The “Border Beat” (November 24, 2008)

Guess what?  The “Border Beat” missed you too.  It’s just that we were so busy with work.  Plus, our friend came from out of town for a visit and then we were kind of overcome with all the blog activity of the Obama win.  And we have this scratch in the back of our throat.  Come to think of it, we did write, didn’t you get it?

What’s that?

Damn you!  You’re right.  We promise to be better.

Here’s the latest news and views straight from the heart of Latinolandia. . .

• “Owed Back Pay, Guest Workers Comb the Past” (New York Times)
The struggle for economic justice waged by these men is historic and a long time coming.  For decades, and now for almost 7 years in the courts, these former “guest workers” (read: “colonized labor”) have been fighting for nothing other than their pay.  It seems to have reached a new plateau and, hopefully, an end.

• “Giving up on the American dream” (Denver Post)
The article is an overly balanced (neoliberal) take on the reduction in “illegal immigration.” As far as the “issue” goes, let’s try and remember what this all says (immigration is economic and reciprocal) the next time we have to hear some idiot talk about how “everyone would come live in America if they could.” As for the title, it is as fitting for the article as it is for my attitude after reading the comments from my fellow countrymen and women.

• “FBI finds attacks against Latinos on rise” (Newsday)
See, this is how it works: you take people’s fears and anxieties and help focus them toward an explanatory hate directed at a racial/ethnic minority; and then, they start hurting them. The latest version of this story is called “Lynching Latinos.”

• “GOP must win back Latino vote” (Sacramento Bee)
This opinion piece makes a some sensible and fact-based conclusions about the need for the Republican Party to reach out to Latinos. This guy better watch out–people shoot sensible and fact-based Republicans out here!

• “A new look at Asian immigrants” (Boston Globe)
Hmmmmm. Is there an Asian/Latino bear hug in our sociopolitical future?  Did we just feel it on November 4th?

• “Handling of immigrant children is criticized” (El Paso Times)
I’ll just quote a sentence from the recent report which exposed the abuse of immigrant children at the hands of U.S. immigration officials and bureaucratic procedures: “The U.S. treats undocumented, unaccompanied children with a shocking lack of concern.” This article includes a link to the full report–“A Child Alone and Without Papers”–written by the Center for Public Policy in Austin.

Historic Photo of the Week
Segregation signs were also commonplace in the pre-WWII U.S. Southwest.

white_no_mex

The Truth about the First Thanksgiving

In honor of turkey day, I offer you this article by James W. Loewen, author of Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism and the classic Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong.  This piece first appeared in Monthly Review 44 (November 1992): 12-25.


The Truth about the First Thanksgiving

Over the last few years, I have asked hundreds of college students, “When was the country we now know as the United States first settled?”

That is a generous way of putting the question. Surely “we now know as” implies that the original settlement happened before the United States. I had hoped that students would suggest 30,000 BC, or some other pre-Columbian date. They did not. Their consensus answer was “1620.”

Part of the the problem is the word “settle.” “Settlers” were white. Indians did not settle. Nor are students the only people misled by “settle.” One recent Thanksgiving weekend, I listened as a guide at the Statue of Liberty told about European immigrants “populating a wild East Coast.” As we shall see, however, if Indians had not already settled New England, Europeans would have had a much tougher job of it.

Starting with the Pilgrims not only leaves out the Indians, but also the Spanish. In the summer of 1526 five hundred Spaniards and one hundred black slaves founded a town near the mouth of the Pedee River in what is now South Carolina. Disease and disputes with nearby Indians caused many deaths. Finally, in November the slaves rebelled, killed some of their masters, and escaped to the the Indians. By now only 150 Spaniards survived, and they evacuated back to Haiti. The ex-slaves remained behind. So the first non-Native settlers in “the country we now know as the United States” were Africans.

The Spanish continued their settling in 1565, when they massacred a settlement of French Protestants at St. Augustine, Florida, and replaced it with their own fort. Some Spanish were pilgrims, seeking regions new to them to secure religious liberty: these were Spanish Jews, who settled in New Mexico in the late 1500s. Few Americans know that one third of the United States, from San Francisco to Arkansas to Natchez to Florida, has been Spanish longer than it has been “American.” Moreover, Spanish culture left an indelible impact on the West. The Spanish introduced horses, cattle, sheep, pigs, and the basic elements of cowboy culture, including its vocabulary: mustang, bronco, rodeo, lariat, and so on.

