We thought long and hard about what Ruben Navarrette Jr. had to say on CNN.com today (for a very lively discussion about what our community is saying, visit here).
Our first thought was to have our jefe write an open letter, since he is one crazy Puerto Rican who is known to root for the US Women's Soccer Team (and Hope Solo) on one day but completely flip out with joy the day when, for example, the 2004 Puerto Rican Olympic basketball team crushed the US Dream Team 92-73. But then we thought, nah, we would just welcome the same old same old charges that this page is un-American and un-patriotic, and we are so beyond that, because in essence, there is no one true way to define what it is to be American in the 21st century. Some want to get all jingoistic (like Navarrette, who got hundreds and probably thousands of neo-nativists agreeing with him today, which made his column even more bizarre to us), but we prefer to be more inclusive in our Americanism—one that celebrates diversity, tolerance, acceptance, and understanding.
We also thought we could get all scholarly and historic in response to Navarrette's opinion piece, especially when he claims that other groups like Americans of Irish and Italian descent don't go around celebrating their successes with two flags. That would have been an interesting topic since it would have put his comments within a historical context, but since it was already done and done well, we passed on that, too. Look at the uniforms the US team wore then (green!!!!):
Well then, what about the fact that Navarrette is just one (yet very influential) opinion of US Latinos in media? But then we thought no, since we knew Navarrette already knew this, and it would have been too easy for us to side with the thousands of others on social media who celebrated Manzano's win for what it was (an undocumented young boy who medals for the USA in a sport that this country hasn't medaled in since 1968) and not for what it wasn't (an unpatriotic display of FU to the USA).
We also thought we would explore how much Navarrette's column was being shared, read, and commented on throughout social media, but when we checked out Navarrette's public Facebook page (where he continued today to post almost-hourly updates of how "viral" his story is becoming), we thought that angle was already covered by Navarrette himself.
We find it a bit hard to understand why Navarrette is so proud of the many comments that he is getting, especially comments such as this one (which is from his CNN page):
And now you see what granting amnesty under the guise of immigration reform gives you – a generation of Mexican non-Americans who will never understand what it truly means to be an American. These people didn’t immigrate to the United States; they stole their way into this country and naturalized solely to mend their illegal status so they could continue to exploit the opportunities this great nation provides– not because they wanted to become an American. It sickens me that so many Americans are not only comfortable with this truth, but propose to instigate another round of granting amnesty to people devoid of any sense of loyalty to our nation or its laws
What is sad about this is not just that it is clear to us that Navarrette is just picking topics these days that he knows will generate traffic for him (and who can blame him, even since he declared that the term "illegal immigrant" is not racially charged), but that when you see countless of these types of racist comments under his own column, Navarrette doesn't even respond to them. Instead, we just see celebrations on his public Facebook (5,000 comments and shouting! Trending on CNN! This is on fire!) and pride in the viral reaction he is getting to his piece. Guess in the digital age, you are rewarded for shilling your work and praising the clicks you get instead of speaking out against those readers who take it upon themselves to make a claim to nativism and racism.
So instead, we decided to understand Navarrette's views, respect them, and even feel bad that he got sick to his stomach when he saw Manzano—in a natural and spontaneous moment of joy—celebrating his identity and what defines this Olympic medalist as a human being. So if Leo Manzano is not respecting the US of A by holding an American flag and only an American flag, we would like to suggest that the following unpatriotic athletes who are all US citizens be the topic of Navarrette's next column, since they all didn't follow the strict "USA and only USA" code that Navarrette is asking us to follow, no questions asked.
Gold medalist Félix Sánchez, who won gold in the 400 meter hurdles at 34 years old this week, running for the Dominican Republic, even though Sánchez was born in New York City. Sánchez was emotional after the race, dedicating the race to his abuela. Traitor! (BTW, Ruben, try pissing off some New York Dominicans, come on, go for it.)
Gold medalist Aly Raisman, who won two golds and won the hearts and minds of many Jewish Americans with her tribute to the Munich 11 of 1972. This past week, Aly has become the "official Jewish heroine" of the 2012 London games. Wait, she is pushing her Jewishness over her Americanism? And she was on the front cover of the New York Post? Traitor!
