Manzano So Much More than Navarrette

Where and how does one begin to make sense of what Ruben Navarrette wrote for CNN about Leo Manzano and, by extension, Hispanics/Latinos, be they recent immigrants or descendants from founders of some of the oldest cities in the nation?  To start off, the column Navarrette wrote lambasting the young Olympic runner for raising a Mexican and a U.S. flag to celebrate his silver medal in the 1500-meter race was not about Manzano.  It was about Navarrette.  The object of Navarrette’s anger was not Manzano’s alleged act of disloyalty but something about Navarrette that is not yet settled within his own self.

Navarrette admits as much in the column, which in a way is the most important he has ever written:  “Most Mexican-Americans I know would need a whole team of therapists to sort out their views on culture, national identity, ethnic pride and their relationship with Mother Mexico,” the 55-year-old Navarrette wrote.  And that is the problem.  The problem is not Manzano, who knows who he is and knows what he thinks and who is not going to back down from someone like Navarrette who has not figured himself out at his age and remains incomplete – like many Mexican-Americans and other HispanicLatinos.

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Eva Longoria and Clint Eastwood: Changing Drivers for America’s Future

A recent news report on CNN — followed immediately by a television commercial — put our current state of affairs in bas-relief.  The news report headlined Eva Longoria and Clint Eastwood.  Reporters captured Longoria, the beautifully young and erudite Hispanic or Latina actor most famous for her role in Desperate Housewives, attending a fundraising event for President Obama.  In stark and almost desperate contrast, observers recapped the aging Eastwood endorsing Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee.  After the news anchor took the viewers to break, up popped a commercial for Cisco touting a computerized robotic arm that fixes broken computer production lines at a factory with not a human worker in sight.  The producers of the commercial dispensed with all body parts – not even a face.  Only a voice accompanied the ad.  Intended to be innocuous, the voice instead must cause viewers to conclude unsettlingly that American manufacturers will need fewer and fewer workers in the future.

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The Manchurian Candidate as the next Steve Jobs

The 1962 film The Manchurian Candidate was a great movie for the days when communism aimed to dominate the world.  The movie narrates the Chinese government’s attempt to take over the United States by subverting the mind of a solider who is the son of a would-be President of the country.  Chinese intelligence agents turn him into a political assassin bent on eradicating the opposition.  The film’s most iconic image is the crosshairs of his rifle.

The remake of the movie in 2004 was a flop.  That is about the only thing regarding anything Chinese that has flopped lately.  Fifty years after the original movie, the Chinese are closer than Mao ever imagined to global predominance.  And who would have thought back then that the United States would create its own Manchurian candidate by allowing its middle class to be hollowed out and by failing to develop a HispanicLatino population that daily is becoming a greater part of the nation’s population.

Experts disagree on how quickly China is going to develop into a superpower and “overtake” the United States.  If the question boils down to a debate about the wealth of the “average Chinese household” and the “average American household,” the United States wins.  The standard of living for individuals in the United States is higher – by many times over – than for individuals in China.  That is important until one considers that the Chinese number 1.3 billion and the United States 315 million.  A ratio of more than 4 to 1.

The numbers tell a more subversive story than any movie ever could: If only a third of China’s population achieves middle class status before its demographic growth levels off, that amounts to almost 400 million people – by far more than the current population of the United States, whose middle class currently is shrinking and whose HispanicLatino population makes the story more interesting more quickly.

Since 1970, the actual income of the average HispanicLatino household has decreased – this for a group whose proportion of the national population is increasing while the size of the rest of the white population is decreasing.  For a country the size of the United States to remain relevant, those lines should be trending upward, but two of the three are not.

Aside from the demographic drama being played out, the reason why China will overtake the United States in due course is that it will have more people doing more things and probably more people doing more things better.  The future of the world will also be decided by those with harder – not necessarily better – societal values, so that any population that does not have hard work, focus and attention as core values will suffer.

It leaves an impression on the mind, indeed, to walk by a college library – almost any library – late on Saturday nights and early on Sunday mornings.  Only Asian students from foreign lands are working and studying – with literally no one else around.  In the new world of absolutely maniacal global competition, the most absolutely maniacal workers will win.

Thinking that somewhere in a room off campus a Steve Jobs is inventing the next economic revolution is sadly simplistic and shortsighted.  We need scores of Steve Jobs – and those willing to sacrifice as he did throughout his life but certainly early in his career.

All of us – HispanicLatinos especially – are in the crosshairs of history, and we probably won’t get a shot at a remake.

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