Beginning with 1620 also omits the Dutch, who were living in what is now Albany by 1614. Indeed, 1620 is not even the date of the first permanent British settlement, for in 1607, the London Company sent settlers to Jamestown, Virginia. No matter. The mythic origin of “the country we now know as the United States” is at Plymouth Rock, and the year is 1620. My students are not at fault. The myth is what their textbooks and their culture have offered them. I examined how twelve textbooks used in high school American history classes teach Thanksgiving. Here is the version in one high school history book, THE AMERICAN TRADITION:

After some exploring, the Pilgrims chose the land around Plymouth Harbor for their settlement. Unfortunately, they had arrived in December and were not prepared for the New England winter. However, they were aided by friendly Indians, who gave them food and showed them how to grow corn. When warm weather came, the colonists planted, fished, hunted, and prepared themselves for the next winter. After harvesting their first crop, they and their Indian friends celebrated the first Thanksgiving.

My students also learned that the Pilgrims were persecuted in England for their religion, so they moved to Holland. They sailed on the Mayflower to America and wrote the Mayflower Compact. Times were rough, until they met Squanto. He taught them how to put fish in each corn hill, so they had a bountiful harvest.

But when I ask them about the plague, they stare back at me. “What plague? The Black Plague?” No, that was three centuries earlier, I sigh.

“THE WONDERFUL PLAGUE AMONG THE SAVAGES”
The Black Plague does provide a useful introduction, however. Black (or bubonic) Plague “was undoubtedly the worst disaster that has ever befallen mankind.” In three years it killed 30 percent of the population of Europe. Catastrophic as it was, the disease itself comprised only part of the horror. Thinking the day of judgment was imminent, farmers failed to plant crops. Many people gave themselves over to alcohol. Civil and economic disruption may have caused as much death as the disease itself.

For a variety of reasons — their probable migration through cleansing Alaskan ice fields, better hygiene, no livestock or livestock-borne microbes — Americans were in Howard Simpson’s assessment “a remarkable healthy race” before Columbus. Ironically, their very health now proved their undoing, for they had built up no resistance, genetically or through childhood diseases, to the microbes Europeans and Africans now brought them. In 1617, just before the Pilgrims landed, the process started in southern New England. A plague struck that made the Black Death pale by comparison.

Today we think it was the bubonic plague, although pox and influenza are also candidates. British fishermen had been fishing off Massachusetts for decades before the Pilgrims landed. After filling their hulls with cod, they would set forth on land to get firewood and fresh water and perhaps capture a few Indians to sell into slavery in Europe. On one of these expeditions they probably transmitted the illness to the people they met. Whatever it was, within three years this plague wiped out between 90 percent and 96 percent of the inhabitants of southern New England. The Indian societies lay devastated. Only “the twentieth person is scare left alive,” wrote British eyewitness Robert Cushman, describing a death rate unknown in all previous human experience. Unable to cope with so many corpses, survivors fled to the next tribe, carrying the infestation with them, so that Indians died who had never seen a white person. Simpson tells what the Pilgrims saw:

The summer after the Pilgrims landed, they sent two envoys on a diplomatic mission to treat with Massasoit, a famous chief encamped some 40 miles away at what is now Warren, Rhode Island. The envoys discovered and described a scene of absolute havoc. Villages lay in ruins because there was no one to tend them. The ground was strewn with the skulls and the bones of thousands of Indians who had died and none was left to bury them.

During the next fifteen years, additional epidemics, most of which we know to have been smallpox, struck repeatedly. Europeans caught smallpox and the other maladies, to be sure, but most recovered, including, in a later century, the “heavily pockmarked George Washington.” Indians usually died. Therefore, almost as profound as their effect on Indian demographics was the impact of the epidemics on the two cultures, European and Indian. The English Separatists, already seeing their lives as part of a divinely inspired morality play, inferred that they had God on their side. John Winthrop, Governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony, called the plague “miraculous.” To a friend in England in 1634, he wrote:

But for the natives in these parts, God hath so pursued them, as for 300 miles space the greatest part of them are swept away by the small pox which still continues among them. So as God hath thereby cleared our title to this place, those who remain in these parts, being in all not fifty, have put themselves under our protect….

