Archive for Activisim

Exports and Imports

While the economy is still struggling, the United States is successfully exporting democratic ideals, and motivating citizens in oppressed countries to stand up to their oppressive governments and secure a measure of liberty and stability they have not yet known.  Unfortunately, via our capitalist and conservative political spheres, the United States is also importing authoritarian oppression at a fast pace, too.

In Tunisia, a republican movement of citizens and disenfranchised people voted with their feet and their hearts, toppling a dictator.  In Egypt, kindergarteners, children, adolescents, young adults, older adults and mature citizens gathered in peaceful protest, filling Tahrir Square in Cairo and in other cities, and pushed “President” Hosni Mubarak off their necks.  In Libya, Iran, Bahrain and Yemen, government of the people is becoming a popular refrain, where citizens fatigued with oppressive and corrupt regimes choose to lay down their lives by standing up for their rights to receive their due.  Democracy, it seems, is being exported.

Here in the United States, however, Republicans with a capital R seem to believe that the rights and responsibilities that citizens across the globe are exercising are “UnAmerican”.  In Wisconsin, public employees are being denied by the elected Republican governor and legislature their right to assemble (collective bargaining) and their right to petition for the redress of grievances.  Governor Walker has exaggerated a budget deficit in order to nullify their contract, and at the same time attempted to quell the voices of the workers by stripping them of the right to bargain collectively.

Much like the thugs hired by the Egyptian president, who stole US State Department vehicles in order to attack the peaceful revolutionaries in Tahrir Square, Governor Walker’s associates have bussed in thousands of actors, disguised as concerned citizens of the Tea Party Movement, to berate, confuse and antagonize the protestors (read: teachers, nurses, etc.) in Wisconsin.

The parallels – large numbers of economically challenged lower and middle class workers struggling peacefully to receive their just due from economically advantaged politicians and political actors – between the exported democratic ideals and the imported authoritarian oppression are clear and striking.

It’s important to realize, then, that in order to continue espousing our democratic ideals and speaking about the rights of the people, we must fight here in the United States to insure that they are not usurped by people whose priorities are money before people.

“Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.” – Thomas Paine, 1777

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Outlawing Chicanos: An Alien Education

This post originally appeared on LATISM’s blog for Edu-Wednesday on 2/9/11.

“Yo soy Joaquín,
perdido en un mundo de confusión:
I am Joaquín, lost in a world of confusion,
caught up in the whirl of a gringo society,
confused by the rules, scorned by attitudes,
suppressed by manipulation, and destroyed by modern society.”

