SENSE & WISDOM: UnCivil War: I live close to the border with Mexico and I have very close and very dear family in Monterrey, a city approximately 4 hours from the United…
This is the unknown reality in Washington where politicians propose laws that seriously affect American citizens living on the border. They cannot understand for example why Governor Perry has authorized in-state tuition for undocumented students at college level. Perry knows the important relation between the two countries can only grow and improve if we send back to Mexico well-educated young men and women who speak English fluently. We need friends and so far the middle-income Mexicans are not precisely fond of us. They may admire us, but they don’t love us.
The rich Mexicans fleeing their country are grateful to find shelter where they can establish businesses that will employ thousands of Americans. The middle class that sends their children to American schools across the border are enriching our Mexican-American culture; they are here because they want a better and safer life for their young ones. If you had children on the border with the United States, wouldn’t you want the best for them? We are still the magnet for millions of desperate people who envy our law enforcement system, who envy our relative peace and multiple opportunities to be successful.
Mexico is a rich and beautiful country as any seasoned American traveler will attest to; their main problem, dating from the 70 years of dictatorship by one party, is their widespread corruption. It affects many politicians of course (mostly unpunished), but also the backbone of justice and protection: policemen, custom agents, attorneys, traffic cops, government employees, inspectors, auditors, department heads, etc.. One cannot do business in Mexico without greasing the palm of dozens of well-placed individuals. I have friends in Mexico, very good friends since I lived there as a teacher for many years. One of them told me that a tax auditor “discovered” a huge mistake in his declarations of past years. He was told that he owed the federal government 100,000 pesos (approx. $85,000). He was also offered a way out for 20,000 pesos, money that would never find its way to the national treasury.
Stories of sudden and suspicious wealth abound; many years ago a Mexican governor was detained in Houston with one million dollars that he had somewhat forgotten to declare at the airport. This is just a drop in the bucket of corruption. How can a country prosper and pay for its many infrastructure needs if most of the citizens don’t pay their fair share? A comparison with the obscene corruption prevalent in Afghanistan, our tax dollars ladies and gentlemen, gives us a good idea of what is taking place in Mexico.
When Mexicans come to work in our country they leave behind (mostly) their bad habits such as “mordidas” (graft) and crazy driving. They know that our cops strictly enforce traffic laws (most of the time) and that offering a bribe will land them in jail. They feel safe from cartels and “bandidos”; they can raise their children without fear, trusting our (mostly) good and free public education. They pay taxes every time they buy merchandise or gasoline. They pay school taxes when they buy a house. Most of them quickly learn English (mandatory in Mexican schools), and while they miss their culture, customs and friends, they know they have a chance at realizing the American Dream.
Taking them in can only help us in the long run, whether documented or not.
Quite a few times in history, the right man (or woman) has appeared during national crisis to save the day; Winston Churchill comes to mind immediately. A great orator and motivator, he faced the Nazi threat with bravery or maybe bravado, considering that the only factor that saved England was the Channel and the famed British navy. JFK appears next as the handsome President who in all probability saved this country from WWIII by calling Kruschev’s bluff. The relatively unappreciated Truman took over from a very sick FDR and had the guts to order the nuclear bombing of Japan, a valiant decision that shortened the war with the Nippon empire and saved untold thousands of GI lives. He then found the strength after the war to recall General MacArthur from his position in Korea when the immensely popular old soldier criticized Washington for not using the A-bomb against China. General Marshall proposed the Plan that bears his name and will always be remembered as the man who saved Western Europe, including our former enemy, Germany.
Let us not forget the great men who founded this nation and defied the mighty British Empire. Nowadays, however, the United States is searching in vain for the man (or woman) who will put order in this confused and bickering nation. Our present politicians in Washington cause both hilarity and furor through their childish behavior and lack of vision. It is indeed a tragicomic situation that affects millions of Americans looking for a job and trying to save their home and their health plans. Savings are disappearing and retirements are postponed indefinitely.
