Once upon an Inauguration…

It was cold. Cold enough to keep most politically anxious youth wrapped up in their warm beds. But, the not so far gone fear of a chauvinistic psycho taking control of our beautiful state, and the more recent celebration of his defeat, motivated Chris and I to roll out of bed and head to now-governor Hickenlooper’s inauguration.

State politics too often go unnoticed. The USian “go big or go home” mentality leads most averagely political people to focus almost entirely on National elections and issues, and ignore the happenings in their backyard. The domination of mainstream international media over the smaller local news channels has fed into this neglect. Fewer people turn on their local channel 9 or open their local newspaper, settling instead for CNN or FOXNews. The once local focus of our lives has shifted to a national and global outlook, and people have forgotten the power and influence those at the state level still have.

Our attendance (or perhaps I should speak for myself), my attendance was not so much in support of Hickenlooper. Though, I do enjoy hearing his voice on the train at DIA every time I return from my travels, and the times I have seen him at events I appreciate his approachable demeanor, I had not been an avid Hickenlooper advocate. At one fair I attended this summer I saw a man in a nice crisp suit with a perfect tie and fancy shoes. Well that turned out to be Hickenlooper’s bodyguard. Hickenlooper was there in khakis and a button up shirt with the sleeves rolled up and the top buttons undone. He appeared so down to earth and willing to reach out to his constituents, even in the brutally hot sun. However, Hickenlooper’s politics shine democrat blue in almost every way, and that carries with it the good and the bad.

On this bitter cold morning I celebrated the defeat of Tancredo and that less than 50% of Coloradans (only 36.7%) had subscribed to bigotry and discrimination as a political platform. Tancredo, running on the constitution party ticket,  had relied on his tough immigration reform to push him ahead of republican weakling Dan Maes making him the only competition for Democrats. Well this wasn’t the first time I had heard of Mr. Tancredo.

The Muslim community in Denver had been chanting his name at rallies for some time in anger as he spoke in support of Israel during Operation Cast Lead. While a large number of people gathered on one side of the street with the demand for Israel to “Stop Killing the Children”, Tancredo took time out of his busy schedule to join those rallying in support of Israel’s attack that resulted in the murder of hundreds of children. Muslims worldwide had been infuriated by his suggestion of bombing Muslim holy sites as a response to terrorist attacks, a suggestion that shows clear intolerance for the faith of more than 20% of the world population and of almost 20,000 of the Coloradans that he was running to represent.

Though, it wasn’t his intolerance for Islam that those 37% voted for this past November. Nope, it was his disdain for Mexicans that won him those votes. Ironically, he is full blood, second generation, Italian. All 4 of his grandparents immigrated from Italy to the United States in a time when Italians were discriminated against and labeled “unamerican” the same way Mr. Tancredo welcomes our Mexican neighbors now. Among his plans soaked in unhidden racism is his suggestion to place a moratorium on immigration to the United States that would permit only children and spouses of American Citizens to immigrate into the USA. An act that were it a few decades earlier would have barred his own family’s entry.

Another Tancredo gem was his 2007 proposal to congress to make English the official language of the United States, a trite attempt at englishafying the spanish speaking immigrants that he detests as his failed legislation demonstrates.

In his 2008 comical run for president, Tancredo ran solely on the issue of immigration calling illegal immigration a threat to national security. In one of his ads which depicted a terrorist attack (nothing more logical than to evoke this country’s exaggerated fear of terrorists in a political campaign focused entirely on Mexican immigration) had a voiceover reading

“There are consequences to open borders beyond the 20 million aliens who have come to take our jobs … the price we pay for spineless politicians who refuse to defend our borders against those who come to kill.”

http://www.fgscholars.com/section02/article/30

Exactly, the only reason that “Aliens” come across our borders is to kill. WHAT THE FUCK! excuse my language, but if any college student were to bring this point up in a classroom they would be correctly called out for being a racist. If an athlete or an actor were to say this crap they would be boycotted to the point of apology, but place it on a political campaign and now, not only is it acceptable, but it is a political platform?

Who elected this nut into office? Oh, whoops, that would be my district…Good old Colorado 6th district. 88 % white, 77% white-collar, and over 50% in support of this racist. Though, this wasn’t a one time 6th district mistake, oh no, my homeland allowed him to push forward his idiotic ideals in congress for 10 years.

