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Friday, May 5, 2017

Cinco De Mayo, We are One.

I have written a couple of posts about the celebration of Cinco de Mayo. Both of them were at least a little lighthearted and carefree. Parts of them, were, I thought, hilarious. But, in light of things I have seen, read, heard lately I decided to go a different way today. I decided to go back to a time and place in the past.

I grew up in the Midwest. I listened to the body counts signifying progress in the Vietnam war on the nightly news. To my childish mind it seemed we had to have killed everybody in that poor country several times. But, there were ominous signs even then, abuses of power, commanding officers inflating the numbers to make themselves, and their commands look more lethal. Turns out this may have happened several times, so nobody could ever be sure how many people were actually killed in battle.

These were not bad men, bad officers, they were being coerced by a structure that demanded progress, and dead bodies were the chosen standard. It was a difficult war and progress offered some hope of eventual victory, or at least escape. They knew they were not losing, but they wanted so desperately to prove they were winning they were willing to inflate the numbers. Supervisors have used the tactic for years, inflate the numbers on measurements that are hard to disprove, and walk away happy.

Then came Watergate, and the nation exploded. It was espionage to salvage a presidency. And the outrage was complete. Later on, it seems that Nixon really thought his presidency may have been anointed. He was only trying to do the best thing for the country, by authorizing all of that illegal, unscrupulous, immoral activity, it was for the common good, he thought.

Of course, there were other things as well. But, we, as a nation came to view authority without a certain amount of healthy skepticism.

We were not wealthy, in fact we were probably poor, by most measures. And we were Catholic. So I had a lot of Mexican friends. Mostly immigrant parents, or grandparents who had come to America to make a better life for themselves. They took the most physical, demanding jobs, and worked hard for their money.

Anytime I was playing with their children, and it always seemed like there were hundreds of kids, all living in a small house, they shared everything. Warm, fresh homemade tortillas, covered in melting butter, and a little honey, just enough to make your hands sticky and your heart sing. They would laugh at how good I thought it was. They were the epitome of the American Dream.

Somehow the nation has changed, and now we trust our elected officials. Allowing them to manipulate laws to increase the wealth of the largest donors, alter voting districts to maintain an iron grip on power, strip protection from the poor, needy, children, anybody who can not make obscene donations to the hallowed towers of the ruling elite. And we demonize these poor immigrants, who are willing to work at difficult jobs, performing back breaking labor, settling for low wages, and little actual respect.

And somehow I am supposed to believe this is the path to making America great again. I miss the old days.