The present batch of Republican contenders, as I have said before (and I know whereof I speak ), does not satisfy their own party. The two leaders, Romney and Perry, exchange insults instead of offering concrete plans to improve our economy (By the way, Mr. Romney should get rid of the sardonic smile he seems to exhibit permanently. One gets the impression that he is mocking his opponents on a permanent basis. Does he have image advisers?). Mr. Cain won Florida, a deciding state in many elections. Does that mean anything? Yes, it means that he is the only one who seems to maintain his composure and avoid personal attacks. Does he have a chance? No, of course not.
Some Republican honchos are getting so desperate that they have asked, apparently, Gov. Christie of New Jersey to jump into the fray. He says no with the look of a cat that just caught the mouse. He feigns modesty, not one of his better qualities, and affirms that he is not ready, yet. Note the pause before “yet.” His message is clear:” I am the man the country needs, even if I take the police helicopter to go to my son’s game at taxpayer’s expense.” Do we know who he is really? No, he hasn’t done enough to satisfy us. Strong personality? Yes, but can he stand the intense scrutiny of a presidential campaign? Only he knows.
While this immensely rich country can afford to spend $2 billion dollars PER WEEK in Afghanistan, the financial crisis worsens. The infrastructure weakens; bridges, schools, highways, dams, are all at risk of causing a major catastrophe. Do you think we could do a lot of rebuilding with $104 billion, the amount we spent this year on corrupt Kabul? Why is it that not one of these Republican candidates, with the exception of Ron Paul, has suggested getting out quickly from Iraq and Afghanistan, thus reducing the deficit WITHOUT increasing taxes? We have military bases in 150 countries including Germany and Japan, two rich countries. Why has not one leading Republican candidate suggested we bring these troops home and save a ton of money?
Could it be because a Republican President started the whole mess?
During a recent visit by Mexican friends, one of them related a daily occurrence in Monterrey: A friend of his was setting up a carpentry business on a rented piece of land when two sinister-looking men showed up in his office and introduced themselves, very politely, as members of a local Zeta group. They offered to protect his new business if he agreed to a certain monthly payment; Al Capone would have been proud. The friend, knowing that if he paid such amount his business could not survive, tried to negotiate… in vain. The two thugs mentioned what would happen if he didn’t agree. During the following night, the budding entrepreneur grabbed his equipment and set up shop in another part of the city, hoping that the area was clear of bandits and extortion.
Needless to say, such actions deter many would be entrepreneurs from starting a new business. Calling the cops, as we would in the U.S., never entered their mind. They know quite well that law enforcement is often on the payroll of armed gangs. Even successful Mexican businessmen, able to hire private bodyguards, are starting to give up and move to a more hospitable climate such as the United States. A very famous restaurant that my wife and I used to visit at least once a month in a nearby Mexican border town has already established a business on our side of the border, desperate to regain customers lost to the climate of senseless violence in the Aztec country.
The recent tragic events in a casino in Monterrey, where 52 clients of gambling machines lost their lives after the criminals set fire to the establishment, is a clear message that even politicians in Mexico are starting to heed. The situation cannot continue and drastic measures are needed, from both Washington and Mexico City. After all, even the cartels admit that the killing of civilians is bad for their business and the presence of the Mexican army, seen as an occupying force by many, only exacerbates the violence. The United States, mired in endless squabbling on Capitol Hill, doesn’t appear willing to do more in the middle of a serious economic downturn. And yet, without American customers, the drug trade would simply wither and practically disappear. Every day, tons of illicit drugs cross the border in spite of the heroic efforts of our law enforcement agents. Where do these products end up? Where are the centers of distribution? How do the millions of dollars obtained by dealers disappear and end up as licit money?
We cannot let Mexico descend into chaos; they are our most important partner in trade, in culture, and in historical ties. Millions of Mexican immigrants live in the U.S. and contribute heavily to our GDP (Gross Domestic Product). Mexico is indelibly joined at the hip with us. We must do more, much more, to help them recuperate control of their country and of their peace.
Let’s be even more pessimistic: In homes where food is abundant, where clothing is more than adequate and where shelter is comfortable, there is a silent enemy that no national census can detect. Abuse, whether verbal, physical or mental, destroys self-confidence and creates severe internal emotional conflicts. The result? An asocial young man or woman who will look for solace in all the wrong places.
