By Armando Vazquez
Coming on my 70 years here in Oxnard, here on earth, these are some of my latest thoughts on the vital issues I will continue to work on until the day I die. May the spirit give me 30 more years to wage love’s revolution!
- Stop All War: home and abroad: Guns or butter America…Oxnard? Guns represent military and butter is everything else in the budget. That is the choice that has always faced a nation’s greedy and evil intent on expanding its global influence. The USA has become the obsessive world’s imperialistic warlord. So in 2018 the United States spent $700 billion dollars in military spending. In Oxnard the 2017-2018 budget for the police is over $70 million dollars. The appetite to expand, colonialize, bomb and kill grows unabated. The devastating consequence of this warped imperialistic mind-set means that this nation’s (our cities’) clear priorities are to sacrifice everything (people, health, education, and housing) at the local and national level to wage war on all our enemies, real or perceived, to makes us feel “safe” at the expense of others that do not look or think like us; and at the same time, feed the out of control military monster. We are fast becoming an inhumane, evil, fearful and violent country, and all the billions that we budget for our military and police spending will not change that. On the contrary, only with love, non-violent common sense and total rejection of war and carnage that, we have levelled all over the world and on this nation, will save us from ourselves.
- Universal Healthcare for all: This year, 2019, my daughter was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). My oldest son is also afflicted with MS. My son and daughter are blessed to have good private insurance. Without the insurance coverage they currently have, they would face devastating and incalculable health and financial consequences. Millions of Americans have similar health care issues, and the millions of Americans who are without the protection of some type of insurance will suffer; many will die. At the heart of the current insurance debate is how much should big pharm, the insurance industries and the medical industry make in profits? In a capitalistic society, profit is all that really matters. The United States holds over 45 percent of the global pharmaceutical market. In 2018 this share was valued at over $500 billion dollars. The life/health insurance net premium business netted for 2018 totalled are over $ 600 billion dollars. In 2017 America’s total medical cost totalled $3.4 trillion dollars. So, again how much is enough for the industry capitalist? Do these big three American businesses take my daughter or my son, or any other American without insurance or acute health issues into account? The current answer is of course not! So we must elect new and courageous lawmakers that will fight for the Universal Healthcare for all, only in this way can we assure that every life in America is dignified with the appropriate health coverage care that we all deserve. Universal Healthcare is a right not a privilege. If we believe, this to be more than a slogan, but an absolute right of every American then we can make it a reality! Register, become and activate and VOTE!
- College Education for all: All of us that have been fortunate enough to have benefited from a higher education know explicitly that nothing opens the heart and the mind like a college education. Likewise, nothing levels the very unlevel socioeconomic playing field like a higher education. It is a no brainer; just ask any person, like your parents, who have not had the blessing and benefits of college education. The USA spent about $59 billion dollars in 2018 on education and according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics about $182 billion on prisons, without adding anything much to public safety mitigation. It is the same insatiable grotesque war game played domestically mostly on the backs of Black, Latino and Indigenous brothers and sisters. In Oxnard the entire educational school systems seems to be in perpetual freefall with incompetence and self-serving politics ruling the day. The big loser in this shameful spectacle are the kids. With this early educational betrayal it will take a heroic effort on ALL of the Oxnard kids to dream about, much less obtain, a college education. More than ever folks we must take control of our local schools. Our kid’s future are depends on our revolutionary action. Register, Activate, VOTE!
- Latino Art Center in Oxnard: Here we are in 2019 and the Latino population still lags behind, and in some case is falling further behind the general populations in economic and political gains that had been temporarily achieved three decades earlier. With Trump in the White House, the economic, political and social justice outlook for Latino America looks grimmer than ever. On a local and national level we have little to no political clout; and as such we are pathetically impotent and powerless; and in our new incarnation have become the de jour “whipping boy/girl” minority for Trump and his horde of rabid economic nationalist that want nothing more than to round us all up and ships “all those Latinos” back to their country of origin: Mexico. This “evil racist group think” is as dangerous as it is infectious. We Latinos must be smarter, more courageous, and bold and stand up to this evil. Our art and culture is our powerful redemptive weapon of non-violent resistance, self-determination and unity.
