Lost Wages

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I agree with Jim Scarantino's opinion [RE: The Real Side, “A Painful Lesson,” Oct. 13-19] that the living wage proposal lost because of a handful of unnecessary words. Unfortunately, it should have lost because it was trying to solve the wrong problem. Even if the proposal had passed, the people that it aimed to help would still be making the least amount of money for their labor that the law will allow. The proposal doesn't actually address the root problem. The proposal addressed the question, “Why can't people make a living off of the minimum wage?” when it should have addressed, “Why is anyone's labor worth only the minimum wage?” In effect, the proposal would have mandated higher pay for labor rather than increasing the value of labor. There is a subtle but important difference between the two. As Jim aptly put it: “Anyone who works full time should not have to draw on public resources to keep their families from malnutrition and homelessness.” Anyone with a heart would agree that it is painful to watch someone work so hard for such little return. It brings up one of the harsh realities of life: Hard work isn't enough.

The living wage promised to keep people from having to draw on public resources by artificially inflating the value of their labor. The problem is that now those laborers are dependent on the living wage law. In effect, the law shields them from the truth that value comes from not just working hard but working hard on the right tasks. If we want to improve our community, the right way to do it is to help people improve the value of their labor so that they are beholden to none. Our aid to them needs to be individual and tailored towards helping them help themselves.

Living wage ordinances aren't about giving people fish or teaching them to be better fishermen. They are an attempt to modify the fish so that the ones that are caught are bigger. It's the wrong way to help. Our desire to help isn't enough. We need to provide effective help.

Door No. 2

[Re: Letters, “Why Should Voters Be Trusted?,” Oct. 20-26] Rodney Adams rants like a post-funny Dennis Miller. Sadly, he left out a huge voter mistake—Kerry. Yup, we were left holding our nose and voting for W. If voters can’t be trusted, what’s the solution? The Romans would choose a tyrant when they felt democracy couldn’t handle a national crisis. Imagine having Ashcroft, Ken Lay and “Brownie” appointed to the Senate or Supreme Court. No thanks—I’ll take the busted democracy behind door No. 2.

The real solution to a malfunctioning democracy is more democracy. Vote in the primaries. Don’t wait for the big show before mobilizing the base. The radicals control the primaries because few others care to vote. That’s how people like W, Kerry and Richard Romero (ex-APS administrator—yuck) got to the general election.

Whose History?

I read with much interest the article on Oñate, “Recasting New Mexico History” [RE: Feature, Oct. 20-26]. I had followed some of the controversy reported over the years but never heard this much of the details, for which the Alibi deserves thanks. The previous lack of recent information parallels what most of us experience in our school systems and daily lives, as Naranjo-Morse stated, and it can lead to deep misunderstandings. I am what is called Native American and because I have gone back to learn what actually happened in Indian history rather than depend on the mythology of American idealism and nationalism most often taught in public schools, I feel a right to comment, although I don’t pretend to speak for anyone else.

It is said that conquerors write history; it might also be said that children of conquerors and invaders benefit from their invasion control of the pre-existing populace, their land and resources. To some present day Hispanics, the history of Oñate must be recast into a hero to be honored with a statue, a symbol of pride so that his legacy may not make Spanish colonizers be viewed as “awful people.”

The word “political correctness” seems to be fading from popular usage and wasn't used once in this article, which is not a bad thing, but some of this controversy seems to go far beyond that term. Sonny Rivera, the Hispanic artist involved, stated he felt the Spanish presence (not an invasion) was “justified,” that the Spanish brought a lot of things to New Mexico. This is true, but it sidesteps the reality that they also brought terror to the Pueblo people, that the Pueblos were forced to feed and house many of them in the beginning, provide forced labor, and eventually were forced to give up their religion and freedoms as well as land and resources. Rivera says about the atrocities, “There’s nothing they can prove about cruelty,” suggesting what? That the Indians may have lied about these things just to discredit a righteous man? But it wasn’t the Indians who had a say in Oñate’s trial and banishment, it was the reports of his own people, Fray Juan de Escalona, Fray Fransisco de San Miguel and others who leveled specific charges that brought some measure of justice. Perhaps Rivera might read his own history before making such statements; even artists have some responsibility for the subjects they portray and what they say.

Apologists for invasions will always be with us, and often their view is what holds sway, whether in Israel against the Palestinians or the United States in Iraq. It is almost too much to expect them to ever even consider thinking about the point of view of the people invaded and controlled. After 400 years, maybe there was some little improvement in that it took several years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to push through their one-sided agenda.

Oñate'S Legacy

Thank you, Katy June-Friesen, for the insightful piece “Recasting New Mexico History.” While bicycling near Old Town, I stopped to ponder the settlement monument. Oñate and his Native guide stand on a small precipice and gaze drop-jawed into the future, at the Anglo contribution to New Mexico history: the Redstone missile across the street at the Atomic Museum.

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