Monday, April 23, 2007

Inconvenient Truths

A few weeks ago Mia Farrow wrote an open letter to Steven Spielberg asking him to speak out against the Chinese government for its support of Sudan. Turns out that Spielberg is a creative consultant for the Beijing Olympic Committee, made up in part by Chinese government officials, who officially have asked the U.N. to butt out of Darfur.
As a result of this, Mr. Spielberg did speak out, and weeks later, reports the Asia Times, "China is taking credit for its role in persuading the Sudanese government to accept an international peacekeeping force to stop the killings in Darfur and is determined to prevent further sanctions on a country in which it has massive investments."
Well la-dee-da.
China, as we all know, is nobody's friend. You know, once a snake always a snake? What strikes me about this news story is that someone as seemingly informed and sensitive as Steven Spielberg had to be shouted out publicly before he put one and one together regarding the dubious relationship between China and Sudan. Take Sudan out of the equation and you're still doing business with a dictatorship that still trades in intimidation and human rights violations.
But of course, the IOC (International Olympic Committee) isn't known for taking a stand against totalitarianism. Still, for leading "progressives" in our country to crawl into bed with China, even under the auspices of "art," is just disappointing. How weird that this story didn't get more play here in the States...if Elizabeth Hasselback from The View was working with the host committee of the Beijing games there'd be a mob outside ABC studios here in New York. Not that I'm a fan of Hasselback, I'm just calling out a blatant double standard.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Everybody Stay Put

By now the whole world is aware of the tragedy that has befallen the community at Virginia Tech. For all of us here in the States, it's a reminder that "safety" is really the space between one person's bad day and another person's good luck. But the bigger lesson here is one that's replayed in history for years, most recently in the post-9-11 era.
The concept of staying put is at the backbone of the current American psyche. An airplane crashes into one of the tallest buildings in the world yet people in the facing tower are told to resume work and ignore the flames and smoke just a few feet away from them. A war drags on for four years with no evidence of any stump to the global threat of terrorism and still a country "stays the course" for, um, freedom. For years people have been able to purchase semiautomatic weapons, even after Columbine and a slew of other school shootings, and still no one sees a reason to make it a little harder to obtain weapons.
The resolution of the American people - to live and breathe for work, to fight wars out of fear and greed, to bemoan senseless violence while sanctioning the vehicles that make mass murder possible - is a death pact.
What is it about Americans that makes us feel immortal? When did we lose our sense of vulnerability and instead stare down the prospect of imminent death with a smugness befitting thugs and animals? At Virginia Tech classes went on in spite of reports that a shooting had taken place at a dorm. Five years into the "war on terror" and our surveillance-happy society can't stop a rogue wacko from becoming the hot topic of the 24-hour infotainment networks.

Over the next few weeks the networks will pummel us with exclusive interviews, glimpses into the lives that were and then.... Legislators will bemoan the tragedy, some will call for gun control, others will evoke the 2nd Ammendment, everyone will tell us that we must go on.

Or, more simply, stay put.

Sunday, April 15, 2007


... if you've immigrated to the U.S. from a Latin American country, care to take James' survey? It's for a project he's working on for his MSW (Master's in Social Work -- I know, how liberal).

If you're interested and want more details on the project, click here. You have until Friday. Thanks!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Take THAT, Imus

From CNN: MSNBC has canceled its "Imus in the Morning" simulcast, the network announced Wednesday.
The decision comes after remarks deemed racist and sexist that radio talk-show host Don Imus made last week about the Rutgers University women's basketball team prompted a number of advertisers to drop the program. MSNBC will stop airing the program immediately.

Now, a lot of white people are going to cry foul here and say that Imus, who's gotten into loads of trouble in the past for his ignorant, lowest common denominator rantings, is a victim of our hypersensitive PC society.
Clearly, people just need to laugh a little more when the words "nappy-headed hos" are used to describe black women.

Or not.

And before someone out there throws the "pimps and hos are rampant in urban music" argument in my face, let me remind you that these are words used to describe pimps and hos, not educated women of color who happen to be athletes.

Imus' words are so laden with the vehement hostility toward the advancement of people of color that it's no wonder so many white people have come to his defense -- that's because many, many white people would like nothing more than to see minorities in their proper, invisible, place. Not running for President, not serving as Secretary of State, not crying "foul" when the government tries to criminalize groups who come to this country in search of a better life.

