Mike Kueber's Blog

August 4, 2017

A response to Jane Elliott’s “brilliant question.”

Filed under: Culture,Facebook,Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 12:19 am
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White audience left speechless by brilliant question about race.”  That is the title of a You Tube video by Jane Elliott that is shared ad nauseum on Facebook. The other ubiquitous, nausea-inducing video on Facebook has Jeff Daniels explaining in “Newsroom” why American is not the greatest country in the world.

In her short video, anti-racism activist Jane Elliott says, “I want every white person in this room who would be happy to be treated as this society in general treats our black citizens. If you as a white person would be happy to receive the same treatment that our black citizens do in this society, please stand.”

When no one in the audience stands, Elliott asserts that fact as proof that the audience knows how badly society treats blacks, and then she asks why the audience is so willing to accept the mistreatment of blacks.

Yesterday on Facebook, the Elliott video was thrown in my face while I was discussing one of the issues of the day. No, it wasn’t the Trump initiatives on reduced legal immigration or “intentional race-based discrimination” in college admissions. Rather, it concerned a police dust-up with an entitled white kid who refused the officer’s instruction to get out of his Ford Mustang.

My Facebook friend Patricia Spencer Potyka posted a lengthy video of the encounter, and George Thompson, Sr. made the first comment:

  • Thompson – If this driver had not been Caucasian there would have been no discourse: he would have been shot to death. Period.
  • Potyka – Not condoning the driver’s non-compliance initially, but he’s just a kid –scared kid.

At that point, I entered the fray:

  • Kueber – “not condoning noncompliance, but….” “If the driver had not been caucasian… would have been shot to death.” Remember Sandra Flake, the African-American who thought she had a right to stay in her car? She didn’t get shot, but did get arrested. The moral of this story is that when a police officer instructs you to get out of the car, the stupidest thing is to tell the officer that you have the right to stay in your car. Noncompliance is not an option. Yes, this guy is a scared kid, but not too scared to defy a cop while demanding to call his dad. An obvious case of affluenza.
  • Thompson – Ms. Flake, the African-featured woman you alluded to, was arrested, taken to the police station and murdered. Those who are afflicted by President Twitterdumb are not recipients of anodyne jollity. Please reconsider the video, (supra: “A WHITE AUDIENCE IS LEFT SPEECHLESS”) Evil is not funny.
  • Kueber – Mr. Thompson, everyone on Facebook is familiar with Jane Elliot’s silly video. The audience is speechless because the question is ridiculous on multiple levels. Perhaps you could summarize what you gleaned from viewing it.
  • Thompson – And yet you, Mr. Kueber , are apparently at a loss to enunciate even one basis to substantiate the “levels” corroborating your postulate of Ms. Elliot’s question as fatuous? Without such rejoinder, why should anyone entertain your apparent delusions?
  • Kueber – George — #1 – it would be presumptuous for a white person to think he knows how it feels to be treated as a black person in American society. Unless that person is author John Griffin (Black Like Me) or NAACP’s Rachel Dolezal, who is white, but identifies as a black. #2 – American society profiles everybody based on their life experiences with individuals of that type – age, sex, job, home, appearance, manners, accent, religion, politics, etc. That does not make them bigots.  In the abstract you may want to treat everybody as an individual, but it is impossible to ignore your life experiences. #3 – what sort of person would admit to preferring the life of someone else? Certainly not someone listening to Ms. Elliott speak. If Ms. Elliott were to ask a roomful of female feminists to stand if they would be happy to be treated as society treats men, I think the vast majority of them would remain seated.

George Thompson, Sr. appears to have tricked me. He responded to my question with another question, and I fell for his challenge with a lengthy, detailed response while he faded away like the drive-by media. With my response drafted, however, I will have a ready answer the next time someone asks me if I would be happy to be treated as a black person is treated.

Just as I am ready when someone asks if America is the greatest country in the world, in which case I play the Thompson trick and ask them to identify one that is greater 😉

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November 3, 2016

A fresh look at political correctness

Filed under: Culture,Issues,Politics,Uncategorized — Mike Kueber @ 3:07 am
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I’ve probably written in this blog a dozen times about political correctness.  The concept drives me crazy.  At various times I have described it, for purposes of progressive politics, as either treating a false statement as true (creating college diversity is intended to improve the learning environment for the other students) or a true statement as false (a victim might have some responsibility for provoking an assault).

