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.
In response to friend on Castro’s involvement in El Salvador: “Wendy then why was the United States financing Arena and the Salvadoran military? In was in El Salvador in 1991 and never saw a Cuban but I did encounter American military advisers. Castro can be criticized for the initial policy on LGBT but the shoe also fits the U.S. Change only began in both countries in the 1990s. You must remember Elizabeth Taylor’s valiant smuggling in of AIDS drugs. The truth be told, the world does not have a good history in re: to LGBT rights. We should all be ashamed.
Just a little story. My generation of Chicanas/os usually attended USC for graduate degrees. Many of its offering were after 4 PM and I don’t know of many Chicanas/os who had scholarships. It was the GI Bill and work. There were no freeways to UCLA that did not offer grad or regular courses after 4 PM. We usually lived in the basin and worked there so we could not afford to lose 2-3 hours driving to Westwood. Many Chicanos, Blacks and Asians were also critical UCLA being situated in Westwood and believed it should be where Cal State is today. This resentment increased when Pepperdine moved to Malibu to escape South Central. Previous to that Loyola had left inner LA.It is only until the 1960s that UCLA opened its doors. LA State, ELAC, LACC were/are the working class schools. Chicanas/os are becoming more numerous at UCLA because of the Chicana/o Movement; we should not forget that we are there because struggle and sacrifice of that movement.Lamentably USC and UCLA have become money making institutions with a third of their students being out of state and international students. How much is made on parking alone? In sum, we are at these institutions because we fought our way in not because we werw their first choice.
Thanks to see another New Year. Life has been good to me, I have remained a teacher. Got my first three degrees, BA, General Secondary and MA in History from LA State College and continued teaching a a teachers’ college. It was a gift, kept my arrogance in check. The death of others define my own mortality. 12/16
I was asked why I posted a photo on 19th century Chihuahua patriarchy because some of the remarks were frankly sexist. I published this response: ” It is part of history, it is a part we should remember and not repeat. I saw it during my research on Chihuahua,my colleague Jorge Garcia posted it to condemn it, it is part of the pretensions of Mexican Liberalism (Juarez, Diaz etc who wanted to be white) and it is being repeated today under the guise of neo-liberalism. We should have learned but didn’t, i.e., with the election of Trump.It is also my reaction to all of the postings exulting a Mexican cuisine that most poor people rarely eat. You also cannot deal with the attitudes by covering them up. Look at the photo, these are upper class Mexicans trying to be European. I am surprised that you would ask why I posted it. If the respondants are revolting they should be called out. It is like when I criticized Juarez for selling out the Mexican Indians some of my Mexican friends would not talk to me. The truth is the truth. We live in a cesspool and it will stay a cesspool for as long as we let it fester.
Is there a difference between Republicans and Democrats? The former are universally bad. Name one piece of social legislation since the 1950s and even before passed on Republican initiative. One of the things that I had against Bill Clinton is that undid much of this legislation, deregulating Wall Street and setting back welfare reform. He stepped up the War on Drugs. My criticism of Obama is that he never passed immigration reform even in his first two years. The truth be told, there has been no major social legislation out of perhaps Obama Care (a sop to the medical establishment and pharmaceuticals. However, objectively speaking Democrats are much better and do protect most social gains.
Micro Thoughts on Chicana/o Studies
Rodolfo F. Acuña
What amazes me is the lack of knowledge most educators and university professors have of pedagogy. Chicana/o Studies has been around for close to fifty years and I still hear inane questions such as why Chicana/o studies, and what is it good for. I have even been asked these questions by professional educators, practitioners who supposedly are Doctors in Education.
Chicana/o studies are part of a long tradition in academe called interdisciplinary studies that has been controversial only among less imaginative scholars. It is essentially crossing and thinking across boundaries. Historically these borders have been crossed to meet new needs.
Over a hundred years ago, we did not have the disciplines of sociology and political science that evolved from history. The new fields came about because they addressed needed knowledge such as urban and societal problems. They were experimental innovations. The problem was that as quickly as the new fields became institutionalized, they became territorial and also engaged in a disciplinary chauvinism.
Because most professors in interdisciplinary programs are trained in traditional fields, professors quickly revert to their disciplines. They take comfort in believing that their discipline places more emphasis on quantitative “rigor”. They think of themselves as “more scientific” than others; accordingly, their colleagues are seen as being in “softer” disciplines and incapable of grasping the broader dimensions of a problem.
