October 16, 2021

Forget Donald Trump. It’s Latin American Leadership That Should Be Ashamed

Donald-Trump-G3If you’re a soccer fan, there’s something about watching your country’s team play in an international championship. Even if you’re not an all-out aficionado, there’s something about that swell of national pride when you witness a really good win.

There’s also nothing like that feeling when your team loses. Bad. (Team USA in the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup Semifinals, anyone?)

There’s frustration, annoyance, anger—and even shame. (“How could we possibly stink that badly??”)

We’ll get back to shame in a second.

In the past month or so, everyone’s had something to say about Donald Trump and his filter-free approach to politics (particularly his comments on immigration):

He’s a bull who brings his own china shop with him. He’s a refreshing voice in a field of the same old political drivel. He’s an embarrassment to conservatism. He’s a liar and a racist.

Even Shrek’s trusty pal Donkey got in on the commentary … well, sort of: Mexican actor Eugenio Derbez denounced Trump, noting that Latinos are much more than just Mexico, and they’re “honest and hardworking people. And Latinos are also waiters and cooks in all the restaurants in the U.S., so be careful next time you eat in a restaurant because you might need to swallow your words … and something else.”

Whatever your opinion, set Donald Trump aside for now, and let’s get back to the concept of shame.

When I watched Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto lecture Americans last year as to how we needed to extend amnesty to immigrants; that “this, at the end, is about — and only about — a matter of justice for those who contribute so much to the development of the American society,” I remember thinking: this dude has absolutely no shame.

Seriously, stop and think about it.

Forget Trump and whether he’s right or wrong about the “kind” of people that Mexico and other Latin American countries are de facto “sending” to the United States. Nobody stops to think about how incredibly embarrassing it should be for world leaders like Peña Nieto to watch their people leave their countries in droves, and even more shameful for one of those leaders to come up and demand that the United States welcome those migrants with open arms — despite the fact that they’re breaking the law.

People continue to leave, often because things are just that bad in their homeland. So bad, that some parents have even sent their children — unaccompanied — on an incredibly perilous journey, hoping they’d find a better life.

Politically incorrect though it may be, college graduates and otherwise successful people aren’t swarming the border to cross it illegally. It consists largely of people who have been kept at a disadvantage thanks to much of Latin America’s insistence on redistributive policies that have unfailingly resulted in even more poverty and fewer opportunities for upward movement.

You could certainly make the case that these are people whose home countries no longer have to deal with them.

And, like it or not, it also consists of those whose criminal behaviors have been allowed to run rampant by ineffective and corrupt criminal justice systems incapable of dealing with the problem (and who in turn drive many in the population away in fear). This problem doesn’t simply turn around at the border–and you could similarily make the case that their home countries no longer have to deal with them, either.

Mexico (or any other Latin American country) may not technically have, as MNSBC’s Chris Hayes put it in his recent interview with former Mexican president Felipe Calderón, active “programs” that send society’s poorest or worst to the United States (though Mexico did for a time actually hand out “at least 70,000 maps showing highways, rescue beacons and water tanks in the Arizona desert” ) the fact remains that people are leaving their home countries for a reason.

And precious few people south of the border seem interested in talking about what a shameful thing that is.

To his credit, Calderón lightly touched on the issue in the aforementioned MSNBC interview.

Though he gets in a few good digs—like how the prosperity of the United States in the last century wouldn’t exist without the Mexican worker—he does make it clear that a lack of opportunity is what drives people northward out of necessity—expressing a hope that opportunity would one day negate the need to leave one’s homeland.

I can’t speak to the situation throughout most of Latin America with any kind of real authority, because I didn’t live there. I did, however, live in Mexico for several years, and my husband was born and raised there.

Its corruption runs so wide and deep that it is equally the source of both jokes, and trepidation. You either have to laugh about it, or cry—sometimes both. The sad reality is that Mexico isn’t really fixing its problems. It hasn’t for some time, and statistically it doesn’t seem that much of Latin America is either. And don’t get me wrong, we’ve got our share of corruption here. It just hasn’t prompted a significant ongoing exodus… yet.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a Trump apologist for a host of reasons, but instead of talking about his choice of words, let’s instead talk about the reality of how ashamed Latin American leaders ought to be of themselves, and of the environment THEY are creating; an environment that absolutely drives people out, and northward.

Si solo tenían un poquito de vergüenza—if only they had a little bit of shame—maybe something might change.

If they really cared about their countries’ futures, they’d spend more time truly investing in them and less time lecturing foreign governments as to the need to take their countrymen in. Maybe then, something might change.

Until then, and as long as we here in the United States continue to facilitate an environment that automatically entitles those whom Latin America has failed to a piece of the American dream (that others before them have had to rightfully earn) nothing will.