Many Indians likewise inferred that their God had abandoned them. Cushman, our British eyewitness, reported that “those that are left, have their courage much abated, and their countenance is dejected, and they seem as a people affrighted.” After all, neither they nor the Pilgrims had access to the germ theory of disease. Indian healers offered no cure, their religion no explanation. That of the whites did. Like the Europeans three centuries before them, many Indians surrendered to alcohol or began to listen to Christianity.

These epidemics constituted perhaps the most important single geopolitical event of the first third of the 1600s, anywhere on the planet. They meant that the British would face no real Indian challenge for their first fifty years in America. Indeed, the plague helped cause the legendary warm reception Plymouth enjoyed in its first formative years from the Wampanoags. Massasoit needed to ally with the Pilgrims because the plague had so weakened his villages that he feared the Narragansetts to the west.

Moreover, the New England plagues exemplify a process which antedated the Pilgrims and endures to this day. In 1492, more than 3,000,000 Indians lived on the island of Haiti. Forty years later, fewer than 300 remained. The earliest Portuguese found that Labrador teemed with hospitable Indians who could easily be enslaved. It teems no more. In about 1780, smallpox reduced the Mandans of North Dakota from nine villages to two; then in 1837, a second smallpox epidemic reduced them from 1600 persons to just 31. The pestilence continues; a fourth of the Yanomamos of northern Brazil and southern Venezuela died in the year prior to my writing this sentence.

Europeans were never able to “settle” China, India, Indonesia, Japan, or most of Africa because too many people already lived there. Advantages in military and social technology would have enabled Europeans to dominate the Americas, as they eventually dominated China and Africa, but not to “settle” the New World. For that, the plague was required. Thus, except for the European (and African) invasion itself, the pestilence was surely the most important event in the history of America.

What do we learn of all this in the twelve histories I studied? Three offer some treatment of Indian disease as a factor in European colonization. LIFE AND LIBERTY does quite a good job. AMERICA PAST AND PRESENT supplies a fine analysis of the general impact of Indian disease in American history, though it leaves out the plague at Plymouth. THE AMERICAN WAY is the only text to draw the appropriate geopolitical inference about the importance of the Plymouth outbreak, but it never discuses Indian plagues anywhere else. Unfortunately, the remaining nine books offer almost nothing. Two totally omit the subject. Each of the other seven furnishes only a fragment of a paragraph that does not even make it into the index, let alone into students’ minds.

Everyone knew all about the plague in colonial America. Even before the Mayflower sailed, King James of England gave thanks to “Almighty God in his great goodness and bounty towards us,” for sending “this wonderful plague among the savages.” Today it is no surprise that not one in a hundred of my college students has ever heard of the plague. Unless they read LIFE AND LIBERTY or PAST AND PRESENT, no student can come away from these books thinking of Indians as people who made an impact on North America, who lived here in considerable numbers, who settled, in short, and were then killed by disease or arms.

ERRAND INTO THE WILDERNESS
Instead of the plague, our schoolbooks present the story of the Pilgrims as a heroic myth. Referring to “the little party” in their “small, storm-battered English vessel,” their story line follows Perry Miller’s use of a Puritan sermon title, ERRAND INTO THE WILDERNESS. AMERICAN ADVENTURES even titles its chapter about British settlement in North America “Opening the Wilderness.” The imagery is right out of Star Trek: “to go boldly where none dared go before.”

The Pilgrims had intended to go to Virginia, where there already was a British settlement, according to the texts, but “violent storms blew their ship off course,” according to some texts, or else an “error in navigation” caused them to end up hundreds of miles to the north. In fact, we are not sure where the Pilgrims planned to go. According to George Willison, Pilgrim leaders never intended to settle in Virginia. They had debated the relative merits of Guiana versus Massachusetts precisely because they wanted to be far from Anglican control in Virginia. They knew quite a bit about Massachusetts, from Cape Cod’s fine fishing to that “wonderful plague.” They brought with them maps drawn by Samuel Champlain when he toured the area in 1605 and a guidebook by John Smith, who had named it “New England” when he visited in 1614. One text, LAND OF PROMISE, follows Willison, pointing out that Pilgrims numbered only about thirty-five of the 102 settlers aboard the Mayflower. The rest were ordinary folk seeking their fortunes in the new Virginia colony. “The New England landing came as a rude surprise for the bedraggled and tired [non-Pilgrim] majority on board the Mayflower,” says Promise. “Rumors of mutiny spread quickly.” Promise then ties this unrest to the Mayflower Compact, giving its readers a uniquely fresh interpretation as to why the colonists adopted it.

