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Dreaming Bigger Dreams

End of Column of the Americas

How do you end a column after 16 years? With regrets and unfulfilled dreams? Perhaps, but truthfully, Column of the Americas as a deadline-based column ends with even bigger dreams.

There indeed is disappointment with the ease in which the U.S. populace has accepted and normalized 1) the notion of permanent war as a God-given U.S. birthright; 2) the further militarization of the nation & world; 3) the politics of fear, hate and blame; and 4) Big Brother Government. All with nary a whimper.

Under George W. Bush, this was not surprising. The disappointment has come in seeing the Obama administration generally embrace the reactionary policies of Bush’s 9-11 Nation. Despite the 2006 & 2008 electoral sweeps – in which the electorate thoroughly repudiated the Republican program of war, xenophobia and corporate welfare – [angry] conservatives act as though they won. The irony is that president Obama actually has governed as though he agrees, and owes them. For example, his health care reform is actually a centrist compromise; universal health care it is not.

There are regrets; while many of us drove CNN’s Lou Dobbs into political exile, we didn’t consistently go after the entertainment industry – an industry that enables dehumanization and what amounts to racial apartheid. During this era, Jay Leno made Americans comfortable laughing nightly at “illegal aliens.” After 35 years, Saturday Night Live has still not taken its “No Red-Brown comedians need apply” signs down, and Spanish-language TV continues to generally be an assortment of “all-blonde” networks.

Another regret is that the journalism profession has now become the lapdog of government. Even now, there’s plenty of money for invading, occupying and bombing nations, but little for health and education. While pols are seemingly unaware of this jarring equation, media lapdogs are nowadays handsomely rewarded for being consistently wrong and/or silent.

Enough on these failings.

The bigger dreams involve ceasing writing reactively and writing from a point of creation. Column writing is necessarily reactive; I’ve been writing about human/Indigenous rights, anti-immigrant hysteria and U.S.-support of brutal military dictatorships since 1972. And now, with a president lying us into Iraq, the instinct is to counter. The same holds true when society unabashedly scapegoats brown peoples, and treats migrants as disposable populations; witness the March 21 rally in Washington D.C. More than demanding reform, it was a demand by more than 100,000 marchers to treat migrants as full human beings.  While the president’s centrist approach to immigration reform places a heavy emphasis on draconian enforcement, conservatives will interpret human rights for migrants and “the path to legalization” as nothing short of “freeing the slaves” and a cause for insurrection.

Simply creating, without countering is akin to burying one’s head in the sand. But there comes a time when always responding means always reacting – rarely  creating. But because of permanent war, my focus as a writer lately, has become heavily tiled towards resistance. The creation element of who I am has suffered (this is true of most people). It’s time for balance, thus a time to create.

Through the years, I’ve been exposed to great maestros/maestras and great Tlamintini – great teachers – who have shared their knowledge and Huehuetlahtolli (ancient guidances) about what it means to be human. Hereafter, I want to continue with those traditions and contribute to the definition of what it means to be human.

In discontinuing the column, I take no pleasure in hereafter writing strictly for an academic audience. It goes against who I am. I’ve always written for mass audiences, including writing Column of the Americas since 1994 for more than 100 newspapers nationwide. For the first 12 years, it was co-written as a weekly, syndicated column with my wife, Patrisia Gonzales, for Chronicle Features, then Universal Press Syndicate (Her Patzin column is slated to return). In writing for the academy, the audience is much smaller and narrower, while jargon is the preferred means of communication. It’s not naturally conducive for storytelling. Even beyond that, the acceptable experts continue to be “the usual suspects.”

I will continue to assert that if our own aunts and uncles, parents, grandparents, neighbors and other elders – whom we used to quote frequently – can’t understand our own writing, then what good did all our years of schooling accomplish?

As such, I plan to continue to make public the knowledge that has been passed on to me via elder knowledge – in forthcoming essays and columns and academic and non-academic books. I look forward to the day when I will not have to write for two separate audiences.

I also look forward to the day when we as a society have finally eliminated war as a “solution” to anything, and when society ceases to divide human beings into legal and illegal categories. I am convinced that even the most conservative of conservatives don’t either want such a society. I look forward to the day when we can all truly say: San Ce Tojuan – Nosotros Somos Uno – We Are One.

It’s not something that comes about solely through dreaming. One has to imagine it, fight for it, and then live it.

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Roberto Rodriguez

Roberto Rodriguez, a professor at the University of Arizona and a member of the Mexican American Studies Community Advisory Board, can be reached at:

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