By Claudia Meléndez Salinas
My inner rebel is a Catholic girl subdued into submission through guilt-ridden tongue lashings and threats of everlasting hell. My inner rebel is used to keeping her really big mouth shut for fear of offending, for fear of ruffling feathers and getting pecked — though that does not stop her from, once in a while, opening her mouth in a reaaaaaaaaally big way. Most importantly, my inner rebel always found comfort in pleasing people: it’s so nice to be loved, to be accepted, to be recognized for kindness and civility.
Those images of imprisoned children, ripped apart from their families, have my inner rebel thrashing about like a fish out of water. The restrained Catholic girl wants to remain pleasant and civil, while the images demand her action: “The hell with pleasantries, move out of your security zone!” she screams.
That’s how my life has been for a couple of years, since presidential candidate Donald Trump denounced Mexicans as a bunch of rapists and drug dealers. I am a journalist; in this country a journalist must remain “neutral” and “objective.” But I’m also Mexican, a Latina, a woman of strong convictions and morals. I aspire to be a decent human being, and as such I’ve recoiled in horror each time Trump has said or done something repulsive — flaunt how he just grabs women by their private parts, mocked a disabled journalist, failed to denounce the KKK, rolled back rights for the LGBT community, encouraged violence against journalists.
Each and every time, I argue with my inner rebel about the utility and futility of writing about it, of denouncing the “presidential” behavior and taking a stand, of abandoning my journalistic principles of so-called “objectivity” (let’s face it, no human being can ever be completely “objective”) and join in the chorus denouncing Trump and his cruel and infantile behavior. There are so many people already doing it, what would be the point, civilized Claudia tells Inner Rebel. “But opinion writers do it all the time, why can’t I?” Inner Rebel counters. The longer Trump’s behavior went on, the longer the debates lasted, the louder my inner rebel screamed.
Inner Rebel was bound to beat my “civility” — my cowardice? And it happened right around the time news of imprisoned children began to spread. I have yet to hear the audio of screaming kids, and I don’t have to. I’m sufficiently horrified. I walk around with tears on the brims of my eyes, wondering how can this country be so cruel, how can we be allowing such a monstrosity to happen? I go about my day at work, cheerleading educators and the hard work they do in and out of the classroom, taking photographs of beautiful brown children playing instruments and doing math and promoting to middle school, and in the back of my mind there’s a cave where refugee children are sobbing for their mommies, traumatized for life; where mothers and fathers can’t sleep wondering where their babies are.
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It felt good to know that a group of Latinas was organizing a press conference to raise their voices against this cruelty. It took a moment among them to realize – to confirm – that I’m not the only one with tears on the spillway.
“Those images make me appreciate my grandpa… His sacrifice brought me here,” Aline Reyna-Ramirez, field representative for Anna Caballero, said almost as she confessed how close she is to crying all the time.
Erica Padilla Chavez, Hartnell College trustee, stifled tears as she denounced the border quagmire. So did Salinas Councilwoman Gloria de la Rosa, recalling the time when she was separated from her daughter when she was little. So did Araceli Flores, a board member of the Gonzales Unified School District and a licensed clinical social worker, thinking about the time she had to be separated from her child for medical reasons. If it’s this hard when you’re just recalling challenging times — or for many of us, just imagining how devastating it would be to have your child ripped away from you — imagine how it is for those who thought they’d found refuge in the “greatest country in the world” just to have their children stolen from them.
We know we’re not alone. Michael Moore asked Stephen Colbert on The Late Show if he walks around constantly on the brink of tears. Colbert responded he would probably cry after he learned more details about the shooting that killed five newspaper workers in Annapolis. It’s reassuring to hear it’s not just the women doing the crying. It’s horrifying to see the atrocities are not limited to our border problems.
Last week, it was also heartening to see more than a thousand women protesting at the Hart Senate Office Building against the administration’s family separation policy. It was comforting to see demonstrations small and huge on Saturday in Salinas, Monterey, Greenfield, Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago.
My Inner Rebel was delighted to see Jon Stewart on the Late Show, denouncing the president not for his policies, but his “extra layers of gleeful cruelty” and taking his sycophants to task for their twisted attempts to paint him as the hero and the rest of us as the villians. His lap dogs want to shut us up by calling us divisive and ‘uncivil.’ But we just can’t allow our voices to be silenced. If civility means inaction and acquiescence, I’m done with being civil.
Inner Rebel is mad and she’s not going to take it anymore. Hear her roar.
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