Work and Days

In Search of What You Resent

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The Maliki government in Iraq fueled anti-Americanism as it systematically destroyed the coalition government that the Americans had created and protected by the surge. Maliki, who had once been hunted by the genocidal Saddam Hussein, in a sense was a creation of the United States and its commitment to consensual government in Iraq. So was the pluralistic idea of a Shiite majority for the first time gaining ascendency on the principle of one person, one vote — and through the blood and treasure of American soldiers during the surge. No foreign leader in recent memory has been so lucky to have an American patron.

By 2011, Maliki thought he could pose to Iraqis with cheap anti-Americanism while bluffing the Obama administration into agreeing to a status of forces renewal agreement that both sides knew was in their mutual interest. But the fool Maliki did not realize that politics for the Obama administration (“ending one war, winding down another”) was even more a first principle than it was for Maliki. The result is Obama pulled every American out of the hard-won and stable Iraq (“stable” is Obama’s characterization, not mine alone), found his reelection narrative, and now Maliki is close to losing his country.

Maliki failed to grasp that Obama had even less trust in the influence of America to do good things abroad than did Maliki himself. But the larger irony is that now Maliki is begging for a return of American hard power to save his government from those killers that his policies helped create. In extremis, he understands that no other country would depose an oil-rich tyrant, stay on to foster democracy, leave the oil to its owners, and then leave when asked — and finally consider coming back to the rescue of an abject ingrate.

The Latin America narrative in the age of Obama — often best characterized in Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Peru, or Venezuela — is little empathy south of the border for the Yanqui paradigm of free-market democratic capitalism. The stale 1960s rhetoric of colonialist, imperialist, racist, etc. is back in vogue in much of Latin America, and Mexico as well, encouraged by an administration that itself is unlikely to defend present or past U.S. conduct.

Likewise the themes of most Chicano-Latino studies programs in the U.S. are American culpability, racism, and colonialism — the same old, same old whine of the myriad faults of the U.S. In my community, the time it takes a first-generation foreign national to cross the border illegally, and then to develop a sort of resentment toward the U.S. and a romance about the birthplace he abandoned, seems about five years.

Why then are tens of thousands of Latin Americans willingly flooding into a supposedly racist country where cutthroat capitalism ignores the poor and the oppressed such as themselves? In most past polls of Mexican citizens, two general themes often show up: the majority of Mexican nationals believe that the American Southwest still should belong to Mexico, and a sizable minority would like to leave Mexico for the U.S. You figure out the mentality. I cannot but I do detect the vague paradox: Mexico wants Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and California back so that it resembles Mexico, which many Mexican citizens would then leave because it had become, well, Mexico. What is this strange attraction toward a country that, in so many formal announcements both south of the border and among open-borders advocates north of it, is supposedly suspect?

The subtext of the Obama administration’s Middle East policies — evident in the president’s inaugural interview with al Arabiya, the so-called Cairo speech, the pressures on Israel, the constant trashing of George W. Bush, the reinvention of Islamic terror as workplace violence and man-caused disasters, the outreach to Iran, the outsourcing of responsibility to allies and enemies — is that America has questionable moral stature to help adjudicate anything in the region. To the degree we would exercise our prior influence, it would either be for self-interested purposes or be counterproductive due to our own unsophistication or ill-intentions. So we abdicated, and the predictable followed: one, the world as we know is unraveling, particularly in the Middle East; and, two, most suddenly want more, not less, U.S. engagement.

What explains these paradoxes? No doubt there are the usual suspects. First, the U.S. is privately recognized as a prosperous, free and dynamic society in the way most others nations are not.

Second, such assumptions cannot be publicly expressed for a variety of reasons, ranging from the power of envy, jealousy, and a sense of inferiority to an interest in hoping to guilt the stronger power into some sort of concession, both material and psychological.

Third, there is the assumed assurance for a Maliki, or Central American government, or Middle East autocrat that there are never consequences to anti-Americanism. Or better yet, as in the case of Obama himself, the elite world of the politician, journalist, academic, professional, or rich grandee accepts that anti-Americanism is fashionable, hip even, and that such cheap disdain otherwise should not prevent one from enjoying what America has to offer.

