We know who are we are; do you?

I genuinely believe Americans are having an identity crisis.

When I first arrived in New York in 2009, I distinctly remember going to games at Yankee Stadium and having to stand up to the American anthem thinking, “Are we playing another country?” We Mexicans only sing the anthem when rivaled by a foreign nation; we conjure up our nationality only when being confronted by another flag. So the situation seemed odd to me.

My upbringing was very much Americanized. I grew up to envision myself in an American future of pompons and a Hollywodesque-cinderella kind of love. Of course, none of that actually came to be true when I moved to New York as an adult and went to art school. But something from childhood and watching those Hollywood movies did stay with me…

I knew from watching American movies that the American flag and being “American” was particularly special to my friends at the north in a way that my own country’s flag and nationality wasn’t. The USA anthem was sung at schools every day; people wore the American flag on their bodies as swimsuits or headbands, they would hang the flag outside their homes as if advising outsiders to beware, and they would yell “USA” at events that seemed to have a purely American public anyway.

This hammering of nationalism seemed odd to me at the time but now, it allows me to understand my friends in the north. Their national identity is very much linked to their identity as human beings.

It is not an uncommon trait in any country that an individual of it holds their entire identity to the borders of the nation they were born in. Yet the degree to which this is done may be held as questionable. When does a person’s identity, or that of a collective, pertain to borders rather than ideas or concepts?

As a Mexican, I see the flag of my country a handful amount of times a year: maybe at an international football game, a special national event (once or twice a year), etc. Granted, there is a large flag that overlooks the city I grew up in and currently live in but it’s not venerated for its symbolism as it is recognized as a tourist attraction.

My point is: my identity as a Mexican is only relevant when confronted with another nationalism but for Americans, it’s a constant state of being.

I can say this: I love my country. But loving my country means I accept everything it is. I accept its worst and its best. I understand that it is susceptible to corruption as it is susceptible to the most generous acts. I understand it is full of poverty whilst corruptly holding the world’s richest riches. I know cartels control the government and the government controls companies. I have no qualms or idealisms about my country…

But I do have faith. I have faith in our people and our innovations. We know how to laugh about our own struggles like it’s no one’s business. We can create memes and make fun of ourselves in one second of any event and apologize to no one. Even in the most idyllic of situations we find comedy and relief because we bow to no one. The difference is that at our worst, we know who we are and where we stand. At yours, I’m not so sure you do.

So we ask of you: at your worst, do you know who you are?

Sin contexto, no hay dialogo – Without context, there is no dialogue (esp-ingl)

My politics on gender are often belittled by those that often prompt me to discuss them. I’m often characterized as being to stubborn, harsh, dramatic, and hard-lined. But I was recently thinking about how I myself have begun to get tired of the subject. It’s a juggling act between not wanting to fight anymore but being pushed to do so.

Mis políticas sobre género son seguidamente criticadas por aquellos quienes me impulsan a discutirlas. Seguido se me caracteriza como necia, densa, dramática, o dura. Pero recientemente estaba pensando sobre como yo misma me encuentro algo cansada del tema. Se ha convertido en un juego de malabares entre el no querer pelear más y el ser empujada a hacerlo. 

After a year and a half of moving back home, I’ve come to realize that the only reason I find myself feeling the need to defend my feminist stance so often is due to the very environment I find myself in. It hasn’t even been about discussing feminism at all actually, but rather having to fire back at comments and discussions that, at this point in time, shock and puzzle me.

A un año y medio de haber regresado a casa, me he dado cuenta que la única razón por la que me encuentro teniendo que defender mi postura feminista es por el mismo contexto en el que me encuentro. No ha ni tratado sobre feminismo como tal, si no sobre tener que responder a comentarios y discusiones que, a este punto en nuestra historia, me sacuden y confunden.

It was in New York where my politics were molded. The irony with that lies in the fact that rarely was gender ever a topic of discussion outside of my academic surroundings, the news, or the state of politics. Granted, New York is a liberal bubble. It’s vastly diverse population makes discriminating a moronic act itself. One would have to be an idiot to attack someone different from them as there is an army behind each and every one of its citizens. It is not to say that gender discrimination, or any kind of discrimination, doesn’t exist – that would be a gross mischaracterization. I was a participant in the 2016 Women’s March in NY. But in my 8 years living there, was it never as palpable as it is in my current life. It was rarely a topic of discussion in my social life except when we discussed the differences in our treatment between our lives there and the ones back home.

Fue en Nueva York donde mis políticas se moldearon. La ironía cae en el hecho de que con rareza fue el tema de género uno de discusión fuera de mi ambiente académico, las noticias, y el estado politico en el que nos encontrábamos. Seguro, Nueva York es una burbuja liberal. Su población extremadamente diversa hace que el acto de discriminar sea uno imbécil. Uno tendría que ser un idiota para atacar a alguien opuesto a el ya que en esta, Nueva York, cada uno de sus ciudadanos tendrá una armada que lo apoye. No es decir que la discriminación de género, o cualquier otra, no existe- sería una caracterización errónea. Yo misma fui participante en la Marcha de las Mujeres en el 2016 en NY. Pero en mis 8 años ahi, nunca fue tan palpitante como lo es ahora en mi vida. Rara vez fue tema de discusión en mi vida social salvo a cuando discutíamos las diferencias en nuestro trato entre Mexico y Nueva York. 

