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3rd Centavo: Acuña ~ Our Politicos Have Sold Us Out

Selling Public Space
The Chickens Will Come Home to Roost
By Rodolfo F. Acuña

On the one side is neoliberalism, with all its repressive power and its machinery of death; on the other side is the human being. There are those who resign themselves to being one more number in the huge exchange of power … But there are those who do not resign themselves … In any place in the world, anytime, any man or woman rebels to the point of tearing off the clothes resignation has woven for them and cynicism has died grey. Any man or woman, of whatever colour, in whatever tongue, speaks and says to himself or to herself: Enough is enough! Ya basta! — Subcomandante Marcos

acunaThe lambs have a problem hearing the sounds of the clarion because of a lack of long term memory. Because of this memory lapse, the Zapatistas January 1, 1994 revolt protesting the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) never sunk in. Perhaps the word neoliberal was too foreign to the lambs that had a difficult time comprehending that the word takes different forms.

News that University of California President Janet Napolitano began two days of meetings to Mexico about expanding academic and research cooperation with Mexican universities and scientific and cultural organizations has raised fears among many of us.

The U.S. War on Drugs has ravaged Mexico to the point that few U.S. students want to study there. As a consequence, about 40 out of 233,000 UC students study in Mexico each year, while about 1,900 Mexicans attended UC schools in 2013.

Ironically, Napolitano, the former secretary of Homeland Security, was involved in making U.S. drug policy; her visit coincides with that of Secretary of State John Kerry. According to the UC president this is part of the “UC’s many and varied partnerships, exchanges and collaborations with Mexico are integral to bettering lives on both sides of our national border … I’m here to ensure we grow that relationship by establishing our new project to enhance the mutual exchange of students, faculty and ideas across the border.”

For over 50 years, the Mexican American community has always encouraged exchange programs lobbying for programs with Mexico. However, many of us have come to realize that just studying in Mexico, or studying in the United States does not always have positive outcomes.

A Facebook friend, Vicente Ramírez says about these exchanges, “They’re [the UC and CSU] not going to recruit the working class–it’s a class war… They’re recruiting Mexico’s elite students so that they can then go back and apply neoliberal policies. All of Mexico’s secretaries of Economy (Secretario de Economía) and Finance (Secretario de Hacienda y Crédito Público) have gotten their Ph.D.’s from American universities since the mid-1980s. Mexico’s current Secretario de Hacienda, Luis Videgarray who successfully pushed for the privatization of PEMEX got his Ph.D. from MIT.” Ex-Mexican president Carlos Salinas de Gortari, arguably the intellectual godfather of Mexican neoliberalism, received his MA and PhD in economics from Harvard.

Upon hearing about Napolitano’s Mexican junket UC Irvine Professor Rodolfo Torres wrote. “I read this morning that Janet Napolitano is in Mexico exploring academic and research cooperation with Mexican universities. Do you think there is a proactive role UC Chicano Studies and progressive Latin American Studies faculty can play to prevent this initiative from becoming a total market-driven and neoliberal project? My Dean (Social Ecology) also announced at a school-wide faculty meeting that she will be meeting with selected faculty to discuss this US-Mexico initiative.”

UC Professor Jorge Mariscal wrote on FB, “UC is recruiting the Mexican ruling class and a token number of working-class mexicanos/as who identify with the ruling class. This process will intensify in coming years as Napolitano struggles to erase her record as DHS/Deportation Czar. One (un)intended consequence will be the slow-motion strangulation of Chicano/a programs in the UC system that refuse to subordinate the local (albeit transnational) to the ‘global’.”

It should be made clear that this initiative is not about diversity or cultural enrichment. The recruitment is global and it is about profit. When the UC or CSU turns away students the for-profit university sector in both countries thrive.

Neoliberalism at its worse will recruit wealthy Mexican students to displace U.S. minority students charging them out of state and foreign student fees. Not too many if any working class Mexican students will be able to afford the tuition and dorm costs.

The current exchanges have had little scrutiny from progressives in this country. Mexico has set a goal of sending 100,000 Mexican students a year to the U.S. by 2018. In addition, the UC and CSU system have recruiters in China, the Middle East, Asia and the U.S.. Let’s be clear, large numbers of international students impact minorities and working class students many of whom have already been priced out of the market.

Today first year students from outside California comprise almost 30 percent of freshmen at UC Berkeley and UCLA, a growth of just over 10 percent in four years. The Mercury News reports, UC Berkley’s “revenue from out-of-state and international students has grown to about $160 million, about 7 percent of its annual operating budget and more than half of its state subsidy.”

Meanwhile, at UCLA just under 28 percent of the incoming freshmen are out of state students while just over 3 percent are African American. Inside Higher Ed writes that “The number of foreign and out-of-state students admitted to the University of California’s 10 campuses soared by 43 percent this year, while the overall number of would-be freshmen admitted from within the state’s borders grew by just 3.6 percent, the university system … Out-of-state and foreign students made up nearly one in five students admitted for next fall, 18,846 of a total of 80,289.”

In the meantime, the Cal State Universities are following the same neoliberal model. Pathetically desperate the CSU has embarked on a policy of growth. The problem is that it is shifting the cost of this growth almost exclusively to students who pay over three-quarters of instructional costs and almost a hundred percent of new construction.

