My last essay, “Is the whole the sum of its parts?”, received the biggest reaction to date from you. Several friends shared their encouraging critiques of my piece and I got a number of hits from faculty, both, in the U.S. and abroad. Even my former father-in-law and my ex-wife, both of whom I mentioned paused long enough to pay a visit to my blog on more than one occasion. Since February, I’ve grown this audience adding more faculty of law at the University of Amsterdam and the London Business School. I paid my fifth virtual visit to Harvard adding the balance of professors teaching in the five original undergraduate programs, from 2008, plus famed biologist, and Alabama native, Dr. E.O. Wilson a.k.a. “Lord of the Ants”.
I now have over 800 Harvard professors in my audience; it’s the largest number of any university. I also paid my third virtual visit to Yale adding President Richard C. Levin and the balance from those same five original undergraduate programs. From there I went on to add, both, Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service and Tufts University’s The Fletcher School (their international relations program). In the process, I picked up two notables – former U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright (1997-2000), who is currently serving as a Professor of International Relations at Georgetown, and Tufts President Lawrence S. Bacow. Just last week, I discovered Republican campaign consultant/advisor and CNN Senior Political Contributor Ed Rollins. He and several others accepted my invitation.
Along the way, it dawned on me that I had overlooked the foreign ministers (FM) when I added ten heads of state and their ambassadors to the U.S., last fall. The following foreign ministers are now part of my audience – Australian FM Kevin Rudd, Canadian FM Lawrence Cannon, French FM Alain Marie Juppé, German FM and Vice Chancellor Dr. Guido Westerwell, Ireland’s Tánaiste and FM Eamon Gilmore, Italian FM Franco Frattini, The Netherlands FM Uriël Rosenthal, New Zealand FM Murray McColly and Russian FM Sergey Lavrov.
While I continue to enjoy writing and sharing my work, I’m finding the growing interval between finished essays to be critical to, both, my development and to my enthusiasm for living each day while keeping my work fresh. During my early years, I strived to write one or two commentaries per month while keeping your workload in mind. That urgency to produce one a month has diminished somewhat over time and it’s reflected in my lower output. Last year, I produced just nine essays and after four months, into 2011, I’ve completed only two. At this rate, I hope that I am keeping your interest piqued while I’ve been enjoying a beautiful spring on the Alabama Gulf Coast. This is giving me the capacity to work on new projects and thus I wait for the next opportunity to reveal itself.
Finally, I received an early 40th birthday present when Steve LeVine contacted me, from out of the blue. Steve performed a web search and found my Woodrow Wilson fellowship application, from last October, posted on my blog. He wrote to me wanting to know the outcome of my app. As I shared with you back then I was unable to secure the needed references to apply. So, my efforts have now been recognized with Steve’s kind words…
“Ted, I admire your perseverance. Things tend to work out for those who keep plugging away. Your stuff is solid. Good luck and best…”
– Steve LeVine, Contributing Editor
Foreign Policy magazine
April 5, 2011
N > 7,300
See attachment: Who’s going to roll your next burrito – Juan or John?
(Minor edits have been made to this letter.)
Note: Alabama state senator Ben Brooks (Mobile-R) is an attorney in private practice and an early member of this audience, which dates back to May 2007. He has had the opportunity to read virtually every one of my essays while watching my global audience grow from only a few dozen contacts to over seven thousand. This is my second time to address to him about an issue before the Alabama Senate.
April 12, 2011
Who’s going to roll your next burrito – Juan or John?
Dear Senator Brooks,
It’s been reported that the late Jesus Christ of Nazareth while he was dying on the cross, in Calgary, cried out, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” When I hear talk of the Alabama legislature, now led by the new Republican majority, pursuing an Arizona-style immigration bill, which has already passed overwhelmingly in the state’s house and is now to be considered in the senate, I’m reminded of Christ’s wise words. What he implied was that if the Roman authority, if the Pharisees were aware or conscious of their actions, if they were living in reality, if they were living in truth they wouldn’t have pursued his death. He wouldn’t have been perceived as a threat. It’s only in their disturbance, in their own insanity that he became a threat to their dishonest way of life, in the first place.
If the Romans, if the Pharisees lived freely and not as slaves to their material world or to others, if they enjoyed their own free speech, their own freedom they would have naturally allowed Jesus the right to express his, the right to be. Unfortunately, neither party knew their own freedom and Jesus was crucified. Worshipping the Old Testament had failed; the laws no longer worked any more than a straightjacket does by the time Christ arrived on the seen. Members of the temple were merely going through the motions, they were anything, but aware of their emotional and spiritual condition and the situation hasn’t improved much some two thousand years, later.
