El Gringoqueño

All a man needs out of life is a place to sit ‘n’ spit in the fire.

Page 2 of 47

I’m Convinced it’s Personal

Here we are again. The carousel goes round and round. It’s starting to get boring. The right start chanting, “This is your religion of peace?!” The left’s reply, “They want you to be afraid of Muslims. And intermingled there is a chorus of, in no particular order: It’s part of their agenda. They want terror. They want a caliphate. They want to kill infidels. They are poor, disenfranchised, radicalized by individuals with their own agenda. It’s the oil sheikh in Saudi Arabia, desperate to hold onto their fragile claim to power. They hate our freedoms. They are avenging civilian casualties of the bombs of the West. They are protesting Israel. They want to establish an Islamic State. They want the West out of the Mideast.

And the list goes on, but I’m not convinced any of it is correct. In fact, I think it’s personal, deeply individually personal.

Is it any coincidence that more than a fair share of these nutjobs are reformed libertines? Osama Bin Laden was himself a hard partying, drinking, girl crazy young man. I don’t know whether his stash of porn in his compound in Pakistan is propaganda or not, but it fits the narrative of a self-hating, self professed sinner whose turn to Allah, “saved him.”

We’ve heard these stories from friends and relatives too, haven’t we? They went down the wrong path, drugs, sex, booze only to “find” Jesus and become born again. Now they want to push their particular theology down everyone’s throat. I was an evil sinner, corrupted by a world bent on my destruction, and slide toward the eternal abyss.

I have had these people around me my whole life. To them I am an infidel, unsaved, on my way to an eternal damnation, just because I can’t utter the same platitudes they do. Logic does not function with these people, nor does just the faintest of ideas that perhaps possibly there is just a smidgen of room for difference of interpretation of what “following Jesus” means. The Bible is inerrant. It is factual. Written by GOD himself. If you disagree, you have been tainted by evil.

They have similar stories, many of them. They slipped down a path that grew dark. They blamed the society around them. Easy access to drugs, alcohol, girls dressed suggestively, or boys looking so good, giving in to the temptations of the flesh. Shamed, their weaknesses exposed and raw, they sought to cover up in the trappings of religious fundamentalism.

It is also telling how many withdraw from society, homeschooling their children, turning off mass media, limiting contact with those that would corrupt them. Their worldview is limited to the fiery rhetoric from within their Christian 99% white church communities. They don’t want anything to do with society at large, because to them, it is a corrupting influence.

So let’s walk it back a bit. What does a self-hating weak-fleshed young person do when he is confronted with “sin” all around him, an aberrant society that seems to take a special interest in him personally? This society seems, from his point of view, to delight in pushing a “gay agenda” upon him, of rubbing his nose in sexual images, easy booze, legal pot, gender perspectives, political correctness, abortion, war on Christmas, and the continued secularization of America. He falls a couple of times, but his cultural baggage catches up with him and weighs heavily upon his unworthy flesh.

What does this person’s path to redemption look like? Leave society, turn off TV, join a Christian church. If you are a man, you will provide. If you are a woman you will be subservient in all things. This is how you straighten yourself out. It works for some people, I guess.

So here is the final question: What happens when these routes to redemption seem to be blocked, when desperation for one’s eternal soul overwhelms all other concerns?

I am convinced that modern terrorists are each on very personal journeys of redemption made available to them by their faith, lubricated by their self-imposed distance and alienation from the mainstream, and culminating in one final horrific act. The fact that they don’t believe they can knee and pray, seeking peaceful strength in submission to Allah, or say an Our Father, and a couple of Hail Marys to redouble their efforts is a terrible shame.

His Domain is Chaos

I am terribly sorry that these entries continue to highlight our dear leader, President Trump. Uggh, even just typing those words gives me shudders. But whatever. It is what it is. I’m still trying to process how it came to be, how this bombastic spaz wormed his way into the White House. How did he pull the wool over so many eyes? How come so many didn’t see him for what he was?

