Arizona

The Part About ‘Illegal’ That I Don’t Get (Part 2)

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Immigrant children, Ellis Island, New York, 1908. (Credit: U.S. Government National Archives)

About 45% of the “illegal” immigrant population in the U.S. entered the country through “ports of entry” with legal documents, and then overstayed the terms of their permits. About 55% entered without undergoing immigration inspection.  The Cubans avidly sought—and seek—immigration inspection in order to be declared legal residents of the country.

The “special” status granted to Cuban immigrants has existed since the takeover of Cuba by the Castro Revolution. Cubans have repaid in kind by a steadfast allegiance to US right-wing agendas through the last 50 years. In 1961 they answered the siren call of the CIA to join an expeditionary force that would topple the Castro regime—and then were abandoned by the Kennedy administration on the beaches of the Bay of Pigs. The US barely avoided nuclear war with the Soviet Union over Cuba in 1962. Cubans participated in the US war against North Vietnam and were instrumental in the pursuit and defeat of the guerrilla forces of Ché Guevara in Bolivia in 1967.

Do not forget that several of the Watergate burglars in 1972 were Cuban, and that one of the most fiercely disputed electoral counties (Miami-Dade) in the 2000 Bush vs. Gore presidential election is today (and was also then) largely Hispanic (65%) and Cuban-American (34%).  (more…)

The Part That I Don’t Get About ‘Illegal’ (Part 1)

Women and children among Syrian refugees striking at the platform of Budapest Keleti railway station. Refugee crisis. Budapest, Hungary, Central Europe, 4 September 2015. (Credit: Mstyslav Chernov / Wikimedia Commons)

Women and children among Syrian refugees striking at the platform of Budapest Keleti railway station. Refugee crisis. Budapest, Hungary, Central Europe, 4 September 2015. (Credit: Mstyslav Chernov / Wikimedia Commons)

Down here in Arizona opponents of “illegal” immigration (they are really opponents of all immigration, whether “illegal” or perfectly legal) are fond of putting an end to all discussion about the subject with the following question: “What part of ‘illegal’ don’t you get?” That settles the issue in their mind. Period. End of story. I have never had an opportunity to answer because the question has never been put to me directly. Mostly, I suspect, because such people think that my immigration status is shady at best and flagrantly illegal at worst. No one ever likes to mention the rope in the hanged man’s house.

But now our clown dynasty (I use the term coined by H.L. Mencken to refer to US politicians) has voted in the House of Representatives that it does not want to accept Syrian refugees, and several Republican presidential candidates are advocating the surveillance of Mosques and the government registry of Muslims (including American citizens who are Muslims). I take the liberty of answering, and explaining my answer, to this preposterous question for all readers of our blog.

The part that I don’t get about “illegal” is how come I’m not?! (more…)

Feast of the Goat (La fiesta del chivo)

Mario Vargas Llosa at Göteborg Book Fair, 2011. (Credit:  Arild Vågen / Wikimedia Commons)

Mario Vargas Llosa at Göteborg Book Fair, 2011. (Credit: Arild Vågen / Wikimedia Commons)

Several weeks ago, Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa (Nobel Prize for Literature 2010) published an opinion in Spain´s daily El País in which he characterized Donald Trump as a “racist imbecile.” In his piece Vargas Llosa goes to great lengths to reassure his Spanish-speaking readers that Trump is not a representative figure of the United States, or a characteristic product of American capitalism, and that Trump’s garish brand of Ugly Americanism is not a stench upon the integrity and ideals of the country. This last, legitimate figure of the Latin American literature “Boom” of the 20th century (La ciudad y los perros, La guerra del fin del mundo, La fiesta del chivo), is almost convincing. (more…)

Citizen Trump

Donald Trump Laconia Rally, Laconia, NH, July 16, 2015. (Credit:  Michael Vadon / Wikimedia Commons)

Donald Trump Laconia Rally, Laconia, NH, July 16, 2015. (Credit: Michael Vadon / Wikimedia Commons)

A favorite columnist, E.J. Montini of the Arizona Republic (read his column here), has persuaded me that Donald J. Trump has more than a reasonable chance to become President of the United States. Montini’s point is that Trump is not a mystifying phenomenon. We elect (and re-elect) mini-Trumps all the time to state office in Arizona. And we do so not in spite of their most outrageous political statements or social behavior, but because of them.

