Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

HispanicVista's The Week's Best Guest Commentaries

Expand Messages
  • EditorialOpinion@aol.com
    HispanicVista.com http://www.hispanicvista.com The Week s Best Guest Commentary 1. Roberto Lovato s - White Fear in Wartime - Samuel Huntington Brings His
    Message 1 of 1 , May 27, 2004
      The Week's Best Guest Commentary

      1. Roberto Lovato's - White Fear in Wartime - Samuel Huntington Brings His
      'Clash of Civilizations' Home
      2. Frank Gomez's - Prisoner Abuse: Explaining America in Challenging Times
      3. Roberto Miranda's - The Latino Community Has Confidence In La Causa Inc.

      White Fear in Wartime -- Samuel Huntington Brings His 'Clash of
      Civilizations' Home
      By Roberto Lovato,

      Just as excerpts from a polemical new book by Harvard international relations
      expert Samuel Huntington were hitting newsstands, I was in New York and
      visited Huntington's old neighborhood in the Bronx near blocks of sooty,
      industrial-age housing projects.

      Despite the slight chill that overcast Sunday, the area's main drag, La
      Bainbridge, a street long ravaged and revived by the ebb and flow of economic
      depression and war, burst with beats of American life: colorful restaurants and
      shops, vibrant Catholic, evangelical, and Muslim churches and mosques, and lots
      of immigrants pregnant with a ferocious work ethic.

      Most of the Bronx residents of Puerto Rican, Dominican and -- increasingly --
      Mexican descent trekking along Bainbridge have probably never heard of the
      powerful Bronx native who recently penned what may become the defining document
      of "Americanness" and "Latinoness" in our time (if the profound impact of his
      best-selling previous book "The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of
      World Order" is any indicator).

      These Bronx residents may not be aware that they and other Latinos in the
      United States are protagonists in an ongoing American -- especially
      Anglo-American -- crisis in which they are the latest group cast as "Barbarian Other."

      In his just published book, "Who are We: The Challenges to America's National
      Identity," Huntington speaks about the meteoric rise of white nativism in
      America, for which he offers not an apology but a rationale: "The most powerful
      stimulus to such white nativism will be the cultural and linguistic threats
      whites see from the expanding power of Latinos in U.S. society."

      What Bronx residents and for that matter most of us don't know is that, in
      crossing the East River or the Rio Grande, Latinos have crossed a modern-day
      Rubicon into hostility and war in the eyes of some whites like Huntington.

      We Latinos are now living in the vast and varied terrain of white fear.

      The failure to recognize white fear and confront it on its own terms has
      become Latinos' central strategic error in the domestic policy wars that vilify
      immigrants, destroy schools and disproportionately push larger and larger
      numbers of former students of crumbling school systems into prisons and into the
      ranks of the dead and endangered in Iraq.

      In a chapter entitled "Assimilation," Huntington is very explicit about this
      nexus between perpetual war and the construction of national identity:
      "Without a major war requiring substantial mobilization and lasting years ...
      contemporary immigrants will have neither the opportunity nor the need to affirm
      their identity with and their loyalty to America as earlier immigrants have done."

      I can't erase from my own mind the images of families and children devastated
      by the Cold War counterinsurgency culture designed for El Salvador by the
      U.S. National Security Council, or NSC, during Huntington's tenure there in the
      late 1970s and early 1980s. Today, I can't but wonder what awaits all Americans
      of Latin American descent as Huntington lunges into the domestic component of
      his perilous vision known as "The Clash of Civilizations" in his earlier

      The stakes couldn't be higher. Huntington isn't just some cloistered academic
      crank; he's a warrior-scholar with direct links to vast networks of
      political, military, academic and media power; he's a political scientist who learned
      how to integrate the double helix of domestic and foreign policy as the former
      coordinator of security planning at the NSC.

      As one of the pioneers of the post-Cold War American grand strategy,
      Huntington understands better than most how to engineer society through an ongoing
      psychological operation or, as his NSC memos put it, a "psy-op." Manufacturing
      various types of fear -- including racial fear -- is a standard psy-op that
      effects multiple audiences in multiple ways.

      Rather than fall into the psy-op trap of reactive anger by dismissing the
      book as the rant of a "racist" or a 19th century backwoods nativist, it is best
      to interpret "Who Are We" as another very dangerous installment in the career
      of a seasoned national security specialist. With the steely calculus of a
      post-Cold War warrior in search of new enemies, Huntington is helping create a fear
      that is transforming American and Latino identity, and U.S. politics overall
      -- a fear most visible in our gated communities, gated countries and gated

      Huntington's 1968 classic, "Political Order in Changing Societies," has for
      many years been a textbook for Third World authoritarian leaders. Another of
      his books, "The Soldier and the State" was and still is required reading in
      national security theory for numerous military leaders, including those of the
      Salvadoran military. That's the same Salvadoran military that brought my
      Salvadoran college students in the United States their most vivid recollections of
      their home country: Dante-esque mounds of body parts and ground littered with the
      dead bodies of national security practice.

