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Dame Edna `joke' went far too far
Houston Chronicle ^ | Feb. 23, 2003, 12:18AM | By ANA VECIANA-SUAREZ

Posted on 02/23/2003 4:03:29 PM PST by weegee

We all know the medicinal value of laughter. A good chuckle clears the air, draws song from silence.

In my book, a sense of humor is one of the prime qualities I would look for in a mate. After all, how can we get through life, through this valley of tears, without a healthy bit of hysterics?

Sometimes the best satire is the one aimed squarely between our eyes. The one that elicits an ouch. The one that, between hiccups, makes us nod in recognition.

The ability to laugh at ourselves is a blessing. A blessing and an affirmation. Nothing like a joke to wring hope from despair, don't you think?

So I thought.

I've been musing about the purpose -- and the caustic sting -- of humor since one of my sisters forwarded me an e-mail about Dame Edna. Yes, possums, that Dame Edna, the one with the out-there glasses and the what's-that-awful-color tresses.

Those who have followed the Australian dame's meteoric rise in the humor factory know she skewers whatever and whomever she wants, and with lacerating delight.

This month, though, the self-described housewife, social anthropologist, swami, megastar and (for the uninitiated) alter ego of comedian Barry Humphries has gotten herself into trouble. A very American kind of trouble.

In her February column in the chi-chi magazine Vanity Fair, Edna dear Edna answers a letter from a fictional reader who wonders if Spanish is worth learning: "Forget Spanish. There's nothing in that language worth reading except Don Quixote, and a quick listen to the CD of Man of La Mancha will take care of that."

After dismissing poet Garcia Lorca to the intellectual back burner, she goes on to opine: "Who speaks it that you are really desperate to talk to? The help? Your leaf blower? Study French or German, where there are at least a few books worth reading, or, if you're American, try English."

A firestorm of outrage followed, including a letter from the president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, calling Dame Edna's column "an appalling display of bigotry."

In its regret, Vanity Fair officially responded that the comments "were offered in the spirit of outrageous comedy and were never intended to be taken to heart." In other words: What you so uptight about, man? Don't you get it?

Which brings me back to my original musings about humor. See, I do get it. I do, I do. Just hold the laughter until I get a tissue for my tears.

I get it because I -- and all those who bear my kind of surname -- have been the butt of so many demeaning jokes and such debasing stereotypes that we have a trigger-quick sensitivity to these things. It's not funny anymore.

On one level, I know that by its very nature humor is bound to stomp on some toes. But on another, on that level that has had doors slammed, backs turned, hopes dashed, I also understand that too often satire masks prejudice and a joke can be just another word for discrimination.

I wonder what kind of reaction the Dame might have garnered had she written about the dearth of African-American lit other than Toni Morrison's.

The sad part about Dame Edna's advice is not her words but Vanity Fair's decision to run them, thinking that the "patently absurd comments" -- the magazine's phrase -- wouldn't offend.

Are we so removed from each other, so ignorant of others' thinking, that we don't know when a swipe goes far too far?

Now, here's a real joke for you, if you like irony.

Guess who's on the cover of the magazine? Salma Hayek. Mexican.

Veciana-Suarez is a family columnist for the Miami Herald. She welcomes readers' responses at aveciana@herald.com


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial; Political Humor/Cartoons; United Kingdom
KEYWORDS: dameedna; english; french; language; linguistics; literature; pc; politicallycorrect; satire; spanish; vanityfair
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1 posted on 02/23/2003 4:03:29 PM PST by weegee
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Comment #2 Removed by Moderator

To: weegee
Re: I get it because I -- and all those who bear my kind of surname -- have been the butt of so many demeaning jokes and such debasing stereotypes that we have a trigger-quick sensitivity to these things. It's not funny anymore.

That's so true. Well, if Dame Edna ever shows her bum here in Texas, she won't have a chinaman's chance!