Now that I’ve settled back in Monterrey, I notice that the topic of women and men as different beings is too often brought up. Not as a back and forth discussion where different points of view are offered to further the gender equality discussion, but rather antiquated behaviours and attitudes socially attributed to either men and women are often brought up in random conversation.

Ahora que ya estoy en Monterrey, he notado que el tema de mujeres y hombres como seres distintos es común en conversación. No un viene y va sobre diferentes puntos de vista sobre como combatir la discriminación de genero, sino los comportamientos y actitudes anticuadas que se le atribuyen a los hombres y mujeres seguido son utilizadas aleatoriamente en conversaciones. 

In my hometown of San Pedro, the socially created dividing line between men and women is a constant living breathing aspect of life. In the past decade, never had I been reminded so often that I am a woman, and not in a good way. I am not here to say that no differences lie between men and women. But I find myself asking why it’s a punch line in every conversation that I seem to be involved in. This has become excruciatingly exhausting.

En mi ciudad natal, San Pedro, la socialmente creada linea divisoria entre hombres y mujeres es un aspecto viviente en la vida cotidiana. En la última década, jamás se me había recordado con tanta frecuencia que soy mujer, y no de una buena manera. No estoy aquí para decir que no existen diferencias entre hombres y mujeres. Pero seguido me encuentro preguntándome porque es que es un punto de argumento utilizado tan seguidamente dentro de las conversaciones en las que me encuentro participando. Esto se ha vuelto enloquecedoramente agotante. 

Behind every social act, there exists the background noise of gender differentiation. Every social gathering takes into account gender. Whether it’s game night, movie night, going out, or lounging around, who will be in attendance? Are girlfriends/wives invited? Boyfriends/Husbands? If so, is it then only couples night? Maybe only men so they can talk about the things women can’t be privy to. They aren’t always comfortable being themselves around women. Which pegs the question…

Detrás de cada acto social, existe el ruido de diferenciación de género. Cada reunión social toma en consideración género. Ya sea noche de juegos, de cine, de salir a la fiesta, or tirar flojera, se considera: ¿quién participara?¿Van novias/esposas?¿Novios/Esposos? Y si sí, ¿entonces es noche de parejas? Capaz y solo hombres para que puedan hablar de las cosas que no pueden decir enfrente de mujeres. No siempre están cómodos siendo ellos mismos frente a ellas. Cual hace uno cuestionar…

Parenting is a big one. It is one of the most common points of conversation in every social circle as it continues to be one of the main driving forces, if not the main one, of life in my hometown. Parenting: it’s for women and any man that does anything parent related is often mocked for being “whipped”. As a topic, I’m down. Even if I’m not a parent myself, I have no issue against discussing parenthood. But the issue lies in the details. How the role of either parent takes shape and what is socially accepted and expected from either of them.

El tema de crianza también es uno grande. Es una de las conversaciones más comunes dentro de los círculos sociales ya que continúa siendo uno de los aspectos, si no el más, importante de la vida en nuestra comunidad. La crianza: es para mujeres y cualquier hombre que hace cualquier cosa relacionado con eso, se ridiculiza por “dejarse”. Como tema, estoy puesta. Aun cuando no soy madre, no tengo ni un problema discutiendo el tema. Pero el problema cae en los detalles. Como los roles se forman y que es socialmente aceptado y esperado de cada uno de ellos. 

Another huge, fat, big one, is the conversation of personality. Yes, it is often that the misogynistic views of the hysterical, stubborn, bossy woman are brought up; also is it common that unflattering adjectives often attributed to women are used as a way of talking about them by men and women. Whatever conversation you may be having, you can always depend on that one person who will make the dividing statement about how women are one way and men are another way. As you read that, I’m sure you can think of a few examples yourself; it’s engrained in our social consciousness.

Otro enorme, gordo, grande tema es el de personalidad. Sí, seguido es que escucho la típica descripción machista de la mujer histérica, necia, mandona; también son comunes los adjetivos dañinos que se le atribuyen a la mujer como manera de tener un conversación sobre ellas por parte de los hombre y mujeres. Cual sea la conversación que estés teniendo, siempre se puede depender en esa persona que hará el comentario sobre como las mujeres son de una manera y los hombres de otra. Seguro se te ocurren algunos ejemplos al leer eso; esta grabado en nuestra conciencia social.

With this, one realizes that social life is then not about just people but rather always about roles. This has become an actual part of my life. Constantly listening to jokes about women, being spoken to or told to behave a certain way because I’m a woman, and walking around with the label of “woman” tattooed on my forehead while then being reprimanded for having anything to say about it. I have received props in the past for my opinions and articles on the subject, but it almost feels meaningless when in life, the fruits of my labor become null.

Con esto, uno se da cuenta que la vida social no trata sobre solo personas sino siempre sobre roles. Esto se ha convertido un aspecto real de mi vida. El tener que escuchar bromas sobre mujeres, el que se me dirijan o me digan que me debo comportar de cierta manera porque soy mujer, y el caminar con la etiqueta de “mujer” tatuado sobre mi frente y el ser hostigada por tener algo que decir de ello. Me han dado halagos en el pasado por mis opiniones y artículos sobre el tema, pero casi se siente insignificante cuando en vida, el fruto de mi labor se vuelve nulo. 