I Am Joaquín, Rodolfo Corky Gonzales

Tom Horne and John Huppenthal are afraid of a poem.
This fear has led them, the Arizona legislature, and Arizona Governor Jan Brewer to target the Chicano (Mexican American) and population of their state with laws whose purpose is to marginalize, demonize, and ultimately erase the historical contributions of Chicanos; to remove both the legal and illegal persons of Mexican and Chicano descent; and to insure the subservience of people of color in Arizona in perpetuity.
HB2281, the ethnic studies ban in Arizona which went into effect in January of this year, was written to eliminate Chicano Studies in Tucson, according to Mr. Huppenthal. No other ethnic studies programs – African American, Native American, Jewish American – are impacted by the law. In fact, only the Mexican American Studies program has even been mentioned in connection with it. Like SB1070, which allowed “peace officers” to stop and interrogate people who “looked illegal,” the neutral language of the legislation lubricates the racist paradigm which frames, enacts and enforces the law.
It is not coincidence that the Tucson Chicano Studies Program has reversed recent trends of high dropout rates among Latino and African American male students. Students in the program are also scoring significantly higher on standardized tests and the percentage of students continuing into post-secondary educational settings has increased. This is the program which threatens and frightens the political leadership in Arizona. A program which successfully educates and matriculates Mexican American and other students.
Through racially directed censorship, HB2281 sets a tone that Mexican Americans are bad, illegal, alien, traitorous and a threat. Latinos are being held as the scapegoats for a struggling economy, and other ills currently befalling the United States. In the wake of SB1070, more than ten other states enacted or submitted for consideration anti-immigrant laws which demonize undocumented peoples. HB2281, should it be successfully enacted (a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality has been filed), may well engender the same copycat legislation in other states as well.
Teaching that Mexican Americans have a history, that they’ve contributed to building the southwest, from Texas to California (which includes Arizona) directly contradicts the stereotypical picture opponents of the program premise their argument upon. The marginalization of Latinos in the curriculum, then, is a calculated step to casting us as “other” in order to deprive Latino and non-Latino students of knowledge and skills, and to present Latinos as unworthy of the rights and responsibilities bestowed on American citizens. Mr. Huppenthal’s move to eviscerate funding more quickly than the legislation allows demonstrates the coordinated and planned execution of Latino marginalization in Arizona.
The threat of educating students of color to think, to question, to argue as citizens of the United States is being eradicated by legislating the socratic pedagogy (which uses the colonial history of the American southwest as a basis for identity) out of existence.
It is also important to note that while this legislation is specifically directed at K-8 educational programs, this isn’t an accident. HB2281 is simply where the legislators and officials had authority at the present time. Pending in the Arizona legislature are at least two bills specifically designed to marginalize Latinos in Arizona:
HB2561 – Arizona Citizenship seeks to change the federal citizenship granted to anyone born in the United States under the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. Under this law people born in the United States would have to have one parent who was a citizen to receive citizenship.
SCR1035 – English as the Official Language of Arizona mandates any and all government services must be provided ONLY in English in order to be legally binding. Whether this will apply to public school instruction remains to be seen.
Like Poseidon’s trident, each of these prongs wreaks its own damage amongst the Latino and non-Latino population of Arizona. They also, as is demonstrated by the fifteen pending laws copying SB1070 in other states, create a template by which this marginalization becomes a national trend of exclusion and vilification.
In attacking children by legislating their history and identity out of the classroom, and removing educators whose pedagogy is successful, Horne and Huppenthal are attempting to create their utopian world where Latinos remain subservient through lack of knowledge, detriment of skills, failure of identity or recognition of deserving our piece of the American pie.

“I am Joaquín.

I must fight

and win this struggle

for my sons, and they

must know from me

who I am.”
I Am Joaquín, Rodolfo Corky Gonzales

“States seek to copy Arizona immigration law”
Alex Johnson and Vanessa Hauc (msnbc.com and Telemundo), 2/3/2011

“We need to defend ethnic studies”
Yolanda Chávez Leyva, 1/6/2011

“Huppenthal Forbids Mexican-American Studies in Tucson, Meeting Scheduled”
Tim Paynter, 2/5/2011

“Speaking/Running against Hate, Censorship and Forbidden Curriculums”
Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez, 12/18/2010

Arizona Legislature HB2561

Arizona Legislature SCR1035

“I Am Joaquín”
Rodolfo Corky Gonzales

Arizona lawmakers don’t vote on citizenship bill
Jacques Billeaud, 2/7/2011 (Associated Press)

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Organizing A Community of One

Dear Governor Palin,

For a couple of years now, you’ve been mocking community organizers.  From your introductory speech at the Republican National Convention to your recent comments about nuclear materials, you’ve taken to task those people who’ve dedicated their lives to rallying disenfranchised and disaffected populations, and helping them achieve ends that they otherwise wouldn’t achieve.  It strikes me, though, and please show me the error of my thoughts here, that you have become your own declared enemy – you are a community organizer (since you quit governing, that is).