3 posted on 02/23/2003 4:24:55 PM PST by sonofatpatcher2 (Love & a .45-- What more could you want, campers? };^)
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To: weegee
I thought Edna was a character from the Simpsons.

Ay caramba!

4 posted on 02/23/2003 4:25:05 PM PST by george wythe
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To: weegee
Sorry Ana. I feel for you, but can't quite reach.

Your victimized attitude is why all the tried and true cliches were created. 1)a different story when your ox is gored. 2)'you can dish it out, but sure can't take it." 3)'Not in my backyard', etc.

You explain why you shouldn't be upset, yet don't take your own advice. Makes me wonder what kind of friggin' idiots the Miami Herald hires. Sheesh!

5 posted on 02/23/2003 4:28:03 PM PST by chiller (could be wrong, but doubt it)
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To: george wythe
I thought Edna was a character from the Simpsons.

I thought she was Clark Griswold's [deceased] aunt.

6 posted on 02/23/2003 4:29:01 PM PST by Thinkin' Gal
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To: weegee
Calmate, Ana. No hay problema aqui. Solamente es un chiste.
7 posted on 02/23/2003 4:35:01 PM PST by Rocky
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To: weegee
At the risk of offending, I agree with Dame Edna. I've read Lorca, I've read Gabriel Garcia-Marquez, and a few others whose names have disappeared from my memory because I was so utterly unimpressed. I've tried to study Spanish but... but... finally... I thought "WHY?"

Studying French actually WAS valuable to me, I learned a lot about English (because it shows massive French influence) and I have indeed been impressed with the 18th and 19th century French novels I've read. (Modern day French people aren't fit to wipe my spike-heeled thigh high boots, but that's another topic.) Maybe I'm just an elitist snob, but... well... I'm afraid Dame Edna is right.

8 posted on 02/23/2003 4:36:02 PM PST by A_perfect_lady (Let them eat cake.)
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To: weegee
Uh, the people who put Salma Hayek on their cover are bigots?

Hey Ana, while we're here, is the National Association of Hispanic Journalists open for memembership to non-Hispanics?

Uh huh, thank you, Buh-Bye!
9 posted on 02/23/2003 4:39:58 PM PST by Hoverbug (whadda ya mean, "we don't get parachutes"!?!)
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To: weegee

Isn't [s]he lovely?

10 posted on 02/23/2003 4:46:14 PM PST by Las Vegas Dave
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To: A_perfect_lady
What is a perfect lady doing in Carbondale, (Il)??
11 posted on 02/23/2003 4:56:09 PM PST by billhilly (I don't know it all.)
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To: Las Vegas Dave
We need some balance, a more recent pic of Salma


12 posted on 02/23/2003 5:01:41 PM PST by george wythe
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To: weegee
The Poles kind of got tired of that sort of thing, too.
13 posted on 02/23/2003 5:21:32 PM PST by WaterDragon (Playing possum doesn't work against nukes.)
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To: george wythe
Muy bueno!
14 posted on 02/23/2003 5:21:53 PM PST by ZOOKER
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To: george wythe
Magnifico!
15 posted on 02/23/2003 5:28:38 PM PST by The FRugitive
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To: A_perfect_lady
I don't know how true this is, but when I was in college, there was a rumor that one of the professors told students they should all learn spanish, since in the future, they won't be able to get jobs with just english, and in fact, could wind up losing there jobs to people who only speak spanish and don't know english. (this same prof was supposedly also a total left wing liberal).
16 posted on 02/23/2003 5:51:30 PM PST by Sonny M (If you want to get rid of more wellstones, just loosen the bolts, not that I did that or anything.)
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To: Hoverbug
What has Salma done in Spanish that was worth catching? The controversy was that there wasn't any Spanish language literature worth the effort since Don Quixote.

This isn't about people's race. It's about what the societies have contributed.

I am unaware that Toni Morrison wrote novels in something other than English either. I would raise up George Herriman, the author/artist of Jazz Age comic strip Krazy Kat as an African-American over the Clinton loving Toni "America's First Black President" Morrison.

