The good, the bad, and the ugly…
In the immortal words of Charles Dickens: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times … it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”
Dickens pretty much captures how I’m perceiving the political world around me. It’s an emotional see-saw: just as I feel good about something that’s happening, something else happens that depresses me. In no particular order, here is a sampling of these things.
Carnalismo and Trump’s racism…
In my last blog I focused on the powerful Chicano Movement concept of Carnalismo (brotherhood/sisterhood). I highlighted the work of the Phoenix-based organization, Uncage and Reunite Families Coalition (URFC), who is working to assist in reunifying immigrant children who were separated from their parents as they crossed the U.S. border and to hold accountable the incarcerators of the children. I noted that URFC manifests the notion of “Servant as Leader”: true leaders act as the servants of the people they work with. My heart swelled with joy at the work of these fine people.
But then I read that Trump administration officials are saying that it would require too much effort to reunite the thousands of families that Trump’s evil and cruel policy separated. The implication is that some of the children torn from their parents by Trump may never be reunited with their parents. I frankly don’t have the words to describe how inhumane, how cruel, how evil Trump’s and his minions’ actions in this regard are.
So-called “progressives” fight Yaqui progress…
My heart soared with pride and joy when Arizona recently made history by electing three Indigenous women to the Arizona Senate and two Indigenous men to the Arizona House of Representatives. This is noteworthy, given that Indigenous peoples in Arizona did not enjoy full voting rights until 1970. I wrote about this in a recent blog (http://latinopia.com/blogs/political-salsa-y-mas-with-sal-baldenegro-10-19-18-indigenous-political-representation/).
Tucson is the Tribal Headquarters of the Pascua Yaqui tribe. Those of us from westside barrios grew up with kids from the Old Pascua Yaqui Village, and many of us are of Yaqui heritage. Thus, the election of Pascua Yaqui tribal member Sally Ann Gonzales to the State Senate was exhilarating. Sally Gonzales and Debora Norris (Navajo-Tohono O’odham) made history in 1997 by being the first Indigenous women elected to the Arizona Legislature. Today Sally Ann Gonzales not only is the sole member of the Pascua Yaqui tribe in the Arizona legislature, she is the first Indigenous person from Southern Arizona to ever be elected to the state senate and is the senior member of the Indigenous Peoples Caucus. I recently wrote about Gonzales (http://latinopia.com/blogs/political-salsa-y-mas-with-sal-baldenegro-1-14-18/). In that blog I noted that the Yaquis are known as a “warrior nation” and that Sally Ann Gonzales does her Yaqui “warrior nation” heritage proud. She fights ferociously for the rights of people of color, for workers, children, women, teachers.
But what saddens and infuriates me is that it isn’t the right-wingers, the Republicans, who go after Sally Gonzales. That shameful honor goes to the so-called “progressive” wing of the Democratic party, which for all intents and purposes is a personality-driven political cult. Even as they go around saying how much they support women, those so-called “progressives” worked very hard to defeat Gonzales and have been trying to defeat her since 2010, when she ran for the Arizona House. The anti-Sally Gonzales campaign of the so-called “progressives” is the modern incarnation of the campaign to disenfranchise Indigenous people, attempts to take away the voice of the Yaqui community, for Sally Gonzales is the face of the Pascua Yaqui tribe in the legislature.
No other explanation makes sense given that Sally Ann Gonzales is very competent and productive, is true to the values the Democratic Party and the so-called “progressives” purport to represent, and she stands up for her constituents. Sally Ann Gonzales is an independent spirit and voice, attributes the political machine-cult cannot and will not tolerate.
