Category Archives: Articles

Rights and Illusions

For every right there is a corresponding duty. We have the right to free speech, but we also have the corresponding duty that our speech is truthful and does not limit the rights of others. “Every duty supposes a corresponding right, and every right a duty: right and duty are correlative and inseparable,” In my view privileges are softer. You have the privilege of driving, not the right. With a privilege there is a corresponding obligation (not duty).

I am going through this exercise because we should think about our rights and duties, our privileges and obligations. We have the right of free speech but like an academic paper it has to be based on fact. We have the right to write but also the duty to base it on the truth.

While I do not like the FBI, I cannot but marvel on Mueller’s methodology at getting to the truth that has nothing to do about morality but everything with what the truth is. It has nothing to do with who did it but with elections. People vote, they have the right to vote and the right to expect free outcomes. However, elections throughout the world are not free and both the Russians and the United States are trampling on the rights of other individuals. In both instances Russia and the U.S. have violated the rights of others denying them the right to vote.

It is like talking about the right to have a gun. What are the duties in carrying a gun and what is the duty of the state that gives that right? There is no denying that state has the the right to grant this right; however, what is its duty? What are the rights of people who do not have guns? I could go on and on but the truths uncovered by the Mueller investigation will go for naught if we do not admit that our elections are not free. The elections of other nation are not free because of our interference. Democracy is a hoax or at least an illusion.

Rudy Acuña

Los Angeles Herald Examiner (March 13, 1988)

From – Los Angeles Herald Examiner (March 13, 1988)

itle – “The West Side’s unfair shot at Richard Alatorre”

For the past two weeks, my West Side friends have been calling me to ask why Councilman Richard Alatorre voted against measure that would have made it easier for the City Council to revoke the ordinances allowing Occidental Petroleum to drill for oil in the Pacific Palisades. The question reminded me of my junior-high teaching days, when my white colleagues would always ask me to explain why Chicano students were misbehaving, or why Chicanos had so many babies.

Some members of the press have certainly been no help. One explanation of Alatorre’s vote has it that the councilman was angry at the West Side “political machine” of Democratic Congressmen Howard Berman and Henry Waxman because it supported then-Assemblywoman Gloria Molina, not his candidate, for the newly created Latino 1st District seat. Supposedly, Molina received machine money. Alatorre thus voted for Palisades drilling to get even with the West Side machine, and, at the same time, collect a few political chips from Mayor Tom Bradley, who didn’t want to face the issues yet again.

For starters, the account’s implicit portrayal of Molina as the little sister of the rich, white liberal West Siders is sexist and racist. She simply doesn’t need progressive white males, wherever they may live, to protect her from East Side machos. Ask Alatorre. Furthermore, Molina says that she received only a small donation from Berman, not the Berman-Waxman machine, which, in any case, is hardly preoccupied with any significant East Side concerns.

Second, I have known Alatorre for more than 20 years. If revenge was on his mind, he certainly would not have been barely audible, as news accounts described it, when voicing his “no” vote. That kind of meekness is not in his character. Alatorre enjoys paying the role of Big Daddy. He’s even belligerent at times. It is unthinkable that he would have stuck the knife in without smiling, as he did when he abandoned then-Assemblyman Berman in the latter’s bid for the speaker of the Assembly in 1980.

Why Alatorre voted the way he did can only remain the subject of speculation. Much more important is the feeling among my West Side friends, and no doubt among others who live there, that the councilman should be punished for siding with Occidental.

Truth be told, Latinos have little reason to empathize with West Side angst over Palisades oil drilling much less sympathize with the liberal supporters of Berman-Waxman. Latinos remember that Congressman Berman was one of the leading architects of the immigration laws that now threatens to keep thousands of immigrants underground in America. Neither has he nor any other West Side politician decried the toxic waste yards on the East Side or opposed dumping prisons in minority neighborhoods. Gang activity, and the economic deterioration that feeds it, in East Los Angeles is hardly noticed until gang-related violence hits close to their homes.

Moreover, East Siders remember that it was another West Side liberal machine in the 1960s, led by then-Councilwoman Rosalind Wyman, that pitted Latinos against blacks and appointed a non-Mexican to fill Edward R. Roybal’s seat on the City Council after his election to Congress, then reappointed his district to make it impossible to elect a Latino for the next two dozen years. And it was that same machine that joined with conservative business forces in Los Angeles to wipe out Latinos’ homes in Bunker Hill and Chavez Ravine.