Those close to me, know my stance pretty well. They therefore know I’m an easy target for jokes and insults about women and they, mostly poking fun, take advantage of it. And while I can have a sense of humour about it, I’ve also reached a point where all I want to say is, “GET OVER IT!” If they are tired of hearing about feminism, then why make it an issue at all?

Quienes me conocen, conocen mi postura bien. Por ende saben que soy vulnerable a bromas e insultos sobre mujeres y ellos, casi siempre como broma, toman provecho de ello. Mientras puedo tener un sentido del humor, también he llegado a un punto donde solo quiero responder, “¡SUPÉRENLO!” ¿Si están cansados de escuchar sobre feminismo, entonces para que lo hacen tema?

I know that, even though part of myself is ready to give up, I will forever be ready to argue for the equal treatment of all. It’s wired into me. But I found it necessary to explain that it is the context in which I find myself the very thing which brings me to do so, not the other way around. It is not my intention to bring it up every chance I get. I wish I didn’t have to at all! However, it is my intention to make people check themselves when what they say, believe, or imply about gender differentiation is misguided, dangerous, and consequential to the very community they belong to.

Yo sé, aunque parte di mí ya se quiere dar por vencida, que siempre estaré armada con argumentos a favor del trato equitativo de todos. Corre por mi sangre. Pero sentí necesario explicar que es el mismo contexto en el que me encuentro el que me hace hacerlo, no al revés. No es mi intención sacar el tema cada vez que surja la oportunidad ¡Quisiera no tener que hacerlo! Sin embargo, sí es mi intención hacer que la gente se cuestione cuando dicen, piensan, o presuponen diferenciaciones de género que nacen de un lugar mal guiado, son peligrosas y consecuentes a la misma comunidad a la que pertenecen. 


El Gran Experimento: una democracia fragmentada

El historiador y pensador de política, Alexis Tocqueville, escribió sobre el nacimiento de una nueva clase de democracia que el pueblo Americano intentaría fomentar. Creada bajo únicas condiciones y un contexto moderno, America estaría aventurando en lo que el llamó el Gran Experimento. Con estas palabras describió un tipo de esperanza la cual debía ser embarcada con cierta cautela advirtiendo sobre las potenciales amenazas totalitarias que pudieran surgir en su desarrollo.

Este 14 de febrero en el día del amor y la amistad, estudiantes que matriculan en el sistema educativo estadounidense volvieron a sufrir la violencia de un tiroteo dentro de las aulas de su escuela. En la escuela Stoneman Douglas en Parkland, Florida sucedió el tiroteo masivo numero 34 del año 2018. Un caso más en una lista larga de eventos de violencia en las escuelas públicas de Estados Unidos.

Anoche, en una reunión de la ciudad que incluía a los estudiantes de la escuela, maestros, legisladores y miembros del cuerpo policial en Parkland, organizada por CNN y moderada por Jake Tapper, una de las víctimas le pregunto a Ted Deutch, representante del partido Demócrata, que si la democracia estadounidense se encontraba fragmentada en su estado actual. El respondió, “Sí, algo.”

El evento de Columbine en 1999 desató un debate nacional sobre la cultura juvenil, los programas de salud mental, el acceso legal a armas, y los intereses de la industria de este dentro de las campañas de los politicos locales y de ellos en Washington. Desde entonces, Estados Unidos permanece como el país desarrollado que más a sufrido tiroteos y muertes con uso de armas legales. Columbine se fue de ser un sitio a un evento que se vería repetido, encadenando una tendencia de más sitios convertidos en eventos.

Cameron Kasky, otro sobreviviente del tiroteo en Parkland, le pregunto al representante nativo de Florida Marco Rubio, contendiente en la última carrera al puesto de presidente, durante la reunion de ayer, “¿Podrá usted en este momento asegurar no aceptar más donaciones por parte de la NRA?”

La NRA (National Rifle Association) es la organización más poderosa en cuanto a la venta, administración, y politización de armas en Estados Unidos. Rubio, habiendo aceptado donaciones de ellos en el pasado y sosteniendo una calificación de A+ cual representa para la organización el registro de votaciones a favor de sus intereses por cada legislador, contestó la pregunta defensivamente al igual que ofensivamente, “Yo no soy quien invierte en ellos, ellos invierten en mí y mi visión.”

El tema de los tiroteos masivos en Estados Unidos ha impulsado a los estudiantes a movilizarse y buscar cambiar las leyes que los legisladores tanto utilizan como arma contra el cambio. No cabe duda que los intereses de los políticos se ven entrelazados con aquellos de la NRA y la necesidad de defender la posición que la constitución no es un documento viviente capaz de interpretación y modificación, pero uno que debe de leerse literalmente. Es decir, la segunda Enmienda, como el resto, fue la verdad legal y moral como se escribió y debe permanecer tal cual sin importar los cambios sociales, culturales, y tecnológicos que han surgido desde su concepción.

Fuera del debate del derecho a poseer o tener acceso a armas capases de disparar 30 balas sin necesidad de recargar y la falta de programas de apoyo a la salud mental, queda en el fondo el tema de cultura ¿Que sucede en Estados Unidos que su gente llega a obtener estas armas y buscan causar daño catastrófico?