Indeed, where the Latinos have made incremental, yet notable progress in American life is the arts. And the reason why we have made such notable progress is due largely and to a very significant degree because the “product of creation “is in our heads, hearts and hands, and can’t be easily ripped off, although American capitalism never stops trying. Art in all its glorious manifestations and mutations is a magical, transformational, and universal power that we Latinos must embrace and exercise exponentially. This is why Latino art and culture is so vital, and so important; not for one artificially designated token month (September 15- October 16 designated as Latino Heritage Month) but for the entire year, for a lifetime.
Arte cura mucho mas que la locura. Art is a magical elixir for the heart and mind; that helps us become art gods of creation and liberation. In the fifty plus years that I have been painting, writing and teaching these art forms to our youth in my community I have found nothing that comes close to the magical transformational power of the arts to liberate a soul and mind from a kid that through evil forces had somehow jacked her/his aspirational soul. Art is a wondrous mighty thing, and who know it may yet infuse itself into the soul, mind and heart of the American psyche and liberate it from our current national nightmare that threatening to rip this country apart? Art is the divine, magical and creative glue that can and will hold all America together in a loving caring embrace. We must just let art come into our hearts! We need a home in Oxnard for a Latino Art Museum now! Register, activate and VOTE!
- Social justice for All: I have been working with immigrant, poor, at-risk youth and their families in California for over 50 years; in the barrio and the ghetto parents universally admonish and remind their children, especially their boys, “Cuidado con la policia (Be careful with the police!). We, the parents, never say,” watch out for the gangs, the bad kids” We always cross our kids, kiss them on the forehead and remind them to be careful and avoid the police. We do not have outlaw children. What we have is rampant out of control injustice; as such our black, brown and red kids are profiled and targeted by the cops in Oxnard and throughout this country. 50 years of the War on Crime has resulted in over 2.5 million mostly Black, Latinos and Indigenous men and women in prison. This war has been a disastrous failure, destroying the lives of millions of lives. What we need is 50 years of love, empathy and compassion and to begin immediately introduction into our cities and country best practices 21st century safety, social and restorative justice community programming.
In dealing with serious and long term community solutions and interventions to youth pathology and dysfunction we must first honestly recognise and deal with the brutally harsh punitive and negligent indifferent societal environment that helped to a large degree create the unique American “gang” youth problem in the first place. How can anyone deny that the world is a violent and turbulent maelstrom of racism, sexism, religious fanaticism bordering on the worship of insanity, hatred and intolerance? All this violence has been created almost exclusively by men, young and old, all over the world, including Oxnard. I suggest that if you are really interested in knowing the truth avoid the cops, the school and local officials and go directly to the kids. Ask them about community solutions and interventions solutions, and they will provide answers.
Anthropologist João Biehl and his theory of social abandonment in his ground-breaking book entitled, Vita: Life in a Zone of Social Abandonment, maps the process in Brazilian society of social abandonment (the intentional institutional process of de-humanizing marginal populations) and the path that is systemically paved toward social ostracism and exclusion for marginalized individuals. Central to Biehl’s theory is the idea that a status of “ex-humanness” is prevalent in ostracized groups,” a state of non-personhood, worthlessness, and invisibility, must be reached in order for society to dehumanize, easily discard and abandon a group or individual. Ominously Biehl adds, that the processes of social change constantly offers new, creative and altered ways in which a person can lose his/her perceived ”humanness” to become super predators, terrorists, animals, gang members. In other words, the privileged (Oxnard City Council, ICE, law enforcement) policy makers of our society are always scheming to find new policies and laws to further alienate and dispose more effectively of those “alien, dangerous impotent and disenfranchised ex-human” individuals and group populations in the community. That how in 2005, Oxnard got enacted it two unconstitutional Civil “Gang” Injunctions by first sensationalizing crime, stoking fear and de-humanizing the Chicano youth of the community. 15 years later, we, the community is about to defeat this policing “tool” from hell. Help us abolish the Oxnard Civil Gang Injunction and demand that our city incorporation restorative justice models that build redemptive lives and restore justice to all of the community. Register, activate and VOTE!
