Was my Cabbie Right?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006
When my Mom, a legal immigrant, first came to this country from El Salvador as a young girl in 1943, she entered through New Orleans. On the street, she saw two drinking fountains, one marked White and the other Colored. She was Caucasian, but she automatically stepped up to the Colored water fountain and took a drink. “I thought, they must mean me” she used to say.

Dad was a big blond Scots-Irish Michigander, a P-38 crew chief in WW2, whose hearing got a bit shaky from the sound of one too many Allison V-12s out on the flight line. After the GI Bill, he worked in the Southern California aerospace industry for 30 years. A child of the Depression, Dad was a flag-waving patriotic Democrat. I remember the Scoop Jackson button on his lapel.

So we grew up speaking Spanish and English. Thanksgiving turkey and pinatas. Summer vacations in Yosemite and El Salvador. All in a multicultural LA, before we knew what “multicultural” meant.

It was good preparation for a life in the broader world, where I spent several decades in all the hot and miserable places that haven’t produced a patentable invention in a hundred years, all the places that were recovering from the bomb blasts and the civil wars. All the places where labor at $1 a day makes more sense than investing in technology. All the places weighed down by the past. Maybe, in a hundred years, it might change. All the places where a sixteen year old in camouflage pants and a Chicago Bulls t-shirt is waving a Kalashnikov and wants to see your passport. Where the cop standing by the metal detector decides he wants to keep your Cross pen for letting you on the British Airways flight home. Once in Skopje I was in a car with an engineer, a Dutch consultant, and a government functionary, who was driving. We passed a mosque. The Dutch guy, in an attempt to make conversation, mentioned that “we have many Muslims in Holland”. At which point the driver turned and looked over her shoulder and said “Well, why don’t you just shoot them?” And mostly, all the places where you gaze into the deep tragedy of bicultural societies riven by suspicion, by language, by economic disparity, by fear of the other. Yes, we get along. But we aren’t like them. Not at all.

So twenty years of that means that I could easily live in a future Aztlan, should the nutball fantasies of the Hispanic supremacists ever come true. And I could live in the much more likely peaceful yet bifurcated world of two American cultures, not hostile, yet also not interacting or melding into one, always acting as blocs, defined as blocs by the lefty academics and their media, and thus imprisoned by their histories, with the rage of that imprisonment serving as the reliable engines of their respective political machines. Engines with seemingly inexhaustable fuel supplies.

I could do it.

It is just that upon my return from these places, I was always supremely grateful to be home. Home in a country without a tenuous and shrill sense of its own nationhood in a world of powers beyond its control, where I didn’t automatically fear people who wore uniforms, and where I wouldn’t have to bribe the building inspector or the traffic cop, where I didn’t have to listen to racialist definitions of one’s heritage. Somos la raza de bronce they say, We are the bronze race, in their pseudo-Aztec murals and little civic monuments and parade slogans that take their design cues from the world of Mussolini. Will all these things continue to be imported to America, too? Last year, my cab driver in Chihuahua seemed to think so. “Mexico is so screwed up. It has been screwed up for five hundred years and always will be." "And now” he laughed “we are going to make your country just as screwed up, too.” Was my cabbie right? I don’t know - since along with the Latin fatalism, his statement is also an acknowledgment of the need to preserve an America that he has yet to visit but one that he obviously admires. But assume for the moment that my cabbie was right. If toward the end of my life the sleepwalking Americans whose leaders are bent on transforming my nation into just a day labor agency with a flag on top allow my cabbie’s predictions to come true, I know I am equipped to deal with all those things that may come my way. At the very least, once at the nursing home, I’ll be able to flirt with the Honduran girls in their own language and get an extra pillow or another serving of lime jello cubes with the fake whipped cream on top.

So in moments of resignation, I’ve decided that my heritage and background will serve me well and make it easy - no matter how it turns out - for me to live in Aztlan.

Could you live in Aztlan, too?

40 comments:

CF said...