A recent column in the Washington Post by Barton Swaim took another tack on describing political correctness and it probably better explains why the concept so frustrates me.  According to Swaim:

  • Political correctness, if I could venture my own admittedly rather clinical definition, involves the prohibition of common expressions and habits on the grounds that someone in our pluralistic society may be offended by them. It reduces political life to an array of signs and symbols deemed good or bad according to their tendency either to include or exclude aggrieved or marginalized people from common life.
  • PC was born of a generous impulse, maybe — it’s good and right to avoid giving offense, when you can. But it has long been a blight and a menace. It obliges us to think constantly about a few topics — topics having mainly to do with racial and sexual identities, but other sorts of identities as well — even as it makes it impossible for us to speak openly and honestly about those same topics. You must consider every facet of life in light of racial sensitivities, sexual politics or some kind of cultural imperialism; but you’d better not talk openly about any of these things unless you’re prepared to negotiate their exquisite complexities and unless you’re up to date on all the latest banned phrases.

Swaim makes two great insights:

  1. Political correctness is focused on taking care of the aggrieved or marginalized – e.g., women, minorities, disabled, gay, etc.
  2. Political correctness discourages us from speaking opening because it is almost impossible to keep up with the latest sensitivities.

Just last week, I read a post from a Facebook friend who was livid because she had been invited to some sort of Housewife networking event.  Little did I know how outdated, and offensive, this term had become.  Stay-at-home mom was OK; housewife certainly was not.

A few months ago, I got into a heated argument on Facebook over a sports column chastising a variety of Olympic reporters for being sexists.  I questioned whether any of the reporting deserved such strong condemnation, and suggested the author might be a femi-nazi.  Whoa, several feminist friends suggested angrily to me that femi-nazi was almost as bad as the n-word and should never be used in civil conversation.  I told them the sexist charge should not be thrown around casually either.  All of this seemed to me like political correctness gone awry.

On a brighter note, however, I once was discussing schooling with a mother of an autistic kid and I stupidly asked if he attended normal classes.  That was another no-no.  Fortunately, she was not part of the PC police and she gently taught me that the correct description was “mainstream classes.”

Unlike the Olympic brouhaha, I appreciated the autism encounter.  Not only did I learn something that made sense, but the person taught me in such a way that didn’t discourage further free speech.

 

 

 

 

October 29, 2015

A Civil Exchange

Filed under: Culture,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 1:17 am
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David Martin Davies is a reporter for Texas Public Radio who uses his Facebook wall in a manner akin to passive-aggressive behavior – i.e., he uses the tone of a reasonable moderate, but his underlying message is usually extreme and radical.

Earlier this week, Davies provided a prime example by posting a 45-year-old, ten-minute news clip from NBC News titled, “Mexican Americans in Texas in 1970.”  Davies described the clip as follows:

  • A documentary from NBC News in 1970 called “Mexican Americans” shot in San Antonio and opens with a sound bite from then SA Mayor McAllister saying some racist stuff. The doc focuses on the economic inequality in SA along racial lines.

As is his wont, Davies characterized McAllister as a racist without providing any specifics re: his “racist stuff.”  Because Davies is an NPR newsperson, his progressive listeners/commenters naturally accepted his conclusory statement without referring to any specifics.

But I decided to listen to the video.  It started with former SA Mayor McAllister saying:

  • Mexicans in America have a different temperament than Anglos.  Mexicans are fine people who are home loving; they love beauty and flowers and music and dancing, but perhaps aren’t as ambitiously motivated as Anglos are to get ahead financially, but they manage to get a lot out of life.

Then NBC newsman Jack Perkins described San Antonio as having a patronizing local government and brutal police conduct.  He complained about the absence of industry in SA and its inadequate school system.  He interviewed a leading proponent of reform, who admitted that he hate “gringos.”  When Perkins asked if gringos hate him, he responded, “I don’t care.  They’ve been screwing us for 200 years.  Sure we want to control this town.”

Perkins ended his report by stating that, “This is the despair that makes the barrios potentially explosive.”  (Incidentally, Perkins noted that Mexican-Americans were still a minority in SA in 1970.)

After watching the clip, I commented to Davies as follows:

  • Mike Kueber – You are really grasping to characterize McAllister’s soundbite as racist while ignoring the leading spokesman for the other side defiantly declaring his hatred of all “gringos.” McAllister merely suggested that Mexican-Americans in SA at that time weren’t as driven as Anglos to achieve financial success. That is racist? Some people denigrate Jews precisely for that – i.e., for being driven to achieve financial success. Aren’t some cultures more entrepreneurial than others? Perkins said that Mexican-Americans in SA wanted to retain their Mexican culture and Spanish language. Was that racist, too? After watching this video, it is easier to understand Julian Castro’s anti-Alamo sentiments.

