Speaking on a public panel in Phoenix on Saturday, Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne invoked the infamous words of warfare by Roman statesman Cato and called for the destruction of Tucson's Ethnic Studies/Mexican American Studies Program.
In front of a sparse crowd at the Phoenix Marriot Hotel, Horne's chilling admonition was part of a special panel on the Mexican Americans Studies program hosted by the so-called "Arizona Mainstream Project," a Tea Party offshoot that hails "America's Exceptionalism" and peddles books by Glenn Beck and notorious right-wing extremist Cleon Skousen on its website. The panel was also broadcast live via streaming online.
"The only thing they can do to come into compliance is to terminate the program," Horne told a questioner from the audience, who had asked how the program could meet the demands of the state Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal to adhere with Arizona's controversial Ethnic Studies ban. Horne said the program must be "destroyed," invoking Cato's obsessive call for warfare as a punch line, "Carthage must be destroyed."
All irony of modern-day Phoenix extremism aside, Cato's warring obsession with the Phoenicians in Carthage is considered one of the bloodiest episodes in ancient Roman history. As the Wall Street Journal noted recently in a view of Richard Miles' new book, Carthage Must be Destroyed, Cato's declaration of war eventually came to fruition: "The city was demolished and the site formally cursed by Roman priests. The oft-repeated story of the ground being sown with salt is a much later invention, but the destruction of Carthage as a political state was total."
Coming a day before September 11th events, Horne's use of violent imagery of the carnage in Carthage was unsettling, to say the least. At a school board meeting in Tucson last month, a right-wing participant issued an inflammatory tirade about "civil war" over the district's Mexican American Studies program.
Over the past several years, Horne has harbored his own near-fanatical obsession with Tucson's acclaimed Mexican American Studies Program, which was recently lauded in an independent audit as complying with Arizona's law, fostering respect and ethnic diversity, and successfully graduating students "in the very least at a rate of 5 percent more than their counterparts in 2005, and at the most, a rate of 11 percent more in 2010."
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Horne also criticized the participation of legendary United Farm Workers co-founder Dolores Huerta, whose speech at Tucson High School in 2006 rankled Horne with her observation that "Republicans hate Latinos." Last year, Horne drew national condemnation when he referred to 80-year-old Huerta as the "girlfriend" of beloved Arizona native and nonviolent champion Cesar Chavez.
Horne, a Canadian immigrant, grew up in New York. He resigned from the Anti-Defamation League board in Arizona last year, when the Jewish organization opposed his Ethnic Studies ban and declared the Mexican American Studies program "so obviously resuscitated the desire to learn in so many students."
As part of his well-known stump speech, Horne also continued to charge that the program segregates the children according to ethnicity, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Several of the most public students in support of the Mexican American Studies program are Tucson natives from Native American, African American, European, Filipino and Pakistani heritage. According to the audit: "A majority of evidence demonstrates that the Mexican American Studies Department's instruction is NOT designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group. As previously indicated, every current course syllabus states: "At the core of this course is the idea that ALL people should not be required to give up their ethnic and cultural traditions in order to become part of mainstream society."
In many respects, the panel unfolded like an eery flashback to the witch hunt actions of the House Un-American Activities hearings in the 1950s. Hardly "mainstream" Arizona, several members of the audience referred to the Mexican American Studies program as a tool of Marxist-Leninists; one woman declared it was part of a larger "Islamic" Catholic plot from Mexico to reconquer Arizona.
Sen. Lori Klein addressed the panel from the audience, commending them for fighting against communism, and declared "the Cold War is not over." Klein drew national attention this summer when she pointed a firearm at a reporter in Phoenix.