Sunday, November 27, 2016


He was right, at first, History did absolve him. He seemed her favorite. His bold strokes were brilliant mistakes that opened, for a moment --against the overdetermined logic of colonialism, imperialism, and Stalinism-- the possibility of reconciling human freedom and creativity with socialism, of fast-forwarding through history, like a Star Trek wormhole, to give birth to new values, a new society. But then, in a bat of an eye, he was wrong. History found him guilty, after all, of shutting down dissent and change in effort to defend an eroding, ossified status quo. Of becoming the kind of leader who confuses willfulness for freedom in himself, and for corruption in others. He was Brezhnev with a sense of humor. A policeman who made six hour speeches. In the end, History just plain forgot him. Fidel once walked and fought with giants. His death, then, would have brought the world to a stop, for a moment. His death, now, was minor news. He had long since ceased to matter to the imagination and debates of our times.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Fathers and Refugees

On Fatherhood and Refugees

My father’s father was a refugee. His parents bought him a ticket on a ship coming to America, and charged him with the heavy responsibility of finding some way —in a land he did not know and a language he did not speak— of saving his family.

He was born and raised in a Greek city inside what is now Turkey. For centuries, Greeks and Turks had lived side-by-side there, in peace. But his parents could see a tide of angry nationalism rising. They saw their Turkish neighbors fill their hearts with bitterness; with grievances, some real, some imagined; with hate. So much hate.

My grandfather worked hard and landed a steady job in Colombia.  He brought over family members — sisters, brothers, cousins. By this time, the family-members who stayed behind had lost their homes and their possessions. Women were interred in concentration camps, men in prisons. His younger brother managed to escape by swimming, while manacled to another man, to an American Red Cross ship on a mission of mercy.

My grandfather was a a builder. He was the rock on which my family’s survival was predicated.

My father was a refugee’s son. Born in the U.S., he was proud to serve his country. Barely seventeen, he volunteered to fight in WWII. No good deed goes unpunished, as he would say, and a few years later, as a result, he was recalled to fight in Korea. He served in a frontline regiment with blacks and whites, Latinos and Asians, children of immigrants and children of native-born. For him, this mosaic was the strength and promise of America. It was a country where no one went to sleep fearing that their neighbors would turn them into the authorities for being different.

My father’s defining quality was loyalty. He worked for the same company all his life. When that company went bust, my dad indebted himself up to the eyeballs to keep part of it afloat, in an effort to save jobs, lives. He too was a builder. He fought in wars and forged a company that helped make the American dream possible for many, including my family and myself.

I am the grandchild of a refugee. I was not weighted down with the tremendous responsibilities my father and grandfather had to bear at an early age. I was not drafted. There was no draft when I came of age. I started no companies. I did not buy the life and freedom of family members with my first paychecks. I lived in easier, fatter times.

But I have not forgotten the lessons they passed down. I have no patience for intolerance and hatred of others, it does not matter what the reason. I have no respect for leaders who play on racism and resentment. I know that the fear of immigrants and refugees is more than just nonsense. It is evil nonsense. It is the triumph of the haters and destroyers. 

This week I watched my 14 year-old son graduate from middle school. He seemed suddenly so grown, so adult. My heart filled with pride (and my eyes with tears). I hope to charge him only with the following task — to live a joyous, productive life, in whatever manner he chooses. But, I will also make sure he remembers that he is the great-grandson of a refugee, and that those who do not fight to make history, are condemned to repeat it.

Read the full piece here:

Monday, April 18, 2016

Supreme Court to Hear Argument on Fundamental, and Explosive Issue

Immigration is one of those explosive issues, like civil rights, that has overflowed the bounds of normal politics, and represents a fundamental battle over the nature and future of American society. I write about it here...

Thursday, February 11, 2016

On the Media Matrix and the Rubio "Glitch"

Media attention is like a spotlight. It illuminates the present with a blinding light and then proceeds to view both past and future in the reflected glow of the current moment. Marco Rubio’s campaign fortunes are a particularly dramatic example of the reinterpretation of electoral reality based on the changing vicissitudes of the right now. Last week, based on a third place finish in the Iowa caucus, Rubio was seen as a world-beater, capable of uniting the anti-Trump, anti-Cruz, majority of the Republican Party. Today, after a fifth-place finish in New Hampshire, Rubio is all but written off as a dead man running. The moment that the commentators have seized on to explain the turn-about is Rubio’s performance in the last GOP debate, specifically the hilariously nicknamed Rubio “glitch” ... Here is my take:

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Ted Cruz, Reluctant Latino, Makes Latino History. But, Where are the Democrats?

By beating Donald Trump and winning the Iowa caucus, Texas Senator Ted Cruz has made history. He became the first US Hispanic to win a major party caucus or primary that was not their own home state. The great irony is that Cruz's milestone, and Cruz is not the only rising Latino political star within the Republican party, comes at a time when the Latino electorate has increasingly thrown it's support to the Democratic party, which has not produced a Latino political figure of national importance in a generation.

Here is my piece:

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Accepting Syrian Refugees Will Make the US Safer

The very idea that U.S. governors would refuse to accept Syrian refugees, out of overblown fear and demagogic politics, fills me with despair at the complete eclipse of both reason and compassion. What has it come to? Do we turn away the victims of violence, because they frighten us so?

I am at a loss for words ... oh, wait...strike that... here are a few...

Wednesday, November 18, 2015