“Illegal” is the latest in a long line of euphemisms that politicians use to signal their antipathy to a reviled racial or ethnic group, in this case, Latinos. No, no, you say, this has nothing to do with animosity toward Hispanics; it’s about protecting the border and obeying the law. Really? Then why don’t we call the CEOs of the companies that hire illegal immigrants “illegals”? Our last three presidents all violated America’s drug laws. The current Treasury secretary violated America’s tax laws. Former House majority leader Tom DeLay recently was convicted of money laundering. I look forward to hearing Mitt Romney and Fox News refer to them as “illegals” too.
Two Wet Burrito Awards in two days!? Yup. Afraid so. As a rule I try and restrict my metaphoric slings and arrows to one diss a week. But after watching last night's must-see Frontline doc on Obama's draconion immigration policy I couldn't help but to recoil at the smug and cold hearted rhetoric spewing from ex NCLR vice-president Cecilia Munoz, now the White House Director of Intergovernmental Affairs.
Munoz was given the MacArthur Genius Award back in 2000, primarily for her advocacy work in fighting for the rights of illegal immigrants. In fact, it's been estimated that Munuz has helped over 5000 immigrants attain their citizenship while working in the city of Chicago. Now she spends her days flacking for Obama's heartless and stupid deportation project. They gave this lady a Genius Award?! Well, now she's got a Wet Burrito Award to add to her C.V.
Turns out the vato was joking. Making a funny. Sharing a chuckle with the Tea Party crowd he was addressing. Seems the hilarious image of 1000 volts of current zapping ol' Juan and Jose as they tangle themselves up in barbed wire as they look for work is what passes for humor amongst the wacky Tea Party crowd. To be fair, humanitarian that he is, Cain assured his laughing audience that it he'd put up a sign -- both in English AND in Spanish -- warning of the grave dangers ahead of illegally hopping the fence.
"No" to bilingual ballots. "Yes" to helpful signs warning that you about to die.
So was Cain joking? According to this report the GOP frontrunner mentioned the electrice fence at various campaign stops throughout the day, oftentimes to "raucous applause." Didn't seem like a joke then. Only when pressed by David Gregory on the Sunday Morning Talk Show did Cain come up with the "I was only joking" excuse.
Whether you believe Herman Cain or not, the fact that a major Republican presidential candidate can "joke" about killing human beings as they cross the border speaks volumes about the current state of the GOP field and the Republican electorate in general. Herman Cain, this week's winner of the Wet Burrito Award.
Today is the release of the rebooted Footlose. Wah wah. As a big fan of the original, I'm on the fence about the remake. Especially considering the orginal was, by some measures, a Chicano film. In any case, here are some thoughts I had concerning the Kevin Bacon classic:
Last night in a bar I heard someone made a passing reference to the 1984 movie Footloose, not so much pointing out the film's politically radical theme of youth organizing themselves to fight the strictures of intolerant authority and small-town repression, but admiration, instead, for Kevin Bacon's hip and skinny ties. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Me, for instance, I always liked the part where glitter inexplicably falls down like rain during the joyous dance sequence at the end. Fellini meets fake John Hughes. Art house in the metroplex. Elements of fantasy as whimsical coda in an otherwise realistic teen movie. Very badass.
A quick revisit to said dance scene via the insta-analysis of YouTube, and I'm freaking at how Absolutely White the movie was -- with nary a suspicious person-of-color dancing about. They even managed to find probably the only two blond guys in the Greater Los Angeles Area capable of the dazzling Michael Jackson-inspired moonwalking and popping moves. Now that's some hardcore reverse affirmative action going on.
Which leads me to this recent New Yorker article, A Paler Shade of White, about how indie rock these days is pretty much a white-boy thing, a ho hum music genre devoid, lately, of black-inspired rhythm, blues, and stage presence. In other words "boring." Now, set aside the fact that almost any U.S. cultural phenom can, upon cherry picking scrutiny and agenda-driven reduction, be conveniently simplified into a white-boy thing, the thesis merits consideration.
When a friend sent me the link to the piece, I envisioned a Greg Tate-like discourse on race and rock music. Instead I got 3000 words on how "the drummer and the bassist rarely played syncopated patterns or lingered in the low registers." I will let others more musically qualified debate those finer points, these kinds of technical discussions beyond my layman's understanding (in High School I was always the guy taking pictures of the band, never the guy strumming the Telecaster). What interested me, however, was how this smart, informed, well-researched article in a national magazine was at the end of the day just another example of the simplistic Black/White paradigm that informs discussion of race in this country. The Ken Burns reading of American history and culture.
As we speak there's an exhibit in Seattle at the Experience Music Project called American Sabor. Curated by Marisol Berrios-Miranda, Shannon Dudley, and Michelle Habell-Pallan, the exhibit tells the little known story of Latinos in U.S. popular music, not just how raza may have been influenced by, say, do wop -- but how brown people in fact contributed to do wop. And punk rock. And country and western. And, yes, on occasion, indie rock. 5000 square feet of exhibition space, amazing photos, films, and artifacts, with listening kiosks breaking down the story and its focus on New York, Los Angeles, San Antonio, San Francisco, and Miami as epicenters of this musical exchange. Go here for a link to an article on the exhibit with a link to one of the narrations.