And then it hit me. I think his domain is chaos. He thrives in chaos, where his certainty is an asset. Push and bully and throw down and insult and nickname and pick at insecurities and non-sequitur and lies and half truths and loudness and brashness. Rinse, lather, and repeat.

Trump’s skill seems to derive directly from his creation of chaos.

When I was a young engineer, I worked in construction management in Boston and California. In both places it was both super white and super racist, filled with big trash talking egos that seemed to not have the good of the project in their hearts. It was all about ego and what you could pull over on the other guy. Look for loop holes in the contract, lay blame for missed deadlines and failures at the feet of others, be aggressive, grandstand, bully, don’t back down. So many meetings ended in boisterous yelling matches, with the side wink in the car on the way back to the office. It was all an act and sickening in so many ways. I was an earnest engineer trying to follow the letter of the law, but I learned quickly that the letter was just the starting point. This is how we do things, Jimbo.

It makes sense to me that Trump’s biggest gun on his deck is his teams of lawyers. When what is written is only your starting point, your legal team is there to mash it up, twist it to your favor. Clinton’s famously small potatoes, “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is” seems laughably innocent at this point.

If Anne Frank believes at the end of the day, that most people are good, I am going to conclude that this is the default position for most people, that is, most people know most people are good, and they comport themselves in good faith, expecting the same from others.

When your super power is a lack of empathy and the ability to thrive in chaos, you know that most people will not call your bluff. Most people try to placate. Most people look at themselves and ask, “what did I do wrong?” And when confronted with a great angry beast, they try to pacify, acquiesce, and calm it. It knocks them off their game, and it is there that Trump seizes the upper hand.

It all boils down to the old adage, “I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.”

More Unsolicited Advice for our Dear Leader

Yes, of course border crossings should be controlled and documented. I don’t think anyone is really saying that borders should just be open. I know the radical right likes to paint the left as “for open borders,” but that’s not really the case, and you know it.

What do you do when a mass of people arrive at the border and may perhaps just overrun agents tasked with processing and documenting their entries? What happens when people won’t respect the queue? It can happen, I know, but what do you do? Do you use force? I’d say that if you use force, you’ve already lost.

For starters, you begin by setting the conditions for orderly behavior. You see, once a crisis has arrived at your doorstep, if you have not established a plan, you’re going to fail. By whipping up the rhetoric, dehumanizing, demonizing, and terrorizing these migrants for weeks preceding their arrival, you’ve established the conditions conducive to chaos and fear.

What did you expect to happen?

I fully admit, perhaps this tough and horrifying scene, tear gas, desperate people trying to breach walls, etc, may have played directly into the strategy of our dear leader to further his aims with his base. Again, I know I am probably naive.

What should have been done, though? What would you do if you knew this large group of people was coming en masse, and you probably didn’t have the facilities to process them in a timely or orderly manner? Here is my three step plan:

First, you need to work with the Mexican government to coordinate healthcare, food, and housing for them on the Mexican side while they await processing. Receive them with compassion. Treat them as humanely as possible. These are human beings. I know it’s easy to forget, so I’m reminding you, dear leader.

Second, the US needed to have put out the word, through NGOs in contact with the migrants that their asylum petitions WILL be processed. Tamp down the rhetoric. Calm their fears. When they get to the border, they will be accommodated in their immediate needs (it would certainly be a LOT cheaper than deploying troops to the border, d’uh).

Third, augment capacity to process them fairly on the US side of the border. It’d still be cheaper than troops. Just make sure you ramp up the numbers of bureaucrats, judges, and lawyers taking petitions. Expedite the process. Keep it fair. If the Trump administration’s inclination is to deny deny deny, so be it. But keep it fair. Do not separate parents from children. Do not unnecessarily inflict cruelty upon them. If you’re going to deny their application, have a sound and fair reason for doing so.