Trump says “illegal” Mexican immigrants are drug traffickers and rapists? We can do one better: a federal judge has ruled that the office of Maricopa Sheriff Joe Arpaio (elected to office six times) routinely engaged in racial profiling in the past.

Trump raises questions about Senator John McCain’s war record? We can top that too: the Republican President of the Arizona Senate once delivered a speech in a forum in which McCain was called a “traitor” who should be “executed.”

(more…)

Game of Flags

"Battle of Kennesaw Mountain" by Kurz and Allison, c. 1891. (Credit: Library of Congress)

“Battle of Kennesaw Mountain” by Kurz and Allison, c. 1891. (Credit: Library of Congress)

How exquisitely American, after a psychotic racist with a gun kills nine people who were studying the Bible in church, to address the incident not by taking guns away from psychos, or limiting their future access to guns, but by lowering a flag!

And what a historical flag! This is a flag which Southern Americans followed when fighting Union forces, an emblem of the cause that captured the devotion of fervent Christians like Stonewall Jackson and brilliant commanders such as Robert E. Lee.

Readers of this blog may remember that in a previous post (“On Waving Flags”) I confessed both my respect for flags and my general dislike of them. Future readers of our book, Hunt the Devil, will come to know that we warn against the perils of demonization of enemies and opponents as an activity that is conducive to war and detrimental to a vibrant democracy.

The problem with de-humanizations and devil hunts is not only that we distort the nature of our enemy to our disadvantage, but also that we fall prey to a fatal illusion: when we say that our enemy is evil, we also say that we are good. Since “they” are bad they do bad things; since “we” are good, nothing we do can possibly be “bad.” For thousands of years, spiritual leaders have warned us that this is the moment of doom before the fall. (more…)

Waiting for Hunt the Devil

Augustus St. Gaudens' 1887 statue, "The Puritan," located In Springfield, MA, circa 2000. (Credit:  Einar E. Kvaran [carptrash] / Wikimedia Commons)

Augustus St. Gaudens’ 1887 statue, “The Puritan,” located In Springfield, MA, circa 2000. (Credit: Einar E. Kvaran [carptrash] / Wikimedia Commons)

What do you do when you’ve written a book you love with a dear friend and you are waiting for copies to arrive in the mail as proof of the book’s existence in the material world and they do not get here?

Your co-author has received his copies and he smugly tells you over the phone how nice the volume looks and how well it reads and how it is great that the record of the hunt for the devil we set out to trap years ago has now seen the light of day.

First, you possess your soul in patience, remembering that it is a virtue.

That does not last long.

Soon you find yourself in a foul mood and you wonder why, and you tell yourself, after you have checked the front gate again, that if the damn books would get here everything would be fine. Then you see, as if the devil were taunting you (not) for the last time, the Fed Ex truck about a block away, driving away from your house, and your impulse is to run after it and yell at the incompetent driving the truck that he has missed delivering a package. The truck soon disappears and leaves you desolate, abandoned and ignored. You couldn’t even catch the stupid truck.

Then you spend some time cussing Phoenix (never Arizona) and its delivery and mail services. (more…)

In Memory of a Fallen Sun Devil

Memorial set up by fans of Pat Tillman outside Sun Devil Stadium where he played football for the Arizona State University Sun Devils and the Arizona Cardinals. (Credit:  James Fee / Wikimedia Commons)

Memorial set up by fans of Pat Tillman outside Sun Devil Stadium where he played football for the Arizona State University Sun Devils and the Arizona Cardinals. (Credit: James Fee / Wikimedia Commons)

The disturbing facts of Pat Tillman’s story are well-known, and yet we go over them repeatedly—in the face of the hagiography—in search of answers to unsettling questions. Pac-10 defensive player of the year as a senior at Arizona State; a record-breaking safety for the Arizona Cardinals; he left a multi-million dollar contract on the table to enlist with his brother in the U.S. Army (he became an Army Ranger): “My great-grandfather was at Pearl Harbor and a lot of my family has gone and fought in wars… and I really haven’t done a damn thing” (ESPN Classic).