It's been said that Imus is an equal-opportunity offender, as if that's some sort of excuse for his nonsense brand of commentary. I realize that I'm a nobody blogger, but I'm called to task for every last comment I make on this site and I'm obligated to present facts, or my best interpretation of the facts, if I so dare to make a disparaging comment about anyone. A public figure like Imus deserves the scrutiny and the very public humiliation he's going through for his reckless, hateful behavior.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

A Cold Front Breezes Through Hell

Call it spring fever or another minute down toward the impending end of the world, but two events out of the Middle East have me waxing optimistic today.

First, Nancy Pelosi's visit to Syria, predictably poo-pooed by W and the Right, has opened the door for dialogue with this country which is tetering dangerously close toward becoming another Iran for us. And let's face it, with our military tapped out on Operation Iraqi Freedom, we need more friends than enemies anywhere in the world.

And to be clear, Ms. Pelosi didn't go to Syria to wrap an Hermes scarf around her head and flash her gorgeous legs at the world. Items on her agenda included:

-- Asking Syria to distance itself from Iran
-- Condemning Syria's support of Hamas and Hezbollah
-- Opening the door for dialogue between Syria and Israel

Of course, President shoot-em-all-and-let-God-sort-em-out couldn't care less about any sort of diplomatic progress in the Middle East. His answer, much to the relief of his friends in the defense sector, is to throw more money at the disaster that is Operation Iraqi Freedom.

But I digress...

The second double-take comes from Iran, whose President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced that his country would release 15 British sailors and marines captured at sea in March. The unabashedly anti-U.S. and anti-Israel head of state called the marines' release a "gift" to the British people.

And what a many of us were expecting to see the video of those poor marines being decapitated? I know that's not necessarily an Iranian practice, but things weren't looking so promising for a while.

So on an April day when parts of this country were being battered by snow and hail in the middle of "spring," we see that it's quite possible that, just like Mother Nature, man is capable of some doozies -- pleasant and not -- all surprising just the same.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Bilingual Education Worked for Me

From CNN: Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich equated bilingual education Saturday with "the language of living in a ghetto" and mocked requirements that ballots be printed in multiple languages.

Not that anyone is waiting around for Newt Gringich (who?) to say anything smart or relevant, but the former Speaker of the House has touched on a very important issue. Of course, in true red-neck bigot form, he took a very logical argument and twisted it so that bloggers like me who have a huge chip on their shoulder about issues like immigration and the word "ghetto" can have a field day.
I grew up in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, and I am the product of bilingual education. From kindergarten through the fifth grade, my days alternated between English and Spanish. Having been born in Brooklyn, I was placed in the English-first track, which basically meant that all of my classmates were Latino, as were my teachers, and we alternated freely between English and Spanish. Our school plays focused on Puerto Rican folk dancing and on singing songs about the coqui and dancing around a mariachi's sombrero for any which celebration of our heritage. My first boyband crush was Menudo and by the time I was ten I was too worn out to care about the New Kids on the Block.

I'm all the better for those experiences. Not only do I speak Spanish fluently, but my Spanish lessons came in handy when I took up French in junior high school (and wound up in Paris during my junior year of college). And yes, while I grew up in what most of my snooty friends would call the ghetto, bilingual education was my ticket out of the 'hood.
But that's just me.
The flip side of the bilingual education debate is that it makes learning English seem unimportant or unnecessary. If you want to broaden this debate, throw Telemundo and Univision into the mix -- are these channels vital links to one's mother tongue and to the Latin American countries, or are they a crutch that halt the assimilation process?
I can tune in and out of the Spanish-language channels and go from my cheese Mexican "novelas" to Ugly Betty. But there are also people in my family who only switch between Univision and Telemundo and after 30+ years in this country they still don't speak English.
While Newt Gingrich might want immigrants to hurry up and learn English, everyone from Pepsi to Walmart has no problem advertising in Spanish and investing millions into studying the buying habits of Latinos. And that's because in any language, it's clear that Latinos are a financial force to be reckoned with.
The problem isn't language. Latinos will be the first to tell you that view English as the language of success. But it's also the language that's being used to villify them. Not learning English is an act of defiance. If English is only good for standing up to idiots like Newt Gingrich, then why bother to learn it when there are jobs to be had that pay enough for a car, a small living space and TV to watch Univision?
The answer to that question is that you then instill an adversarial mentality into a new generation of young people who could be contributing more to this country but are too passive aggressive to do more for themselves. You then wind up with twenty-somethings who were born and raised in this country and speak neither Spanish nor English but a really bad mixture of both.
For me, English was always a vehicle for preserving my Spanish language and heritage. I thought both languages were important and so did my parents. While I have relatives who didn't learn English, I also have cousins who never learned Spanish -- I think both generations are missing out on a world of experiences and opportunities.
Bilingual education is not the problem -- it's the disdain that both groups have for one another that's halting progress.