Each text offers just one of three reasons—storm, pilot error, or managerial hijacking–to explain how the Pilgrims ended up in Massachusetts. Neither here nor in any other historical controversy after 1620 can any of the twelve bear to admit that it does not know the answer—that studying history is not just learning answers–that history contains debates. Thus each book shuts students out from the intellectual excitement of the discipline.

Instead, textbooks parade ethnocentric assertions about the Pilgrims as a flawless unprecedented band laying the foundations of our democracy. John Garraty presents the Compact this way in AMERICAN HISTORY: “So far as any record shows, this was the first time in human history that a group of people consciously created a government where none had existed before.” Such accounts deny students the opportunity to see the Pilgrims as anything other than pious stereotypes.

“IT WAS WITH GOD’S HELP…FOR HOW ELSE COULD WE HAVE DONE IT?”
Settlement proceeded, not with God’s help but with the Indians’. The Pilgrims chose Plymouth because of its cleared fields, recently planted in corn, “and a brook of fresh water [that] flowed into the harbor,” in the words of TRIUMPH OF THE AMERICAN NATION. It was a lovely site for a town. Indeed, until the plague, it had been a town. Everywhere in the hemisphere, Europeans pitched camp right in the middle of native populations—Cuzco, Mexico City, Natchez, Chicago. Throughout New England, colonists appropriated Indian cornfields, which explains why so many town names—Marshfield, Springfield, Deerfield–end in “field”.

Inadvertent Indian assistance started on the Pilgrims’ second full day in Massachusetts. A colonist’s journal tells us:

We marched to the place we called Cornhill, where we had found the corn before. At another place we had seen before, we dug and found some more corn, two or three baskets full, and a bag of beans. . . In all we had about ten bushels, which will be enough for seed. It was with God’s help that we found this corn, for how else could we have done it, without meeting some Indians who might trouble us. . . The next morning, we found a place like a grave. We decided to dig it up. We found first a mat, and under that a fine bow. . . We also found bowls , trays, dishes, and things like that. We took several of the prettiest things to carry away with us, and covered the body up again.

A place “like a grave!”

More help came from a live Indian, Squanto. Here my students are on familiar turf, for they have all learned the Squanto legend. LAND OF PROMISE provides an archetypal account”

Squanto had learned their language, he explained, from English fishermen who ventured into the New England waters each summer. Squanto taught the Pilgrims how to plant corn, squash, and pumpkins. Would the small band of settlers have survived without Squanto’s help? We cannot say. But by the fall of 1621, colonists and Indians could sit down to several days of feast and thanksgiving to God (later celebrated as the first Thanksgiving).

What do the books leave out about Squanto? First, how he learned English. As a boy, along with four Penobscots, he was probably stolen by a British captain in about 1605 and taken to England. There he probably spent nine years, two in the employ of a Plymouth merchant who later helped finance the Mayflower. At length, the merchant helped him arrange passage back to Massachusetts. He was to enjoy home life for less than a year, however. In 1614, a British slave raider seized him and two dozen fellow Indians and sold them into slavery in Malaga, Spain. Squanto escaped from slavery, escaped from Spain, made his way back to England, and in 1619 talked a ship captain into taking him along on his next trip to Cape Cod.

It happens that Squanto’s fabulous odyssey provides a “hook” into the plague story, a hook that our texts choose to ignore. For now Squanto walked to his home village, only to make the horrifying discovery that, in Simpson’s words, “he was the sole member of his village still alive. All the others had perished in the epidemic two years before.” No wonder he throws in his lot with the Pilgrims, who rename his village “Plymouth!” Now that is a story worth telling! Compare the pallid account in LAND OF PROMISE. “He had learned their language from English fishermen.” What do we make of books that give us the unimportant details–Squanto’s name, the occupation of his enslavers–while omitting not only his enslavement, but also the crucial fact of the plague? This is distortion on a grand scale.

William Bradford praised Squanto for many services, including his “bring[ing] them to unknown places for their profit.” “Their profit” was the primary reason most Mayflower colonists made the trip. It too came from the Indians, from the fur trade; Plymouth would never have paid for itself without it. Europeans had neither the skill nor the desire to “go boldly where none dared go before.|” They went to the Indians.