Foster care could be an oxymoron! Even though the government reports more than 700,000 children placed in foster care in 2010, it fails to explain that many of these foster parents do it only for the money they receive for each child. Many do nothing else and provide mainly indifference and neglect until the child escapes or reaches his/her majority. Granted, some of these kids show a complex picture of emotional disorders and can be difficult to raise; but if you are not willing to do your part as a foster parent, keep away and don’t compound the problem.
Our society is not doing a good job of instilling solid values in children and teens; marriage rate is in decline, teen pregnancy is on the rise, as is teen drug addiction, and gang membership. If the parents are divorced – a quick look at the children of celebrities confirms the fact, the kids will more often than not end up in bad company looking for the acceptance they failed to receive at home. When the parents are poor – again statistics confirm the fact, their children may suffer neglect because of a mother and/or father using alcohol and drugs, or simply because there is nobody to welcome them when they get home after school.
Children are our most valuable treasure as a nation that claims to be a role model for the rest of the world. And yet we are falling behind in most areas related to education; we are not involving the parents sufficiently, knowing full well that schools by themselves cannot replace the love and care of a home. We are too busy making money, buying the latest gadget, or simply working overtime to go to the game to watch our kid who is waiting anxiously for the father to show up.
The family as society’s nucleus has eroded constantly for the last 40 years; how many travel together like the Griswold family who, despite their comical misadventures, were a model of affection and support? How many still participate in a family council (as a single mother of six told me recently) in order to air common grievances or positive ideas? How many teens feel comfortable talking to their parents about their most intimate concerns?
Let’s face it! A successful and powerful nation like the United States depends on the existence of strong and united families. It’s time our politicians put an end to their childish squabbles and infamous behaviors to show our kids that we can overcome any obstacle.
The blue corner is trying desperately to convince their followers that they should bet in his favor; the red corner, though divided on who the better man might be, throws caution to the wind as they use unorthodox training strategies to rattle the champion. One thing is certain: There will be no knock-out! The promoters are expecting 40 million fans to place their bets next year during the first days of November, and maybe 200 million more spectators will watch the fight till the the wee hours of the morning.
In reality none of the three deserves the crown; Obama, Romney and Perry all have serious weaknesses that will certainly result in a poor showing of the electorate. None has that “leader” aura, that irresistible charisma shared by John Kennedy, FDR, Lincoln, Churchill, and more recently, the great charmer Ronald Reagan. They are all wafflers, following what they think is the current popular wind. Romney doesn’t convince anybody when he tries to defend his “Obamacare” in Massachusetts; Rick Perry first approved of gay marriage but changed his mind when the religious right pressured him. President Obama showed uncertainty and lack of firmness when he agreed to extend the tax cuts for the rich even though he had the majority in both houses.
True, it is hard to imagine any politician resisting big lobbyists’ pressure to push legislation that favors their cause. Governor Perry was accused by his own colleagues in the Republican party to promote a certain vaccine and take campaign money from the pharmaceutical company making that product. Obama’s campaign promise to get rid of powerful lobbies was just that, a populist commitment to get votes. Romney suffered in his first presidential campaign when he hired lobbyists who represented important industries asking for the demise of the EPA. Under the present system, it is impossible for a candidate to obtain sizable contributions without making promises that favor the donors. Why else would they forgo so much money? Stupid they are not. They even hedge their bets by giving to both sides..just in case. It’s called legalized corruption, and until we change the electoral system – getting rid for example of the now inane and obsolete electoral college, unsavory actions will remain the norm.
Let’s make it clear; all three men are good citizens and successful professionals, good fathers and husbands, with the qualities and weaknesses that compose a typical human being. They are all strong patriots, college graduates, intelligent, and the only one that has served his country in the military is Rick Perry; strangely enough, he, just like Bush, was a reserve pilot in the National Guard. Romney has an extensive experience in the private sector and represents the perfect candidate for Wall Street. Both he and Perry have been governors, a useful background for anybody wanting to be president. Perry is, right now, the candidate of choice for the religious right. Obama, of course, is supported by unions, and by centrist left voters.
