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Sunday, February 19, 2006

How Do You Feel? Or Do You?

(Pic: Miami Rescue Mission, Thanksgiving '06)
Your comments cause reflection-
I get a number of comments and I post almost none of them. I do read many of them however. Most are just additional opinions and perspectives that are interesting but not enough to do a full and thoughtful reply. Many are encouraging comments that I am thankful for. Some are bits of info that lead to new blog entries (though I often pass having limited time and resources to research without making myself open for a lawsuit). Some are critical and still others are just nasty and stupid.

Especially if you're Cuban
I can usually detect the critical and nasty right off. (In the past however I have let the worst sort of comments go unfiltered and I don't have time to deal with a dozen blogs and journals, plus work, etc. so thus goes open comments.) So I opened a comment and thought, another reader has spit his pacifier… But it was from the heart, genuine and well written. The writer is a blogger who I’ve exchanged with once or twice, who stances are in diametric opposition to most of my opinions on foreign policy, especially Latin America. (I believe that we both feel strongly and deeply about the region and want the same things but have totally different reading of history, economics, social theory etc. but that is not what Miamista or this posting is about.) I’m not going to lie. Because it was a Cuban American I bothered to read it through and assess. Yeah, we Cubans are like that. Know what? He thinks I am anti-Cuban American. My criticism of the public schools also annoyed him a bit.

Am I that bad?-
I looked back at some of my postings. Obviously I'm not like many bloggers, hard as Chinese algebra for approval. And? When reading what I had to say about most, but not all Black elected officials, I've been a pretty aggressive critic. Let’s see, Anglos- I was one of the few folks with a hint of a progressive bent to take issue with Jim Defede as some halo wearing muckraker. I went out of my way to point out that Anglo led Miami had problems with corruption and vice way before Hispanics were here in any sizable number. I’ve often spoke in derision about the Anglo habit of regarding themselves as conservators of clean government. And I pointed out that the largely Jewish retiree population was partially to blame for a deterioration of public education in the county, as they were the strongest voice against education spending for years (since their children were grown and living elsewhere), leaving our educational system woefully underdeveloped. I had an article up about Gay male community leaders taking an unnecessarily confrontational approach in the North Miami Beach elections which eroded the positive impact the Gay community was having in the city in other ways.

Partisan? Well I know I am an equal opportunity critic. Note that I said some things positive about Jeb Bush’s FCAT policy and his support of Scripps, though all in all I find him to be a gross failure of a governor. The same analysis could be made about my feelings concerning Mayor Diaz. Besides, I'm not a partisan type.

Characterizations of Miami politics and society, hmm, now there’s something to ponder. Do I think we have some folks around who have brought banana republic politics and social dysfunction over here from Latin America. Shock and horror! I do! It is not like the reasons for such an assertion are unknown nor is it a narrowly held analysis. By the same token I have supported a number of Hispanic candidates, including Agustin Barrera and Jimmy Morales, who I believe may be the best civic leader this county has seen since Merrett Stierheim retired.

And those whom I expose, hold up to scrutiny or ridicule; they come from all backgrounds and I even target people I know and like if they deserve it.

Your Fair and Balanced News Source-
I was the first source to point out that my Grove neighbor from Dale Simpson, former head of Camillus House, was stealing from and using the homeless as virtual slaves. The first to mention that the Public Health Trust, led by an African American, teamed up with Human Services Coalition, (led by an Jewish woman that I happen to respect) and an assortment of most White and African American organizations to waste taxpayers’ money in failed outreach programs for years. I was also the first person to mention that the same HSC, champion of unions and workers’ rights, publically took a steamrolled attempts by HSC’s own employees to unionize. I also exposed some inflated numbers in the Earned Income Tax Credit program, which nevertheless is still being pushed by Manny Diaz and social services organizations cooperating with the sham (hoping for further city funding).

And more stories / multicultural misdeeds... (Awards aren't necessary)
I informed the public that community agencies were unhappy with the Miami Dade Alliance for Human Services and their funding-gateway relationship and conflicts of interests among board membership. In South Miami I mentioned harassment by an Anglo officer of a black, middle class professional and I pointed out the hypocrisy of the city's Anglo electorate for voting along racial lines for a developer candidate. I was the first to talk about FIU’s Urban Health department working with drug companies to do human experiments on the homeless (and wound up having to leak it to a national news outlet when local folks would not follow up on the story). I exposed a homeless prositution ring by a Black Camillus House employee. I leaked that the Department of Business Development was covering up problems in its minority and women set aside programs and wage/pay oversight, letting favored contractors get by, even though the county just relaxed oversight rules even more. The DBD is headed by an African American woman.

I was the first to tell about Miami-Dade Community College ETCOTA’s program lost federal contracts, overcharging of handicap students in their job training program, and press releases falsely claiming transfer agreements with Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Columbia, (and other colleges). ETCOTA was led by an Anglo and African American at the time. I noted that the Cuban American woman who serves as MDC Dean of Students, Madeline Pumariega and an MDC Arab American college president were forcing Miami Dade student newspaper editors to get rid of critical editorials of the school and administration.

I broke the story on accounting fraud at FIU's HSET research program, an office led by an Arab American. I was the first to share some FIU faculty and administration grievances about hiring, and administrative practices (okay, the folks in there were Cuban). And I shared the story of a Cuban American director of admissions at FIU, Carmen Brown, who had damn near a dozen complaints by Black employees for discrimination as well as a recommendation for termination by the EOE office at FIU to no avail.

