It’s been almost a week since the election.
Ever since Trump entered the race for President, we’ve spent a lot of time talking about him with our Mexican neighbors. We couldn’t get into a taxi without the driver asking us about him. We couldn’t sit in a bar or restaurant, or attend a local party, without having to talk about him and what we thought. The same was true when we went back to the US for part of the summer. Everyone wanted to know what our Mexican friends and neighbors thought about the election. They all thought we were crazy to even consider him for President. “Trump es un pendejo” was a popular meme here. Everyone thought he was a joke and wanted us to explain how anyone in our country could take him seriously, let alone consider him for the office of President. We spent a lot of time talking with people about this, struggling to understand it ourselves even as we tried to explain it to our friends around the world.
On Tuesday, we were invited to our friends’ home in the valley to celebrate the muerteada segunda (the second weekly celebration of Dia de Muertos). So, instead of anxiously watching election results, we went out to the valley to celebrate with them. The muerteada was basically a huge roving street party with costumes both fantastic and horrific. A band leads a parade down the street to someone’s front yard, where we all stop and dance for 5 songs. Then the band plays you to the next location. There are three roving bands, and if they run into each other, it becomes a battle to see who can play the loudest, play the best, has the best dancers, etc. We spent the night with our friends’ oldest daughter, dancing with demons while the band played on. Kind of ironic given the news we came home to.
We don’t typically have cell service in that part of the valley. So the first we saw of election results already had Trump well over 200 electoral college votes. I was shocked. Many of our local friends thought this was some sort of joke. In fact, as the results were rolling in after we got back to our friends’ house late on Tuesday night, Mexican Facebook was filled with all sorts of jokes about Trump winning the election. I finally had to go to bed just to get away from all the joking and laughing about it. I turned my phone off and tried to sleep. By the time I checked it again in the morning, it was all over.
Oaxacans are very pragmatic. They deal with blatant government corruption on a huge scale here. And they have a long history of protesting and standing up for their beliefs and their rights. They also take a very long view of things. On Wednesday morning, our friend told us that 4 years would go by quickly. That we should spend that time focusing on the changes we can make – improving our families, our neighborhoods, our towns. I found it hard to look her in the eye because I didn’t think I could do it without bursting into tears. We went home and sat on our bed and cried. Our good friend and neighbor came over for hugs. We drank some mezcal, and chatted with people we love and care about from all over the US.
Since then, the reality of this election has started to seep in. There are so many stories we’ve heard this week.
A friend here in Oaxaca is afraid of what might happen to her ex-husband, who has lived illegally in the US for quite some time and has a family there (with kids who were born there), along with a home he owns and a successful business. He also sends money to Oaxaca every month to help pay for their daughter’s education. Without his help, she wouldn’t be able to attend the school she does, or have bus fare to get her there, or a sandwich every day for lunch.
We watched as the value of the Mexican peso plunged this week in response to the election results. Many expats here cheer when the peso falls, as it means our life here gets cheaper. But we’re not in that camp. We see how the value of the peso against the dollar can have a huge effect on the quality of life of so many of our friends and family here. We see how our choices and conditions in the US have an effect on the entire world.
On social media in Mexico, there have been loads of messages sharing ideas about how to keep Mexican money here in Mexico rather than giving it to a country of racists. This is part of a forwarded message I received via Mexican social media this week. The message was about spending your money locally rather than in stores or on products owned by American companies. And it ended with this message.
“We have seen that the population of the United States is more racist and xenophobic than we imagined, and yet we are going to continue sending our money, that we earn through so much effort and sacrifice, to those people who share the ideas of Trump to the point of voting for him? What do you prefer? That, with your money, your neighbor the butcher pays his daughter’s tuition this month or that the McDonald’s manager rents a new helicopter in New York?”
The next time you wonder what the world thinks of us, remember that.
I wrote this friend back and reminded him that not everyone in the US voted for Trump or supports his platform. My friend’s response: “Yes, Kathy. Not everyone.” This is someone who knows us well. But people are hurting and confused on this side of the border.
We have friends in the US whose kids are afraid that their grandparents might be deported (even though they’ve lived in the US for decades and are US citizens). They also worry about what will happen to me and Kyle if they build a wall and we’re on the other side of it.
Many local friends in Oaxaca worry about what might happen to the economy here if relations with the US go bad. They have good reason to worry, as violence surrounding the teacher protests (& the US State department travel warnings that came out of that) killed the tourist economy here in 2006, and, ten years later, they’re still recovering. Poor relations with the US could have repercussions that could effectively kill the main economy here in Oaxaca.
