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Sticks and Stones Will Break My Bones

I seriously doubt that we'll learn much from the tragic events in Tucson, Arizona -- I hope that I am wrong

By Rodolfo F. Acu??a
Published on LatinoLA: January 19, 2011


Sticks and Stones Will Break My Bones


"The great masses of the people will more easily fall victim to a big lie than to a small one."

"I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord."

- Adolf Hitler "Mein Kampf"

As a society, we are in the habit of forgetting unpleasant historical events.

As a recent Harper's Magazine article put it, an "American tendency is that we like to imagine ourselves always making the right moral choice; hence we prefer to hear about times and places when people could do so." (Feb. 2011)

We are dismayed that everyone does not love Americans and shocked that some hate us.

We develop a historical amnesia toward anything we don't want to hear about. The result is a lack of introspection that reinforces feelings of American exceptionalism.

The act of forgetting prevents meaningful dialogue and induces a state of denial.

That is why I seriously doubt that we'll learn much from the tragic events in Tucson, Arizona -- I hope that I am wrong.

If no dialogue takes place, we will continue to delude ourselves that everything is okay and believe that Americans can't make mistakes--god is guiding them.

One of the few lucid voices during the recent Tucson shootings was Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik who simply said that words have consequences.

The fact that we don't pay for a humane mental health system has consequences. And this lack of reason leads to unwanted and extreme behavior.

Dupnik got clobbered by Michelle Malkin who called Dupnik a "blowhard" and "the worst sheriff in America." The press failed to point out that this is the same Michelle Malkin who embraces extreme right groups such as VDARE (named after Virginia Dare, the first English child born in the New World).

Rush Limbaugh seconds Malkin saying that Jared Lee Loughner has the "full support" of the Democratic Party.

Not to be outdone, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, known for ties with white supremacists, weighed in and attacked Sheriff Dupnik for saying the obvious, that words have consequences.

We are all responsible for our words and actions. It is a no-brainer; we live in a complex society and we have the duty to be civil. Various reports after the John Kennedy assassination linked the shooting and the vitriolic language leading up to it.

We seem to have reverted; words such as son of a bitch have become acceptable. Last night I was flipped off be an 80 year old woman driving a SUV.

We have entered the Twilight Zone where children's chant, "Sticks and stones will break my bones but name names will never hurt me."

However, tragedies such as the Arizona prove that words can provoke others to break your bones. No one is saying that vitriolic rhetoric was the immediate cause of the shooting. What we are saying is that hate speech incites people, and it has been politically rewarding to Republicans.

In just four years extremists have taken over the Arizona legislature as well as a majority of federal offices in the state. Currently moderates are being driven out of the Republican Party, forced to resign their posts.

Arizona is a free for all with no legal restraints. Slander and libel have become the norm.

In civilized states we are protected from untrue statements. If someone libels you or maliciously slanders you, you have the recourse of suing him or her. However, this is not the case with elected officials; this is not the case in Arizona. Politicians say what they want ÔÇôtrue or not--and they are for all intents and purposes immune.

The person in the street follows their example and resorts to slander to get their way or worse get a quick adrenalin fix.

In this way the truth is obfuscated by the "big lie" that Adolph Hitler talked about.

As I have said, in order for a correction to take place a dialogue must be set in motion. This dialogue has to go beyond opinion and emotion.

One of my main concerns is Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne's use of the "big lie" about my book "Occupied America," which he uses to justify his war on La Raza Studies.

Horne accuses me of lying because I said the U.S. invaded Mexico. Well, I guess Ulysses S. Grant, Abraham Lincoln and a consensus of historians are liars. Thus far the media has let him get away with it and not asked him to produce his sources.

Horne has said that I am unpatriotic. I am a Korean War veteran forgoing my student exemption while Horne avoided military service in Vietnam.

Moreover, what credentials does Horne have in evaluating La Raza Studies? Or for that matter historical context?

For the past fifty years the Mexican American community has sought a solution to the horrendous dropout problem. It advocated bilingual education and then Chicana/o studies as pedagogical tools to stem the dropout.

La Raza Studies currently offers 43 sections. The dropout rate which is about 60 percent nationally has been reversed by the program. For students in the program the dropout rate in this program is 2.5 percent; 66 percent of these students go on to college, versus 24 percent nationally.

Wouldn't a serious educator want to know what they are doing right before eliminating this promising program? How is Arizona education as a whole performing?

Why are Latinos being singled out?

Arizona Republicans should also know that Mexican Americans have feelings and are highly insulted by the persistent anti-immigrant rhetoric. My mother, my maternal grandparents and my paternal grandmother were immigrants, and they were hardworking and decent people.

Many of the things that they say about immigrants are racist and inflammatory.

If we are going to talk about immigration smokescreens such as the War on Drugs must be discussed factually.

What role does the U.S. drug market play in attracting drugs? What role does American drug policy play in funneling the drug route through Sonora to Arizona? What role does the free and open access to guns and arms in Arizona play in attracting Mexican cartel activity along the border?

Before this current economic depression, the policies of the European Union had almost halted migration from Spain and Italy to Northwest European nations. How does American policy differ? Have treaties such as NAFTA accelerated migration north to the United States?

There can be a solution as long as it is based on dialogue and not based on lies or assumptions. For example, Horne has been criticized by the Anti-Defamation League and his assertions are not supported by a single reputable historian or educator. So why hasn't the media been more probative?

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