Living In Mexico

Though a conservative, I read liberal points of view. I do so for two reasons.

One, their views help me refine my own.

The second reason is that I owe it to “the other side” to be able to fairly and accurately characterize their position on an issue with which I take exception. Not to do so and then try to argue against that liberal position is dishonest, unfair, and unthinking.

Sometimes some liberal op-ed writers make an awful lot of sense, sometimes not. I can say the very same thing for those on the right. One of my favorite writers on the left is Susan Estrich. I read her with an almost religious fervor. I don’t always agree with her arguments. But, when I do it is because she did one thing most backbiting pundits, screed generating Bloggers, and most everyone on the planet refuse to do: THINK.

The older I become the more convinced I am that critical thinking skills are what is lacking in the hearts and minds of Americans. I include those with little education to a lot of those with so-called educations. I wonder, if asked, could average Americans explain how to think critically about an issue? Could they articulate the principles involved in determining whether someone is offering them a sound, well-reasoned argument or if they are being fed a load of crap?

Susan Estrich once said something that applies to my present expatriate circumstance as I sit in the city of Guanajuato, Mexico, typing these words. To what she was referring was a specific issue on which she was opining with her editorializing prowess.

Her point was, why engage in mindless attacks on the messenger when you should be debating the message that the messenger was bearing. Even in this particular op-ed, what Susan should have pointed out was even in the opposite side’s meaningless personal attack, the attackers were not employing correctly argumentum ad hominem. They just attacked because, frankly, I don’t think they could do otherwise. They lacked the skills. I will tell you why I think that later in this essay.

“I come from the school of politics that says ultimately, we’re all on the same team, that you fight as hard as you can all day, but after the day ends, you drink together, or eat together, or party together. Whatever it is that you do, you do it with people on the other side, as well. It’s a disagreement, not a war. We’re partisans, not enemies. I don’t call this the “old” school but the better one.” -Source Below

This was an excellent quote from Susan Estrich’s op-ed that rather nicely sums up what I’ve been trying to do in my writing about American Expat issues in Mexico.

I disagree profoundly with the formation of Gringo Expat Communities or Enclaves in the cities and towns where Americans land when they expatriate to Mexico. I believe the primary reason these Gringolandias are formed is because Americans will not, not that they cannot, learn Spanish.

This has been historically true almost everywhere Americans have gone overseas. They will form enclaves based almost entirely on the fact they are linguistically challenged and unnecessarily so.

During the height of the Cold War, when the U.S.S.R., our enemy, sent Foreign Service workers into the field, they came linguistically and culturally ready. The arrived on site with bilingual fluency.

The Americans? They did not. Even today, as was true in the 40’s and 50’s in Southeast Asia, America’s Foreign Service workers are not required to know the language in the country in which they find themselves stationed.

For a good read, go to Amazon.com, type in “The Ugly American” and buy a copy. It is a fictionalized version of actual events. In the book, the point is made that to not learn the host country’s language is to offer its citizens the utmost disrespect. When I ask the locals in Guanajuato the following question: “¿Ud. cree es una cuestión de respecto para que los americanos aprendan español cuando se mueven a México?”

The unanimous response from college-aged kids to older adults has been a resounding, “YES!”

I wish I could report to you that those in Guanajuato’s Gringolandia have brilliantly engaged me in civil discourse and rational debate in which they offered me a well-crafted critical counter argument that took my premises to task. But, I can’t tell you that.

The extent to which these Gringolandians have engaged me has been with face-to-face and email threats, vile and profane comments, and claims that I have broken Mexico’s libel laws for which they would like to see me put in jail.

Just yesterday, I sent an email to a lady in Guanajuato’s Gringolandia at the bequest of someone who told me this woman was eager to make amends. She was not. As is the case with so many, the extent of her counter-argument was that I was a crazy man incapable of the perception of a normal human being and that I was never to contact her again.

So goes the American Democratic concept of the Market Place of Ideas in which you debate hard, argue as brilliantly as you can, and then, at the end of the day:

“… you drink together, or eat together, or party together. Whatever it is that you do, you do it with people on the other side, as well…We’re partisans, not enemies.”

Thanks, Susan, for some great prose.

Shame on you, you Gringolandians!

What I’ve been presenting in my prose is a disagreement, an opinion, not a war!