Sunday, July 20, 2008

Who gets the American Dream?

There are classic feel-good stories that are designed to give people an inspirational uplift that might even last more than a day. There are tales that warm the heart.
Sacha Kljestan's Karate Kid celebration, done in honor of his father, Slavko, definitely takes on greater meaning when viewed in the context of their close relationship and Slavko's soccer past.
There are aspects of this story that bother me, though.
I'll admit that it might be tied up with my own O.C. experience. I lived in the area for two years.
Slavko Kljestan, as the article details, entered the U.S. illegally. He stole across the northern border instead of the more commonly crossed southern one, but he didn't have papers, not even when he married. The article hammers home the theme that Slavko and his family have achieved the American Dream.
It strikes me as something of a contradiction when there isn't a mention of the obvious fact that many in the U.S. are now engaged in a furious effort to deny that dream to those trying to achieve it by coming in from Mexico.
By the way, there's a good chance that a future Olympic athlete could very well come from that direction as well.
In fact, that point is already proven by Michael Orozco, Sasha's teammate on the U.S. squad. Michael was born in Orange, a city within the O.C., but there's no O.C. Register profile on him or even a mention of his Olympic inclusion (I realize that Sacha's article was published before the official Olympic roster came out, but I did a search on the OC Register site today for Michael's name and nothing for him came up. So as far as their own database reveals, they've never written about him).
Bottom line, there's a lot of people who view the U.S. as the place where they can make "something from nothing". However, there sure seems to be more acceptance for those who take the initiative to come here without permission if they're European.


A.Ruiz said...

Yeah, I noticed the same thing.

But I did make a joke along the lines of "So that's why they love him at Chivas USA!" to my friends.

Theres definitely a hint of a double standard. Anyway, who knew sneaking in from Canada used to be was easy as sneaking into a drive-in.

Anonymous said...

This is something that bothered me as well. I read the story and I thought, would this still be a feel good story if Klejstan were Mexican? It's annoying when Europeans are praised, even seen as heroes, when they enter the US illegally, but when Latinos do it, they are often villainized or some negative light is shed on the issue.

Also sneaking in from Canadian border is still easier than going through the Mexican one.

Anonymous said...

AC, I'm Mexican-American. I'm from the south part of San Diego, 15 minutes from the border. I was born there and lived there until I went to college in the bay. I feel what you're saying to some degree. But, honestly, I think your inclusion of Michael in the article does you a huge disservice here.

First, Michael isn't the only other OC-born member of the squad. Robbie Rogers, white as can be Robbie Rogers, isn't mentioned in the article either. He, like Sacha, is from Huntington Beach. Like Michael, however, Robbie doesn't play locally.

Second, why would the article talk about Michael? It reads like maybe you're insinuating that maybe he has a similar story. Does he? I know that's not why you included him, but it makes for some eyebrow raising. Does his being Mexican make him the son of an illegal immigrant? Why not mention Robbie? Did you neglect to mention him for some unsaid reason?

I love your writing and this blog generally, but I think your showing more of a double standard than the original writer in this particular instance. I'm not going to complain very loudly when a story is written about a local soccer player, especially one that plays for the 2nd local team.

Anonymous said...

I came to the US as an illegal immigrant when I was 2 and I am Hispanic, but one thing that bothers me (and Im hispanic) is that even at the immigration rallies. Latinos make us look bad they pin point everything that Us citizens see and what to get rid of. You see MExicans going in waving there flags proudly, drinking beer and littering the whole area, doing drugs? ok makes sense if you are in mexico or even perhaps at a game but not for a pro-rally to legalize immigrants. It is a slap in the face, and it goes to show what everyone who lives near illegal immigrants whats to stop. I do want to go to Soccer games and see a good rivalry at the game, I DONT want to go and have these same jerks BOOO the national anthem, throw beer bottles at anyone not wearing a green jersey, start fights in front of 3 year olds, throw gang signs at a soccer game? Unfortanetly its the real americans, the ones who come here and appreciate our country, our flag and really only want to have a chance to succeed that will suffer. Its them that will never be able to get a green card because of these jerks. I went to the first rally here in DC in 2006 and I will never go to one again, I realized then why so many Us citizens want these people out. I was not around during the european immigration or asians. but I am sure it was nothing like this. CAN YOU BLAME THEM FOR WRITING A TRUE ARTICLE about the american dream (sasha) and not another well Im not sure what team I will play for mexican? Having your parents and you be born in the US and having to think about whether or not you will play for the US does not seem like a feel good story to us americans. Maybe it will work in Mexico not here.

This is written by a Hispanic trying to show that all hispanics are not the same. Some have repect and class while some have...Who knows.

P.S. I agree with your points but not this case, if you perhaps were refering to Mastroeni, bornstien, corrales then it would be different

A.C. said...