En el 2002, el cineasta Michael Moore salió con un documental cual utiliza el evento de Columbine para hacer las preguntas que hasta la fecha no tienen respuesta. En discusión con el padre de una de las víctimas, Moore compara Estados Unidos con los otros países desarrollados que tienen pasados más violentos, sub-culturas más destacadas, más cultura de casería, y otros factores cuales los medios han dado como razón por los sucesos. Sin poder encontrar una correlación entre esas razón y el número de muertes registradas por armas, termina la conversación con una sencilla pregunta, “Si no son esas cosas, qué es?¿Qué es?” El padre le responde, “No sé.”

Estados Unidos sí fue un gran experimento. Max Weber escribió sobre el surgimiento y éxito del capitalismo occidental. Una combinación de la ética protestante y el espíritu capitalista. Tomando en cuenta los muchos factores que delinea y aceptando sus límites, queda la pregunta de: a cual precio tuvo Estados Unidos el éxito del cual surgió el “sueño Americano”. ¿Quién pago qué por este sueño?

En México ofrecemos mucho nuestra opinión sobre las posibles razones del cual tan seguido observamos a nuestro vecino sufriendo algo cual no entendemos. Algunas de ellas son falta de familia; la soledad, la falta de sentido humor, falta de comunidad, el materialismo y n-miles de razones por las cuales los observamos comprar armas y disparar hacia inocentes sin motivación alguna que vaya más haya de sus propios demonios.

Una maestra de la escuela fue entrevistada hoy dado a que utilizó la experiencia de una amiga maestra quien fue víctima del tiroteo de Sandyhook, Connecticut, para saber que hacer para proteger a los estudiantes en el momento que supo lo que sucedía dentro de la escuela. Dentro de la misma entrevista, la maestra de Sandyhook mencionó la necesidad de ver a este problema de manera más holística. Es decir, mientras podrás poner restricciones en el acceso a armas y tomar las precauciones necesarias para prevenir el mayor daño, existe un problema que va más haya de lo tangible.

Es esta manera de pensar que Estados Unidos debe tomar para poder mejor entender la división que se observa. Hay una falla en el gran experimento que en sus errores, como en cualquier experimento, debe poder lograr dejar el pasado ser pasado para avanzar a través de sus logros. No es decir que el pasado se debe ignorar, sino tomarlo como lección para el futuro.

Es un país que hasta la fecha no ha podido reconciliar con que fue y se es creado por sus inmigrantes, voluntarios o forzados. Es un país que no logra reconciliar con que dentro de sus logros capitalistas, no es inmune a la corrupción de sus propios líderes. Es un país que no logra reconciliar que sus logros no siempre se cumplieron con los métodos más limpios. Es un país que no logra reconciliar que el logró de otro no significa el fracaso de uno. Puede que el gran experimento, mientras ha sido fascinante observar y aprender de el, esta fracasando.

¿Qué es lo que el pueblo Americano esta sacrificando por ser parte de este gran experimento?

The unveiling of a lie.

Americans had to ask themselves once more: Why? 

Immediately after the tragedy of Las Vegas, the debate over gun regulation was sparked once more. Survivors of Sandy Hook and other tragedies were yet again reminded of how their government continues to fail them and their lost children on a regular basis. Day in and day out they must stand and observe as others lose their lives for the same reasons their loved ones did too many years ago and too recently. No change.

My Mexican friends and I are quick to judge these senseless shootings. While we agree that weapons regulation must be strictly set in place, another topic of conversation occurs…. “There’s definitely something wrong with Americans.”

My mother has said and will always say, “They are just such a loner based society. No family values. Too lonely.”

Others will remark, “These gringos are crazy.”

While I do believe in stricter and comprehensive arms regulations and a better mental health care system for my American friends, I believe there is something much bigger and heavier going on.

I recently got back from living in the United States where I was for 8 years. During my time there I noticed something peculiar about what being an American means. It’s not necessarily a type of character but rather an inhaling in of an endowed role.

Being an American is often in tune with being reminded that you are American. You live your Americaness on a daily basis. You are told to think of yourself as part of an exceptional idea. A part of a country built on the exceptional.

You sing the national anthem at sporting events, you recite the pledge allegiance at school, you hang your flags on the lawn. You praise your country and president alongside your spiritual and religious leaders. Your are, in every sense of the word, intrinsically American.

The problem is, no country is exceptional. I believe Americans are heart-breakingly realizing that.

In the recent events following the tragic loss of life during the September 19 earthquake, here in my country, Mexicans saw themselves, almost to their pleased surprise, pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and support each other in a way that is not often seen in our country.

We are a people who cannot depend on anyone or anything for much, let alone survival. We are aware of what we lack and we understand the system in which we live in. Yes, we often protest and fight but it often leads nowhere and we collectively accept that. We are able to live relatively harmoniously because we have developed both the experience and good humour to do so.

It is that very same lack of faith in our governmental systems that gave us the strength to depend on, and lean on, no one but ourselves and each other. Expectations were not laid on an external system but on each and every one of us individually.

Our pride as Mexicans did not come out because we believe in Mexico. It came out because we believe in ourselves as a people. In observing our own acts, we became aware of our identity not as a nation but as a human collective.

Not only has this event caused an uptick in pride, Donald Trump’s attacks on our country since his candidacy unintentionally raised our self awareness and patriotism.

While the United States has undoubtedly been one great experiment with unparalleled achievements on the global stage, the increasingly self proclaimed exceptionalism became dangerous when the powers that be took it from the people and made it theirs. Politics and government became too intertwined with Capitalism and self interest. 