17 posted on 02/23/2003 6:39:10 PM PST by weegee
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To: billhilly
What is a perfect lady doing in Carbondale, (Il)??

Taking Education classes at SIU so I can teach high school English and French. Et toi?

18 posted on 02/23/2003 6:41:25 PM PST by A_perfect_lady (Let them eat cake.)
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To: A_perfect_lady
My niece did that. She got a masters in french education, taught for one or two years in Virginia, then married a french professor who teaches english in France. Funny. She teaches french in Virginia, and he teaches english in France. At any rate, they live in the south of France, after four or five years in Paris, and now have two cute little girls, 3 1/2 and 10 months.
19 posted on 02/23/2003 7:15:59 PM PST by billhilly (I don't know it all.)
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To: weegee
This isn't about people's race. It's about what the societies have contributed.

I would agree with you that the article was about that if it weren't for the following quotes from the article:

the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, calling Dame Edna's column "an appalling display of bigotry." and all those who bear my kind of surname -- have been the butt of so many demeaning jokes and such debasing stereotypes

But on another, on that level that has had doors slammed, backs turned, hopes dashed, I also understand that too often satire masks prejudice and a joke can be just another word for discrimination.

I wonder what kind of reaction the Dame might have garnered had she written about the dearth of African-American lit other than Toni Morrison's.

Had the author argued that Edna's joke was not funny by giving examples of lit in Spanish that were great works and made the argument on Edna's taste in lit and debated that, rather than writing an article stating that Edna found lit in Spanish lacking because of the race of the people writing it, you would have a point.

The author is the one stating that Edna's comments were based on prejudice and bigotry, not content. The author is not arguing Edna's taste, she's calling Edna a racist. She should have taken the high road and couched the argument in your terms, rather than slinging racial accusations. In doing that, she would have made Edna look like an idiot, well, even more like an idiot.

The controversy was that there wasn't any Spanish language literature worth the effort since Don Quixote.

Name one place in the article where she rebuts Edna's contention that "There's nothing in that language worth reading except Don Quixote."

20 posted on 02/23/2003 7:30:30 PM PST by Hoverbug (whadda ya mean, "we don't get parachutes"!?!)
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To: george wythe
The Salma Hayek versus Friedrich Hayek Scorecard

Hmmmmm .....
.... I'll take the picture of Salma and the theories of Friedrich!
21 posted on 02/23/2003 7:46:44 PM PST by evilC
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To: weegee
"... if you're American, try English"

Sounds like a dig at American English. Where's the outrage over that?
22 posted on 02/23/2003 7:53:22 PM PST by evilC
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To: Hoverbug
Yes I agree, it was the journalist who phrase the argument on race. As if Spaniards, Mexicans, and Peruvians have any unity in their films and literature because they all speak Spanish.

The Spanish Language was the crux of Edna's essay (which I have not read but gather from the editorial).

I don't understand why Mexicans like to say that they are Native Americans and then hold onto the conquoring Spaniards' language like it is something to cherish.

In Peru, some Indians hold onto the old language, while others speak only Spanish or learn enough English to be able to converse (at least for commerce) with Americans and other English speaking people.

23 posted on 02/23/2003 10:59:31 PM PST by weegee
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To: weegee
After dismissing poet Garcia Lorca to the intellectual back burner, she goes on to opine: "Who speaks it that you are really desperate to talk to? The help? Your leaf blower?

Actually, if I were Spanish I would be very offended by that remark. In fact, on behalf of my husband who IS Spanish and my children who are half-Spanish, I am disgusted.

