I am struggling to understand why it is that people do monumentally terrible things to one another. Is it that somewhere in defining 'terrible', we lose track of others' definitions until a stranger's morality can seem like evil in the peeled open eyes of another stranger named me? Is it that the things we once thought irreconcilable- separating children from parents, protecting need over want, helping a stranger in tears- are transformed into carefully held discussions, and are now angry outbursts in a post-truth climate?
I am unsure. These are, after all, matters of debate. I am currently no politician. Rather, I am a human coming at you from a very human perspective: one of defining ourselves by defining what is not us. Perhaps in blindly reaching and patting down our edges with my fumbling yet desperate words, I might find some solace in my trivialized existential crisis for my country's humanity and, in a way, our identity.
Being American is something that is very profoundly me. And yet, it was not too long ago that my paternal grandmother said I have no Latin culture because I was raised in America. I was shocked. My mom is Mexican. My abuelos were raised and lived in the emerald mountains and fell in love in the hustle and bustle of Mexico City. I think in Spenglish. I am not Isabella without the Isabellita. I am both Mexican and American.
I have a hyphenated existence, one stretched across a plain, which I never saw as problematic until now. If one half of my plane were cut off, to be Texan blunt with you, I'd be fucked. My plane would crash into a wall American tax builders are building not knowing that their products will now rival the prices of Whole Foods because that's indentured servitude for you. For the sake of my metaphor, being hyphenated is a plain that once was blended so seamlessly it was all just tossed up American soil anyways but now, things are different.
Now, it does not matter that everyone in this country is ultimately from somewhere else except for the Native Americans. It does not matter that we all wear skin sacks stuffed with pounding hearts. It does not matter that we all have cried in our beds at 2 A.M., that we all fall in love with hot air balloon lungs, that we all are human beings. My God, how can we look at another person sobbing their eyes out, begging to stay and say, "You are illegal. You do not belong here." I don't understand where our empathy has gone.
I am a Southern woman. To be a Southern woman is both to be everyone's compassionate mother and the most hypocritical bitch of all time. I acknowledge our past of being the latter and try so hard to be the former. In the past, Southern women have claimed hospitality and vast empathy while simultaneously allowing slavery which is a sickening human rights violation on a scale so massive I can't do it justice in words. In short, it's fucking awful. The South I see now still scares me sometimes, but Houston, Texas is my South. In my South, I have witnessed kindness. I have seen incredible women do incredible things. My teachers, more than anyone, showed me resilience, strength, how to be a badass while also displaying so much empathy and kindness.
I aim to be that.
And so I love my Southern Houston roots, and I am so, so sorry for my ancestors' choices. I also love my Mexican roots too. I love having chilaquiles on Sunday mornings with my abuelos. I love hearing about my abuelo's time in the mountains when he was a child. I miss my family in Mexico. I hate that I can't speak to them, but I'm learning Spanish, so that will change. I'm growing from my Mexican and Southern roots into my Mexican American self. I love me. I love my hyphenated existence. I will not saturate my Mexicanness with shame. I have pride.
America, do not ask me to hide my heritage when you are the ones who have had slaves. When you are the ones who are separating children from parents for only having one half of the hyphen. When you are the ones you over and over again stop seeing people as people and start seeing only us versus them.
It is not us versus them. I am you, America. And you are me. And I am them. And together, we are us.