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Latinx: The New Force in American Politics – Book Review

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Mural by Rosalia Torres Weiner at Gateways/Portales exhibit at Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum

Before discussing Ed Morales’ new book, it’s important to define what its title means.  ‘Latinx’ is the gender-neutral terms for people of Latin American heritage.  Latino, the traditionally used term, is, by its Spanish definition, masculine.  Thus, many people feel that it’s an exclusionary term that associates Latin American people with men, by default.

LATINX is, unsurprisingly, a book about the politics and history of the plethora of Latinx identities, which extends well into the Middle Ages.  Morales starts off the book by relating the beginnings of Spanish identity, when what is now Spain was a Muslim colony called Al-Andalus.  Muslim Moors (or Berbers) from northern Africa conquered most of the Iberian Peninsula in the 700s, a land inhabited by Catholics and some Jews.  Morales writes about the complex relationship between these three groups and how the Moorish dynasty helped form the Spanish ethnicity that we know today.

In 1492, the Catholic monarchs King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella forced out the Moorish dynasty (as well as the native Jews) and, ironically, set out their own colonial expedition the same year.  Christopher Columbus, rumored to be a Jew himself, thus started the transplant of the Spanish identity onto almost all of Central and South America, what we now call Latin America.

Morales follows this historical progression in the following chapters of LATINX.  The Spaniards brought the ethnic hang-ups that they had leftover from the Moorish regime with them to the Americas.  They enslaved the natives under the encomienda system and established a racial hierarchy called mestizaje.  Morales writes that the, “Spaniards and Portuguese inherited the historical roots of racist views towards sub-Saharan Africans through their intimate connection with [Moorish] Islam customs, cultures & practices.  Muslim practices of enslavement divided slaves between field and housework according to skin color.  Lighter skinned slaves were favored over the darker skinned.”  The nature of Spanish colonialism, in which swarms of male conquistadores held all the land/power and enforced the racial hierarchy by taking native wives, created the famously sexist machista culture, which persists in Latin America to this day.

Importantly, Morales makes sure to write about Florida and the American Southwest (Aztlan), which most people forget belonged to the Spanish Empire for a couple centuries.  In a paradigm-shifting bit of trivia, the author places, “the origin of the American cowboy in the 1850s, when a group led by Jose de Escandon crossed the Rio Grande to collaborate with Richard King, who founded the King Ranch.”  By restating this history, he’s demonstrating that Latinx are as American as anyone, having occupied and culturally shaped what is now the USA for as long as the country has existed.  This runs quite contrary to what many American nationalists claim today, with their foreign invasion/clash of cultures rhetoric.

Morales then writes about the modern Latinx-American citizenry in the final, bulkiest section of the book.  A major topic is how Latinx view themselves.  The Latinx self-paradigm is shaped by nationality, religion and different notions of ‘race’.  The author notes that,  “The US developed a racial matrix based on strict separation of races, rather than adopting the relatively fluid models of Iberian colonization, which engaged in a kind of exponential racial variation through both forced and negotiated miscegenation.”  Latinx living in the US must internalize and externalize different ethnic identities when interacting with Caucasian, Asian, African, Native and Latinx communities.  For instance, being black (negro/negra) in Latin America has some very different cultural permutations than being black in the US.

The book is particularly focused on Cuban-Americans, Chicanos and Puerto Ricans (who are Americans, by definition).  These three ethnicities have been closely tied to the US ever since the Mexican-American War, in which the US annexed half of Mexico, and the Spanish-American War, in which the US seized Cuba and Puerto Rico.  Cuban-Americans, Chicanos and Puerto Ricans have had a huge impact on American electoral politics and culture, especially music.  Morales writes a lot about the entwinement of politics in Latinx salsa, rock, jazz and hip-hop.  Readers are also treated to many excerpts from Latinx poems and essays.  Though, the book gives a not-so-fun fact about Latinx in Hollywood: only 1% of lead roles in movies are given to Latinx actors!

American cultural hegemony over Latinx is also explored in the book.  It explores how Latinx, particularly first-generation migrants, have been politically and economically encumbered.  Latinx are mostly treated as objects by Democrats and Republicans alike, rather than as constituents.  Politicians pander to either xenophobia or milquetoast platitudes about equality.  Small wonder Latinx vote at a disproportionately low rate.  As a result, Latinx are severely underserved not just on the immigration issue, but matters of employment, education and countless other issues.

As the book’s subtitle suggests though, this is starting to change, just from sheer demographic changes.  ‘Latino’ is now the 2nd most commonly given ethnicity in the US Census, behind ‘White’.  About 60% of Latinx are millenials or younger; thus, they will come to exert an ever-increasing influence of the labor market and pop cultural mores (Cardi B, anyone?).  Latinx also have a disproportionately high purchasing power, $1.4T, and social media presence.  Morales illuminates the multi-billion dollar efforts to market to this young constituency, such as the NBC-owned Telemundo television network and countless focus groups.