This leads to an insidious policy that limits space for low income students and justifies higher fees and tuition. It gives students who are turned away no alternative but to go to for-profit universities. Recently, a scheme by the community colleges to enter into a contract with the University of Kaplan to offer classes online to community college students (at a substantial fee) was derailed because of public outcry. (Until recently Kaplan was a tutorial center mainly for foreign students).

Meanwhile, California politicos are encouraging an insidious policy of divide and conquer, pitting the Asian community against the Latino and other minority communities. This has led to some Asian American leaders thinking affirmative action will discriminate against them.

I use the phrase “The Chickens are Coming Home to Roost” because the commodification of public spaces has been occurring for some time. The Zapatista revolt should have been a wake up call; however, our elected officials have sold us out. They seem more concerned with photo ops and getting elected than they are in preserving public spaces.

I cannot remember a Latino elected official since the late Marco Firebaugh who was concerned with the state of Latinos in higher education. However, the lambs have to bear responsibility for not keeping the politicos in check and allowing themselves and their public spaces to be sold on the open market.

GIVE US YOUR RICH, SEND BACK THE POOR

Rodolfo Acuña, Ph.D., is an historian, professor emeritus, and one of various scholars of Chicano studies, which he teaches at California State University, Northridge. He is the author of Occupied America: A History of ChicanosDr. Acuña writes various opinions and essays on his Facebook page and allows sites to share his thoughts.

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3rd Centavo: Horatio Alger: The Myth of Public Higher Education

by Rodolfo F. Acuña

The United States is the land of illusions. Like Disneyland, it is more fiction than reality. The American Dream is part of surreal world, constructed as a form of social control that distorts the memory  blinding Americans to the injustices, inequalities and imperfections of American society. Like old Shirley Temple movies, Americans are princes and princesses who pass through bad times believing that they will be saved because they are Americans.

These illusions are built around myths such as that of Horatio Alger that has persisted for over 150 years. For Americans Horatio Alger is as real as Superman.

Horatio Alger Jr in 1867 published the first of over 120 books that told the tale of rags to riches to young working class boys. The moral of the stories was that if the boys led exemplary lives, struggled against poverty and adversity that they could make it. Someday they would be rich and heirs to the American Dream.

The stairway to the American Dream was meritocracy and education. America was the land of opportunity, every American if he worked hard enough could get an education; it was free and more accessible in the United States than any place in world. Opportunity was knocking, and it was your fault if you did not take advantage of it.

The Horatio Alger Myth resembles fantasy tales such as Superman, Captain America, Spiderman and Batman. The truth be told, Horatio Alger just like education has never been equal or free in America.

Even during the Post-World War II era when the illusion was more plausible, accessibility depended on the hue of one’s skin and his or her social class.

In this context, Los Angeles has been called La La Land because Angelinos were said to be in their own world. However, this self-absorbed frame of mind is true of all Americans; they are not a benevolent, kind or generous people.

In 1960 Democratic Governor Pat Brown and University of California President Clark Kerr helped develop the California Master Plan for Higher Education. It neatly defined the roles of the University of California (UC), the California State College (CSC), and the California Community Colleges systems (CCC).

The master plan was the perfect pyramid: the UC was at the top, the state colleges in the middle and the junior colleges were at the bottom. The two-year college perpetuated the illusion that Californians were living the American Dream. Despite this wrongheaded logic, the college systems were important because they were tuition-free essentially guaranteeing free higher education to everyone.

But, the world was changing. American captains of industry had in the 1950s committed itself to deindustrialization and the globalization of its capital, lessening the need for an educated workforce. Just as the U.S. had imported German rocket scientists, the ruling elites’ worldview became more global; they felt they could import brainpower without paying for the education of the children of factory workers

In 1966 the illusion of equal opportunity suffered a fatal blow with the election of Governor Ronald Reagan who led the assault on the University of California. Reagan vowed to “clean up that mess in Berkeley” that, according to him, was led by “outside agitators” and left-wing subversives. Reagan laid the foundations for a shift to a tuition-based funding model. The goal was to eliminate taxes and privatize public institutions.

Moneyed interests nationwide set out to destroy public two-year schools, which served almost one-half of the nation’s first-year college students. By the 21st century, as tuition soared at the four year universities, students were pushed down to the community colleges.

The Great Recession of 2008 ended all illusions of public education. By 2011, the UC officially switched from a system of fees to an explicitly tuition-centric model. Moreover, since 2007, the UC has promoted the admission out-of-state and foreign students as a way of raising revenues. Incentives were built into the admission process to admit fewer California students.

California has stopped building new colleges and universities; new buildings are built in great part from student funds. Programs such as the UNAM/CSUN accord are vested in student funds. According to many critics the process is irreversible.

From 2005 to 2010, over 75 percent of newly accredited colleges and universities were for-profits funded in global capital markets. For-profits now make up over 25 percent of all post-secondary institutions in the United States. Without saying so, they are more expensive than the former public universities. The outcome is that students leave college with higher student debts.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Education is projected to make $127 billion in profit over the next decade from lending to college students and their families. These loans are packaged and sold to financial institutions and hedge funds. The truth be told, grants to low income students subsidize the growing for profit and so-called non-profit universities.