If you haven't yet done so read The Perfect Latin American Idiots . It's the best explanation I've ever seen of how the social orgnaization and demented LATAM thinking keeps them impoverished. (It's written by 4 former lefty LATAM journos.

Luther McLeod said...

Great piece Skookumchuk!

Well I could live in Aztlan, but only if my wife (who speaks the Spanish) were around. Though I suppose I could get by on my limited "Menu" Spanish.

Yes, your cabbie was right, and most people of the world would agree with him.

terrye said...

Skook:

Thank you for the post.

I am 54 [yikes] and I can remember a time when Indians in Oklahoma still spoke their native languages. I had one grade school teacher who called the Cherokee kids, black rats. I can also remember their cemeteries with little huts open on the sides which held the personal belongings of the dead. They were Americans too. And today you rarely see the old Seminole Indians wrapped in blankets refusing to speak English. Now Indian women fight and die in Iraq.

My exfather-in-law could remember a time when second generation Germans and Italians considered English a second language and rarely spoke it in their homes. Today their grandchildren are worried about hispanics speaking Spanish.

I can also remember visiting New Mexico in the summers and even then many of the people there were not white or protestant or anything like what I am used to seeing in the midwest. That is nothing new.

So I think that we need to keep in mind that America has never been a nation where people all looked or sounded or even thought alike.

I think there is a greater chance that we will annex Mexico than the other way around. But I do think that the flow will slow down, the question is how much?

MeaninglessHotAir said...

Wow, what a great post. Sincere thanks for expressing it very well.

Knucklehead said...

I suppose I could learn enough Spanish to get by. Then again, maybe not. Maybe I'll need to go somewhere else to live out my final years.

But I doubt I'll need to live in Aztlan.

The US has a remarkable ability to absorb people and turn them into us. We're the freakin' Borg. Once upon a time German immigrants into the midwest (Wisconsin IIRC) had some notion they could create a German state out there. Now they wear dopey, foam cheese wedges on their heads and tailgate at NFL games.

We've always worried about immigrants wrecking our happy home yet in a couple generations the children of the immigrants are out searching for homes to get all happy in. The Vietnamese kids join the Marines or take jobs selling computers. The Chinese kids play violin in the youth orchestras and learn to be engineers. The Hindi kids get elected student council president and piss and moan that they are losing their summer vacation following junior year of HS 'cause mom's dragging them back to India to go "temple hopping".

Resistance is futile, even for the Aztec Wannabes.

truepeers said...

A good honest post!

Just curious, but is the antisemitism of this Aztlan site typical for this movement? If so, no to your question, but I always like visiting Mexico.

chuck said...

Great post, Skook,

Sentiment without sentimentality.

Resistance is futile, even for the Aztec Wannabes.

And here I thought Skook was promising me a low rider and a brightly painted house in my future. I could live with that.

chuck said...

Could you live in Aztlan, too?

Seriously, I think it would be difficult for me. All the good things you say about America I take for granted. I have never had to deal with daily corruption, or fear the uniformed guys with AK-47s on their backs, or learn to know my ethnic place. It would be tough. I would wish for a more easeful path into old age and death.

Skookumchuk said...

luther mcleod:

Yes, my cabbie may be right. The interesting thing is that in today's PC world, my cabbie is the only one with a license to talk that way. So perhaps the Hispanics or half-Hispanics have a role to play in speaking these truths.

terrye:

Mexico is a failed state. Its maquiladoras are being closed and production moved to China. If Fox himself says that it will take "generations" to bring Mexico up from the depths, then I can't see much hope for reforming the political structure. So long as we want cheap labor, and can socialize the costs of its importation, our leaders will turn a blind eye. We seem to have a propensity for this; we did it before, some time ago. It has taken several centuries to straighten that one out.

meaninglesshotair:

Thanks.

knucklehead:

The US has a remarkable ability to absorb people and turn them into us.