This next presidential election could very well end up in court, just like the 2000 contest between Bush and Al Gore. That’s why each candidate is touring the country 24/7 trying to convince independents like me to vote for them.
I don’t know, lots of time left. What do you think?
“France has more need of me than I have need of France.”
“I am the successor, not of Louis XVI, but of Charlemagne.”
But Sarkozy knows very well that his nation, by itself, cannot embark on costly military or space ventures; these are too expensive for one country, which is why France and England, now somewhat more friendly to each other, were able to build the first and only SST (Supersonic plane). Nowadays, France has the largest space program budget among members of the E.U., at 1.7 billion euros a year; its operations take place on a Caribbean island, La Guyane, formerly a penal colony. If somehow Paris is successful in launching its own space exploration, albeit with help from other European countries, it will be seen as a world leader and maybe, just maybe, it may recover its lost grandeur.
Parents can go to jail if a teen claims abuse; while the case is investigated, the family suffers the social humiliation even when innocent. And yet we fail to act against mothers who fail to feed their children a balanced diet with the logical consequence of diabetes and heart attacks. The state often provides food stamps to people who don’t need them, an abuse that goes unpunished. Among these, many illegal immigrants take advantage of our generous welfare system. Why should they work if they get everything they need? Housing, food, clothing, education, health care, are all free. Who can imagine such a paradise on earth in any other country in the world? Only here, where state and federal budgets can happily spend more than they have; politicians simply order more money to be minted unlike a working family which plunges into an ever growing debt.
The other side of the coin is the regulated society in which government tells us what to do, how to do it, and where to do it, and how much to do it. The state wants to license everything under the sun, from cutting nails to combing hair to painting a room. It is getting so ridiculous that
a city wants to license the sale of knives. It has truly become a nanny state (see prior URL). Why not regulate matches, cigarette lighters, rubbing alcohol, nail cutters, hammers, drills, etc..
We don’t punish parents who overfeed their kids, or who fail to teach them manners, or ignore the importance of personal responsibility, thus setting the social model not to follow. We jail the mother of older teens who were drinking beer in her house with their friends, where she could keep an eye on them; we know that teens will drink alcohol, whether the legal age is 18, 21, or 51. The mother showed personal responsibility by recognizing that reality and protecting them.
Discipline is fast disappearing from American families. “I don’t want to end up in prison,” complained a mother who felt like slapping the face of an insolent daughter. Spanking a toddler in public is asking for trouble with CPS (Child Protective Services). Denying a sugary treat to your children in a supermarket is earning the visible condemnation of all present. Give them whatever they want to keep the peace. Let them watch television 4 hours a day without asking about the homework. “I’m too tired to argue with them,” sighed a working mother.
The result is the lack of discipline across the board in young America: Discipline is the backbone of success, whether material, academic or spiritual. Ask colleges what they think about freshmen: poor English, deficient math, and scarce scientific knowledge are the consequence of a soft and comfortable education that does not require sacrifices and hard work.
We should learn from recent immigrants from developing countries, whether legal or not. They shame us by doing what we consider beneath our dignity and in the process they become rich.
Have we become too lazy by asking the state to give and give and give?
After spending more than 20 years in Mexico, I can state with total certainty that life in the Aztec country revolves mostly around its relation with us. The U.S. Census bureau reports that in July 2011 we exported goods worth $16 billion to Mexico, $3 billion more than last year for the same month. True, we also bought around $20 billion, thus creating a trade deficit. In comparison, we only exported $8 billion to China in July 2011 while importing more than $35 billion, an enormous trade deficit that created a lot of jobs in the land of Confucius. Mexico imports twice as much from us than China, and yet we dedicate much more attention to Beijing than we do to our southern border allies.
The Mexican Flag
Why the neglect? And what are the consequences of such attitude from our State Department?
The drug wars are not limited to Mexico; their tentacles reach into Guatemala, El Salvador, and Panama. The citizens of these nations suffer the daily violence and uncertainty caused by rival gangs which fight for the enormously profitable sale of drugs to… the United States. If by some miracle our country stopped buying these illicit substances from local dealers, these armed conflicts in Mexico would gradually cease, just as land stops being productive when rains disappear. It would take a few years of course to recover, but by then these Latin American countries would only have to deal with small groups of bandits ill-equipped and bereft of financial resources.
