Hispanic values: A history lesson - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Hispanic values: A history lesson

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Posted: Wednesday, February 24, 2010 12:40 pm | Updated: 3:57 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Jose de la Isla: Some ancient history might help us get a perspective on a contemporary situation.

Some ancient history might help us get a perspective on a contemporary situation. Here goes:

Following the fall of the Roman Empire, Europe went into a long dormant period. With it went an intellectual tradition that had begun with the ancient Greeks and had persisted into Roman times, from roughly 44 B.C. until about 476 A.D.

Previously, scientific and engineering and social knowledge had been the basis for understanding all sorts of change and progress. Now, a millennium of very slow or no development followed, called the Dark Ages. For instance, Aristarchus of Samos (310 BC - ca. 230 BC) had already formulated 1,800 years before Copernicus (1473-1543) that the Earth was a round planet moving within a complex system. But a disbelieving public and policy centers could not absorb those scientific possibilities. Magical thinking was more important.

After a thousand years, the Dark Ages ended when superstitious thinking and legends had to give way to rational thinking and discovery, called the Enlightenment, which also brought us the modern concept of science and knowledge. History became a progression of events instead of stringing myths together. But old habits are hard to break, even when they are staring you in the face.

For instance, in 1751, nearly three centuries after the Dark Ages had ended, French philosopher Denis Diderot published the Encyclopedia as a monument to the age of reason, wisdom and knowledge. In it, "America," whose exploration had begun two and a half centuries before, occupied a quarter of a page. Not until years later was a Supplement printed containing 19 pages about the continent.

This shows how the obvious can be overlooked when people are obsessed with their closed-mindedness.

Today, we have, by many who never cared before, the phenomenon of having discovered Latinos and are trying to go from a quarter page to 19 pages. The reason is obvious.

The motivation for the sudden attention given Latinos is the realization that Hispanic voters increased by 2 million from the 2004 to the 2008 presidential election. The number of non-Hispanic white voters was not statistically different from 2004. The sudden enlightenment, for instance, like the Feb. 16 launch of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, is less about conservative values but self-interest and marketing outreach.

Washington Times blogger Thomas Peters reported as much in his interview with spokesperson Alfonso Aguilar who said his group would focus on educating conservatives about Hispanic values and about immigration (which in power centers means defining Latinos as "outsiders," although most Hispanic conservatives are already well integrated and leaders in the overall scheme of things). Aguilar acknowledged to Peters "many conservatives (meaning non-Latino conservatives) may not come out in support of reform immediately but that as the Hispanic vote continues to increase, they will see the demographic necessity to back reform."

Wayne Besen, founder of a non-profit group that debunks anti-gay misrepresentations and myths, says that the Latino Conservative Principles organizer Robert P. George's "primary talent, it seems, is to trick the unschooled and easily fooled," about what conservative Hispanics are about. That kind of hocus-pocus takes us back to the Dark Ages, when sophistry, magic, and anti-progress schemes, encouraged many Sorcerers' apprentices.

You can see in the post-modern form of a wart of frog, deceptive intentions and ignorance of Latino civic history don't add up to good principles. It might work for fundraising purposes but it looks like a trick bag to enroll Latinos into somebody else's political agenda.

In other words, like the Dark Ages, there seems to be a movement afoot by those who don't know how to tell others in a quarter page all about the half millennium of Hispanic values and instead reduce it down to tiring political wedge issues, cherry-picked platitudes and --shazam!!! -- Now you see the principles, now you don't.

Jose de la Isla writes a weekly commentary for Hispanic Link News Service. E-mail him at joseisla3@yahoo.com.

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