OPINION

The miracles and struggles of change and renewal

The Examiner

As we all well know, Cinco de Mayo has nothing to do with salsa, tequila or chicken enchiladas.

Some marketing genius transformed what was the recognition of a minor military skirmish in Mexico into a reason for Americans to eat, drink and whoop it up in the middle of the week.

Charita Goshay

After all, we barely care about our own history, let alone someone else's. 

Celebrating Cinco de Mayo exposes a weird dichotomy in America where we embrace certain aspects of others' cultures but resent the people to whom it belongs.

Every community in this country, for example, contains references to Native American culture, but some people bristle when tribal members complain about Chief Wahoo, the Redskins and the Tomahawk Chop.

In the same vein, Americans love Cinco de Mayo but not the people and the impending social change attached to it. That change is a more brown, more diverse nation in which Latinos now constitute America's largest minority demographic.

According to the U.S. Census, a Latino American turns 18 every 30 seconds, which works out to nearly 1 million potential new voters every year.

When change threatens to upend the default, it can be frightening to some people, especially when it's happening in real time.

During the 2016 election, there were ridiculous and unproven accusations that busloads of undocumented Latinos were being brought in to vote illegally. One talking head back then predicted that if the flow wasn't stopped, it would result in "taco trucks on every corner."

Well, OK.

This kind of fear is why the state of Arizona currently is in the throes of a whacky, money-wasting audit despite three previous recounts, all in the far-fetched hope it will overturn the results of the 2020 election and restore the previous president.

It's a worn-out trope, as old as the country itself, from "No Irish, no dogs" signs, to the lynching of Italians, to Polish jokes, to imprisoning Japanese-Americans, to the Chinese Exclusion Act, to pushing Native Americans from the land, and the fear and loathing of Blacks for 400 years.

Every time a group gets a foothold, it's cast by some as a threat to the nation's well-being.

Case in point, Jews have long been accused of controlling the banks and the media, a primordial prejudice that gets dusted off every generation as we saw for ourselves in Charlottesville, and among the insurrectionists on Jan. 6.

Every nation has the sovereign right to maintain its borders, and no one can dispute that there is a humanitarian crisis that threatens to overwhelm our capacity to deal with it, but broadcasts from there are regularly misused to further frighten and enrage people already certain that the country is being "overrun."

That's because it's easier to characterize the problem as an invasion than address the more nuanced and complicated issues caused by decades of corruption, violence and bad politics.

People who say they have no quarrel with those who arrive here legally were silent when a ban was issued against Muslim immigrants, or when the last administration all but closed the door on refugees and dramatically reduced how many people could legally emigrate.

The growing presence of Latinos means the country is undergoing a redefinition that extends far beyond food, music and sports. Again, this is not new. We are the nation that transformed St. Patrick's Day from a religious observance to a largely secular celebration of parties, parades and rivers of green beer; a day also embraced by Americans who are about as Irish as a bowl of kimchi.

One of this country's greatest talents has been our ability to absorb the gifts, art and traditions newcomers bring and make them our own.

Now, if we can just figure out the rest of the equation.

Reach Charita Goshay at 330-580-8313 or charita.goshay@cantonrep.com. She's on Twitter at @cgoshayREP.