For the past several years, I have received hate mail from someone in Van Nuys whose stated objective is to see people like me burning in hell.
I assume by people like me he means those whose names end in the letter "Z," such as Armando Gomez or Juan Alvarez or Elmer Teenez.
He can picture us hunched over our bowls of chili beans, scooping up the juice with corn tortillas and swilling huge tumblers of tequila, worms and all.
This sends waves of almost unbearable nausea through the poor wretch, and he sits right down and writes me a letter, demanding that I change my ways.
That part confuses me. If he doesn't like Mexicans, and God knows I'm not crazy about them either, what does he expect me to do about it? I mean, I am one, and changing my ways will not alter that fact.
You can change your looks and you can change your name and you can even change your sex, but it simply is not possible to change your ethnic background.
It would do no good, I suppose, to make an effort to contact the man and explain that I favor coq de bruyere over chili and tortillas, and much prefer Glenlivet Scotch to tequila when I am in a swilling mood.
He would simply take that as an effort to mask my true identity by adopting the more sophisticated habits of decent white folks. He's wise to people like me.
I mention my anonymous correspondent today to coincide with the recent revelation that there exists in the San Fernando Valley an organization of young, white neo-Nazis who are supposedly interested in ridding the Valley, and presumably the world, of people like me.
They call themselves Reich Skins and shave their heads bald.
All of this came to light when an 18-year-old named Michael Casey Martin was arrested and charged with trying to break into a house occupied by a Latino woman and her two young children.
The family told police that Martin carried a gun while terrorizing them and yelled "White power!" and "Down with Mexicans!" Adequate but not imaginative.
The incident has been greeted with shock and surprise by many in the Valley who had no idea that this sort of thing went on. I'm here to tell them, therefore, that hatred never goes out of style.
It just takes on different shades.
During times of drums and bugles, when war clouds darken the world, an intense dislike of one's enemy is encouraged as an essential element of social strategy.
Those old enough to recall World War II, or bright enough to have read its history, will remember those rousing "Slap the Jap" and "Hunt the Huns" campaigns of the 1940s.
We hated our adversaries with glorious abandon until the war ended and the official hate effort came to a close.
We had, after all, taught both the nips and the krauts lessons they would not likely forget. They're still trying to recover their pride and their economic stability.
Somewhat later, but in a more subdued spirit, we went to war with the North Koreans and were able to focus our hatreds once more.
That was a little more difficult, however, since North Koreans are essentially the same as South Koreans, give or take the dips and juts of an erratic border.
Thank God, however, the Chinese rushed in at the last minute and we could direct a harmonic, All-American hatred toward people we regarded as "gooks."
Catchwords, by the way, are always useful when attempting to describe a racially inferior class during troubled times.
Well, we brought all the little suckers to their knees in the Korean War and then in the Vietnam War, and settled into one of our most enduring hatreds, that which exists toward the Godless Russians.
It is an all-absorbing, soul-satisfying hatred rooted in the American ethos, which is to say the profit motive, and therefore has existed steadily even when expediency or statesmanship have threatened detente.
But something has been happening to our focus lately.
We aren't hating the Russia as much as we used to, and we don't hate China anymore, and we rely on Arabs too much to initiate an official hatred, so who's left? I'll tell you who's left.
People like me.
We're always here, along with blacks and Jews, amiably awaiting our turn, realizing with forbearance that, when there's nothing solid out there upon which to vent one's spleen, there's always something right here at home.
Blacks and Jews, I'm sure, are getting a little weary of the whole thing, so I suppose it's up to people like me to take the heat for a while. That's OK.
One knows with certainty that, sooner or later, national antipathies will once more turn outward, when the drums roll and the bugles blow.
Meanwhile, I expect to hear more from the man in Van Nuys and more from skinheads who terrorize women and children. They've always existed. They always will.
I guess it's just up to people like me to remind people like you that there are people like them messing life up for people like us.
And they're everywhere.