July 3, 2008

Hecklers Highlight Latino Silence

Reaction to speech by McCain reinforces how none of the national Latino organizations in the U.S. have come out against the war.

By Roberto Lovato

I was in Washington cafe yesterday when hecklers from Code Pink interrupted Sen. John McCain no less than 3 times during a major speech to Latino voters and elected officials. Shortly after the event, several protesters marched triumphantly into the coffee shop I was sitting in on “P” Street after they stole the media thunder of the event organizers, the Nation Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO). NALEO was trying to highlight Latino voting power and unprecedented participation in this year’s elections.

Despite NALEO’s attempts to let the media know that it was the white women and not members of their organization, many of the mainstream media basically reported as if Latinos had dissed the GOP candidate. While many, if not most, of us do, in fact, find McCain and other warmongers more than worthy of attack for their seemingly infinite ability and desire to send other, mostly poor people’s children to kill and die in war, we should prioritize accuracy and fairness.

Yet, while I find Code White…..I mean Code Pink as problematic as other “progressive” organizations when it comes to issues of race and inclusion, I must say that watching and listening to the middle class white women-and not the working and middle class Latinos in the audience-yell in garbled Spanish, “Ya basta con la matanza” (Stop the Killing) as they denounced the war and its supporters inspired a rather odd mix of bother and shame; It reminded me of something I’ve been wanting to talk about for some time: How NONE of the national Latino organizations in the U.S. have come out against the war. NONE.

Though I have longtime friends and colleagues at most of them, it saddens me to report that, to date, none of the major Latino organizations-NALEO, LULAC, National Council of La Raza (NCLR), MALDEF, Southwest Voter Registration (leaders of SVREP have, however, taken positions) have come out against the Iraq war.

Such silence raises questions not unlike those raised around the trials and tribulations of disgraced former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. As stated here previously, leaders of organizations like LULAC and NCLR not only didn’t denounce Gonzales, they were important players in the campaign to get him appointed the country’s first Latino Attorney General-even after revelations of Gonzales’ leadership in legalizing the torture like that perpetrated in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo came out. In an indicator of the nuance and differentiation that exists in the Latino political universe, Southwest and MALDEF came out against Gon-zales.

And , in addition to enabling someone who, in a more just and fair world, would be locked up for life as a war criminal, some of these Latino organizations are also taking money from and providing a platform to the most violent and wasteful institution in the United States: the Pentagon. As I’ve reported here , the Pentagon is spending BILLIONS to save itself by recruiting unprecedented numbers of young Latinos for the cause of war and plunder. Money to improve decrepit schools that are supposed to prepare our kids for life, schools that are pushing our kids out, is instead being used to bolster the institution that will prepare them for death-and no Latino organization of any stature is saying anything about it. In their efforts to survive, huge numbers of Latino media outlets have allowed themselves to become mouthpieces of the Armed Forces by accepting hundreds of millions of dollars to print, beam and broadcast Pentagon ads targeting Latinos (ie Army of One, Yo Soy El Army, etc.)

We should not, however, paint all Latinos or all Latino organizations with the same brush of silence about war. MANY, many individuals like Camilo Mejia and many organizations like Project YANO and others are fighting the good fight against the Pentagon in its war for the hearts and minds of our kids.

So, when you see and listen to the silence in the audience in the video below, please remember that is the silence of the few, as polls have, for some time, indicated that the vast majority of Latinos opposes the war madness perpetrated by the likes of John McCain.

About Roberto Lovato: Originally published on Robert Lovato’s Of América blog

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