Monday, June 21, 2010



By Felipe de Ortego y Gasca

he dark side of American Catonism cloaked in the raiments of a guardian angel has overcome the Arizona psyche and made of its citizens ad extremum providentialists, exceptionalists, and xenophobes. That is, Arizonans think they are guardians of the true faith and all Americans ought to rally to their banner. Those who do not see things their way are infidels and per an Arizona fatwa can be disposed of.

First, it was “Your Papers, Please” (SB 1070) mandating absolute in-state proof of American citizenship, then it was culling out Arizona public school teachers who spoke English with an accent (read: Mexicans), followed by purging all perceived anti-American teaching from the public schools (HB 2281). All this emanates from the gospels of hate, forged in the labyrinth of little minds that prefer to curse the darkness than light a candle.

That attitude formation is everywhere evident where the disciples of hate congregate. In Texas, the Great Textbook Massacre is actuated by the “hate-Mexicans” mentality found in Arizona—“we know what belongs in the textbooks our kids read,” say ultra-conservative white Texans. Never mind that the majority of kids in Texas schools are U.S. Latinos and that their history ought to be represented in those textbooks. Never mind that at the moment Texas is a minority-majority state and that in the extremely near future Latino Texans will be 65 percent of the state’s population and Anglo Texans 25 percent.

What are we to do when the governor of Texas like the governor of Arizona thumbs his/her nose at public opinion and retorts that the citizens of their states know what’s good for their states? Where does that leave Latinos? And when the governor of Texas threatens to secede from the Union if he doesn’t get his way, does he really think that Tejanos (Texas Latinos) will follow him like lemmings into that worm hole of raging hyperbole?

What conclusion can be drawn from the xenophobic ethnic cleansing spreading across Arizona and Texas? The conclusion is that xenophobic whites in those states are out to get rid of “Mexicans”—whether they’re citizens or not? That may sound like a harsh judgment, but “Mexicans” are left with little room to maneuver in this ethnic cleansing. White Arizonans and Texans see the world through the prism of whiteness, a prism that wants to white-out all traces of their historically Mexican past and present.

The history of white Arizona is studded with anti-Mexican sentiments. Not surprisingly, Arizona statehood was delayed until 1912 by Republican Senator Albert Beveridge of Indiana until the territory of Arizona had a white population that outnumbered the “Mexican” population there.

In 1904 an incident involving white children revealed the extent of white Arizona hostility toward Mexicans and Mexican Americans. Father Mandin, a Catholic prelate, made arrangements with the New York Foundling Hospital to place forty children in Mexican/Mexican American foster homes in the mining towns of Clifton and Morenci, Arizona. The white residents of the two communities became so incensed at the thought of white children being placed in “half-breed” families that they forcibly restrained placement of the children. The Territorial Supreme Court ruled in favor of the action by the white citizens of Clifton and Morenci, a decision later upheld by the U. S. Supreme Court—so much for the color-blindness of Lady Liberty.

he specter of fascism is shrouding the Arizona (and Texas) landscape and it’s being driven by Republicans. There was a time when there were Republicans who cared about people—Republicans like Abraham Lincoln and Wendell Wilkie—but for the past half century that perspective has eroded and been replaced by greed and xenophobia. This is not to say that Democrats are any better. There are certainly lots of greedy and xenophobic Democrats also.

In today’s xenophobic climate après 9/11, it comes as no surprise that the intensity of that Republican xenophobia focuses on Mexican Americans who have become easy targets for Anglo Republicans who see the Mexican kin of Mexican Americans across the border as menacing terrorists stopped only by building a wall between Mexico and the United States with the Rio Grande, in some places, as a moat. Unable to turn Mexican Americans into brown Anglos, xenophobic Republicans in the Arizona legislature like Russell Pearce and John Kavanagh have hit on a plan that targets “seditious” programs that question Western values in Arizona schools, programs like Chicano Studies—shades of the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798!

