Monday, August 30, 2010

Hate, fear bigotry…

With the economy in shambles, unemployment way too high, a recent oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and state budgets in disarray all over the country, what would you say should the most important issue being discussed on political campaigns this year? If you said fixing the economy, creating jobs or developing green infrastructure… you’d be wrong. Obviously the most pressing issue out there is who we should hate! There are plenty of candidates out there, minorities that can’t defend themselves, people who are a little different then the rest of us, groups that we can score a few political points off of and maybe scare enough people into voting for one party or another. Hate, fear, bigotry – these have been part of campaigning since the country began, mostly because they work! But why should we let them? Recognizing these tactics as the pathetic election tools that they are is a good way to render them ineffective, so let’s take a look at who’s destroying America this year.

Hating on the gays is so 2004. Not a lot of anti-gay ballot issues this year, at least, not that I’ve heard of yet. Don’t get me wrong, plenty of people are still bizarrely frightened of the idea of two people who love each other getting married, and there have been a number of examples of openly gay candidates being slurred against, but it no longer seems like the issue that guarantees getting out the bigot vote. (Maybe I’m being overly optimistic. Let me know if you hear of the “gay agenda” being played around a lot by candidates.) Hmm, who else is out there we can hate on…

OMG! Have you heard? Muslims want to destroy America by building a mosque on Ground Zero in New York! Except, it’s not really a mosque, it’s a community center with a place to pray, and it’s not really on Ground Zero, it’s actually a couple of blocks away, only 2 blocks closer than an actual mosque (not to mention some strip clubs), and the Imam, one Faisal Rauf, is on record saying that he is not only a Muslim, but also a Jew and a Christian, as all three believe in the same things. So, it turns out to be a lot of fake outrage directed at the… you guessed it, the bigot vote! And don’t tell me it’s the placement of the mosque is why it’s a problem. There are active protests of soon-to-be mosques in Tennessee and other places, and a church in Florida had a Koran burning party to show their, what’s the term, stupidity? Racism? Outright idiocy? Something like that? Muslim fundamentalists talk about how the US and Islam are incompatible and thus are at war, and here we are doing are best to prove them right. Awesome.

Immigrants, of course, are an easy target for election hate, after all, unlike the gays, many of them can’t vote! Immigrants have been bashed in this country, by one party or another, since elections began. Of course, in the beginning it was those dirty Irish and the lazy Italians, and don’t get me started on the danged Germans! Speaking German and trying to hold on to their customs and culture. They’re takin’ our jurbs! Lately, of course, Hispanics have been the target of our hate and fear. Arizona’s famous “Show me your papers” law cost that state over $6 million in tourism revenue, and now South Dakota and many other states are considering similar legislation, as my friend Matt Hildreth detailed in an excellent blog a couple weeks ago. (As an immigrant myself, let me tell you, the idea of carrying your immigration paperwork with you everywhere you go is pretty ridiculous. You keep them at home, in a safe place! I almost lost my work visa at a beach once, and I will not let that happen again!) Stepping up the insanity ladder is the claim made by Texas Representatives Debbie Riddle and Louie Gohmert about Terror Babies. Let that sink in for a second. Terror Babies. Evil pregnant terrorists climbing over desert border fences to give birth to evil terrorist babies that will destroy this country in 20 years time. Facepalm.

This blog was supposed to be about some awesome undocumented kids that I know (don’t worry, they aren’t terror babies, or even terror teenagers) and how they are improving the community here in Houston, but one thing led to another and I got distracted. Maybe I’ll get to it at some point. Anyway, keep your eyes open for hate and fear being bandied around the political discourse. And please don’t ever fall for it!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Iowa is the worst state ever. So is Kansas. Nebraska's pretty horrible as well. Also Missouri. South Dakota and Texas, you're not so great either...

When this was posted as my Facebook status a few days ago, one of my “friends” commented that I had my “cranky pants” on. I suppose it was true, having just completed the 20 plus hour drive from Watertown, SD to Houston, TX for the second time in 10 days. I’d made that trip once before (alone, in January) but even with two people it isn’t a trip to be made by the faint of heart or in vehicles with low gas mileage.

The drive North to South Dakota went surprisingly well, other than the usual obscene amount of traffic in Houston and a bizarre freak-out at a Super 8 (if you ever stay at the Super 8 in Norman, OK, do not, I repeat DO NOT attempt to start the 6 AM continental breakfast at 5:59 AM). My girlfriend and I arrived in Brookings with more than enough energy to head straight downtown and close down O’Hare’s and Jim’s. Brookings was its usual self, full of people I hadn’t seen in way too long, but SDSU looks quite different with all the new construction. The week was filled with catching up, running into old high school friends, meeting the girlfriend’s parents for the first time (eep! gulp!), drinking, Shark Week and a wedding where I didn’t really know anyone. You know, the usual.

All in all, the whole week went pretty well; the cranky pants didn’t come on until the drive home. You see, the wedding was Saturday night and my girlfriend needed to be back at work Monday morning, so we needed to cram all that driving into a short period of time. We left Watertown at about 8:30 PM after the reception dinner and planned to stop in Omaha/Council Bluffs sometime around 12:30 or 1:00 AM. We pulled off the road about on schedule, ready for a short night’s sleep, only to find out that the hotel had no vacancies and according to the night desk guy, none of the other hotels in the area did either. Writing Omaha off as a loss, we got back on the road and proceeded to stop in Nebraska City, Hamburg, Mound City, St Joseph – 11 different hotels in all, excluding the places front desk clerks called to check for us – until we found a Travelodge with one empty room in Platte City just north of Kansas City. It was 5:00 AM at this point and we were about ready to pull over and sleep in the car (energy drinks and gas station coffee can only take you so far). Fortunately the nice desk clerk pushed back the checkout time for us and we were able to get a good morning’s sleep before heading out again around noon.

Now, I love South Dakota, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t know if it’s worth it to make that drive again. The Sturgis Rally (started that week), some Nebraskan rodeo and the Kansas City Chief’s training camp (shudder… yet another reason to hate that team) all conspired against us. The construction on I-29 in Iowa alone made me question humanity’s merits, while the desolate nothingness that is Kansas is enough to drive anyone to madness. What truly frightened me, however, were the billboards threatening a “New American Revolution” (surprisingly, the teabaggers usually spelled “revolution” correctly).

I don’t think we’ll be making that drive again any time soon. We’ll definitely be flying up next time. Look on the bright side – I’m sure the airports will be crazy enough over Thanksgiving that I’ll get to write about that trip too!