This comment set of a wide-ranging, substantive discussion as follows:

Michael Canales – “Merely” suggesting that, as a whole, one race of people is inferior to another isn’t racist? That is the definition of “racist”. And to infer that Jews as a race are inherently more driven for financial success is just as racist. A positive racial stereotype is still a stereotype.

Chuck Coats – ”Mexican Americans are not driven to success” sounds pretty doggone racist to me. Although declaring hatred for all gringos is pretty doggone racist too.

David Martin Davies – McAllister was an elected official and a leader in the business community. He should be held to the highest standard. I think that other speaker is Jose Angel Gutierrez and he is an activist and admitted he didn’t like gringos because he was fighting for his people. He was reacting to the oppression of McAllister and the system in Texas at the time. Gutierrez is the reaction to McAllister. Without a McAllister there would be no Gutierrez but the opposite is not true.

Maria A. Berriozabal – I did not see Jose Angel Gutierrez in this clip. Only Richard Avena who was the Director of the US Civil Rights Commission Office that we had here at one time, and Mariano Aguilar, an activist. There are two other speakers whom I did not recognize.

David Martin Davies – Sorry if I got that name wrong – I don’t know these players that well. Never the less the point stands.

Mike Kueber – Michael Canales, McAllister didn’t say one race as a whole was inferior to the other. That is the definition of a racist. Rather he said that SA Hispanics in general had different values than SA anglos. That is inherent in Perkins’ suggestion that …See More

Mike Kueber – David Martin Davies, the activist didn’t say he didn’t like gringos, he said he hated them and wanted to subjugate them, but I accept your point that McAllister should be held to a higher standard.

Mike Kueber – Chuck Coats, I’m glad that you’ll concede that hating everyone of another race is almost as bad as suggesting that the other race isn’t as financially ambitious as yours wink emoticon

Chuck Coats – Concede? All I’m saying is they are both racist statements. That’s it.

Mike Kueber – Chuck Coats, my point was that, imo, David was stretching to characterize McAllister while he seems to be an apologist for the person who is undeniably racist. Perhaps David has accepted the idea that oppressed people, by definition, can’t be racist. Only the oppressors can be racists.

Michael Canales – Would that culture stop at the city limits, or would it have been some foreign vestige? I think you’re missing the implication of his statement. The idea of “culturally less-driven” sounds a lot more like “lazy Mexicans” to me. I’m failing to understand how a successful business man with; purportedly, no racist leanings, could say something like that in the face of obvious socioeconomic disparities.

Mike Kueber – Michael Canales, my law professor in the 70s, Lino Graglia, caught hell for opining that Mexican-American families, in general, did not as much cherish their children’s academic success or scorn their children’s dropping out of school as much as anglo families. Does that make Graglia a racist?

Michael Canales – Judging by what little information I have here, I’d have to say, “it depends”. Was this an observation followed by an interest as to why Graglia was seeing these trends? Were these students dropping out to go to work to support a struggling family? Or are Mexican- Americans culturally predisposed to academic disinterest or failure? We know the latter isn’t true. So maybe LG was just shortsighted.

Mike Kueber – Michael Canales, agree that the distinction between culture and socio-economic condition is valid.

Michael Canales – Yes, agreed. Personally, I feel like McAllister might not have. Have a good evening, Mike.

After this peaceful conclusion, Sarah Fisch decided to join the fun:

Sarah Fisch – If by “grasping,” you mean “maintains a grasp of racist ideology,” you’re right on. To declare that Mexican-Americans at whatever time in history “weren’t as driven as Anglos to achieve financial success,” and to ask the reader to infer, based on stereotypes of Jewish financial prowess, that Mexican-Americans are less-than, is close to the Platonic ideal of racism.

Mike Kueber – I don’t understand why McAllister’s comments justify a leap to Platonic racism. Rather, I see them along the lines of Paul Morand’s famous comment about Manhattan – “The Jews own New York, the Irish run it, and the Negroes enjoy it.” Talk like that is no longer politically correct.

