Our country is suffering from a lack of institutional memory,
decreasing awareness of history, and an over-infatuation with
'celebrity' types of all shapes and sizes, highly skilled
wannabees, and probably worst of all, people who have become
simply by trying to become somebody famous. Add to this the
the political and media arenas who get heavy play on TV and
because they can always be counted on to take a contrarian
ANY issue, and you have a pretty good idea why so many Americans
our country is in a decline from 'the good old days.'
The first story that brings all this analysis to mind is
story last week about the ubiquitous Teflon that we find in
kitchens, in food wrappers, in paints, and in our political
about the inability of something to stick to a surface.
Last month, a federal grand jury issued a subpoena to the
Teflon, DuPont, concerning the controversial use of a chemical
perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA in chemical shorthand, that
is used to
make Teflon non-stick coatings. That subpoena came shortly
company announced a settlement with the Environmental Protection
(EPA) for failing to disclose safety information about PFOA
decades. Now, a new report issued by an EPA scientific advisory
may explain the reason for this new grand jury investigation.
In it, a majority of the EPA board that reviewed the agency's
recent report on PFOA believes the substance poses an even
cancer risk and is likely carcinogenic to humans. The report
the EPA to conduct cancer risk assessments based on the variety
tumors found in mice and rats during studies, and to conduct
risk assessments for liver, breast and pancreatic cancer,
as well as
the human immune system.
The EPA could also increase its fine against DuPont for suppressing
birth defect and safety studies to a maximum $314 million
current proposed fine in the $13 million range.
The amazing part of this story for me, and now for you, is
that back in
the last century, during a decade of the 60's where free love,
psychedelic drugs, and anti-war protests reigned, DuPont Chemical
it was called then), Monsanto, Dow Chemical, and several others,
the enemy. Anti-war activists blamed them for all the ills
world and warned that some day, these chemical firms would
responsible for killing off America after they had finished
small, undeveloped and under-developed nations. Dow created
infamous defoliant Agent Orange. DuPont gave us Teflon. Are
paying the price.
Hmmm''.did our institutional memories fail us on this one'
hippies of the 60's right'
Next, we come to a more controversial issue involving both
awareness of history AND a change in the way we view the world
us. Add a dose of self-proclaimed political leaders/
critics/activists, and you have the latest rub between this
African Americans and the culture of our Mexican friends south
The Mexican government has issued postage stamps depicting
exaggerated black cartoon character known as Memin Pinguin.
of five stamps depicts a hapless boy drawn with exaggerated
thick lips and wide-open eyes. His appearance, speech and
are the subject of kidding by white characters in the comic
started in the 1940s and is still published in Mexico. Activists
criticized the stamps as offensive, though government officials
Just weeks after remarks by President Vicente Fox riled black
by saying Mexican migrants take jobs in the United States
even blacks' want, the stamp issue has opened new wounds.
Fox later expressed regret for any offense his remarks may
and he insisted his comments had been misinterpreted, the
brouhaha has brought Fox some ardent defenders, along with
Carlos Caballero, assistant marketing director for the Mexican
Service, said the new stamps are not offensive, nor were they
to be. 'This is a traditional character that reflects part
culture,' he said. 'His mischievous nature is part of that
But Sergio Penalosa, an activist in Mexico's small black
the southern Pacific coast, sees it completely different.
hope the Mexican government would be a little more careful
continually opening wounds,' he said. 'But we've learned to
anything from this government, just anything,' Penalosa added.
many Mexicans still assume all blacks are foreigners, despite
that at one point early in the Spanish colonial era, Africans
outnumbered Spanish in Mexico.
And that, my friends, is where I come in with my 'lack of
memory and a decreasing awareness of history' mantra.
I think both U.S. Blacks and modern-day Mexicans have forgotten
important piece of history. Many Blacks and Latinos in Los
fighting over who should be in control of the crime-ridden
impoverished neighborhoods, need to remember what history
about our past relationships as poor, dispossessed and suffering
When I was a little boy, Spanish was my first language. Until
entered elementary school, I spoke no English. I was raised
federal housing projects bordering the Port of Los Angeles
co-existing with Negroes (that's how they self-identified
was a way of life.
I didn't call my dark-skinned neighbors and friends Negroes
that is an English word I did not know. I was taught to call
people 'VeraCruzanos.' This literally means people from Vera
Spanish. Later, when I heard these people called Negroes (or
English, I asked why my Mexican friends and family referred
to them as
being from the Gulf of Mexico region and the state of Vera
I learned, and never forgot, a lesson we would all be well
remember today when we discuss Black/Latino relations in L.A.
rest of the country. I was taught that when the African slave
came to this hemisphere, some landed in what is now the U.S.
Mississippi, Alabama, the Carolinas, Arkansas, Georgia, Florida,
and some landed further south along the western Gulf Coast
Unlike the U.S. landing ports, where Africans continued to
in plantations and other ugly settings in huge numbers, the
freed most of their newly arrived travelers. There were the
elite, Portuguese, and others who chose to continue the slave
but historical figures show that the number of African slaves
dropped from a high of 35,089 in 1646 to around 15, 980 by
Mexicans weren't perfect, but they were more willing, sooner
later, to absorb Africans into the country and not prolong
we saw flourish in the U.S. through the mid-1800's.
You may be justifiably wondering where I am going with all
simple. In looking at the Mexican stamp controversy, let's
any credence to those who say it exemplifies why Latinos and
can't get along in the inner cities. I'm not sure I'd argue
likes of Elisa Velazquez, an anthropologist studying Mexico's
communities at the National Institute of Anthropology and
she says, 'At this point in time, it was probably pretty insensitive'
to issue the stamps.
It is true that this character is a classic, but it's from
Velazquez says, 'It's a stereotype, and you don't want to
ignorance or prejudices.' She is absolutely right. But at
time, you don't want to ignore the hundreds of years of history
Finally, the topic of how we over-play the roles and lives
celebrities. I'll keep this topic short for fear of being
of what I am to complain.
I have generally liked Tom Cruise movies and one of my all
favorite flicks was the 1986 classic, Top Gun and both his
that of the absolute hottie, Kelly McGillis. I stop in my
it pops up on cable or on regular TV.
But I am over Tom Cruise these days. Period! No mas! His
carrying on about his new love, Katie Holmes, is WAY over
Jumping on Ophra's couch and yelling like a dog in heat, and
getting legitimate news coverage for it is nothing short of
I am tired of the phony prop lines from all these celebrities.
Hilton IS hot, but then that is the 18-year-old in me speaking,
ignoring all of life's experiences that have shown me that
everything. Of course it's ahead of whatever is in second
it is NOT everything.
I believed Paris when she initially said she was victimized
boyfriend, Richard Salomon, an independent movie producer
gambling entrepreneur who shot the amateur porn video of them
sex. It wasn't until a friend sent me a clip of the tape showing
teasing her beau during the sex act and playing to the camera
realized I has been conned.
My fault, I guess, for allowing my male libido to once again
temporary control of my brain. I promised my beautiful wife
years I would try ONCE AGAIN to grow up and stop using journalistic
research as an excuse for looking at a snippet of Paris and
to figure out how to do it and make money at it without getting
arrested for prostitution.
In exchange, she promised not to watch any more Tom Cruise
movies in my
presence, she'll whack me if I ever turn one on myself, and
not go gaga over that conceited, immature, overblown, rich
who offers nothing important to our society other than his