Being an American stopped being a concept of and for the people but a facade for the rich and powerful to hide behind. A veil through which to take advantage and rip away from those who have simply been told that they have been given the gift of being American.

That facade, that veil, is being removed.

Now, it would be facetious of me to not clarify something. This is about a very specific kind of American. It is the white, male, American. It is a white and male veil and it is a white and male exceptionalism which has held the facade in place. It is not to say that this exceptionalism hasn’t been fed to all. It has and is. It is the only non discriminatory thing about this country. But it is that same very veil that has Mr. Trump, the president, tweeting about football players rather than doing, literally, anything else.

I don’t know for a fact that this is directly correlated with the non stop shootings. But I do know that there is a sense of disappointment. This disappointment is no small thing. It is the breaking of an image and idea of who and what it means to be an American. Even in the worst of times, Americans have always believed in that exceptionalism. But that high expectation is a heavy boulder to carry.

I am sorry for my American friends. You are a great country and you are a great people. I was honored to have lived in your country and in, what I consider to be, one of the world’s most brilliant cities. I believe you have been cheated. Cheated from the opportunity of figuring out who you were before someone else decided for you.

Now, take your rage and burn that veil.

What The Hell Are We Fighting For?: Mexico and “the Family Unit”

I’m incredibly privileged and sometimes I forget.

I’m not sure whom I’m directing myself towards. To write this as an attempt to have it speak to the people of Mexico seems futile. To write this in English…well maybe it can be more widely read. After all, we are a country that sends its best.

I’ve been living in New York City for seven years. I went to a very liberal university for both undergraduate and graduate school. I have surrounded myself with inspiring hard working friends. I have insurmountable support from my family in Mexico and I want for nothing except what I, only, could get myself in the way of. But sometimes I forget.

Sometimes I forget the environment I stepped out of. One in where the social structures in place prevent others, different from me, from forgetting where they find themselves.

Yesterday, one of several marchas, or protests, nationwide, took place in Mexico calling for the “protection” of “the family unit”.  This was a large protest. A protest for the family unit based on one father, one mother, and however many children they may want to produce.

When I speak of forgetting, I’m referring to my position as a Mexican living in a highly democratic society in which most of the time, not always but most the time, the basic fundamentals of democracy do win.

The president of Mexico, the same guy that just offensively invited Donald Trump to our country, just signed an initiative to make same-sex marriage legal nationwide. Go figure he’d get something right. Unfortunately, this has caused an uproar.

What I forget is that Mexico is still a very confused country. As a developing nation that suffers from a corrupt government, corrupt policing, a corrupt economy, a corrupt public education system, and bases its aspirations mostly on ideology rather than fact; manipulation seems to be the only way to mobilize its people.

We are a people that either extort or are victims of extortion. We allow the powers that be to stand on our shoulders as long as we can go through the day without being bothered. We have, to a large degree, become an apathetic people who, instead of fighting for what we deserve, rather accept and wish for the best.

And then yesterday happened.

I sometimes forget that my country does have a fire in it. A powerful passion that is rarely used. One that is incomparable to that of the country I find myself in. We are a country of happiness. A country that has offered the world Nobel Prize winners. A country that has offered medical, scientific, and manufacturing advancements that compete at a global level. Not to mention, a country that has given you the best food, beer, and tequila you’ll ever have.

We are a people that want to sit down with you, have a beer, and have a good laugh. But we are also a people that sends its best because our own country fails us often.

But what the hell are we fighting for now?

As a progressive feminist Mexican in NY, I am comfortable where I am. If I speak, I speak to the choir. I may have a debate, but its a healthy one. No one leaves offended and its all fair game. This is not the case in Mexico. That is what I forget and that is a privilege.

When I speak of an equalitarian society in Mexico, I’m often welcomed with a rolling of the eyes, a pat on the back, and a dismissive “oh well” attitude. If it doesn’t affect them, its not an issue. This is an example of the general attitude I receive when visiting the country I call home.

But if I scroll on Facebook to posts about women or the LGBT community in Mexico, the comment section is dominated by replies that refer to christian traditional values. I go through them and in a seconds time become flustered with confusion, anger, and a feeling of powerlessness. The only thought that goes through my mind is: How?

How are we the country that looks to feel accepted out of it and yet can’t even accept our own within it?

With all of our problems, yesterday, the people of Mexico stood up for an imaginary problem. Imaginary because the wood and smoke used to ignite that fire was based on nothing more than old age tradition. A tradition which is looked to be imposed over actual democracy.

Yesterday, we were not our best. We were our petty, scared, and self-manipulated selves. The ones that fear to be told our truths rather than face our own reality. The ones that stick our heads in the ground rather than stick it above the water and fight for ourselves. The ones that shiver at the thought of change. Change that may allow us to be that which we aspire. Change that may allow us to move into the future and let go of the past. Very unfortunate aspects of who we are. Aspects that we take for granted at times but get in the way of our own success as a country.

I love my country; but I often feel ashamed of it.

We laugh at our neighboring country, the one I currently live in. But it is a country where mistakes are observed and fixed, not regurgitated and repeated.

After the Orlando shooting happened, an incident where many of the queer community died, I posed the question: What kind of country does America want to be? Now, I ask my home, my country, my people: What kind of country does Mexico want to be?