She makes a crude remark that the only people who speak Spanish are of a lower class and therefore no one of value. She's blatantly crass and the remark is bigotry no matter how she fumbles to pretend otherwise. I agree the left goes way too far in sobbing about "discrimination" and too far in trying to validate affirmative action and other types of "minority programs". But the one thing that both sides have right is that some individuals have poisonous souls in how they view other races. This woman IS a bigot and shouldn't be merrily trilling her rotten view in any professional venue and get away with defending it as banter.
24 posted on 02/24/2003 1:24:59 AM PST by Tamzee (There are 10 types of people... those who read binary, and those who don't.)
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To: Tamsey
The magazine was for an American audience. What social strata largely contains the people who only speak Spanish in America?

The context of the comment was someone considering learning Spanish and the guy in a dress asked "why" citing that (s)he couldn't recommend any literature outside of Don Quixote to read in the native Spanish and then went on to ask if it was for conversational purposes.

One can learn to speak Spanish to travel to another country where it is the native tongue, or even to Miami or other communities where it is the only understood language. But the article wasn't written with the idea of travel in mind so that leaves us with learning to speak Spanish to speak with people in America. I presume that your husband can speak English. Knowning several languages is a good skill but would someone learn Spanish just so they could talk with him here?

25 posted on 02/24/2003 1:37:31 AM PST by weegee
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To: weegee
Is Ana Veciana-Suarez that some U.S. senators think Miguel Estrada isn't qualified to be a judge?
26 posted on 02/24/2003 1:40:29 AM PST by nickcarraway
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To: weegee
What social strata largely contains the people who only speak Spanish in America?

Obviously from her comment she believes it to be a social strata she wouldn't wish to waste time with.... unlike the French
27 posted on 02/24/2003 1:54:30 AM PST by Tamzee (There are 10 types of people... those who read binary, and those who don't.)
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To: Tamsey
Hint 1, it's a guy masquerading as a woman. I've never understood the celebrity about it. I read part of the article in the Houston Comical today at a restaurant and I looked up the article and posted it.

Hint 2, it's satire.

"Dame Edna" didn't say anything about talking to anyone in French: chef, waiter, bellhop, or maid. (S)he did say that there were some books that (s)he could understand being compelling enough to motivate someone to learn French to read them in the native tongue.

28 posted on 02/24/2003 2:02:09 AM PST by weegee
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To: weegee
Well, that it's a gent is news to me.... Ick.

Normally I love satire, even satire that ribs on something I appreciate. But this comment was in poor taste and made a cutting comment directly at the Spanish and a snobbish mocking of where they fit in important social circles. The Republicans are going to have a very difficult time courting the Spanish "leaf blower" voters if we appear to support this subtle, elitist poison.
29 posted on 02/24/2003 2:25:47 AM PST by Tamzee (There are 10 types of people... those who read binary, and those who don't.)
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To: A_perfect_lady; dighton; aculeus; general_re; Poohbah; hellinahandcart
"Modern day French people aren't fit to wipe my spike-heeled thigh high boots, but that's another topic.) "

I think an assertion like that requires an accompanying photo of the poster wearing the purported spike-heeled thigh-high boots so that right-thinking FReepers can make their own judgments.

You report ... we decide. 8')

30 posted on 02/24/2003 4:42:26 AM PST by BlueLancer (Der Elite Møøsenspåånkængruppen ØberKømmååndø (EMØØK))
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To: weegee
I would raise up George Herriman, the author/artist of Jazz Age comic strip Krazy Kat as an African-American over the Clinton loving Toni "America's First Black President" Morrison.

George Herriman was black? Geez, you learn something every day!

"It's high time I hung a brick on the back of his brow!"
31 posted on 02/24/2003 4:45:29 AM PST by GodBlessRonaldReagan (where is Scotty Moore when we need him most?)
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Comment #32 Removed by Moderator

To: weegee
Mzzz. Veciana-Suarez needs to...


33 posted on 02/24/2003 5:31:43 AM PST by Bloody Sam Roberts (®)
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To: Calcetines
Have you read this poem? (I don't speak Spanish fluently, but I'm learning.) I love this poem.

