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Uncivil Discourse

I read today that Rick Sanchez, a personality on CNN, was fired Friday over remarks that he made in an interview with Pete Dominick on Sirius Radio. Before going further, I want to make it perfectly clear that I have no dog in this fight – I don’t own a television and am neither a Democrat nor a Republican. Since I live in the Miami area, I am familiar with Mr. Sanchez – he was a local TV personality here long before he became a “star” on CNN. After I read the transcript of what he said during the interview and then started reading the reactions to what he said, I was rather intrigued that no one, to my knowledge, addressed what I think are the underlying reasons for what Mr. Sanchez said. I think everyone has wildly misinterpreted what he said – they have twisted what he said to fit their own agendas. Instead of thinking critically and reflecting on the incident, virtually everyone has piled on him, calling him a bigot, stupid, and an anti-Semite.

Mr. Sanchez, according to Wikipedia, was born in 1958 in Guanabacoa, Cuba (a suburb of Havana) and came to Miami in 1960, at the age of two. I wasn’t able to find out anything about his parents, but I would bet that they were upper-class professionals who fled the regime of Fidel Castro very early on. Mr. Sanchez said during the interview, “I grew up not speaking English, dealing with real prejudice every day as a kid; watching my dad work in a factory, wash dishes, drive a truck, get spit on. I’ve been told that I can’t do certain things in life simply because I was a Hispanic.” Those words are the key to understanding what he said. It is just not right to jump to the conclusion that Mr. Sanchez is an anti-Semite. He certainly didn’t exercise good judgement in his choice of words, but it would be useful to try to understand where he is coming from and not judge him unfairly.

As I wrote earlier, I live in the Miami area and can testify to the prejudice that the early arrivals from Cuba experienced. I saw it and I lived it. I had classmates in high school whose fathers were lawyers and doctors in Cuba who had to pick tomatoes in the fields southwest of Miami to survive until they could get their licenses to practice in this country. Their mothers, who were socialites in Cuba, survived by being maids for wealthy families. I suspect that Mr. Sanchez’ parents might have been in that situation. I can understand his bitterness and his “thin skin”. No doubt, his father came home from his factory job and vented every night about the injustices that he experienced. Mr. Sanchez’ childhood experiences don’t justify what he said, but I can understand his pain. When he sarcastically remarked that Jews were by no means a minority in this country, he was really saying that Jews have become assimilated in this country, which is not true for Cubans of Mr. Sanchez’ generation – he is still living the discrimination, common to all immigrant groups in this country, of his childhood. And acting it out, live on Sirius Radio, to his detriment.

Discrimination against Others has been going on forever. Were you aware that the word “wop”, often applied to Italians, is an acronym for Without Papers? How many Polish “jokes” have you heard? How about Redneck “jokes”? The Scotch-Irish, who came to this country very early on, had nothing good to say about the Irish, who came later. And of course, what about discrimination against Native Americans and Blacks?

The immigrant experience in this country, as Cubans would say, no es facil (is not easy). It never has been and it never will be.

Enrique Fernandez, a columnist who wrote for the Fort Lauderdale Sun Times in 1994, wrote a very illuminating article that helps non-immigrants to understand Mr. Sanchez’ difficulties. It makes for interesting reading – I recommend it.

There is a reason I don’t own a TV – I despise the spin-meisters and the sophomoric level of what passes for “news” in this country. Everything that is covered by the main-stream media is far more complex than what they would have you believe. It is far too easy to fall into the simple black-and-white world view promoted by the main-stream media. It takes independence, critical thinking, and perseverance (all sorely lacking these days) to find out the real story – the messy and uncomfortable truth behind all the allegations and judgments passed off as truth by the talking heads, which, unfortunately, also includes Mr. Sanchez. Perhaps, now that he has been hoisted by his own petard, he will have even more sympathy and understanding for minorities than he previously did. Let’s hope that he exercises better judgement in his choice of words in the future.

4 Comments on “Uncivil Discourse”

  1. #1 Debi
    on Oct 3rd, 2010 at 12:05 am

    I haven’t heard “wop” in a long time. We are shanty Irish Catholics, lol.

    I feel sorry for immigrants. They DO get picked on. They all have a history. And blacks. Don’t get me started on that. You know how I hate racism.

  2. #2 Debi
    on Oct 3rd, 2010 at 12:06 am

    Hey, what about “Yankees?”

  3. #3 Jeff
    on Oct 3rd, 2010 at 7:52 am

    It’s all about those who have power and those who don’t, Debi. Those who have power persecute those who don’t with very predictable results that we see over and over and over again, world-wide. Are Southerners ridiculed in the North? Possibly not, because those who live in the North didn’t experience the destruction of their culture, can’t imagine what that might be like, and thus don’t comprehend the resentment that results in barbs about “Yankees”. You might read up on the Reconstruction period in American history to better understand Southern feelings about Yankees.

  4. #4 Debi
    on Oct 3rd, 2010 at 9:03 am

    No, northerners don’t pick on southerners up there. They think they’re charming.

    The culture of the south was destroyed? Aw, that’s too bad we can’t keep slaves anymore. All sarcasm aside, cultures are a changing, evolving growing thing everywhere. Culture is alive. We have a lot of people in this world and we’re able to travel and communicate now. People put in their two cents and their opinions and try to improve things in every area of the country and the world, and the culture changes naturally. Jersey City is nothing like it was when I was growing up. There are more people there who are “different,” (the wops and the micks have moved out, lol) and they add to the stew whether I like it or not. No one likes change. Because we’re all doing it right. The southerners don’t want to be told what to do. They are bossier and more set in their ways than the north because the north is used to the influx of different cultures. Who wants things to change when we are doing it right? Discrimination is because people are scared to change. It’s a threat. I would like to embrace and accept all cultures in this country while cherishing what makes us unique–how we celebrate holidays, worship, dress, eat, etc. I think we can do that without stepping on each other’s toes. Agreeing to disagree. Finding a middle ground. And therefore I am on my way to the local Baptist church to partake in some of the culture around here.

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