So you admit a few asylum seekers, and leave the bulk on the Mexican side of the border. Now what?

The next step would be to provide assistance to the Mexican government for temporary placement. I’m not saying that you have to do it all, but work with the Mexican government to resolve the matter of these people without homes. Jobs programs? Education? Healthcare? Good neighbors care about what happens to each other. Good neighbors have productive dialog. If you really do not want Mexicans or other Latin American folks coming to the US, work harder to foment stable conditions in their home countries instead of CIA backed right wing coups.

You Have the House, Now What Do You Do?

My advice – pursue the business of the people of the United States and don’t waste your time parrying and counter punching with Trump. You do you.

Set an agenda and pursue it. If it doesn’t pass the Senate or if it does, isn’t signed by the President, don’t sweat it. Remember Newt’s “Contract with America?” Maybe you should propose something similar.

Whatever the case, just keep on. Be faithful, steady, consistent. You’ll win nothing, no dignity, no respect, no results, none by simply investigating and blocking anything Trump wants to do. And worse, you’ll lose legitimacy by simply being obstructionist. Nobody likes that.

Got it?

Blessed are the Peacemakers

“Oh, I don’t know about today’s youth, they just don’t have values,” an elderly woman confided to me. “The world just isn’t what it used to be.”

She was scared. She sounded worried, not angry, not judgemental, not self-righteous. She was in her late 80s, and clearly worried about what was to become of the world she helped construct. Even so, I couldn’t let the comment pass unchallenged. I never do.

“I don’t agree. By any objective measure, crime is down, teen pregnancy is down, divorce is down. There are fewer wars. Less starvation. Higher standards of living, not just here, but around the world. I think this generation is more accepting of difference. And just look at how active the youth were when Hurricane Maria hit us. They didn’t turn inward. They looked to help. Such energy, they have. I know for a fact that they are better than the generation that preceded them.

“You really think so?” She said, clasping her hands together. “Oh, that’s good to hear.”

I could have indulged her fears. I could have been quiet. I could have started complaining, mirroring her preoccupations and fear mongering, but how easy it was to change the entire dynamic with an profession of faith in the future, that we’re going to be okay, that things aren’t as dire as they seem.

How the future appears to be is a byproduct of how we talk about it.

So blessed are the peacemakers, who respond to our better selves, and help to foment the conditions where anxious people don’t become more fearful and lose themselves to despair.

Why the Story of Your Food is Important

Food isn’t just sustenance. Food is experience. Food is sharing. Food is community and culture. Without the story, your dish is just a powerbar slammed to get you from point A to point B with no appreciation for the deep connections we share as human beings. And if I may, perhaps there is a cultural component to “food as means to an end” vs “food as an end in itself.”

In many places in the world, people share a deep special bond with the histories and stories around their shared dishes, secret recipes passed down through the generations, peculiar rituals surrounding the preparation of the ingredients, etc.

We don’t come together merely to stuff our faces and satiate our bellies. We’re really filling our souls.

There Are Two Kinds of People in This World

I was watching Fox News today, well, not really Fox News News, just the talking heads that seem to love being hysterical. There are certainly a lot of them, I am finding. It is surprising what passes for critical thinking on that network.

For example, I was surprised to learn that hoards of Honduran and Guatemalan people were streaming into our country in “caravans” of chaos and lawlessness. The gist of the breathless and hysterical “reporting” was grab yo’ money, grab yo’ wife – they coming for your way of life!!! All of it was unsubstantiated by the way. The “report” showed some footage of hundreds of brown people traveling along a road, some walking, some riding in trucks. We don’t know when this was. We don’t know who they are. All brown people look alike, don’t they? We don’t know how many there are. No facts were cited. No credible reports by any organization. Nothing. The talking heads slid easily into “people say” and “reports indicate that” and then hissed the conclusion, “there are thousands of these people streaming into our country every day, and they have been coached by socialist leftest organizations to claim oppression and danger in order to gain entrance.” And as Dave Barry used to say, “And I am not making this up” the talking heads speculated as fact that these migrants are kidnapping or borrowing children to facilitate their entry in the United States. Seriously? Truly you have a dizzying intellect!