The Legitimization of a Tyrant: The Tradition of Wealth in the American Politic


In an article for New York Magazine titled “America Has Never Been so Ripe for Tyranny”, politically conservative British blogger Andrew Sullivan, evokes Plato’s Republic. Not to explain but rather bring to ground the reason behind the current Republican Party’s presumptive nominee, Donald Trump. In what the United States has always looked to achieve as a democratic republic, may have also prompted a susceptibility to a pseudo rogue candidate. While once inconceivable and even a public joke, Donald Trump’s rise as a to-take-seriously candidate, under the microscope, his rise is nothing but if not a cautionary tale. While not clairvoyant, as Sullivan states, Plato described how the regime of tyranny was, or could be, the direct result of a state without social boundaries and no direct authority, therefore a fully pure democracy.

This essay looks to establish how Donald Trump’s rise as a perceived legitimate political leader had a natural course through the traditional authority type, as per Weber, and his campaign’s historical significance through his use of speech acts. I look question Trump’s rise as a purely charismatic leader through the utterances of “he says it like it is”, but rather one of the traditional authority of the unity between democracy and free-market economics in America. I look to further explore how his speech acts, whether or not he becomes president, make him historically significant through what has become public consent of them. While the historical repercussions remain to be seen, his viability to be president regardless of his temperament; has opened up questions, not only about the electoral process, but that of the fundamental issues that arise out of the words “we the people”.

“And such men,” I said, “will desire money just as those oligarchies do, and under cover of darkness pay fierce honor to gold and silver, because the possess storehouses and domestic treasuries where they can deposit and hide them; and they will have walls around their houses, exactly like private nests, where they can make lavish expenditures on women and whomever else they might wish.” (Plato, 548b, Book XIII)


“Instead of men who love victory and honor, they finally become lovers of money-making and money; and they praise and admire the wealthy man and bring him to the ruling offices, while they dishonor the poor man.” (Plato, 552b, Book XIII)


Plato saw the rise of an oligarchy regime, what we currently consider to be the political power of Wall Street, the means by which democracy would follow.  A democracy in which freedom for wealth is the coveted means for a life worth living. A democracy from which then the greediness of money-making would prepare a tyrant to rise. What Plato couldn’t have had a premonition of were the coming historical events which would form the quintessential American tradition; the democratic freedom for money-making.


The Authority of Wealth


The theme of this 2016 election season is the breakoff of the political establishment. All CNN exit polls, as of now, have demonstrated that the general population is dissatisfied with the state of political authority. On the one hand, republican voters are angry with their own party feeling discontent with liberalism taking over the Commander in Chief seat, while democratic voters are disappointed with the current president’s legacy, one they view as too weak to embody the change he once espoused. On the other hand, it is the feeling of disenfranchisement the general public feels as an after effect of the events occurring between 2001 and onward, including the Iraq war, Katrina, and 2008 financial crisis. It is of no surprise that the American public should reflect discontent towards the powers that be. But it is at their own dismay that their options for president for the next four years have come down to the most disliked candidates of all time, including a wealthy celebrity with no political background.

In his essay “The Three Types of Legitimate Rule”, Max Weber delineates what he conceived of as three types of authority that are available to be personified; Legal-Rational, Traditional, and Charismatic. In order for an authority to become legitimized there must be a certain obedience and loyalty to whom holds power and a belief in that legitimacy. Legal authority is based on the normative rules on which belief on their legality rests upon. Traditional is established in the believed sanctity of tradition through which he in power will exercise authority. And Charismatic is the devotion to an exceptional, heroic or exemplary character.  For the purpose of this essay, and because I see no road for how it could apply, I will set aside Legal Authority for it has no role in Donald Trump’s candidacy and there is no law that prohibits him from being so beyond any idealistic or moral sanctions. Therefore, I look to compare Weber’s Traditional and Charismatic forms of authority for the purpose of narrowing down to which type Trump may fall under.

Weber defines the charismatic leader as the individual with attributed virtues which set him apart from ordinary men and, “treated as endowed with supernatural, superhuman, or at least specifically exceptional powers or qualities.” In order for such attributes to be observable as authoritative, they must be recognized by those subjects whom will be under such authority. “If proof of his charismatic qualifications fails him for long, the leader endowed with charisma tends to think his god or his magical or heroic powers have deserted him.” With this kind of authority, no hierarchy is required as it is up to he who holds power’s whim what his staff and corporation will look like. He stands outside of the normative and rational and “repudiates the past.” He goes onto say that the charismatic leader is opposed to the rational and traditional forms of economic considerations. Weber describes it as:


“What is despised, so long as the genuinely charismatic type is adhered to, is traditional or rational everyday economizing, the attainment of a regular income by continuous economic activity devoted to this end.”


“From the point of view of rational economic activity, charisma is a typical anti-economic force. It repudiates any sort of involvement in the everyday routine world.”


While this kind of authority is often attributed to figures such as social movement leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, religious figures like Muhammad or Jesus Christ, or even sect figures, it is necessary to secularize this concept. We must question what “standing apart” from “routine” really means in the context of the american secular constitutional practice. In thinking of a charismatic secular leader, initially, descriptive notions as to whom Donald Trump is as a politician all lead to the antithetical fact that he is not a politician, therefore charismatic. A man that stands against the routine of politics of which the general public is dissatisfied with. Not a politician but a businessman. He is observed as having exceptional qualities which his followers do not question. His campaign has no hierarchy, is self funded through personal wealth, has been propelled by his personal use of social media and public appearances, and bases itself on selling to the public the sentiment on which their collective consciousness leans towards, anger towards the establishment. An establishment which has now found questioning itself due to his rise to popularity within it, the Republican Party. It’s not that the Republican Party is questioning its own agenda, but its own future stability as Donald Trump rearranges and scrambles what they had previously firmly believed to stand for.

