When Do You Start Counting?

by RODOLFO F. ACUÑA

When the great Muhammad Ali was asked how many sit ups he did, he responded,  “I don’t count my sit-ups, I only start counting when it starts hurting, that is when I start counting, because then it really counts, that’s what makes you a champion.”

These words resonate in Tucson where Latina/o students are fighting for an education by sitting-in in the office of Tucson Unified School District Superintendent of Schools John Pedicone, walking out of classes, demonstrating, and taking to the streets.

Students are dispelling the myth that Mexican Americans do not care about education; they have started counting because it hurts. They know the difference between being warehoused, sitting through classes where teachers go through the motions. They know when the subject matter is relevant; and the teachers believe in what they are teaching.

At my own campus at California State University Northridge students are mobilizing.  Up until now, a small minority protested the rising cost of tuition, which now tops $5,550 a year, promising to climb another 30 per cent next year.

Because of the lack of accessibility to education, they are growing disillusioned with our system of government. They don’t believe the promises of President Barack Obama State of the Union. Desperate, many students are dropping out of school.  The straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back occurred this week.

CSU Chancellor Charles Reed issued a threat to all state campuses that any institution that exceeded its target enrollment by more than three percent would be docked $7 million.  The CSUN administration panicked and froze classes, not allowing needy students to enroll in classes, even when professors agreed to take them as an overload.

The result has been pandemonium. Many students are unable to get the requisite 12 units for financial and other scholarship aid. This action takes money out needy students’ pockets; the tuition for 12 units and 19 units is the same. Graduation will  be deferred by a couple of years.  For administrators earning $120,000 – $350,000 annually it is no big deal. But for poor and middle-class students it is a big deal.

The freeze has forced many students to start counting.  It has dawned on them that they are being shut out of what the Tucson students are fighting for, a college education.  Conservatives have always maintained that everyone has an equal opportunity; tragically many poor people believed that the myth.

However, this fairytale is being debunked by what is happening in California’s community colleges. Once a safety net where students could attend college almost tuition free and could live close to home and work, this is no longer the case.

Although the fees are still affordable at the two year colleges, the campuses have been flooded consequent to the pushdown of students who qualify for the University of California and the California State University systems but can’t afford it.  Consequently, the problem for community colleges is not so much tuition but the flood of students that have drowned them.

Filled beyond capacity their infra-structures have been inundated, and even when students are matriculated they face the impossible task of getting classes. This situation promises to worsen as the UC resorts to the vigorous recruiting of wealthy foreign and out of state students who are displacing residents.

If by this time, we are not counting, we should be because the hurt will worsen.

The challenge for students is to develop a strategy. It is not going to do us any good to say I told you so or to get angry.  We have to get even.  The reason the system will continue as if the crash never happened is because we did not get even.  Very few people have gone to jail, and the gaggle of thieves on Wall Street and government were not stigmatized.

Talk about class warfare, society differentiates between white and blue collar crime.  Pure and simple, we are complicit and let the big ones get away.

In Tucson, the rich benefit directly from the destruction of the Mexican American Studies program. Brutalizing immigrants and Latino students is part of the grand strategy to keep Mexicans in their place.

The assassination of nine-year old Brisenia Flores in her home sent a chilling to other Mexicans. Shawna Forde, who had ties with the Minutemen and FAIR, the Federation For American Immigration Reform, led the assassins, but the truth be told, the Tucson white elite were complicit, they benefited.

Let me be clear, the purpose for the destruction of the MAS program was to intimidate other minorities. African, Native and other Americans were put on notice that they will suffer a similar fate if they protest too loudly. They heard about Mexican American students being forced to stand by while the banned books were boxed and carted away. Students watched in silence, they sobbed.  Books had become important to them.

In the past I have spoken about Adolph Hitler’s “The Big Lie.” In that instance, the Jews and the gypsies were scapegoated.  Hitler used hate to rally the German people.  In a similar way, the anti-Mexican and anti-foreign hysteria helps conceal the criminality of ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council) that owns the Arizona state legislature and SALC (the Southern Arizona Leadership Council) that controls public and private institutions in southern Arizona. Superintendent Pedicone rose through SALC’s ranks and was its vice-president.

Republican politicians have exploited the hatred of Mexicans, using it to their economic and political advantage. The same goes for the Koch Brothers, the Tea Party, the minutemen, and the prison and gun industries, not to mention the bankers who launder money made from selling arms to the Mexican cartels.

Politicos such as Attorney General Tom Horn and Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal have built their careers by spreading lies and bashing Mexicans.  Tolerating them is like speaking respectfully of Hitler. ALEC and SALC leaders are criminals and child abusers. We should not abet their malfeasance by being respectful.

Some readers will say, “Rudy, you are going too far!” But am I going too far? Have they ever seen a 14 year old strung out on drugs, or a teenager that has a difficult time in explaining his or her thoughts?  Who has created these conditions? Who is to blame?

I once told my wife when she was getting frustrated tutoring a second grader, “if Jorge does not learn to read, he will end up in jail.” She started to cry. Have you ever met a second grader who was bad?

Because of my early parochial education, I have a strong sense of right and wrong. For me, “sometimes there is no other side.”   I have a mind, and as my teachers would tell me, “use it.” It is idiotic to say we are all equal in this country, it is a myth. In my vernacular, the word exploitation is the willful taking advantage of the poor.  It is an abomination and cannot be tolerated

The wonderful quality about students is that many have retained the sense to be outraged at injustice.  Reasoned moral outrage corrects the imperfections of society and achieves justice for all. And, that is precisely why the TUSD cabal is banning books. ALEC, SALC, the Tea Party and their gaggle can’t handle the truth, it is subversive.

William Shakespeare’s The Tempest  was banned. Why? It is threatening because it talks about colonialism. It is about the Earls of Southampton, investors in the Virginia Company. At court they support a Protestant-expansionist foreign policy. King James opposes it because he does not want trouble with Spain. Eventually this leads James to executed Sir Walter Raleigh.

The Tempest is told through the eyes of Caliban, a native of a colonized island. It is about his accusations against the colonial governor, Prospero.

Prospero is the colonizer; Caliban, the colonized.  Prospero looks at Caliban as being genetically inferior. The story betrays Prospero’s colonial mentality; he has little respect for the natives or the environment. His demeanor resembles that of Superintendent Pedicone and the white establishment of Tucson who regard Mexicans, whether born on this side or the other side of the border as aliens.

Rather than use history or literature to correct the imperfections of society, Huppenthal and the majority of the TUSD board chose to censor books. The Tucson cabal believes that it can hide the truth, and thus keep Mexicans in their place. It is similar to the efforts of many former confederate states to erase any mention of slavery as if it had never existed.  According to them, African Americans were happy under slavery. It is similar to the efforts of neo-Nazis to deny the holocaust or the Turks’ denial of the Armenian genocide.

Their view is if people don’t know about it, it did not happen. Consequently, Mexicans can continue to drop out of school, go to prison, work at minimum wage jobs, and believe in fairy tales.   If they learn, they may start counting.

RODOLFO ACUÑA, a professor emeritus at California State University Northridge, has published 20 books and over 200 public and scholarly articles. He is the founding chair of the first Chicano Studies Dept which today offers 166 sections per semester in Chicano Studies. His history book Occupied America has been banned in Arizona. In solidarity with Mexican Americans in Tucson, he has organized fundraisers and support groups to ground zero and written over two dozen articles exposing efforts there to nullify the U.S. Constitution. 

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
Weekend Edition
August 28-30, 2015
Jeffrey St. Clair
Long Time Coming, Long Time Gone
Mike Whitney
Looting Made Easy: the $2 Trillion Buyback Binge
Randy Blazak
Donald Trump is the New Face of White Supremacy
Alan Nasser
The Myth of the Middle Class: Have Most Americans Always Been Poor?
Rob Urie
Wall Street and the Cycle of Crises
Andrew Levine
Viva Trump?
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Behind the Congressional Disagreements Over the Iran Nuclear Deal
Lawrence Ware – Marcus T. McCullough
I Won’t Say Amen: Three Black Christian Clichés That Must Go
Evan Jones
Zionism in Britain: a Neglected Chronicle
John Wight
Learning About the Migration Crisis From Ancient Rome
Andre Vltchek
Lebanon – What if it Fell?
Charles Pierson
How the US and the WTO Crushed India’s Subsidies for Solar Energy
Robert Fantina
Hillary Clinton, Palestine and the Long View
Ben Burgis
Gore Vidal Was Right: What Best of Enemies Leaves Out
Suzanne Gordon
How Vets May Suffer From McCain’s Latest Captivity
Robert Sandels - Nelson P. Valdés
The Cuban Adjustment Act: the Other Immigration Mess
Uri Avnery
The Molten Three: Israel’s Aborted Strike on Iran
John Stanton
Israel’s JINSA Earns Return on Investment: 190 Americans Admirals and Generals Oppose Iran Deal
Bill Yousman
The Fire This Time: Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “Between the World and Me”
Scott Parkin
Katrina Plus Ten: Climate Justice in Action
Michael Welton
The Conversable World: Finding a Compass in Post-9/11 Times
Brian Cloughley
Don’t be Black in America
Kent Paterson
In Search of the Great New Mexico Chile Pepper in a Post-NAFTA Era
Binoy Kampmark
Live Death on Air: The Killings at WDBJ
Gui Rochat
The Guise of American Democracy
Emma Scully
Vultures Over Puerto Rico: the Financial Implications of Dependency
Chuck Churchill
Is “White Skin Privilege” the Key to Understanding Racism?
Kathleen Wallace
The Id(iots) Emerge
Andrew Stewart
Zionist Hip-Hop: a Critical Look at Matisyahu
Gregg Shotwell
The Fate of the UAW: Study, Aim, Fire
Halyna Mokrushyna
Decentralization Reform in Ukraine
Norman Pollack
World Capitalism, a Basket Case: A Layman’s View
Sarah Lazare
Listening to Iraq
John Laforge
NSP/Xcel Energy Falsified Welding Test Documents on Rad Waste Casks
Wendell G Bradley
Drilling for Wattenberg Oil is Not Profitable
Joy First
Wisconsin Walk for Peace and Justice: Nine Arrested at Volk Field
Mel Gurtov
China’s Insecurity
Mateo Pimentel
An Operator’s Guide to Trump’s Racism
Yves Engler
Harper Conservatives and Abuse of Power
Michael Dickinson
Police Guns of Brixton: Another Unarmed Black Shot by London Cops
Ron Jacobs
Daydream Sunset: a Playlist
Charles R. Larson
The Beginning of the Poppy Wars: Amitav Ghosh’s “Flood of Fire”
David Yearsley
A Rising Star Over a Dark Forest
August 27, 2015
Sam Husseini
Foreign Policy, Sanders-Style: Backing Saudi Intervention
Brad Evans – Henry A. Giroux
Self-Plagiarism and the Politics of Character Assassination: the Case of Zygmunt Bauman