En Paz
Amado Nervo

Muy cerca de mi ocaso,
yo te bendigo, vida
porque nunca me diste
ni esperanza fallida
ni trabajo injusto,
ni pena inmerecida.

Porque veo al final de mi rudo camino
que yo fui el arquitecto de mi propio destino
que si extraje la hiel o la miel de las cosas,
fue porque en ellas puse hiel, o mieles sabrosas.

Cierto, a mis lozanías va a seguir el invierno,
mas tu no me dijiste que mayo fuese eterno
halle sin duda largas las noches de mis penas,
mas tu no prometiste tan solo noches buenas.

En cambio tuve algunas
santamente serenas

¡Ame, fui amado, el sol acarició mi faz!
¡Vida, nada me debes!
¡Vida, estamos en paz!



34 posted on 02/24/2003 5:33:25 AM PST by wimpycat (Well it's good that you're fine and I'm fine. I agree with you. It's great to be fine.)
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To: Rocky
Calmate, Ana. No hay problema aqui. Solamente es un chiste.

For the Hispanically challenged: "Calm yourself, Ana. There is no problem here. It's only a joke." (I have some really nice Mexican tenants)

35 posted on 02/24/2003 5:34:19 AM PST by JimRed (God save Joisey from the RINOS!)
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To: weegee
Oh, Ana. You poor git. Imagine how thoroughly stupid someone named Etienne or Schreiber looks who complains from an ethnic standpoint about the treatment the French and the Germans are getting over Iraq or someone with an English name crying out about the pain inflicted by the ongoing ridicule of the British on account of their bad teeth and then you'll have a good idea of how you look. Get a giant pair of tweezers, yank that hair, and stop trying to inflate the worth of your own career by being a female Hispanic Jesse Jackson.
36 posted on 02/24/2003 5:57:58 AM PST by aruanan
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To: weegee
Dame Edna is just getting ready to run for the Senate as a Democrat and wants to make sure she is on the right page on the hispanic issue....
37 posted on 02/24/2003 6:01:21 AM PST by apillar
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To: Calcetines
Actually, I have a Master's in Applied Linguistics, so I'm fully aware that French and English have nothing on Spanish in terms of "absolute value." But I just don't like it.

Perhaps it's because most Spanish literature that I've had to read has reeked of Marxist sympathies. Perhaps it's because they are largely Catholic and I value the Protestant ethic more. Perhaps I'm just a snob of some sort. But, either way, that's the way it is. I can value whatever I like and you are free to feel however you will about it.

38 posted on 02/24/2003 6:09:49 AM PST by A_perfect_lady (Let them eat cake.)
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To: wimpycat
It's a beautiful poem. Ana needs to pay attention to these lines:
Porque veo al final de mi rudo camino
que yo fui el arquitecto de mi propio destino

I laughed at Dame Edna, but I know that Spanish is a better language to learn than French since it opens to me a much larger portion of the world. Speaking French will allow me to interact with some of Quebec's population, to be ridiculed by the French in France, to talk to the ruling elite in a few African countries (and the French troops there to keep them in power), and maybe to be understood by a few well-educated Haitians. If I learn Spanish and Portuguese, I have two European countries, virtually all of Latin America, and at least a couple African nations.
39 posted on 02/24/2003 6:11:09 AM PST by aruanan
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To: weegee
This isn't about people's race. It's about what the societies have contributed.

Here's something good, Revolt of the Masses by José Ortega y Gasset.
40 posted on 02/24/2003 6:20:31 AM PST by aruanan
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To: A_perfect_lady
I thought you meant to say

Perhaps it's because most French Spanish literature that I've had to read has reeked of Marxist sympathies. Perhaps it's because the French they are largely Catholic and I value the Protestant ethic more.

41 posted on 02/24/2003 9:34:41 AM PST by george wythe
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To: george wythe
Well, I made a point of stating that I liked the older French literature. The 20th century stuff DOES reek of Marxist sympathies and I don't care for it at all. As for the French being Catholic, they really don't embrace it like Hispanic Americans do. So I gravitate to the British and French influences that led to the modern day Anglo-American ethic.