Though Latinx have under-utilized their voting power thus far, their population boom alone is making them more of a factor in elections.  They disproportionately populate the biggest Electoral College states, such as New York and California, and swing states like Florida and Arizona.  Pundits have spent many a segment extolling the Latinx voter bloc.  Even the Republican National Committee recommended doing voter outreach to Latinos after Romney’s 2012 loss (guess Donald Trump never got the memo).  Morales writes about Latinx voter enrollment efforts and misconceptions about Latinx social conservatism, particularly among the famous Cuban-Floridian voting bloc.

Latinx: The New Force In American Politics is a thorough look at the history of the group of people called ‘Hispanic’ and ‘Latino’.  The effects of colonialism and banana republic neo-colonialism on people living in Latin America- and those who migrated to the US as a result- are exposed.  The Latinx experience has been one of both cultural immersion and subversion of multinational power structures, such as racism and labor exploitation.  There is no monolithic Latinx archetype- Latin America is a mix of Caucasians, natives, Africans, Middle Easterners and Asians.  Though nominally Christian, worshippers in countries across the hemisphere have incorporated indigenous icons and beliefs, such as the Virgin of Guadeloupe and Santeria.  Such diversity challenges American perceptions of Latinx and the racial hierarchy as a whole.  Ed Morales exposes these contradictions through history, data, poetry and personal anecdotes from his Nuyorican upbringing.

Russell Whitehouse is Executive Editor at IntPolicyDigest. He’s also a freelance social media manager/producer, 2016 Iowa Caucus volunteer and a policy essayist.

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Americas

Scandinavia Veers Left plus D-Day Reflections as Trump Storms Europe

Dr. Arshad M. Khan

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Mette Frederiksen of the five-party Social Democrat bloc won 91 of the 169 seats in the Danish parliament ending the rule of the right-wing Liberal Party group that had governed for 14 of the last 18 years.  The election issues centered on climate change, immigration and Denmark’s generous social welfare policies.  All parties favored tighter immigration rules thereby taking away the central issue dominating the far-right Democrat Freedom Party which has seen its support halved since the last election in 2015.

Ms Frederiksen promised more spending to bolster the much loved social welfare model and increased taxes on businesses and the wealthy.  A left wave is sweeping Scandinavia as Denmark becomes the third country, after Sweden and Finland, to move left within a year.  Mette Frederiksen will also be, at 41, the youngest prime minister Denmark has ever had.

Donald Trump has used the 75th anniversary of D-Day commemorations to garner positive publicity.  The supreme promoter has managed to tie it in with a “classy” (his oft-chosen word) state visit to the UK spending a day with royals.  It was also a farewell to the prime minister as her resignation is effective from June 7.  Add a D-Day remembrance ceremony at Portsmouth and he was off to his golf course in Ireland for a couple of days of relaxation disguised as a visit to the country for talks — he has little in common with the prime minister, Leo Varadkar, who is half-Indian and gay.

Onward to France where leaders gathered for ceremonies at several places.  It is easy to forget the extent of that carnage:  over 20,000 French civilians were killed in Normandy alone mostly from aerial bombing and artillery fire.  The Normandy American cemetery holds over 9600 soldiers.  All in all, France lost in the neighborhood of 390,000 civilian dead during the whole war.  Estimates of total deaths across the world range from 70 to 85 million or about 3 percent of the then global population (estimated at 2.3 billion).

Much has been written about conflict resolutions generally from a cold rational perspective.  Emotions like greed, fear and a sense of injustice when unresolved lead only in one direction.  There was a time when individual disputes were given the ultimate resolution through single combat.  Now legal rights and courts are available — not always perfect, not always fair, but neither are humans.

It does not take a genius to extrapolate such legal measures to nations and international courts … which already exist.  Just one problem:  the mighty simply ignore them.  So we wait, and we honor the dead of wars that in retrospect appear idiotic and insane.  Worse is the attempt to justify such insanity through times like the “good war”, a monstrous absurdity.

It usually takes a while.  Then we get leaders who have never seen the horror of war — some have assiduously avoided it — and the cycle starts again.

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Americas

To Impeach Or Not To Impeach? That Is The Question

Dr. Arshad M. Khan

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Robert Mueller let loose a thunderbolt midweek.  Donald Trump had not been charged, he said, because it was Department of Justice policy not to charge a sitting president.  Dumping the issue firmly into Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s lap, he reminded us of the purpose of the impeachment process.  According to Mueller there are ten instances where there are serious issues with the president obstructing justice adding that his report never concludes that Trump is innocent.