Interdisciplinary studies are rooted area studies. They were influenced by pedagogical reformers such as John Dewey who believed in teaching the whole child. They believed in teaching the student and not the subject. Area studies focused on specific corpuses of knowledge such as countries and peoples. Thus, interdisciplinary studies became increasingly common in the United States and in Western education after World War II as the United States was forced to take a global worldview.
The war broke American isolation, forcing American universities to teach and conduct research on the non-Western world. The areas of foreign area studies before this were rare. After the war, liberals and conservatives alike became concerned about the U.S. ability to respond effectively to perceived external threats from the Soviet Union and China and the Cold War. The anti-colonial wars were reshaping world history.
In this context, the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Carnegie Corporation convened a series of meetings to address this knowledge deficit, and the need to invest in international studies. The U.S. could no longer ignore the rest of the world.
The Ford Foundation was the dominant player in shaping the area studies program. From 1953 to 1966, it contributed $270 million to 34 universities for area and language studies. The National Defense Education Act of 1957, later renamed the Higher Education Act in 1965, allocated funds to universities for Area Studies and Foreign Language instruction.
The argument for Latin American, Asian and African Studies is simple. It is s a more efficient and holistic way of teaching about a country or area of studies. Learning a people’s language is not enough. A state department agent had to know the language, history, culture, literature of the country she or he would work in.
Many of us in the sixties believed that the same principle applied to Mexican American students whose population is today larger than most Latin American nations. Teachers like state department employees should know their audience. Knowing a couple of words in Spanish and eating enchiladas was not enough. A teacher should be an expert in the field of study.
Sadly the eurocentrism of society, the schools and the teachers has prevented this from happening and most teachers and schools have insisted in retaining a failed American model. Educational reform in the United States is very difficult.
I was once optimistic and believed that if we built a model program at California State University Northridge that institutions of higher education would examine the model. We have been extremely successful offering 166 sections per semester – employing 28 tenure track and over adjunct professors. Like they used to say in the army – never happen G.I. – not in our time.
My first tenure track position at the state college level was at Dominguez Hills State College. I had high hopes that I would be able to start a Mexican American Studies program there. The college was first scheduled to open on Paloverdes Peninsula, a wealthy sector of Los Angeles. It would be the 18th campus in the statewide system. However, land values soared on the peninsula. This led the California State College and University Board of Trustees to settle “on a 346-acre campus in Carson, overlooking junk yards, oil wells and tract housing.” What saved the college was the Watts Riots that pointed to the need for the site.
Its first president Leo Cain, a leader in special education, had hopes of making into a liberal college with experimental courses. In an interview Cain said that there was considerable discussion that the curricular offerings would be interdisciplinary. “The two issues that we talked about a lot were the interdisciplinary part…and the second issue was…we would not have a School of Education. We would make teacher education interdisciplinary and we would have all segments of the college work on the teacher education program. It was interesting, but it didn’t really work out that way, as you know.”
Cain had earned his bachelor’s degree at Chico State and master’s and doctoral degrees at Stanford. He also taught in public schools, and served in the Navy during World War II. He wanted to build a “small college” for undergraduates within the larger College that would be an experimental laboratory for higher educa¬tion – “this college-within-a-college will test a variety of curricular plans and will serve as a training ground for graduate students planning a career in college teaching.” Cain retired before this was full implemented.
I came out of an interdisciplinary background. I had a Master of Arts from Cal State LA in American history and an MA and PhD from USC in Latin American Studies that included History (Latin American and Mexican), International Relations, Spanish American and Brazilian Literature.
At Dominguez Hills we had extensive discussions on the curriculum. In essence the student was required to have two majors – an Area Studies and a discipline. At first I believed that this would be compatible for the creation of Mexican American Studies. However, there was dissatisfaction among the disparate disciplines as well as power struggles. As an assistant professor I was an outsider.
At the time the Mexican population in the surrounding area was not large with most Mexican Americans went to Long Beach State. So when the opportunity to go to San Fernando State College presented itself with the specific mandate to start a MAS program I accepted. The San Fernando Valley had a growing Mexican American population and it was home.
It almost seems ridiculous that at this time educators question what area studies are. Frantz Fanon, a trained psychiatrist, acknowledged when he moved to Algeria that he had to learn the national culture of the the people. He had to learn the language, history and culture of the people before he could understand and cure them. Apparently most educators do not hold themselves to the same standard.