Jan Brewer

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…)

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…)

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…)

The Devil and the NBA (Second Half)

The NBA wasn’t always ensnared by the wiles of the devil we all carry inside. In the perennial struggle between Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in our “agonized womb of consciousness,” (R.L. Stevenson), Mr. Hyde does not always win.

                (Now the buzzer sounds, and the Second Half begins.)

Steve Nash dribbling the ball (Keith Allison / Wikimedia Commons).

Steve Nash dribbling the ball (Keith Allison / Wikimedia Commons).

One tries to forget the devilish, mean spirited rhetoric surrounding the passage of the infamous SB 1070 law by the Arizona Legislature and Governor Jan Brewer in 2010. From that dark, vituperative cloud, one scene stands out, one statement that nailed the issue: a very young man, smiling in the way that only the young can smile, holding up a poster that proclaimed: “Hey NASH! JAN Needs To See Your DOCUMENTS.” (Daily Kos)

The message of this tricksterish placard was aimed at Mr. Steve Nash, two-time MVP, heart and soul of the Phoenix Suns, and a Canadian citizen. It pointed out the flaw that ultimately proved fatal to SB 1070 in federal court. (more…)