Discussion Fuel Politics

‘Merica and Machismo

Either we believe in the American Dream or we don't.

Let’s be blunt:

The only reason conservatives are afraid of Latin-American immigrants is that they incorrectly believe that Latinos and Latinas are more likely to become Democrats when they hypothetically become citizens and therefore become voters.

That’s presumptuous and fearful at its best, but undeniably ignorant and racist at, well, at its best, too.

Shocking, yeah?

Well, it’s also not true.

Growing up as a Hispanic male in Arizona has allowed me to befriend and interact with a lot of other Hispanic males in Arizona. I always felt like I was a bit different from most of them, however, particularly because I was shaped by the makeup of my immediate family. I was the only boy in a household consisting of my father, mother, oldest and older sister, and my youngest sister. Now, being a middle child wedged in by females on all sides, given that my father was often working his ass off, could have definitely radicalized me in many ways, I admit. But, I like to think this experience taught me to have more respect for women than most. Only the women in my life could tell you if that’s true.

In any case, I certainly felt that I grew up 100% machismo-free.

For those of you who don’t know, machismo is essentially the Latino rationalization for male-dominating behavior. It’s something that often gets highlighted and even exaggerated in pop culture. It’s what you think of when you watch Scarface and hear Tony Montana wax poetic about the nature of the beasts known as sex, power, and economics. It’s about asserting power before anyone else can because that’s the only way to realize the potential of the American Dream. Mount-Everest-of-Cocaine-snorting gangsters are extreme examples, of course, but our society has a way of internalizing pop culture icons.

I know there are some who will undoubtedly point out that machismo isn’t pervasive in every Latin-American nationality, but, once more, things like this are a matter of perception. We like to pretend we’re better than generalizing entire populations, but, as recent times have shown, we still have a lot of work to do on the front of race relations.

Now, there have been times when Democrats have held enough power to force the kind of immigration reform we’ll need through the legislative process, but the more moderate factions within the progressive party have been hesitant. Why? Machismo.

At the risk of making ardent adherents of their faith tune out, it’s difficult to separate machismo from the Catholic belief system, which is extremely common in Latin-American households and inherited all the way back from the days when European nations were squabbling over land in Central and South America. Catholicism, like all religions, has benefits and drawbacks, and I’m not the type of liberal who is willing to write off every person of faith, so, if you were hoping for a rant condemning all religion, you’re out of luck, but I digress. One of the drawbacks to Catholicism is taking the Bible a little more literally than other belief systems, and it’s difficult to argue that the Bible doesn’t push the idea of male superiority. Men are allowed to take multiple wives, sell off their daughters, and are generally given the reins to society without anyone asking a lot of questions. Not to mention, women are disproportionately punished for their sexual desires and the contributions of women outside of child-rearing are left on the cutting room floor. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, and we all know it, regardless of our ability to admit it.

Further, the negative aspects of Catholicism contribute to machismo in a socioeconomic manner by elevating and focusing on the dependency of male breadwinners. Try as we might to mentally separate our checking accounts from our churches, such elements retain their ties to deep-seated beliefs and repressions that can only be properly addressed by acknowledging their roots.

Liberals are just as concerned with Latin-American immigrants as conservatives; they just don’t know it or want to admit it, and, though it’s becoming increasingly difficult to award the Republican party any credit these days, they are correct when they point to the hypocrisy of Democrats wanting to embrace Muslim adherents, despite the chauvinism woven into their sacred texts, while decrying and generalizing the wrongdoings of Christian denominations.

The sad reality is that both Democrats and Republicans view Latin-American immigrants as too much of a variable to properly wager their political and financial capital on. Although the spirit of the progressive movement wants to get behind the concept of immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for those are already here and contributing to our society whether we like it or not, there are perceptions (and realities) that make liberals wary of pulling the trigger on that level of reform.

Here’s the kicker, though:

Either we believe in the American Dream or we don’t.

The American Dream, the core concept of inviting different people from all corners of the world, regardless of how they were born or what they believe, to reforge themselves and reshape our society for the better, is truly all we have to hold onto as a point of pride.

We have to be willing to extend whatever faith we hold in our fellow man, whatever hope we maintain for humanity, to those outside of our borders and recognize that our founding documents do not limit the American Dream to one faith, one race, or one gender.

Yes, it’s scary to think about an entire people, millions, even tens of millions, suddenly being inducted into our society, but we have to remember that our nation has a horrendous history of making decisions, even ones not to act, based on fear. And the moments that will shine brightest when they tell the tale of us will be the ones about the times we overcame our fears.

We must afford everyone, including ourselves, the patience and hope in the notion of taking a long, hard look at the beliefs, religious, political, or otherwise, that we base our lives on so that we may discard the bad ideas and keep the good ones. This process, like immigration reform, isn’t one that will happen overnight. As advanced as we fancy ourselves to be, we have a lot of work to do on things like economic and gender equality, climate change, starvation, and more. These are generation-spanning problems that require generation-spanning solutions, and we cannot shy away from those tasks before us simply because we may not be alive to witness the fruits of our labor.

America isn’t about yesterday or today; it’s the land of tomorrow.

At the end of the day, we are more similar than we are different, and there are far, far more of us who want to make things better than those who wish to make things worse, and it’s up to us to keep the American Dream alive, and the Torch of Liberty ablaze.

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