“TRUTH SHOULD BE HELD SACRED, AT WHATEVER COST”
Should we teach these truths about Thanksgiving? Or, like our textbooks, should we look the other way? Again quoting LAND OF PROMISE. “By the fall of 1621, colonists and Indians could sit down to several days of feast and thanksgiving to God (later celebrated as the first Thanksgiving).” Throughout the nation, elementary school children still enact Thanksgiving every fall as our national origin myth, complete with Pilgrim hats made of construction paper and Indian braves with feathers in their hair. An early Massachusetts colonist, Colonel Thomas Aspinwall, advises us not to settle for this whitewash of feel-good history. “It is painful to advert to these things. But our forefathers, though wise, pious, and sincere, were nevertheless, in respect to Christian charity, under a cloud; and, in history, truth should be held sacred, at whatever cost.”

Thanksgiving is full of embarrassing facts. The Pilgrims did not introduce the Native Americans to the tradition; Eastern Indians had observed autumnal harvest celebrations for centuries. Our modern celebrations date back only to 1863; not until the 1890s did the Pilgrims get included in the tradition; no one even called them “Pilgrims” until the 1870s. Plymouth Rock achieved icnographic status only in the nineteenth century, when some enterprising residents of the town moved it down to the water so its significance as the “holy soil” the Pilgrims first touched might seem more plausible. The Rock has become a shrine, the Mayflower Compact a sacred text, and our textbooks play the same function as the Anglican BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER, teaching us the rudiments of the civil religion of Thanksgiving.

Indians are marginalized in this civic ritual. Our archetypal image of the first Thanksgiving portrays the groaning boards in the woods, with the Pilgrims in their starched Sunday best and the almost naked Indian guests. Thanksgiving silliness reaches some sort of zenith in the handouts that school children have carried home for decades, with captions like, “They served pumpkins and turkeys and corn and squash. The Indians had never seen such a feast!” When his son brought home this “information” from his New Hampshire elementary school, Native American novelist Michael Dorris pointed out “the Pilgrims had literally never seen `such a feast,’ since all foods mentioned are exclusively indigenous to the Americas and had been provided by [or with the aid of] the local tribe.”

I do not read Aspinwall as suggesting a “bash the Pilgrims” interpretation, emphasizing only the bad parts. I have emphasized untoward details only because our histories have suppressed everything awkward for so long. The Pilgrims’ courage in setting forth in the late fall to make their way on a continent new to them remains unsurpassed. In their first year, like the Indians, they suffered from diseases. Half of them died. The Pilgrims did not cause the plague and were as baffled as to its true origin as the stricken Indian villagers. Pilgrim-Indian relations began reasonably positively. Thus the antidote to feel-good history is not feel-bad history, but honest and inclusive history. “Knowing the truth about Thanksgiving, both its proud and its shameful motivations and history, might well benefit contemporary children,” suggests Dorris. “But the glib retelling of an ethnocentric and self-serving falsehood does no one any good.” Because Thanksgiving has roots in both Anglo and Native cultures, and because of the interracial cooperation the first celebration enshrines, Thanksgiving might yet develop into a holiday that promotes tolerance and understanding. Its emphasis on Native foods provides a teachable moment, for natives of the Americas first developed half of the world’s food crops. Texts could tell this–only three even mention Indian foods—and could also relate other contributions form Indian societies, from sports to political ideas. The original Thanksgiving itself provides an interesting example: the Natives and newcomers spent the better part of three days showing each other their various recreations.

Origin myths do not come cheaply. To glorify the Pilgrims is dangerous. The genial omissions and false details our texts use to retail the Pilgrim legend promote Anglocentrism, which only handicaps us when dealing with all those whose culture is no Anglo. Surely, in history, “truth should be held sacred, at whatever cost.”

They called it “beaner jumping”

From the Associated Press comes this update on the murder of Marco Lucero:

Immigrant’s killing shows tensions on Long Island

PATCHOGUE, N.Y. (AP) — The flowers have wilted and the candles are burned out at a makeshift memorial where an immigrant from Ecuador was stabbed to death in what police say was a hate crime carried out by marauding teenagers.

But the outrage over the killing has only intensified in the two weeks since Marcelo Lucero was attacked, reverberating around the hemisphere and resurrecting the debate over illegal immigration at a time when communities nationwide have seen an influx of undocumented workers.