Representative John Kavanagh hopes Representative Russell Pearce’s sedition amendment to Arizona Senate Bill 1108 will restore the American model of the “melting pot.” What neither Kavanagh nor Pearce seem to understand is that the “the melting pot” didn’t melt the “unmeltables clinking at the bottom of the pot. Matthew Benson of the Arizona Republic reported Kavanagh as insisting that “You’re here. Adopt American values.” Adding that “if you want a different culture, then fine, go back to that culture” (4/17/08).

First, one asks: “Go back”—what does that mean? Does Kavanagh mean that because Mexican Americans have linkages to Mexican culture they should all go back to Mexico? Aren’t we already in what used to be Mexico? A branch of my mother’s family settled in San Antonio in 1731, some years before 1776.

And then: what exactly is American culture? Mexican Americans are as American as “apple pie” and “sopaipillas.” American culture is a blend of all the cultures of its people. It’s not hard to believe that Kavanagh and Pearce are so ignorant about “culture.”

Then, one asks: which American values are Pearce and Kavanagh talking about? The American values that promulgated and supported the brutal slavery of black people or the enslavement of the indigenous peoples of the Americas in the swath of European imperialism in the Americas and elsewhere around the globe? The values of Jim Crow laws that segregated non-whites in the United States until the mid-twentieth century? The values of sexism that prohibited women from voting until 1917? The values that uphold the well being of the wealthy over the well being of the poor and los de abajo (the underclass)? The intimidating apodictic values of the Ku Klux Klan and its philosophy of lynching? The values that provoked an unjust war against Mexico in 1846 and then in 1848 annexed half of Mexico’s territory? The white American values that almost exterminated the Indian population of the United States in a holocaust as severe as that visited by the Germans against the Jews during World War II? The values of rounding up American citizens of Japanese descent during World War II and herding them into concentration camps “for the duration?”

Everywhere good people are being menaced by the dark forces of fascism and the anarchy of Republican democracy being marshaled by Neo-Con Republicans like Russell Pearce and John Kavanagh in league with Republican public officials who pay only lip service to the U.S. Constitution and to a morality observed more in the breach than in the practice. In the frenzy of xenophobia, American nationalism is looking a lot like the German nationalism of the Third Reich which spawned the word Nazi.

The United States does not belong to the Republicans; it belongs to all of us who are still in the process of building a democracy for the challenges of the 21st century. Republicans seem to have forgotten the meaning of the word “democracy.” In their rabid xenophobic lexicon, the word “democracy” is a heretical term. Republicans have lost their way by worshipping the Golden Calf, thinking that the challenges of the 21st century can be met with 18th century nostalgia.

Admittedly, that those who do not learn the lessons of history, as the Harvard philosopher George Santayana put it, are condemned to repeat it. But far too many Americans today seem convinced that the only way to the future is literally through the past, ignoring the distillation of experience. One hears in their rationale: What would the Founding Fathers have done? The Founding Fathers lived in the 18th century—more than 200 years ago.

The challenges of the 21st century are far different from the challenges of the 18th century. The population of the United States during the time of the Founding Fathers was 2.5 million. Today the population of the United States is 310 million, compounding the complexity of government and legislation. The small government of 232 years ago cannot cope with the magnitude of a population 150 times larger than it was in the time of the Founding Fathers. Velleities must give way to realities.

Making Arizona the Bonker capital of the U. S. , Russell Pearce is now poised to take his xenophobia to the next level: pushing for a state bill on anchor-babies, a bill “that would refuse to accept or issue a birth certificate that recognizes citizenship to American born children of illegal aliens.” The intent of Russell’s bill, according to reporter Morgan Loew who (per the Freedom of Information Act) obtained various emails from the Arizona Senator, is to overturn or redefine the 14th Amendment which automatically grants citizenship to anyone born in the United States. This is the “arrow to the heart” by Arizona’s anti-Mexican Xenophobes. One writer calls Arizona the Alabama of the West.

David Neiwert discloses that “Pearce's political career has been built on an obsessive effort to demonize, scapegoat, and attack Latino immigrants” (Crooks and Liars, Tuesday, April 27, 2010 12:30 pm). And Stephen Lemons writes that “One thing that toupee will not hide is Pearce’s bigotry towards Mexicans” (Phoenix New Times, 9/22/2007).

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