Instead, the Pharisees were living in the insanity of the times and Jesus’ new message and new reality were a challenge to their old way, to this hypocritical way. Today, the same is true of the state’s Republican Party and their efforts to criminalize and expel Latinos now living and working illegally, in Alabama. Their reasons for passing this legislation can always be justified or rationalized as good or noble, but just like with the Romans and the Pharisees, during Biblical times, the insanity persists and the truth is lost. Republicans perceive the Latinos as being the newest threat. This wasn’t an original thought on their part instead it was borrowed from their successful colleagues at the statehouse in Phoenix, Arizona.
The Republican’s grave concerns aren’t over the Latinos’ status – as illegal or legal residents, over the tax dollars spent on them in state services – education, healthcare, legal/penal or social services nor is the issue about the state not collecting any income tax. The great fear and the real issue is whether whites will continue to maintain their grip on society as the majority in the future, whether white America will remain in control of this country and its many institutions – academically, economically, legally, politically and socially. Might Spanish one day replace English as the official state language? Will the state’s addicted and enslaved whites go the way of the drunken Native Americans? According to the latest British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) report, by 2042, the collective population of all minorities will finally surpass that of white, non-Hispanics, 54% to 46%, respectively. This monumental shift will occur in just 31 years, from now. If true and still alive, I will be 71 years old and a member of one of the newest classes of endangered species.
So, what’s driving this migration – well, all animals move from where food and water are scarce to where it’s plentiful, man is no different? We see this each year when animals track across the Serengeti or when fowl migrate from the North to the South for the winter, as well as, when man departed Africa through a corridor known as the Middle East to all parts of Europe and Asia and off the coast of West Africa via the European’s trusty wooden sailing ships. Isn’t the pursuit of food what brought Native Americans to North America when they left east Asia across the Bering Strait, some twelve thousand years ago and isn’t that what sent European explorers on their quest for a westerly route to the Far East when they unexpectantly discovered the “New World.”
These explorers and conquistadors quickly began claiming their findings for their homeland, for their kings and queens, over four hundred years ago, along, both, the east and west coasts of North and South America. Of course, not everyone left Europe for the hardships that awaited them in the colonies – the kings and queens, the dukes and the earls stayed behind because they were content. They were fat and happy. You’re not opposed to your ancestors leaving the Old World for America, are you?
There has always been a natural movement of humans, of sea life and wildlife in search of a better food and water source or as predators simply following their prey. Even our beloved space program, NASA, is in search of new land, planets and stars with resources that would allow Americans to establish a colony. A manned-mission to Mars is already in the planning stages. Do you hear any celestial protest? Only in man’s artificially created world of property ownership, boundary lines and territories do maps exist that show dotted lines running between neighbors, states and nations leading to conflicts. However, in the natural world those lines don’t exist and you would never know that you’re leaving one county and entering the next, leaving one state and entering the next if it wasn’t for a well-marked green or blue metal road sign announcing your departure or arrival.
There’s no dotted line running across the roadway, from the air there’s no line delineating where the United States ends and Canada begins nor is there a line cutting through the shared deserts of the United States and Mexico. It only exists in man’s fixed mind, through his surveys and treaties, but it doesn’t exist in reality as invading armies have long reminded us. So, maybe the Latinos are a herd naturally on the move, again, leaving a region with a shortage, for a region with abundance or maybe they’re the newest invading army just like any other invading species. After all, Mexico at one point controlled the land now known as the state of Texas and much of the Southwest U.S. What Latinos are finding in the U.S. are conditions ripe for feasting using, both, their skilled and unskilled labor. In some cases, their performing work that most Americans have long abandoned because we can’t earn a sustainable wage, due to our pride or maybe the work is too difficult and dirty.
Their standard of living back home is much lower than the middle class life that many of us knew as children and now as adults. In some cases, their skills and strong work ethic simply outstrip American workers – its sad say, but it’s true – construction comes to mind. We, soft Americans, don’t want to hear any of this. They’re challenging us at the jobsite and they’re winning. We use to do this to the rest of the world, did we ever complain about our newfound economic, military and political success? We changed the world and now it’s changing us. Change happens and man’s attempt to fight it only delays it, it never denies it. The resistance will ultimately give way to the change. It’s Darwin at work, it’s spirituality at work. It’s both. We know one thing that’s true about our world – it’s in constant flux. Live in reality and quickly adapt or live in denial, resist and surely face extinction. Those are your two choices and sometimes adapting isn’t good enough or quick enough. We will all die at some point.
