I am not taking anything away from Alfonso Cuaron, his progressive credentials are impeccable and I congratulate him for opening a much neglected conversation of Mexican racism toward its indigenous people. However, Cuaron I fear had a Father Miguel Hidalgo moment. Hidalgo led a massive army made up of Indigenous followers. Rallied by Hidalgo’s grito: “¡Viva la religión y mueran los gachupines!” the Indigenous masses flocked to his revolutionary banner. His troops numbered in the tens of thousands as they approached Mexico City, but Hidalgo fearing a massacre did not attack the Azteca capital. Instead the revolution died in midstream. Cuaron like Hidalgo arrived at a similar moment of truth last night. In accepting the Oscar he said that that Roma was a critique of servants throughout the Mexico and the world putting it into the context of a class struggle, with which I do not quarrel. However, just like Hidalgo’s initial revolution the theme of the movie was much more. It was about race and maybe it is time to kill the gachupine in all of us that keeps racism against the First People alive. It is specifically about the gachupine, it is about racism.
Pilar Marrero: I agree we should all be rooting for democracy. However, I do not believe that Trump or any of his advisers or supporters will bring democracy to Valenzuela or any other country. I also want democracy for Mexicans, Latinos, Blacks and all Americans. Trump’s support of the Venezuelan oligarchs and his doublespeak are diversion that take the focus from what is happening. Today we have a war on drugs, neoliberalism and the rule of oligarchs because of the United States. I do not agree with anyone calling you ignorant because you have a progressive history. I respect you. But I do think that you are thinking with your heart and not looking at the total picture. Trump and the American oligarch’s are the enemy. Even if what they say about Maduro is true, he does not threaten me and my family as much as Trump. Maduro is not calling my mother a whore and my father a drug pusher, Trump is! I also know the Venezuelan and other Latino oligarchs. They do not like the pinche plebes, so I really cannot feel so for them.
The silence of the lambs – Rudy Acuña
I wondered how masses of people could be herded to the ovens without a fight. Today’s so-called vote on cloture reminds me that the victims of the holocaust were not unique. I ask myself “where have all the radicals gone.” In large part I blame the Democrats, they have no shame. They knew the rules and knew that Trump would obstruct. His Rasputin Mitch McConnell is the worse of them all, viagra doesn’t even help him.
Yes, there were people in the streets who I applaud but it had to be something bigger and this was up to the Democrats who like Republicans have cashed in by getting elected to public office.
Only a pendejo believed that the FBI would be impartial, the strings were controlled by Trump who has never done an honest thing in his life. I kept on looking for a counter strategy; the most I got was Dian Feinstein. IF THE PROCESS IS FLAWED, invent your own process. The Democrats have raised millions on the issue. They should have rented out the Staple Center and conducted their own investigations calling and paying for the expenses of every witness not interviewed by the FBI. The media would have picked it up and paid for entrance. When a tree falls there is no sound unless someone hears it.
Feinstein, Schumer and all the other eunuchs just sit there. A counter narrative is lost. We do not live in a democracy, civility has become censorship especially when the other side does not respect it.
The Death of Gracia Alkema
Rodolfo F. Acuñ
Lately, I have become more reflective, not because I am getting more considerate but because I am getting old. Grappling with what is surely the last edition of Occupied America that through no fault of its own has like Ulysses wandered. It started out in 1972 with Canfield Press (a division of Harper & Row and in the 1980s went under the direct supervision of Harper & Row. I worked with Gracia Alkema, a fiery editor with whom I often clashed. When things got heated she would fly down from San Francisco or I would drive up. It was a good exchange and she made frequent and valuable recommendations and changes.
You don’t have that many editors in book building today. The industry has been privatized, and a strict division of labor has taken place. No longer do you get the opportunity to work with an editor and it shows. Today everyone in the film industry wants to be the director when in truth the best trained editors as former script writers and editors. The editor like Gracia fights for their ideas and then learns to direct them.
Harper & Row was a big publisher and much more difficult to communicate than with Canfield that had small offices in San Francisco. However, for the most part, they were available, and you communicated with the editors by phone. They were part of the formation of the book. By the fourth edition I was with Longman that I did not know at the time had been gobbled up. Founded in London, England, in 1724 and it became part of Pearson PLC in 1968. Under. Longman, Pearson it used primarily as an imprint division. The tone changed and it became less personal.