And one last word on the New Yorker article: The metrics I choose in assessing the "whiteness" of indie rock are not beats per minute or how many Willie Dixon riffs you may or may not spot in an Artic Monkey song, but a focus on the scene, the fans, the bands, and how they all interact. Check out Club 101 in El Paso. Sam's in San Antonio. Emo's in Austin. Ok. Not Emo's in Austin. That's pretty much all gringo. But you get my point. The diversity's there. And usually away from the so-called cultural capitals of America. The picture heading this post comes from a Savior Daughters show in San Antonio. Mexicans for days.
And, finally, back to the beginning: Footloose. A quick Google search for witty blog ending movie trivia and I found this Variety story reporting High School Musical I and II director Kenny Ortega is helming a remake of the original. What more can I say: Footloose transformed into a Chicano movie. Take that indie white boys.
Now how did a mention of the Chicano Moritorium make it in an art conversation about “center/periphery” and the "conceptual grasp of the mass entertainment"? Because one of the roundtable contributors was Acso co-founder Harry Gamboa Jr., who can throw down and contextualize with the best of them:
The term radical was an official governmental epithet under COINTELPRO that effectively neutralized dissent and creative acts during the ’60s and ’70s and into the ’80s. My late-twentieth-century experiences with Asco in East LA were in the eye of that storm. Performing in the streets was interspersed with threats of official violence and other punitive actions.
Decoy Gang War Victim is an Asco image that I photographed in 1974. It shows a young man stretched out, seemingly lifeless, across an East LA street lighted by road flares emitting reddish sparks and by the bluish hue of mercury vapor lamps. The resulting 35-mm color slide was delivered to various local TV stations and accompanied by the notice that the “last gang member” had been killed, thereby ending violence in the barrio. The image was televised by at least two TV stations. The project was a response to the incendiary tabloid-style journalism of the two major Los Angeles newspapers, which often listed the names, addresses, workplaces, and gang affiliations of victims or their family members in an effort to maintain high levels of reciprocal gang violence, thus selling more newspapers. The desired effect of Decoy Gang War Victim was to generate a pause in the violence in order to rob the newspapers of their daily list of victims.
The New Republic asks “do Latinos like Marco Rubio?” Apparently the first-term Florida senator is on many insiders short list of politically attractive GOP vice presidential nominees. The thinking goes that the all-important Latino vote, once solidly pro Obama but now supposedly wavering because of the President’s perceived lack of movement on immigration reform, will vote Republican in 2012 because there’s now a Brown guy on the ticket who can actually pronounce the word Popocatepetl.
Not that Rubio would actually know about Popocatepetl and the Aztec warrior’s lasting presence on the free calendars of countless Mexican taco joints all across Aztlan. Homeboy Rubio, after all, is Cuban, more familiar with plaintains and Gloria Estefan than, say, carne guisade and Los Tigres del Norte. And there’s the rub. The real question the article asks is will Latinos, 95 per cent of us Other Than Cuban, vote for Rubio.
The consensus seems to be no. Not so much because we hate Cubans, but because this particular Cuban seems to hate Mexicans. Even Ruben Navarrette Jr. -- who’s never met a GOP talking point he couldn’t sneak into one of his columns -- questions Rubio’s barrio street cred with fellow raza. As Junior points out, Rubio supported the Arizona anti-immigrant law, co-sponsored a bill to promote E-Verifying of workers, and came out against the Dream Act. Marco Rubio, the proud son of immigrants.
No word yet on whether Rubio also wants draw mustaches on Virgen de Guadalupe murals, but if these are his positions on Latino issues adding homeboy to a Republican presidential ticket is not going to make the difference come 2012.
Besides, according to some, Rubio may not even be a “natural born citizen.” Seems Rubio’s parents were not naturalized citizens when little Marco was born in Miami. According to the constitutional interpretation of certain crazies birthers, this means Rubio is not a “natural born citizen,” and thus ineligible for the office. First Obama and now Rubio. Or as Joey Ramone says, second verse, same as the first. Only now in Spanish.
And while most right-wing pundits are not comfortable with the potentially adverse political implications of knee-capping one of their few rising Brown political stars, they are trying to put as good a spin as possible on the chorus of dissenting voices. From the Daily Caller: “The good news here, of course, is that the rise of Rubio birthers proves that birthers are not merely partisan hypocrites who solely attack Democrats like Obama. They are, instead, either consistent racists — or consistently misguided adherents to the Constitution.”
I vote that they are both.
And while I admit those questioning Rubio’s eligibility are, for now, truly a crackpot fringe, the real test is to see what happens if the questioning continues and grows: Will the Fox News/Rush Limbaugh Republican echo chamber pick up and carry the Rubio citizenship argument with the same 24/7 fervor they did when questioning Obama’s supposed Kenyan birth?
I’m guessing they won’t. They need to win Florida. About the only place left in the browning of America that a Cuban politician who wants to send kids back to Mexico can still be guaranteed to win the Latino vote.