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By Jesse Treviño, HispanicLatino

It is almost impossible to understand Ruben Navarrette.  On the heels of trying to take down Olympic hero Leo Manzano a couple months ago, Navarrette in a column published by CNN on its website is trying, in effect, to keep HispanicLatinos from voting for President Obama.  It is no longer important to understand what makes Navarrette tick, though his point is well taken:  HispanicLatinos are not yet respected fully by the political system.  But his answer to the problem is particularly atrocious.  Navarrette wants HispanicLatinos to vote for neither Mitt Romney nor Obama – a half no-vote for each.

Navarrette when he votes today thereby would deny a full vote to Obama, the one of the two candidates more likely to nominate a member of the Supreme Court likely to defend the constitutional rights that HispanicLatinos need to…become respected fully by the political system.

What makes Navarrette’s perspective galling is that the election is so tight and potentially decisive.  I am not familiar enough with Navarrette to know if he has ever worked in government.  So he must not understand how a Republican-controlled White House would work every day to appoint federal judges – for life – who at every level of the judicial system would downgrade consistently over time the civil rights of HispanicLatinos and other minorities.  This very day, public officials across the country are busy conspiring to marginalize and damage HispanicLatinos when they try to exercise their God-given right to vote – in part because the highest court sanctions these travesties. 

In other words, after so much struggle not that much has changed in some places.  Many individuals are still fighting for their rights – for respect.  It is insufferable for Navarrette to disrespect the individuals who this week have been intimidated from going to the polls, and he insults the ones who were denied the right to vote outright or were put into some sort of electoral limbo through a provisional ballot.  As for the rest of us, we should find Navarrette’s solipsistic argument offensive.  He ill-uses our past and abuses our future.  At this point, Navarrette and the unholy alliance of civil rights violators with whom he is in league either intentionally or not are a menace.

Navarrette’s statements are hard to reconcile with reality.  In his last excursion, he skewered Manzano’s First Amendment right — and the right of all Ameicans — to free speech when the Olympian draped a combined Mexican and American flag over his shoulders during his jaunt around the stadium in London this summer to celebrate a hard-won silver medal.  Coming from a journalist protected by the same constitutional privilege, that was rich enough.  But now Navarrette denigrates the Fifteenth Amendment that guarantees a free and fair vote to every member of the community that he purports to know and of which he for some reason chooses to remain a part.  He leaves in his wake confusion and distrust and insecurity — the bane of too many HispanicLatinos.

It might be too late for Navarrette, but if he feels he and his fellow HispanicLatinos are disrespected, he might want to consider where respect begins.  One does not engender respect from others until one engenders respect for — and from — his or her own self.  One does not attain respect unless each of us moves to attain power, and no one gains strength by unilaterally disarming.  It is hard not to feel naked and powerless if you take off your clothes in public.

Were HispanicLatinos equal members in all aspects of society, then the kind of preposterous protest that Navarrette espouses might in some, other less important day be considered – at best – whimsical.  But, dude, we are nowhere near any day like that, and until we get there you cannot expect anyone to take you seriously.

If newspapers tomorrow banner-headlined the news that the 70 percent of us who voted for Obama had made the difference for his re-election it would mater naught if his second term were a disaster or that no HispanicLatino was invited to step past the portico of the White House for the next four years.

What would matter is that we – a population on a long journey into the future – would have made the difference and knew it.  And that is how respect starts and from where power grows: With complete self-awareness that leads to self-respect, the building block of a better life.  We should feel sorry that anyone – including Navarrette – might not get to be a part of it.

Still, his vote is inestimably valuable even if he is the last to recognize its – and his own – full worth.

Jesse Treviño is the former editorial page editor of The Austin American-Statesman.

[Photo by DonkeyHotey]

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