Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Abby Zimet: On the Migrant “Army” of Poor Brown People — This Comes From Hunger

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The caravan passes by sympathetic Mexicans. Photo by Moises Castillo/AP

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As a battered procession of up to 7,000 hungry, thirsty, blistered, desperate Central Americans fleeing violence and poverty continues slowly streaming hundreds of miles through Mexico and toward the U.S. border, Trump’s fear-mongering machine has reached newly hysterical heights. The refugees from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, one of the world’s most violent countries, have been walking for up to 10 days; many left Honduras following a call on social media for a “Migrant March” in search of safety, with the caravan spontaneously picking up more people as it moved north. Over the weekend, briefly blocked by Mexican officials at the border with Guatemala, they persisted, some by swimming or rafting across the Suchiate River, some by tearing down checkpoints at its bottle-necked bridge. Olivin Castellanos, 58, a truck driver and mason from Honduras, took a raft across the river. “No one will stop us, only God,” he said. “We knocked down the door and we continue walking.”

Faced with the prospect of thousands of poor, brown, frightened people, many in flip-flops with crying children on their shoulders, walking for days in 100-degree heat in search of a better life, our alleged president responded with his usual grace and humanity, offering one simple message: Be afraid. Hysterically fear-mongering on behalf of his beloved racist base, he fumed the Very Scary criminal army edging toward our peaceful shores was all the Democrats’ fault, and must be halted. “Full efforts are being made to stop the onslaught of illegal aliens from crossing our Souther (sic) Border!” he shouted on Twitter. Then he got really excited: He warned those Central American countries he would begin to cut off their aid; vowed to send “as many troops as necessary” to turn back the hordes; issued illegal threats against them; and, echoing bonkers conspiracy theories, invented criminals, terrorists, gang members and “unknown Middle Easterners” for their ranks – a claim wholly and entirely disputed by fact.

Still, fact has never gotten in the way of Trump’s racist lunacy. A rising chorus of support for his claims has come indirectly from mainstream media – a CBS story had the caravan “lurching” toward the U.S. while A.P. apologized for its report of “a ragtag army” – and from the usual suspects of wingnuttery, Fox News, where Trump got the Soros-funded, ISIS-infiltrated idea in the first place. Some of their efforts fell flat: One Fox panel defied the narrative to bravely note these were human beings. But Laura Ingraham stoked the flames with a frenzied, baffling view of a caravan that would surely grow to four million if the Democrats flip the House, intoning, “No American should suffer or be brutalized in order to fulfill the Democrats’ fantasy of a borderless society.” Echoing her message we will only be great again by stopping the barbarians at the gate, one wise Trumper explained why thousands of destitute people would embark on such an arduous journey: “Money. They getting paid in lines before hoping on the bus. Protect our boarders. This invasion must be stopped at all costs.”

Repeatedly citing the gangs and dangers and hardscrabble lives they’d already survived, the migrants themselves voiced the same determination. “We have sunburn. We have blisters. But we got here,” said Brittany Hernandez. “Our strength is greater than Trump’s threats.” Just as poignantly, they were often helped by Mexicans with little more than they had; passing through villages near Ciudad Hidalgo, they were met with cheers, food, water, and, from Maria Teresa Orellana, free sandals: “It’s solidarity.” In the blistering heat, hundreds of other locals stopped their vans and pickups to give rides to 10 or 20 migrants at a time. The aptly named Jesus Valdivia, of Tuxtla Chico, was one. “You have to help the next person. Today it’s for them, tomorrow for us,” he said. “From them we learn to value what they do not have.” For a final reminder of what our humanity demands of us, revisit Warsan Shires’ “Home.” It begins, “No one leaves home unless/ home is the mouth of a shark…”

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Fox News sees an army pushing toward us. What the rest of us see:

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The army tries to get across the river. Photo by Edgard Garrido/Reuters

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Father with newborn son. Photo by Moises Castillo/AP

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Honduran boy

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More cross the river. Reuters photo.

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Sleeping on cardboard. Photo by Moises Castillo/AP

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As up to 7,000 thirsty, blistered, desperate Central American refugees from violence and poverty slowly stream through Mexico toward the U.S. border, our alleged president responded with his usual grace: Hysterically fear-mongering, he vowed to “stop the onslaught of illegal aliens,” invented terrorists in their midst and issued illegal threats. But the marchers, many in flip-flops and carrying their children for hundreds of miles, have seen worse: “No one will stop us, only God.”


 

First published by Common Dreams.

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