Sarah Fisch – For sure, McAllister’s remarks are very much along the lines of the famous comment by French author Paul Morand (1888-1976). The book that this comment is taken from, “New York,” was published in 1930. Morand was an aristocratic racist and anti-Semite who went on to hold two ambassadorial posts within the Nazi-collaborating Vichy government. Given this context, Morand’s perspective on the 1930s New York City seems maybe not so accurate, or harmless. And given that the endpoint of the politics Morand chose to espouse was Nazism, racism would appear to be a big part of his consciousness, as well as his allure. I’m not saying that McAllister (or you!) are Nazis by any means, but the belief that certain cultures do and should hold less power, whether economic or social, is a cornerstone of racist argument and policy.

Mike Kueber – I wasn’t aware of Morand or his notoriety until I looked up the bromide to determine its author. I think I first read it in some Thomas Wolfe novel. It sounded cute at the time, so I shared it with one of my best friends, a Jew from Brooklyn. He chuckled, too. Ditto, for my other best friend, an Irishman from upstate NY.

Sarah Fisch – Yeah, the New York early-20th century “ethnic white” narrative, which involved primarily Jewish, Italian, and Irish populations, has been written about a lot, and it’s really interesting – “Bonfire of the Vanities” is very much about this story, but this model isn’t applicable to South Texas.  This is way oversimplifying, but the Ellis Island-era immigrant experience in New York City was unique, in that ethnic groups arrived in the same place at the same time, and lived alongside each other – competing, complaining, mis-understanding, inter-marrying. This population was united though various labor and public health movements, and collectively encountered resistance by the pre-existing Protestant white power structure. The history and struggle of Mexican-Americans in South Texas isn’t animated by similarly inter-ethnic shared experience, in which differing responses to the power structure seem to indicate differences between immigrant cultures.  In South Texas, an existing population of people was brutally colonized and oppressed by an encroaching, heavily militarized white power structure who divested people of property and used them as cheap labor. In this way, the Mexican-American struggle in South Texas is much more related to the Native American genocides by Europeans, and to Middle Passage slavery of peoples of the African diaspora, than it is to the experience of the Jews and Irish of New York.

So, in the end, we had a useful exchange of opinions and no one resorted to name-calling other than Davies throwing the race card at old Mayor McAllister.

October 12, 2015

More on Columbus Day

Filed under: Culture,Facebook,History — Mike Kueber @ 8:52 pm
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I rarely post anything political on my Facebook wall because I don’t want to annoy my apolitical friends. But this morning I couldn’t resist posting the following:

  • After getting tired of all the news articles supporting the movement from Columbus Day to Native American/Indigenous Peoples Day based on Native American contributions, I commented on an article in USA Today with the question, “What have Native Americans contributed to civilization?” One sage, noting the jersey in my Profile Picture, wryly responded, “Sports teams’ mascots.” Touché.

Not surprisingly, my veiled political comment elicited several substantive responses:

  • A progressive college friend living in Norway – “I’m not sure how long, if ever, it takes survivors of genocide to contribute meaningfully to the society who took over their land. The vanishing Indian is out-of-sight and out-of-mind through political and social manipulation.”

I responded, “Katie, I can’t think of a better example of ‘the soft bigotry of low expectations.'” I was concerned that my response could be construed as an ad hominem, but went with it anyway.

  • My best friend in San Antonio – “Native Americans have made many contributions to America but I agree that this anger today toward Europeans for what happened 500 years ago and continued for another couple of hundred years is really not very beneficial to all concerned. Let’s work to make things better in America today while acknowledging that our past had some big mistakes…..I still love the Fighting Sioux, a name which centers on them being a fierce, hardworking people. and honors them….Somewhat like the “Fighting Irish” which I wear as a badge of honor.”

I responded, “Mike, I think you hit on the sticking point. Most people would not object to a Native American Day, except when the movement simultaneously repudiates the coming of Western Civilization to America. Can you imagine if Asia got here before Europe? Would the world still be looking for democracy? p.s., several articles refer generically to Native American contributions to our civilization, but uniformly fail to list any. You assert ‘many contributions.’ Go ahead, name them.” I’m still waiting for that list.

  • A progressive high school friend living in Minnesota – “Just to add to contributions, I have observed that the Native American Veterans group is very strong and proud to have served for our country.”

I responded, “Mary, I was referring to Native American culture, not to contributions of contemporary Native Americans. Surely, America has benefited immensely from Native American individuals.”

  • My progressive cousin who lives in Massachusetts – “My sense is that Native Americans seem to have showed profound respect for the land and its creatures. They lived in a sustainable way.  They warmly welcomed us, which, umm, in retrospect was quite the mistake.  I have read that at least some tribes did not believe in the concept of ownership of land. I find that highly admirable.  I am not an expert, though. And, there were many different cultures, with different values.”