I was in Jordan as the governor elections loomed nearer. Closer than ever to my Muslim/Arab heritage, I reflected on events with the Muslim community in Colorado when I was younger. I remember on multiple occasions meeting Governor Owens at these events (back when supporting the Muslim community didn’t contradict the Republican platform) and I thought about what a drastic shift 10 years could make. 2 wars and a 9-11 later my state was on the verge of electing a man who, not only wouldn’t support the Muslim community in his state, but had proposed destroying the most sacred places to this group.

I am most often tolerant when people discuss politics with me. I respect an intelligent argument, but this is where the line ends. Supporting Tancredo is supporting racism. If you vote for Tancredo you are telling me that you do not value my heritage and that, in fact, you would prefer someone in power who would happily bomb all that is sacred to my family and millions. If you vote for Tancredo you are telling the Mexican-American in your classes or your child’s class that you don’t think he should be here, and that you are happily helping to elect a man who would call this child a murder (only in english though).

Yes, you are entitled to your political beliefs, but do not believe that those you support are not a reflection on yourself.

Back to inauguration. We walked up to the capital building only minutes before the event was supposed to start (we weren’t going to be early in 4 degree weather!) to find only a small crowd gathered before the capital’s grand steps. I thought back to this summer when Chris and I had been in this same place attending Denver’s PRIDE festival. En Vogue performed a free concert to conclude the festivities less than a football field away from where I stood now drawing over 10 thousand people.

While I commend Denver citizens for rallying in support of the Gay movement, I couldn’t help but feel a bit disgusted that an outdated pop band could grasp more than 50 times the attendance than  the swearing in of the State’s top positions.

I realize that this post has become more of a very long rant against Tancredo but I want to point out two more observations about the event.

  1. As we left I smiled at Chris and commented “There goes the friendly transition of power from one white-male-christian to the next”. And at the time we laughed, but that statement illuminates too true a reality and is in no way funny. The only break in the white landscape of former, current, and future state politicians on the Capital steps that day was Lieutenant Governor Elect Joe Garcia. And while a comprehensive search online shows me little about our states second in command, the last name alone implies that Joe Garcia would be a part of a minority that Tancredo would rather not have in this land.
  2. The demographic of the people who did attend the inauguration was as white as the politicians being inaugurated, with few exceptions. The turnout was drastically less diverse than the span of Denver itself, whose public schools are in most cases the majority minority students. So where were those who should be celebrating the defeat of Tancredo alongside me? Perhaps they have lost all hope in the White, elite government that is supposed to represent them.

After the short ceremony filled with continued campaign promises and procedural speeches, we walked back to the car, but not after being privileged to a 21 cannon salute. No joke, they were shooting of a cannon in Civic Center park. Gotta love Colorado.

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8 responses to “Once upon an Inauguration…

  1. I’m not particularly invested in Colorado politics, but with what I know about Tancredo your general sort of outrage and disgust seems pretty justified. I did want to make one quick point about your comment to Chris, however, where you say “There goes the friendly transition of power from one white-male-christian to the next”. I think that it’s too bad that the political discourse in this country is so obviously overrepresented by one subset of the population, but at the same time the demographics in Colorado at least provide (on a state level) a beginning of an explanation. While Denver may be diverse, Colorado assuredly is not. http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/08000.html
    On the one hand it’s too bad that minority groups are underrepresented in our politics; on the other, it’s important to remember that minority groups are going to be, inevitably, underrepresented when compared to the majority. Are white leaders in an overwhelmingly white state the product of a class of white elites dominating politics or the product of there being way more white people? Probably both, but it should be noted that it’s more complicated than a power elite.

    • Well noted Cosmo! It is a good point that Colorado is mostly white and would logically therefore have mostly white representation. Though, possibly the strongest argument to be made is the “male” part. Out of the top officials being sworn in, the only role women played was holding the bible for the husbands to swear in on.

  2. One, I am shamelessly plugging my blog on your blog, only because this reply box provided an optional “Website tab.” You’re the one providing the incentive to do it, so don’t blame me.

    Secondly, I am very intrigued by your post, and while I obviously love you and respect your intellect to the fullest capacity, there were moments where I found myself debating in my head.

    Before your start to disown me, I am not talking about any kind of argument that was “in support” of Tancredo, but rather the conclusions you drew yourself from what it meant to vote for him — in other words, this symbolic gesture of voting for racism by selecting a candidate who has outspokenly and viciously attacked and condemned entire groups of citizens solely based on their ethnic background, national identity or socio-economic status.