      How has political-military scientist Huntington suddenly come to view Latinos
      as "The single most immediate and most serious challenge to America's
      traditional identity"?

      In search of answers I went to the Bronx County Historical Society, also on
      Bainbridge, not far from the formerly middle class projects that once housed
      the Huntingtons. Huntington's hood has changed -- radically so. Latinos account
      for over 48 percent of the Bronx's 1.4 million people, and whites are now less
      than 30 percent of the population.

      Outside the Bronx Historical Society, just a few feet away from the lone
      green carpet of museum lawn, pockmarked telephone poles and brick walls display
      concert posters for musicians who trace their musical lineage to the thump and
      mix of black, Puerto Rican and Jamaican Bronx rage that went global in the
      1970s. A globalized Bronx gave the world Huntington and hip-hop.

      Yet, only Huntington's world is represented inside the Historical Society.
      Only white immigrants and their descendants are celebrated on exhibition walls
      and a multi-volume series of monographs on Bronx history end for some reason in

      Like the historical society, Huntington himself -- born in 1927, a professor
      at Harvard's School of Government by 1962 and today a resident of Boston's
      elite Beacon Hill -- missed experiencing his old neighborhood's most important
      20th century demographic change: the huge influx of blacks and Latinos in the
      1960s, when the Latino population doubled to 400,000.

      Staring at the mostly war-related artifacts of the historical society, it is
      easy to see how Huntington, who says he's descended from English settlers who
      arrived in Boston in 1633, puts forth his Latino "threat" thesis in no
      uncertain racial and geopolitical terms. In his view, Latinos are a menace to U.S.
      civilization as defined by what he calls the country's core "Anglo Protestant"
      culture defined by the English language and customs, including individualism
      and the work ethic.

      Latinos in the United States don't enjoy the same clarity of argument. They
      are paralyzed -- hesitating between black and white. While they most resemble
      African Americans in rates of poverty, imprisonment and health problems, half
      of all Latinos checked "white" on the 2000 census.

      Attacks like Huntington's may serve Latinos in one way: it may push the
      country's largest "minority" to decide whether it is more black or white, whether
      it will fight the power or serve it. The ceaseless troubles visited in recent
      years upon prosperous and well-assimilated Arab and Muslim Americans -- the
      primary "others" targeted in Huntington's previous book -- show there is likely
      no saving middle ground of "brown" in times of white fear's war against those
      perceived as 21st century barbarians. In white fear's eyes, any shade of brown
      is suspect.

      Even though ideas about race, ethnicity, culture and civilization are fluid
      and murky, white fear is cohesive and entrenched. It gets funding for research
      using state-of-the-art statistical methods to prove age-old ideas about white
      intellectual superiority; it informs government policies and media coverage
      that -- despite the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, white militias and private
      border battalions -- never link "white" with "threat," "terrorist" or (to use
      Huntington's term) "challenge." White fear mobilizes Republican and Democratic
      voters to defend their perceived racial interests under the guise of patriotism.

      White fear is profitable. Bond issues for prison construction managed by
      major investment banks are more profitable than school construction bonds for
      improving the decrepit, crowded public schools like Taft High School in the Bronx.
      The prison construction bonds also depend heavily on a steady flow of young,
      brown bodies of former students of de-funded schools, as do the crowded
      barracks in Iraq's deserts.

      Though Latinos are well on their way to surpassing African Americans on the
      rolls of Rikers Island and other prisons as well as those dying in the deserts
      of Iraq, there is no mature and sustained Latino equivalent of the established
      black critique -- literary, musical and political -- of the politics of white
      fear and its nefarious effects. Huntington's "Who Are We" has little to do
      with Latinos and everything to do with whiteness in America. We must realize
      that we can't win these ideological wars by leaving the cold silos of white fear

      We must meditate about and lay siege upon the workings of white fear as if we
      are indeed the very barbarians Huntington invokes. We must now take our place
      alongside African Americans and countless barbarian others at the front of
      the long march to move this country, this world beyond the calcified history and
      fossilized notions of "civilization" and "assimilation" lurking behind the
      gated white walls of the Bronx Historical Society and Samuel Huntington's mind.

      Roberto Lovato (robvato63@...) is a Los Angeles-based writer.

      Prisoner Abuse: Explaining America in Challenging Times
      By Frank Gómez

      Explaining America to the rest of the world has always been difficult. Since
      the collapse of Soviet communism, as we became the world’s sole superpower,
      it became more difficult. Now, with the prisoner abuse scandal, it seems more
      daunting than ever.