When we want to. When our academic and media elites want to. And now, and for as far into the future as we can see - they don't want to. That is another question; how do we promote assimilation in the face of their opposition?

truepeers:

I can't say antisemitism is universal, but it is common.

chuck:

A chopped red candyflake '54 Chevy and a lime green house. Done. But both with American flags. Take 'em or leave 'em.

chuck said...

Skook,

So long as we want cheap labor, and can socialize the costs of its importation, our leaders will turn a blind eye.

So what would you suggest here? More regulated labor and better pay? Truly, it sounds like the problem lies in Mexico and I don't want to get into the revolution business. It is so sad, but what can one do? Perhaps the boomers will retire in Mexico, that might shake things up a bit. On the down side, it is perhaps too easy to get used to cheap service and folks driven by the need for work. I suppose what makes the US attractive, among other things, is that work can lead to improvement, not just staying alive.

how do we promote assimilation in the face of their opposition?

I really can't see the academics leading the immigrants on this one. Their worlds are too different and their aspirations have nothing in common. How many folks at the May Day demostrations had any clue about international ANSWER? Not many, I would bet. My guess is that many thought of it as an American parade. I wasn't there, so I can't say, but that seems the likely thing.

Knucklehead said...

Skook,

Overcoming the Gramscian sedition of academia and the media is a tough nut to crack. Oddly enough I think immigrants help keep academia and the media in check to an extent.

When all is said and done, despite the rantings of the Aztlan types, people aren't out to recreate what it was they felt compelled to run away from. And when they've reach the point of having a political voice they tend to say that pretty loud and clear.

The MSM, I believe, is NOT even more influential than it ever has been. I think they are engaged in their last, desperate effort to hang on to their influence. The relentless, droning, drumbeat of negativity won't work forever. Right now everyone seems to want to be negative and pissed off about something but that never lasts. People will get sick to death of listening to their constand pissing and moaning eventually.

And the Gramscian academy? They're running out of steam. They still dement some young minds but they are no longer "different" and "interesting". They are the tired same-old, same-old. Most of the kids don't listen to them beyong being able to puke back what they want to hear to get a grade.

Well, anyway, that's my tenuous link to a very soft, shallow, optimism for the future.

Investors have a saying - "even a dead cat bounces". It is possible we're seeing, in the likes of Chavez and the shrieking media and other leftist elites, the dead-cat bounce of the Left. That doesn't make it any less irritating in real-time, though.

loner said...

I was in Puerto Rico this weekend to attend La Gran Final—De Objetivo Fama. The only real difficulties during the 72 hours had to do with the means of transportation from and to Los Angeles and some freakish weather in Miami. On the whole, given that just like in English-language entertainment the band rarely plays when there are has-beens and cameras about, we had a great time.

We adapt (or we don't) and we die. That's what we do.

P.S.: The ticket says "No Camaras, No Videos." We left our cell phones in LA. I'd swear we were the only ones who did. One of the finalists did, from the stage during a break, tell someone in our group, mainly promotions winners and marketing execs, that she wasn't allowed to pose...even for cell phones. So far as I could tell she was the only one who didn't.

Once upon a time many years ago I remember a news reader during a network break concluding with the results of a study that showed there were finally more televisions than people in the United States. Her final all-smiles line:

Is this a great country or what!

Is this a great world or what!

chuck said...

a study that showed there were finally more televisions than people in the United States.

Unh oh. TV's, Diebold... TV's, Diebold, *click*. It's a nefarious plot. Help!

truepeers said...

One thing about that Aztlan site I linked earlier that now has me thinking: it's all in English. So, I assume this is the product of second + generation Hispanic-Americans of college age, playing nation-builders to let off the usual youthful/professor-inspired steam. But how is it that they can bring themselves to write and read their creed in English? Somehow, they're not quite like nationalist separatist movements elsewhere. Well...I guess the Irish nationalists used English a lot. Still, somehow, they seem so American in their version of leftism!

Skookumchuk said...

chuck:

Truly, it sounds like the problem lies in Mexico . . .