Oscar de la Hoya, who in 1992, was seen waving both the American and Mexican flags during the Barcelona Olympics. And he even became a Mexican citizen in 2002 (a fact that Navarrette does not mention in his column today). Traitor! Oh wait, but Navarrette gives De La Hoya a pass because "that was largely symbolic since De La Hoya was born in the United States. He wasn't an immigrant caught between two countries." Huh? ¿Qué qué? And what is the difference between Oscar and Manzano again? Oh yeah, De La Hoya was born in the United States and became a Mexican citizen later in life and Manzano was born in Mexico and became an American citizen. Got it. Arrest them both!
Any Olympic athlete who trains in the US and competes for another country. Traitor!
The entire Puerto Rican Olympic Team, all comprised of American citizens! Traitors!
Any American-citizen athlete who has ever expressed pride for where he came from? That means you, Ali, Jim Brown, Sandy Koufax, Roberto Clemente, and so many others. All traitors!
Don't you know that America is all about the red, white, and blue? Don't you all know that is just ONE WAY to express your Americanism and and ONLY ONE WAY?
As for Navarrette, who has admitted many times that he has always had a "confusing" relationship with being of Mexican descent, he is now just another columnist who has moved on to a wider audience that cheers on his defense of the good old USA but we would venture to guess that the moment Navarrette strays away from the message, he will be just another beaner. But more power to you: if you define success by writing to a new audience of people who are, quite frankly, very interested in having someone of Latino descent confirm what they have been feeling so it can justify their narrow beliefs, mucha suerte con eso.
In the meantime, the outrage has begun. A local CBS affiliate in Atlanta has already done a poll and 83% of people find that Manzano's act of joy was offensive: Was it disrespectful to America? That is how they ended the piece. Was someone's medal-performing accomplishments disrespectful to America? No mames to that one. And now others are joining Ruben on the Anti-Manzano train because hey, if Ruben can say it and he is of Mexican American descent, then so can we.
The Rebeldes, on the other hand, won't fall for it. We come from a different place. Being bicultural and bilingual is an asset and not an excuse. It is not a sign of weakness or about being less American. We see the United States through a different lens: a nation that is becoming more diverse, more complex, and one that is afraid of change. Navarrette would rather play it safe and mollify the vast majority of Americans who just want to chant USA! USA! USA! at the drop of a dime. Because that is what you are programmed to do. Accept America as it is. Don't spend too much trying to change the discourse or hope for a more compassionate and united country. Play into the media creating a culture of division. Because that sells clicks and ads and keeps the CNNs of the world alive. At least for now.
We think that what Manzano did was an expression of his true identity, an identity that Navarrette is uncomfortable with. So yes, Ruben, hang out with those who see Manzano as a product of amnesty and part of that mass of humans who "stole their way into this country". Keep pushing your traffic stats by allowing for hateful and racist comments to grace your sites without you even addressing them with dignity and professionalism (and some advice: you might want to make your Facebook profile private now since everything you post is just a screen grab away from being permanent).
As for us, we will continue to see Manzano as a product of pride and unity, an athlete who represents a new United States, one that is tolerant and open to different experiences and identities. We are 100% sure that Manzano is proud of what he accomplished and for you to question his dedication and patriotism is insulting to Manzano's efforts and successes. This isn't about being part of the group think that you abhor, this is about being a responsible columnist for a major media outlet and how to get attention for the wrong reasons.
Stop pretending that you represent the US Latino world. You don't. We have no problem with the fact that you got physically ill with what Manzano did. Your biggest failure is when you generalize it under the fact that well, "I am Mexican American" and this is just wrong. Speak as an individual and don't fall into the same trap of group think that you criticize so harshly. You are celebrating a viral column where hundreds of people would rather send all those damn Mexicans back home. If you really wanted to rock the boat, you would have celebrated Manzano's struggles and what he accomplished as a human being. Instead, you condemn him for being un-American. That is just not cool.
In 1968, the United States and the rest of the world was "outraged" when this happened in Mexico:
Now, a new struggle continues and if Leo Manzano is the face of how an undocumented individual can achieve athletic glory and prove to the world that yes, you CAN achieve your dreams even though many Americans would never think you were American enough, then we stand with Manzano.
You can stand with the nativists, Ruben. Sadly, it is becoming more and more of a common occurrence for you. We know, it is all about the clicks and the traffic.
UPDATE, August 11: Navarrette posted the following "response" on Facebook regarding what we wrote. It was taken from a FB wall where he responded to this piece.
In the meantime, Navarette continues to push how "viral" his piece has gone and how happy CNN is with it.