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Archive for the ‘Multicultural Influences’ Category

According to several reports, Rush Limbaugh has been rushed to a hospitlal in Honolulu after complaining about heart problems or something.

The name of the hospital hasn’t been included in most of the newspapers, but one reported that it was the Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu.

That sounds right because Queen’s is the flagship hospital in the State of Hawai, if not in the Pacific region, and it has some of the best heart specialists in the nation on its staff. In that respect, Rush is fortunate.

On the otherhand, he may feel a wee mite uneasy. Queen’s staff consists primarily of Asians or Hawaii residents of Asian and Pacific Islands ancestry. There are a few staff who look like Rush, but not many. And I wonder, considering Rush’s well-known antipathy to anything non-white, how he is managing his daily interpersonal relationships.

The people of Hawaii are quite nice and pleasant and they tend to say nice things to others because the nature of the culture of Hawaii is, for the most part, non-confrontational.

On the other hand, they do not like what they refer to as “loud mouthed Haoles.” The word Haole in its original definition means simply “foreigner” or someone from a different place, although somewhere in my memory banks, I have this feeling that it may have referred to a white flower.

Be that as it may, Haole has become, in one sense, a derogatory term, as in, for example, “that damned Haole” or “that freakin’ Haole,” usually with a variation of the spelling of the word freakin’.

Rush Limbaugh’s radio personality is a perfect model of the Hawaii concept of a loud-mouthed Haole–verbal volume on extra high, opinionated,  critical of local ways and customs, superior in all respects, and condescending.

One would hope that Rush wouldn’t invoke his entertainer’s persona while a doctor or nurse from, for example, the Phillipines was busily engaged in ministering to his medical needs. These professionals would continue their treatment, but eventually, somehow, the word would get around. Lips flap even in professional circles.

Given Rush’s monetary situation, he may have called in his personal physician in an advisory role or he may have asked for a referral from his doctor.

Another possibility is that Rush in real life may be a decent human being and, consequenty, he may treat the local folks with the respect they deerve.

Sadly, I am in Texas at the moment and have no access to the ever-floating gossip that goes around below the radar in Hawaii. One of these days, though, the story of Rush’s stay in a Honolulu hospital will get around.

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Or is it?

You’ll pardon me, I hope, if I descend into the murky depths of illicit affairs, which I take in this instance to mean sexual relations outside of marriage.

I’m thinking right now of South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford and his Argentine inamorata. Reports from Argentina have referred to her as a 43-year old professional woman of uncommon beauty. Sanford is 49, so the age range is in line with general expectations.

The element in this romance that strikes me as interesting is the appearance of the two. Given that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, we are, nonetheless, prone to accept reports that the woman is pretty darned good looking.

Sanford, on the other hand, altghough tall and with a commanding presence by virtue of that alone, doesn’t have the face of a Hollywood idol. He has close-set eyes that some may describe as beady. And a long, narrow nose reminiscent of the noses of some species of lower primates. Plus, he seems to have a perpetual five o’clock shadow.

As your typical generic Anglo-Saxon male, I am thus naturally prone to ask, “What does she see in that guy?”

In fact, when I look at Sanford’s face, I am reminded of an old Mickey Gilley honky-tonk song, “The Girls All Get Prettier at Closing Time.”

The song clearly suggests that a woman’s attractiveness increases in proportion with the amount of alcohol consumed by the male. I hold that the rule also applies to women. The more booze a woman consumes, the handsomer a generic will appear to be.

I am not suggesting that Sanford’s inamorata has to get loaded to engage in an affair with him. But Sanford surely must possess some sort of characteristic that transforms him into a desirable male, a characteristic that acts on the female brain much in the manner of booze, a characteristic that casts a soft glow around his entire being.

In my judgement, power is that characteristic. As pudgy Henry Kissinger once said, “Power is an aphrodisiac.” This once-Secretary of State ought to know. He used to squire some of Hollywood’s most beautiful women around town.