Do people really buy this shit? Do people really believe these ignorant, uneducated, careless talking heads?

Let’s say for the sake of argument that there really are hundreds of poor people (now they are saying thousands… THOUSANDS of ILLEGALS ) from Guatemala and Honduras trying to seek asylum in the US, and that they have been told that if they have suffered persecution, that they should say they fear for their safety. I’ll give your factless reporting the benefit of the doubt. I’m naive, I know, but bear with me.

When you see these people, mothers, fathers, teenagers, children, grandmothers, grandfathers…

Do you see them as mouths to feed?

Or do you seem them as hands to help?

Because that’s really what it boils down to, doesn’t it?

Do you see people as takers or makers?

Your answer really says more about you.

Look, Talking Heads in the News Media…

Look, if you preface your statement with “look” you are a douchebag.

Look, I shouldn’t really have to say it to you, but, – sigh – I guess I will again, because I am sooooo smart and you are sooo dumb, but the word “look” as a preface is condescending and all it does it cover up your lack of credentials, expertise, and gravitas. Look, the word “look” is for posers trying to seem smart by belittling the audience and host by tricking them into thinking you are smarter or more informed than you appear.

But look, it’s just a tip from me to you – what do I know?

Look, I’m looking at you Mr. looky look William Bennett.

Talking about Brett Kavanaugh this morning at brunch with the kids

Jim: So, the glaring difference I see is that you should be able to give more stories about Brett other than, “He’s a good guy.” I know some good people, and if you asked me what I thought of them, I’d have stories that would demonstrate their character.

Javier: Daddy, maybe Brett is the kind of guy that has dumb friends who can’t even invent a good story about him.

All of us: ROFL!!!!

A Senator’s Perspective

“Mr. Kavanaugh, would you call for an FBI investigation?”

“Um, um, I uh, um. Well, isn’t this what we are doing? Investigating. I don’t know why. I’ve already been investigated 6 times. The FBI has given me a green light.”

“I know that, Mr. Kavanaugh, but in light of recent information -“

Interrupting “That’s what we’re talking about here. Sheesh, why don’t you people -“

“Pardon me? Hold on a second, Mr. Kavanaugh. I want to remind you of something here. I am a United States Senator. What that means is that I am a representative of the people of my state, millions of Americans. When you talk to me, you are not talking to an individual, you are talking to the people of the United States. I am very aware of my duties and what I am called to do here. Do the people who have sent me here differ in their political outlook than some of the constituents of the other members of this panel? Yes, most definitely. There is a balance to be struck here, but make no mistake of it, the people of my state are no less relevant than the people of other states. A dismissal of my constituents, is a disrespect to America. We have a duty to do here, and we intend to do it as dispassionately and and methodically as possible.”

“Now, with that said, I can understand how the divisions between the two competing political parties may give you pause as to the fairness of your treatment. Rather than turn toward one side and shun the other, I would exhort you to look at us all on an equal basis, as the representatives of the American People. To sum up, when I ask you if you would invite an FBI investigation, it is only in the spirit of wanting to get to the bottom of this matter. I am a Senator, not an investigator. I will also admit that I represent the political views of my state which may not match with yours. Therefore, an FBI investigation is in your best interests as well as mine. If an investigation is conducted, and turns up nothing – shows us that these allegations are mistaken in their entirety, then I would vote for your confirmation even though your judicial record does not match the values of my constituents in general. If your reputation is of utmost concern for you, then I would submit that an FBI investigation would definitely and in a non-partisan fashion, clear your name. I can think of no reason for you to resist an independent non-partisan investigation other than you are afraid of what they will find.”

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