I responded, “Pam, I agree with your points, but those attributes or values were not what was needed to survive those times. It reminds me of a scene in Downton Abbey where aristocrat Robert was bemoaning the fate of his kind to his rich mother-in-law from America and she responded that his kind must adapt to the new world or it would die.”

All in all, I found this exchange of viewpoints quite beneficial by suggesting facets I hadn’t considered. It reminds of the old writer who said he didn’t know what he thought about a specific subject because he hadn’t yet written about it. I would add to that saying by suggesting that it helps immeasurably to write about a subject, but just as importantly, the writing should be subject to peer review.

And even though the exchange was beneficial, I plan to continue being reluctant to post political stuff on my Facebook wall. For some walls it is OK, but for now I want my wall to be light and friendly.

Getting my chain pulled on Facebook

Filed under: Culture,Facebook — Mike Kueber @ 1:41 am
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Several of my liberal friends on Facebook regularly post pictures with some infuriating statement, like “shut up about abortion unless you have a vagina.” Other times they post a poster with an assertion based on facts that seem too good to be true. Usually they post these pictures or posters without comment, which reminds me of the old guidance about keeping your mouth shut and have them think you are an idiot or open your mouth and remove all doubt.

This morning I was confronted in my Facebook newsfeed with a picture titled, “Working moms have more successful daughters and more caring sons, Harvard Business School Study say.” Although my Facebook friend, a liberal former district judge, failed to comment on the study, I decided that, as a defender of working moms, I should examine the article to determine the accuracy of the title.

The article was not in any reputable news site, but rather on something called Quartz or qz.com, and I quickly determined that the evidence in support of the title was flimsy. Because the posting former judge is strong-minded and married to a good friend of mine, I returned to the judge’s Facebook page and cautiously challenged the article:

  • As I read the article, it seemed the author was not fairly reporting on the study, but rather advocating for working moms with cherry-picked statistics. The only statistic related to the sons of working moms was that they “are likely to spend more time caring for family members and doing household chores than are the sons of stay-at-home mothers.” That is the sole basis for the headline, “caring sons.” Surely the study contained other info relating to these sons, such as their success in life, but it appears that other info didn’t fit the narrative of the reporter or the Harvard professor.  (The link to the underlying “working paper” no longer worked.)

The judge responded:

  • Judge – Well Mike Kueber I didn’t have time to read the article I’m too busy working and raising successful daughters and caring sons.  (Wink.)

I would have been pissed about her posting something without reading it, but her concluding wink precluded that. So I meekly said:

  • “And I spend too much time responding to provocative posters produced not by real journalists, but rather by advocates.”

Another friend of the judge added – “You are correct [judge]. I didn’t have to read it either. We live it.”

So I gently chided her – “I’m as bad as anyone when it comes to confirmation bias.”

A second friend of the judge opined:

  • “I didn’t bother to read the article. I have always believed that moms working or not should help each other out and not keep trying to prove one is better than the other. I was always there to help out the mothers of Nicole’s friends. I have not been gainfully employed for over 18 years and I believe I have a very successful daughter. She is about to be published with her summer research group in a paleo-botanical journal.”

At this point, the judge decided to shift into her politically-correct thinking:

  • Judge:  You are right Tisha it takes a village!

I didn’t think Tisha was making any Hillary-esque comment about village-raising, so I attempted to clarify:

  • “Tisha, I agree with your sentiment that studies like this seem to be divisive. But then again I am quick to point to studies that show kids are much more likely to flourish if they are lucky enough to have both a mom and a dad in the house.”

Meanwhile, the judge loved her village-raising non sequitur so much that she edited into her initial posting as follows:

  • “Truth is it takes a village. Whether you work hard at home or in an office or do both!”

That reads like Biden-esque plagiarism on Hillary-esque pablum.

Lessons Learned:

  1. Be more judicious in expending effort to expose fraudulent Facebook posters when the friend doing the posting hasn’t bothered to comment on the poster.
  2. Don’t overlook the big picture of the poster, which is to suggest that feminists are raising their daughters to succeed in business and their sons to be care-givers.  Not that there is anything wrong with that.

October 9, 2015

Senator Judith Zaffirini and the Ignoramus

Filed under: Culture,Facebook — Mike Kueber @ 10:10 pm
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I’m a Facebook friend with progressive State Senator Judith Zaffirini. The Senator is a usually a soft-spoken, refined woman, but she recently posted something on Facebook that shocked me with its harshness. As follows:

  • IGNORAMUS: You’re of Mexican descent? You don’t look Mexican.
  • WISH I HAD RESPONDED: Are you as ignorant as you sound?