And now, generic Sanford is the beneficiary of the essence of Kissinger’s pithy homily. If only the rest of us plain folks were as fortunate, how sweet it would be.

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Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne envisions a world without print journalism in his on-line column today. It isn’t pretty for the legions of working journalists and would-be-journalists.

Under the rules of a capitalist economic system, print journalism will be replaced by some form of electronically-transmitted news.  Dionne uses a nice analogy, however, to hold out hope for inveterate news readers.

General Motors may disappear under the capitalistic onslaught, but cars will continue to be manufactured by other companies.

In like manner, hard-copy newspapers may fade away, but the news will always with us, albeit in a different form and transmitted by different means.

To legions of old-line newspaper readers, that could be a life-altering experience. Scrolling through a news source with a mouse in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other just doesn’t seem like the proper way to start a day.

Needless to say, the newspaper industry is striving mightily to remain relevant and competitive with internet news sources, but it has been a losing battle. Major papers from coast to coast have disappeared and more may follow.

If there is a bright spot, it may lie in small town papers. Many have also bitten the dust, but there are still a few thousand daily papers rolling off the presses every day.

Another saving approach could lie in specialization. Most newspapers, large and small, attempt to satisfy everyone. Thus, papers are crammed with embellishments like crossword puzzles, Sudoko challenges, recipes, comic strips, and society gossip, to name a few. Economics has already forced many papers out of the generalist business by eliminating some of these special features.

Further specialization in the kind of news a paper chooses to include may also reduce content, as papers strive to appeal to a special audience, such as those interested solely in politics, business, or cultural matters.

Business publications have enjoyed a modicum of economic stability for a long time. Other specialized models may follow as the survival shakeout continues.

I am reminded of a small, foreign language newspaper in Hawaii once edited by a friend of mine. Honolulu has had two major dailies for centuries, yet the state of Hawaii also has several smaller papers aimed at specific ethnic groups.

The paper I am thinking about is the Hawaii Hochi. It’s small as papers go, but it prints its front page in English and its inner content in Japanese, and to meet its needs, the paper employs both an English-page editor and a Japanese news editor.

The remarkable aspect about the Hochi is its continued existence despite a shrinking population of Japanese readers. Even so, it has seen its own hard times in the face of a declining readership. It has managed to stay around by branching into other fields, such as job printing. At one time, it published special editions funded by businesses, governments, or educational institutions that wish to commemorate special occasions.

In short, the Hochi has adapted to the capitalist business mode and has stuck it out through thick and thin.

Could such a model work elsewhere? Yes, but it would require a reevaluation of just what is print journalism. For one thing, journalists would need to perform multi-functions. One day, a journalist might cover city hall. The next day, he or she may be assigned to collect information about a company’s history and write the copy for a centennial edition.

Whichever model comes out a winner in the long run, I am sure of one thing. Hard-copy newspapers are not going to disappear entirely. It’s just too satisfying to lean back and prop your feet up during your morning coffee break and doze behind the safety of a large newspaper.

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I’m assuming (yes, I know we shouldn’t) that the Republicans will forgo any and all benefits that may come their way from the positive results of Obama’s stimulus package.

For example, if their coveted portfolios rise in value, I would expect them to flat refuse the increased monetary value and donate the gains to charity. I believe it is only fair that one who opposes America’s President to the death on principle ought, as gentlemen and gentlewomen continue to stand on their iron-bound adherence to the values of fiscal conservatism and courage. Here are a few other potentially profitable areas that all good Republicans must resist:

  • Infrastructure assistance to their state or district.
  • Farm subsidies.
  • Small business start-up funds.
  • Faith-based initiatives.
  • Tax cuts.

Good conscience demands that the Republicans resist accepting the benefits of the preceding and many more that have yet to be named. There is one perk, however, that Obama should offer and that the Republicans are duty-bound to accept, a one-way ticket to Americana, Brazil.