Carnalismo and Trump’s racism–again…
That two other groups are practicing pure Carnalismo is something that should make our hearts glad. One is a spiritually diverse, multi-cultural group of committed and principled people who, under the auspices of “The Migrant Trail,” every year walk about 75 miles over 8 days in the Sonoran Desert heat to focus attention on U.S. immigration policies that channel migrants toward the deathbeds of the desert. The Migrant Trail marches, which began in 2004, bear witness to the tragedy of death and to the inhumanity of U.S. government policies, which force migrants into the harshest, hottest parts of Arizona, where temperatures can exceed 110 degrees. It’s been reported that as of 2014 over 6,000 people trying to migrate to the U.S. have died in the desert. (Smithsonian.com, Oct. 1, 2014) That number has since increased. A while back I wrote about The Migrant Trail (http://latinopia.com/blogs/political-salsa-y-mas/political-salsa-y-mas-with-sal-baldenegro-3-16-14-migrant-trail/) 974
The other group practicing pure Carnalismo is No More Deaths. NMD volunteers place life-saving food and water in desert areas. Four NMD volunteers were recently prosecuted and convicted of federal misdemeanor charges for placing water in Arizona’s Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, where 91 border crossers are known to have died of thirst since 2014. The summer of 2017 was particularly brutal, resulting in a total of 32 known migrant deaths on the Refuge. All over Tucson there are yard signs saying “Humanitarian Aid is never a crime—Drop the charges!”
But then, sullying the good feelings engendered by the above, we are daily bombarded with the lies of President Trump (and echoed by his minions) about an “invasion” on the Mexican border by brown hordes of drug dealers and criminals. He rallies his racist base by promoting his mythical wall, by ordering more military troops to the border, and by installing razor wire on the existing barriers.
Legislator and pals get rich off of charter schools…
Public-school teachers in Arizona marched, picketed, and called a one-week strike under the banner of “RedforEd” (teachers and supporters wore red garb) in protest of low pay and cuts to school funding by the Republican legislature. In 2017, Arizona ranked last of all fifty states for average elementary school teacher pay, and second-to-last for teacher pay at the secondary level. Education cuts have been exacerbated by the proliferation of poorly-regulated Charter schools, which siphon money away from public schools. One state legislator owns a chain of Charter schools and has become a millionaire.
The teachers were successful. The governor agreed to a 20-percent raise for teachers by 2020. Previously, the governor had offered a one-percent raise. The “RedforEd” movement highlighted the importance of public schools and the value of teachers.
But in the wake of the teachers’ victory and their bringing public education to the forefront, a bill favoring charter schools is moving through the Arizona legislature. Senate Bill 1394, ostensibly a charter-school reform measure, contains a huge loophole that would allow charter schools, especially the biggest ones, to avoid revealing how they spend our money. SB1394 would not prevent charter chains from giving to their own founders large, no-bid management contracts. These management companies are exempt from reporting how they spend public funds. Nor would it prevent charter CEOs from paying themselves exorbitant salaries—for example, Primavera online charter school CEO paid himself $10.1 million over the past two years. Many other charter school CEOs have become multi-millionaires on the public’s dime.
Also troubling is a provision that would require prosecutors to get permission from a charter sponsor in order to investigate wrongdoing. That the Arizona Charter Schools Association, which has militantly blocked attempts to hold charter schools accountable, strongly supports Senate Bill 1394 in itself signals that the bill is not in the public’s interest.
The bill has a couple of good features to make it seem like a genuine reform measure. But it isn’t. It’s yet another plank in the far-right Republican campaign to destroy public education and a vehicle for large for-profit charter school owners to get even richer on our tax money and do it secretly.
This Republican assault on public schools is being co-sponsored by Democrats (Representative) Alma Hernandez, (Representative) Daniel Hernandez, and (Senator) David Bradley.
Indeed, the political landscape feels like the best of times and like the worst of times, like the spring of hope and like the winter of despair. c/s
Copyright 2019 by firstname.lastname@example.org. Sally Ann Gonzalez group photo courtesy of Rosalee Gonzalez. Arizona teachers logo used under fair use proviso of the copyright law. All other photos are in the public domain.