    However, by the end of the blog I found myself thinking: “how is voting for Obama any different?” If by voting for an individual who will continue to pursue and protect systematically racist, sexist or classist policies, I’m not sure where I can draw the line.

    This is indeed where my problem with the party system and openly identifying as Democrat comes into play. I almost have to reject the party on this “voting for racism” principle alone. By indiscriminately bombing Afghanistan in the name of a corrupt puppet we implemented, Obama is supporting policies that, like Tancredo’s, punish people for being born where they were. By encouraging his “Race to the Top” program that undermines and undervalues teachers’ unions and public education, Obama is directly supporting the racist structure our economic system is founded upon by avoiding any real questions that attack its systematic segregation of those who are bound by racial and working class/poverty backgrounds.

    In other words, I see where your rant comes from, but I think our energy might actually be more positive if we push ourselves to look past the partisan politics that get in the way and come to universal standards. If a vote for Tancredo is voting for racism, so is Obama. We may not be able to avoid it if we need to work within a system to rearrange its DNA, but we can at least acknowledge that both votes are legitimizing the kind of abusive power that still reigns under the mask of democracy in this country!

    Sorry for the “rant” of sorts, but I was just thinking. Hope to Skype with you soon for a better discussion.

    Love you lots,
    Chris

  3. Also, I apologize for apparently forgetting how to edit anything.

    Correction:

    “If voting for an individual who will continue to pursue and protect systematically racist, sexist or classist policies constitutes a vote for racism, then I think the picture of this entire ordeal goes way beyond Tancredo”

    • Ah, Chris, I wouldn’t expect anything less from you. While I too have my concerns about both of the main parties’ foreign policy, I would have to say that there is a difference between Obama, who is not doing enough to destroy the structures in place and is continuing them through many ways, including Afghanistan, and Tancredo who wants to do all that and make it much worse. At the end of the day a vote for Obama was, yes a compromise of principals, but was a vote for the lesser of evils. I voted for Obama for his Social policies, and very few of his other policies, but people are voting for Tancredo in most cases BECAUSE of his immigration policy. So is there not a difference between voting for someone despite of their racist policies, and voting for someone because of their racist policies. I think, especially in the second case, that vote is fairly reflected on the voter. Though, you are right, the end is the same in either way. I am going to end this now because I don’t want to Ricky/Chris this thing (while your discussions were mostly engaging) I don’t feel like typing that much. But I guess the conclusion is REVOLUTION! How about next semester? I’m busy this one. We can plot over the summer!

      • Chris, as much as I respect you as a pretty smart guy, I think your above post reflects the worst kind of liberal self loathing. A couple of points: you’re conflating the fairly explicitly racist agenda of a Tancredo with an agenda that is, at most, implicitly racist in Obama. However, if you want to do that, it has far more serious implications ten you acknowledge, If the war in Afghanistan is fundamentally racist, if the inequality of race in this country is a byproduct of Obama’s vigorous administrative efforts, he is not simply akin to Tancredo but far, far worse. He is responsible for deaths, whereas Tancredo labored unsuccessfully to simply bar certain peoples from entering this country. How is Obama not a far greater danger to society than Tancredo, under your logic?
        Of course, I think that’s nonsense (…no offense). Race in this country is a nuanced and complicated issue, and one that’s not efficiently dealt with in a quick reply to a blog post. I’m inclined to believe that what has been systematized is bygone racism, in that the racism of the first 60 years of the 20th century, primarily in barring African Americans from manufacturing jobs, (where competing lower class immigrant groups found jobs and climbed the income ladder) preventing them from obtaining home mortgages (in redlining districts), and a variety of other factors have not been overcome. When studies reflect that African American employers are reticent to higher African Americans with “black sounding” names, the explanation might well be a prejudice against inner city poor from urban ghettos, ghettos largely the product of those things listed above. When talking about our schools, it would be wise to note that a test gap appears between white and black kids long before they ever enter school, instead manifesting in the first couple years of life. It’s true when comparing working class and middle class families too, one theory being that the way in which different income parents tend to talk to their kids varies widely and has a profound affect upon social development. What should Obama be doing to combat these things? If you have a good answer, you’d be the first person I met.
        As to Afghanistan, when a party gives an explanation other than racism for their actions it would be wise to at least debunk that first before heading for the race card. Is the war there a massive overreaction to the terrorist attack on 9/11? Perhaps. But it seems to me a feeling of insecurity is as natural an explanation as a hatred of Muslims, especially considering we don’t have plan es dropping bombs on Saudi Arabia right now (as far as I know).
        Let me make one things clear: I’m not particularly enthused about Obama, and I think this Afghan war is a tragedy and that we should pull out. I also didn’t vote in the last election for basically the core of your argument: that the differences between the parties are relatively minimal. I believe that a candidate should sufficiently reflect my beliefs. Here’s a brief articulation of some guidelines for voting I think to be relatively convincing: http://www.jasonfbrennan.com/research.html
        I think there are legitimate ways to attack Obama as being similar to republicans, and some policies that display a morality that I find disturbing. I think, however, it is important to be precise and fair when trying to evaluate, and wildly throwing around racism as an accusation is not a way to do that, I don’t think.

