Latinos & Presidential Shootings

Regular readers of Latino Like Me might remember an earlier post on JFK’s last night alive.

In it I discuss how the night before he was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, the President spent the evening at an event hosted by the League of Latin American Citizens, or LULAC. Along with LBJ and both their wives, the President spoke before LULAC, the oldest and, arguably, the most successful Mexican American civil rights organization in the U.S.  The long and the short of it is that Kennedy spent his last night as President addressing Latino issues.

Now you can understand why this slideshow from CNN took me by surprise.

The images commemorate the 30th anniversary of the shooting of Ronald Reagan, on March 30, 1981. If you click to the second image you will see a copy of the President’s itinerary printed in a newspaper found in the hotel room of John W. Hinckley Jr.–Reagan’s would be assassin.

Notice anything?

It seems that the morning of the 30th, just before he went to the Hilton Hotel to give a speech, Reagan met with “Hispanic supporters.”  Upon exiting the hotel, after his speech, Reagan was shot by Hinckley in the chest.

Just an interesting little historical coincidence.

The Rivalry

The Dodgers and Giants took time out of their usual pregame routines tonight to try an diffuse any further violence between LA and SF fans. This unity comes on the heels of the awful attack against Brian Stow in the Dodger Stadium parking lot just after this year’s home opener.

“When the last out is made,” said Giant Jeremy Affeldt, “the rivalry ends on the field.” (For more on the pregame event read the story at Dodgers.com.)

I don’t condone what happened to Brian Stow and I don’t want to make light of it either. But at the same time, I don’t think much is advanced by focusing too much blame on “the rivalry” between these two teams.

As I said on Twitter, I hate the Giants more than just about anybody or anything. And, yet, I have never beaten up one of their fans. This isn’t about the rivalry between our two teams; it’s about a violent attack by two men against one other. Whatever their motivation, their willingness to engage in violence is far more complicated (and more simple) than a rivalry taken to the extreme.

With all due respect to the Dodgers and Giants who spoke before tonight’s game, for me, the rivalry does not end on the field. It is a part of my life, of my love for my team, of my love for the sport. In some small but discernible way, it is part of my identity.

I can understand the need to diffuse the tension of the rivalry at a time like this. For people who carelessly act out of a combination of alcohol, hyper-masculinity, and stupidity, events like tonight might reframe their unquestioned positioning in important (though likely short-lived) ways. But what happened to Brian Stow (much like the thousands of other senseless acts of violence that have befallen people in this state since then) has very little to do with a competitive spirit between “my boys” and “them.”

That said…the Dodgers beat the Giants tonight, 6-1.

Everyday violence and labor rights

In the United States, the mainstream culture tends to think of itself as free from major forms of violence. We may have murders, abuse, and other manifestations of the violent, but they hardly define the everyday experience of most Americans. In a wealthy nation with relative stability, we see these instances of violence as aberrations, departures from the norm.

One of the painful truths we must learn to confront is that this is not the experience of many people in this country. My own experience with daily life in this country had less to do with this negation of violence than the stark confrontation with it and its effects. Don’t get me wrong; I didn’t grow up in a war zone. I didn’t see a dead person until my teens, and even that experience was powerful for its uncommonness.  I am talking about the kinds of everyday violence more appropriately thouht of as subliminal, like white noise.

This is the kind of violence we often ignore because its confrontation is too overwhelming to deal with.  But people do deal with it.  Its the violence of poverty, of struggle, of exclusion, of inadequate funding, of inequity, of uncertainty.  It’s the kind of violence that translates into frustration, anger, and physical violence for some, but emotional exhaustion and stress for many more (if not all).  Its the violence of not knowing if you will have enough money to feed yourself or your family.  For others, it might be the self-inflicted violence of alcohol or drugs used as an escape from this reality.

Lately, I’ve been thinking how the current economic crisis is offering more and more Americans an avenue into understanding this kind of trauma.  At the same time, government bailouts of corporations will, inevitably, lead to a declination in actual labor protections for workers.  Kind of perverse, when you think about it.

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