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writing for godot

HB2281: U.S. Military Personnel and the Logic used to Eliminate the Mexican American Studies Program in Tucson, Arizona

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Written by Miguel Jimenez   
Tuesday, 31 January 2012 07:57

How does somebody prove their loyalty to their country? Although a variety of answers can address this question, military service would definitely have to be incorporated. It is important to point this out because in Tucson, Arizona, a successful Mexican American Studies Program was terminated based on critics’ claims that it was un-American. Some of the xenophobes argued that if Mexican American students wanted to learn about their history and culture they should go back to Mexico. I guess that maybe they forgot, or were unaware that Mexican Americans have a long history in the United States. They must have attended Katt Williams’ controversial show in Arizona where he demonstrated his ignorance of Mexican American history. Nonetheless, seeking knowledge about one’s ethnic or cultural roots is not unique to Mexican Americans because when I served in the military, this was evident among different ethnic groups. For instance, there were many Marines, of diverse ethnic backgrounds, who demonstrated pride for a flag other than the stars and stripes, and many others who enthusiastically studied and embraced their own ethnic history and culture. These Marines—unlike some jingoistic Americans— risked their lives in service to their nation. Would critics of the MAS program have the tenacity to argue that these Marines were un-American? After all, the logic utilized to eliminate the MAS program would imply such a claim.

Whether some of us want to accept it or not, the fact is that there are plenty of Americans who have an interest in learning about their ethnic heritage and embracing their cultural background. And many of these people have the responsibility of protecting our nation. Would it be fair to tell service men and women who are willing to risk their lives for their country that it is un-American to exhibit pride or interest for their German, Irish, or Scottish heritage? Or, are Latinos who proudly display Mexican or Puerto Rican flags in their barracks or display any other form of ethnic pride, any less American? And let us not forget the White southerner who has traditionally embraced the Confederate flag and southern culture while serving in the military.

Clearly, desiring to learn about your history or culture does not equate to being un-American or anti-American because if that was really the case, I doubt that I would have met Marines who exhibited pride for the aforementioned cultures and ethnic groups. This is probably why Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal, when asked by Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman, stated that he did not have anything against Mexican American students learning about their culture or history; what he found inappropriate was that MAS teachers were indoctrinating students with Marxist and other leftist ideologies. Apparently, Huppenthal’s red baiting was based on the fact that students were learning critical thought which was also employed by Karl Marx. However, even though there is not anything inappropriate with learning Marx’s theoretical perspectives, not all critical thinking is associated with Marxism. A simple Venn diagram could have been utilized to demonstrate that Marx is just one of many theorists who espoused critical thinking. For example, Chicana/o Studies Historian, Rodolfo Acuña, stated that Mesoamerican civilizations also applied critical thinking in their quest to understand their world and the cosmos, and it was also evident in Europe prior to the Christian era, “Socrates […] was the first recorded philosopher using critical thinking as a method.”

Although the fight for the MAS program is not over, those opposed to the program have rejoiced over its current elimination. This unfortunate reality reminds me of the interviews I conducted for my thesis project. My research documented the military experiences of several Mexican American veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. Toward the end of each interview, I always asked the veterans if they wanted to state any final comments; some of them stated that they were grateful for the study because they were aware that the experiences of Mexican American veterans are seldom recognized. Just as it would be ridiculous to accuse these veterans of being un-American for wanting to see further documentation of Mexican American veterans, the same could be argued for the MAS students who merely seek to attend a school where their histories and experiences are relevant to the curriculum. There is nothing un-American about Mexican Americans wanting to have their stories acknowledged. As human beings, we all have that right.



 

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