Both of Michael's parents hail from Mexico and he still has family there. That's how he's eligible to play for San Luis as a non-foreigner. I've never asked about how his parents immigrated to the U.S. because I haven't had an opportunity to talk to him. Whether his parents came to the U.S. legally or not, however, I'm sure they were chasing the American Dream as much as any immigrant. Michael has also, obviously, chosen to play for the U.S.
Robbie Rogers is worthy of a local story, too, but his Ohio family ties make a "recent immigrant to the U.S." article more unlikely.
My issue with the story wasn't that it focused on Kljestan, but that the story spun in such a positive way an act that many people in the O.C. campaign against when it concerns the lower border of the U.S.
As far as how some Hispanics act more attached to a homeland they left, perhaps that has to do with how welcome (or not) they feel when they're here.
Which is not to say that I condone littering and beer drinking at immigrant rallies, but I'd also point out that it's unfair to characterize everybody there under that description because some indulged.

Jon E said...

I think you're probably right that quite a few Americans tend to think of American Dream immigration stories more positively if the immigrants came from Europe.

(These days, that is. A century ago, a LOT of "real Americans" were panicked about the immigrants from the wrong parts of Europe--Italians, Poles, European Jews, et al--coming into the US in pretty much the same way today's "real Americans" are panicked about Latino immigration. And only a few decades ago, US government agencies handing out home loans used to rank immigrants by country of origin, and some Europeans scored much higher than others. Slavko Kljestan wouldn't have been at the top of those lists.)

But I'm not sure that the Kljestan/Orozco comparison is a particularly great piece of evidence to demonstrate that a lot of Americans are biased against Latino immigrants. For some people, I'm sure that the difference in country of origin has something to do with Orozco's treatment, but mostly I suspect it's about plot points. The basic plot point of any "American Dream" immigration story are: 1) Person struggles in own homeland, economically and/or politically, 2) Person makes decision to come to America, legally or illegally 3) Person endures hardships in America, 4) Person overcomes hardships and thrives in America, 5) Person's kids live a better life in America.

Fair or not, it's point #5 that makes people less likely to see Orozco's story the same way they see Kljestan's: Orozco is back in Mexico. For a lot of people, it just doesn't have the same arc for the hardworking immigrants to overcome obstacles, raise their kids in the US, and then watch their kids back to the country they came from to make a really good living, probably better living than they'd make here doing the same thing.

In fact, I think Orozco's case actually indicates that at least some progress has been made in this country in regards to Latino immigrants. From what I can tell, US fans of soccer tend to feel much more warmly toward Orozco (Mexican) than toward Giuseppi Rossi (Italian). Both are the children of immigrants and both have since moved out of the US to play soccer abroad. But Orozco looks to have decided that his national team future is with the US rather than with his parents' country, so he gets way less abuse on message boards and such.

L.B. said...

The thing about newspaper coverage is that when you want to spotlight a local guy, you need to make sure you spotlight all local guys. I know because the paper I write for, the Press-Enterprise, likes to provide as much coverage on local guys as possible. I'm actually working on a story on our "local guy" Maurice Edu. It doesn't matter to us where he plays professionally, where he went to college, etc. etc. He's a "local guy" and once you are labeled as such, it doesn't come off. Ante Razov spent three years in Fontana, graduated Fontana High and hasn't lived in the area since but he's a "local guy." Same with Landon Donovan. Same with Chad Marshall. Same with Sammy Ochoa and others, plenty of others. And that goes for all sports, not just soccer.

So if someone else from the area had made the team, there's now way I'd run a story on one without running another on the other. Now, I'm not sure if the Register will do another write-up on Michael Orozco; hopefully they do. But as their own archives point out, in which they don't even have any mention of, Orozco isn't in mind much there.

That they spun it as an "American Dream," well, it kind of leaves you wondering... "What about Michael Orozco and his family?"

Robbie Rogers, incidentally, was born somewhere in LA County, not in Orange County.

A.C. said...

Robbie Rogers does pop up for various mentions in an OC Register search, though.

If we're being technical, so does "Michael Orozco". But that's for football, not futbol. The mentions are for a Mater Dei player, while the Olympian Orozco went to Magnolia High, so it's clearly not the soccer guy.

Jon E said...

Point taken about the "local guy" angle. But, as you say, they still might do it. (Especially now that you guys have pointed it out.) And is it possible that they've been slower to do it because Orozco is harder to get a hold of? Kljestan is in LA a lot more--how much easier does that make writing a story on him (and/or getting it out quicker)?

L.B. said...

Yeah, it's possible they still write a story on Orozco. Hopefully they do because he has a good story and he's a local guy. And yes, getting ahold of players over the phone in Mexico is a very, very hard thing to do, as I can attest to. And having local guys play locally is great, as Razov and Donovan both play here and I don't worry too much about not having the chance to talk to them.

But Orozco was here at HDC during InterLiga earlier this year and I don't recall any stories on him back then. Maybe they wrote something on him and I just missed it. Like I said, I hope Orozco gets the same treatment as Kljestan.

