A little after 4pm on Wednesday, I stare at the television in the living room of my New York City apartment with tears running down my face.
Rioters, alleging election fraud, have broken into the US Capitol Building in an attempt to halt the last stage of Joe Biden’s confirmation as president. I hear helicopters outside, and my phone is receiving incessant messages from my family in Mexico and my mom in Spain. They’re all worried about me and tell me not to go out. The whole world is watching.
I haven’t felt this anxious, scared, heartbroken or helpless since 9/11. I was working as a singer on a cruise ship in Istanbul in 2001. I watched the Twin Towers fall live on TV during the terrorist attacks. The Trump supporters creating chaos in Washington DC in the name of the 45th president are no better than the terrorists on that dark September day. Those I’m seeing invading the Capitol are not “patriots”, as Ivanka Trump tweeted of the insurgents in a post, which was later deleted.
Growing up, I bought into the “land of the free” ideals of the Star-Spangled Banner. I enjoyed the Hollywood films where America would always save the world. Now, it seems, the rest of the world needs to save America from Americans. I came to NYC to study performing arts in 1998 and fell in love with the city, and with Broadway. I went back to Mexico after my training and didn’t return until 2017 to make my Broadway debut. I later applied for my green card, and finally received it in 2019, not an easy task for Mexicans during the era of “build the wall”.
On-screen I see rioters smiling. They’re proud of what they’ve done. Don’t they see what they have done is deplorable not patriotic? It’s unconstitutional behaviour. It saddens me that these Americans will likely go back to their hotels and talk about the great day they’ve just had. Donald Trump’s legacy will be defined by the final days of his presidency. He is not the revolutionary these people think he is.
Watching the pandemonium ensue, I can’t help thinking this could happen in my home country.
Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) and Trump are cut from the same cloth. Both narcissists believe the way to rule is to divide and conquer. I recall when President López Obrador lost the election in 2006 (and again in 2012) and incited his followers to camp out on one of Mexico City’s most iconic streets, Paseo de la Reforma. A tented city of López Obrador followers blocked roads for months. I lived in the area at the time – it was a nightmare.
There was looting, robberies, chaos, endless traffic and shuttered businesses all because AMLO said he’d been a victim of voter fraud (even when there was no solid evidence to back up his claims). He later became president of Mexico in 2018. He didn’t acknowledge Joe Biden’s victory for six weeks, until facing heavy criticism.
More recently, he offered asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Despite Trump’s repeated disparaging remarks of Mexico and Mexicans, López Obrador still traveled to DC last year to meet with him during his presidential campaign. It has been said again and again that Mexico’s president sees a lot of himself in Trump. I don’t doubt it – and it scares me.
Federal elections will be happening this year in Mexico and the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA), the political party currently in power, is doing everything in its power to remain so, very much as the Republicans have done stateside.
There are also similarities between López Obrador and Trump supporters, on both sides, some believe anyone who contradicts their leader is a traitor to the nation.
As I continue to watch, memes are circulating on social media among Latinos: “Americans are watching the chaos happening in the US in shock. First time?” Making light of the situation, as if breaking the law should be something normal for them. I have never seen Mexico or the US as divided as they are now and it’s down to the populist regimes in charge.
This attempted coup d’etat is anxiety inducing. This is not the American Dream I signed up for. This is not the America I left Mexico for. I’m frightened. And frankly, you should be too.
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