In a 2010 exposé Peter Byrne reported that the UC’s $53 billion portfolio invested in two for-profits institutions completing Ronald Reagan vision of destroying “the creeping communism of master-planned and state-funded public education.”

In 2011, California public colleges and universities received 13 percent less in state funding; this was not by accident. By this this time “nearly half of all graduates of public and private four-year schools in California were saddled with an average debt load of $18,000”; the national average was $26,682.

It is also not an accident that funding for community colleges remained static although demand had increased. Reduced class offerings, fewer sections of the classes, and the laying off of faculty and staff forced many students into for profit schools. These overbooked classes took the two year colleges to the breaking point.

One proposed solution was to charge students an added fee to get priority registration for impacted classes. In 2010, because of a student uproar, a contract was cancelled with the for-profit Kaplan University to offer discounted online classes to community college students for community college credit.

Globally, education is important. When asked what was the key challenge facing Latin America over the next decade, the top answer among students was education. Students saw it as the key to jobs. However, increasingly through the intervention of American institutions such as the International Monetary Fund its leaders are adopting the American neo-liberal model, and for-profit colleges are flourishing in Brazil, Mexico and Chile.

Reading this material only makes the silence of the lambs more deafening.

The Daily Caller published an article titled “Why are the Clintons hawking a seedy, Soros-backed for-profit college corporation?” George Soros supposedly one of the good billionaires hired Bill Clinton as a pitchman for Laureate Education Inc., a for-profit higher education powerhouse. Laureate owns 75 schools in 30 countries. And it boasts of 800,000 students worldwide. Also promoting this venture is Henry Cisneros and other Clinton stalwarts.

How different are we today from the Gilded Age when railroad lobbyists would go on the floor of Congress and pass out railroad stock before a vote on railroad subsidies? This is not the Land of Oz, and if we are being had, we should at least be aware of it, and not adopt failed neo-liberal policies. What is happening to American public education should serve as a warning to Mexico and the rest of the world that “Made in America” does not mean quality.

I was just talking to one of my grandsons who boasted that he had just bought an annual pass to Disneyland for $359. According to him, it was a deal. I shrugged my shoulders, but really how different is this than believing in Horatio Alger and the American Dream?

Rodolfo Acuña, Ph.D., is an historian, professor emeritus, and one of various scholars of Chicano studies, which he teaches at California State University, Northridge. He is the author of Occupied America: A History of ChicanosDr. Acuña writes various opinions and essays on his Facebook page and allows sites to share his thoughts.

3rd Centavo~ Acuña: The Tyranny of Words

by Rodolfo F. Acuña

People keep telling me about the need for an ideology as if it alone will correct the imperfections of society. But what they don’t understand is that disparate ideologies often confuse the problem of communications. The lowest common denominator in communication is the word. With ideology different meanings for the same word create a tower of babble where people speak the same words but they have different meanings.

When thinking about words, I think about Stuart Chase’s The Tyranny of Words (1938). It is one of those books that never lose its message. Stuart was a semanticist. His book is full of gems like “Language is apparently a sword which cuts both ways. With its help man can conquer the unknown; with it he can grievously wound himself.”

Growing up the meaning of words were important. In my case, it was probably because I did not learn English until I was six. Because I did not know many words, I was classified as mentally retarded.

Armed with a chip on my shoulder, I was very conscious that the sword “cuts both ways”, so I sought to learn how to wield the sword most effectively. I could hear Chase whisper, “I find it difficult to believe that words have no meaning in themselves, hard as I try. Habits of a lifetime are not lightly thrown aside.”

This reliance on words can be very dangerous especially in the world of economists who seem obsessed with the currency of their theory. I keep going back to Chase’s reasoning: “Attitude is your acceptance of the natural laws, or your rejection of the natural laws.”

Words mean something different to different folks. I am old school and words matter. I am more attuned with epistemology than pretentions of “the science of knowledge.” I am a skeptic and I am concerned with what kinds of things are known, how that knowledge is acquired and what the attitude of speaker is.

Words have meaning – what they mean and why they are said is essential. To repeat a cliché “the devil is in the detail” — words are distorted.

Take the words that are presently in currency: reform, privatization, globalization, and marketization. They are intentionally comingled to bring about controlled consent. Unless the words are deconstructed and contextualized their false definitions overtime become the accepted truth.

The word reform has been corrupted to fit the occasion. It once meant the improvement or amendment of what is wrong, corrupt, and unsatisfactory. A reformer was to the right of the radical and the far left of a conservative. It was taken for granted that reformers wanted to improve the system. As of late, the word has been appropriated by the right.

For example, in today’s mainstream media the tea partyers are reformers. As of late those trying to change the Mexican Constitution and get rid of constitutional guarantees are not greedy capitalists but reformers who are trying to improve the economy. This change has not so subtly changed the outcome.

The right has adroitly changed the conversation. They have associated corruption with government and reform with interests of the ruling elite. Without context words induce a historical amnesia that absolves capitalists of being corrupt. Like Gordon Gekko said in the movie Wall Street, “Greed is good.”

What is left is what Americans call common sense. Chase opined is that “Common sense is that which tells us the world is flat.” Following this thread” government has to be reformed because it is basically corrupt whereas corporate crime is a “boys will be boys” lapse.