Unlike Alatorre, I would have voted against Occidental because the company’s oil drilling plan unduly risks polluting the surrounding environment. No doubt, my motives, too, would have been fair game for a news media reflexively suspicious of Latinos who hold political power. How could I, they would ask, vote against a project that could mean more city dollars, as a result of oil royalties, going to the East Side? Regrettably, such scrutiny is never applied to the motives of whites when voting on our pet projects.

la china has a name

la china has a name

By

Rodolfo F. Acuña

Names have meaning. They tell you an awful lot about people. In my case I remember faces but have a hard time remembering my students’ names resorting to giving them nicknames. It is easy for me to rationalize the habit since I come from a culture where it seems as if everyone has a nickname. Many of these names in English would be offensive. For instance, in some places in Mexico if a person is chubby we call them la gorda or el gordo. In English it would be crude if not offensive to refer to someone as the fat one.

I could go on and on. In Spanish it is not uncommon to refer to someone as el feo or la fea (the ugly one). They are often terms of endearment. In English, however, to call someone who is not a stereotype beauty ugly could be fighting words.

While playful, this habit can be rude. My wife, Lupita, for instance resents meeting people dozens of times at events and having to gently correct people who refer to her as “Rudy’s wife.” I can almost hear her say, “My name is Lupita.”

In or relationships with other groups it is not a matter of political correctness to call them by their name. Increasingly we refer to someone as the Mexican or the Black. We increasingly generalize – every Asian son chinos. I have heard pilipinos correct people for referring to them as chinos.  “La china has a name” just like my wife has a name.

My only excuse is numbers and a bad memory for names. I cannot blame it on the culture.

This Guy, that guy or that guy

As you age your memory becomes very vivid. The other day at Marta’s home I was fascinated by the interplay between Jonathan and Anaya, it brought back memories of my childhood and my sister Teresa. My sister was in all respects the alpha dog of my family. She seemed take ownership of everything. At the photo shoot our first communion she kept pinching me and when I complained she told my father that it was I pinching her. Tere was a terror and she was always sure that my parents would take her side and blame me. As we entered our teenage years she always wanted to tag along. I did not appreciate her messing up my movidas. Tere always relied on my parents telling me, “Take care of your sister.” And I would have to take her to the movies and dances.  I knew I was losing when saw tears rolling down her cheeks as she mocked me. At the dances my sister took ownership of the floor. Like a queen she bounced to the rhythms of the cha cha, the rumba and boogie woogie. Not wanting to get into trouble I would tell her not to dance with this guy, that guy and that guy. Once on the dance floor Tere did what she wanted and danced with this guy, that guy and that guy. Heckled by my cousins and friends I found it honor bound to hit this guy, that guy and that guy. My sister walked home with the biggest smile on her face.

Appropriation of Dreams

Appropriation of Dreams
By 
Rudy Acuña

It has taken me a couple of days to get over Dump’s state of the union, especially the statement that “Americans are dreamers, too.” This is from an illiterate rich man who bought his way into college with rents his father gouged from the poor. A man who evaded military service and whose only dreams are wet.

The first record of my family members in what is in the United States date to El Paso in the 1760s and Tucson in 1776. I do not say this as a matter of pride but a matter of contrition because I realize that those ancestors were not always just and that their individual dreams often prevented others from dreaming.

I thank my parents for making me a Mexican which I believe helps me understand the dreams of others and partially makes me a better human being. Everyone has the right to dream — rich and poor– not only those who steal elections and use government as a means to accumulate capital to prevent others from dreaming.

I thought maybe Americans would be as fortunate as Segismundo en “la vida es sueño” and would realize that their dreams created nightmares for others. Then came the letter of LULAC President Roger C. Rocha, Jr of Laredo where discrimination has a history and I woke up. This is an enabler of Dump who brown noses him in search of a chamba and the ability to rob others of dreams.

I have no recourse but to recall Segismundo’s words:

Yo sueño que estoy aquí
destas 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.

They awaken me to the reality that the Dumps and the Rocha’s of the world will never let others to dream. It took imprisonment in a tower for Segismundo to realize this. The Dumps and the Rochas must be taken down so others can dream.