  4. And on a final note, I am still trying to figure out what makes the Obama camp so much more appealing — is it just the charisma? Perhaps we, too, can hide behind that beautiful articulation of words and forget that the only difference (as a whole) between his words and Tancredo’s are a hesitation to exaggerate, a cemented belief to “tolerate,” and a strategic need to win….

  5. I think I probably should clarify a few things first since I don’t usually do a good job explaining my thoughts the first time around:

    I wasn’t trying to identify the war in Afghanistan as something that is fundamentally racist. Rather, I wanted to point out that if Tancredo supports policies against immigrants that are arguably “racist” (I agree that the definition isn’t clear enough to toss around meaninglessly) by nature and thus, punish people for no logical reason, Obama’s support of expanding and maintaing the war in Afghanistan (and in Pakistan) demonstrates the same disregard for the value of human life. I realize this is neither a direct product of Tancredo nor Obama, but rather a systematic pattern….therefore, I think pointing out both players’ roles don’t make it a game of blaming either candidate, but rather, blaming the roots from which these individuals’ choices originated.

    That being said, I can understand where your hatred for the “self-loathing liberal” stems from, Cosmo. I, too, am frustrated by my own response to this blog, as honest as it may have been, because it emphasizes the hypocrisy I live in my own life every day: voting and/or arguing for/supporting in some way candidates, policies and/or organizations whose actions or implications contradict my own personal values and understandings of the world and its economic/social/political systems.

    I appreciate you pointing out some of the finer details in the examples I gave regarding Obama’s education policy, including how other dimensions of socio-economic backgrounds affect students’ abilities to succeed in school earlier on than we might think. That being said, standardized testing that discriminates based on these various socio-economic backgrounds – testing that both the Bush and Obama Administration legitimize as valuable assessments through their economic policies – is certainly one problem to weed out. You said you haven’t met anyone with the ability to provide Obama advice for combating these kinds of issues, but alleviating discriminatory testing practices and discouraging privately-funded charter schools that cherry-picked their limited number of students based on certain characteristics or skills, many of which are indeed learned at home and are thus, dependent on their family’s socio-linguistic and socio-economic upbringings, would be a great start. In general, NOT having a program that provides incentives for states who begin to withdraw support and funding from their public educations system is a fabulous piece of advice — at least one that would set us on a fundamentally different path that doesn’t include No Child Left Behind or Race to the Top.

    Speaking of fundamentally-oriented conflicts, I want to again clarify that I am not here to criticize any “fundamental racism” in the war in Afghanistan, but rather, to fight for our own “fundamental principles” to use when contemplating as politically engaged individuals. Whether it’s Tancredo barring immigrants from access to human rights, or Obama accepting his Nobel Peace Prize in one hand and approving drone attacks on Pakistan in the middle of a flood with the other, my point is simply to keep in mind the very crutches we rely on that you mentioned — concepts like racism as an overarching, oversimplified term that we only apply to people who are explicit with their lack of compassion like Tancredo. Why can’t others be held accountable? We should be careful with misappropriating words like racism, but that doesn’t mean the critique or comparisons of people like Tancredo or Obama isn’t valuable. Racism may be an empty term we should use more cautiously, but comparing their actions and helping us realize why it’s easier to fight against one or the other rather than the structures in-tact that encourage both of them seems like a good plan to me!

    hope this makes everything more clear?

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