Anonymous said...

Orozco only played at Magnolia his freshman year. Maybe that has something to do with the paper's lack of coverage?

You're right, though, AC. The Register should have written some sort of Michael Orozco story by now. Maybe not one to counter the Sacha story (which is a really good story) but one period.

argaen said...

Honestly why would they write about Orozco? He doesn't play for a local team and probably nobody outside of a small percent of national team diehards would even know who he is. I don't really think it has anything to do with ethnicity as much as it does local exposure.

Also, it wasn't long ago that seeing any soccer coverage anywhere was a good thing, now you're demanding they write about every player in an affirmative action sense? I think you're expecting too much from the media in this country. Lets not forget that europeans and asians all had their days of being demonized for immigrating. It was Italians, like my family, in the early 1900s who faced this same stuff. My grandparents had to change their names and adapt and move to the southwest to live a better life. I don't remember ever seeing pictures or hearings stories about them at any rallies waving Italian flags, flying the italian flag above the usa flag at their business, or going around telling everyone how much better Italy was than the usa they now live in.

But none of this stuff has nothing to do with Orozco or Klejstan or football.

How about you do us a favor and write a story on Michael Orozco and his dream? I'm sure its just as interesting as Klejstan's, if not more so. :)

A.C. said...

Luis has already written on Orozco
- more than once.
I wrote about him, too, a little in my Olympic team preview, but both those articles were for a national audience, not a local one.

A.C. said...

Also, I'd specify that it's not an affirmative action thing - it's basic news reporting to write about players who make the Olympic team from a local angle. That's news. For heaven's sake, this San Diego-based news outlet
is claiming Michael Bradley as a Californian, though he only visits his family here in the offseason and has never lived any significant length of time there. Orozco was born in the OC and graduated from high school there, by all rights, his making the Olympic team should be a local story - at the very least, a mention somewhere in the paper.

ebado said...

As a journalist with less experience than the two of you, it bothers me to that Orozco wasn't mentioned.

To echo what Andrea said, any local angle you can on a big event (like the Olympics) is news. It's big news. Those are the stories that people read and tell others about.

If we assume that Michael's parents came here illegally (I'm not saying that is the case, I'm just using it for an example), would the story be written the same away if it was about him? The Kljestan story has a very positive tone to it. Would Orozco's? Would there be negativity when it came to write about how his parents came to the U.S.? It's something to think about.

I have lived my entire life in Oklahoma, and spent much of it playing soccer with the large Latino population of Oklahoma City. Some of them were illegal, others weren't. Of course, around here, people get upset when they hear about illegal Latino immigrants, but nobody got upset about the illegal immigrants from Canada, Africa and the Caribbean, many of whom I also played with. Is it a double standard? It could be.

papa bear said...

AC: unless you have a specific link to an article from THIS WRITER pointing at illegals from south of the border and 'boo hissing' then I see a non-issue in that respect.
There are many people who give illegals a pass for some reason or another who see all of them as 'just looking for the American Dream' and living in LA I'm shocked that you haven't seen the sheer number of stories in papers talking about how great it is that 'lady x' slipped past border patrol to make a big life in East LA as a maid. There are a large number of people who (wrongly) assume that immigrants flocked into Ellis Island completely unregulated and assume that it's merely a natural extension of that and often write stories like this.
Also, I don't condone what Sacha's dad did at all since he apparently wasn't fleeing the militia groups and genocide in Yugoslavia (you may remember there was a 10 year all out war there to cap off a 500 year war), but one has to admit that I have yet to see a single European (or any other non-latin country) have organized political entities (La Mecha, La Raza et al) who have had stated goals of a 'reconquista' of California, Oregon, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico & Texas via illegal immigration.
With that bit of 'color' on it, it's a bit less difficult to see how some might be a bit negatively biased towards some latino immigrants even though I'm sure the bulk of them are simply looking to make some more $$ than what they had.

Also, re: Orozco not many peple even knew about Orozco before the Olympic Q's. I'd need 20 extra hands to count how many people say "where'd this kid come from"
That said, at this point you'd think this guy picked up on him unless Chivas USA's PR department is responsible for feeding him this story, which is possible.

A.C. said...

No, in the O.C., I never read one story about how great it was that someone came over illegally to work as a maid, actually. It simply is not the sort of thing that is praised in that area. At all. No matter how many are employed there, politically the reality is very much against such behavior.

The writer, Scott Reid, does occasional fine pieces on soccer and I have no idea of his personal politics.

Growing up near an Indian reservation in California, the politics of "Taking our country back" was one I heard often from organizers there trying to instill local pride, a pushback against the helplessness many feel. The Native Americans have more gripe than most about what they've lost to the U.S., but ultimately, such visions from any group are a political pipe dream. And a few Europeans, like Theodore Kaczynski or Tim McVeigh, have had political visions that were far more dangerous than anything La Raza has ever come up with.