- Love Mother Earth or Die: Only insane men and women can deny that we are pillaging, raping, desecrating and rapidly destroying our mother earth. Predictions are grim for the survival of the human species if we don’t get our act together immediately. We can all do our small part, teach our children what we have not taught or learn ourselves. We all know what to do individually and we make conscience and consequential choices each and every day. As a city (Oxnard) and as a nation (Washington, D.C.) we are a mess! Amoral, madness created by insatiable greed for gold and power. The privileged capitalist and their law making lackeys, neglect the real needs of the people and seemly always play on real and virtual pristine green golf course which are fertilized and littered with the bodies of all living things. Grotesquely these monster feel omnipotent and immune from the annihilation that they have level on this earth. These fools, of course, will perish just like the rest of us. If we kill ourselves off as species, wars will finally come to an end. Is that the eternal legacy we want to endow upon our kids? The mission to save mother earth is scientifically straight forward. We are up against monstrous stupidity, greed and evil can we prevail? Register, activate and VOTE!
- Practice at being a Better human by being more Mindful: Mental illness is perhaps the most pervasive and debilitating illness in our community and it seems to get more pronounced and acute the lower we get on the socio-economic ladder of our society. This is a painful observation that I have made in my work with at-risk youth and their families over the past four decades; and it is certainly true in the greater Oxnard plains area which is populated with extremely low income Hispanics, Blacks, and Asians, along with a large population of immigrants from throughout Central and South America.
To compound the problem there is an alarming absence of mental health programs and mental health professional accessible to this population. Throw in cultural customs, practices and taboos that often discourage a troubled soul seeking out help for mental health problems and issues and we have the makings of a local pandemic of mental illness in the Oxnard plains area.
I have long grappled in vain with efforts to get more professional and institutional mental health services to our at-risk youth and their families. I, too, had been brain washed in accepting the fallacy that only a mental health professional can help us cope and deal with our mental health issues. So, as a consequence of limited imagination, our at-risk youth and their families go without any mental health services or assistance; we suffer often in anguished resignation.
I have been blessed with wonderful physical health, which of course, has always helped me with my positive mental health. I will need all my faculties, alert and healthy, at the tail end of my wonderful life to continue to practice love, assistance and guidance to my modern nuclear family. Being mindful and learning to live in and appreciate the moment and not get caught in the often maddening and debilitating noise that fills the modern mind has been a work in progress for me. Slowly all that mental self-torture that I used to put myself through, and often dragging my family through the pain and despair of mental anguish is dissipating. Before me now most often is the blissful assurance of peace that only love, gratitude and humility can anoint. It took 70 years but I found my home, and it is love and I will work for peace and justice.
Practice Love, Peace and happiness: Suppose for just one moment that everything that you thought you knew about gangs, youth violence, youth delinquency, as well as many of the current policing practices to address youth and adult pathology and delinquency are just flat out wrong. And then in the ensuing moments of reflection you realize that in your heart, in your mind, and in the pit of your gut you’ve always know this sobering realization; namely that these troubled and at-risk youth and adults long term diagnosis, rehabilitation and reintegration into the everyday fabric of their community requires total, complete and long term love and commitment from all of us to turn these troubled lives around. Because in the end these troubled lives are intricately and absolutely connected to our lives. And after all don’t we all deserve the unconditional blessing of love? We have engaged in endless war: how has that worked out for Oxnard and America? Let us now try practicing unconditional love, peace and happiness and in the process we may save the world. Resister, Activate to Vote for Love!
Unconditional love is not so much about how we tolerate and endure each other, but rather how we welcome and embrace each other, no matter the circumstances. Unconditional love is about how we promise ourselves to never, under any conditions stop bringing the flawed and humble truth of who we are to each other.
Much has been said about unconditional love today; in the noise of our acutely delicate and often troubled egos, it has been badly misconstrued as an extreme form of turning the other cheek; pathetic and shameless advice to anyone who has been abused or suffers in pain. This exaggerated passivity is quite different from the unimpeded flow of love that nurtures, strengthens and guides who we are and the actions that we take. In truth unconditional love does not require passive acceptance of whatever happens in the name of love. Rather in the real spaces of our daily relationships it means maintaining a commitment that no event, condition or circumstance will keeps us from bringing all of who we are to each other with pure unadulterated, unconditional action driven love. Love is the key to unlocking every heart and the action solution to every human condition. Register, activate and VOTE love in!
Armando Vazquez, M.Ed. is Executive Director of Acuna Art Gallery/Café on A, Executive Director for The KEYS Leadership Academy and Chairman of the Oxnard Multicultural Mental Health/coalition