Category Archives: Articles

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.”

“Their eyes in prayer, and when they opened them the land was gone”

“Their eyes in prayer, and when they opened them the land was gone”.

¿Mas sabe el diablo por viejo que por diablo?

By

Rodolfo F. Acuña

 Protecting the gains we made as a community involves more than complaining which is what most of us do. Three years ago an agreement between UNAM and Cal State Northridge touched off a prolonged confrontation that has lasted over three years. It ended with promises made by the administration that it broke once the heat was removed from its feet. In the end it did what it wanted and encroached on our area of study.  http://www.csun.edu/node/104966. The issue was and still is governance since the Chicana/o Studies Department was never consulted.

 The same thing occurred about a year ago when College of Humanities Dean Beth Say violated governance by not consulting with Chicana/o Studies about a multi-million dollar partnership with the University of Pennsylvania to mentor Latina/o students to enter doctoral programs in the Humanities. The absurdity was that people who opposed ChS and knew nothing about the community were now in charge of mentoring it.

 Valley girl Say has been an enemy of Mexican Americans since before her arrival at CSUN. As dean she has failed miserably at protecting the ChS Department’s interests or those of Mexican American students. She has made appointments from Humanities programs servicing Chicana/o students completely by-passing the ChS chair that is a violation of the department’s governance rights.

 So far ChS faculty has turned the other cheek. Many are new faculty members and do not understand the importance of governance – it is not taught in graduate school. Many of us, however, we here before Soylent Green and remember when CSUN presidents and administrators respected faculty traditions. There was a time when the faculty senate defended governance rights.

 However, we are no longer able to hold back the tide in the era of the new neoliberal university. The truth is that Hispanics are a valuable commodity too valuable to be left in the hands of a bunch of Mexicans. That is why Beth Say and Dean of Behavioral Stella Z Theodoulou (now Vice Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs) have lied and cheated.

 What makes this urgent today is the political climate. During the culture wars of the 1980s and 90s the right had not reached the point that they were in control of higher education. This has changed: the assault on governance, the growth of adjunct faculty and the imperial administration, and privatization have all minimized an intellectual response.

 In Washington, there is an administration whose purpose it is to destroy public education. Elisabeth Dee DeVos Prince was confirmed as Secretary of Education. She is known because of her support of school choice, school voucher programs, and charter schools. She has no expertise in education other than she is a billionaire and contributes heavily to Republicans.

 (Her brother Erik Prince is a war profiteer. He is the founder of Blackwater and is meeting with Trump proposing the privatization of the Afghanistan War. In 2007, Blackwater Security Consulting, a private military company, killed 17 and injured 20 civilians in Baghdad)

 DeVos in 2001 singled out education reform as a way to “advance God’s kingdom.” She is now in a position that she can do a lot of damage since she has the money and she is well connected working with powerhouse charter school advocates such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

 In California almost everyone has said the right thing in protecting the Dreamers and undocumented immigrants. However, not everyone is happy with this. Washington and right wing foundations are an important revenue stream for the CSU and this has led by Chancellor Timothy White to be careful not to upset the xenophobes. White’s policy has been “No ‘sanctuary’ at Cal State University, but no cooperation with Trump” reminiscent of Trump’s “I think there is blame on both sides,” statement on Charlottesville.

 Many of us are watchful and concerned with the CSU’s so-called General Education Breadth Requirements— Executive Order 1100 an executive order that supersedes Executive Order 1065. It was recommended by the Academic Senate CSU and focuses on Area D Social Sciences.

 (The State Faculty Center since the 1980s under W. Ann Reynolds has become a cheerleader for CSU Chancellors and part of the Old Boys Club. See: FRANK del OLMO. RODOLFO ACUNA, “Cal State Admission Plan Makes Naive Assumption,” Los Angeles Times, Jan 12, 1985, pg. B2 pg. 5.  “Bad Teachers: Putting the University on the Spot, Too; [Home Edition],” Los Angeles Times, Feb 14, 1985.  Response from the CSU Academic Senate, “Admission Standards; [Home Edition],” Los Angeles Times, Feb 7, 1985, pg. 4)                

 Executive Order 1100 returns us to the culture Wars of the 1990s when Arthur Schlesinger Jr published The Disuniting of America: Reflections on a Multicultural Society (1998). Right wing Culture warriors accused multiculturalists of being un-American and joining forces with Marxists to attack Western Civilization.