Americana is a community established by Southern settlers at the End of the Civil War. Today, the original settlement has grown to a metropolis of more than 200,000 people. Each year, the original founders are honored with a celebration in a local cemetery.

I feel certain Americana’s population would heartily welcome such prominent politicians as John Boehner and the Leader of the Republican Party, Rush Limbaugh.

I wonder how Limbaugh is pronounced in Portuguese.

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Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

These words constitute in total the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Do you notice anything striking about them?

Read again the first five words: Congress shall make no law…

Given these plain words-Congress shall make no law— how do we explain the many limits on personal freedoms we find in the history of our country? For example, if Congress shall make no law against whites and blacks assembling together, how do we explain a 165-plus year history of enforced segregation in the U.S.?

If Congress shall make no law against the marriage of whites and other races, or of the marriage of members of the same sex, how do we explain a history of governments forcibly preventing those marriages?

One potential answer may lie in this question. Do those words say, “the state of Nebraska shall make no law” or “a corporation shall make no rule” or “a religious organization shall make no canon” or “the president shall make no signing statement?”

The answer of course is no, and therein lies the source of almost all socially and culturally restrictive laws in the United States. The restrictions mentioned and others were and still are a product of state laws.

How can this be? How can states make laws that violate the Constitution? That’s a leading question. These laws do not violate the Constitution. The legal rationale is simple when you think about it: the Constitution doesn’t specifically prohibit the states from enacting restrictive laws; therefore, the states are free to place restrictions on civil rights.

Ordinary individuals use the same logic in their daily lives. “Well, officer, the sign doesn’t say I can’t make a U-Turn.” I used that very defense when I made a U-Turn right in front of a San Francisco motorcycle police officer who promptly proceeded to follow me into a parking garage and issue a ticket.

Looking at the matter in historical context and constitutionally-relevant terms, the First Ten Amendments, AKA the Bill of Rights, did not originally apply to the states, and even now, a few of those pesky First Ten Amendments to the Constitution still do not restrict state action. How can this be in the 21st Century? Consider:

  • 1833. The Marshall Supreme Court concluded there was no expression in the Bill of Rights “indicating an intention to apply [guarantees of the Bill of Rights] to the State governments. This court cannot so apply them.” From David M. Obrien’s Constitutional Law and Politics: Volume II, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.
  • 1845. The Marshall ruling reaffirmed.
  • 1922. Supreme Court rules “the Constitution of the United States imposes upon the states no obligation to confer upon those within its jurisdiction…the right to free speech.” From O’Brien.
  • Present. Marshall’s original ruling of 1833 has never been reversed by the Supreme Court or otherwise expressly overruled. O’Brien.

Why would the all-seeing, all-knowing Founders have omitted a restriction on state power? To begin with, the Founders were the products of their time and place and an existing social and cultural order with all of the attendant norms. The “people of the United States” were previously British colonists whipped around at the whim of King George. When they gained independence, they decided that any central government they created would have no such power over their lives.

The Founders did not, could not, have foreseen the evolution of American society from an agrarian, loosely connected conglomeration of isolated communities into an industrial and military world power.  Hence, they created a federal system in which almost all power was retained by the states, including the power to restrict the civil liberties of all resident’s within their respective borders if they so chose.

The question now is how or by what mechanism have we reached a point in our constitutional history when most of the restrictive state laws and state constitutions no longer have effect? Did we suddenly become enlightened and eliminate them? No. Almost all of the laws and discriminatory portions of state constitutions were invalidated one by one by the U.S. Supreme Court under a concept called the Nationalization of the Bill of Rights or sometimes the Selective Nationalization of the Bill of Rights.

Some examples will serve to illustrate the snail’s pace at which fundamental rights became available to citizens by Supreme Court rulings rather than through state legislative action.