I wanted to challenge the Senator’s sentiments, but out of respect/intimidation also wanted to avoid being excessively confrontational, so after reading a slew of comments supporting her, I bootstrapped onto a comment questioning her:

  • Jeremy Holshouser: I don’t get it. When I tell people I have Mexican in me, and they question it, I don’t get offended.
  • Kueber: Jeremy, you need to be careful or you will step on a landmine. (wink emoticon)  You can guess about anyone’s heritage, I guess, but Mexican is not one of those politically-correct options. Americans do indeed come in all colors and shapes, but that doesn’t prevent people in other countries from suggesting that we look American. And, like you, I don’t get offended.
  • Jeremy: Unless he was using it as a slur, I still don’t get it. And even if it was, which I’ll never know, there are so much more important things to worry about in life. That’s just me though *shrug.
  • Ellen Sweets: Preconceived notions of what a person is or isn’t has its roots in prejudice in this neck of the woods, whether we like it or not.  Other than bad manners, such uninvited speculation is weighted and well, really socially inappropriate. Anyway, based on having lived overseas for several years, Americans are almost always identifiable for good and sometimes not-so-good reasons.
  • Kueber: Ellen, when overseas and asked if you are American, I hope you didn’t respond, “Are you as ignorant as you sound?”

Later in the comment threat, Senator Zaffirini rejoined the conversation:

  • Senator: I am actually of Mexican (mother, father), Spanish (mother), Greek (father), and Sephardic Jew (mother) descent. Our son, Carlos Zaffirini Jr., is all of that AND of Italian descent (father’s side). His beautiful wife, Audrey Pieper Zaffirini, is of German descent on both sides. Can’t wait to see their children!
  • Murray Malakoff: The best traits of all of the above listed. Our age and our gender and our heritage are immutable characteristics. I am glad you did not respond to the idiocy and buffoonery of that individual lowlife bottom feeder. Way beneath your dignity Z.
  • Kueber: Murray Malakoff, are you suggesting that ethnicity comes with traits? (wink emoticon) And I also question whether we should be calling the person an idiot and buffoon. Would you make the same accusation if the question was posed by someone in another country, or do you reserve your venom for Americans?

Not wanting to piss of the Senator, I decided against asking her whether her grandchildren, who will be at least ¾ European, should be entitled to affirmative action when they apply to the University that we both love.

While at yoga practice this morning, I asked one of my best friends about this issue. He is half German and half Mexican, Jesuit educated, and the husband of an Hispanic district judge, and he quickly opined that nowadays it is inappropriate to guess anyone’s ethnicity based on the way they look.

Which reminds me of an incident a couple of weeks ago on the set of an amateur movie. I was sitting with another extra from Houston, and she showed me a picture of her husband. I responded, “Irish, huh?” She looked shocked and ask how I was able to guess that. I told her that I don’t know how to describe Irish people, but my best friend is Irish and he routinely and proudly points out Irish people to me. Over the past few years I have been able to spot lots of Irish people based on facial features (I would have bet the family farm that her husband was Irish), but I wouldn’t be able to articulate what those features are.

Columbus Day

During yoga practice today, our teacher mentioned that there would be a modified schedule next Monday for the holiday. I had no idea which holiday occurred in mid-October, so afterwards I asked my yogi and she said Columbus Day. As an aside, she mentioned that Columbus Day was being replaced in Oklahoma by Native Americans Day.

As we discussed our rudimentary knowledge of Columbus, my yogi and I were joined by a mutual friend who had recently emigrated from Mexico, and I asked him how Mexicans felt about Columbus. Initially he said their feelings were mixed, but when he elaborated I quickly learned that “mixed” was a softer way of saying that Columbus was an unmitigated villain. He was less a great explorer and more a genocidal imperialist. My friend said he had once asked his American wife what American kids were taught about Columbus and she reported that they were taught that Columbus discovered America, but were taught nothing about atrocities. That certainly conforms to my recollection, too.

When I got home from class I attempted to confirm the Oklahoma switch from Columbus Day to Native Americans Day and learned that that was an exaggeration. Several cities in OK and elsewhere had made the switch, but no state in America had. And Columbus Day remains a federal holiday.