 It real terms Executive Order 1100 is a direct attack on women studies, ethnic studies, Chicana/o Studies, Africana Studies, Asian Studies, Gender and Women Studies and other courses designed to integrate the disparate people of this community. For them making America does not mean making America White.

 Without getting into a long historical narrative, General Education is the Monopoly Board of a college education. It encourages students to experiment and take classes outside their fields. A student learns about their neighbors. They become educated – they learn about music, art and geography. Chile is not only something you eat but a country.

 The authors are taking direct aim at other cultures and courses “designed to provide the knowledge, skills, experiences, and perspectives that will enable CSU students to expand their capacities to take part in a wide range of human interests and activities; to confront personal, cultural, moral, and social problems that are an inevitable part of human life; and to cultivate both the requisite skills and enthusiasm for lifelong learning.”

 A major target salvo is Section F, the Cross Cultural GE Requirement that would affect Chicana/o Studies eliminate Spanish for Chicanos, Spanish for Chicanos II, Contemporary Issues of the Chicana, Language and Society: Chicanas/os and Other Language Minority Children, World Migration and the Chicana/o, and Third World Women and the Chicana.

 It must be remembered that these courses are electives that were accepted after hundreds of hours of negotiations and oversight. Now a faculty senate with no representation from the other America makes a major decision without consulting them.    

 Now comes the fight. Well, the devil is paranoid. Who is going to represent the interests of the Other America?

 Dean Say cannot be trusted to lead the fight. Besides being incompetent, her malfeasance is legendary. Even the administration in private admits this. Vice Provost Theodoulou is smart enough but her ambitions trump her intelligent. President Harrison is too involved with her deals. Chancellor White is no Chancellor Charles Reed who would have probably rolled over but you knew he could fight.

 A lot of the fight is going to fall on the shoulders of Chicana/o Studies that has a very young faculty. You do not learn about governance in graduate courses. Is it capable of generating prolonged moral outrage? The tendency is to have meetings, talk about it; contact elected officials, and the university president.  This is all good, you experience multiple organisms. However, perhaps this is the time to stop praying and take care of our land. Let the drums roll.

Boyle Heights Gentrification

To Issac’s question on who the organizers are against gentrification in Boyle Heights? Frankly, I don’t know. However, it is not a recent development dating back to the 1940s. From what I can see they are organizers are from the area. There are many groups, for example, Carlos Montes is active in one group that has been doing good work among youth. Many have been active for some time. See Lydia Avila-Hernandez’ “The Boyle Heights Landscape: The Pressures of Gentrification and the Need for Grassroots Community Action and Accountable Development,” Urban Environmental Policy, Occidental Colleges, 2007, https://www.laprogressive.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/The-Boyle-Heights-Landscape.pdf,
 
Off the cuff what is driving the desperation is the conversion of Wyverwood Apartments to middle class units, perhaps for upper scale renters and private condos. Weinstein, a billionaire from Santa Monica is developing the old Sears complex. The USC Medical Complex and the White Memorial plan to gentrify southern half of Boyle Heights. These forces are overwhelming.
 
In the meantime there is the erosion of the core that is being eroded by hipster bars, speculators buying and flipping houses (many of the latter are white). You see other neighborhoods, e.g. Echo Park, Silver Lake, Highland Park, Lincoln Heights etc being wiped out. The toxic waste dumps are dropping toxic acids on your streets.
 
Now you are a young nationalistic, idealistic an activist, what do you do? In the sixties were were fortunate, there were communist in Boyle Heights. Veterans of the the Henry Wallace Campaigns and the 1950s. Today the veteran leadership is thinner. are you going to make mistakes? The Chicano Movement was fortunate, it had its share of communists. The young organizers are on their own. They are lashing out. Have they made mistakes? I don’t see money pouring in to bring in veteran organizers. Labor taking an active role in training them.
 
I for one take pride that Boyle Heights has done what no other community has done momentarily stopped the gentrifyers. Whether we want to acknowledge it or not this is their finest hour.