The fad is the word privatization. Its meaning has been so corrupted and so overused that it is difficult to know its meaning. When I first got the sense of the word was during the 1950s. The rage then was urban renewal which was supposed to be good because government confiscated property for public use. Rarely discussed was the huge profits made by the contractors and suppliers who benefited from it all. But at least we knew that it was basically wrong to take one person’s property to profit another.

It became outrageous when property was taken for the public good. Here government took one person’s property to give it to private individuals so they could make a killing. It was known as reform.

At a more advanced level this is happening today. Developers in places like Los Angeles, Chicago and Tucson have reaped trillions of dollars by buying city and county properties through “inside trading” that is good in this instance but is supposed to be bad on the stock market. Both are falsely labeled good business.

It was reform that shifted the cost of higher education from the ruling elite to the student. The logic was that the student was getting the benefits of education, and if government taxed business then the economy would falter.

In public higher education privatization is a mixed bag. The privatization of public higher ed follows a different path than the privatization of other state-controlled enterprises, but the logic is the same.

In higher education they use words like marketization that refers “to a set of transformations in which the underlying purpose is to ensure that market relations determine the orientation of development policies, institutions, university programs, and research projects.” Again, it is not that the educators are privatizing education; the devil makes them do it.

The privatizers say that to understand these diverse strategies that have driven privatization of higher education, you have to place the strategies into a global context. It is merely the logic of the market. It is the invisible hand of Adam Smith, “the father of modern economics”.

The marketization of higher education “refers to a set of transformations in which the underlying purpose is to ensure that market relations determine the orientation of development policies, institutions, university programs, and research projects.”

Like one administrator explained his illogical actions, they resulted from previous bad policies. In other words, the reconfiguration of the higher education to privilege the private sector is due to human errors not bad intentions.

This process has accelerated from 1970 to the present day. The world view is okay because it is happening globally, and in order to compete business and higher education must change (reform). The error of this logic is not that the product has to be improved, just that it has to become more like the private sector (which after all is not corrupt).

The invisible hand pops up once more in the logic: higher education is only meeting the increased demand for enrollment that was unmet by the public sector. Like in corporations this transformation is driven by a growing top heavy bureaucracy whose healthy salaries are paid by the consumer.

Higher education is not unique. I marvel at how the consolidation and bureaucracy has grown in the college book publishing sector. The logic is more profit so they outsource the editing and all phases of production so they can afford to hire more bureaucrats that drive up the price of textbooks allowing them to gobble up other publishers.

I could go on redefining the tyranny of words. For example, I get angry when I hear the words standards and quality. They are mostly used by the privatizers to turn education into a gas meter.

Epistemology is fundamental to how we think. In order to understand this we have to know the meaning words and why and how they are used. A basic question is who drives privatization. In the case of Mexico and other second and third world countries it is the World Bank. Domestically in the United States it is driven by the ruling elite and organizations such as ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Words are distorted and their meaning changed for a reason.

Like Gordon Gekko said, “Greed is good.”

Rodolfo F. Acuña, Ph.D., is an historian, professor emeritus, and one of various scholars of Chicano studies, which he teaches at California State University, Northridge. He is the author of Occupied America: A History of ChicanosDr. Acuña writes various opinions and essays on his Facebook page and allows sites to share his thoughts.

 

3rd Centavo: Acuña ~ When You’re Stupid, You’re Stupid

by Rodolfo F. Acuña

My mother use to say, “Cuando eres pendejo, eres pendejo;” and there was not much you could do about it – you were just born that way. Although I always enjoy my mother’s sayings, I do not believe that stupidity is genetic. With Americans I would blame their educational system, for as my mother used to say, there is a difference between being schooled and being educated.

What can you expect of an educational system where, according to a 2012 Gallup Poll, 46 percent, of Americans believe in creationism? It follows that creationists are more likely to be Republican than Democrat or Independent. I am not saying that believing in god or religion is stupid, but a lack of critical thinking qualifies as stupid.

Our educational system has been gutted, and our students taught to pass tests rather than to think critically. Because of the incessant assault on schools by corporate and property interests, school programs have been devastated – and art and physical education classes eliminated.

The result is an increased warehousing of students who are cooped up without much physical activity. Class sizes have shot up, and many educators blame parents and the students, who must, according to their stupid logic, be the problem. As a consequence, to control hyperactive kids more students are drugged with Ritalin – ADHD. Just keep them quiet and controlled.

Old myths such as Horatio Alger are repackaged to justify a mass transfer of the cost of education from corporations and the upper echelons of society to middle and working class students and their families.

The stupidity is that we accept stupidity. Class mobility in this country is based on education – and like it or not Horatio Alger like Santa Claus is a myth.

There is no shortage of examples of stupidity. Take costly propaganda against Obamacare,

Health care in the United States is more expensive than in any other industrialized nation. We rationalize that Americans are getting the world’s best health care. Actually, the United States spent $7,960 per capita on health care in 2009, almost three times the amount spent in Japan. We pay more for physician visits, hospital treatments and prescription drugs. And, still Americans are obese.