  • 1927 Freedom of speech
  • 1931 Freedom of the press
  • 1934 Freedom of religion
  • 1958 Freedom of Association
  • 1965 Right to privacy

Some have characterized the Supreme Court’s actions as interference in state’s rights. Others have used terms such as “activist judges” who “legislate from the bench.” The legal terminology is Judicial Review, a practice originating with the Marshall Court in which federal courts may under some circumstances review state actions for constitutionality. Almost all cases involving civil rights were taken to the U.S. Supreme Court because state legislatures and state courts failed to provide relief through the political process.

In one well-known case, Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court invalidated the 50-year old practice of separate but equal facilities under which many states prevented the integration of the races in schools. Subsequent to this ruling, President Eisenhower used federal troops to integrate Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas.

There followed numerous school integration clashes in the South, notably one in which the governor of Alabama, George Wallace, vowed  “I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say, segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.”

This archaic attitude exemplifies the philosophy of those who even today wish to roll back the Constitutional clock. Despite the recent election of Barack Obsma as the first black President of the United States, the old Confederate states and their scattered allies haven’t forgotten the indignity of being forcibly dragged kicking and screaming into the modern world through the process of Judiaicl Review.

They forget that had they demonstrated a decent respect for the civil rights of everyone, not just the influential and landed gentry, the Civil War would not have occurred and over 500,000 Americans would never have died in a futile and destructive war. In wars, the best and brightest die. The worst remain to poison future generations.

Now, the worst are already calling for an end to affirmative action and other programs established to aid the disadvantaged among us based on the rationale that Obama’s election proves the U.S. is free of racial bias. Blacks no longer need a bootstrap to haul themselves up by.

All Americans should resist these call. If those forces who now cry for white equality had granted equality to others in the past, they wouldn’t have sufferred the embarassment and indignity of forty years of losing to the civil rights movement. “Legisltating from bench” would never have become a revisionist rallying cry for bigots at the expense of decent and well meaning Americans. Hurray for the triumph of Marshal and the triumph of judicial reciew.

Notes:

1. 1. The rationale for the Nationalization of the Bill of Rights is frequently said to be based on the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which reads in part, “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

2. I wrote this essay several years ago. Some progress has been made in the arenas of civil and political rights, but social progress remains problematic despite the election of Barak Obama as America’s first black president. This morning I spoke with a resident of East Texas. I asked in the N word was still used in Texas. Her reply was quick and to the point. “Yes, every other word out of the mouths of the Anglos as she referred to them is N….r.” East Texas is a small part of Texas and of the United States, but my own broader experiences tell me this is representative of the attitudes in many parts of the U.S. Archaic mind sets are alive and well.


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I don’t know why, but people are always asking me if I am Mexican. They don’t say Latino or Hispanic, just Mexican.

The thing about it is, I don’t look Mexican. Any fool can see that I am your generic Ango-Saxon.  I have not a single feature or characteristic that distinguishes me from every other generic AS in the world.

So, when someone asks me, I reply, “Do I look Mexican?”

“Well, no.”

“Then why, for crissakes, would you ask me such a stupid question? It’s actually an insult to Mexicans.”

“What about your name?”

Hesus Cristo, man,  it’s some kind of Scandinavian name that means ‘The sun hangs over the landscape like a wrinkled prune, or something like that.”

The situation became so critical that I developed a habit of flinching like a Mexican jumping bean in a hot skillet every time the topic of my ethnicity came up.

Things finally came to a head not too long ago. I decided to put a stop to it once and for all. I’d show these miseranle ignoramasus.

We were in a class on Ethnic Politics one day and in the middle of a hot and heavy discussion, a student held up his hand and asked, “What are you?”

In the most sonorous and solemn tone of voice I could muster, something like Sterling Holloway (look it up), I answered, “Well, Son, I can’t answer that definitively.”

I paused until I sensed his and the class’s rising anticipation. “But I can relate these facts to you and leave the decision to you. To begin with, I have some Mexican cousins and a Mexican nephew.”

I looked around at the expectant faces.

“Plus, my granddad’s brother married a Mexican woman from Argentina.”

Again, I paused as the class gasped.

