January 21, 2014

Personal Identity of the State as Perceived Through a Slip of Paper

I’ll state this from the get-go so there’s no mistake or confusion:  I come from a relatively stable middle class home with parents who have always been able to provide.  My family and I are all U.S. citizens; even the other three members of my nucleic family who were born in Puerto Rico, which is a U.S. territory.   I have an incredible amount of privilege and have a generally awesome life.  I have white friends who have considerably more privilege and white friends that have considerably less, and I would never advocate to anyone that they feel guilty or bad for conditions outside of their control.  However, I do advocate for social consciousness and awareness within all people so they may understand where they stand in relation to others and ask themselves if that’s a social structure they would out rightly support. 

Now, here’s a mini-rant about a ridiculous situation that most of my lighter skinned friends will never know.  Earlier today I realized that I was riding my bike around campus and town without any form of ID.  My wallet had been misplaced.  Immediately, before I even put my phone away I started heading home knowing that my wallet would most likely not be there.  Instinctively, I went into the drawer where I keep my passports and back-ups of my most common IDs including a second driver’s license, and yes, that was plural for passports.   Some people worry about a looming bank failure and keep gold and cash under the mattress.  Others worry about intruders and those who would visit harm and sleep soundly with loaded weapons in their homes.  Some people even keep a bug-out bag for when the perhaps literal shit hits the hopefully metaphorical fan.  Me?  I keep redundant forms of identification lest I ever have to prove who I am.  
This seems ridiculous, or at the very least – it should.   What’s the worst that could happen in the 10 days it may take to get a replacement license?  Well in Arizona where SB1070 and other areas where analogous policies are in effect – a lot.   Sure, this may seem like exaggeration and you may completely legitimately ask, ‘Eric, but how many incidences wherein SB1070 or analogous policies are utilized end up in the invasion of privacy for American citizens or worse?”  Honestly, I don’t know.  It’s not what I research and I have so many other reasons for finding SB1070 and analogous policies offensive that I wouldn’t care to examine the stats on it.   I know, what a great academic the kid is.  Just remember, this kid abides by whiskey Wednesday and pragmatism, but that’s neither here nor there. 

My main reason for finding these laws offensive, racist, and deleterious to public safety is that it is a form of visceral structural violence, tears families apart, and reduces community trust in local police forces (as evinced here in Tucson).  My secondary reason for find these laws offensive, racist, and deleterious to public safety is within the purview of my family’s experience in the United States as Puerto Ricans.  I make sure to hold multiple copies of all of my major government IDs because I realize that legally if an LEO (Law Enforcement Officer) pulls me over because of a minor moving violation on my bike he has a legal obligation to question my legal immigration status if he has reason to suspect I am not a legal U.S. resident or citizen.  Maybe my accent, or lack thereof, would avail, or maybe as was the case with my own mother (in Prince Williams County) a few months ago, it would not.   Without my ID I would have no legal proof other than perhaps my memorized SSN that I am, in fact, a U.S. citizen.   That officer could then, if he deemed necessary, call in Customs and Border Patrol to they make a judgment call.  Should I fail to convince the officers of who I am, seeing as how I would be lacking the proper government issued IDs, they would then have the right, perhaps even in some sense the legal obligation to transfer me to a holding and processing site, where after a process I’m sure I would be given access to some sort of legal counsel and somewhere a light bulb in the bureaucratic process would turn on and I would avoid being deported or as has happened to other individuals in our nation’s questionable legal system held indefinitely. 
This seems like a freak scenario.  This seems like the worst case situation you dream up when you get in your car.  But it’s not.   It’s a completely believable scenario and to my white friends, I love you, but part of your white privilege is that except for very select areas in the country, no one ever questions if you belong here.  Think about it for a minute.  As the son of a military officer who has served abroad, with a brother entering the Marine Corps, with a mother who as a military dependent sacrificed a considerable amount – as someone who represented the red, white and blue for 27 months abroad, this question is disgusting, repulsive, and honestly makes me angry.  

When some drank frat bro told me I got into UGA because of my skin color, when customs removed me and the other dark person from the line in Miami International and when it happened again, when my boss automatically assumed that I wanted to eat Mexican food, when my mother was pulled over for a minor traffic violation and was met with three cop cars and held for questioning because she was without ID, when my brother was accused of being involved in gang activity, when some confused kid on the bus told me on Sept. 12th,  2001 that America was going to “get” us, when my AP English teacher was surprised I was attending one of the top state schools, when my other AP English teacher gave me an A because I told her of my dad’s campo background, whenever someone naturally assumes anything about me because of the my skin tone that little dark magic of institutionalized hegemonic racism is at work. 

