O Mexico

Mexico is one of the top US trade partners. Its president has just cancelled a trip to Washington.  This has implications.  Remember that major US corporations have primary, secondary, and tertiary economic interests in that nation.  While the anti-immigrant rhetoric may warm the hearts of Republican party voters, policies which diminish those trade relations have serious consequences for our own economy.

Re-negotiating NAFTA will be a complicated process, scrapping it would allow the Mexican government to restrict primary activities (mining, agriculture), impose restraints on secondary elements such as trucking and transportation, and inhibit retail operations like those of Walmart. This is not to argue that there are elements of the trade agreement which couldn’t do with some reform – labor rights, environmental protections, etc. – but that blanket proclamations and nativist  rhetoric are dangerous insertions into the debate.

And, yes, it’s not going to be a wall, it’ll be a fence; and the Mexican government isn’t going to pay for it, US taxpayers will be footing the bill, no matter how Republicans try to manipulate the arithmetic.

There is another, more amorphous, concept to contemplate regarding the current administration’s posture on our relationship with our southern neighbors.

There appears to be a very uncomfortable level of commentary regarding Mexicans. Mexicans are taking American jobs? Mexicans are flooding over our borders? Mexicans are criminals? All of these statements are demonstrably false, but that may not matter.

It’s refreshing to note that there is an increased interest in the work of Hannah Arendt, especially “The Origins of Totalitarianism,” in which she describes the process by which a nation devolves into the abyss.  The process requires suspension of belief in facts and the adoption of prophecy.  If the economy becomes weakened it will be because Mexicans are taking away American jobs. If the institutions of American democracy are crumbling it must be because Mexicans are voting illegally in American elections. If crime rates are up (which they are not) it must be because of criminal behavior by Mexican immigrants.

The process also requires conflation. There are eerie reminders of Leonardo Conti’s notion that a “half Jew must be treated like a full Jew.” Are second and third generation Mexican-American citizens to be classified as less than full citizens?  Why is the current administration seeking daily lists of crimes alleged to have been perpetrated by immigrants?  Does this register with our consciences as being just a bit too similar to the inquiries of the Nazi’s Institute for Study of the Jewish Question?”

What are the consequences of associating Mexican, and all other Central American immigrants, with corruption and crime? What might be a consequence of identification of all Hispanic individuals as immigrants rather than as second or later generation citizens?

Does this mindset make it easier to adopt patently racist voting rights restrictions in the name of “election integrity?” Does this make easing regulations concerning workplace and job discrimination more acceptable in the name of “America First,” a slogan associated with the pro-nazis of the 1940s? Does this atmosphere create an environment where being tough on crime means being rough on members of our Hispanic population?

The president of Mexico is right to cancel his trip.  The current administration is not speaking to how things are (there was no significant voting fraud) (more manufacturing jobs have been lost to robots than other people) but to paint a picture of an authoritarian government staunchly defending our “integrity and values” until we don’t have any left.

Should the administration continue this route the wall, as some pundits are saying, may well serve to keep Americans in, rather than to keep Mexicans out.

Now, go to your favorite book store and get some Orwell and Arendt.

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