“And this is important to remember. We lived in a Mexican section of East Los Angeles and I often picked tomatoes in the fields of Orange County with my Mexican buddies.”

I pushed the La Bamba image a little further.

“And after we finished picking, we’d stop in a barrio where the men would all get drunk while Lou Diamond Philips sang Donna and the women danced the Mexican Hat Dance as us kids romped and cavorted in and out of the taco trees.”

By now, they were looking at me with a new degree of respect. But I didn’t stop there.

“My best buddy in the Air Force was a Mexican kid from Los Angeles.”

Then I launched into my ancestry.

“My mother had a definite ethnic look. I have a stack of pictures of her when she was young, which clearly display her ethnic appearance.”

Now that I try to recall it, I may have forgotten to mention that the ethnic cast was clearly generic Danish titanium. Instead, I launched into the pre-climax.

“I studied Spanish in the tenth grade in Richmond, California, where I learned to say ‘huevos.”

Much to my dismay now, I probably also forgot to tell them that this was the only Spanish word I could remember, or that, if a food server in a Mexican restaurant asked me, in response to my request for huevos, “Scrambled or over easy,” in Spanish, I’d fall back on tequila.

Be that as it may, I continued, now covering my father’s ethnic characteristics.

“My Dad was a short, skinny, guy with an asymmetrical face, a lot like a lump of overused PLAY-DOH, a sort of Mick Jagger without the women hanging all over him. I look exactly like my dad. I think he was Irish. He has a bunch of Caseys and Campbells in his line, and he says ‘harse” a lot instead of ‘horse,’ a peculiar Irish pronunciation.”

Now, it was time for the dramatic pause and the explosive climax.

“Does that answer your question?”

“Actually, I just wanted to know if you were a Democrat or a Republican.”

That smart-assed kid really pissed me off.

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A vice is something society usually thinks is depraved, immoral, or degrading. On another level, a vice could be something innocent like a bad habit. In the latter sense, most of us have an overabundance of vices. Through the years, I’ve managed to shed many of mine.

For example, I no longer smoke. But, man, I used to consume cigarettes by the case load, and if I ran out, yours would suffice. I finally gave up this one when I looked in the mirror one morning and saw a gray cloud with bloodshot eyes looking back at me. Nowadays, my doctor tells me my lungs are as clear as a newborn babe’s.

I also used to drink like a fish. You name the time, place, and brand of booze. I’ll be there. And the more I drank the more intelligent and sophisticated I became. You want to know Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, gimme a pencil pal, and I’ll sketch it out on a napkin. Or how about the prose of William Faulkner? Simple stuff, buddy. Here, let me parse a couple of hundred pages for you. One day, I woke with my usual hangover from hell and said, “Intelligence and sophistication aren’t worth the aftereffects.” I faded into the woodwork of intellectual and creative mediocrity.

But one vice has hung on. I’ve tried to shake it a thousand times without success. It’s such a pleasant vice that I wonder if it’s really a vice at all or just the normal routine of pumping life back into an inert mass of REM’s and wacky dreams. I’m talking about the first cup of coffee of the day. It’s the most delicious beverage ever concocted in the twisted minds of humans. Who would have thought that this 9th Century discovery in the highlands of Ethiopia would one day form the basis of a whole slew of establishments for gathering and twittering while sipping a mocha, an iced coffee, or a cup of just plain coffee of the day?

But my favorite cup isn’t a Starbucks creation. It’s that cup my wife hands to me as soon as I throw back the covers and finish my early morning shower. That cup is pure bliss, and I do not plan to give up this vice. Ever. Unless my wife loses her passion for her first cup and orders me to “Fix your own!” Heating water isn’t one of my life’s skills.

Okay, I’ve had that first cup. Now it’s time to head to the mall. Black Friday. Shop for the essentials. Do our part to pump up the American economy. But, first, another cup of coffee. This one is almost as good as the first.

I love coffee, I love tea. I love the Java Jive, and it loves me.

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