In this, Tillman was one of those young Americans who enlisted in the armed forces following the attacks on 9/11. What was unusual was that he was a professional football player and a millionaire.

There was a time in the country’s history when the children of the rich and the offspring of powerful politicians felt compelled to defend the U.S. in times of peril. Theodore Roosevelt’s sons served during World War I and Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s sons served during World War II. George H.W. Bush and John F. Kennedy were decorated World War II veterans. Professional baseball players enlisted in droves during WW II. Ted Williams interrupted his career at its peak to serve during the Korean War.

But in our times, Pat Tillman was an oddity because he volunteered to serve. Even more, he was a notable exception who embarrassed us, who revealed, by his committed patriotism, the flimsy nature of our own.   (more…)

What Do You Mean ‘We,’ White Man?

Photo of Clayton Moore as the Lone Ranger and Jay Silverheels as Tonto, 3 February 1956. Moore is riding Silver, while Silverheels is riding Scout. (Credit:  ABC Television)

Photo of Clayton Moore as the Lone Ranger and Jay Silverheels as Tonto, 3 February 1956. Moore is riding Silver, while Silverheels is riding Scout. (Credit: ABC Television)

The joke was old even before it appeared in print.

The Lone Ranger and Tonto find themselves surrounded by hostile Indians. The Ranger asks Tonto: “What are we going to do, Tonto?” To which Tonto replies: “What do you mean we, white man (or paleface, or kemo sabe, depending on the version)?” Its racist ancestry is undeniable: the joke partly evokes the picture of a feckless subordinate who will treacherously abandon his superior at the first sign of trouble—usually with the ethnic or social group to which the subordinate belongs. But even before 1956, ancient variants of the joke were meant to deflate the condescension of individuals who used the royal “we,” and the insulting presumption of people who assumed, for their own purposes, what they had no business assuming.

Perhaps because one becomes cantankerous with advancing age, I have increasingly resorted, in the last few years, to Tonto’s wise words to defend myself against the mind-bending onslaught of U.S. political rhetoric. (more…)

Mark Twain’s Animal World

Illustration from "Roughing It" by Mark Twain. Illustration by True Williams, 1872. (Credit: Gutenburg.org)

Illustration from “Roughing It” by Mark Twain. Illustration by True Williams, 1872. (Credit: Gutenberg.org)

In Animal Farm, George Orwell created an allegory about totalitarianism that put in doubt the notion that a government of animals would be superior to a government of human beings, or vice versa. In his satirical essay “Man’s Place in the Animal World,” Mark Twain left no doubt that a society of men and women is a de-generation from superior societies found in the Animal Kingdom.

The Great American Trickster explains:

Man is the only animal that deals in that atrocity of atrocities, War. He is the only one that gathers his brethren about him and goes forth in cold blood and with calm pulse to exterminate his kind. He is the only animal that for sordid wages will march out … and help to slaughter strangers of his own species who have done him no harm and with whom he has no quarrel.

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Witches

Scene from Macbeth, depicting the witches' conjuring of an apparition in Act IV, Scene I. Painting by William Rimmer

Scene from Macbeth, depicting the witches’ conjuring of an apparition in Act IV, Scene I. Painting by William Rimmer.

Back in the day, at the corner down the street from my grandmother’s house, there lived a grim, wiry and solitary Old Lady who was wrinkled with age. To our horror, she could usually be found every afternoon sitting on the porch before her garden, leaning on her cane and smoking a cigar.

To our minds—we were a gang of seven-year olds playing in the street—that was evident proof that she was a witch.

Sometimes an adventurer among us would dare to approach her garden and pick a flower or a leaf. That would set her off. She would chase us away brandishing her cane, spewing tobacco fumes and shouting curses in a loud screech: “Look here, you damned little…” What was always surprising was that our parents and elders, instead of complimenting us for giving a witch her just deserts, would sternly reprimand us: “Don’t bother that Old Lady. She means no harm.”

This was puzzling to us until one day when we were being bullied by a gang of eleven and twelve-year olds who would not return to us our baseball. (more…)