The problem is clear. It is not Obamacare, it has not even gone into effect. The problem is insurance companies, HMOs, pharmaceutical companies, and all the middlemen that all take their cut. And this does not include the members of Congress who keep the system oiled.

We are stupid because we take it. Like my mother used to say, we should just lower our brows so everyone can see the big “P” (Pendejo) on our foreheads.

Every time I see the basset hound (Sen. Mitch McConnell), the drunk (Speaker John Boehner), and the mini-me (Cong. Eric Cantor) meet the press to talk about austerity, the “P” on their foreheads light up. How anyone can accept the logic that if we eliminate school teachers and allow our roads to go to pot, that this will bring about prosperity?

It does not dawn on Americans that running of two major wars on the credit card has contributed to the economic collapse. In 2011, fifty of the largest lobbying spenders spent $176.1 million from July through September. Could this be one of the reasons why deregulation led to the present recession? Could this be the reason that not a single banker or Wall Street CEO has gone to jail?

Americans are stupid because they ignore this. During the Second Industrial Revolution when we built the transcontinental railroads, railroad lobbyists would go on the floor of Congress and pass out railroad stock. Mark Twain dubbed the period The Gilded Age in 1873.

Today the scandal and corruption of the Gilded Age is dwarfed, so instead of putting a Big P on our foreheads we should substitute a “C” for cuckold or its counterpart in Spanish – cabrón. We know that our elected officials, our government and our Supreme Court are bought off, and we do nothing about it.

The truth be told, we don’t want to accept that they are cheating us because if we did, we would have to do something about it. You want to lose a friend, just tell them that their partner is fooling around on them.

Part of the debate around immigration centers on whom we should give preferences to. The P’s say that we should be attracting those with technical skills. To them it is logical to drain the brain power of poorer countries. No matter that the poor nations spent millions of dollars training these technicians. Of course, it does not dawn on them that the answer is to improve our own schools.

Why do people hate us? No one wants to know that they have bad breath. Could it be that many people consider us terrorists? In El Salvador, the United States funded and trained the death squads. In Guatemala the CIA ran a covert action called Operation Success that allowed military dictators to rule the country from the 1960s to the 90s. The United States provided the weapons and trained their officers who killed over 250,000 Guatemalan peasants.

Some people find it hypocritical for us to label others terrorists.

I don’t take pleasure in putting a “P” or a “C” on people’s foreheads. When you think about it, it is not funny, it is tragic.

But you know that was part of the reason for the assault on the Tucson Unified School District’s Mexican American Studies program. It had to do with history: Attorney General Tom Horne said the district was using my book, and that I lied because I said that the United States invaded Mexico. Horne said that Mexican Americans were using history as a springboard to invading the U.S. The level of his discourse earned him more than a Big P on his forehead.

But where the Arizona jingoists went berserk was that the Tucson curriculum was designed to teach students to think critically. This, according to them, was subversive, un-American and led to racism. It was better to educate students not to question, to wear Big Ps on their foreheads and graduate them to wearing Big Cs. It is better for them to ignore that they are being cheated on and that they are being robbed.

 

Rodolfo Acuña, Ph.D., is an historian, professor emeritus, and one of various scholars of Chicano studies, which he teaches at California State University, Northridge. He is the author of Occupied America: A History of ChicanosDr. Acuña writes various opinions and essays on his Facebook page and allows sites to share his thoughts.

3rd Centavo ~ Acuña – The Immigration Shell Game

by Rodolfo F. Acuña

When I was in high school I never thought I would appreciate the conjugation of verbs and the declension of nouns. It was boring; however, I must admit that it introduced me to a deductive system of formal argument consisting of premises and conclusions that allowed me to test whether the deductions were true or false.

Today, we take short cuts, upgrade our syllogisms to paradigms, and we try to sell our ideas as exemplars. The premise is put forward and sold as the truth, arguing that a majority of the experts agree with our proposition. Like religion the pseudo paradigm is based on a higher authority.

In our minds our proclamation becomes a universally recognized statement of fact, and it sets our model for future arguments. The proposition thus supports our conclusions, and has the effect of helping us convince others of our premise.

The problem is that we do not test the argument. We make assumptions, presenting theories, values, and practices that distort reality. In this instance, deductive reasoning bypasses the facts that normally join existing statements or that are determined through repeated observations.

Without this habit of reasoning, we drift into George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and the fictional language of Newspeak that allows Big Brother to influence our conclusion through doublespeak. In the case of today’s society, we have many competing big brothers assisted by little brothers who want to justify their big brothers.

Take the question of immigration. Even liberal pundits on MSNBC are spinning it as a victory. Christopher Hayes reasoned recently that a year ago we had nothing and that now we have something. Thus there has been progress. He moves the bar to 2012 and ignores that in 2007 we had more, and concludes that something is better than nothing based on 2012.

To be fair, I have heard the same argument from Latinos who view any agreement as a victory. I cannot understand their reasoning. We are taking a bath on immigration, i.e., it looks as if a guest worker program will be part of the grand bargain, and it is likely that there will be a long, slippery and tenuous pathway to citizenship.

We are buying into the argument that the undocumented are cutting in the line, cheating their way into the country. At the present time, the dealmakers are tying the pathway to citizenship to border security, and who is to say that the border is not already secure or when it will be secure enough to satisfy the naysayers.