Today you spoke to a Tea Party rally opposing President Barack Obama, exhorting the crowd to “vote them out in November” and mocking the HOPE and CHANGE that propelled him to the presidency, and relegated you to headlining rallies or co-opting interviews on Fox and claiming them for your own.  In your speech, though, you neglected to acknowledge your role as a community organizer.  Your reference to “the Alinsky method” failed to pay the debt you owe to him.  You are working very diligently to “create [a] mass organization to seize power” in the United States government.  Much as you accuse others of doing, you are organizing a community to be an force for CHANGE … or are you?

I know that this may be lost on you, which is unfortunate.  It would behoove you to understand and organize your community to be effective and not simply effusive.  It would also be good that they know you need private jets and don’t like to give autographs.  Perhaps you quit governing because it was actual work, where charging six figures to stand in front of screaming hordes of anxious, frightened, un- and underemployed, slightly xenophobic and constitutionally ignorant people is much easier.  It simply requires you to pick some good ideas from the President’s speeches (he is a much better writer than you, after all), and twist them around; or take some of the successful Democratic policies like the stimulus package (which has created jobs) or the health care reform legislation (any death panels yet?) and lie to the very people they are intended to help.

I’ve also heard much lately about your political iq, though I am not personally impressed.  But since it’s obvious to most that you are a failure in politics, I’d say that your career iq is pretty high.  You’ve managed to parlay a mixed-bag of family situations and lipstick jokes into a ghost-written career as an author and a failed campaign as a maverick into a psuedopolitical twilight as a faux community organizer.  I guess my question is, what will happen when the community you’re organizing realizes that you have your best interests, not theirs, at heart?

You’ve tried to give community organizers a bad name in your written and spoken word over the last two years.  Unfortunately, your actions will speak much louder.

Sincerely,

Reynaldo Macias

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I hate THEM, Vote for me

All politics are local, which means that there are two contests right now being contested that I have to take an interest in.  The battle for the executive office in California is being framed as the good white folk against those dirty illegal Mexicans (much like the Senate race in Missouri). With a snide smile hiding his fangs, Candidate Steve Poizner is running ads against Candidate Meg Whitman for the Republican nomination which focus solely on “services for illegals” and “just like Obama” and Governor Schwartzenegger, swinging at immigrants, women, brown and black people all in one fell swoop.  There are no positives in the ad except for the question, “Don’t we deserve a Republican?”

The Face of Hate

These politics of division were most recently on display in Virginia, when Governor Bob McDonnell officially forgot there were black people in that state during the Civil War.  And in his desperation to pick up the Orange County vote, Poizner is hating loudly and often, hoping that he will gin up enough anger to get those white hands to the voting booth.  Our state, though, cannot afford his divide and conquer attacks.  Like Carly Fiorina, who is trying to lie her way into the Senate seat for California currently held by Barbara Boxer, Poizner is doing his best to change his political dress by following John McCain into the Tea Party right wing.

Poizner hates THEM.  Unfortunately for him, there are more of us THEM than there are of him.  While I’m not crazy about Meg Whitman buying the Governor’s mansion, I’m staunchly opposed to the “subtly” racist, hyper-xenophobic and oppressive campaign that Steve Poizner is running.  It doesn’t bode well for how he’d govern.

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The South Fails Again

And What He Didn’t Say . . .

The North Won the Civil War.  Barack Obama won the 2008 presidential election.  Democrats in Congress won the Health Care Reform battle, and are poised to do the same on energy.  Duke won the NCAA Championship this year, as did UConn.  While these are all facts, there are literally thousands of people who are not happy about them.  Stanford fans are frustrated that their team held UConn to 12 points in the first have but couldn’t win the game.  Butler fans are gluing their hair back in from that last desperate half-court miss.  Congressional Republicans are planning to “Repeal and Replace” the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  John McCain and Sarah Palin are still out on the campaign trail.  And Governor Robert McDonnell of Virginia has proclaimed April to be Confederate History Month in his state.

