Sunday, April 18, 2010

"Hay Jae, Te Dije Que Aprendieras Español!"


A longstanding discussion/debate/argument that has plagued America, and specifically California, for decades found it's way to the forefront of my Diversity class last week, and I couldn't help but feel the heat of the matter as tension rose in the room. The issue is immigration and acculturation, namely with Hispanics, Latinos, Mestizos, Chicanos, whatever they wish to be called (ironically enough the argument was between a black and a white woman). These people are making their way across the border and scrambling to find their place in the scheme of America, but many struggle with their identity vs. their new environment.

A little about me, since self-disclosure is rarely an explored topic on this blog. I am biracial, born to a third generation Irish mother and stand as a first generation American to my Mexican immigrant father. Now my father came to America as a young child in the 50s, during a time when immigration from the south was even less accepted than it is now. There was no such thing as holding to one's roots, if you came to America, you were American, and that was the end of it; forget all past residencies. He was forced to learn English almost immediately and encouraged to avoid Spanish at all costs with the exception of his parents, who struggled with the language. Amidst discrimination and racism, my father decided, as most immigrants do, that the best thing for his children would be to become pure red-blooded Americans: "conform and life will be grand". He married a white woman and we ate predominantly Euro-cuisine and we spoke only English and such was life. But life wasn't grand.

My grandmother never learned English, aside from a few phrases here and there, and my grandfather, although well-versed, still struggled sometimes with communication with us. The 6 short years I knew my grandmother before she passed away, we hardly spoke, though in the last few years I spent nearly every day at their house. In the 9 years I knew my grandfather, though we survived with his English and love was never lost in translation, we never had a real conversation before he passed away. Last week, we had family visiting from Mexico. Though I hadn't seen some of them in as long as 20 years, we had nothing to say to each other, because I couldn't speak their language. And the lasting effects of my father's assimilation didn't end there. I couldn't stomach Mexican food until about three years ago, and in class, while we were discussing Latin Americans, the three "obvious" Latinas in the room were constantly asked referential questions in regards to Mexican culture, while I was overlooked repeatedly despite the fact that my last name is obviously Mexican and I was sitting up front with the rest of the Latinas. I just simply don't look the part.

Many Americans believe this is the way it should be. As if we should install ethnic-cleansing showers at the southern border with a sign that reads: "America! We Take Only the Best Potatoes!" But the immigrants are refusing to bend to the slightest degree.

What was pure assimilation in the 50s has today turned to pure separation, as John Berry would describe it, or the total rejection of one's host culture. Mexicans are less likely than ever to adapt to the language or to integrate with Euro-Americans if they don't have to. Scared of losing their roots and a sense of themselves, they hold tight to whatever fragments of their motherland they managed to salvage from home, almost as if they're refugees who can never return. They find their niches in predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods and stay safe and secure in a cultural bubble far away from the American influence. While some have called America the great melting pot of the world, a more accurate description would be that of tiny blobs of oil in a pot of water, just floating about, bouncing up against other encapsulated blobs of oil; components never mixing, membranes never breaking.

Unfortunately, this method has its downfalls too, not only for the culture they immigrate to, but for them as well. Refusing to acculturate at all and remaining within their bubbles isolates the immigrants from the outside world. They rarely set foot outside their neighborhoods or away from their families and friends, and if they do, they are usually accompanied by a chaperon, a tourist with a cultural guide navigating through some vast unexplored jungle.

Meanwhile, the people of the host culture are taking offense, and this segregation fosters an Us vs. Them mentality. It bears the questions: "why don't they want to be part of us?" "do they think they're better than us?" Like having someone move into your home but refuse to be a part of your family. In addition, more anger and frustration comes from the government's handling of immigration, whereby we have gone above and beyond our means to accommodate our neighbors in their transition and they give little in return. The vast amount of money spent in the last decade printing everything from advertisements to government documents, exams, even labels on products in Spanish could probably finance the state of California through its bankruptcy for the next few years. Likewise, many of us versed only in our native tongue are losing jobs to bilingual applicants because we didn't bother to master the language of another country to get a job in our own. It's like losing a job in Wisconsin because you don't speak French. But, despite offering free adult education classes that teach English, they refuse to learn the language because they don't want to be "Us", they want to be themselves, they want to be Mexico in America, refusing to adapt, expecting us to adapt to them. And people are becoming intolerant.

What has proven to be psychologically and sociologically healthy for both parties involved is what Berry called "Bi-culturation". It allows immigrants to retain their own culture while familiarizing themselves with the host as well. In other words, a compromise, a balance of both worlds. Keep your culture and your rich ethnic background. Speak your language with family and friends, teach it to your children. But, learn the language of the culture outside your door. Learn to live in the new world you've chosen to come to, rather than barricading yourself away from it. But until we both reach an understanding, neither side will reach a compromise.

Assimilation costs people their identity, their origin, and important relationships within their families and friends. Separation causes people distress, isolation, and fosters segregation and discrimination in a society. In order for cultural harmony, immigrants need to be more readily adaptive when moving to a new country; likewise, that country needs to exercise a healthy amount of accommodation, without completely catering to our newer tenants.