When I think about this piece of legislation and its intent, I’m immediately reminded of Alabama’s racial history. I have to ask, “Is history repeating itself?” The Republican Party appears to be indifferent and no different from the previous generations of white, Christian, Democrat segregationists who first denied African slaves their freedom and then free blacks their basic rights, under Jim Crow laws, for over a half century with the help of the Klan’s brutal tactics of intimidation by lynching.
Our state troopers, “the law”, once served as white society’s muscle for carrying out many of these wicked policies with their wooden batons and tear gas during the march from Selma to Montgomery. During the Birmingham campaign, blacks demonstrated, non-violently, in the streets resulting in the city’s police force unleashing their dogs and water cannons, on men, women and children, to the shock of the world. This is some of Alabama’s sad legacy caused by the conduct of a fearful and ignorant white majority. Have we learned any lessons from this? Your party seems insensitive, in deep denial to this real issue and out of touch with the state’s past. You seem destined to repeat the shame when this bill is placed on the Governor’s desk for his signature. Am I the only one who sees this? Does anyone working in Montgomery have a caring bone?
From media interviews, it appears you support the bill and will vote for it. Are you familiar with our antiquated Alabama Constitution of 1901?
“… [It] is 12 times longer than the average state constitution, 40 times longer than the U.S. Constitution and is the longest still-operative constitution anywhere in the world? (The English translation of the Constitution of India, the longest national constitution, is about 117,369 words long, a third of the length.) About 90 percent of the document’s length comes from its 827 amendments. About 70 percent of the amendments cover only a single county or city, and some deal with salaries of specific officials. The extreme length is both because of and the cause of heavy centralization of government power in the state capital, Montgomery, leaving very little authority to local units. Counties cannot even legislate on local issues, requiring the state legislature, and ipso facto uninvolved parts of the state, to pass local laws.
The constitution addresses many issues that are dealt with by statute in most other states. Unlike most other states, a large portion of the tax code is written into the constitution and prohibits local governments from passing any ordinances on tax issues. Adding to the problem is the requirement that a proposed amendment of any sort must be unanimously approved by the legislature; otherwise it must be submitted for a statewide vote. This has resulted in local county or municipality-related amendments being overwhelmingly approved in the affected area, but rejected statewide…”
Where do you come down on this growing body of flawed law, do you, does your party support it as written or do support the struggling efforts to rewrite it? Do you see any complications caused by this dysfunctional document first written during the days of the Old South that’s affecting the present-day lives of all Alabamians, 110 years later? Given the era, do you think it was written in the interest and of the spirit of all current and now deceased residents? Look how difficult it is to change this long running collection of amendments. What’s the consequence of having it serve as the supreme law of Alabama – inequality in education funding on racial lines, home rule denied, unfair taxation policies…? Where is your party’s – the new majority – bill to rewrite this injustice – maybe y’all like the rigged system just the way it is? Do you think the proposed immigration bill will retain its integrity, any better than the state constitution has, over the next 25, 50 or 100 years?
What burden will this proposed law have on future generations with the state’s changing demographics? That is what this legislation is trying to prevent – doesn’t it reek of racism. Am I correct? Is there anything honorable, in this particular case, about the actions of Alabama lawmakers many of whom are Baby-boomers? When will your generation wake up and start growing up? When will you realize that all humans have the same freedom to egress and ingress to where the “food” is plentiful especially when Americans have long abandoned these jobs – on construction sites, on farms, in restaurants, in factories and plants? Where’s your party’s soul? Its flagrant values are an abomination.
Your generation is very irresponsible and it shows in the condition of every American institution, which y’all control from academia, commerce, government, law, media, military, non-profit to this corrupt political system that works no better than the Bible does. It’s all broken and it’s causing great pain and suffering. Simply put y’all lack the guts to do the heavy lifting, do to the next right thing or knowing when to do nothing at all. There’s no high bar to clear, only a low one to step over. It’s to exist and operate without any concept of God, without a concept of a Power that’s greater than all of us. It’s to go to the grave without ever making an apology.