So here is a simple question:  If Mueller thought the president is not innocent but he did not charge him because of Justice Department policy, and he appears also to favor impeachment, then why in heaven’s name did he not simply state in his report that the preponderance of evidence indicated Trump was guilty?

Nancy Pelosi is wary of impeachment.  According to the rules, the House initiates it and when/if  it finds sufficient grounds, it forwards the case to the Senate for a formal trial.  The Senate at present is controlled by Republicans, who have been saying it’s time to move on, often adding that after two years of investigation and a 448-page report, what is the point of re-litigating the issue?  They have a point and again it leads to the question:  if Special Counsel Mueller thinks Trump is guilty as he now implies, why did he not actually say so?

Never one to miss any opportunity , Trump labels Mueller, highly conflicted, and blasts impeachment as ‘a dirty, filthy, disgusting word’,  He has also stopped Don McGahn, a special counsel at the White House from testifying before Congress invoking ‘executive privilege’ — a doctrine designed to keep private the president’s consultations with his advisors.  While not cited anywhere in the Constitution, the Supreme Court has held it to be ‘fundamental to the operation of government and inextricably rooted in the Separation of Powers under the Constitution.’  Separation of powers keeps apart the executive branch, the legislature and the judiciary, meaning each one cannot interfere with the other.

Nancy Pelosi is under increasing pressure from the young firebrands.  Rep Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez has already expressed the view that it is time to open an impeachment inquiry against Trump given the obstruction of lawmakers’ oversight duty.

Speaker Pelosi is a long-time politician with political blood running through her veins — her father was Mayor of Baltimore and like herself also a US Representative.  To her the situation as is, is quite appealing.  Trump’s behavior fires up Democrats across the country and they respond by emptying their pockets to defeat the Republicans in 2020.  Democratic coffers benefit so why harm this golden goose — a bogeyman they have an excellent chance of defeating — also evident from the numbers lining up to contest the Democratic presidential primaries, currently at 24. 

Will Trump be impeached?  Time will tell but at present it sure doesn’t look likely.

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Americas

When Republicans Are In Power, Banks, Real Estate, and Insurance Companies Crush The People

Rahul D. Manchanda, Esq.

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There is certainly a correlation by and between when conservatives and Republicans talk about “de-regulation” and “freedom” of business, in the outright and total crushing of the American people underneath a boot of immorality.

For example, insurance companies will start to increase the use dishonest and unethical “adjustors” to set out to deny lawful proper claims for insurance, such as when someone has fully paid their expensive premiums, but then is cruelly and out of hand denied much needed assistance from these insurance companies for various health problems, automobile accidents, home and renters policy mishaps, professional liability defense, general business liability assistance, property damage, and other types of accidents and mishaps that these insurance companies state that they were designed to protect their customers with.

These insurance companies know fully well that the poor and middle class do not have the ability to hire and retain competent high powered lawyers to defend their interests, either by entangling with them or in dealing with the entities that are coming after them in the above named types of life problems.

The Democrats had created and implemented such consumer watchdog agencies such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) and the New York Department of Financial Services (“DFS”) and these agencies were very successful in prosecuting, investigating, and beating back insurance company and banker predatory behavior, but then the lobbying groups for these industries began to buy and pay for Republican whores and populated the Congress and Senate with their “people,” and low and behold, we got an avalanche of “deregulation” from the Executive and Legislative Branches, gutted agencies and replacement of its leaders, all of a sudden leaving the American people at the will and hellish end of the retaliatory insurance and banking industries, and now things are worse than they ever were before.

Similarly, as the Insurance industry benefited from screwing over the American people, the Banking industry simultaneously have begun again to rape the American people, by instituting usurious collections and interest rates, sometimes as high as 50-60%, on such things as student loans in default through no fault of the borrower (due to sickness, injury, loss of employment, bankruptcy) and credit card companies now routinely rape and pillage the American people with ungodly APRs and other “bait and switch” mechanisms designed to fleece their customers, enriching themselves while impoverishing their customers.

All the while these banks and insurance companies are charging more than ever for premiums, simple day to day processes such as ATM machine usage, finance charges, late fees, and other highway robbery-type methods to steal from the American people.

The real estate industry, headed up by men such as Ben Carson of HUD, have now mercilessly began to crush tenants and mortgage holders, denying them basic warranties of safety and habitability, skirting all state and federal regulation so as to make a buck.

“Freedom” as used by Republican and conservative leaders was supposed to mean something different than giving trillion dollar international banks, real estate, and insurance companies the license to rape and pillage the American people, but “deregulation” is the proverbial “wolf in sheep’s clothing” or “trojan horse” by these communist industries to devastate the American people, and they must be reigned in once again by the Democrat led powers in the Congress and the Senate, and perhaps even the Judiciary (state and federal).

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