The Night of the Hunter: I Hate Hyocrisy

Trump Report Card Based on the Ten Commandments

By

Rodolfo F. Acuña

There is a rash of proposals to require the reading the Ten Commandments aloud and posting them in public places. Actually I would not object to these suggestions if the people proposing them would read them and know their meaning. Unfortunately the proposal is driven by opportunistic politicians who have never read them and ill-educated ministers who have a limited knowledge of theology. The result is stupid statements such as Donald Trump went to houses of prostitution to take the word of God to the prostitutes. This sophistry deems the sex workers and distorts and offends the truth.

            Any discussion of the Ten Commandments must put them into context. First of all, there is no single set of commandments. Second who is correct? The Catholics, the Jews or the Protestant? They all have their own version and interpretations. The truth is that the Ten Commandments are being used to obfuscate the abuses of Donald Trump. Therefore, it would seem appropriate if we seriously graded Trump based on what the commandments say and not what is being said. In this exercise, I will co-mingle the Catholic version with popular editions of the Ten Commandments.

               The first commandment says, “I am the Lord thy God, thou shalt not have any strange gods before Me.” This commandment varies in meaning. For many, it means that only Catholics will go to heaven. At one time, Catholics applied it to apostates such as Mike Pence who denied their Catholic religion. When I was a kid, it was anyone who did not accept salvation through Jesus. Somehow, the apostate betrayed Jesus. Back in the Middle Ages, it was pretty big deal and people got burned at the stake.  

             The next commandment: “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain,” is simplistically applied  to swearing or blasphemy, However, as I was taught a more expansive meaning that included “You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God.” For example, swearing that something was true and lying in God’s name violated this commandment. Taking and not keeping oaths to tell the truth or to support the truth of the statement were a violation of second commandment.

            The third commandment applies to Trump and the 1 percent. “You shall not make yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.” The graven image today is symbolic of the exhibition of excessive wealth and ostentatious behavior. Obsessive bragging is part of this. It could include material displays such as The Mar-a-Lago Club that consume and determine your priorities.  

            The fourth commandments is almost forgotten. “Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day.” At one time this commandment was strictly adhered to and even playing sports such as golf was prohibited. Many believed that the day was reserved for good works. To improve the lives of others so we could all go to heaven. Today, time is money. We no longer live in communities or worship God as a community.

            The fifth “Honor thy father and mother” greatly depends on your interpretation. It does not mean parents should dictate who you marry, but it does underscore your duty to care for them in old age. An obvious offense would be the elimination of social security or medical care.  Hebrew society was strict about caring for the elderly, disabled, young and the poor. The present “Blade Runner” homelessness would offend ear;y Christians.

            The sixth “Thou shalt not kill” is not as cut and dry as the murder innocent people or repelling an unjust aggressor. It is a matter of morality. For instance, bombing people who in no way threaten you is against this commandment.  Seeing half the world starving to death and doing nothing about violates the natural law. Just like you have the duty to intervene in a rape or brutal attack, you have a duty to others. According to the Jesuit theologians that I took classes from, you are your “brother’s keeper.”

               The seventh, “Thou shalt not commit adultery” has consumed Christians especially thos who want to divert attention from their supposed indiscretions. Strictly it involves having sex with another person’s spouse or cheating on your spouse. It also means not scheming on employees wives. The evangelical ministers are making this commandment worthless. They have stripped it of the little moral authority it had. The commandment has been used to spread witness in condemning sexual preferences. Like the other commandments, its validity rests on moral authority, which the Trump era is invalidating.  No one likes hypocrisy. The Catholic Church kept a religious empire together  as long the people gave it moral authority.

            The eighth commandment “Thou shalt not steal” goes well beyond taking something that does not belong to you. When I was studying theology, it also meant lying; it meant speaking falsehoods or intentionally deceiving someone. At one time, the Catholic Church also considered usury, the loaning of money for exploitative interest rates to be a mortal sin.  Specifically, Trumps cheating workers out of pay would be considered.  

            The Ninth Commandment “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” is about the splendor and the beauty of the truth. The truth is essential to our lives. Fake news is slander. Without the truth there can be no trust, and without trust there can be no relationships. We may not seek to damage our neighbors by giving false evidence against them.

            The Tenth Commandment is “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house his wife.” Trump boasts of trying to seduce married women. He covets the wealth of others. Finadmentlly it is about the abuse of power.

