Rod Dreher

Rod Dreher

Mexican stoicism, American optimism

In a melancholy meditation on the deeply flawed character of Cesar Chavez, Richard Rodriguez offers this:

The speech Chavez had written during his hunger strike of 1968, wherein he compared the UFW to David fighting Goliath, announced the Mexican ­theme: “I am convinced that the truest act of courage, the strongest act of manliness is to sacrifice ourselves for others in a totally ­non-­violent struggle for justice. To be a man is to suffer for others. God help us to be ­men.” (Nearly three decades later, in the program for Chavez’s funeral, the wording of his psalm was revised–“humanity” substituted for “manliness”: To be human is to suffer for others. God help me to be human.)
Nothing else Chavez would write during his life had such haunting power for me as this public prayer for a life of suffering; no utterance would sound so Mexican. Other cultures in the world assume the reality of suffering as something to be overcome. Mexico assumes the inevitability of suffering. That knowledge informs the folk music of Mexico, the bitter humor of its proverbs, the architecture of its stoicism. To be a man is to suffer for others. The code of machismo (which in American English translates too crudely to sexual bravado) in Mexico derives from a medieval chivalry whereby a man uses his strength to protect those less powerful. God help us to be men.
…If you would understand the tension between Mexico and the United States that is playing out along our mutual border, you must understand the psychic tension between Mexican ­stoicism–­if that is a rich enough word for ­it–­and American optimism. On the one side, Mexican peasants are tantalized by the American possibility of change. On the other side, the tyranny of American optimism has driven Americans to neurosis and ­depression–­when the dream is elusive or less meaningful than the myth promised. This constitutes the great irony of the Mexican-American border: American sadness has transformed the drug lords of Mexico into billionaires, even as the peasants of Mexico scramble through the darkness to find the American ­dream.

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Rob Murphy

posted March 15, 2010 at 2:57 pm

That is a very interesting post Rod. One of your more thoughtful shorter posts. Also, very timely, and likely to become even more relevant in the future. I get the sense that you have a decent understanding of Mexico. Is that based on time spent there, books read…? Can you recommend anything?

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posted March 15, 2010 at 3:12 pm

Allan Wall at VDARE writes about Mexico:

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posted March 15, 2010 at 6:29 pm

Google Ads. serves up this on this post’s page
Hottest Mexican Women
Browse 100s Photo & Video profiles. Find Your Sweetheart in Mexico!
For all there brilliance, they aren’t very birlliant.

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posted March 15, 2010 at 10:43 pm

Mexico needs to come up with a dream of their own for their working class to aspire to instead of having them illegally run across the border.

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Randy G.

posted March 16, 2010 at 5:08 pm

“¡Pobre Mexico! Tan lejos de Dios; y tan cerca de los Estados
Unidos.” –Poor Mexico! so far from God, and so close to the United States.”
This phrase has long been cited as a national saying, at least in Northern Mexico. This ought to be put alongside the newly revised History Standards for Texas schools textbooks, where race is absent and any hint of land-seeking by the Texas colonists is suppressed.
Randy G.

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Randy G.

posted March 16, 2010 at 5:13 pm

Rod’s comments here draw me back to the training in faith-based social justice that I attended this past Saturday. The day focused on justice here in our Michigan neighborhoods, and in Honduras, where Society for a More Just Society works to secure land titles and workers’ rights for the people.
The keynote speaker’s message was that seeking justice for our neighbors is based on the fact that all of us are created in the image of God, that we are ALL fallen, but none absolutely, and that oppression begins with de-humanizing other persons or groups.
Randy Gabrielse

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