Where is my goddamn check?
Come to think about it, I’ve given you readers, as well as press outlets (when they were interested) more damn stories than AP. And believe it or not I'm not comfortable with snitching unless it's about something really harmful and ugly. (Miami should be a journalist's dream because info on bullshit is just there.) Main point- I was Equal Opportunity diming.

Your not so fair and balanced news sources-
Recently I accused the Herald’s Anglo, Jewish, Black and to a lesser extent, Cuban American writers of ignoring social issues and problems confronting Cubans and other Hispanics while portraying Hispanics, especially Cubans, as a dark, omnipotent force. It is a potent and dangerous mythology. I also touched upon the other community characterizations that go on in the Herald. I do believe there is something to what I said. However I cannot imagine how this could be construed as anti-Cuban...

Perhaps the problem is the atmosphere in Miami regarding these issues. Miami is a town where most people who have a voice are intent upon ignoring the problems of those who don't. It is also a place where many people come to live their dreams and then get caught in grinding poverty under the mocking glare of tightly-held wealth controlled by a tiny, corrupt elite (just like the countries many are from). I imagine Biscayne Bay, Fisher Island and Miami Beach as ultimately symbolic- communities with moats- around tourists, the wealthy and ultimately our exisitence from the rest of the country.

With bloggers like these-
So there is a big gap here for blogs to fill in and a lot of info for bloggers to share. But it isn’t happening. Miami has blogger participation fitting for a Nebraska farming community. You read all those blogs from Liberty City, Sweetwater, Hialeah and Allapattah? Neither have I.

There are few "Miami" bloggers who have even thought of mentioning any of Miami’s problems, unless referencing hallowed journalist, St. Defede. MOST Miami bloggers allegedly write about local event but have never been in the Northwest quadrant of our city (unless speeding along I-95); haven't been in a Southwest neighborhood unless you count a tourist trap restaurant on Calle Ocho; nor been to a dirty south town except on a pit stop to a Dixie Highway convenience store on the way to Key West. And I cannot remember two bloggers that have written about a African American/Bahamian/Haitian/West Indian/wrong side of the tracks Latino personage or neighborhood or cultural attraction… This is probably because the Miami Herald or the Miami New Times haven’t informed our in-the-thick-of-it, ear-to-the-street observors.

I may be annoying. But look at THAT bullshit-
I expect what I say is not agreed upon by all, angers some and puts others off. I appreciate respectful notes, even that have barely contained annoyance. On the other end I've noticed ONE local blogger (who takes his bullshit blog way too seriously) engage in what he imagined would be clever and subtle snarkiness... but sadly he wasn't capable. It might be that said blogger could engage himself finding something salient or worth discussing which seems to be in short supply on his blog lately. Anyway...

I do try to shake things up in Miamista. While you will find mention of daytrips, idle wanderings and proof of my own dissolute, sand grown life I still focus on some of the serious shit that is going on around us. That is because Miami is the poorest city in America with the highest rate of violent crimes; it has the highest rate of uninsured; it has the highest rate of AIDS and HIV; it has the highest high school drop-out rate; it has a tremendous problem with unemployment and underemployment; it has the highest rate of functional illiteracy in the country; it has a Black population that is living under conditions that rival Uganda; it has Central Americans, Aztec and Maya who deal with widespread poverty and racism; it has swaths of Cuban American poverty in entire municipalities like Hialeah that make the City of Miami look damn near affluent; and there is a track record of law breaking and general malfeasance in municipal government and our public schools’ leadership that would make any Third World despot wince.

The answer to our problems to this point has been to cover it up and stifle media coverage. And it's starting to work because people are just letting it go as if it didn't matter. It's just words right?

How does it make you feel?
This sort of dysfunction has meaning in human terms that is downright heart breaking. Only those who are heartless and worthless can turn a blind eye to suffering, to be dazzled by a strip of neon on Ocean Drive. There is little room for boosterism and blissful ignorance. (Except maybe a weekly dance, shitface and rumpy pumpy on South Beach.) There isn't room for brushing and glossing; a thorough gaze is due even it shreds some misplaced notions of civic pride. That is because true civic pride, even in circumstances better than ours, comes from addressing problems and finding solutions.

Maybe there IS a secret agenda by the Cuban haters-
So yeah, maybe I do focus on Cuban American politicians (and there is no shortage of them). Miami is where, in the popular imagination and to some degree of reality, Hispanics are demonstrating our grasp of civic responsibility. Because of this, there is a special onus on us. But onlookers beware.

We don’t run the city as a group, nor do we run it alone. The masses of Hispanics feel (at least from my experience) they have little say in government and often voice the same sort of frustration as non-Cubans/non-Hispanics. My brow raises when the Herald fluffs ire at local Hispanic developers but purrs when mentioning 800 pound gorilla Lennar. Hispanics don’t own the Herald or the New Times, we don’t own the television affiliates (including the major Spanish language networks) and we are minor players in the tourism cash cow. And we are not the only ones who vote.

St. Miamista-
A final note upon this is that I never criticize a problem or potential solution when I have not done something personally to set things aright. I'm comfortable with my efforts to make things better. I've shared some of these things with you and I'll continue to, but not as priority in itself.

So yeah, I’m fine with what I put up. And I do take what commenters and correspondents have to say seriously. It means someone cares. Really, I have had about enough of writing on Miami’s dysfunction and I understand why the county of Dade is still in the midst of record out-migration. I'm contemplating a break for a year or two myself (later about that). See, it isn’t the problems, it’s the apathy.

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