We have nieces and nephews in the US worrying that something awful could happen to them in school. Or that their parents might not be home when they come back. I didn’t think I would ever have to know what it is like to reassure a child that they don’t need to worry about someone hating them so much that they would do whatever it takes to destroy their life and take away their family. Unfortunately, this week I learned exactly what that feels like. I feel so much for all our friends and family with kids. How do you reassure a child that everything is going to be okay when you can’t even reassure yourself?
An immigrant friend in the US is worried that he doesn’t have US citizenship, even though his kids do. And his kids, who have dual citizenship, don’t have passports for his home country. He’s fearful that he could have his green card revoked and have to leave his wife and kids behind in the US.
So many of our friends in the US are fearful for their personal safety. Or for the future of their families, their rights, and what sort of country we will eventually hand over to our children. They’re worried about what might happen to them the next time they travel – or even go to the store in their neighborhood. They are afraid to let their sons and daughters walk to school. I am fearful for them too. For all of us. And I’m mad.
Kyle and I are pretty much the poster kids for white privilege, but we still worry about what sort of effect this will have on our life here in Mexico. Whether things might come to a point where it’s no longer possible for us to stay. A point where US-Mexico relations become so poor that we’re no longer welcome or the US no longer wants us to be here. Trump is already reiterating that he wants to build a wall, or at the minimum a fence. We are from a border state, so we know what many people in the US don’t realize. There is already a wall or fence along a huge swath of the border. Bush tried to build it across the entire border and failed. We also know something else. That wall does nothing to protect the US or prevent illegal immigration or drug traffic. Remember when the Drug King, El Chapo, escaped from prison in a tunnel they dug underneath the prison and right up to his toilet? Yeah, how do you think they had the equipment and know how to do something like that?
But our biggest worries are for our friends and family who are at risk because they are people of color, LGBT, immigrants, members of a non-Christian religion, those living in poverty, the disabled, those facing health issues, the disenfranchised, or women. We’re already seeing with Trump’s appointments that we all have reason to be worried. Friends of ours who supported Trump keep telling me that I shouldn’t buy into the propaganda. That everything will be fine. That it will all shake out. That I should stop overreacting. That I owe Trump respect as our new president elect. And to those statements I say no!
I’m a proud American. Even though Kyle and I have chosen to spend the last 4 years of our life living and traveling outside the US, and recently settled down in our newly adopted home in Oaxaca, Mexico, we’ve never once considered giving up our US citizenship. I firmly believe in the democratic process. And I believe that the democratic process worked in this election. I’m not happy with the result, but the process worked.
And to those who say Trump deserves my respect, I disagree. As our president elect, Trump deserves civility (although I doubt he’d offer it in return) during this transfer of power. And the office of President deserves my respect. But respect is earned and so far he has shown me nothing that deserves my respect. He ran on a platform of hatred, fear, exclusion, and bullying. And he’s done very little to back down off that platform since his victory on Tuesday. I’ve seen no evidence of how he plans to bring this country together again…or even evidence that he wants to do that at all. And I support those who are standing up and saying, “We’re here. We’re not happy with you as our president. And we’re not going to stand idly by and let you take away the rights we’ve fought so hard for.” Being able to stand up for what you believe in is a constitutional right in the US.
Do I believe that every Trump supporter is a racist who wants to destroy the lives and liberties of so many whom I hold dear? No, I don’t. But I do want those who voted for Trump (because they’re against the establishment, or they hate Hillary, or they think he’ll do a better job of building the economy) to realize who they’ve chosen to lie in bed with. You voted for the man endorsed by the KKK. A man who spewed hatred and fear, bullyism and division, and who continues to do so. He spurred on a monster that we’ve worked hard to combat for generations, and basically told the American people (& the world) that it was okay to say these things, okay to believe them, and okay to act on those beliefs. You may not be racist. You may not want to take away my rights or the rights of others. But a lot of people who voted for Trump do want those things. And we’re already seeing the beginning of putting these ideas into practice with the appointments the last week. So this is your opportunity to speak up, to take a stand and say, “No.” We need you as allies more than ever. And the world is watching. Especially those of us south of the border.
And so we sit here far south of the US border and wonder what we should do now. And for us, the answer is clear. It’s time to roll up our sleeves and fight for those we love and for all we hold dear. We’ve always stood as fierce allies for our friends and families in so many communities. We’ve fought for and defended women’s rights, LGBT rights, the rights of people of color, immigrants, and non-Christian religions. We’ve fought hard for the rights of the sick and people with disabilities, and those living in poverty. For years, we’ve been proud members and supporters of the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, Planned Parenthood, and many other organizations dedicated to protecting the rights of Americans. And we’re not stopping now. One of the most amazing rights we have in America is the right to protest and to stand up for our rights and our beliefs. And we intend to keep doing that, both while we’re here in Mexico and also when we’re back in the US.