Before You Point Fingers, ‘Merica

23 Jul

I know you guys are terrified of a Trump presidency, as well you should be. Many of you are threatening to immigrate to Canada. Personally, I don’t think that all of the non-fascist people moving to Canada is a legitimate answer, for a number of reasons I won’t delve into here (#1 being: if Trump gets elected I need you to stay in the US and fix the situation). I understand your thoughts about self-preservation, though, if Trump does get elected; moving would certainly be easier, although Trump would affect the whole world anyway.

With that national context in mind, though, someone on the Facebook feed asked why people aren’t threatening to move to Mexico instead of Canada. Someone else replied something like, “because Mexico’s dirty and dangerous and you can’t drink the water.”

I laughed hysterically. So the problem is you can’t drink the water in Mexico, huh? Neither can the people of Flint, Michigan. Neither should a large portion of children in schools who are being poisoned with lead daily (see here http://www.myajc.com/news/news/local-education/elevated-lead-levels-found-at-half-of-atlanta-scho/nrqXh/  And http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2016/03/11/nearly-2000-water-systems-fail-lead-tests/81220466/ )

And Mexico’s so dangerous? At least kids here can go to school without worrying about being shot. If you want to talk about dirty, let’s look at the pollution in the US. People in the US are dying more and more from illnesses related to air pollution, among other dirty problems.

Look at yourself for a minute, ‘Merica*, please, before you talk bad about another country. I’ll be the first to tell you that Mexico is full of corruption, for example. But the US is too, it’s just hidden a little better there. Here there is much more transparency about the corruption, for better or for worse. Nobody’s walking around calling Mexico the greatest country on Earth just because they’re from there and proud of it. Being proud isn’t the same as being blindly arrogant. I am proud to be from my country, and that’s exactly why I criticize the things that are wrong with it.

I didn’t get to write any of this to little buddy who posted the comment, unfortunately, because I was on Conan’s phone, scrolling and nursing my kid, too tired to sign in with my own account, so I didn’t pick a fight. (You’re welcome, Conan.) I meant to go back to the conversation from my account, but life got in the way. Now I can’t remember whose page it was on, so instead I decided to address those comments and, more importantly, that attitude, even more publicly. I hope you’re reading this, dude, and everyone else who feels this way about Mexico (I know, you’re probably not- but just in case). I’m writing this not just for that guy, but also for my whole country. It’s especially for all of my compatriots who, like this guy, are running around casting stones at other countries before they look in the mirror.

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Let me just say, in my humble opinion, the U.S. is not better than Mexico. The U.S. does some things way better, but Mexico is better in other ways. I’m from a fairly wealthy city in one of the poorest states in the USA, and now I’ve lived for almost four years in the poorest state of Mexico. In both places, essentially, if you have a lot of money, your life will be pretty easy, and if you’re poor you’ll have to struggle every day to get by. Some things are more developed in the US, like the road systems. Other things are better here, like more mandatory paid vacation and paid maternity leave. It’s true that Mexico does not have basic infrastructure at the same level as the U.S., which lowers the quality of living to some extent. (Here are some interesting comparisons, if you want to look at statistics: http://www.indexmundi.com/factbook/compare/mexico.united-states ). But there are a lot of other quality-of-life issues that aren’t mentioned in the reports (like walking to the end of my block to buy organic, free-range eggs from my neighbor for cheap, or like kids having freer childhoods here in Mexico: http://www.bizjournals.com/chicago/news/2012/12/10/the-marketing-store-in-chicago-knows.html;  and adults being happier, too: http://www.businessinsider.com/heres-how-happy-43-countries-are-2014-10  ).