Marcelo Lucero’s death Nov. 8 has drawn the attention of officials in Ecuador and forced the Suffolk County executive, the co-founder of a national group against illegal immigration, to apologize for belittling the importance of the case.

Seven Patchogue-Medford High School students have been charged, one of them with murder. And the case has once again highlighted the extraordinary amount of tension between white Long Island residents and the booming Hispanic population.

At a funeral last week in the victim’s hometown in Ecuador, the Rev. Jorge Moreno called Lucero’s death “a product of a feeling of xenophobia that makes some people believe they are worth more than others.” Ecuador’s ambassador to the United States, Luis Gallegos, described it as a lynching.

A grand jury indictment and comments by police and prosecutors paint a picture of a group of bored high school students who regularly found enjoyment in what they called “beaner-jumping,” a derogatory euphemism for attacking Hispanics.

“To them, it was a sport,” Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota said.

Immigrants on Long Island say they are often harassed, but are reluctant to go to police for fear they might be deported.

“Spanish people think the police department is the monster, you can’t talk to them,” said Jose Bonilla, who runs a grocery store and deli and was friendly with Lucero. “People were scared. They thought they would be asked for immigration papers, that’s why they don’t call.”

The 37-year-old Lucero, who came to the U.S. 16 years ago and worked at a dry-cleaners, was with a friend Nov. 8 when they were surrounded near the Patchogue train station.

Lucero’s friend escaped but Lucero tried desperately to fight back, smacking one of the teens with his belt, authorities said. One of the boys, 17-year-old Jeffrey Conroy, is accused of plunging a knife into Lucero’s chest before running away. The prosecutor says the other six were unaware of the stabbing until Conroy told them.

Conroy is scheduled to be arraigned Monday on second-degree murder as a hate crime, manslaughter and other charges. The others entered not guilty pleas Thursday to gang assault, conspiracy and attempted assault. Conroy faces 25 years to life and the others five to 25 years if convicted of the most serious charges.

Attorneys for the seven insist their clients are innocent and several have denied suggestions the teens are bigots. But prosecutors said that a half-hour before Lucero’s killing, the group attempted to accost another Hispanic man, and that two of the seven had attacked another man 18 hours earlier.

According to Spota, one of the seven allegedly told police: “I don’t go out doing this very often, maybe once a week.”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy is a co-founder of Mayors and Executives for Immigration Reform, a national group against illegal immigration. He signed a local law requiring county contractors to prove that their employees are in the country legally, and after Lucero was killed, he initially suggested the media had blown the killing out of proportion because of his own view on immigration.

He later apologized for his claim, saying: “It was the wrong thing to say because there could have been an appearance that we were indifferent to that terrible crime and that is the last thing in the world that I would want to do.”

Advocates say that harsh anti-immigration rhetoric by Levy and others created a climate that led to attacks on Hispanics. But Levy cited statistics claiming hate crimes in Suffolk County had gone down during his five years in office.

Animosity over the influx of thousands of immigrants from Central and South America has been simmering for nearly a decade on Long Island.

Two local men are serving long prison terms for attempted murder after luring two Mexican laborers to a warehouse in 2000 with the promise of work, only to beat them with shovels.

Two years later, a Mexican family’s home in Farmingville was destroyed by teenagers who tossed fireworks through a window on the Fourth of July.

Bonilla, the store owner, said some positive things have emerged from the killing. He said a community meeting with police, Patchogue village officials and others held in the wake of the killing helped clarify the situation.

He said his customers are still “a little scared, but they see the community trying to work together … so it can’t happen again.”

They were going to name him ‘Baloo’

I know I don’t normally post stories like this, and I know this has absolutely nothing to do with Latinos, but…

Ashlee Simpson has given birth to a baby boy.  She and her husband–Pete Wentz of the group Fall Out Boy– have named the child Bronx Mowgli Wentz.  “Mowgli” is the name of the boy who was raised by wolves in the Rudyard Kipling adpated story “The Jungle Book.”

ashlee-simpson-pete-wentz

This is a perfect example of how the life of the rich and famous is different than yours and mine.  If we “regular people” name our kid Mowgli, we have to deal with people telling us how stupid we are.  And, of course, we would be.  These two gems, on the other hand, get to shout out their stupidity from the highest heights while the people who encounter them are undoubtedly telling them what a precious and unique name they have chosen.