I’m not angry at any one person because as Arendt is keen to point out, the key to hemegonic power is that the single tyrant is removed and replaced by the bureaucratic structure.  Although, actually, I take that back, there are a lot of individuals with whom I am extremely displeased; however, the point still stands that there is not one single person nor entity at fault, but rather our entire societal perception is warped by these schemas and norms that over a considerably tumultuous history have become codified and accepted and this is the end result wherein before I return to where I most likely left my wallet, I go home to pick up my ID lest I be stopped en route to the clinic and a series of LEOs all be having some bad days.  

October 20, 2013

A Dinner Party, A Boar, and the Desert

Undressing in Front of a Javelina
            In an effort to break the normal routine of releasing the stresses of graduate school into delicious, alcohol imbued drinks in a downtown scene that I have had the hardest time adapting to (bottoms-up Tucson), I decided instead to take my incredibly polite, well-mannered, and courteous co-worker on an invitation to have a home-cooked Midwestern meal at her current abode as well as engage in some table-side dialogue with one of the leading academics in the Latin American Studies field (those three initials make up the name of department so…).  
Unfortunately, like most rational and able people in Tucson, my co-worker lives out in the periphery of Tucson, which meant a fairly long bike ride for me.  This is not really unfortunate in regards to biking as I actually enjoy biking places and a half hour, six mile ride through town is my idea of an evening well spent.  However, there is the reality that such a trek involves physical exertion and physical exertion brings upon sweating and said sweating would undue any plans of dressing appropriately for a dinner soiree of sorts. 
My solution was rather ingenious in its simplicity if nothing else.  As I planned to study after said dinner (ha!) and would have my trusty bag with me, I simply shoved a dress shirt in my bag and planned to change at the corner before I turned in so as I arrived, everyone would see me, clad in an appropriate dress shirt without giant splotches of au natural salty water.  Of course, biking at 7pm, in the darkness of Tucson meant several things that I had conveniently forgotten in my interest to get out of the house (and not into a bar where I would question the music, fashion taste, and age of everyone around me – the joys of living in a college town as a 24 year old).   
As I pedaled up the hills that surround Tucson, the lights seemed to be disappearing around me, which in fact, they were.  Tucson has this remarkable layout in that there are almost at least compared to most everywhere else that I have lived, including Latin America, no street lights, thus darkness is given a new meaning.  While this allows one to gaze upon the stars with minimal light pollution it certainly makes biking in a college town (where DUIs tend to be a bit more common) adventurous, mildly dangerous, and sometimes outright fun.    Finally, I arrived at the final 1.5 mile stretch that involved going up-hill on newly asphalted rode that would turn right into gravel, with almost no light and cars coming behind me.  Needless to say, there was much appreciation for the fun filled shenanigans that involved arriving at my destination. 
Finally, after a few wrong turns and close calls in sliding off the road, and having turned my ‘vintage’ (read: cheap on craigslist) bike into a mountain slaying testament to European engineering, I was at my corner.  Time for Operation Blue Fitted Shirt was a go.   As I began to change I suddenly heard this huffing and puffing coming from the cacti and assorted flora.  My first inclination was that, a la, Where the Red Fern Grows it was a raccoon; however, errors with geography, climate, and even sound led to me believe that instead it was a coyote because that was simply the only other desert based mammal I could imagine would be hiding in residential flora decorations.  So naturally, I took out my pocket knife (more on that later) and changed in front of what I believed to be small, presumably non-lethal land mammal that was probably more scared than me than I could reasonably be of it. 
The image here, in case you are missing it, is someone changing with a small pocket knife pointed at a purely imaginary entity in an amorphous field defined by occluded shapes and darkness.  As I waltzed on towards the culinary soiree I noticed that the huffing and puffing sound was parallel to me.  Whatever this animal was, it was most definitely interested in my movement.   
Upon discussion of this topic it was revealed to me that the animal was most likely a peccary, known commonly around Tucson as a javelina or in the lay-man’s knowledge, a goddamned boar.  I had to change my clothes in front of a boar, which while mostly vegetarian in nature in this area, still have tusks engineered through millions of years of evolution to penetrate soft, fatty tissue such as mine.   And my plan of defense was a small pocket knife that I carry mostly to fix my bike chain when it jams on the aforementioned vintage bike (read: old and consequently cheap).   

This is my life in Arizona.  I go to small dinner functions and feel threatened by aggressive land mammals.  Also, there was an incident regarding a mountain lion, some delicious pumpkin soup, the first sauerkraut I’ve ever enjoyed, and plenty of political and philosophical musings as well as personal anecdotes.   All in all, a good night.    But still, a goddamned boar.  

August 29, 2013

Girl with a Cup

I went to a friend's going away party and took a picture of her friend.  This was it. 

Picnic Time

Went on a picnic recently.  This was the spread. 

My Perpetually Disheveled Bed

It would get made.  Only to get torn apart again.