before closed congressional committees ostensibly looking into the terroristic attack on the American mission in Benghazi, my mind races back years when I got into a drag-out fight in the newsroom I used to help manage. Two of our reporters, egged on by a clueless line editor originally from out of state with little knowledge of Texas, wanted to do a story on one of the state’s most promising sons. Our story would have taken him down Petraeus-like – a huge loss for a state that can produce the likes of an indicted John Connally, a discredited George W. Bush, a shameless Phil Gramm and the redoubtable Rick Perry. Texas also can produce a Lyndon Johnson or an Ann Richards, so it does have the ability to generate the exceptional star, which this man was.
Years ago as a young boy in the small town of West Texas where I grew up, I would daydream along the railroad tracks in the shallow valley below our home. I would wait for the high, mighty trains that I imagined came roaring from Los Angeles from the west or Atlanta from the east. The trains would slow down as they sped by an old salt lake but even so would displace enough air to create a powerful force that on occasion sent my thin, reedy body reeling and crashing into the brown dirt. While other boys were sniffing glue, I was getting off on sudden blasts of air from caravans of steel that the day before might have sat idling near the Pacific or come from the other side of the country where Sherman ran roughshod over the Confederacy.
One day, one of the trains slowed to a pace slower than usual. A clump of rail yard workers not far from me waited. One of the crew stood by a thick iron stick that he pushed away from his body. As he did, the tracks moved and separated in part. I watched with fascination. A new set of tracks appeared suddenly and diverted the massive train to another set of tracks. That decades-old image came to mind as I sat with my old college roommate watching the returns of the election of 2012 that some observers have characterized as a status-quo election. It was anything but. In fact, it was a shattering election – far more important than the pedantic conclusion that Democrats retained control of the White House and the Senate and that Republicans maintained their majority in the House.
It is almost impossible to understand Ruben Navarrette. On the heels of trying to take down Olympic hero Leo Manzano a couple months ago, Navarrette in a column published by CNN on its website is trying, in effect, to keep HispanicLatinos from voting for President Obama. It is no longer important to understand what makes Navarrette tick, though his point is well taken: HispanicLatinos are not yet respected fully by the political system. But his answer to the problem is particularly atrocious. Navarrette wants HispanicLatinos to vote for neither Mitt Romney nor Obama — a half no-vote for each.
Navarrette when he votes today thereby would deny a full vote to Obama, the one of the two candidates more likely to nominate a member of the Supreme Court likely to defend the constitutional rights that HispanicLatinos need to…become respected fully by the political system.
Let’s say you are a young HispanicLatino, say, in your 20’s, and you are aware enough to know there are more important things in life than social networking, music, dancing, drinking, friends, entertainment and games. Let’s say that you pick up on the fact that 57 percent of white non-HispanicLatinos have anti-HispanicLatino sentiments, that is, that so-called Anglos think negatively about you, your family and your friends. The findings from a recent survey commissioned by the Associated Press and conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago and Stanford and Michigan universities are no surprise to most HispanicLatinos. But what is someone so young supposed to think – or do? The answer is to make it about you yourself, not them. What 57 percent of Anglos think is less important as each day passes and will have lesser and lesser bearing.
Most writers across the country have bemoaned the results of the study. It is, I suppose, sad – if you live in the past. A different viewpoint should take hold instead of morose musings that the country never achieved harmonic convergence on race. It does not matter now that the country never got to some nebulous promised land where skin color and ethnicity blended into some sort of multicultural muddle. The very point of where humankind finds itself today is that in a globalized world, all cultures matter, and, in fact, matter equally. The point of the future is that we are going to have to get along despite lasting natural differences not melt each other into some vapid subsistence.
Over the weekend, the following letter to Justice Kennedy regarding Fisher v. Texas made its way to Washington, where I hope it is of some benefit.
Justice Anthony Kennedy
The Supreme Court of the United States
One First Street, N.E.
Washington, D.C. 20543
Dear Justice Kennedy:
With all due respect, I hope you are not offended that I am bowing to public reports that you are the possibly deciding vote on Fisher v. Texas. I hope the clerk who screens your mail is not similarly offended. I am not a lawyer but I write in the hope that I can help you see Fisher from a different point of view.
Gore Vidal many decades before he grew old said in a television interview that the old grow angry when they accept that their youth is indeed lost, never to return. That was rich coming from Gore, who was angry most of his life, living as he did long before more tolerant times changed public sentiment towards his sexual orientation. Gore had a reason to be angry, but by all reports he was not the prototypical angry white male when he lived out his last years with more grace than Clint Eastwood and Jack Welch are displaying in their last decades. Now the times are giving us angry white men like Paul Ryan. His business suit last night during the vice presidential debate seemed a tight fit, perhaps made so by its efforts to contain youthful, muscular ire.
Eastwood, of course, is now remembered for his vulgar empty-chair routine at the Republican National Convention in Tampa that embarrassed himself and Ann Romney and her kids on national television. The Romneys all showed up excitedly to see the bonanza of a Hollywood star endorse Mitt for president. What they got instead were the rantings of an old, angry man taking license with the here and now. Only a couple months later, Jack Welch, the former chairman of General Electric, also took fictitious liberty with reality, accusing the Bureau of Labor Statistics of cooking the numbers so that the employment rate fell just in time to benefit President Obama’s campaign for re-election.