It’s a cold, rainy Sunday morning in February, one of those days that makes you want to stay in your pajamas, lounging on the couch for hours on end, until the only thing that forces you out is your obligation to work on Monday morning. As I sit here sipping my Kratom shake, the thought occurs to me that I may do just that. The food shopping can wait. There is absolutely no good reason I need to be wearing pants today.
The dogs momentarily interrupt my thoughts, barking at Will through the sliding glass doors. Will is my friend, he lives upstairs. He has lived here for over two years, but my dogs are not very bright. Every time he walks by, they bark as if it’s the first time they have ever seen him. On this cold, miserable day, Will is heading into Corona, Queens, so he can talk to people in the street about “Marichuy” and to let them know that even though they live here in the states, they can still vote for her in the Mexican election. Who is Marichuy, you may be asking (as did I). Well, she is the indigenous woman who is running for president of Mexico.
You may also be asking yourself why I care about a country whose politics I hardly know, and a woman I’d never heard of until only a few short weeks ago. Legitimate question. If forced to answer, I would have to say it’s because Will is my good friend, and this is something that is very important to him; therefore, it holds some importance to me.
Chances are you don’t know Will. Hell, we have established that you probably had no idea who Maria “Marichuy” de Jesus Patricio Martinez was a few seconds ago, but now that Will has introduced her to me, I feel a responsibility to, at the very least, do a bit of research on her. Sadly, that is the way most of us humans operate––we tend not to care about things unless they directly affect us, or until they affect the people we care about. On this Sunday morning, the more I read about Marichuy, the more she speaks to me on a very visceral level.
“We do not bring promises, we do not bring anything to give away, more than the heart, more than sweat, more than the effort of each day. It has been a difficult road because people no longer believe in anything and are tired of hearing promises. That is why we are not promising things. We are launching a call to the organization of society, to a union that goes beyond elections. This is the moment of youth, of childhood, of women. It is time for us to be aware that we can move forward together.”
~ Maria “Marichuy” de Jesus Patricio Martinez
After I wrote my piece about the protests on Inauguration Day and during the twelve months that have followed, I have often found myself wondering, what is the point of writing? My like-minded friends read my essays, maybe even share them on social media from time to time, but those who do not understand me have labeled me everything from a terrorist to a communist, and so many other things in-between. They don’t read my writing with an open mind; their minds are clamped shut. So I wonder, if I am going be in an echo chamber, what exactly is the point?
Early on in my activism, my goal was to change minds, but soon it became apparent that people are who they are. You cannot change how someone else views the world simply by getting arrested exercising your First Amendment right, or writing an essay about state-sanctioned violence. To simplify a very complicated matter, you are either a person who views all of humanity as being interconnected (which is the way the majority of my friends see the world), or you are someone who has an “us vs them” mentality. It seems Trump greatly appeals to the latter.
I am not going to say I don’t understand that mentality. I understand it all to well. You cannot grow up in America without recognizing that our very history, our way of life is built on the “us vs. them” worldview, whether it was the colonization and slaughter of millions of indigenous people (too many millions to accurately estimate), the kidnapping and enslavement of 12.5 million Africans, or the wars that are currently being fought overseas (and the ones that will undoubtedly be initiated by this administration).
Most Americans are happy to buy into the “us vs. them” school of thought. It’s built into the very fabric of America. We are “the chosen” ones,” we are exceptional. Questioning the very idea of American exceptionalism under this administration (and some before it), either makes you “hate America,” or a “treasonous letch.” We are told time and time again, if we are not “on-board,” we should just get the fuck out. There is absolutely no room for improvement here because, after all, we are already exceptional!
Trump seems to have legitimized the notion that not caring about our neighbors is a totally acceptable way to live. This strategy has emboldened the resolve of his followers, who call themselves, the “Deplorables.” You know the old saying, “when people tell you who they are, believe them?”
Deserving strong condemnation
(disgraceful, shameful, dishonorable, unworthy, inexcusable, unpardonable, unforgivable)
If these people believe we were once great, we really need to question and evaluate what their definition of “greatness” is. When was the last time we really cared about another nation when it did not benefit us to do so? Mexico is our neighbor––shouldn’t we have a vested interest in the Mexican people that goes beyond insulting them and wanting to shut them out?
Let us not be fooled. Trump is not the first leader to capitalize on our selfishness and inability to challenge who and what we really stand for, or what we want to be as a nation. While he may be more open about his thoughts and unapologetic for the ugliness that spews from his mouth, he really is just an extension of those that have come before him. Would we be having these conversations if Clinton’s brand of “elitism” was holding office? I don’t think we would.
I wish I had the answer for all that ails humanity, but the true fix can only be found when we allow ourselves to challenge and sometimes even “burn to the ground” the things we think we know about ourselves and our history. That is not an easy task, and it’s why I have begun to accept the reality that we may always be a country divided. My writing about it will probably never change one thing, or one mind.
It’s both a blessing and a curse to care so strongly about things that may not (on the surface) affect you on a daily basis. I struggle with my emotions daily––they can range from despair to rage to hatred at any given moment. What is it that prevents so many Americans from feeling love, compassion, and empathy for fellow human beings? Could it really be something as simple as imaginary lines and borders that exist only because man said they should? What a small, sad way to live.
Still, no answers. All these thoughts racing around my head, and there is Will, spending his Sunday in the cold rain, talking to strangers about a woman most of us will never know. Will is one of those “things” that keeps me sane in an insane world. The more I get to know him, the more I understand how fortunate I am to call him a friend. Maybe the answers to the tough questions are easier to spot than we may initially think. Maybe all you have to do is peer out your back door to find them.
Author: Cynthia Tarana is a heavily tattooed Ex-Con with no college education and very bad punctuation. She currently lives on Long Island, NY where she pays extremely high taxes, likes to drink, rage against the machine and shop at the GAP.
Contact Cynthia at firstname.lastname@example.org