Monday, April 26, 2010

Arizona Lays Down the Gauntlet for Latinos Everywhere

Arizona has become the first state in the union to legalize racial profiling with the signing of a law to "identify, prosecute and deport illegal immigrants." (NYT) Signing the bill into law last Friday, Governor Jan Brewer has set off the outrage of Latinos and other conscientious Americans, not least the president, who take issue with the idea that cops can now stop anyone they suspect is in this country illegally, and fine and detain them if they fail to present proper documentation. (HuffPo)

So, Latinos, are your papeles in order?

It's shocking, isn't it, to watch elected officials with the support of their constituents enact hateful legislation right in front of our very eyes. The amount of time and money that has been poured into marginalizing one group and amplifying hysteria around an issue that will not go away speaks to the shortsightedness and bigotry that still exist in our government. As a Latino myself, I can't even imagine what I would say if some cop pulled me over on my way to work and asked to see my proof of residency. That's progress for ya.

True, Arizona has a high undocumented population and the state is the busiest illegal entry point along the U.S./Mexico border. With over 400,000 undocumented residents, yes, it's understandable that Arizona would want to address the strain on its resources and its identity - after all, how do you govern over a people who you don't even know are there? You've got close to half a million people under your watch whom you are morally and legally bound to serve and protect, but they have no obligation to you. From that perspective I understand the frustration of the people of Arizona.

These issues, however, all point to the need for comprehensive immigration reform. We can't apply martial law to the border, we can't just round up people based on the color of their skin and we can't just force everyone to wear their badge of citizenship. That's not what America is about. This isn't the former Soviet Union, this isn't Stasi-era East Germany, this isn't any Latin American country (pick one) under military rule. We're a country of visionary leadership, of innovative solutions - why haven't we been able to come up with a process to bring undocumented residents into the legal system, tax them appropriately and bring them from the shadows into our society? They're already here, they're already working (most of them), so what other choice do we have that doesn't compromise the principles on which this country was founded?

Our own hate and mistrust will be our undoing. This legislation in Arizona is frightening and needs to be challenged. Who's for a march on AZ?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sometimes Extreme Parallels Make Sense, Sometimes They Don't

You gotta love our country. When we're not busy electing an African American man to our highest office, we're celebrating the memory of the armed forces who battled to keep POTUS' great great grandparents in slavery. Well, the state of Virginia is. And that, as you can imagine, has worked everyone into a lather. CNN's Roland Martin, an African American man himself, called the celebration akin to to honoring Nazi soldiers, or Muslim extremists. Makes perfect sense to me. While soldiers on both sides of the Civil War had less than progressive views on the status of black Americans, it was the Confederate Army that was mostly invested in keeping slavery as a force of industry for South. While the Nazis ultimately sought to wipe out the world's Jewish population, both the Nazis and the Confederate Army find their reason for being in the victimization of a perceived lesser people.

While we're stewing over this latest breach on civility and common sense (to make matters worse, the Governor of Mississippi, Haley Barbour, thinks our most recent national outrage over the issue of slavery and the Confederate Army "doesn't amount to diddly" - Source: WashPo), there's been another affront to our morality. This one involves the Catholic church and its history of turning a blind eye to pedophile priests. One of the church's most out-spoken critics is the brilliant Maureen Dowd at the New York Times, but in her latest opinion piece, "Worlds Without Women," she makes a parallel that I'm not too comfortable with. She equates the church with the same oppressive, patriarchal structure of Islam, going so far as to compare her experience as a Catholic with that of Saudi women who have very few rights in their own country.

She writes "I, too, belonged to an inbred and wealthy men’s club cloistered behind walls and disdaining modernity. I, too, remained part of an autocratic society that repressed women and ignored their progress in the secular world."

Now, I'm not even gonna try to spar with Maureen Dowd, but for all of the trespasses of the church, I think it's a huge, unfair leap to compare the experience of a Catholic woman who is free to show off her hair, her body and pursue a career without fear of being stoned to death, with that of women who, under the most strict interpretation of their faith, have little to no human value. Dowd's argument that the church's staunch position on family and the clergy has created generations of criminals is fair, but to say that the church is as repressive and outdated as fundamentalist Islam is slander. After all, we have yet to see rogue Christians flying airplanes into office buildings.

Let's just be careful, then, with the parallels we draw to interpret current events - and events in our own lives for that matter. No one likes a drama queen.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Yep, I'm Gonna Write About Ricky Martin could i not? I've been obsessed with him since he landed smack on the windshield of a video vixen's convertible on the Champs Elysees while singing "Maria." (Sorry, my Menudo memories aren't that clear). Back then, when I was all of 16 and a gangly bundle of angst, Ricky Martin represented everything I wanted to be: handsome, sophisticated, and light years away from the stoop I used to hang out on in Brooklyn.

Of course, the fact that I was a budding homosexual made the fascination with him all the more intense, so much so that I literally went into hysterics when I caught the flu in my senior year of high school and was forced to skip an autograph signing for the "Vuelve" album at the Virgin Megastore. That my parents both felt compelled to console me and buy the album for me while I sobbed and watched a two-hour special about Ricky on Univision seems to have escaped their memory when I revealed my truth to them a few years later. That, and the brilliant, spontaneous performance of "Maria" that I presented my grandparents with at their 50th wedding anniversary in Colombia.

Through the years I never bristled at the rumors about Ricky's sexuality. Even in my wildest dreams I remained sufficiently pragmatic to know that if Ricky really did go my way he probably wouldn't go my way, and that was OK. If anything I daydreamed of being a part of his fabulous circle of fabulous Latinos. And while his popularity seemed to wane among American audiences, I, along with millions of Latinos, remained a die-hard fan (I can honestly tell you that his Unplugged album, released in 2006, is genius.) Gay or not, Ricky does no wrong in my eyes.

So when my mom called me last week to ask me if I had checked "el Twitter" to read about Ricky's big news (yep, he's gay), I was like, "sorry mami, I'm trying to hold on to the new job I landed, I'll have to check el Twitter later."

But the more I think about it, the happier I am for my role model and his two kids. Coming out, privately or publicly, is a journey that can only be dictated by the person himself...there's no such thing as taking too long to do it. G'ahead Ricky!