It is not fair; indeed it is racist. I do not remember a national uproar when Pat Buchannan proposed a law giving preferences to the Irish, or objections to the countless exceptions we made for Nazi rocket scientists and refugees from Central Europe, Cuba or Nicaragua. Under U.S. law, if you have enough money, you can buy yourself a first class ticket to the front of the line.

Experts question the premise that the border is not secure. The U.S.-Mexican border is certainly more secure than the U.S. – Canadian border. Certainly security cannot be measured by the fences, drones and troops on the border. Lest we forget many of the so-called the 9/11 terrorists came by way of the Canadian border. In any event, the border is not at risk because of undocumented workers but because of U.S. policies have ruined the ability of small Mexican farmers to stay on their land. The border is insecure because of the U.S. War on Drugs, which is bankrupting both countries. It is insecure because people are poor, and hunger has no borders.

But let’s further test the premise that Latin Americans are getting special treatment. This is an argument made even by the Left who justified the 1965 Immigration Act because in part it was part of the Civil Rights legislation and a slice of its reforms. It is true that it ended the U.S.’s racist National Origins policy that based entrance on race; it allowed previously excluded Asians and Middle Easterners to enter the country. On the positive side the 1965 Act implemented a policy of family reunification through Family Preferences.

However, it is also a fact that Latin Americans were not a quota before the 1965 Immigration Act. The United States reneged on promises of Pan Americanism and shell games that followed such as the Good Neighbor Policy.

Liberals bargained this special relationship away. The reform amounted to kicking Latinos out of the line in order to be fair to Asians and other Third World people. The question is why was this deal was ever made? Why was it necessary to rob Peter to pay Paul?

On the other hand, conservatives in 1965 accepted the bargain because they believed that the Germans, the British and northern Europeans would continue to immigrate in large numbers. That they did not continue to flood our borders speaks loads to the positive results of the Marshall Plan – people do not come to the United States unless there is an economic incentive and conditions in their own countries are bad.

So, the reasoning of nativists that Latinos are cutting in the line holds no water. The argument that anything is better than nothing is also fallacious. I could offer countless examples of historical facts that disprove the syllogism, but reason makes no difference to the double speakers.

This is also true of the argument that we are somehow winning on gun control legislation because we are getting a gun law through the senate. No matter that assault weapons will be permissible and meaningful background checks have joined the fishes in the ocean. According to the cheerleaders, we got something.

I am not going to dwell on this but let’s not forget that the Ku Klux Klan, Ronald Reagan, and, for most of its history, the NRA all worked for gun controls. The only thing that was different was that they did not want the guns in the hands of blacks and minorities.

In 1967, according to these double speakers, the Black Panthers led by Bobby Seale “invaded” Sacramento, California with an army of thirty black men and women carrying .357 Magnums, 12-gauge shotguns, and .45-caliber pistols . In June, Reagan signed the Mulford Act prohibiting the carrying of firearms in any public place.

(Note that in Arizona white Tea Partyers and Minutemen parade around with guns at their side.) However, in the instance of the Black Panthers there was little talk about the Second Amendment. Conservatives demanded gun control laws and got them. The people with the guns were the wrong color.

The reactions of progressives underscore the consequences of doublespeak. Instead of being mad as hell at President Barack Obama and Senator Harry Reid, progressives are borrowing a page from President George W. Bush when he turned to his FEMA director, Michael Brown and said “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job”, while New Orleans sank in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

The truth be told, when it comes to Immigration Reform and gun control we have lost the battles. We should not delude ourselves into thinking that we have won – we haven’t.

I have always been of the philosophy that you hit while things are hot. When we set up the Mexican American Studies Department in the spring of 1969, the administration told me that we only had to get twelve courses approved to be a department. We could do the rest latter. I did not and still do not trust them so I wrote up forty-seven proposals and got them approved while it was hot.

Today, I have mellowed, and I propose (tongue in cheek) that we charter the National Chicana/o Rifle Association (NCCRA) – wondering what the reaction will be from conservatives and liberals alike.

Rodolfo Acuña, Ph.D., is an historian, professor emeritus, and one of various scholars of Chicano studies, which he teaches at California State University, Northridge. He is the author of Occupied America: A History of Chicanos. Dr. Acuña writes various opinions on his Facebook page and allows sites to share his thoughts.

3rd Centavo~ Acuña: The Young Grow Old

by Rodolfo F. Acuña

Rank and file Democrats are desperate for a turnaround of their political fortunes, and an end of the Robber Baron era — so much so that they see the recent elections as their deliverance. For them, the last presidential election was a sign that the country is turning to the left, and that Democrats will be able to keep the presidency for eternity. They believe that obstructionism of Republicans will be drowned by the growing numbers of youth, minority, homosexual and Latino voters. Their hope is that the changes will put them on the road to a more communitarian and humane society.

Pundit after pundit predicts that the entrance of large numbers gay and Latino voters will end the culture wars that divide the country. There is only one problem — progressives forget that the “Young Grow Old.”

It is easy to get caught up in the euphoria of the moment. I remember demonstrations in the 1960s, and thinking that we had entered a new era. I did not fully appreciate the seductive power of capital in negating any communitarian or humane transformation. I also underestimated the ability of the ruling class to twist the words of sociologists, and blame the victim with phrases such as the “culture of poverty.”

