By José Orduña
I couldn’t bear to watch the DNC or the RNC in their entireties as they aired on television, but over the course of those days following the conventions, I was pulled into watching clips by an impulse similar to the one that makes me watch blackhead removal videos on the Internet. I’ve watched so much close-up footage of sebum being squeezed out of skin holes that the pleasure of being revolted has been subsumed into a dull impulse to click on the following link. I was surprised, though, to have my sense of revulsion restored by the peaks and plateaus of depravity that shone through the drone of political theatre this time around.
One convention featured the jingoistic speeches of retired generals, and ex-CIA director Leon Panetta, of protestors chanting “No more war!” being out shouted by people chanting “U-S-A!” The other convention was the Republicans’. As a Mexican immigrant naturalized as a US citizen in 2011, this is the second US general election for which I am eligible to vote. And as someone who cares about the lives of Latin Americans both in the United States and abroad, I find myself reeling at the fact that I’ll have to vote for a lesser evil that celebrates the endorsement of individuals that should be recognized as war criminals.
Much has been written about the horror of Trump. Liberal commentators all seem to agree that he is a candidate unique in his potential for destruction, someone who is abnormal, and categorically evil. Some, like Vox’s Ezra Klein, have gone so far as to say, “Trump’s nomination is the first time American politics has left me truly afraid,” scrubbing history, and the present moment of bi-partisan war crimes, mass deportations, and ongoing racial terror. The amnesia and myopia of this kind of political commentary, which seemed to unify after the Khizr and Ghazala Khan spectacle, have been stomach-turning. Rather than engage critically with the machinations of power represented during this particular incident, liberal commentators seemed to come together in a chorus of outrage, ignoring the fact that in addition to Trump’s insults, the DNC also dishonored the Khans by using them as ethno-religious representatives because their son died exerting US military power in a war that was voted for by Hillary Clinton.
This kind of amnesia and myopia is chief among the litany of horrors a figure like Donald Trump represents. Were it not for Trump’s perfectly villainous rhetoric—his blatant racism, his overt misogyny, his Islamophobia, his disgusting insinuations—there might be a more honest appraisal of the other candidate’s policies. More so-called progressives might be inclined to seriously ask themselves why individuals like Robert Kagan (pusher and champion of the unilateral invasion of Iraq), Mike Morell (former acting director of the CIA who, during an interview with Charlie Rose in 2014, rhetorically asked how someone could not torture if they thought it might save American lives and insidiously suggested leaders believed torture to be effective despite the CIA’s “KUBARK” interrogation manual plainly stating in 1963 that it isn’t), and John Negroponte (US ambassador to Honduras from 1981-1985, during which he facilitated the funding and training of death squads and helped set up Honduras as the staging ground for the US-led contra war) have publicly endorsed Hillary Clinton.
Donald Trump has said he would build a wall along the US/Mexico border, but what he should have said is that he would continue building the wall Bill Clinton broke ground on in the mid 90s south of San Diego, California. And three decades after John Negroponte’s havoc-wreaking time in Honduras, havoc that continues to compel migration north, he’s endorsed Hillary Clinton, a candidate who has just recently helped legitimize the military coup that replaced democratically elected President of Honduras with a violent and repressive right-wing government. In 2014, when CNN’s Christiane Amanpour asked Clinton what should be done about the unaccompanied minors that had fled that violence in Honduras and come to the United States recently, she replied that the United States government should send them back.
Karla Ortiz, an eleven-year-old girl born in the United States to undocumented parents, was brought on stage during the DNC. She told her story, garnered some sympathy, and helped signal that the DNC is the party for immigrants and Latinos. Trump would deport her parents, while Clinton would focus on deporting the parents of other little girls just like Karla, parents who might have made mistakes in the past, rendering them ineligible of sympathy and dignity. During the Obama Administration, the Democrats meekly pushed for what they referred to as comprehensive immigration reform. The mainstream media publicized it as a bill that would help immigrants. In reality, it was a bill to help a small number of special undocumented immigrants while making life horrific for the vast majority of those without papers. If it had passed, it would have brought about an unprecedentedly large border militarization and surveillance apparatus, essentially a physical and virtual wall along the US/Mexico border.
Watching the DNC and RNC have reinforced my belief that November—this or any other—is not the month during which substantive political progress will be made. I used to feel that the Democrats and Republicans were two sides of the same coin, but they seem much more bound up than that. They seem to stand in a productive opposition that sustains them both. That fact has become increasingly clear after the primaries concluded and Clinton’s platform seemed to find it’s footing solely on the idea that she is not Trump.
About the Author
José Orduña was born in Córdoba, Veracruz, and immigrated to Chicago when he was two. He is a graduate of the Nonfiction Writing Program at the University of Iowa and active in Latin American solidarity. He is the author of The Weight of Shadows: A Memoir of Immigration and Displacement.