June 16, 2015—Day of Infamy

Mark That Date in Your Book of Infamy

That was the day Donald Trumpf and his wife Melania rode that escalator at Trump Tower to announce his run for the presidency. And that was the day he decided to attack Mexican-Americans and promise to build a “big beautiful wall” for which Mexico would pay:

Donald Trump kicked off his presidential bid more than a year ago with harsh words for Mexico. “They are not our friend, believe me,” he said, before disparaging Mexican immigrants: “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

And with that speech came an injection of open racial hate into American life from a presidential candidate. The hate continued to build until only the hard core of his supporters were exempted from being called “losers.”

Alas, on that day, we all became losers. Big time.


Betty, Veronica, and Racism in America

One Can Learn a Lot from These Two Young Women

Both Women Were Equally AttractiveI came back to my apartment early this afternoon while Martine was watching The Courtship of Eddie’s Father (1963) on TCM starring Glenn Ford, Dina Merrill, and Stella Stevens. The two latter stars are in competition with each other to marry Glenn, who is the father of Eddie (played by Ron Howard), his son from an earlier marriage. It is Stella, the blonde, who wins, while the raven-haired Dina ends up sucking a mop in left field.

The film made me think of the Archie comic books I used to read in my youth. In these comics, the blonde Betty is pitted against the dark-haired Veronica for Archie’s affections and, not coincidentally, ours. I seem to remember that my sympathies were with Betty, and probably intended by the cartoonist to be so. There is something of the Dragon Lady about Veronica.

Both Women Were Equally Attractive

I grew up thinking that blondes were more beautiful. After all, there were Marilyn Monroe, Scarlett Johansson, Dominique Sanda, Brigitte Bardot, Uma Thurman, Grace Kelly, and Catherine Deneuve—not to mention several hundred others. It was only later that I fell for brunettes like Nastassja Kinski and Natalia Tolokonnikova of the Russian rock group Pussy Riot.

But for the longest time, I was in love with golden-haired beauties. I cannot help but wonder whether it was a subtle form of racism implicit in the dichotomy between Betty and Veronica. Thank God, now I think all kinds of women are beautiful, even the green ones shown on the old Star Trek show. Fortunately, I have not become fixated exclusively on the green ones, because else I would be desperately lonely.

Green Women Can Be Nice…


“They Stomped the Floor”

Alabama Governor and Presidential Candidate George C. Wallace (1919-1998)

Alabama Governor and Presidential Candidate George C. Wallace (1919-1998)

Politically speaking, I come from a very divided family. My brother and I were Liberal Democrats, my mother was an independent (she loved John B. Anderson in 1980), and my father was a staunch follower of segregationist Alabama Governor George C. Wallace.

Actually Wallace was not always a segregationist. He started out as a circuit judge of the Third Judicial Circuit in Alabama, where he was known for his fairness, irrespective of race. He even called Black attorneys “Mister” rather than patronizingly referring to them by their first names.

When he ran for governor of Alabama in 1958, he was defeated by John Malcolm Patterson, who ran with the support of the Ku Klux Klan, against which Wallace had spoken on occasion. (in fact, the NAACP had supported Wallace.) This loss wrought a change in the candidate: “You know why I lost that governor’s race? … I was outniggered by John Patterson. And I’ll tell you here and now, I will never be outniggered again.” And he wasn’t.

From this point on, Wallace adopted an wavering segregationist policy. “You know, I tried to talk about good roads and good schools and all these things that have been part of my career, and nobody listened. And then I began talking about niggers, and they stomped the floor.”

Alas, my poor father was also anti-integration. As an uneducated factory worker, he was afraid that Southern Blacks were coming to take away his job. So he thought Wallace was the man to stem that tide. Today, he would probably vote for Trump.

Good Ol’ Boys

Sandra Bland

Sandra Bland

In many parts of the United States, there is a class of males usually referred to as Good Ol’ Boys. We have become accustomed to letting these Good Ol’ Boys have a “Get Out of Jail Free” card whenever they step across the line. But what happens when these same erring Good Ol’ Boys are the police, mayors, judges, and district attorneys. The result is injustice, and lately, injustice on a large scale.

The Internet has been used too often to convey outrage. Today, in this post, I want to convey sadness. The strange death of Sandra Bland (pictured above) troubles me. Why should someone so young and so beautiful end her life in a jail cell by hanging herself with a plastic garbage bag. Oh, it could have been someone older and uglier and fatter, and the injustice would have been the same. But there is an added poignancy for someone who should have had a rich, full life.

I don’t know whether Sandra suffered some massive affront to her dignity that caused her to commit suicide—or whether she was “helped” by Good Ol’ Boys wearing badges. The facts have not come out yet. I’m just saying that this should not have happened whatever the circumstances.

If the Good Ol’ Boys turn out in the end to have been evil malefactors, they should suffer the full consequences.

A Two-Tiered Highway System

Bus Accident in the Andes

Bus Accident in the Andes

Peru is a major destination for international tourism. It can also be a deadly one. While the nation has improved the highway system connecting such tourist magnets as Lima, Arequipa, Nazca, Cusco, and Arequipa, many large towns in the Andes are linked by roads that are unsafe. This is compounded by the fact that not only the highways, but also the long-distance bus lines, are also two-tiered. A point-to-point Cruz del Sur, Oltursa, or Ormeño bus will generally get you to your destination safely; but a second class bus plying the roads between such cities as Huancayo and Ayacucho takes much longer, picks up and drops off passengers whenever requested, and is likely to have an overtired driver who has been at the job for over twelve hours. When that is combined with night driving, inclement weather, and bad roads, the result can be a fatal accident such as the one illustrated above.

According to the Peru This Week website:

Congresswoman [Veronika] Mendoza has highlighted the inequality inherent in the consistent state of disrepair of roads in rural Peru. “It absolutely cannot be that only roads on tourist routes are in a good condition while the internal transport highways that Cusquenos use aren’t being cared for in the same way,” Mendoza stated, later adding that “We also have to consider the additional difficulty for transportation that the arrival of the rainy season will bring.”

Statistics released by Sutran, Peru’s national government land transport authority, reveal that road deaths have risen dramatically in the past year. According to El Comercio, deaths caused by road accidents from January to August 2013 have risen 36.5% compared with the same period last year.

Many American tourists are interested in following the line of the Andes and visiting the highland cities with their spectacular mountain views and native arts and crafts. While this is not impossible, there is considerable risk attached to such an itinerary.

Photo of Serrano Boy

Photo of Serrano Boy

Part of the problem is that, as in other countries that are racially divided, Peru suffers from racism against serranos and cholos, descendants of the Incas and other peoples inhabiting the Andes. We tend to think of the Andean tribal peoples as being the majority in Peru, but that is not the case: The narrow coastal desert zone holds the majority of the population as well as the economical and political power. The result is that the rural Andes are underserved by good roads and public transportation.

If and when my planned trip to Peru takes place, I will be careful to take the first class buses to major tourist destinations—at least until I have been able to scope out the situation myself.