I do think that escaping to Canada from the US is probably better than escaping to Mexico, for the same reasons that Canada is probably a better place to live than the US. For example, they have wonderful social policies like free universal healthcare, and more access to education. They work fewer hours and have less of a gap between the rich and the poor. Their country’s not so into the war-mongering and world-domination-by-any-means-necessary, just to name a few other pluses. (see more here: http://www.macleans.ca/news/canada/99-reasons-why-its-better-to-be-canadian/ )

My main drama, however, isn’t really about defending Mexico. Nor is my goal to compare Mexico, Canada and the US. It’s more an issue with the blatant hypocrisy and alarming ignorance of his statement. This nationalistic ignorance is characteristic of a frighteningly substantial amount of people in my country, as evidenced by the support of Trump as a legitimate presidential candidate. It’s an ignorance that not only harms those in other countries but also harms our own citizens and residents of the US.

The “We’re the Greatest” attitude is harmful to US residents and citizens because it obscures and ignores all of our shortcomings. And really, what are we the greatest at? Capitalism? Not even that, judging by the bank bailout. Greatest at health? Nope; we develop some great treatments but people’s access to healthcare is pretty low on the global scare, and our citizens are far from healthy in general. Are we the greatest at taking care of our citizens? We don’t even take care of our veterans, nor our old folks, nor our children. Our veterans are homeless and committing suicide. Our old folks are often mistreated or neglected in their nursing homes, or unable to make ends meet at home with the measly benefits they’ve acquired. Our babies and their mothers die at the highest rates of any “developed” nation. Our children are mostly receiving substandard education, and many of them are being poisoned by lead at school to boot. Furthermore, our police are killing off people of color at outrageous, we’re-talking-genocide rates. Our “justice” system is incarcerating the people of color that they’re not killing, along with some poor white folks, mostly to turn a profit in the prison industrial complex.  None of this qualifies us as great in my book.

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Muhammad Ali, a hero from my hometown, is indeed The Greatest. Let’s not get confused, guys. You can be proud to be from our country, but it ain’t the greatest at most things.

 

We are pretty great at making box office hits and making sure the rest of the world knows all about the capitalist aspects of our culture. We are pretty great at selling our  image of being a land of opportunity- a land where anyone can start out poor and become rich, just by working hard. We don’t talk about the systemic barriers to doing so, or the fact that pretty much no one ever has actually done it. But boy can we sell the idea to the masses.

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We harm ourselves, our own citizens, with this kind of posturing- this idea that we’re so much better than all the other countries- because, for one, it means we’re not demanding or even hoping for anything better. It means we’re more than content- we’re proud- with this as our status quo.

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Don’t get me wrong. I love my home country and many of the people in it. I criticize my country BECAUSE I love it, because I believe that we can- no, that we must– do better. We must do better for our people. For ALL our people- the ones whose land was stolen from them, the ones whose ancestors were stolen and enslaved to build our country, the ones who migrated and toiled to build our country and were then imprisoned or kicked out when expedient, to ALL for real this time, not the imaginary “all” of the Pledge of Allegiance. Our country needs a lot of work so that we can make it into all the things that we bill it as- a land of freedom from repression, a place of equality and opportunity. So far in our history, it hasn’t been that for most people. Buying into the hyperbole about the US and putting down other countries is not going to make anything great for anybody. Learning from each other would get us a lot farther. Somebody send a memo to these would-be leaders of ‘Merica.

I know I’m surely preaching to the choir by posting this on my blog. Sorry, guys, but I didn’t get to say it on Facebook, and you have to pay the price now. Nobody talks bad about my adopted country when their critiques can apply as well to their country. So all you guys with more internet access than I have can do me a favor and keep calling out the hypocrisy. And please, please, please DO NOT let Trump get elected. Or I’m serious- there won’t be any moving to Canada or even Mexico. You’re gonna have to stay and make our country GREAT for everybody, for the first time ever.

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*I have a hard time calling my beloved home country “America” because it’s geographically misleading and a bit offensive politically. “America” is an entire continent, and therefore it’s more than a tad presumptuous to use the name to refer to just one of the many countries within the continent.

 

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