Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Teen Martyr Jesse Quintero Shows His Flag

The local news coverage of the student walkouts from Houston high schools to protest stricter immigration law has been almost uniformly celebratory, sappy and unquestioning.

Not that we expected more.

As for as we can tell, none of the local media outlets has bothered to ask the protestors why, when the supposed aim of the walkouts is to protest federal legislation that might make it harder for the students and their parents to stay in the United States (in addition to being a good excuse to miss Algebra II), they persist in waving the Mexican flag. Hell, we haven’t even seen or read one report that bothers to point out the presence of the Mexican standard, even though the pictures the media are broadcasting (or, in the case of Tuesday’s daily newspaper, printing on the top of the first and last pages of the A section) clearly show the flag being front and center in the protests.

News consumers all over town (Irish-Americans, African-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Asian-Americans, whoever) are sitting at home wondering, “Why the hell are they waving the Mexican flag if they want to stay in this country?” But the sorry-ass local media is to P.C.-constricted, too incurious, to ask even the obvious (might offend someone).

(We’ll ask, though. We overhead a lad we know, a 14-year-old whom we’ll call Jose [’cause that’s his real name], telling his friends about how he planned to attend the big rally in downtown Houston wearing a Mexican-flag headband and a Mexican-flag T-shirt. He only glared when we inquired whether he had some Mexican-flag underwear, too. But when we turned serious and asked him why he wouldn’t be waving a U.S. flag, he looked at us like we were crazy. “Why?” he said. “That’s not my country.” Jose, who’s open about his illegal status, is sharp and has a fair command of English, but one of the things he and many of his cohorts don't like about the United States is that pesky law that ensures he’ll have to stay in school until he’s 16 … and improve his English, learn a little bit about this [not his] country’s history, etc.)

The Houston Chronicle found the initial walkout from Eisenhower High School to be of such interest that it devoted two stories to the protest, one a profile of the protest organizer, 18-year-old Jesse Quintero. For some reason both stories quoted Maria Jiminez, the super-strident “immigration rights activist” who named her two kids after Josef Stalin and Mao Zedong (you’d think the newspaper, with all its resources, could scare up another "immigration rights activist" who hadn’t named her or his children after two of history’s most prolific mass murderers).

If you bothered to read it, you may have noticed there was a bloody, gaping hole in the profile of the protest organizer: Nowhere in the story was it clearly revealed whether young Jesse Quintero himself is in the country illegally … or not. You are told that his father “came to the United States … more than two decades ago … to find a better life,” but whether he came legally or illegally, or has since been legalized, is a question left to the reader’s imagination. The student’s mother, meanwhile, is described as having been born in the Rio Grande Valley, meaning, we’d presume, that she’s a natural-born citizen in good standing. So the protest organizer has a U.S.-born mother and a father who came to this country before he was born … we’d say the chances are about 100 percent that Jesse Quintero is a pure-dee fully legal citizen of this country. We’re guessing, but we shouldn’t have to. It’s not an inconsequential point, at least within the context of the story.

The Chronicle also reports that Jesse’s mother sees a “bleak future where ‘I’m going to have to show my I.D. to prove my nationality’ ….” We can’t tell whether “bleak future” is the reporter’s phrase or was employed by Margie Quintero (we presume it’s the former’s), but either way it’s a rank distortion of the language. Having terminal cancer portends a bleak future; having to show an I.D. card to prove your citizenship status (which ain’t gonna come to pass anyway), would be a mere annoyance or inconvenience.

But wait: the Chronicle suggests that life has already turned bleak for Jesse Quintero:

Young Hispanics with immigrant parents, many born in the United States and citizens, "will remember [stiffened immigration law] as a personal attack on their families. They will vote," Jimenez said.

Quintero has already felt the attack personally. As he and about 150 other students marched toward an immigration office nine miles away on Monday, a passer-by in an automobile yelled out to the group, "Go back to where you came from," Quintero said. He retorted by saying Hispanics "were here first."

Whoa, Jesse. Actually, Spaniards---European colonialists--- were “here first,” not “Hispanics,” although to get technical about it, Native Americans were “here first,” the six tribes and whatnot that Jesse might have learned about in the 4th or 7th grades---if he had been paying attention, which would’ve enabled him to retort intelligently when being personally “attacked” by a loudmouth passer-by in an auto. (The whole “we were here first, you stole our land and now we’re going to get it back” attitude is widespread among immigrant youth, not that you’d ever know it from reading or watching the local media.)

We think Jesse Quintero and his marching buddies need to get their butts back to class. As for the local media … they’re in dire need of schooling, too.

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