As things stand nowadays, the government in Mexico City is simply overwhelmed as if a powerful army had invaded that country. The Mexican military makes a valiant effort to root out the “cabecillas” or leaders of the cartels, but as soon as one is arrested and jailed, another takes his place. Why? Because the temptation to become rich and powerful is irresistible to many lower class citizens. Corruption is endemic among politicians, among policemen, and among soldiers who receive a pittance in exchange for risking their lives. It’s a lot easier to turn a blind eye as the heavily armed convoy passes by than engaging in a risky firefight. It’s a lot easier and much more profitable for a powerful politician to add a few million dollars to his offshore account than to openly defy the drug trade.
Do we have a drug policy in place in the present federal administration? Aside from giving a few helicopters and tips to the Mexican military, what do we do to seriously make a dent in the drug wars?
The simple answer is very little; an all out effort to help Mexico fight its way out of this growing conflict is needed in order to save one of our principal trade partners from falling into anarchy and thus killing thousands of jobs in our nation. And I haven’t mentioned the need for an immigration policy…
I bet you have never heard of Roger Gary, of Stewart Alexander, Gary Johnson, or of Fred Karger; yet, all of them have the absolute right to compete in the 2012 election, even though none of them has the slightest chance of winning the coveted position. There are quite a few more names but it would be tedious to name them all since the national media will not waste any air time on them. I will therefore stick to those whose names appear daily in newspapers and television programs.
1. Mitt Romney
Admittedly, Mr. Romney does have the presence and intelligence to become President. He speaks well in public and has a certain charm that appeals to ladies. Against him: his religion, which the more popular Protestant churches view with suspicion. Also against him: his constant changes of position on crucial issues, including of course his Obamacare-type of health insurance in Massachusetts which he now says cannot be applied to every state.
2. Rick Perry
Another male candidate with physical presence and good masculine looks, the way we imagine our President must look like compared to other heads of state (of course, it could well be a lady with a strong personality). In his favor, a relatively low unemployment rate in Texas, ten years as chief executive which means he is quite electable, a strong Christian with conservative values and an avowed enemy of big government. Against him: some of his more extreme views (Social Security as a Ponzi scheme, term limits for the Supreme Court judges) may alienate quite a few more moderate voters.
3. Ron Paul
Extreme ideas as a libertarian and much too old to be elected (he is 75), Mr. Paul knows he can’t win;
he only wants his suggestions to have a large audience, hoping that some of them will be taken up by the winning candidate.
4. Sarah Palin
Even though she has the best name recognition in the country and though she hasn’t thrown her hat into the ring yet, Ms. Palin is the subject of some national polls. Strangely enough, she fared the worst when compared with President Obama. Mitt Romney and Rick Perry on the other hand stood neck and neck with the Chief Executive among probable voters. It doesn’t seem possible for her to overcome the leading Republicans and get the nomination of her party.
5. Michele Bachmann
Another lady who has struck hard in the preference of tea party members, Ms. Bachmann apparently only attracts the more extreme voters. She won’t get the nomination because she fails to attract moderates, but her influence in the campaign will certainly be felt. Vice-President??
6. Newton Gingrich
A fighter and a strong debater, Mr. Gingrich, just like Ms. Bachmann, seems set on earning a position on the winning ticket, whether as Secretary of State or chief of staff in the White House. He won’t become president, but his intelligence and wide experience could be exploited by whoever ends up on top.
7. Jon Huntsman
If you read my article on Mr. Huntsman published a few days ago, you’ll know that he is my favorite by far as a future leader of this country. He is smart, good looking, and has the credentials in the Far East to deal with any crisis that may emerge from China. He may not win because he is too nice, too polite toward his opponents. If we compared him to a boxer, I would say that he doesn’t have the killer instinct. He doesn’t debate well and speaking in public requires firing up the crowd, a skill he does not possess. Yet I am convinced that he would make the best President.
I now ask you, my occasional readers, to given your opinion in this very informal poll. Thank you!