I moved from Tijuana to Los Angeles in 2012—just a couple of months before the Mexican presidential election.
I had to send my vote from Los Angeles because I was going through my green card application and could not go back to Mexico for six months.
The results of that election broke my heart.
Honestly, there were no good candidates for the position. But having the well-known corrupt party’s—Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI)—soap opera candidate win the election (knowing that it was completely rigged and that’s how things work in Mexico) had me in tears. I was longing for my country, but disappointed to the core of my soul.
At the same time, for the first time in my life, I was happy to start the process of becoming an American citizen.
Growing up on the Mexican side of the international border and being a born revolutionary made me reject many of the ideas that the American way of life presented as expectations.
My parents would scold me whenever I was not polite to the immigration agents—some of whom, despite their terrible reputation, are the nicest people and would always greet us with smiles and jokes. But, I was determined not to give in to the capitalistic dragon.
Then, I met my husband.
He is American, grew up in Texas, and was then living in Los Angeles. We had a 10-year relationship before deciding to get married and have a family together.
It was not easy to accept that I was truly in love with a gringo. He was the smartest, kindest, most supportive person I had ever met; but, it was hard to accept that I would be working with a gringo to make plans to be better for the world together.
Those 10 years (and what has followed) have made me realize that—obviously—not every American is a consumerist monster, that not all gringos are as disengaged from the rest of the world as I thought, and that there are great initiatives, groups, and individuals working hard to make this world a better place.
Amongst these individuals is the former President of the United States, Barack Obama. When my whole Mexican world was crumbling after the 2012 elections, I sighed and thought that, at least for the time being, I was living in a country that not only had a very cool and smart president with an involved and prepared first lady, but they were also a minority.
The thought of being in a country where minorities could be leaders—where the color of your skin or your religion were not impediments to make your dreams come true—was amazing.
I was starting to understand why so many people longed to live in this country.
I was upset that Mexico could not offer this to its own people. I was upset that, back at home, the immigrants were treated with contempt because of their bronze skin color or the families they were born into.
Most immigrants in any country are looking for a better opportunity for their families. They are trying to survive and we—the privileged—have no idea what they have really gone through. We can read the news, we can hurt with the idea of their suffering, with the pictures of starving or drowning children, with the images of hopeless elders, mothers, and fathers…but we don’t really know.
Those of us who are empaths will pour tears because we want them to be safe—we want to provide and be a shelter.
But the world doesn’t work like that; and in the fall of 2016, we were reminded of that when the United States elected Donald J. Trump as president.
A stream of pain and confusion mixed with anger and disappointment came back and has not stopped.
I felt like elephant journal columnist Keri Mangis, who described herself as one of the “Unfortunate Ones Left Behind” in her article. She talks about this invisible portal that leads back to the world in which Hillary Clinton had won the election and America was leading in renewable energy and peace and love reigned.
It has been almost a year, and reading the news is not getting any easier.
When finding out about the pardon given to Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, my heart sunk once more. Not only that, but the rumors of him, “Americas toughest sheriff,” having a place in the justice department broke my heart even more. Joe Arpaio is a man who has stood out for his cruelty and inhumane treatment to convicts, who has been convicted of criminal contempt, and is well known for racial profiling and going after undocumented immigrants with hard-line tactics.
How is it possible that this is happening? How have corruption and decay engulfed the principles of justice? And where are the checks and balances?
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” states Emma Lazarus‘ “The New Colossus” at the foot of the Statue of Liberty.
I think about this and then the image of Arpaio holding a sign with the words, “Illegals your not welcome here go back to your own country!!! 1070 YES!!!,” during a 2009 rally in Arizona, sponsored by the Tea Party. (And that’s how the sign is spelled; I did not make a mistake.)
I think about Trump and his promises of a taller, stronger, impenetrable wall.
I think about Trump and his anti-migrants and anti-refugee politics and speeches.
I think of Charlottesville and all the hate demonstrations against minorities that have recently popped up across the country.
And I think about all the people who have remained silent. Bad things happen because we don’t do anything to stop them.
I see and hear all those who do speak out.
I get inspired every time I run into signs that call for kindness.
My heart jumps with hope every time I see street art with a message of peace.
I admire those who become inspired by this situation and find ways to tell the world, “We care about you,” “We welcome you,” and, “We are one with you.”
I hope this is a wake-up call.
Because this is not only happening in the United States. We are in a world crisis and we have to address it.
Love and kindness are a scarce resource.
There are Joe Arpaios and Donald Trumps (or worse) with power around the world; and they all seem to be on a mission to go back in history regarding human and civil rights. And good people, all around the world, suffer the consequences.
“The people united will never be defeated,” wrote Sergio Ortega in the “New Chilean Song” in 1973—a song that has become an international chant in marches and protest against tyrants.
But when will we really believe this is true?
When will the people really unite?
It is up to us to make our leaders accountable and change the system so that freedom, justice, respect, diversity, tolerance, and love are the values our governments are run by.
It is up to us to speak up and spread words of kindness.
“When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes mandatory.” ~ Thomas Jefferson
Author: Montse Leon
Editor: Leah Sugerman
Copy Editor: Nicole Cameron
Social Editor: Emily Bartran