Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Was my Cabbie Right?

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?


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 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.

Unknown said...


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.

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.

chuck said...


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.

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!

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

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?

Unknown said...


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...


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...


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.

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.

truepeers said...

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

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.

truepeers said...

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