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Commentary on national and local events from the standpoint of a Trenton city resident and state worker.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Don't Believe Everything You Hear or Read

When I was in the third grade, my teacher, Miss McGurk told us to go through the newspaper at home and bring in some stories and tell the class about them.  Some people in the class brought in articles from the Trenton Times, while others brought in stories from the Trentonian.  A couple jokers brought in material from one of my favorite periodicals, the Weekly World News. (NOTE:  A little fact check after I worte this revealled that it had to be some other tablid that ran the stories of the Loch Ness monster and other weird things, not the Weelky World News they didn't exist yet until much latter.  It doesn't really matter though, because it was something that probably gave the inspiration for the latter supermarket tabloid.)

While most of my classmates came up and discussed stories about fires, President Johnson or the war in Vietnam, our wiseguys told about the Loch Ness monster, Hitler sightings in South America and apparitions from ghosts.

This went on for about three weeks or so.  Finally, the teacher interrupted and asked the class if they really believed in the Loch Ness monster.  A few kids answered with something to the effect that it must be real because it is in the paper and the article even included a picture of the beast.

Of course the Weekly World News stories were what the teacher hoped for when she came up with this project.  It provided her with a "teaching moment". an opportunity to show us that everything that appears in the paper is not always true.  Third graders may not know much about politics or world events, but most have heard the truth about the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus.  Here was an opportunity to show that parents are not the only ones that can come up with fibs, but that newspapers don't always tell the truth either.

I like to say that everything I need to know I learned at St. Raphael's, that wonderful Catholic school in Hamilton Township.  Despite all the stories you may have heard of nuns with steel rulers and 70 kids packed in a classroom, the teachers there actually did teach you to think critically.

Later on, we had other discussions in class, such as should you always respect the flag.  Basically we we shown was that the flag is only as good as the country it represents, and that America too could turn into a place like the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany, where the government tells you lies and the leaders are evil.  If that happens the flag would deserve no more respect than let's say a cigar butt floating in the toilet.

You may wonder what this story has got to do with Trenton and this blog.  The answer of course is plenty.  It seems that many people out there did not get the benefit of the wonderful grade school education I had.  Many people believe everything they read in the newspaper or hear on the news and don't bother to question whether it is really true. 

Most people out there know that the stories in the Weekly World News  are made up and that WWE wrestling is staged..  But when we get beyond this into greyer areas, few people bother to question what they're told.  For instance if a white politician came out and said that white people should vote white and should not consider candidates of other races, that person would be immediately branded a racist and told to resign.  Then why do we unquestionably accept the Trentonian's reasoning that blacks will vote only for black candidates and not consider the others and that "Hispanics", whatever that means, will automatically vote for Manuel Segura.  Notice that nowhere did it say that whites will only vote for Weeden, that would be racist.

We'll leave the blacks and whites alone for the moment and look at the assertion that Segura owns the Hispanic vote.  By the way, what is a Hispanic anyway.  It that means all people whose ancestors hail from Spanish speaking countries, it includes people whose political viewpoints are as diverse as Agosto Pinochet and Fidel Castro.  It also includes blond haired, blue eyed, fair skinned people as well as people of pure African decent.   I should know, because I had a Spanish teacher from Argentina once that was obviously descended from Nordic people, possibly Germans or Scandinavians and I worked with a woman at the Mercer County Board of Social Services.  She was one of our Spanish interpreters and immigrated here from the island of Dominica.  She was also one of the darkest black people I ever met.

The misconception of Spanish people disseminated in the media is that they are a relatively homogeneous group of brown skinned people and that they are of one race and culture.  This is far from the truth.  Hispanics can be of any race, could be from families that moved here in colonial times or be recent immigrants, they may be highly educated professionals or unskilled laborers.   Politically they can range from Communists to fascists. You got the idea.  Now why would they vote for some guy just because he can speak Spanish or moved here from Central America.

Much the same could be said about blacks or whites.  Please tell me what Doug Palmer or Barrack Obama has in common with some homeless crackhead sleeping in the Rescue Mission.  They all may have black skin, but have vastly different opportunities available to them due to wealth, social class and education.  Mr. Palmer and Mr. Obama are both millionaires.  Mr. Palmer married a white woman and has a biracial daughter.  Mr. Obama is a mulatto, to use the old term.  They are also both elected officials.  What do they have in common with some unfortunate sleeping in the mission.  Not much.  Then why should we just assume they would vote for same person just because they all happen to have African blood.

Of course the same thing applies to whites as well.  My ancestors may have come from Europe but I'm sure they didn't include slave holders.  I don't think anybody in my line lived in America at the time of the Civil War.  I got a good job and an advanced degree and would be considered middle class by most people.  I have more in common with the black man living in the half of the semi attached to my home than I do with either some white guy staying at the "Last Chance Recovery House" down on Broad Street or with Frank Weeden, the congressman's son and factory owner. 

Get with it Trentonian.  Why don't you just tell people about the candidates and where they stand rather than basically telling people to go out and vote their race.

Most of us are smarter than that and deserve better if we are going to bu id a better world out our city which is just as messed up as it is racially and economically diverse.