But what Weber describes as the charismatic leader also comes into direct conflict to whom Donald Trump is, in fact. Donald Trump’s wealth is the one thing on which he stands. It is a wealth acquired by the routine of everyday economizing as established by the laws of american politics and free-market economics. He is the archetype individual created by the unification of the regimes of oligarchy and democracy; prompted through inheritance and motivated by the love of money-making, as described by Plato. An individual whose past political participation has meant funding, through wealth created by everyday economizing, the everyday established routine politics. It is the very wealth on which he stands, the same reason why his followers follow him blindly. While his speech acts are a secondary aspect to his rise, which I will further follow with, it is the tradition of money-making and the spirit of capitalism that I argue legitimize him as a leader.

Traditional authority, as described by Weber, is the legitimate handing down of power on the basis of the sanctity of order. “The person or persons exercising authority are designated according to traditionally transmitted rules. The object of obedience is the personal authority of the individual which enjoys by virtue of his traditional status.” The obedience that is given to him is based on, first, the concept that he follow traditional rules which he claims to represent. If these rules are broken, he endangers his own authority. Secondly, a “double sphere” in which the leader is bound by a specific tradition but is free of any specific rules. While resistance may occur when tradition is broken, it may be justified through the claim that what is new has “always been in force but only recently to have become known through the wisdom of the promulgator.” This type of authority needs no staff or administration. Those that are loyal to him come from ties of personal loyalty, patrimonial recruitment or favourites. Bureaucratic administration is often absent and there is no basis for technical training, fixed salaries, or a regular system of appointment. While this kind of authority is often attributed to monarchies or clans, I argue that Donald Trump is the traditional leader that was to naturally arise in The United States.

In the introduction to this essay, I deliberately labeled Trump a “pseudo rogue candidate”. Rogue because his rise in popularity was not seen as conceivable by most; he goes against the same establishment which he is representing, he is knowingly offensive to many demographic  groups, and he is not bound by any moral, idealistic, or political isms. But pseudo because he is tied to one very important ism; Capitalism. While more than half of republican and democratic voters view Wall Street as untrustworthy, Donald Trump is a representation of the majority of elites whom have taken advantage of legal but exploitative loopholes in order to expand their wealth. It is the structure which his followers are angry at the very same one through which he has become now legitimized. It is the tradition of democracy and free enterprise, I argue, which has legitimized Donald Trump as the Republican nominee. While he is not the traditional politician, he is the traditional representation of the legacy of capitalism, particularly Reaganomics. He is the idealized life worth living ingrained in the american collective. It is in this way that he does not require the tradition of politics, but the tradition of the sanctity of money-making and wealth. It is the tradition of corporate rules, money management, and free-market economics which decommissions any need for the traditional political resume and archetype presidential temperament. He is bound to his wealth as an authority but unbound to the rules of the establishment. His being a demagogue becomes irrelevant through the belief that his wisdom as a businessman eclipses the need for truth. It is by his wealth through which his followers rationalize untruths and prejudices as truths rather than by his own ability rationalize arguments. It is known his campaign is tied to no one but himself. His staff is tied to him by nothing but personal ties, self interest, and favoritism rather than merit and appointment. Therefore, I argue that it is the tradition of an idealized life worth living espoused by democracy and free-market enterprise the very reason which makes him a legitimate traditional authority regardless of his ability to be president.


Speech Acts and The Power of a Demagogue

While I argue that the rise of Donald Trump as the presumptive republican nominee had in fact a natural course, it is not to say that his campaign is free from being a possible historical event. A second aspect to his rise in popularity heavily rests upon his public persona. It is this part, a part constructed by his speech acts and performative utterances, that make him the most offensive demagogue in modern politics. And it all began on the very day he announced his candidacy.

In performative utterances, not only can reality be described, but history may change its course. J. L. Austin’s “felicity conditions” set up “rules” to determine when an utterance may cause such a ripple effect in a situation: sincerity, authority and orderliness. There are those that are “low types”, where interruption is not possible as there is an agreement as to who has authority to declare an utterance (much like in a marriage, “I now you declare you husband and wife”, for example), and are judged by simply their failure or success. And then there are those performative utterances where the course of action is muddled by their political context. Thomas Keenan uses Derrida and Arendt to further explore how it is that authority is granted in the public political arena. Whom or what gives the right to a public political utterance and does it speak to truth and justice? If they were to be interrupted in such utterances, would it work? Donald Trump’s presidential announcement speech was formulated. While he was not reading from a teleprompter, the context allowed him to say what he knew were utterances that would propel him into the public arena. And due to the context; truth became irrelevant.

His announcement took place on June 16th, 2015 inside a building bearing his own name:

Thank you. It’s true, and these are the best and the finest. When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

I’m not doing that to brag, because you know what? I don’t have to brag. I don’t have to, believe it or not.”

