Sunday, January 27, 2008

Una Fiera, a political conversation with mama about the country breaking her heart

I was a militant socialist of a 10 year old, quick to invoke every freedom fighter I had ever heard discourse in documentaries or on TV whenever I spoke about the need for change. I would say by the time I was in fourth grade, I spoke exuberantly about the lack of resources kids in the hood had to experience and the unfairness of the world. Now as an adult, I wonder where I got the rhetoric. I mean clearly, I was 10 and my ability to know nuanced views about the issues was incredibly limited. And I wouldn't say that my parents spoke about politics in the same way I did. I mean my parents and I have always aligned ideologically/politically. Having grown up in their house, I took away many and most of their liberal ideals. Though, I believe I was always the one to start conversations around politics in the house. They were always trying to reign me back in and had a fair level of concern with my anger at the injustices of the world. And I hesitate to downplay my ten year old angst because it meant something to me. I just knew our ability to make change and I didn't have the patience to be older before I started vocalizing it.

16 years later, I am on the phone with my mother and we are discussing the Democratic primary. Having been so aligned, it is the first time we have ever not been in full agreement on an election. I am an Obama supporter and she is tenuously in the Clinton camp. After his South Carolina win, I call, not to brag, but to ask where she is at. And she tells me, "Mija, people in politics are just so mean, and the country is so evil. He seems like such a good man, how can a good man survive this. If they killed him, it would be devastating for the country, I don't know how Latinos and Blacks would ever recover."

And there it was, the fear many people of color in this country carry when it comes to the thought of an Obama presidency, what if he's killed.

"Is this why you aren't voting for him mama? I thought you liked her." "I do mija, I think she's really smart y una fiera (a wild animal) when she's attacked and when she is attacking. Pero, I think he is a good man with the right ideas, but it scares me, what could happen to him. This is a country that does not love us and it does not want us here."

The media has made so many assessments about the Latino vote and where it will go and why the Clinton's (and yes I say that plural for a reason)likely have a stronghold on it. How the supposed hatred in brown/black relations make Latinos voting for an Obama presidency unlikely. But I gotta tell you. I have yet to see any "expert" discussing it on tv that is actually Latino. Not a one of them has the language ability to even watch Univision or Telemundo. And it really pisses me off. They also assume that Latino is never black, when obviously, so much of the Dominican, Puerto Rican, Hatian, Central American and Cuban populations have the ability to be both Black and Latino. No doubt, there is a history of racism in the Latino world. The more light-skinned you are, the more revered in some places. But I would come close to making the bold assessment that this is pretty much a global problem that has roots in a looong line of socio-economic oppression. And that there are just as many allies in these communities as people who create division.

My mother's reasoning, actually resonates to me, much louder as the true fears behind the Latino community. I would venture to say that Latinos in this country have felt in the last 3 years even more than usual that we are not wanted here. It has played psychological havoc on our community and our children. Trust me, having been told in the past to go back to my own country, having being born in San Gabriel, California... you just feel like a less than to a country that is supposed to thrive as a result of its diverse population. My mother fears another blow. This woman who fought so hard to study and fight for her citizenship. Who fought for her children to become educated here. Whose admiration of this country just a few short years ago (pre-Bush re-election) was so unfailing. Her patriotism while I was growing up was almost blind. It frustrated me, yet at the same time infused me with hope and belief in this country.

And this is what it comes to? She starts to vote in elections here, the way she and my father would have voted for elections in their mother country? Based on fear and a lack of belief in the ability of change?

Is it my luxury at my 26 years to still have hope? To still ardently believe that as a country we are capable of getting past years of division. And to believe in a leader whose been more aware of my experiences growing up with a lack of power and privilege. Don't get me wrong, some of the fissures, I know they will always exist. But some of it, it just doesn't need to be this way. I want to be "una fiera" for that kind of belief.

So I close this entry with how my mother and I ended our conversation...

"Mama, I'm tired. I'm not going to vote in this election based out of a fear of what could happen. Or because this is the least evil person that could be the most evil and pull it off. I want to believe because I always believed. I have to take a leap of faith mama and if something bad happens deal with it, fight against it, and move on. Because the country shouldn't have broken your heart like this, you never spoke about this country like this."

"It's so much more corrupt than I ever thought it was Karla. But for your sake mija, I hope you are right. I don't want it to make you feel the way it makes me feel. And you do with your heart and your brain what you think should happen. And then we'll both pray."

"Si mama, we'll both pray."

No comments: