Thursday, August 26, 2010

No Surprise: Dominicans Resent Haitians, Mosque, Late Son Andrew’s Pending B'day, Cuba Film Reminder, Publishing’s Future, Wagners, Elsie Arriving

This so-called Honduras blog has branched out into other areas in which I am involved, but next Feb., I plan return to Honduras and give you a full dose of what’s going on there.

Someone responded to my recent posting on Amnesty International-USA’s Spanish-language blog about how what Dominicans says about Haitians is what white-bread Americans say about Dominican and other Latino immigrants to this country, that is, “You are not welcome, you are not like us, you don’t belong here.” Now a Dominican has responded to me, complaining that France robbed her country of part of the island of Hispanola originally discovered by Spain and gave it over to what became the nation of Haiti. She says, The whole island rightly belongs to us, the Dominicans, and now the Haitians are trying to invade even the part that we have left. All I can say is that xenophobia seems to be a pretty universal phenomenon. And, I would point out that much of what is now the USA was territory “robbed” from Mexico and Spain.

On a related matter, apparently Muslim services have been conducted inside the Pentagon, a 9/11 attack site, ever since then, and no one has objected. It does seem the anti-mosque furor in NYC has largely been fomented by outsiders and now has spread all over the country, with opposition rising against mosque construction everywhere, especially “not in my backyard.” No lessons have been learned from the hysteria that led to Japanese Americans being interned during World War II nor from anti-black, anti-Italian, anti-Irish, anti-Jewish, and anti-Catholic movements throughout our history.

However, one of my blog correspondents, while acknowledging that the Ground Zero Mosque is not right at Ground Zero, not a mosque per se, and that “Imam Feisal is a very enlightened Muslim,” confesses that she still has reservations: Here is my worst paranoid fantasy, and I very much hope I never have to attend a memorial service and bite my tongue to keep from saying "told you so": They build the sucker; they start to use it; it develops that Muslim "pilgrims" are coming from all over the world to pray (in the one worship room) and study there. Unbeknownst to the people we count on to protect us, who don't speak or read Arabic any more than we do, all over the Muslim world advertisements are being published: "Come to Cordoba House and die a martyr's death in a historic blow against the infidel." Then one day when they have a full house, they blow everyone up, an event that also wreaks destruction on the neighboring porn establishments, delis, and other buildings not at all far from Ground Zero.

It’s true that the Islamic center location has gained so much notoriety now that it could become a magnet for extremists and, possibly, even suicide bombers in a way that would never have happened if the whole question had not gone viral.

Sept. 4 is my late son Andrew’s birthday. He would have been 43, but, of course, I’ll always remember him as age 27. Although I usually don’t have a special remembrance ceremony on that day, I do begin to feel a little blue starting now, even when I’m not consciously thinking about my son. From now through January is the down time for me, as the holidays bring bittersweet memories. December is when both my son and foster son died and my foster son’s birthday is in January.

For those in DC, don’t forget our free upcoming showing of the Cuban “Women in White” documentary with remarks afterward by Norwegian director Gry Winther and myself, Mon. August 30, 5:30 pm, at GWU, Lindner Commons Hall, 1957 E St. NW, Rm 602. The director also has a new film on women in Iran called “Lionwomen,” which we also hope to show when she is here, but have not nailed down a venue yet.

My nameless Cuba observer has this to say about the future of his country: I am convinced that the spread of democracy has more to do with the globalization of communications and ideas than with the specific struggles against a dictatorship at a given historical moment. However, if the struggle against a specific dictatorship opens up a country to the free flows of idea, it could help to introduce the ideas of democracy to its population and once introduced it will become more difficult, although not impossible, for new dictatorships to sprout there and for existing dictatorships to continue ruling there for long periods. Democracy and the enjoyment of human rights is like a mathematical equation that when graphed continually approaches an axis without ever getting there.

This does not mean that we should give up trying to work for democracy and human rights. Simply we should be realistic and know that everything in Cuba is not going to be hunky dory the day after Fidel Castro is buried. Our children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren are probably going to be involved in the solution of problems that will be similar to the ones we face today.

My reply: You are quite right, things are not going to magically turn around in Cuba the day Fidel Castro is buried, any more than they magically turned around when he first took power, though everyone expected that and many continued to cling stubbornly to that view in the face of mounting evidence against it. And here in the U.S., it's always a constant struggle. Most people are ignorant and many remain willfully so, like the anti-intellectuals wooed by a similarly ignorant woman like Sarah Palin and those who stick to the belief, against all evidence, that Obama was born in Kenya or that he is a Muslim (what if he were?), not to mention those who insist that the world was created in seven days. Americans are quite capable of holding conflicting views: no new taxes, government stay out of my life, but don't take away my social security and Medicare." We cannot expect Cubans to be any more rational or reasonable in the post-Castro era. But, as the saying goes, "While democracy may be imperfect, it's still better than the alternatives."

I saw changes coming and therefore decided to avoid the traditional publishing route. While I certainly cannot claim to be a best-selling author, my book probably would not have achieved that status in any case. Still, I’m pleased with the reception the book has gotten from readers and librarians. Now I can, “I told you so!” (See below.)

The Future of Publishing,

In a significant defection for the book industry, best-selling marketing author Seth Godin is ditching his traditional publisher, Portfolio, after a string of books and plans to sell his future works directly to his fans.

The author of about a dozen books including "Purple Cow" said he now has so many direct customer relationships, largely via his blog, that he no longer needs a traditional publisher. Mr. Godin plans to release subsequent titles himself in electronic books, via print-on-demand or in such formats as audiobooks, apps, small digital files called PDFs and podcasts...One of his many concerns about the current publishing market is that the process often takes 12 months or more to get a new title into the hands of his readers.

Yesterday, on Aug. 25, I spent the whole day at Fed-Ex Field, the Washington Redskins’ stadium in suburban Maryland, but not because I’m a football fan. Rather, I was one of two Spanish interpreters trading off interpreting at a training session being conducted for employees of a new Wagners grocery store opening in Lanham October 24. Over four hundred new employees participated in the training. Two Spanish interpreters were assigned to only two Spanish-speaking employees, one from Mexico, the other from Colombia. We had a little telephonic/speaker device that would shoot our interpretation directly into the ears of our listeners. Both said they were legal residents, by the way, one of the questions asked on their job application. They both will be working in the bakery and were thrilled to just have a job. Two Mandarin interpreters were also assigned to two other new employees; likewise, two sign language interpreters to two deaf employees. So Wagners has hired a diverse staff.

I was not familiar before with the Wagners grocery chain, just now expanding southward, recession notwithstanding. People have to eat, after all. It apparently started off in the northeastern United States in the 1930s and is still a family-owned operation. The current CEO, a third-generation Wagner, greeted us, as did his daughter, also working with the company. The store emphasizes creating a family atmosphere among employees, satisfaction of and attention to the customer, provision of high quality products and service, and affordable prices. For example, generic antibiotics in the store pharmacy will be free with a physician’s prescription and rotisserie chickens always priced at only $4.99. The store offers cooked family meals for only $6.00 each and we had some samples at lunch, which were pretty tasty. The efforts to inspire the new employees inspired even us interpreters, but since I don’t have a car, I don’t expect to actually be shopping there. I wonder if other store openings begin preparation so far in advance? Our interpretees are already on the payroll, baking products now being sent to other stores until their own location’s grand opening in two months.

Finally, a new temporary housemate, Elsie from California, doing a three-month internship at the nearby Amnesty International office, will be arriving this evening. Unlike most of the other interns who are college students, Elsie is the mother of a college student.

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