Sunday, February 15, 2015

Ayotzinapa43: US People Need an Attitude Adjustment


Solidaridad con Ayotipnapa 43
My friend Natalia asked me to tell people about the case of the 43 young people killed in Ayotzinapa in Mexico.

I had a vague awareness of the case, but I have to confess that I couldn't quite understand what it was all about. Just an escalation of the violence in Mexico that we hear about here in the U.S., I assumed.

Then I attended an event hosted by Neighbors for Peace in Evanston that left me flabbergasted.

It will take me multiple posts to spell out everything that I feel needs to be said about the Ayotzinapa 43.  When I'm feeling overwhelmed with information, it usually works best to just get the main points into words, and build from there.

A Mystery That's Not a Mystery

At the NFP event, we started by seeing a film about disappearances in Mexico: Documental Ni Vivos Ni Muertos. There are estimated to have been 27,000 in the last decade. That's disappearances -- we're not talking about the ~100,00 confirmed deaths, the ones in which the facts are known. Disappearances are a terror technique.

I learned to stop thinking about "narcos" (drug cartels) as the sole purveyors of violence in Mexico.  I learned that the system in Mexico has involved the local police, and the federal police, and the army, and private paramilitaries, in corruption and violence. I learned that the Calderon administration saw a massive militarization of all levels of public "security" in Mexico. And I learned that US has been helping every step of the way. (Think School of the Americas.)

Justicia en Ayotzinapa
Comité Chicago
From the talk by members of Justicia en Ayotzinapa Comité Chicago I learned that the economic stakes go way beyond narcotics -- think mining, think control of land, think multinational corporations, think gas and oil -- and that all of these economic factors are driven by U.S. money.

And in all this I heard the term "context" -- as in "to understand what's happening in [Guerrero state, for instance], you need to consider context."  "Context" includes a lot, but a big part of it is the race-based pecking order in Mexico -- a variant of the systemic racism in the US -- based on where people are on the Euro-indigenous continuum.

And so the final piece of the "puzzle" that's not really a puzzle, as explained by Laura Ramírez, a PhD candidate at UIC and Comité member: the 43 "disappeared" young people are not just ordinary students. They are teaching students from one of numerous colleges in Mexico where the spirit of justice and respect for indigenous people, and an alternative way forward for Mexico, is fostered. As Ramírez said, in a country in which the power structure conspires to make people hopeless and to say, "You have no alternative," these young people were part of the small band of leaders saying, "There is another way!" (See this article: "Ayotzinapa: The Rural Normal School and the Criminal Government Offensive ")

The most deadly weapon of all: US ideology toward Mexico

"This is like the story of Mississippi Burning!" I said to myself. "The Ayotzinapa 43 are like Freedom Riders."

Still from A Touch of Evil
"And the difficult lesson that we're still learning about that episode in US history -- that systematic racism and a corrupt system is not just something that's happening somewhere else, in that other, bad place -- is the same lesson that we need to learn about what's happening in Mexico today."

The old paradigm -- the old US attitude -- is that there's a border, and everything on this side of the border is good and everything on that side of the border is corrupt.

This attitude is epitomized by the old film, A Touch of Evil. Cross from San Ysidro into Tijuana and it's night and day.

This attitude has been updated only slightly by the hit TV series, Breaking Bad.  (Moral: yes, one or two US people can go bad, but it is all about the drugs and the really horrific violence is done by the Mexicans.)

Hold it. Pause a moment to look at a couple of snapshots of the real US-Mexico relationship:

Here's a map of the terrain that David Rovics is singing about in that song about the St. Patrick's Battalion:

The Hispanic and Latino American population in the United States
in 2010 and the Mexican-American border of 1836 in red.

Probably the biggest impediment to US people getting any kind of clarity on the US-Mexico relationship is the idea that the US has an "immigration problem" ... and that the most we can possibly do is be more generous to "undocumented" people -- "illegals." The band OUTERNATIONAL has another perspective on that:

"Some day it will be ridiculous to say people are illegal the same way it’s ridiculous that people used to own other people as slaves.”(See "Outernational and the Return of Revolution Songs")

REPENT!  (US People Need an Attitude Adjustment)

Wednesday is Ash Wednesday -- the beginning of Lent.  It's the time when we acknowledge our own failures, and commit to repent -- to make an about-face -- so that the future can be different.

I can't think of a better way for people in the US to repent than to work to change their own attitude about Mexico, and about the culpability or all of us here in the US in the wrongs that are being done down there. The Ayotzinapa 43 were persecuted for saying "the future can be different." It's time for us to take up their cry.

Related posts

A huge crowd gathered in Chicago to hear testimony from parents, relatives, and supoorters of the 43 students who were "disappeared" in Ayotzinapa, Mexico, at the end of September, 2014.

(See Ayotzinapa43 and Mexico's Disappearances: Breaking the Silence in Chicago )