While it is not for me to dismiss the history and family pride of those who’s forebears believed that this was a nation for white people to own and black people to work, I heartily disagree.  And while it is not for me to say that the ideas of states’ rights which were tied to the battle of grey-suited warriors to free themselves from Republican tyranny and federal oppression is wrong, I agree much more with John Jay’s assessment that “Nothing is more certain than the indispensible [sic] necessity of government; and it is equally undeniable that whenever and however it is instituted, the people must cede to it some of their natural rights, in order to vest it with requisite powers.”  I must, as a mature student of history, acquiesce to the fact that the story of the Confederacy is someone’s grandfather’s or grandmother’s story, and while they disagree (or don’t) with those views, they have a right to represent their history the same way I have the right to represent mine; to find those pieces with which they agree and find pride and cherish and celebrate them.

However, Gov. McDonnell is a one-sided celebrant, and herein lies the problem.  He makes no mention of the enslaved victims of the Confederacy, those on whom the burden of states’ rights onerously fell like a crushing weight.  He neglects, then, my grandparents in a way which has historically sought to invalidate their humanity by rendering them, as Ralph Ellison so eloquently denounced, invisible.  It is this racism of blindness which continues to trouble us in 2010.

Telling only part of the story is a lie of omission which perpetuates and exacerbates many of the current political and social ills of our day.  We saw this with the health care debate; we see it with Sarah Palin’s continued uttering; we see this with the Tea Party movement, both in its displays and its coverage; we see it with the stimulus package; on a daily basis, telling only the part of the story that helps us is the accepted norm.  Governor McDonnell, though, has just said something very different to the black people in the Commonwealth of Virginia.  He has just said that they don’t exist, by not including their participation in the Confederacy.  Though most of that participation was bad, and should serve as a reminder of the democratic ideals on which this nation was founded, there were black men, enslaved men, who fought in the Confederate army.  Are they not worthy of recognition?  There were black men and women who greeted the defeat of the Confederacy as liberation, as an entrance into full citizenship and the beginning of their acquisition of the natural rights they’d been denied.  McDonnell has said by his omission that the Confederate ideology of chattel slavery of African Americans wasn’t “significant for Virginia.”

Flying the Confederate flag for many southerners is an honoring of their ancestors, a reading of their historical maps as they make their own journeys. But just as Congressional Republicans won’t be able to repeal health care reform, Palin and McCain are going to lose again; Butler can’t take one more shot; Stanford can’t make one more block; and cheering the Confederacy while denying black folks won’t help the South rise again.

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I’m Tired, Too

For two years of the presidential campaign, from 2007-2008, I lived and breathed politics.  Though I didn’t begin Spreading the Word until early 2008, I was reading and talking about the candidates long before then (think 2004 Democratic National Convention’s keynote speech).  With the election of Barack Obama, it seemed that I’d be able to go back to my day job, teaching, and be able to leave the day-to-day political awareness and direction of the nation to my elected representatives.

I was wrong.

The election of Barack Obama angered many Republicans, scared some people who are “bitter, clinging to their guns and religion”, gave birth to the Tea Party movement, and generally ginned up even more opposition than I believed possible.  I’m not sure why I thought his opponents would understand they LOST THE ELECTION and be a little quieter.  But John Boehner and Eric Cantor continue to lie and scream about the president; Lindsey Graham is sitting on Meet The Press complimenting the President on his parenting style while blasting a series of untruths that the President is “governing as an American liberal in a center-right nation” and that the President hasn’t done any “heavy lifting” on legislation; Mitch McConnell is saying that Republicans are going to run in November on “Repeal and Replace”; and Sarah Palin is helping John McCain run further and further into the weeds on the right side of the political spectrum.

While I know politics isn’t flag football, I don’t expect it to be Celebrity Death Match, either.  It seems, though, that implementing an agenda which speaks to the best in the American ideals and meets the goals stated in the Constitution is going to be a continuous engagement, because the opponents are galvanized.

We have to continue to participate – to write, to speak, to think, to act, to vote.

I know.  I’m tired, too.  But if not us, then who?

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