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Lecturers discuss ‘who counts in the United States’

Justin Tardiff | Wednesday, November 2, 2005

A professor, a nun, an author and a development program director came together Tuesday to discuss “Who Counts in the United States?” – the second lecture on the 2005-06 first year theme at Saint Mary’s Carroll Auditorium.

This first year theme, which is chosen every spring by a group of professors and the Center for Academic Innovation, is intended to create a sense of intellectual community, particularly among first year students.

Tuesday’s lecture to about 90 attendees expanded on the ideas presented by Faith Adiele and Margo Anderson in the first lecture of the series on Sept. 27.

“The question of who counts in the Americas begs the question ‘who doesn’t count?'” said Maurice Guev-era, professor of English at the University of Wisconsin.

Guevera was joined by Sr. Maria Riley, an Adrian Dominic-an nun; Betsy Hartman, the director of the Population and Development Program at Hampshire College; and Brenda Cardenas, author of From the Tongues of Brick and Stone.

Guevera focused on the concentration of power in the U.S. government, which, he said, is replicated throughout the generations. While there are rules in place that allow anybody to make his or her way into political power and become a senator, congressman or even school board president, that will most likely not happen, he said.

Guevera cited the Bush and Kennedy families as examples in which many members of the same class are involved in politics.

“These same people always rule, so how can we expect a lower class person to count in our government,” he said.

Riley spoke about her work with Catholic social teachings and how “free trade” negatively affects the poorer countries involved in trade agreements.

She cited the new Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), which was passed this summer and includes Nicar-agua, Costa Rica, Honduras, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic.

“Free trade favors the economically powerful countries in this world,” she said.

While free trade is widely thought to help poorer countries, Riley said it actually hurts the financially struggling people.

She also said the flood of American imports saturate the economy, overwhelming local and small industries in countries and making them more dependent on exporting their quickly depleting natural resources.

Hartman foc-used on the role of rich consumers and young workers, who, she said, count in the U.S.

She specified that “young workers” counted because of the growing trend of companies laying off older men and women.

Hartman also spoke on the scare tactics used by people in favor of population control, like white supremacist groups. She said population has almost become a National Security Crisis because groups have subtly implanted in everyone’s mind that there are “too many young men prone to violence in the Middle East.”

Cardenas, who spoke last, was most focused on Latino Americans in the United States. She lived in a barrio on the Southwest side of Chicago for a few years and said she saw firsthand how the immigrants in America stay connected to their country of origin by constantly traveling back and forth, “not caring if it was legal or illegal,” she said.

Cardenas said there is a bit of cultural syncretism because people are assimilating into American culture but do not want to give up their culture from home.

Cardenas recalled when she taught at Wright College in Chicago, which, at the time, had a 48 percent Latino population, but only offered one Latino Studies course.

“If that’s not saying something about who counts, I don’t know what does,” she said.