Suppose The New York Times were to run a series of front-page articles alleging that Orthodox Jews were responsible for most of the Medicaid and Medicare fraud committed in New York State. Because they are. Wouldn't such reportage be condemned as anti-Semitic even if accurate? One story might just pass muster (maybe). A barrage of stories, editorials and Op-Ed pieces focusing on Jewish malfeasance would at the very least be characterized as tendentious and at worse as conducive to hate.
What if The Times reported that in their insular communities in Upstate New York theft of government property or services is tolerated among Jews as a legacy from the hardscrabble days of the Warsaw Ghetto where there was no other way to survive except to steal from the criminal-state, and that this transplanted ethos now flourishes here even if the actual conditions that precipitated and justified it do not?
Yet this is exactly what The Miami Herald has been reporting recently about Medicaid fraud in Florida. Except, of course, Jews are not the scapegoats. As usual, it is Cubans who are depicted as the great public malefactors because being anti-Cuban carries no societal stigma in this country. In fact, it is almost considered proof of balanced and independent thinking if you are open-minded about Castro and close-minded about Cuban exiles.
It's gotten so bad at The Herald (where it was never good) that even what purports to be a "defense" of Cuban exiles by a "vigorous enemy of stereotypes" turns out, upon closer scrutiny, to be yet another rehashing of those stereotypes by someone who, at the end of his remarks, validates all stereotypes because "stereotypes are part of the fabric that makes us human."
In a "A Few Bad Apples Promote Stereotypes" [August 14], Daniel Schor Roth begins by listing some stereotypes: "[t]he stingy Jew; the black thief; the Muslim terrorist; the promiscuous homosexual; the Latino machista; the child-molesting priest...." We expect him to denounce all these stereotypes as fallacious, and, surely, if he were defending any other group than Cubans, he would have denounced them as such in order to make the point that any stereotypes about Cubans are just as untrue and unacceptable. Instead, he acknowledges that there is at least some truth to all these stereotypes, though a few cases ("the trees") don't let us see the majority that doesn't fit the stereotypes ("the forest"). What Roth should really be asking is why would anyone become fixated on the exceptions in the first place or extrapolate them so that they obscure reality. It is not the exceptions that fuel the racist's bigotry but the fact that he himself is an exception. It is his own isolation from the human condition that makes the racist want to stigmatize others. To explain the stereotypes it is necessary to explore these racist motivations. A census of "stingy Jews" or "black thieves" is not going to tell you anything about these stereotypes. Nor will the enumeration of the handful of Cubans responsible for Medicaid fraud.
Having so magnificently failed to see the forest for the trees himself, Roth next takes up the question of good and evil, again with Cubans as his focus: "There is a shady side to human beings, innate or conditioned, that is seduced by corruption. Monotheistic religions refer to it as an inclination for evil. Other religions or philosophical and spiritual schools of thought define it in other ways, although they all share a universal truth: In the journey through life, we have been given tools — conscience, education, morals — to overcome it."
This "inclination for evil" of which Roth speaks is apparently not as "universal" as he first gives us to understand, nor are his tools for overcoming it equally efficacious in all cases, for in the next paragraph he singles out Miami as "a paradise for the dishonest," which pretty much obliterates his original point that evil is everywhere and all mankind is equally subject to being seduced by corruption. Some are obviously more constitutionally susceptible to it and even suited for it than others, because that "shady side to human beings" casts a bigger shadow in Miami than elsewhere, as Roth sees it.
After all this simplistic (mis)philosophizing, Roth is ready to single out the culprit responsible for this eclipse: "There are some immigrants who arrive with the delusion that they will have a comfortable life in the blink of an eye — instant believers in the American dream even though they didn't bring a hard-work ethic, which is the very pillar of this nation's prosperity." We all know where he's going. One little step more and he'll almost be there: "The collective personality of many groups has been nourished by current or historic elements that are often essential for survival." Groups now have a "collective personality." What is the difference between a stereotype and a "collective personality?" As far as I can tell, a stereotype is what somebody else says you are and a "collective personality" what Mr. Roth himself says you are.
The "collective personality of many groups" is in the next paragraph reduced to the examination of just one group.
Can you guess what group? No need to guess:
"In Cuba, especially during the past two decades, the totalitarian regime and economic crisis have fostered a modus operandi based on pure survival, in which illegal activity has become misinterpreted as normal. Many people are demoralized, formal education is at an all-time low, and, what kind of example are children getting if their parents steal for a living? When they emigrate, sometimes they carry their discontent as baggage."
So it's the "collective personality" of Cubans, especially those who were reared in Communist Cuba and came here in the last 20 years, that inclines them to "illegal activity," namely, "steal[ing] for a living." I suppose that it would be useless to point out to Mr. Roth that it is Castro's unlawful regime that has stolen the patrimony of the Cuban people. Their individual acts of rebellion against the state's monopoly of the economy are not motivated by a "collective personality" that inclines them to crime, but, rather, by a rare personality trait that inclines them to challenge injustice. There is no correlation whatever between this activity and Medicaid fraud.
Lest anyone accuse Roth of "pigeonholing" the newcomers (which he assures us he is not trying to do), he is quick to point that "it is not just the Cubans that left in the past few years who are committing crimes." No, this bar sinister runs through the whole larcenous tribe like a genetic marker. As "proof" ("the proof") he offers the case of the Céspedes Brothers, "who arrived in 1961 [and] were recently charged with healthcare-related wire fraud and income tax evasion." Yes, they were charged but have not been convicted of anything. "Charged" may be a done deal in Cuba but it isn't here (unless you happen to be Cuban). Just exactly how does being charged prove anything? The only thing it proves is that Mr. Roth is not biased towards any particular group of Cubans but all Cubans in general.
But his intentions are good, Roth assures us. He is worried that when the Medicare fraud is "added to other similar occurrences," [it] can create a force capable of toppling years of effort by Cuban Americans to overcome the animosity they have faced." I don't think that Cuban exiles have spent even one minute of the last 50 years "trying to topple the animosity they have faced." If they had bought into that victimization crap they could have been easily enrolled into the underclass long ago. Instead, Cuban-Americans became "the most successful immigrants in the history of this nation of immigrants." (George Gilder) Nobody is going to take that away from them. Their story is the vindication of the American Dream and no stereotypes apply.