Sunday, December 04, 2005

¡Voto para mí! ¡No soy Iraní! (And Smile!)

We suppose you can’t hold a candidate responsible for something said by a 71-year-old aunt, especially something “shouted” during a demonstration to protest a news conference (in other words, a pseudo-event born of another pseudo-event).

Yet as reported by the Houston Chronicle’s able education writer, Jason Spencer, the comments of Dolores Torres on behalf of her niece, northside Houston school board hopeful Anne Flores Santiago, suggest something more than an impromptu burst of passion by a doting relative.

According to the Chronicle, Torres was one of a dozen or so Santiago supporters who were protesting during a news conference staged by an “influential group of Hispanic Democrats” who appear to be backing Natasha Kamrani, Santiago’s non-Hispanic opponent in next Saturday’s runoff (we’ll pass on trying to summarize the nature of this influential group’s complaint against Santiago, which we suspect at bottom has something to do with the often unfathomable configurations and reconfigurations of local Hispanic politics-playing [which, on slightly further reflection, are not much different than those of Euro-American or African-American politics-playing]).

Ms. Torres apparently was so incensed by the Harris County Tejano Democrats’ criticism of Santiago that she was moved to loudly broadcast the following endorsement of her niece:
“She’s Hispanic and she grew up in the community. She’s not Iranian.”
She elaborated:
“Foreigners are coming in not knowing the community. Anne grew up here.”
It turns out that Ms. Kamrani is not Iranian, either, according to the Chronicle: She was born in Ohio, of an Iranian-born father and “a mother from Kentucky.”

While we wouldn’t dismiss the importance of an elected official having roots in the community she represents, we have to wonder whether Ms. Torres’ classification of Kamrani was wholly her own invention, a result of her intensive but ultimately faulty opposition research, or whether it was reflective of a theme that the Santiago campaign has bandied about the community to selected audiences---that is, those that don’t ordinarily include newspaper and television reporters.

Whether Ms. Santiago disavows the comments of her aunt was left unaddressed in the Chronicle story. She also was not available to speak to the insinuation/allegation/whatever lodged by the Tejano Democrats, instead leaving that task (sort of) to a spokesman.

We don’t reside in District I and thus have no dog in this hunt, but we most assuredly would not vote for any candidate for a school trusteeship who feels it necessary to have a spokesman (or spokeswoman, spokesperson, spokeshuman, etc.) do their speaking for them.

As for Kamrani’s ethnicity/nationality/whatever, we would hope that Ms. Torres and all others who seek to raise the issue of “foreignness” will heed the Chronicle’s sultry-eyed Cultural Coach (our stylebook dictates that we upper-case this vaguely Orwellian self-designated title), who in her latest installment advises that this holiday season is a time to embrace cultural differences and to “smile, whenever possible.”

A smile, says the coach, “can open closed doors---and narrow minds.”

That’s particularly sage counsel for these divisive times, when the lion resolutely refuses to lie with the lamb, the Sunni and the Shi’a cannot come to terms, and the Tejano openly scorns the Cincinnati-born half-Iranian foreigner.

(And God bless the lil’ schoolchildren of HISD.)

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