Yes. The problems are pretty thorny. Everything from feudal corruption to unclear land titles to almost insuperable obstacles placed in the way of startup businesses. Read De Soto.

If it were me in the White House, I would have made last night's speech in my best and most florid Castillian - not a word of English - sprinkled with phrases like la soberania de nuestra patria announcing the building of a real wall and a simultaneous Marshall Plan for Mexico.

knucklehead:

When all is said and done, despite the rantings of the Aztlan types, people aren't out to recreate what it was they felt compelled to run away from.

True. The question though is how much can they contribute to a new society when there is so little in their culture or their education that prepares them to make a contribution? We don't inculcate a sense of nationhood in a public school system that gives them extra credit for skipping class in order to haul down the US flag and replace it upside down under the Mexican one.

And we can't educate them and make them citizens in those schools either.

So where can we do it? In the Army?

loner:

Yeah. Despite the melodramatic nervousness in my original post, there is a bright side. I don't think the latinas will be wearing burkhas any time soon.

truepeers:

I'm proud to say many moons ago in college I got into an argument with an Aztlanian whacko. And his Spanish was atrocious. We had to switch to English. A total, total wuss. So much of a wuss that there was no fun in it at all.

truepeers said...

Snook, maybe he was a descendant of the mythical Juan de Fuca (you mentioned you had relatives on the Canadian prairies, didn't you Skook?).

What are the proposed borders of Aztlan anyway? anyone know?

truepeers said...

Juan de Fuca

Skookumchuk said...

truepeers:

Yes, on my Dad's side. Half went to Michigan and the other half to Peterborough ONT and from there to Saskatechewan. They used to send me RCMP calendars when I was a kid. We go up there every few years.

The borders of Aztlan are somewhat elastic. All the way up to eastern Washington, in some cases.

Well, I just got a book of David Thompson's maps and it is clear that they alone would establish a much more solid claim to Washington State, I'm thinkin'.

Heck, if you guys change your anthem back to include those "stand on guard for thees" that you have seemingly excised and fly the Red Ensign once again, I just might have to move north.

truepeers said...

O'Canada has been re-written many times, but no one's told me that we're not still supposed to sing stand on guard for thee. Considering that the Spanish explored much of the BC coast, we might need it, eh?

Skookumchuk said...

truepeers:

Well, the latest anthem change was hearsay, told to me by one of your compatriots. But a quick Google search just a few moments ago found no evidence of it.

Speaking of things maritime and Spanish and Northwestern, I'm (very) slowly making models of these.

terrye said...

skook:

I have read some De Soto and he talked about property rights or the lack thereof in Latin America as being the primary source of poverty. My brother in law lived in Mexico and Central America for years and he loved the people. He really did. It was the governments he disliked.

Mexico has always been a failed state, in fact I would say that the Southern Hemisphere is failed. How else do you explain Venezuala and Bolivia?

But I meant it when I said that we were more likely to annex Mexico than the other way around. I don't think the American people would support a Marshall Plan for Mexico. They have too much oil...which may end up in the hands of a socialist in the not to distant future.

It would seem to me that assimilation is the key and I am not sure how supportive schools etc will be with that.

vnjagvet said...

Skook:

Your post is a great example of why this is a really great blog.

Contrast it to what happened on polipundit today. I am referring to the banning of opposition to poli's take on immigration.

I was especially struck by your apparent throwaway in the comments
that what is needed is a wall on our southern border and a Marshall plan for Mexico.

That comes real close to the bottom line. We really cannnot afford to have a truly dysfunctional third world country on our border. As a matter of national security, it seems as important in many ways as the three I's (Israel, Iraq, and Iran), the two stans (Afghanistan and Pakistan), and North Korea.

It isn't nuclear weapons or suicide bombings that scare me so much as jealousy and hatred which, in the last analysis, are probably much more powerful. For these emotions unleash those who wield all weapons and bombs.

chuck said...

vnjagvet,

It also sounded like Skook was saying that the key reforms were land titles and removing bureaucratic restrictions on business. I don't see how any of that could be done without coming into conflict with vested and powerful interests. Without it, money will evaporate and leave little residue behind.

in fact I would say that the Southern Hemisphere is failed.