      That job rests principally in the Bureau of Public Diplomacy in the
      Department of State. It houses the functions once performed by the United States
      Information Agency (USIA). Congress passed a bill that merged USIA with State in
      1990. Since 1991 the bureau has had three chiefs – two appointees and one

      The Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy, ad executive Charlotte Beers, left
      after a year, due to illness. Her deputy, Patricia Harrison, former co-chair
      of the Republican National Committee, became acting head. Margaret Tutwiler,
      a spokesperson from the first Bush Administration, was appointed early this
      year, but resigned months later to take a private sector job. A permanent
      nominee for this critical position has not yet surfaced.

      Budget cuts and a weakened USIA have harmed America’s ability to speak to the
      world credibly at critical time. One wonders whether we can actually win any
      hearts and minds. Allies question our motives and our actions. Opinion
      surveys around the world show that respect for our policies – and respect for the
      U.S. – has fallen to historic lows.

      Reduced Information Capabilities

      How such a state of affairs arose merits attention. It began in the
      eighties, when Congress reduced USIA budgets. This agency ran the Voice of America,
      Fulbright exchanges, cultural exchanges, libraries, English and American
      studies programs, media and other programs abroad, and foreign press centers in the
      U.S. In the nineties, with the collapse of Soviet communism, complacency
      seized the American foreign policy psyche, budgets were cut further. Finally,
      USIA merged into the State Department in 1991.

      This precipitous decline in our ability to communicate with publics abroad
      occurred, moreover, just as two powerful and related realities emerged: 1) the
      explosion in telecommunications technology; and 2) the ascendancy of NGOs and
      public opinion as public policy influencers.

      With regard to the former, Marshall McLuhan’s “global village” had become “
      wired.” Information and news were being transmitted instantaneously by
      growing numbers of players, from CNN and the BBC to, a bit later, the Internet.
      Their audiences numbered in the hundreds of millions. They included heads of
      government, opinion leaders, media magnates, dictators and heads of
      non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

      The communications technology revolution was accompanied by the explosion of
      NGOs. Addressing his annual meeting of his ambassadors from around the world
      a couple of years ago, Jacques Chirac lamented the great and growing influence
      of NGOs on French policymaking. Organizations here and abroad use
      technology, i.e., the Internet, to inform, motivate and mobilize.

      The World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle in 2000 was one of the first
      major conferences whose opponents did not have to hold planning meetings.
      They met on-line! WTO meetings since have faced similar opposition. The Cancún
      meeting in November faced protests outside and opposition to “first world”
      agricultural subsidies inside. The harsh reality is that in a wired world the
      increasingly vital communication of American values, policies and actions came
      to compete in a seeming cacophony of global information flows, both public
      and private.

      The Sole Superpower

      In the nineties, the United States and the world were adjusting to the
      realities of a sole superpower. We became a bigger actor on the world stage – our
      culture was imitated and absorbed, our military was unmatched in technology and
      power projection, and our economy was strong. America’s might, however, made
      foreign publics apprehensive. Desert Storm, our commendable role Bosnia and
      Kosovo, and other actions fueled concern that U.S. power could be used
      anywhere – at will.

      Then came 9/11. The immediate response from allies, friends and even
      adversaries was overwhelmingly supportive. Le Monde’s banner headline, “Nous sommes
      tous américains” (We Are All Americans) captured the sentiment. At no time
      since World War II – sixty years ago – did the United States need allies to
      respond to attacks on its soil and to defend against future attacks. Subsequent
      actions in Afghanistan were understandable by most, even by many in the
      Muslim world.

      But we stumbled. The Bush Administration called our war against terror a “
      crusade.” That term means “carrying the cross,” a painful reminder of invading
      European armies to stop the spread of “Mohammedanism.” Then came the “Axis
      of Evil” speech, a virtual declaration of war. Some policy makers thought that
      Iraq would be easy, and that Syria and Iran would be the next targets. But
      our occupation of Iraq and the continuing violence there have taken a toll on
      our respect and credibility. And anti-Americanism in the Arabic-speaking world
      has been fueled by two new players in the global village of communications:
      Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya.

      America, in the eyes of much of the world, was realizing its potential as
      what former Secretary of State Madeline Albright described as “the indispensable
      nation.” We began the nineties and entered the new century with a sense of
      omnipotence. The Cold War was over; no adversary could challenge us; we could
      work our will with relative ease. But our failure to secure a positive United
      Nations resolution, and our failure to rally traditional allies to our cause
      in Iraq indicate how much the tide has changed.

