Monday, July 09, 2018

insulting my country

Saying nasty things about Mexico will irritate me. Saying ignorant things will bring out the mother bear in me.

I have been friends with Al for years. Since I moved to Mexico, we stay in touch through email. Not frequently, he will send me something he has recently read. Almost always about Mexico. He is interested in my take. I suspect because he is still a bit baffled that I would have moved here.

Yesterday he sent me an article from an online magazine that I would not usually read. The writers are a mixed bag. But most are former conservatives who have given into a nationalist and protectionist philosophy.

The article Al sent me was about AMLO's election as president of Mexico and what it means to both Mexico and the United States. I would have anticipated the author would have been appalled at the election of a socialist in a neighboring country. But I was wrong.

The world of politics is changing. The old left-right divide is starting to make little sense. The new paradigm of "inward-looking" and "outward looking" makes far more sense. Or, as the British would have it, "somewheres" and "anywheres."

AMLO falls perfectly within the new political paradigm. The author points out AMLO ran "not as a socialist, but as a national populist skeptical of globalist neoliberalism." Having run twice before for president as a social democrat, he remade himself this year into a national populist. The author's prediction is that the new Mexican president and the American president will be able to work well together because they share a lot of the same interests.

Take this gem, for example. "
AMLO critiques NAFTA for banning Mexico's traditional tariffs that protected its small corn farmers, whose ancestors had been growing corn for thousands of years. The beneficiaries were massively efficient Midwestern American farmers, whose cheap corn imports pushed huge numbers of Mexican peasants into illegally migrating to the US over the last quarter century."

We will skip over the factual errors in that statement because I am far more interested in its comic book view of economics. He builds on that to point out that the celebrated Trump-AMLO telephone call was a success because both of them have a deal in mind: trading American investments in Mexican infrastructure for Mexico's help in lowering Central American immigration.

The idea is interesting. After all, in congress, AMLO will depend on votes from his coalition partner, the Social Encounter Party (PES), a socially conservative Christian party with views similar to the Christian right in the United States. And AMLO shares a few of those views -- opposition to gay marriage, opposed to abortion.

But, that is not what really caught my eye in the article. In discussing American investment in infrastructure in post-Revolution Mexico, the author noted: "Mexican elites traditionally resisted the threat of American dominance, but at the expense of tolerating (and even promoting) a culture of mediocrity and accident-proneness in its population. Mexico’s superb real estate would attract an influx of Americans, but Mexicans have managed to make their country boring and distasteful to most Yankees besides Jeb Bush. Mexico’s shoddiness successfully repels gringos, but also limits its potential."

There is a lot of vitriol in that paragraph. The sharp elbow to Jeb Bush is an example. And there are a lot of good reasons why American businesses have been reluctant to invest in Mexico. But, I really take exception to the gratuitous insult that the country in which I live has purposely been created "boring and distasteful to most Yankees." Those adjectives are born of a nativist mind.

It is true that some aspects of life in Mexico may be distasteful. Cartels. Corruption. Drug addiction. A violent crime rate that continues to climb despite the promises of politicians.

But the positives of living here are tasteful (if that is the proper antonym). In fact, delectable. For most of us, the negative aspects of Mexico are a distant echo. (With the exception of the recent scourge of methamphetamine addictions that has repeatedly touched my life through Mexican friends.)

Those of us who choose to live here have done so for many reasons. For me, it s the challenge of living in a new country. The weather, the availability of fresh ingredients for meals, the ability of my neighbors to accept what life offers with aplomb. Those are all sweeteners on top.

And "boring?" That is obviously the opinion of a man who has not spent any time truly taking in the life of Mexico. How can any country based on fiestas, faith, and family be boring?

What AMLO and Trump decide to do with their relationship is something I am looking forward to. But, I am going to do it in my country of choice where every day is to be celebrated.

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