“I’m doing that to say that that’s the kind of thinking our country needs. We need that thinking. We have the opposite thinking.

“We have losers. We have losers. We have people that don’t have it. We have people that are morally corrupt. We have people that are selling this country down the drain.”

“Sadly, the American dream is dead.

But if I get elected president I will bring it back bigger and better and stronger than ever before, and we will make America great again.

Thank you. Thank you very much.”

In an unorganized speech, where he used prejudices and falsehoods, he officially became a candidate for president in the 2016 election by declaring himself as such. It was because of the context, a podium, a crowd, posters, and an interrupted speech, that his announcement became successful regardless of public opinion. Unfortunately, his falsehoods have not been the demise of him. Even though every one of his public appearances is welcomed with protests, he has formed a context  in which interruptions have become failures. Only one public appearance was canceled due to fear of endangering the public, but since then, every single speech act has been followed through.

We could argue that his popularity is based on him being a demagogue, or as some put it “saying it as it is”; but that fact is, he isn’t. Demagogues aren’t new to the public arena. An article from The Atlantic, as early as July 2015, compared Donald Trump to Joseph McCarthy. Both opportunistic candidates that preyed on the public’s fear. While Donald Trump uses immigration and a wall to instill fear and hatred, McCarthy used the Cold War to propel fear of Communism “taking over the american value of freedom and safety”. But the article itself was calling for the end of his political career, waiting for others to denounce his demonization of immigrants. Almost a year later, he is the presumptive nominee for the Republican presidential ticket.

What makes him so different? How is he granted emancipation from truth and fact? While we may argue that it is because he has amassed so many supporters which is why he is protected by those that oppose him, I argue that it is the context of the situation that allows him to continue to promote populist prejudices through the media. This is a context, I argue, established by two facts: (1) he is running for president and therefore is given a platform and, more importantly, (2) he is granted consent as a traditional authority by the public. It is the very authority of wealth, previously discussed, which allows him to be unquestioned. It is because he represents the life worth living, separate from politics, that he is granted immunity from falsehoods and legitimized as a public political leader. He is not a politician, and more importantly, he is not one of the people. He is the “exemplary” individual that represents the American dream. He stands apart from those that struggle financially, as one who has built an empire. His failures and falsehoods don’t matter as long as he is able to promote his wealth and product. A product based on the individual, not truth. He sells the concept of “making deals” based on the concept of unchained power. The very same kind of unchained power that caused the 2008 financial crisis.

The problem then, for his followers, is when he utters “we”. Who does he mean by we? American nationals? The laborer? Farmers? Businessmen? Men? Women? His speeches are full of, if anything, contradictions. He has demonized, not only immigrants, but the country of China, for example. Freely labeling China as an abuser of a globalized economy and trade, he has, as the traditional authority would, claimed that as a businessman, it only makes sense to have taken advantage of immigration laws to further grow his enterprise. Taking advantage of EB-5 program to fund Trump Tower, it is through his wealth and elite status that he is able to do so. His claims become legitimized the moment he declares it as simply “making good deals” and therefore being able to create more wealth. It is this attitude that legitimizes him as an “exemplary” authority in his supporters eyes, regardless of its contradictions.

While he once claimed that he could shoot someone on fifth avenue and still not lose support, I argue that it is not about what he does or says. It is about what he represents. Preying on the public’s fear of the “other” has been analyzed and criticized frontwards and backwards, and failed to do anything to his popularity. He is a demagogue; a racist, xenophobic, misogynist, and self contradicting demagogue. But nonetheless, his followers do not care. He remains to be a traditional authority. The legacy of free-market economics, unchained power, a non politician and a tyrant that represents the “all-american” dream. Historical, because he  is all those things.


Notes and References

  1. Sullivan, Andrew. “American Has Never Been So Ripe For Tyranny: Democracies end when they are too democratic”. New York Magazine. Print edition: May 2, 2016 http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2016/04/america-tyranny-donald-trump.html
  2. Aglesta, Jennifer. “Dissatisfaction, anger dominate year-end review of Washington”. CNN: December 19, 2015. http://www.cnn.com/2015/12/29/politics/cnn-orc-poll-views-of-government/
  3. Beamon, Todd. “CNN Exit Polls: Anger, Dissatisfaction Strong Among GOP Voters in 3 States”. CNN: March 15, 2016 http://www.newsmax.com/Headline/exit-polls-voters-angry/2016/03/15/id/719244/
  1. Staff. “Here’s Donald Trump’s Announcement Speech”. Time Magazine: June 16, 2015. http://time.com/3923128/donald-trump-announcement-speech/
  2. Beinart, Peter. “The New McCarthysm of Donald Trump”. The Atlantic: July 21, 2015 http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/07/donald-trump-joseph-mccarthy/399056/
  3. Drucker, Jesse. “Trump Tower Funded by Rich Chinese Who Invest Cash for Visas”. Bloomberg Politics: March 6, 2016. http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2016-03-07/trump-tower-financed-by-rich-chinese-who-invest-cash-for-visas
  4. Plato, , and Allan Bloom. “The Republic”. New York: Basic Books, 1968. Print.
  5. Weber, Max. “The Three Types of Legitimate Rule”. Berkeley Publications in Society and Institutions 4(1): 1-11, 1958
  6. Keenan, Thomas. “Drift: Politics and the Simulation of Real Life”. MIT, Grey Room 21: 2005