      Explaining ourselves is a challenge. Explaining policies and actions that
      much of the world regards as mistaken is even more of a challenge. And we
      hamper our ability to tell our story. First, we are projecting our power in a part
      of the world that we do not understand. After 9/11 the CIA, FBI and other
      agencies were desperately trying to recruit translators, interpreters and

      We have too few experts in the history, culture, languages, mores and
      politics of the Muslim world. We are perceived as arrogant bullies. Our statements
      often provide ammunition to our critics. And now, the prisoner abuse scandal,
      with more closets yet to be opened, fuels skepticism, further radicalizes our
      critics, and sharply undermines our ability to achieve our foreign policy

      Improving Communications

      A commission on pubic diplomacy in the Muslim world produced an outstanding
      report late last year that appears to have gained little notice. It was a
      wake-up call that woke up few! Retired USIA veterans have written articles and
      reports about what they regard as the mistaken move of that agency to the State
      Department. Their website (www.pubicdiplomacy.org) has persuasive arguments
      to buttress their case. But few have taken note.

      Whoever wins in November, the incoming Administration and the Congress need
      to take stock of our weakened public diplomacy machinery. They need to
      re-tool it for the new challenges of the 21st century. They need equip our country
      with the means to communicate and compete more effectively in the global
      village. They need to recognize that public opinion in other countries matters to
      their governments as much as public opinion at home matters to our own. They
      need to assess whether USIA ought to be an independent agency.
      Frank Gómez, a retired FSO, is a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State
      for Public Affairs and corporate executive. He is a communications consultant
      with the New York firm LatinInsights, and Vice Chairman, Hispanic Council on
      International Relaitons. He can be reached at fgomez@....

      The Latino Community Has Confidence In La Causa Inc.
      By Robert Miranda

      In the past few weeks La Causa Inc., one of Milwaukee's longest reigning and
      best-known Latino social service agency, has managed to get itself in the news
      - unfortunately the news has focused mainly on the agency's financial

      The agency is currently experiencing a public relations nightmare as it tries
      to deflect negative news reports, which have focused on its fiscal deficit -
      reported to be nearly $2.2 million. A series of articles published by the
      Milwaukee Journal Sentinel have highlighted these fiscal issues, however, what was
      not reported is the positive impact and productive work La Causa has achieved
      for the Latino community.

      Indeed, the public should be concerned about the way public dollars are
      handled at this agency and public dollars this non-profit group receives should be
      accounted for. However, it must also be stressed that La Causa Inc., which was
      founded in the early 1970’s to provide specialized childcare, education and
      other programs, with a bilingual emphasis, is a prominent Latino community

      Troubles From Within

      In April several members of the board of directors resigned from the social
      service agency because some felt the staff at the agency were refusing to work
      towards reforms designed to improve the agency.

      In addition, the Milwaukee County Health and Human Services Department has
      decided not to renew the agency's child care services for special needs children
      contract when it expires at the end of May. Milwaukee County said it would
      handle the task in-house for the rest of the year. The county stated that
      cutting off La Causa Inc. wasn't directly related to any controversy involving the

      Leadership and Committed Staff

      David Espinoza is La Causa's president and chief executive, his work in the
      Latino community and his commitment to La Causa is unquestionable. Espinoza and
      his staff are honest hard working people who love their jobs and have a
      commitment to the Latino community few can equal.

      After speaking with staff at La Causa I sense a commitment by them to meet
      the challenges that now stands before them. There is pride and resolve to make
      things right at the agency. There is a feeling of renewed kinship among the
      workers and a rising spirituality that is focused on making things at La Causa
      turn around.

      Indeed, steps to correct discrepancies that have been reported are being
      taken and once these steps have been established La Causa will resume being a key
      agency in our community. In the meantime, as they’re making the arrangements
      to improve their situation, it is certain they will not have missed a beat
      meeting the needs of our people.

      Already board members who have resigned have been replaced and efforts to
      launch an aggressive fund-raising program are being thought through.

      Of course La Causa’s success will center on the effectiveness of its
      leadership. To make things turn around this ship has to have a cool firm captain ready
      to make the decisions needed to steer this potential Titanic away from the

      David Espinoza is the captain that can make things happen. There is no
      question, without David at the helm La Causa’s predicament could turn into a
      calamity. As it stands, it hasn’t because of Espinoza’s steadfast leadership and
      effective communication skills.

      The Latino community understands the need to protect our public dollars, yet
      we also have confidence in David Espinoza and his staff and we believe that
      this current state of affairs will only strengthen La Causa. As La Causa
      continues to stay the course, as one this community's top-notch social service
      organization, Latinos will continue to benefit from the people who have made this
      agency an important part of our Latino community.
      Contact Robert Miranda at: rmiranda@...

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.