Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Herndon, the fear factor

In this controversy about the Day Labor Center in the town of Herndon, one could see the fear as a main component of the opposition. And an irrational fear at that.

The accusations thrown at those who oppose the site are that they are bigots, hypocritical, racists, anti-immigrants. And of course, some are. In the same way that some of the day laborers that now gather at the 7-Eleven are indeed rude, criminals, heavy-drinkers... and undocumented.

The key word is “some.”
The fear of Herndon's residents who oppose the site is that their home prices will go down, the area will become more insecure, there would be overcrowding, and tax payer money would go to the support of undocumented aliens.

They fear, in two words, the destruction of their American Dream. What they probably don't realize is that the laborers who gather at the 7-Eleven are in the same quest. They also have a dream or two they'd like to see come true. They already took a very long trip, and burned the bridges behind.

One of the groups have a website called “Save Herndon.” They exhibit pictures of the day laborers gathered in the 7-Eleven. The first picture is of a young Hispanic (he looks Hispanic, at least) male making an obscene gesture to the camera. The caption reads: This is a sure way to increase property value.

The rest at Herndon, the fear factor

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

A Venezuelan woman’s ordeal

From the Washington's Voz newspaper.

After four months of abduction, rape, and torture, came four years of a pilgrimage for justice in Venezuela 's judicial system, but Linda Loaiza is still recovering from the physical and emotional battering she suffered; and still waiting for the trial of her alleged tormentor.

In July of 2001, Loaiza was rescued by police in Caracas , Venezuela , from the apartment of Luis Carrera Almoina, the accused perpetrator. She had been repeatedly raped and tortured; she was found in a state of severe malnutrition, with her earlobes destroyed, a nipple cut out, cigarette burns all over her body, multiple cranial fractures, and bruises and cuts on her face and genital area.

The story continues HERE.

Come to us, you non-believers

From the Washington's Voz newspaper.

Ok, now we are in good shape! The President of the United States has given his blessing to those unbelievers who, regardless of that major shortcoming on their humanity, could still be considered good enough, and even as patriotic as those who worship.

Last week, in a press conference that in fact was trying to deal with a very different kind of unbeliever, those who don’t believe in his Social Security plans, Mr. Bush found time to anoint atheists with this patronizing statement: “If you choose not to worship, you’re equally as patriotic as somebody who does worship.”

Salve, Mark Twain!

I have several issues with patriotism, especially when it becomes a way to divide instead of a way to unite. We Hispanics have a long history of that, don’t we? But at any rate, where does the idea that patriotism is defined by worshiping come from?

That statement is just like this one: “Black people are as good as white people.” And it means: Whiteness defines Goodness, but Blacks are also accepted.

Where have we come to, that the President needs to “defend” non-worshipers and reassure them of their own patriotic fiber. In fact, we have lately seen our fair share of devoted worshipers -or so they call themselves- who have given more than one sign of very unpatriotic behavior, let alone very inhuman behavior.

By the way, the fact that non-believers may be in the minority does not mean they are three crazy people on the corner of some liberal woods. There are some 30 million Americans who declare having no religion, and they are, to use the presidential style, as protected by the Constitution as those who profess religious affiliation.

In fact, although it is getting tougher for the non-religious to get elected to office in the US, the Constitution expressly states that "No religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust.” Worth remembering.

In the culture war we are immersed in now, since it looks like the real war in Iraq is not enough, the Right insists in appropriating religion.

It seems like the rest of us were just sheep without a pastor, needing some manipulative right-winger to try to push down our throats that States’ rights are good when they don’t interfere with the rights of the Right; that Terri Schiavo should have lived longer than those who can not afford to pay for feeding tubes in Texas; that being a good Christian is equal to being a good citizen, but that Tom De Lay, Enron folks and other Republican donors are exonerated due to matters of National interest.

But, if the Founding Fathers had wanted a Christian country, they would have made sure they expressed that as clearly as many other things in the Constitution. I can hear the clamor: yes, but they were Christians. Oh, yes, they were! It seems they also read that part of the Bible that says: do unto others....

They didn’t create a Christian country, not because they thought Christianity was so obvious that it needed no specific mention, but because they remembered that it was not much fun when religious views were persecuted and their parents had to get to America to maintain their freedom of religion.

And, I’m sorry, but it’s not just a matter of prepositions: freedom of religion does mean freedom from religion, in the public sphere, at least. Otherwise, it would mean one has to have some religion... and even the President gives those unbelievers his blessing to continue to be.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Terrorism is not terrorism, is not terrorism...

From the Washington's Voz newspaper.

The idea that terrorism is on the eye of the beholder is not new. It just became more evident after the September 11 attacks.

US was demanding, and for the most part receiving absolute condemnation of the abhorrent attacks; but soon enough it began to hear, from the rest of the world, an emphasis on context and root causes of terrorism. There were people in the US saying similar things, but those were termed traitors or worse.

