Saturday, November 19, 2011

You're an Americano. I'm a Mexicano

There is a new program in California called the Dream Act that would provide illegal immigrants with scholarships and other aid to attend California universities. There are some good things about it, but there is something that bothers me.

I had the wonderful opportunity to teach Latinos for much of my life as a university administrator and professor. Some of these people were so intelligent and driven that I'm waiting for the days when I will take pride in their impressive achievements.

I frequently had conversations with American citizens that went like this; "Dr. Turner, you're an Americano."

"You were born here and are an American citizen, so there's no difference between you and me, "I said.

"No, I'm a Mexicano. You're an Americano."

Because I respected the minds of these excellent students, I would end the conversation, because there was no way I would be able to change their attitudes.

However, when you get citizenship, which could eventually happen to American university graduates, you become an American. There is no way you get to deny that. And while these days, citizenship seems to be more about rights than responsibilities, Americans of Latino descent have been some of our best soldiers in the two Bush Wars. Of course, I got my American citizenship through the Mayflower, but these Latinos are my equals. There is no difference between the two of us.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Rains of Ireland

Now that I've got a following in Ireland, I want to tell this story.

Years ago, I was drinking with a friend in an Irish pub in Los Angeles. It was the kind of place that tossed you out if you asked for Bushmills.

That night, right after they passed the collection for the IRA, the storm outside collapsed the roof and enormous amounts of water poured into the pub as we rushed for the exits and our cars. I'd like to be able to understand if that was a sign from God, but I'm a Methodist, and what do we know.

The Kardashians and America's Future

A British political philosopher in the 19th Century, Walter Bagehot, said you could judge a people by who they admired.
A friend told me today that a lot of people who are struggling to get by are offended by the blatant conspicuous consumption of the Kardashians. But I bet it’s not hurting their ratings. (If you don’t know who I’m referring to, don’t worry because you’ve probably been working hard to put a meal on the family table)
Now these mistresses in marketing have Kim divorcing a guy who she'd been married to for a heartbeat. Katherine Hepurn once said, "I don't care what you say about me, as long as it isn't true."
With the Kardashians it’s like being in Africa and seeing how America lives and thinking your country will soon have all the things America has.
But if you’re consumed by these reality shows about rich people, and disregard what they aren’t doing to help pull this country together, you should just be listening to the radio.
Congress has chosen Air Supply as its soundtrack and has Justin Bieber on their Iphones. They think we’re too weak to accept the suffering it’s going to take to recover from the financial crisis. They’ve provided money to people who went under the second time, because they never should have gotten the loan in the first place. (If it’s because of unemployment, please forgive that last comment)
Ben Bernanke has been working hard to prove John Maynard Keynes wasn’t just an economist 80 years ago. Every day we’re more in debt. QE3 could be the name of a British ship, but instead it's a bad idea on monetary policy
But, who is providing the answer? Not the tea party who wants to take America back to 1939 where African Americans were part of a segregated army and people looked at Chinese and remembered they needed their shirts laundered.
By the way, why do Republicans hate Obama worse than they did Clinton? You don’t think it’s because he’s black and decided to leave the slave’s quarters, do you?
The fact is that the Democrats want to keep spending, while the Republicans want us to default on Treasury dividends. Doesn’t any group of Americans care more about our need to sacrifice for a great country? My family has two Mayflower pilgrims in its line, and I can’t remember reading about a time where we were a country of wimps that had to have an I pad or they wouldn’t be able to show their face outside their home. Maybe everyone can’t have Air Jordan’s either.
We are spoiled and our Congressmen aren’t doing anything to fix this. When we have to stop printing money, and everybody realizes that polarization has destroyed our two party system, it will be too late. China will own us. Why don’t we all learn Greek and go out in the streets and riot because we can’t afford Godiva Ice Cream anymore.
I never expected much when my dad died when I was seven. I used to pray that the social security checks would stretch far enough until the 30th I can still remember my mother yelling at me that hamburgers were only for dinner. I seem to be among a few that never believed the beans would grow to the sky.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Danny and the Demons

When I was in high school, and for years after that, I had a good friend I'll call Danny. He was probably fifth generation in America, but always thought of himself as an Irish-American. In Syracuse you were either Irish or Italian, with others of us thrown in to complete the population.

He was a wonderful person, with a great heart and deep feelings. His father, who was an important man, walked out on the family when Danny was young. Danny would sometimes go into a funk and his mother would have to leave his dinner outside his door. However, Danny was very smart and great to talk to.

When he was in college he trained under a world-famous boxer and that was when he got tough. He always won, but he got into a lot of bar fights. Oswego, New York had him barred from entering the city.

After college, he married a wonderful woman who was one of the best wives and mothers I've ever seen. She really cared about Danny and could usually calm him down. He was a detail man, and decided that he was drinking too much, so he began taking a prescription drug. He was really an intellectual, but back then in northern New York the doctors only wanted to talk about fishing and hunting so his daily conversations never explored the deep issues he wanted to talk about.

I would call and beg him to get off the drug, but he always told me he could handle it. One day, after being institutionalized for a while, he died in a head-on collision somewhere in the South. His wife called me and broke the news. I was upset for quite a while but I was young and moved on. It was later, as I thought about all his potential and his wonderful heart that I regretted so much that I never would see him again.

What really drove him, I never completely knew, but when I taught at an urban university, where the fathers of many students had disappeared before they were born, I started to put it in perspective. My father had died when I was seven and I found that being a big brother or foster something was truly rewarding. But nobody stepped into Danny's life and provided a role model. I guess everybody figured that because his father was an important man that it wasn't necessary. However Danny didn't see his father for years on end and his very Catholic family lived in an old apartment.

Danny was something special who could have had a very positive impact on the world he lived in, but the demons wouldn't let him.