          I would be a hypocrite if I said that I consciously followed the Tend Commandments. I am an atheist. Yet I believe in standards. I believe that everyone especially elected officials should be the judged by what the believe and say. I do not want an itinerant minister claiming to be a preacher to tell me what to believe especially since they have a superficial knowledge and use this superficiality to condone injustice.

Don’t Be Afraid to Cry Wolf!

Don’t Be Afraid to Cry Wolf!

By

Rodolfo F. Acuña

Growing up in an immigrant household, I was always aware my parents were super careful as if they did not want to make mistakes. They repeated fables were such as la Llorona and the Cucuy, the mythical bogeyman. My father’s favorite fable was “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” about a shepherd who sounded the false alarm so often that when the wolf was finally there the people did not believe him so the wolf ate him up.

The fable was to caution us not to tell lies. “Peter and the Wolf” has taken more relevance lately. Immigrants are afraid of calling authorities even when present danger is present, e.g., sexual assault and homicide. No one wants to be a cry baby or an alarmist. So we often bite our tongues, afraid to set off a false alarm.

Although caution is at times good, it can be dangerous. For the past thirty-three, for example, I have not cried wolf because the Internal Revenue Service without provocation has questioned my tax returns. What is frustrating is that the auditors repeat the same questions about work related travel. It is obvious that the auditors have no background in academic research. Professors, according them, sit in libraries.

In my case, I am a professor, author, newspaper columnist, blogger and researcher. I travel a lot. The County of Los Angeles is the most populous county in the United States. LA County is larger than 40 of 50 U.S. states. Mexican America/Latino communities are larger than most nations.

This year disturbing new facts have made it clear that wolf will not go away. The IRS hit me with a multi-year audit, asking questions resolved since the 1980s. I alerted Chicano/Latino politicos that the wolf was endangering their constituents. I wrote to Xavier Becerra whose staff told me to contact my congressman. The other saviors of the Latino community did not bother replying. Perhaps they are afraid of the Big Bad Wolf.

I learned that audits in my category were no longer conducted in LA but out of Memphis, Alabama, Georgia, Missouri and Red States that are culturally and geographically alien to Los Angeles. In other words, I am being evaluated by non-academicians, people who have never published, never been in Los Angeles, and are unfamiliar with my line of work. My accountant asked for the case to be transferred to LA. The IRS agreed to but then reneged.

It gets worse: Ms. Higley (IRS FOIA Office) from Atlanta, Ga who reviewed my FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request admitted she has never been in LA, but could not honor my FOIA request because I was not specific enough. She wanted dates and specific violations. This is despite the fact that the taxpayer is not obligated to keep records for more than seven years. Ms. Higley said that the IRS destroys their records after ten years. (I commented that this is a historian’s nightmare, and precisely why Donald Trump is able to avoid paying taxes; the IRS destroys their historical memory.

I have sufficient cause to believe that I am being targeted. During my last audit circa 2012, I was able to meet with the Los Angeles IRS Office. The supervisor admitted that an agent Johnson from another office had been sent to LA specifically to audit me. According to the supervision, the Los Angeles Office had a difficult time controlling him.

It is strange that I am always audited during times of political tension. So I want to know if outside sources are fingering me. It could be just a case of harassment or have more sinister motives.

I fear that the IRS is setting a dangerous precedent. A Los Angeles Taxpayer should be reviewed by his or her peers – not by someone from Los Angeles; an auditor with enough specialized knowledge to make a reasoned judgment.

It is unreasonable for Los Angeles taxpayers to travel to southern states. The cost for my wife and I to fly to Memphis or any of those Right to work states is prohibitive. Moreover, auditors should know the work backgrounds of who they are auditing

Make America Great Again

Most people do not read history so they don’t know the extremes people go to when they are desperate. The fall prey to fake news for example. Hitler said, tell a big lie and they will believe you. Fascism does not happen overnight. Mexico had a thriving nazi movement and today with the crumbling of its civil society the fascist have come into the open. The only difference today between the sinarquistas of the past and today is that they are not being driven by the Catholic Church although as in the case of PAN there are religious fanatics. Here in the United States there has been a resurgence of white nationalism mixed with Evangelicals whose energy has produced Donald Trump. In this series I am presenting a collage of images taken from Google. Many are recent and from Mexico and the US. Desperate people seeking solutions almost always are driven by a millenarian vision. Like it or not people are empowered by wearing uniforms or red caps reading “Make America Great Again.”