My generation and those following will be saddled with the debts and the sins of yours – one that’s long been defined as being of peace and free love! I’m not sure what you learned or found out at law school or on countless Sunday mornings, but it doesn’t appear to be your humanity. I know of migrant workers from Mexico and Central America that are very hard working. They manually harvest the produce grown and served on your dinner table, every summer, from the fertile fields of Alabama’s Baldwin County while replanting pine saplings in hundred acre clear-cuts, during wintertime, walking up and down some of the most hilly and rocky terrain that I’ve ever seen, in east Alabama (1994).
Watching these men work while carrying 80 or even 100 lbs. sacks, over their shoulder, filled with saplings and holding a planting tool in their other hand instantly left me feeling humbled, as a white, male college student observing. They clearly had the hard job while I got the easy one. Neither, the average educated black or white American male would dare sign-up to do this backbreaking labor in, either environment, in the hot and humid fields or in the cold and wet timberland. I won’t do it, no way. Would you? Would anyone in the state legislature get out there and break a sweat for such minimal pay and rough accommodations, as y’all prepare to take away some more of man’s rights, – I think not?
Let’s look at Alabama’s big brown threat for one minute. With an Arizona-style law on its way to becoming law in Alabama (AL) we must really be under siege with Hispanics and Latinos, but that notion is not reflected in the latest U.S. Census for Alabama. For 2009, the state’s estimated population was 4.7m, for the U.S. it was 307m. White persons as a percentage was estimated at 70.9% (AL), 79.6% (US). Black persons as a percentage was estimated at 26.3% (AL), 12.9% (US). Native American, Asian and Native Hawaiian…, combined, was estimated at 1.5% (AL), 5.8% (US). Persons of Hispanic or Latino origin it was estimated at just 3.2% (AL), 15.8% (US). Is all this excitement in the Alabama legislature and in the Republican Party over an existing and out of control immigration problem or one that’s in your party’s head, one of pure hysteria?
What you’re doing is dishonest and, more importantly, very short-sighted. Younger generations will have to live with your hateful actions. You and many others claim to be Christians on Sunday while your actions, during the rest of the week, speak otherwise. I’m tired of witnessing this, the lack of moral character and the subsequent destruction to society. This explains the mess that America is in. We’re spending all our time solving problems that simply don’t exist while ignoring the big and pressing ones that really do, which are sinking our ship. While it may be a safe play to your constituents, in the end it’s downright cowardly. I guess you and your party want to claim to be defenders of justice and of state homeland security. In a time when Americans have become all too finicky about hard work, I am not buying the actions or the motivations of your party.
So, you’re all hot and bothered at the loss of Alabama jobs to hungry Mexicans. Where’s the first statute that addresses the loss of hundreds or even thousands of Alabama jobs, in one fell swoop, to countries abroad when old factories, mills and plants are shutdown and our jobs are exported from the beloved Heart of Dixie to Mexico and Latin America, to Europe and Asia? Let me guess that’s not your concern, maybe you’re powerless as a legislator to do anything about it or maybe your stock answer is that it’s simply market forces at work. So, there are no fees, no penalties when a domestic or foreign corporation pulls the plug on their “unprofitable” Alabama operation and simply leave? No one goes to jail, except for Carlos and Juan, a bricklayer and a cook.
Is there a single law that bars these often good paying jobs from walking? Why don’t you write one and become a hero to all Alabama workers and to the state coffers? This immigration bill is creating a double standard, an imbalance in the spirit of Alabama law and in its letter. It makes more criminals out of the working poor while kindly allowing rich executives and profit-driven decision makers “to get off the hook” even if they destroy an Alabama community’s economy. All I can hope for is that someone wearing a black robe and working in a nearby federal courthouse strikes down this soon-to-be law written with great ignorance and fast.
Copyright © 2011. All Rights Reserved. “Who’s going to roll your next burrito – Juan or John?” by Ted Burnett.
I am available for speaking, consulting and political advising. My other essays can be viewed at my blog – http://www.toxicnation.blogspot.com/. I can be contacted via email at – email@example.com. My biography can be viewed at http://www.tedburnettresume.blogspot.com/.
Beringia – http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beringia
“Latinos will be part of new U.S. “majority” sooner than predicted” http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/laplaza/2008/08/latinos-will-be.html
Luke 23:34 New International Version (© 1984) – “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
U.S. Census Bureau – http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/01000.html
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constitution_of_Alabama The Constitution of Alabama