But as I delved further, I learned that the movement for Native American Day a/k/a Indigenous Peoples Day had found its way to San Antonio. According to the San Antonio Current, Bexar County has just passed a resolution naming October 12 as Indigenous Peoples Day.  Also, the San Antonio City Council was considering a similar move.

The Current reports that the movement in San Antonio is being led almost single-handedly by Antonio Diaz:

  • For at least a decade, Antonio Diaz has been on a mission: to convince county and city government to declare October 12 — the day Christopher Columbus arrived in the Western Hemisphere, leading to mass murder, slavery and the near-extinction of Native Americans in North America — as Indigenous Peoples Day.

Diaz makes a three-pronged argument in support of his cause:

  1. The World Heritage status of San Antonio’s missions is based significantly on their connection to indigenous people.
  2. Bexar Country recently came down heavily against the symbols of the evil Confederacy and acting similarly against Columbus would be consistent.
  3. The growing BlackLivesMatter movement symbolizes the rejection of mistreatment of the black and brown communities, which need to present a unified front against ongoing racism.

A few days ago I blogged about the Spurs and Gregg Popovich honoring John Carlos for his medal-ceremony protest, and wondered why he deserved to be honored. The same thought occurred to me when I read about honoring the Indigenous People instead of Columbus. Columbus may have been an evil colonizer, but he did lead Western Civilization to America. What about the Indigenous People? Fortunately, the article in the Current addressed my question head-on:

  • The least local government can do is acknowledge Native American contributions to the city.  “I feel like we’ve lacked [that], fallen short,” [Diaz] said. “We have a rich history that starts with the American Indians in founding San Antonio and to contributions being made today.”

Huh? If the indigenous people who preceded us in America made any lasting honor-deserving contributions to our current civilization, I don’t know what those are. This attack on Columbus reminds me of the ongoing movement in the Democratic Party to remove Jefferson and Jackson from their pantheon of heroes because their politics no longer conform to modern Democratic values.

I prefer leaving in place the honors that we have bestowed to our heroes and icons and legends without too much relitigation of their lives. I don’t need to know truly whether Davy Crockett went down swinging.

October 6, 2015

Pop honors John Carlos

Filed under: Culture,Issues,Media,Politics,Sports — Mike Kueber @ 10:09 pm
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The past two editions of the Express-News have contained articles concerning the Spurs’ Gregg (Pop) Popovich honoring John Carlos by giving him the opportunity to speak to the Spurs players at their training facility. For those of you who don’t recall Carlos, he and running mate Tommie Smith disrupted a medal ceremony in the 1968 Olympics by standing with heads down and black-gloved fists up (and shoes off) during the playing of our National Anthem. They asserted that their protest was to show support for the black-power movement. Their conduct resulted in them being kicked off the American Olympic team.

In the first article, Dan McCarney reported that Pop brought Carlos in to create a cultural opportunity for the team:

  • Bringing in a guest speaker of such stature is about what you’d expect from Popovich, who makes a concerted effort to push his players to expand their attention beyond the basketball court.

Shooting guard Danny Green seemed to appreciate the gesture:

  • We got a chance to interact with a legend. He paved the way for us. For us young guys, learning the history of where we came from is important. It was important to Pop. He felt the need to share it to us.

Huh? In what sense did John Carlos pave the way for Danny Green? Black athletes were already well established in 1968. Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, et al.

I responded to McCarney’s article with the following online comment:

  • As Vince Lombardi famously said, “What the hell is going on out there?” Carlos’s claim to fame is a notorious attempt to politicize the medal-ceremony at the Olympics. By all accounts, that tactic has been thoroughly discredited and would be met by even more ugly reactions today. So why does Pop glorify the guy? Pop’s hubris is beginning to annoy.

Not surprisingly, my comment was not well received. One of the paper’s most prolific commenters weighed-in as follows:

  • Idiot. Hundreds of Mexican students protesting the extravagant spending by the government in the midst of staggering poverty and oppression were killed and arrested. The order to shoot and arrest came from a totally corrupt government and is well known as the Massacre at Tatelolci (plaza de las tres cultural) and those of us who witnessed the athlete’s expression of solidarity know the truth. All you are is a right wing mouthpiece who has no clue.

I thought that would be the end of the matter, but the newspaper decided to double-down on the matter by publishing a similar article the next day. In this article reporter Mike Monroe reported that the Spurs’ interaction with “civil rights icon John Carlos … continues to resonate with the team.” He also provided Pop’s explanation for the visit – “It’s just an effort to honor somebody who deserves to be honored, and to let our team know the world is bigger than basketball.”