Nor did I take into account the self-interest of many of the demonstrators who opposed the war; they remained interested for only as long as they were personally threatened. Poverty and injustice was only visible for as long as the young remained young. They became invisible once more as the baby boomers grew old, and took on mortgages. They then distanced themselves from poverty, which again became a non-priority.

Before we enter the World of Oz once more, we should remember that age will not make us wiser; it will not make us more humane. Our system of governing has been taken captive by billionaires who have always been old and count on the young growing old. They count on the individual and the community being disconnected. They have purposely disconnected the family unit from the community, and destroyed any sense of shared history. In this environment poverty and injustice become invisible.

We are blinded by temporary victories and the glitter of that huge flag pin dangling from our lapels.

Tax breaks for the rich are softened by senior citizens discounts. Daily we play the game of bargains. Every day my family receives more advertisements from Macy’s than it does from St. Jude’s.

The tactics differ; St. Jude tries to jar us with photos of pelones, bald children who have gone through chemotherapy. Macy’s plays more to our self-interest, and like society seduces us. It sends us coupons. Items that cost $99.99 are marked down to $79.99, and then as a preferred customer you get an additional 20% off, and if you have a Macy’s Bank of America card, you get an additional 20%. By the time you get through with the sale you have saved over 50%. That is a deal!

The cost of being taken (exploited) becomes invisible. Penney’s recently started a marketing strategy where it posted the true price. No coupons. However, it was such a disaster that the new CEO came under attack and was fired. The truth be told, we have reached the point where young and old want to be taken.

As Latinos and gays get older and discrimination is hidden by the coupon game they will forget that at one time Latinos did not have green cards, and gays could not marry. None of us are immune to seduction. We just turn the other way. Latinos and blacks today tolerate reactionary voices among them, although it is obvious that these voices conflict with their interests.

As in the movie “Soylent Green,” (1973) we’ll take the green wafer which is advertised to contain “high-energy plankton.” Foods that we remember will fade from memory as we grow old.

Coming off my high horse, it does not have to be like this. Our minds can stay young, and we should remember that at one time most people could afford a home. I bought my first home at 21 – no down payment, total cost $8500. I could qualify for it on my janitor’s salary. Today that same house costs $500,000; $100,000 down. And I am sure I could not qualify for it on a teacher’s salary. You do not get coupons to buy a home unless they plan to take it away.

The Left is complicit in the aging of our memory. Their journals and their activities include little material to politically educate and integrate Latinos. The Nation rarely includes articles on Latinos west of Chicago. Tellingly, most turned the other way as Mexican American history, books and culture were banned in Arizona.

If Democrats want to keep Mexican Americans and youth young, they are going to have to invest in their political education. They must integrate Mexican American and Latino history into the fabric of the progressive history of the United States. The Left is going to have to respect Mexican Americans and support their causes and know who they are.

Recently there was an exchange between so-called socialists; a Mexican American member (a true activist) criticized the body for its white chauvinism. He criticized the members’ lack of knowledge of Latino history. A pedant answered the criticism with a long winded response naming many African-American members of the Communist Party.

What was revealing was that the respondent named only Latin Americans living south of the United States as communist. It was as if Mexican Americans or Latinos in this country did not exist.

If progressives really want a communitarian society they will support Mexican American and other Latino issues. They will integrate these causes into the progressive agenda, work to achieve them instead of just handing out coupons. A sign of respect for the masses is remembering their names even when they are not considered part of the vanguard.

I must admit it is nice to get a senior citizens discount even though there are others who cannot afford to watch the movie. You know, the people cannot afford Obamacare because of the cost of medical insurance. In order to have a humane and communitarian society, we have to go beyond, “Don’t touch my Medicare!” and stop hoarding it as if it were only for the old.

Rodolfo Acuña, Ph.D., is an historian, professor emeritus, and one of various scholars of Chicano studies, which he teaches at California State University, Northridge. He is the author of Occupied America: A History of Chicanos. Dr. Acuña writes various opinions on his Facebook page and allows sites to share his thoughts.

Acuña: Arizona – The American Dream

by Rodolfo F. Acuña

The National Committee for Protection of Foreign Born Workers was established in 1923 in reaction to the virulent xenophobia of a Republican Congress and President toward immigrant workers, and their right to organize and strike. This campaign resulted in the Immigration Acts of 1921 and in 1924. The latter ushered in an era of racial engineering designed to keep America American, which meant not only white, but northern European and Protestant.

The protection for the foreign born movement was not new – it dated back to the 1820s as church people sought to protect Irish workers and their families. Over the years it became part of progressive thinking in the United States.

The American Dream was different in the nineteenth century. What was an American was more narrowly defined. The suffrage and birth control had a dream for equality for women, but also harbored dreams of a white –Protestant America. But even then, a progressive strain existed within these movements that had a broader and more human vision.

For example, twenty years ago I had the honor of staying at the Alma Mathews House in New York. It was part of a women’s settlement house movement that used to go down to the docks to meet boatloads of immigrants. They would compete with the pimps, and take young girls to the house and give them free lodging until they could get jobs.