There is a sad truth US government and many of its citizens have trouble coming to terms with: the rest of the world does not appreciate double standards. Does that mean other countries do not violate the rules? Of course they do. What bothers them is the US arrogance and presumption of perfection that never measures up to, speaking in military terms, the facts on the ground.

For instance, the US government denied a visa to Dora Maria Téllez, one of the best-known figures in recent Latin American history, who has frequently visited the US in the past, and who epitomized the 1979 Nicaraguan revolution that overthrew the dictator Anastasio Somoza.

Téllez, now a famous historian, was appointed as the Robert F Kennedy visiting professor in Latin American studies in the divinity department at Harvard.

The US told Téllez she is ineligible for the visa because she was involved in “terrorist acts,” which, as a professor of Harvard puts it, place her in the same category of George Washington: people fighting for freedom, and against 'bloody dictators'. Remember Saddam? But Téllez was doing that against US interests, and that's where US draws the line.

Coincidentally, this happens around the time when John Negroponte, also a famous figure very involved in the defense of the military regimes of Central America, in the 70s and 80s, was appointed by the President Bush to be the intelligence zar.

It's worth remembering that, under late President Ronald Reagan, US opposed the Sandinistas movement even after they had been elected in 1984, and kept supporting the contras and keeping alive a savage civil war, despite repeated condemnations and resolutions from the UN and many other international institutions. Remember when Bush said that Saddam did not obey UN resolutions?

In fact, the Iran-contras scandal that did not manage to stain the pristine image of Reagan, needs no introduction. It's certainly very ironic: in Iran and in Nicaragua US managed both times to opposed, and help bring down, democratically elected governments, only to later go to Iraq to help establish a democratically elected government, and took down a “bloody dictator.”

With Luis Posada Carriles, an anti Castro militant who has a nice history of violent conspiracy, US is presented with the opposite case. The documents of his link to the CIA and of being on the agency's payroll are now public. At the peek of his career, Posada killed, in his own words, “73 dogs,” and had those been actual dogs he would has been prosecuted for cruelty against animals, but these were 73 teenagers members of a fencing team, returning home to Cuba. Posada Carriles bombed their plane. No survivors.

Interestingly enough, the Bush administration wasn't sure what to do with this one: should he be considered a freedom fighter like... Osama? Or someone fighting against a dictator like... Téllez? Should innocent civilians be killed to make a point like Osama believes? Or should anyone who does that should be considered a terrorist and be brought to justice?

Again, terrorism seems to be on the eyes of the beholder, but in this hearts and minds crusade US has embarked, we better begin setting our record straight and making our glossary of terms public.

For instance, what's exactly the difference between innocent civilians and collateral damages?

Monday, August 01, 2005

The rule of mercenary law

From the Washington's Voz newspaper.

As the Senate prepares for the confirmation hearings of John G. Roberts Jr. for the Supreme Court, many questions surface, not just about the nominee's views, past, ideology and judicial philosophy, but about the essence of law and justice, and, shall we dare say, the U.S. judicial system in particular.

Is there any solid foundation for the law? Is there anything immutable about what justice is and what its basis are?

These issues may seem farfetched in the context of Supreme Court nomination and confirmation, but they are, indeed, what's behind the whole debate. The White House has denied disclosure of some of the nominee's records and has not committed to disclose even his tax returns. This allows one to believe that those non-disclosed documents may hinder the nominee's ability to be confirmed.

But what's more surprising here is the way pundits left and right have said that it would be unfair to judge Roberts' record, true feelings, judicial philosophy and food preferences by looking at his defense of the positions of the senior Bush administration or his tenure as lawyer for the Reagan administration, because those weren't his positions or views but those of his clients. So, essentially, he was or may have been defending some views with which he on a personal and professional level disagrees.

Certainly the over 60% of the American people that considers Roe vs. Wade settled law and want it to remain so, would very much expect and hope that Mr. Roberts would be so willing to ignore his personal views on the issue and respect the wishes of his client: the American people. But we have already seen Attorney General Alberto González paving the way to an overturn of the law, by explaining that the Supreme Court does not need to abide by precedent.

But, back to the generalities. It's surprising that we are so used to justice been made according to the amount of money one has to afford the best lawyer, that we don't even clinch when we hear about someone who may have defended positions in which he did not believe.

Or what's even worst, that he and his supporters are willing to say he did not support those positions just to get him confirmed. Notice, though, that they won't go into details as to which positions he wholeheartedly supported and which he “just worked there.”

Some are fighting for the right of pharmacists to not dispense some prescriptions drugs if they have moral objections to them, but it's all well and good to have a Supreme Court nominee who would defend the positions of his clients, even when they contradict his values and moral beliefs.

We have gone a bit too far giving money precedence over the law... How farther are we willing to go?