I'll never be able to regain the countless conversations I should've had with my grandparents, and I've committed myself to learning Spanish this summer so I can talk to my family before they're gone too, but I have to admit I grow wary of what may soon be an English-second language country looming on the horizon.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Servants of God, Predators of Children


Another sex abuse scandal has rocked the Vatican again as accusations against the Catholic priesthood have surged in recent weeks, blazing across an entire continent as victims from Austria and Germany have broken their silence and several more European countries are rallying around them, protesting the church and this time, they're calling for the resignation of the Pope.

The revelation of abusive priests is no new concept, and neither is the corruption of the Vatican when it comes to handling these delinquents. However, this case has taken on new significance due not only to the sheer size and depth of it, but evidence showing the Pope himself may have engaged in cover-ups that permitted abuse to continue. Pope Benedict XVI served as the archbishop in Munich during a time when priests who were quietly accused or suspected of abuse were transferred or just ignored rather than excommunicated from the church. Some were physically transferred to other congregations or countries, others were professionally transferred, one specifically from priesthood to pastoral work where he continued to work with children while he was being treated for pedophilia. At one time, a deputy for the future pope even instructed bishops in Wisconsin to cease a church trial for a priest accused of abusing 200 deaf boys. Many of these victims have recently stepped forward, claiming their complaints to other priests and bishops were ignored when they reported the abuse. Another Munich archbishop had been accused of abuse in 1995, and while he resigned his position, he was not asked to leave his remaining religious duties for another three years.

Amidst calls for resignation and even firing the holy one, many have come to defend the Pope, stating that he "above all else in Rome is tackling this thing head on" and that he "wouldn't and shouldn't quit". On the other hand, Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, two prominent atheists, are even calling for criminal prosecution of the Pope, demanding that he be arrested for his alleged role in the cover-ups and crimes against humanity. They are already consulting with British lawyers to determine if the Pope can be prosecuted. Unfortunately, this is where it gets hazy, as it always has, and we begin to lose faith in governments and legal systems. The Vatican claims itself to be an independent state, citing the Pope as the Head of State, and argues that he is immune from criminal charges (Dawkins and Hitchens maintain that the Vatican is not a state, is not represented at the United Nations, and therefore cannot claim immunity from anything).

The world has always maintained a quiet understanding with the Catholic church that legal matters concerning anyone in the priesthood or higher would be dealt with by "church law". Very rarely, if at all, did federal law step in to override the Vatican's authority, especially in the U.S., where separation of church and state seemed to hold a double meaning that provided priests a shield from federal prosecution for sex abuse. However, given the church's self-proclaimed sovereignty, there were no checks or balances in place to ensure church law was being upheld. In simplest terms, it was a state within several other countries, breaking their laws, then retreating to the safety of its own boundaries claiming "Sanctuary!" with no danger of retribution. It's about time someone reminded the Vatican that while blessed as they believe themselves to be, they are not above man's law. While Switzerland intends to create a sex offender registry of priests, no other country has discussed any future provisions in protecting their children from these predators in clerics.

Have these current events shaken the Catholic community and their faith? I would imagine not, since previous scandals hadn't wavered many of their followers, but what does that say when people so dutifully follow such a corrupt doctrine? Are we so deeply entrenched in the path we've taken that there's no room to turn around or climb out? What is one's fate when their Shepherds have led them astray, lied to them, and worst of all, harmed their children and protected their comrades in favor of their flock?

The worst of this despicable situation is that while some priests and cardinals have spoken up blaming the widely enforced requirement of celibacy, the Vatican has used the scandal as an opportunity to facilitate hate and deflect blame to others. Namely, homosexuals. Tarcisio Bertone, the second in command in the Vatican, lashed out against the celibacy claim, announcing that the pedophilia is due to rampant homosexuality in the church, not celibacy. He alleged that several psychological studies supported his claim, though none do. It's a long-standing lie that pedophilia and homosexuality are intrinsically linked somehow, however in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual IV TR of Psychiatry recognizes only pedophilia as a paraphilia, distinctly differentiated from homosexuality, which hasn't been considered a sexual deviation since 1977. Wake up morons, a forced relationship between an adult and child is not synonymous with a consensual relationship between adult individuals of the same gender.

The church also tries to draw on sympathy, claiming that the negative press they've been receiving in regards to this scandal is being headed by Zionist groups and a Jew-led hate campaign. Who needs the Jews' to tell us you screwed up? Not only did you molest children who trusted you and took advantage of people who looked to you for spiritual and moral guidance, but you covered it up from the public, then failed to stop it when you knew it was happening. Let's face it, you fucked up (I really did try to get through this blog without cursing, couldn't be done).

Is there no hope for reform? I've lost faith in any religious establishment, and have lost all but a fragment of faith in federal governments, but this is not the end. This matter is not over, and a flicker of hope has been kindled. Today, a U.S. court of law found the Jesus Christ Church of Latter Day Saints responsible for failing to protect children from known pedophiles in the Boy Scouts of America in the 80's (the church funds and runs approximately 60% of the organization today). One victim was rewarded over a million dollars and the court has announced the possibility of more fines to be settled later for more victims. Now granted the Mormons don't have Vatican power or protection, but nonetheless, it's a few bricks off the wall that has surrounded that once sacred compound of religion. Sooner or later we will break through and none will be immune, no matter cassock, crucifix, or conspiring clergy (there's those damn letter repetitions again).

Dear Heretics, know this: You will to answer to God when you die, but we can kick your perverted asses while you still walk this earth.