Friday, May 18


My whole life I have assumed other people knew a lot more than I did. I accepted my youth, inexperience and lack of a university degree as good reasons to defer to others who were older, wiser and more educated. More and more in recent years I have reason to feel smarter and smarter...

Take the Phoenix Suns 2 games ago when that Spurs dirty-player trashed our star franchise MVP Steve Nash into the media table. During the post-game re-hash between a moderator, Shaq & former Suns Charles Barkley, it was painfully obvious how even a utilitarian vocabulary would have saved Barkley from his doltish stumbling to simply express himself. We don't expect our professional athletes to be cerebral giants, we pay them to play - but it was embarrassing to watch a grown man frustrate himself searching desperately for words that never came. When he finally seized upon what he assumed to be appropriate logic, comparing the flagrant foul to murder - but not murder - homicide - (?!) yeah, well, it was just sad. I heard his book a couple years ago did well. He had a ghost-writer, though.

Some issues are more complicated than a championship basketball tournament, like immigration. A classmate in my Spanish class at Phoenix College last year was spitting passionate about the abuses of the United States against the hard-working Mexican immigrant. Her grandfather crossed the border illegally and the second generation had done very well, evidenced by her single parent status living at home, wearing designer duds, driving her own car, deftly texting on her camera phone with expensive salon fingernails and attending higher education. She bought only brand new, trendy baby accessories for her little boy that her mother mostly cared for. In every respect, including the fact that she was in a class to learn the language of her heritage - she was a pampered American girl.

As the day appointed for the September immigration march approached, she began a daily, angry posturing about the injustice and bigotry against her family here in America. The mother figure in class (the ONLY student over 19), I innocently asked her to explain. She meant her illiterate grandfather - not knowing the language and keeping a low profile in menial agricultural jobs - experienced difficult times in the foreign country and culture he had voluntarily determined to make his life-long home. She had no ability to recognize the success of his labors in giving her father the elevated status that she herself now profited from as a 2nd generation citizen.

When I pointed out to her that immigration of necessity referred to much more than Mexican interests, y'know, every country in the world has the right and the obligation to protect its borders especially in a post-911 world; not only to prevent hostile entry but also the spread of contagious disease like TB, polio & Diphtheria (all on the rise because of 3rd world country introductions) - I didn't have a chance to include human trafficking aka 'slavery' (especially from former Soviet Block countries, North Africa & Indonesia) because this once charming, cute little study companion who thought MY Spanish was expert had turned into an ugly, yelling puppet. She accused me of being a racist.

It was an all too convenient scenario. I reminded her my great grandfather was a "wet back" having stowed-away on a sailing ship from the Azore Island of Pico. He changed his last name to avoid 'La Migra' and spoke nothing but Portuguese until the day he died. All of us if we go back far enough in our family lines will find someone who came here from somewhere else ~ and we have adapted to the results; good and bad. We also have a history of the mistakes that were made in the process. While regrettable, they were not inconsistent with the times in which they took place. The issue was not about if Mexicans were nice people. She didn't have a clue about any logical border concerns or our government's responsibility to screen who and what is coming in. Loud immigrant "rights" protesters inexplicably ignore the modern world/global climate in which we live; which is considerably different than the day when we were still scooping up poop behind a horse and buggy...

I have Hispanic friends who are not 19 and should be more cognizant of life-experience at this point than they are when it comes to this issue, yet they voice the same level of ignorance and flash-like anger that my young classmate did. They do not attempt to acknowledge anything except the all-powerful entitlement of ALL Mexican immigrants. Congress struggles today with proposing a remedy that will both provide reasonable hope for citizenship and implement a workable standard that addresses necessary funding, security, work status, language competency and everything else. Good luck.

My growing sense of smarts is quickly nullified when I think about what my own children have witnessed first-hand while living in Southern Mexico. Robin was an employee of the Mexican government in a wonderfully conceived adult literacy program. However, finding willing students was impossible when the campesinos worked from sun up to sun down in the corn fields. Education was not a tradition nor a viable standard with which they could relate. Leiland especially (and most recently), being 'embedded' in the state of Chiapas for 90% of his 2 year mission there, and Chiapas being the poorest state in Mexico with the highest indigenous population, infant mortality, illiteracy, jungle protected drug cartels, etc., the situation is desperate. He saw entire villages where most of the adults were absent - for years if not forever, from the lives of their young, starving children they left behind to go "al norte", to the U. S. The system of family and decency is ruptured and bleeding to death.

When a major hurricane hit and the city he lived in on the Guatemalan border was flooded, he was horrified not only to see death all around him, but the cowardly spectacle of men hauling buckets of beer or a television to safety while their wives attempted to lead little children and babes in arms to higher ground. Many of them did not succeed, and some made the agonizing choice to abandon their little ones so they themselves could escape. The people in the aftermath of this catastrophe were left without help or services to the extent that would make Katrina and New Orleans seem like a debutante ball. The corruption in the Mexican government is more than a swashbuckling legend of Zorro, it's a cruel and bloody reality.

For all my feelings of smarterness, there are also far more things that appear to have no clear answer. I don't know how the Mexican government can wean herself from demanding the U.S. support her incompetency. I don't know what will motivate her to acquire the funding, to say nothing of assuring loyalty and integrity throughout it's various arms of influence, to really lift her own people out of the tragic circumstances that compel them to leave everything that is human nature to stay and protect and nourish. It's too big. It's just too big.

As an American in Mexico in a border state, Leiland was also detained a few times and witnessed many times how the Federales treat illegals from Guatemala and Central America. They were brutalized at the butt of a rifle or machine gun, robbed, kicked and tossed into army transport vehicles or trains back to the border. Women "immigrants" fared much worse, although thankfully he had to take that based on 2nd hand information and never witnessed it himself.

I don't know how to fix that, either. Apparently being a Federale is much like being a professional athlete. Thinking about what you're doing and finding the vocabulary to express it are probably not required.


the guitarist from hell said...
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Bandanamom said...

Cindi - I like the title of this "Smarts" because it certainly applies to you. We have talked about these immigration/border issues before - and you know how I feel, I do not know the answer, I only know it is very complicated. What I like about this blog is that you touch on so many of these complications. What I don't like about this issue is that so many people have such ill-formed opinions on the subject or that they pretend to know exactly what the answer is, when usually, the answers they have are really more like a sound bite that the media can use than an actual SOLUTION. I don't think the American people get enough credit. I think we're smarter and more capabable of understanding complex issues than we ever get credit for -