It's bizarre to find, on Free Republic, people who still march to the multi-culti relativist beat, but whatever.

42 posted on 02/24/2003 9:55:53 AM PST by A_perfect_lady (Let them eat cake.)
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To: All
If this is the crap this hyphenated author cares about at this time, she doesn't have a sack of rocks for brains.
43 posted on 02/24/2003 10:00:10 AM PST by rwfromkansas ("We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office." --Aesop)
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To: A_perfect_lady
As for the French being Christian Catholic, they really don't embrace it like Hispanic Americans do.

Is that a good thing?

It's bizarre to find, on Free Republic, people who still march to the anti-Catholic bigotry multi-culti relativist beat, but whatever.

Good to know where you stand.

44 posted on 02/24/2003 10:02:49 AM PST by george wythe
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To: aruanan
Spanish is a better language to learn than French

Yep, you're right. I've tried to learn French 3 times now but every time I tried, for some reason, the feeling to give up swept over me, and I surrendered to the feeling.:^)

45 posted on 02/24/2003 10:07:42 AM PST by Hoverbug (whadda ya mean, "we don't get parachutes"!?!)
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To: Sonny M
but when I was in college, there was a rumor that one of the professors told students they should all learn spanish, since in the future, they won't be able to get jobs with just english, and in fact, could wind up losing there jobs to people who only speak spanish and don't know english.

It will only be necessary if you want to become a government school teacher or a government welfare case worker. Think about it. The Mexicans who want to succeed in this country will anglicize and LEARN ENGLISH. The ones who hang on to their 'heritage' and Latino identity will remain on welfare and poor.

46 posted on 02/24/2003 10:08:41 AM PST by Lizavetta
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To: weegee
Great. New American Minority taking Jesse Jackson playbook and putting their name on it.
47 posted on 02/24/2003 10:11:23 AM PST by mabelkitty
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To: george wythe
Gosh, I'm really sorry you can't stand people who prefer their own roots to Catholic and/or Hispanic roots. Perhaps, like liberals, you've decided that tolerance is no longer enough, now they demand we celebrate any culture they designate a victim culture. Well, not me. I'm a fan of mere tolerance. See, I tolerate Hispanics and Catholics, I just don't care to immerse myself in their culture. And I ask only that they tolerate me. If they don't "get" my culture's literature or music, well, oh well. They can stick with their 100 Years of Salsa.

But you, you don't even tolerate my lack of enthusiasm for a culture different from my own. Everybody MUST BE A FAN of Hispanic culture. Well, sorry. Even if it means engendering your dislike, I will continue to prefer what I prefer, and you make all the insinuations you want about it.

48 posted on 02/24/2003 10:26:43 AM PST by A_perfect_lady (Let them eat cake.)
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To: apillar
Dame Edna is just getting ready to run for the Senate as a Democrat and wants to make sure she is on the right page on the hispanic issue....

Then Dame Edna had better be prepared to get some kids and an undocumented nanny. The Clintons' nominated up a number of Democrats who knowingly had illegal aliens working as nannys.

49 posted on 02/24/2003 10:42:24 AM PST by weegee
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To: aruanan
I was taught a little Spanish when I went to primary school in Houston. Then when I moved to Louisiana, they taught French in the schools. When I moved to Ohio I had to choose a foreign language in high school (french, spanish, or german), I took spanish and continued when I finished up high school back in Houston.

When I went to college, I selected a language I wanted to study (and did not even need to for engineering degree). I studied Japanese and did well in the course but couldn't fit it in my schedule with all of the "requirements" for my degree (I had to take socio-humanities courses but was not permitted to take courses that would actually teach a skill; thus I could take Art History but not a drawing or painting course; I could take a national history course, but not a foreign language course towards my requirements).

50 posted on 02/24/2003 10:48:14 AM PST by weegee
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