By 2013 (8th Edition) the shift was complete. Communication with the editors whose function under Longman was outsourced. The new Indian editors were more concerned with production and I was a fly in the ointment that kept changing things. Unlike with Gracia there was no give and take. Initially, I had difficulty because the grammatical corrections clashed with my English. They spoke a 19th century classical English. Slowly we both adapted.
Pearson is multinational publishing and education company. Unlike Grecia its employees are not editors in the historical sense. They are concerned with the presentation of the product. The political has been strained out of the product.
Being an old man I feel like an uncle of mine at the funeral of my cousin Sandra. When they were putting her in the grave they brought out a small cigar-like box with her ashes. In a loud voice my uncle kept repeating “that’s not Sandy!”
Gracia Alkema died in 2011.
The Limitations of Research
The Search for the Truth
Rodolfo F. Acuña
When I decided to transition from high school teaching and then to community college I knew that I had to make adjustments in my career. The focus was teaching, but the doctorate opened up the field of research. Drawn to research I planned concentrate on the study of Northern Mexico and the State of Sonora.
My problem was that life had unsettled me. I was always on the hustle. A two year stint in the army, an early marriage, working over forty hours a week and carrying a full load in college, formed me. I loved teaching and my experiences in the Latin American Civic Association and reading Uncle Carlos had seduced me.
I did not plan to stay in the state university system. I knew that carrying a four course a semester load limited research opportunities. I always marveled that professors at research institutions ended their careers with only one or two books. So I made adjustments.
I did not remain chair. During the first years of the Chicana/o Studies Department, we rotated the chair annually to expose new faculty to the institution. This freed me. I did not have to go to committee meetings and I could use my summers to research. The downside was that we had no research assistants and had limited funds to support research.
In my fifty years at SFVS (aka CSUN) I received release time twice; instead of teaching four classes I taught three which is still considered a heavy load. I never begrudged this because it was my choice and being able to teach and run around the country laying intellectual pedos was my reward.
That brings me to why I am rewriting many of my early works. My father was a tailor; he worked for the Western Costume Company. I started there at the age of five sorting buttons. I met a lot of people. Western Costume was across the street from Paramount and I would sneak into the studios and watch directors shoot a scene. I found myself second guessing the director when he yelled “Cut” or “Wrap it up!” I was offered an apprenticeship as a cameraman, but I did not take it because I asked myself, “Why?”
It was just like when my father responded to the news that I got a doctorate, he asked me, “Si eres doctor que curas?” There has to be more to life than just yelling, “Cut!”
I also began to question historical biographies. I considered them useless if they did not ask, “Why?” Most are limited fictionalized accounts of a person’s life. Examples are Arthur Meier Schlesinger Jr.’s (1988) and Jon Meacham (2009) both of whom wrote biographies of Andrew Jackson. It did not believe they added much to the nation’s corpus of knowledge. In effect, the works are apologies for a racist who launched genocidal wars on Indigenous People.
My last book Assault on the Mexican American’s Collective Memory, 2010–2015: Swimming with Sharks was a micro-narrative of the period from 2010 to 2016. I struggled with it because it forced me to go beyond the story. History is not entertainment.
A book must be true; it is not become true because I said it is. In this context documentaries are no longer about the truth. The contrary they are propaganda. They are not independent but the oligarchs’ efforts to institutionalize their truth. In Assault on …Memory, I discuss how oligarchs “creatively appropriate the language and issues” to fit their reality. They define the problems and the solutions interpreting the social world. Worse they define who can fix them.
The documentary Superman lays out a counter narrative. The argument is that the unions and the teachers are the bad guys. Thus the oligarchs appropriate the truth, something that is possible in the absence of a free press. I posit that a lack of critical commentary or counter narrative facilitated the Rise of Donald Trump.
Waiting for Superman is made up of two intertwining narratives. It is a masterpiece in the art of détournement meaning “rerouting, hijacking” the narrative. Superman is masterfully put together and well financed by right wing foundations and pushed by giants such as Bill Gates. In short, Waiting for Superman is a running commercial for charter schools and five kids; four are children of color from low income families in urban neighborhoods
The oligarchs first showed Waiting for Superman at the national PTA convention. “Some have wondered if … [the PTA’s] decision to promote the film has anything to do with its receipt of a $1 million donation from the Gates Foundation.” Gates’ solution to the budget crisis is for school districts to cut pension payments for retired teachers. It is part of a campaign led by plutocrats such as Eli Broad and Bill Gates to privatize public education.
The book is not going to make money, it does not entertain, but it is epistemologically sound. The truth matters!
Trump Report Card Based on the Ten Commandments
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.