Mainstream labor at first did not seek to accommodate the immigrant; its American dream was all white. Indeed, the Western Federation of Miners that had a progressive reputation discriminated against and excluded Mexican workers. The protection of foreign workers regardless of race fell almost solely on the Industrial Workers of the World.

For progressives, human rights gradually became as much part of labor as were economic rights.

The protection for the foreign born movement is much larger today, and along with the feminist and the Gay and Lesbian Rights Movements, it fights for human rights. The Dream Act struggle formally began nationally on April 25, 2001 when Representative Luis Gutiérrez introduced the “Immigrant Children’s Educational Advancement and Dropout Prevention Act of 2001.” But it is much older, and has come a long way since that time. Ownership today belongs to the Dreamers, young undocumented immigrants.

I support these three movements, although I have questions about the American Dream. When gays demanded access to ROTC, I asked why? I have the same feeling about woman demanding the right to fight in combat. Currently there are some Dreamers who are asking for the right to join the armed forces. In every case, it is part of the American Dream – of being American – of trying to prove you are an American. I wonder if this should be so, especially if the American Dream includes an imperialist foreign policy.

It is baffling that these targets of discrimination believe in the American Dream when so many of us who are citizens are disillusioned with it. Someone would say we are pessimistic or that we have suffered a loss of nationalism – maybe so!

Some people exist on dreams. It is natural for human beings to want a better life – that is why we have revolutions. Everyone whether they are brown or white wants a better life.

The American Dream has been constructed by fashion magazines, the media and motion pictures. The United States has the material trappings that most of the rest of the world lack.

It is similar to what Carey McWilliams calls the “Fantasy heritage” – the mystique surrounding California. John Steven McGroarty in Mission Memories (1929) wrote, “California was the happiest land the world had ever known. There was peace and plenty, and hospitality became a religion. Song and laughter filled the sunny mornings.” Magazines and the movies popularized this “American apotheosis.”

According to geographer Don Mitchell, the myth created a disconnect between image and reality. Mitchell used a scene from The Grapes of Wrath to demonstrate his point: The Joads travelling from Oklahoma through inhospitable land reach the crest of the Tehachapi Pass and look down at the San Joaquin Valley – the California Eden.

Pa Joad: “I never knowed there was anything like her.” Ma Joad: “Thank God! The fambly’s here.” They drive on down into the valley. As they get closer they see the suffering families of all races. Starving children; suffering of the workers — discrimination.

The “Fantasy heritage” that McWilliams talks about is the selective appropriation of historical fact. Instruments of oppression such as the missions and ranchos are romanticized. It is as if Hollywood were writing history.

When I was a child my father would tell me about life. He would grow solemn and say, “I don’t want you to make the same mistakes that I did.” He thought that if he told me his experiences I would not get hurt. Of course, I made the same mistakes; I pursued the dreams of my time.

The best way not to make mistakes is to live life, look behind the landscape, and to do that you have to get close to it. My greatest criticism of Chicana/o scholars is that like their white counterparts, they are creating impressionistic landscapes — never separating the dream from reality. They are learning history in translation. Thus, they recycle their chismes, never living or waking up, never seeing life in the original.

Not long ago a group of graduate students wanted a course on anarchism. I told them to go to anarchist meetings; you can never know an environment without knowing what is behind the landscape.

It is not that you acquire knowledge solely by doing. Literature, history and the arts all add to your appreciation of what you see.

Reading the works of Spanish dramatist Pedro Calderón de la Barca’s (1600-1681) informed me. ”La vida es sueño” told me a lot about life (dreams).

La vida es sueño” is about Segismundo, a Polish prince, who is banished to a prison when he is born – a prophesy tells the king that his son, Segismundo, will be a cruel king. He sends the infant to prison. When he reaches adulthood, the king relents. He brings him to the court and tells him the truth. Segismundo drunk with power and anger, acts out the prophesy. The horrified king drugs the prince, and returns him to the prison. When he awakens he does not know whether he is dreaming or awake,

o sueño que estoy aquí
de estas prisiones cargado,
y soñé que en otro estado
más lisonjero me vi.
¿Qué es la vida? Un frenesí.
¿Qué es la vida? Una ilusión,
una sombra, una ficción,
y el mayor bien es pequeño:
que toda la vida es sueño,
y los sueños, sueños son
 
I dream that I am here
by these gaols burdened,
and I dreamed that in another condition
happier I saw myself.
What is life? A frenzy.
What is life? An illusion,
A shadow, a fiction,
And the greatest good puny is;
For life entire is a dream,
And the dreams, nothing but dreams are.

Segismundo is freed by his father’s enemies, and he defeats his father in battle. As he is about to kill the king, he relents, what if it is all a dream: “if a dream taught me this wisdom, and if I still fear I may wake up and find myself once more confined in prison? And even if this should not happen, merely to dream it is enough. For this I have come to know, that all human happiness finally ceases, like a dream.”

But, if we don’t wake up, how can we tell if it is a dream or real? Our dreams may very well turn out to be nightmares for others.

Rodolfo Acuña, Ph.D., is an historian, professor emeritus, and one of various scholars of Chicano studies, which he teaches at California State University, Northridge. He is the author of Occupied America: A History of Chicanos. Dr. Acuña writes various opinions on his Facebook page and allows sites to share his thoughts.