Well, Chile seems to be doing OK (knock, knock). On the other hand, Argentina was also booming one hundred years ago, look at it today. Most of those countries seem to have caught the wrong wave of the future. That whole class, victim, imperialism, great leader thing just fit the circumstances too well.

Skookumchuk said...

vnjagvet:

We really cannnot afford to have a truly dysfunctional third world country on our border.

No. And our betters in DC haven't a clue. I was only partly kidding about the Spanish language White House speech. Somebody will have to give it, someday. It would say what needs to be said while neatly short-circuiting all the PC responses.

Among all those young Hispanic 2nd lieutenants now in the Sandbox, there may be one or two with political ambitions who could make it someday. If we can wait that long.

Skookumchuk said...

chuck:

That whole class, victim, imperialism, great leader thing just fit the circumstances too well.

And that is my fear - the co-optation of the whole immigration issue by the radical left, which drinks the same victimology kool-aid as so much of Latin America.

truepeers said...

That sounds like a good hobby, Skookumchuck. Are there many pictures, plans, to work with?

chuck said...

I'm (very) slowly making models of these

Wow, those were tiny ships to sail so far. Do you have any knowledge of the development of rigging? I don't know squat about it, but it always struck me as marvelously complicated, what with the bowsprit, masts, catlines, et. al. A remarkable technology really.

Skookumchuk said...

truepeers:

Hardly any plans, save for Malaspina's two ships. But there are hull dimensions, ship's logs and drawings by expedition artists, as well as naval regulations on paint schemes and so forth. All the rest is guesswork.

The Beaver may be next, but it has been done to death. Maybe something else.

Skookumchuk said...

chuck:

Actually they sailed from San Blas, on the west coast of Mexico, where Spain had a naval base. The story is quite interesting.

After the invention of the chronometer, it became necessary to re-map everything. The Spanish built a small schooner, the Mexicana, only about 45 ft long, to map the west coast of southern Mexico and Central America. It would have tied up most nights and the crew would have slept ashore. With word of increased Russian activity in what is today the Alaska panhandle - and with George Vancouver poking around in what is today Vancouver Island and Puget Sound - the decision was made to build a sistership, the Sutil or "the delicate one" and send them north to fly the flag and also to map the coasts of what is today Vancouver Island and the San Juans. Which they did.

truepeers said...

Well it might be interesting to compare Spanish and British ships of the same era. How about the Chatham and Discovery?

Knucklehead said...

Skook,

The question though is how much can they contribute to a new society when there is so little in their culture or their education that prepares them to make a contribution?

I have this same sense of foreboding, at times, when it comes to immigrants - even the legal variety. People from India, China, Russia, Poland, Sweden... I have reasonably close contact with. They do not understand our system - its strengths and flaws. Even Swedes, who come from a parliamentary system, struggle to understand our republican, somewhat decentralized, two "party" system where we vote for the candidate rather than the "party". If they ever do get it it takes forever.

What mitigates my apprehension re: this is that when I listen to these people they seem to have some mechanisms for dealing with this. So, for example, I've heard Russians and Poles specifically state that they identify the candidate that sounds the most like the politically active where they came from and then vote for the other candidate.

As far as I can tell most Asian immigrants do not seem particularly politically active. Yutes get active but they grow up. And for every loon Aztlanista there's another one who wants no part of such nonsense.

And don't forget, our immigrants - at least in the massive immigrations such as this illegal tide from Mexico - have never been educated people with exposure to democracy or American traditions.

Immigrants, to the best of my knowledge, have never caused the US a ton or trouble as far as politics goes. We get out political troubles from our homegrown nutbars.

We don't inculcate a sense of nationhood in a public school system that gives them extra credit for skipping class in order to haul down the US flag and replace it upside down under the Mexican one.

