Monday, June 12, 2006

Damned Lies

Sunday’s New York Times continues the paper’s campaign on behalf of the Senate approach to immigration reform in a lubricious feature on Colorado Democrat Senator Ken Salazar:
"The story of Hispanics in America has not been told," Mr. Salazar said in a recent interview in his office here. "My election and my profile in the U.S. Senate is an opportunity to tell that story."
If that sounds like the beginning of some genteel raconteur's tale of ethnic America larded with all the creaking clichés about melting pots and salads, well, you're thinking about somebody other than Mr. Salazar.
The story he tells, with greater frequency and gusto these days, to groups all over the country and especially among Hispanics, is about power.
Meet the next generation of brokers in our increasingly fragmented and corrupt racial spoils system. Loyalty to something beyond ethnic identity and the graft it produces in a republic is a sucker's bet in their racket, and a compliant press will, as they have in the past, imbue their corruption with a false narrative of triumph over racial discrimination.
If Salazar’s naked grab for power gets a critical pass, so does his blatant dishonesty:
Mr. Salazar is not an immigrant. His family roots can be traced to Spain, and Salazars helped found Santa Fe, N.M., in the late 1500's, decades before the Mayflower set sail. That also means, technically speaking, that he is not quite Mexican-American, as he sometimes says, because his ancestors arrived before there was a Mexico, or a United States, for that matter.
“Not quite”? No, not at all. In fact, Mr. Salazar is descended from an early wave of European colonists displacing indigenous Americans, yet here he is, in 2006, pretending to be the opposite. He even, apparently with a straight face, allows himself to use one of the trite slogans that buttress the increasingly platitudinous argument for negation of the southern border:
"It was a border that came over us," Mr. Salazar said. "We didn't come over the border."
What is particularly galling about his use of this slogan is that his own family history is in fact proof of its disingenuousness. When the United States wrenched the Southwest from a corrupt and ineffectual Mexican government the region was home to about 100,000 Spanish speakers, largely ignored by a capital in Mexico City that was continually rent by internal power struggles and periodic revolutions. Those who are now invading the U.S. daily from Mexico are descended from people who never lived in what is now the United States. Still, the sentiment behind this slogan presumes that the western U.S. would be the same wealthy and open society that it is today had it remained part of Mexico. The border not just geographic. It is ideological as well. That border marks off the First World from the Third.
Hispanics who ended up north of the border were very lucky; Hispanics who ended up south of the border weren't, but the existence of a thriving Anglo nation to the north has been a boon to them as well; as millions of immigrants and a homeland grateful for billions of dollars annually in remittances can attest. If we're going to be honest about the imperial nature of the U.S.'s acquisition of the Southwest, let's also be honest about what the Southwest would be if it had remained part of Mexico.

It's important to note that these lands were claimed by Mexico by virtue of Spain's claim to them, but not settled or developed in any significant way by it. Mexican Texas was overwhelmed by Anglo settlers, encouraged by the Mexican government, who then were allowed to declare their independence provided they didn't become part of the United States. They of course did just that, feeling a greater sense of loyalty to those with whom they shared a language and culture. Sound familiar?
Mr. Salazar, if honesty were expected of him, would have to acknowledge that he is very fortunate indeed that his family settled in what would become the United States. But no, the romance of racial discrimination won't be left un-utilized by a dime store demagogue of Mr. Salazar's character:
But he is a personal witness to ethnic bigotry, he said.
"I've been taunted, called names — from dirty Mexican to lots of other names — as I was growing up, and even now as a United States senator," Mr. Salazar said. "To have that personal experience in having gone through that kind of discrimination, it helps in terms of informing the debate and bringing a certain sense of reality to some of the issues we are dealing with on a national level."
How being called names, and one has to wonder if the senator isn’t embellishing here a bit when his description of himself as Mexican American is in fact a lie, gives one a greater understanding of the debate than, say, an Anglo who has been on the receiving end of Chicano bigotry is never explained. Salazar, recruited by Senator John McCain for his current role promoting the Senate amnesty bill, is milking it for all it’s worth:
In recent months Mr. Salazar has spoken to the League of United Latin American Citizens and to a nationwide audience in a Spanish-language radio address on behalf of Democrats. There have been profiles and interviews in publications like Hispanic Today and Latino Suavé.
"Whenever a Hispanic reaches that level, other Hispanics will tune in — they're really not your constituency, but they are," said F. Chris Garcia, an emeritus professor of political science and former president of the
University of New Mexico. "To ignore that constituency is to look for trouble."


Rick Darby said...

Americans of Anglo-Saxon and Celtic derivation had better start developing their own ethnic consciousness and defending their place in the scheme of things before they become a truly oppressed minority.

I'm sorry to have to write such a thing, because I wish everybody would grow up and get over this "my-ancestors-were-here-before-yours" and "you-stole-our-land" rubbish. But if every other ethnic group is going to pile on, I don't see what choice Anglos have except to play the game at least as well and determinedly as the rest.

Anonymous said...

Funny, I used to sort of be stunned as minorities trotted out their "i was called this" "they looked at me like i was..."
Then, I thought about it. I had a friend who was shot at driving through a La Raza COMMUNITY. I had an acqquaintance who was stabbed to death by a group of Chicanos.
Several of my friends (I was left out due to size) were the victims of extortion attempts for petty cash at school by Mexican-Americans.
My friend (a white guy), who ran out of gas in a black neighborhood, had to run the gantlet of insults and threats to get back to his car and get out of there. When he was moving out of a COMMUNITY, he was carrying a couch with a friend when a 14 year-old black kid threw a rock that missed my friend's eye by an inch.
I've has several insults directed my way on racial grounds. Damn, those minorities are not alone. I'm a victim, too.
(Game show voice) Tell him what he won, Jay.
"Yes, it's a fifty year supply of excuses and a brand new affirmative action plan..
I have to be honest, though, I've never been locked out of a French Dept. Store. But, I can relate, Oprah, I can relate.
Steve N.

Dennis Dale said...

You might enjoy my essay on Oprah, from those innocent days of about six months ago: