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Senatorial Misstep: Giving Hate an Aura of Authenticity

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You know how things sometimes just don't add up, signaling to us right away that something's just not right? Or that someone is not exactly telling the truth? You don't need to be trained as a journalist to figure it out when it happens. All you need is common sense.

When it comes to detecting B.S., almost everything I know comes from parenting: my wife and I have four kids, with ages ranging from elementary school all the way to college. They keep us on our toes and keep our B.S. detectors quite keen. B.S. detectors usually come with adulthood.

But there are two adults in the great state of Arizona -- public officials no less -- who either don't have B.S. detectors or simply decided not to use them one day last week.

What they did in their official capacity boggles the mind. Theirs is not an errant off the cuff comment, or the trap of a "gotcha" interview, which I've fallen prey to myself. No, what they did cannot be explained away that easily. These two public servants, representatives of the people of Arizona, apparently read, studied and then proceeded to disseminate hate-filled B.S. right into the official record of the Arizona State Senate.

Senate President Russell Pearce and Senator Lori Klein claim they got a letter from a constituent named Tony Hill, a substitute teacher in Glendale, Arizona. Klein read Hill's letter into the Senate record. The letter is plainly dubious, filled with accusations all too familiar to those of us who are used to hearing attacks against Latinos veiled in disguise as part of a legitimate "debate" about our nation's broken immigration system.

Those attacks usually go something like this: "Hispanics are lazy and dumb. They're a lower species that want to take over America and destroy our way of life." When taken to the extreme, those attacks can get barbaric and ugly; just over two weeks ago, another fine public servant -- Kansas State Representative Virgil Peck -- "joked" about shooting illegal aliens "like hogs."

Most of us know from even a cursory review of our nation's history that these same types of attacks were leveled against Germans, the Irish, Jews, the Chinese, Italians and just about every other immigrant group that has come to America.

But back to Pearce and Klein. Maybe they haven't read that part of our history because when they got a letter from a substitute teacher saying those types of things, they bought it hook, line and sinker. And then they disseminated it, read it on the floor of the Senate and into the official record, as though it were fact.

Here is what substitute teacher Hill wrote about his experience teaching history to Glendale 8th graders: he said his students refused to recite the Pledge of Allegiance and claimed those students said, "We are Mexicans and Americans stole our land." Hill goes on and says that when he asked the students to stop speaking Spanish in class, they told him, "Americans better learn Spanish and their customs because they are taking the land back..."

Hill seemed bent on describing his Latino students as untamed and out of control. He says they refused to open their textbook, tore out pages, and threw them at each other. And then he added, "most of the Hispanic students do not want to be educated, but rather be gang members and gangsters."

Sound familiar? It's a perfect match to the Hispanic stereotype, the caricature, which is pushed all too often. There's only one problem: the children and the school claim none of it is true. According to District spokesman Jim Cummings, "Based on our conversations with students, based on our conversation with the teacher involved, we simply believe what he said is extremely exaggerated and not reflective of what our school is all about."

So where did Tony Hill get this story? The teacher, who hopes to get a job at a community college and now regrets sending the letter, told the Arizona Republic, "It just upset me that this was what's occurring... to see this disregard for America and their hatred towards it and their entitlement."

Tony Hill no doubt has some legitimate complaints about the problems caused by our inoperative immigration system, especially as a resident of a border state. But his diatribe laced with accusations against 8th grade children is shameful. Sadly, comments like Hill's have been and probably always will be a part of our collective struggle to grow and get along as a nation of immigrants.

The real danger isn't what Hill wrote, or even what he believes. No, the danger is how it went unchecked and was then read into the official record by two state senators who should, one would hope, know better.

In a TV interview, Senator Klein decided to double down. She stood by her actions and then went after the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States. "We have an organization here called La Raza, which is a far-leftist racist organization that is inciting young Hispanics to act out, not say the Pledge, spit on America, and say it's our right to take America back, and this is really creating a problem here," Klein said. She said that, "this kind of behavior... [is] not acceptable from any race" and that she's received, "countless emails from other educators, saying that they've also had this experience."

"I've seen a lot of things like this, it's not that out of the ordinary," Anti-Defamation League regional director Bill Straus told the Phoenix ABC affiliate KNXV. "What is out of the ordinary is that it gets the credibility of a state senator reading it word-for-word on the floor of the Senate. It's a disgrace." It certainly is.

The school district has now launched an inquiry into Hill. I can only hope that the inquiry also extends to examining the broken B.S. detectors and the judgment of Senators Pearce and Klein.

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