They don't need to be Mexican immigrants for this sort of nonsense. Our schools aren't inculcating American civics into anyone immigrant or otherwise. And just today I heard a woman bragging how she took her sophomore son out of HS for the day so he could do his mandatory drivers training in one day rather than scattered over several evenings and weekends. Unfortunately vast hunks of our population have lost all sense of the value education and American civic institutions and traditions.

chuck said...

The Beaver may be next, but it has been done to death. Maybe something else.

When I was growing up we were friends with a family that had one of those gloriously detailed wooden models of a ship, a schooner I believe, like those you sometimes see on display at museums. The family had some sort of nautical tradition that I foolishly never asked about. They also had a family cottage in Canada on the north shore of the St. Lawrence river with a dock, a boat house full of sailboats, homemade kayaks, etc. We children slept in tents in the pasture. Oh, and on the bookshelves there was Swallows and Amazons, Peter Duck, and other Arthur Ransome books along with the Hornblower series. I read those by the light of a kerosene mantle lamp. Quite the adventure for a kid of eleven. Now I wish I had learned more of the family history.

Skookumchuk said...

truepeers:

When you read Vancouver's log and Bodega y Quadra's log, they both spend time running down the other's ships. It's pretty funny, actually.

There are plans of both Discovery and Chatham.

Discovery and Chatham were more suitable for their voyages than Sutil and Mexicana, which were pressed in to service. In dimensions, the British vessels were more like the typical Spanish vessels used in the north Pacific, Fidalgo's Princesa, for example. Only a hundred feet long or so, kind of chunky, a bit slow, easy enough to haul off a reef if you got stuck.

You look at plans of a British ship and a Spanish one and if you don't know what to look for, you couldn't tell their nationalities. The figurehead is a giveaway, with the Spanish invariably using a lion, as is (some times) the shape of the rail over the stern gallery. The shapes of the masthead caps and crosstrees can be different, though not always. Otherwise, they are very close. Just like a gray naval ship of today.

Skookumchuk said...

knucklehead:

Unfortunately vast hunks of our population have lost all sense of the value education and American civic institutions and traditions.

That prompted my question about how do we get it back when we face such challenges. Compulsory military service where they all work together and are forced to succeed? A kind of high school civics after boot camp?

Actually, compulsory service is probably a terrible suggestion. But we do need something to counteract the Gramscians.

Knucklehead said...

Skook,

I think the only way to recover it is to recover civics education in the public schools.

It wouldn't hurt if we had a responsible media either.

I'd like a winning lottery ticket also.

Sooner or later we're going to need to break the NEA. Our public school issues aren't the fault of immigrants. Our homegrown leftoids have done that to us.

Skookumchuk said...

chuck:

If you want to jump in with both feet, you can start here:

The Anatomy of Nelson's Ships.

Skookumchuk said...

knucklehead:

Sooner or later we're going to need to break the NEA. Our public school issues aren't the fault of immigrants. Our homegrown leftoids have done that to us.

Yes, absolutely. That is why we need to make the Mexicans into Republicans to kick NEA butts around the block. Hispanics are generally very opposed to bilingual education, by the way - or at least they were a few years back in California. You never hear about that on TV news, speaking of things Gramscian.

Skookumchuk said...

truepeers:

I stared at the picture for quite a while before realizing I've stayed in that hotel in Val Marie. There was a leak someplace and part of the carpet was sopping wet, but otherwise it was a fine experience.

:-)

truepeers said...

You're kidding@! small world - i don't suppose you saw the cross?

Skookumchuk said...

truepeers:

No, we didn't. Didn't even know about it. We had driven north from Malta, Montana in the middle of the most hellacious thunderstorms I've ever seen. Once we got there, we just plopped down in bed, squishy carpet notwithstanding. I slept like a rock.

Actually, I'm pretty sure the picture is mislabeled. That hotel is actually in Mankota, which is very close to Val Marie.