Monroe provided two new examples of the continuing resonation:

  1. Starting forward Kawhi Leonard said Carlos’s talk to the team will be an inspiration throughout the season. “He’s an icon to America. Him coming in here and saying how much he likes your team, you get an enjoyment in your heart and want to keep fighting and make him proud.”
  2. Guard-forward Kyle Anderson was left with an indelible impression. “That was awesome, a great experience. For Pop to actually bring him in and give us a chance to interact with him and ask him questions and learn from him was great. That really meant a lot to us. I felt a lot of pride. When he did what he did he had people in 2015 in mind. He had his kids in mind; he had his grandkids in mind; the future in his mind.”

Do these basketball players know what Carlos did? Although Carlos was only known to me for his outrageous medal-ceremony protest, I decided to consult with Wikipedia to learn if he did anything else noteworthy. Wikipedia reported nothing of significance in Carlos’s life since the medal ceremony other than being kicked off the Olympic team, receiving death threats, failing to catch on in professional football, and writing a memoir.

I commented on Monroe’s article as follows:

  • Carlos’s memoirist complains that the sports world has long treated this medal-stand protestor as a toxic element for attempting to politicize black athletes. Are the Spurs attempting to revive this utterly, comprehensively repudiated concept? Some have suggested that the hiring of Hammon was a political statement; perhaps this is Political Statement #2 from Pop and the Spurs.

Not surprisingly, a guy name Alonso disagreed:

  • You complainers are missing the point. Coach Pop knew his players would like meeting him and he was right. The politics of the Spurs coach and players should not have any impact on whether we root for them on the court. At least it doesn’t for grownups anyway.

I responded to Alonso:

  • The politics of the Spurs coach and players don’t have an impact if they keep those views to themselves. But if they want to start preaching to us, see what happened to the Dixie Chicks. Incidentally, Pop said he wanted to honor Carlos, but nowhere have I seen exactly what he is to be honored for. Disrupting a medal ceremony?

‘nuff said.

 

 

August 20, 2015

Maryanne Trump Barry

Filed under: Culture,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 2:00 am
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The New York Times today did a profile on Maryanne Trump Barry, older sister of The Donald. In the article, she comes across as a serious, respectable person who was a homemaker who went to law school and thrived. Eventually, she became a success lawyer before becoming a federal judge, and I was impressed.  But, because I hate political correctness, I loved her comment from 1992 about sexual harassment:

  • “Professional hypochondriacs,” the speaker [Trump] said, were making it hard for “men to be themselves” and were turning “every sexy joke of long ago, every flirtation,” into “sexual harassment,” thus ruining “any kind of playfulness and banter. Where has the laughter gone?” As for boorish behavior, the best way to disarm it was with “humor and gentle sarcasm,” or better yet, that “potent weapon” of a “feminine exterior and a will of steel.”

That sounds like my kind of woman.

August 1, 2015

Conversation and missed encounters

Filed under: Culture,Philosophy — Mike Kueber @ 3:10 am
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A couple of days ago at Lifetime Fitness I attended a special Yoga under the Stars.  As I was leaving, I noticed an acquaintance whom I hadn’t seen for a couple of months.  I swung in his direction, said hi, and bumped fists with him before continuing on my way to the locker room.  After I got to the locker room, I regretted not stopping and catching up with the guy, so I went looking for him, but he was already gone.

Why didn’t I stop in the first place?  I wasn’t in a conversational mood and had only an instant to decide whether to stop and, if I did, what to say.  So I took the easy way out, and afterward was disappointed.

This incident brought to mind two concepts:

  • Encounters.  Last year, I blogged about the recommendation of French philosopher Gabriel Marcel that people should pay more attention and energy to their day-to-day encounters.  Author Michael Novak described this philosophy as follows: “Marcel brought new light to daily experiences, such as recognizing the ‘presence’ of other persons and ‘encounter’ with another person – in other words, not just a passing, inattentive moment with another human being, but something more.  He drew attention to the difference between sitting between two people on the subway for an hour – treating them without recognition or interest or attention – and the act of having a memorable exchange of personal qualities.”
  • Conversation.  A few weeks ago, I blogged about the art of conversation in the context of cocktail parties and how this art can enhance encounters.  Indeed, several episodes of Downton Abbey include situations where conversation is treated as an art to be learned and practiced.

In hindsight, I kick myself over the missed opportunity after Yoga under the Stars.  Next time, I will be ready.

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