A news editor recently told me that I "don't suffer fools gladly." What he was telling me was that I am impatient and easily angered by people I consider stupid. That simple remark caused me sleepless nights.
Since a child I have been in the habit of examining my conscience - which I do daily - a habit from my Catholic school days. It a routine in which I review my thoughts, words and actions to assess how they conform to the moral standards of the nuns and priests. Essentially, in the beginning the examination of conscience centered around whether those actions were a venial and a mortal sin - a big deal at the time, the difference between purgatory and hell.
This regimen became an exercise intended to make me less imperfect, as I became less interested about the existence of a purgatory or hell. For me, purgatory and hell served the same function as la llorona, the Mexican folk tale mothers tell their children to scare the hell out of them.
Although Catholicism is often blamed for this religious exercise - Catholic guilt they call it - the practice goes back to the stoics of 300 BC. They believed that the dignity of man relied on compliance with the law of reason; through following the practice of regular examinations of conscience the imperfections could be negated. The Church later appropriated the practice and used it to bring about conformity rather than a pursuit of reason.
I go into this lengthy explanation not so much to justify my intolerance, but to explain why I have problems suffering the pseudo-patriotism of people in places like Arizona where stupidity has suffocated rational thought.
Some people call the Tea Partiers cynics, but that is too kind and gives cynicism a bad name. A cynic thinks. The sophists were cynics; cynicism is the basis of the examination of conscience or any other search for reason or truth.
What irks me most is the misappropriation of the word patriotism. Xenophobes flaunt it. I refuse to suffer fools like Tom Horne, a failed businessman and a mediocre lawyer, who attacks my credentials and calls my work unpatriotic.
What gives him the authority? What gives him the audacity to judge historical context? In order to do this he would have to be knowledgeable of the documents forming my narrative, which is what history is about. Horne also attacks Tucson Unified Schools' La Raza Studies, making outlandish and incendiary statements about the program.
I believe that I am better qualified than Horne to judge pedagogy, having been a master teacher in the Los Angeles Unified Schools for ten years and an educator for over fifty years. Teaching is both an art and a science and it takes more than a fool to evaluate it.
Fools such as Horne and Michelle Malkin use the authority of patriotism to veil their racism. I have had to suffer Horne's claim that he marched with Martin Luther King so many times that I almost cry "uncle."
But, you know, patriotism is like the word love. It is overused. I had a cousin who I loved dearly, but every time he'd have a couple of drinks he would tell me how much he loved his boys. I finally got fed up and asked him if he loved his sons so much why didn't he make his support payments or visit them on their birthdays.
Patriotism sets a similar norm. If Horne marched with Martin Luther King and believes in equality, why didn't he do anything to attack the school dropout problem? He was superintendent of public instruction for eight years and Arizona is 50th in the nation in per capita spending per pupil. Being a patriot takes a commitment to improve society - to do a professional job as a public servant.
Horne talks about patriotism. If the flag on his lapel were any bigger it would tear a hole in his coat. However, Horne, the self proclaimed patriot, never served in the armed forces, having avoided service in Vietnam.
This week the fool struck again. Although Horne admits never having visited La Raza Studies program, he has written the interim superintendent of the Tucson Unified Schools saying that the schools are out of compliance and must shutdown La Raza Studies, citing hearsay evidence from disgruntled former employees.
Horne makes the outlandish and unsubstantiated charge that "Impressionable youth in TUSD have literally been reprogrammed to believe that there is a concerted effort on the part of a white power structure to suppress them and relegate them to a second-class existence. This fomented resentment further encourages them to express their dissatisfaction through the iconoclastic behavior we see - the contempt for all authority outside of their ethnic community and their total lack of identification with the political heritage of this country."
In fact, while the dropout rate among Latinos remains the highest in Arizona, La Raza Studies program has motivated students to stay in school - cutting the dropout to almost zero.
Horne threatened, "It is our expectation that, when the law takes effect on December 31st, the Department of Education will announce that TUSD is to have ten percent of its entire budget withheld, until it complies with H.B. 2281. At that time, you will have the right to appeal to an administrative law judge. If you agree to this video tape, it will be helpful evidence to the administrative law judge. If you refuse, we will offer that refusal as evidence to the administrative law judge that the school district has deliberately hidden facts that would show that the district is in non-compliance with H.B. 2281."
Would Horne take the same position if charges of racism were made against the Eurocentric course of study currently taught in Arizona schools? In the past fifty years I have heard thousands of complaints in Arizona by Latinos and blacks about how the schools treated them. Documented studies have substantiated these charges.
I don't know what Horne is afraid of. Why doesn't he visit the schools himself? Spend time evaluating them. Work to improve them. Maybe he is afraid of Mexicans, I don't know. But what I can say is that he is not doing his job.
I know that I am not perfect. I still use "anyways" instead of "anyway." People call it to my attention and ask me why? I answer because "no me da la gana." Roughly translated "because I damn well please."
There is a difference, however, in my behavior and that of Horne. First, my actions don't hurt anyone. Second, I don't make the pretense that it is correct.
Well, I don't suffer fools gladly, "anyways." I feel toward Horne and his ilk the way adults felt toward the opinion of children in my day. They used to tell us not to interrupt their conversation; children could come out from under the bed only when adults called bacín (bedpan). While I think that this is not appropriate in the case of children, Horne should heed the advice.