How weird the result: the anti-American Maliki pining for American arms from the escapist American president who lords his American power over others even as he ankles bites the very foundations of such power. Anti-American Latin American governments export their precious youth to the hated U.S., where its oppressive government will take care of them in a way the benevolent socialism at home did not, and the new arrivals will in time become hyphenated Americans with supposedly justified grievances against a largely racist and prejudicial society.

P.S. Decline of Western Civilization Addendum

Last week, I posted observations on a growing Central California phenomenon — drunk drivers, with lots of prior convictions, out on the road killing innocents, and our sick therapeutic culture’s reaction to this epidemic. This week yet another drunken driver, one Rien Ban, is charged with drunk driving and with killing four innocents outside of Fresno.

The details are once again monotonously the same: Mr. Ban had two prior DUIs. Or did he? I ask that because law enforcement never quite seems to know in these parts. The prosecutor alleges that Ban had three, not two as the records show, prior DUI convictions — a somewhat similar sort of confusion as in the case of Ms. Vazquez (described in my previous article), who seemed to have at least three convictions, but a weird fourth arrest (and release?) for going 120 mph while drunk.

We can deduce that the state of California (which seems to know all sorts of information about law-abiding citizens such as whether their Internet purchases are providing sufficient state sales taxes) does not care much about prior drunk driving offenses, since it can’t even seem to add them up.

Then there is same old, same old perpetrator as victim trope. Mr. Ban allegedly had a .15 blood alcohol level, but, of course, he is otherwise blameless. We hear nothing of detail of the lives of those he hit and killed while drunk (Belkys Rodriguez Quezada, Lisandro Enriquez Rodriguez, Danny Enriquez Rodriguez), or who were killed in his own car (Sinoeun Uong), but a great deal about why we should empathize with the drunk driver.

From the the Fresno Bee story:

“He’s a good person,” Peggy Corona, 53, said of Ban. “I feel sorry for everyone.”

Tuy, 29, said she is worried about her stepfather because he has had open-heart surgery and needs daily doses of medicine. Tuy said Ban also still feels the effects of being shot in the back. He was among three innocent victims of a September 1996 shooting at a southeast Fresno party, police said then.

Of course, the victim is said in part to be blameworthy, as if the perpetrator’s driving drunk did not really precipitate the deaths:

Tuy and Oeum, who is recovering from injuries he suffered in the crash, said the public shouldn’t pass judgment on Ban until all the facts are known. They say passengers in a car that was in front of the victims’ Kia could help the CHP know what really happened, “We feel sorry for the victims’ family,” Tuy said. “But we want the truth to come out.”

And the truth would be that Mr. Ban did not really drive with a .15 blood alcohol level?

Or that he only killed four people while drunk, but some others are blameworthy as well?

Cf. the Bee account:

Ban, whose injuries were moderate, is being held on $618,000 bail, facing four felony charges of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. His blood-alcohol has not been revealed by the CHP, but the criminal complaint says it was .15 or higher. The legal limit to drive is below .08 blood-alcohol.

Prosecutors say Ban has three prior drunken-driving convictions, but court records only list two of them. His last DUI conviction came in 2006.

Oeum said he, Uong and Ban had been drinking Sunday, but Ban had no trouble driving. Oeum said he and Uong were drinking in the car when the crash happened.

“I’m not going to lie. He drank beer while we were fishing, but not while he was driving,” Oeum said.

We feel relieved that the drunken Mr. Ban got intoxicated right before driving, but had the good sense not to drink while he was actually driving. In our society, that is now a plus.

Enough said — until next time. A lot of us — like the dead of this story and last week’s —  have a rendezvous on the road with the Bains and Vazquezes of California, and we know only two certainties of our meeting with them: the state will care more about them than us the deceased, and our killers will have had a long record of drunk driving without many consequences. In the case of Ms. Vazquez, her lawyer implied that society was supposed to find solace that she only rear-ended her victim off a cliff, rather than T-boned him or hit him head-on. In the case of Mr. Bain, we are told that he drank beer, fished for crayfish, and could drive well after drinking, and that was not really culpable while driving a car with a .15 alcohol blood level.

If we did not have these cases, we would have to invent them, given the state of our sick society.

(Artwork created using multiple Shutterstock.com images.)