I really don’t know what to say about all the ugliness that is going on right now in the Texas State Legislature and, frankly, across the entire country. Recently, I returned from one of my many visits to Argentina, a country that I have adopted as my second home, and it appears to have adopted me as well. I still can’t dance the tango very well but that’s for another time.
Argentina, like any other country, has its positives and negatives. For instance, between 1974 and 1983, más o menos, the country was ruled by a military dictatorship that was responsible for the disappearance of 30,000 people. The military and police-types who participated in what they called “el proceso” are now being brought to trial and sent away for the remainder of their pathetic lives.
A couple of positive things Argentina has that we could emulate in Texas are a respect for each other and a sense of community. On a fundamental level, they care about and respect each other in such a way that they make room for elders in crowded places, let women and children have preference in seating or in grocery store lines or subways, they say “gracias, por favor, de nada” when asking and receiving almost any type of service. If someone slips and falls down in the middle of a busy street, you’ll find a crowd of people stopping traffic, helping the person sit down some place close by getting them a glass of water, and calling a relative or an ambulance to take care of them.
During the financial crisis of 2000-2001, neighborhoods grouped together and developed barter systems to obtain everything from food to shoe repair service simply because there was no “cash” on the streets. Medical care is practically free — even if you are a foreigner.
Texas, on the other hand, appears plagued, particularly our state elected officials, with the dreaded disease of inhospitality especially toward Latinos. Our esteemed legislature seems hell bent on writing and passing legislation that is demeaning, disrespectful and downright hateful to us.
Worst, some have even taken out newspaper ads intimating that Latinos are using the “race card” or “race baiting” some of the white legislators.
It has gotten to the point in Texas that we all have to start carrying our passports or birth certificates in order to prove that we are citizens, regardless of how long our families have been living here. Many of us have served, some with great distinction, in our armed forces since the 19th century, yet we are treated with disrespect in the laws our legislature is currently considering.
Our lawmakers are using the border security scare, there always has to be a scapegoat in order to promote prejudicial thinking and action, in order to pass laws on voter identification and so-called “sanctuary cities.” At the same time the general racist rhetoric that politicians appear to be using simply to help them get reelected to office has helped create a venomous environment that inhibits our lawmakers to constructively approach issues in education, health care and the economy.
Texans need to take a lesson from the Argentines and learn a little respect for their fellow human beings. What our state needs to learn is some manners, also. We need to take a timeout from all of his hate mongering and name-calling and learn about each other, our relationship as fellow residents of this great state, and our need to rely on each other in order to make for a better and greater Texas.
Dr. Henry Flores is a professor of Political Science and Dean of the Graduate School at St. Mary’s University, in San Antonio, Texas.
[Photo By ♣ ℓ u m i è r e ♣; Illustration By Elaine Ayo]