Grits and Tamales

Life in the Deep South, by Gabriel Aguilera

Monthly Archives: March 2016

Closet Trumpistas

Closet Trumpistas are getting easier to spot. These tend to be educated and good-hearted Whites who love tacos and are doing well economically. They love the military, their guns, and they go to church. They are not inveterate racists; however, they are uneasy with race and gender diversity as well as rapid change. They want the 1950s back albeit without Jim Crow. They still love President Bush even though they understand that he badly bungled Iraq and Afghanistan. Although they reject humanitarian interventionism they are in fact neoconservative and aggressive, eager for us to seek out monsters that would harm America. They believe the nation has gone off the rails economically and is not respected in the world despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. President Obama still cannot be trusted, they feel, because deep down he is a liberal radical who, if given a chance, would come and take their guns. They will stay home because they don’t trust Clinton. We might also call them The Sons of Sam Huntington.


Frets About The Abuela

I read and enjoyed Lucia Brawley’s essay in the HuffPost some days ago. I thought the author compelling and she made me rethink my priors with respect to Presidential Candidate Clinton, and why supporting her is so terribly important even with all the reservations that I have based on her long wrap sheet.

Candidate Clinton has been too close to scandal and corruption (Whitewater, commodities trading), money grubbing (speaker fees), law-breaking (larding her personal account with classified and sensitive emails), cozying up to the financial sector (speaker fees, campaign contributions, etc.), and much else. Plus, she and her campaign team can be ruthless and rough – downright Republican – during campaigns (see race-baiting during the primary against Obama).

However, I essentially agreed with Brawley’s essay that many of these trespasses are the price of power and must be judged through the prisms of realism and pragmatism. Clinton has climbed a brutal trek to the top of a mountain strewn with land mines. Like LBJ on his path to power before arriving at the White House, she too has bounced back stronger from setbacks.

Perhaps her Candidate Clinton’s greatest accomplishment since she was First Lady has been her great transformation from liberal icon to fiscal conservative. She was once the poster child for a radical restructuring of healthcare reform that, under her leadership, crashed and burned because in part she had misread the country’s political landscape. Since becoming Senator she has perched herself on the center-right of the policy spectrum and has built a strong base among the military brass. Moderate conservatism resides in what will soon be her party. Clinton is poised for the presidency and there is only the smallest chance that she won’t win. She will, I think, carry on with and try to deepen Obama’s domestic policies. If she turns out to be 70 percent as competent as Obama in this arena I will be happy. The economy will be in good hands.

My biggest area of concern with respect to a Clinton presidency is national security affairs. Part of the price of building her bona fides has been that she has ingratiated herself with the military and hawks in congress. There is a swath of generals who like her because she is tough and has not been afraid from her perches in the Senate and State to support dubious interventions – in sharp contrast to President Obama’s restraint (inter alia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria). She supported the war in Iraq and sided with the military and defense in favoring a ridiculously large surge in Afghanistan. In short, she shows signs of being trigger happy and too eager to trust generals who in the end are rarely held accountable for mistakes.

In her defense, all I can say is that I hope that her aggressive internationalism has been a function of politics, that is to say, that she made her choices because, like amassing wealth via speaker fees, they were necessary for accumulating power. Once in power it is my hope that restraint will be in order with respect to money-grubbing and her dubious embracing of liberal interventionists (Samantha Power et. al), neoconservatives, and hawkish generals. I am not optimistic on foreign policy. My bet is that we will return back to the imprudence of the Bush years.

Field Studies in the Americas (FSA)

Field Studies in the Americas (FSA)

One of the most attractive attributes of my current employment is that each year in early March for two weeks I get to lead a field studies trip to Latin America. FSA has been a grand experience, personally and professionally. As a professor of international relations and Latin American politics, the trips have enabled me to see more of the region than I otherwise could.

Right now I am in Peru after spending a few days Mexico. This year’s trip – my fifth – will continue on to Colombia before returning home to Alabama. By the time this trip is over, I will have been to Mexico five times, Colombia twice, Peru twice, Chile once, Ecuador once, and Panama once. In Mexico, we have visited Mexico City, Guadalajara, Toluca, and Tapachula. In Colombia, Bogota, Cartagena, and Medellin. In Peru, Lima, Cusco, and Machu Pichu. In Chile, Santiago, Valparaiso, and wine country. In Ecuador, Quito and the amazon region. In Panama, the Panama Canal. Next year we will travel once again to Mexico and, I hope, back to Chile. With some luck I hope to be able to travel to a new country, perhaps Nicaragua, Bolivia, or maybe even Argentina. I think that of the countries that I have had the opportunity to visit, there are some that I hope to visit once again on my own dime for exploration and adventure. In addition to Mexico, where I plan to retire, I think that Peru tops the list. I would love to mountain bike in the Cusco environs, hike Machu Pichu, and surf its northwestern coast.

I got to thinking about this opportunity and about how it might go away due to budget cuts or shifting priorities at my institution. I certainly would be sad to see FSA go. They are extremely valuable for the students, for my institution, and, not least of all, for our country partners. However, I understand fiscal and political reality enough to be a realist and am grateful for the experiences and memories.

Here are some pretty pictures of Machu Pichu. I had my students read relevant sections of 1491 in preparation. Be sure to click on the photo to see it in nice resolution.




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