Monday, August 27, 2007

Bye bye, Alberto Gonzalez

Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez will resign after much controversy which has plagued his tenure. Gonzalez has been dragged through the mud repeatedly by Democrats and civil liberties groups. His departure is no surprise.

What we all may have forgotten is that Alberto Gonzalez was the first Hispanic/Latino Attorney General. That is a tremendous accomplish. Partisan politics aside, he should be a hero to the Hispanic community. He may have been overly conservative or perhaps too easily swayed by Karl Rove, but he did serve this nation during a very difficult time for the Bush Administration and should be a hero to many Hispanic youth.

Drawing a line between respecting a man for his accomplishments and despising him for his horrible indiscretions is difficult. Hopefully history will not through the baby out with the bath water. Gonzalez made mistakes and he is a member of an Administration that does not have a lustrous track record, but he is still a success story. Civil rights and liberties have not been an area of success for the Bush Administration. It should come as no suprise that Alberto Gonzalez was not eagerly protecting rights. We knew he would not. Through all of this though, he has lived the American Dream.

I am offended by his judgment, a damaged Department of Justice, and the Bush Administration, but I respect a man who has given Hispanics a goal. Much like L. Douglas Wilder and Elizabeth Dole blazed trails, so too has Alberto Gonzales. We ought to pull the pearl out of this ugly mollusk of a story and embrace what we can. Condemnation and unfettered disgust does not good policy make, nor does idle ranting spark change


David Schraub said...

I'm confused about why the Latino community should be proud of Gonzalez insofar as his actions stood in radical opposition to virtually all the values the community stood for. Several Black commentators have argued that Clarence Thomas' greatest accomplishment was removing the instinct of the Black community to reflexively defend "one of their own", no matter how far that man or woman might be from the political values of the collective. For awhile now, Latino groups have been murmuring about Gonzalez having the same effect, and I think that would be a far more positive development (at least among Latinos who do, in fact, oppose Gonzalez's political and policy positions) than a "he's a son of a [gun], but he's our son of a [gun]" attitude.

Nick J. Sciullo said...

I don't doubt that several commentators think that defending "one of their own" is a shallow solidarity that does nothing to build or strengthen a community. There are always murmurs about the need to oppose those that do not act in the best interest of a group even if those in opposition are members of the group.

A rhetorical position where you can pick out attributes to love and hate about a person allows for a much deeper level of analysis however. If we, as social theorists, were to dismiss theories or people because of their flaws then we'd soon find nothing to support. Should we... dismiss hip-hop because it is patriarchal in many instances... reject reggae because many lyrics are homophobic... decry Paulo Freire because he used gendered rhetoric (even though bell hooks of course said we could look past that)... dismiss Nietzsche because he was technically a bad writer, or Delueze and Guattari for that matter... I think the answer to these questions would be an emphatic "no." That's because there's no perfect person or idea. Every philosophy has its inconsistency and ever person their flaws.

I've actually heard quite a few Democrats who have said they didn't mind Gonzalez. It's important to not endorse blanket criticism. Things just aren't that simple. Gonzalez sure wasn't my first choice to be Attorney General, but he wasn't my last.

Cultures have to embrace who they can and that sometimes means rejecting an individual on one level and accepting them on another. Italians have done this with Christopher Columbus, Blacks with Clarence Thomas, Liberals with Bill Clinton, and the list goes on...

And of course these are simplifications. There are many assumptions to be made when assigning group memberships. And a discussion of group membership is quite the discussion in itself. So with that caveat, I will leave the discussion open.