Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Costa Mesa - Bastion of Intolerance

I don't know about you, but I've passed the age when I expect the world to be full of surprises. As an old coot, I figure I've pretty much seen it all. Sometimes, though, something pops up that you just didn't expect.


For example, late last week I received a telephone call from a fellow who identified himself as a correspondent for Belgian Public Television, seeking some face time with me. He's based in Washington, D.C. and had an assignment to do a story on racism in America. After researching this subject a little he decided to jump on an airplane and come to Costa Mesa, California, which he perceived to be a hotbed of racism in our country! I'm not kidding - that's what he said!

Well, as you might expect, that comment rocked me back a little.


Due to social obligations over the weekend I had to beg off any personal, on-camera interviews, but did provide him with a few names of activists on both sides of the issue who might have time for him, including one he already knew of that writes his own blog here in town. I have no idea if he made contact with any of them. His piece was supposed to air sometime this week, but I doubt if many of us have access to Belgian Public Television, so we won't be seeing the results of his handiwork - at least not first hand.


I'm very disappointed that our city has become internationally notorious for the perception of it's position on race, but I guess I'm not surprised. Ever since former mayor Allan Mansoor attempted to cross-designate every Costa Mesa Police officer as an immigration screener two years ago and had his face plastered all over the national media as a "brave crime fighter" our city has become the tip of the lance wielded by the far-right-wing screamers in the battle of illegal immigration in this country.

The presence and interference of Minuteman Grand Pooba, Jim Gilchrist, and his not-so-merry band of miscreants added fuel to that fire as they paraded around our city blockading businesses and stood before our City Council professing the righteousness of Mansoor's crusade against the invading brown hoard from south of the border.

Mansoor's ham-handed handling of the Benito Acosta affair, which was widely reported in the local and national media and can be viewed on YouTube ad infinitum, only exacerbated the situation. Mansoor's ill-timed and insensitive comments throughout the following summer when gang violence erupted amplified the perception of our city as a bastion of hate.


I've written many times about this subject. For most of this decade I've watched as frustrated residents followed the lead of a small knot of malcontents with racist views who guided them down this dark path. I've been amazed that the anti-Latino sentiment has been so widespread and pervasive in our city. I, naively, thought the residents of this town were more tolerant and intelligent - that it would take more than the rants of an articulate racist and the cherubic smile of our young jailer/mayor to direct them down this path. I was wrong.


I look forward and see the year ahead, which will bring yet another election, and hope the voters of this city will not be swayed by the ongoing drumbeat of intolerance. The character assassination and lies that have become far too prevalent in politics - and our local politics in particular - has already begun. The City Council election in November could end up with a super-majority - a de facto absolute majority - of self-anointed "improvers" on the dais. That, in my view, would be catastrophic for our city. It would hand our future to the forces of intolerance and forever scar our city as a place where only white people need apply. It would eliminate any check and balance in our system of governance and permit them to, literally, plow the earth where Latinos live in our city and effectively expunge them from our borders.


I sincerely hope that does not happen. I hope the good voters of this city finally see what's going on around them and reject and repudiate those who would perpetuate this systematic march that has made our city a metaphor for racism and intolerance.

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