Little Bronx Mowgli will probably grow up in an environment where he doesn’t even have to be told by other kids what a stupid name he has.  Maybe he’ll be in the same school as little Zuma Nesta Rock, or Apple Blythe Alison, or Kal-el Coppola.

The Legacy of Harvey Milk

harveymilk

November 27th is the 30th anniversary of the assassination of Harvey Milk, San Francisco politician and activist. The first openly gay man to be elected to office, he analyzed the significance of his election as follows:

Somewhere in Des Moines or San Antonio there is a young gay person who all of sudden realizes that she or he is gay; knows that if the parents find out they will be tossed out of the house, the classmates will taunt the child, and the Anita Bryant’s and John Briggs’ are doing their bit on TV. And that child has several options: staying in the closet, suicide. And then one day that child might open the paper that says “Homosexual elected in San Francisco” and there are two new options: the option is to go to California, or stay in San Antonio and fight.

Two days after I was elected I got a phone call and the voice was quite young. It was from Altoona, Pennsylvania. And the person said “Thanks.” And you’ve got to elect gay people, so that that young child and the thousand upon thousands like that child know that there is hope for a better world; there is hope for a better tomorrow. Without hope, not only gays, but those blacks, the Asians, the disabled, the seniors, the us’s: without hope the us’s give up. I know that you can’t live on hope alone, but without it, life is not worth living. And you, and you, and you, you got to give them hope.

In many ways elaborating on the above point, Milk recorded some thoughts on his career, in the event of his untimely death. They were featured in the 1984 documentary “The Times of Harvey Milk”:

While this time will mean many things to many people, I hope it can also be a time to savor the victory that can come with people united in movement. At their most meaningful, these victories are not about representation or simplistic political gain: they are about life and hope.

••Al-Qaeda calls Obama a “House Negro”

Damn!

Check out this video message from Al-Qaeda’s number 2 man, Ayman al-Zawahiri.  In it, he offers his analysis of the recent U.S. election as a public acknowledgment of the U.S. failure in Iraq.  Then, he uses Malcolm X to call Obama a “house negro” (which was Malcolm’s “nice” way of saying “house nigger”).

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Posted with vodpod

It is interesting that Al-Qaeda has to do some PR work among their own constituency to curb any tendency of assigning too much optimistic significance to the election of Obama.  So they subtley remind them he is pro-Israel (in the use of a photo) and suggest he is only doing the bidding of whites (in using Malcolm’s words).  At the same time, they don’t quite assign ownership of America’s “legacy of failure and crimes” to him.  This is a small glimpse into the ways these radicals understand race and its place in U.S. history.

For more information on the message, see this story from the Telegraph (UK).

•Why Prop. 8 Will be Defeated in the Courts

The fight over Proposition 8–California’s voter approved overturning of same-sex marriage rights–is now headed to the courts. The California Supreme Court will consider this week which of the myriad cases related to the measure it will consider.

Today’s LA Times article on the latest move helps to put some of these issues into perspective.

While supporters of the proposition are already beginning to pressure the court on the basis that it “must” uphold the “will of the people,” the issue at stake here is not the democratic decision-making process. The issue at hand is about changes and additions to the Constitution. California–like most states and the federal government–requires major changes to its Constitution to be made with a two-thirds majority vote of “the people.” Electoral standards like these do a few things, not the least of which is protect the rights of the “minority” from the whims of the “majority” and add an air of seriousness to the process of revision. In California, however, a simple majority of in the form of a voter initiative can add an “amendment” to the Constitution (something added to it that is in line with the basic principles contained within the original document). The legal question is whether or not Prop. 8 was an amendment or a revision to the State’s Constitution.

Proposition 8 was carefully written to avoid this question, arguing that it was an amendment. However, the court had already found the rights of same-sex marriage to be embedded in the document, hence, their decision of last May.

If the court does nothing other than respect their previsou decision AND uphold other precedent relating to what (legally) defines a revision versus and amendment, Prop. 8 is going down.

Postscript:
By a vote of 6 to 1 the Court agreed to hear arguments relating to the constitutionality of the ballot measure.  However, the lone dissenting vote was Justice Joyce Kennard, one of the justices who voted with the majority back in May.  That may say she thinks the legality of the measure is a non-issue.  If so, that might not bode well.  The decision in May was 4 to 3.