By: John L. Hancock
This was my first-time attending a protest and I was shocked by what I saw. I am a conservative who is married to a Mexican woman and have children who are of half Mexican descent . I know the value of being able to speak Spanish and my wife and I made it a priority that our children also learned the language. Additionally, my wife teaches traditional Mexican folk dancing, which is something that allows her to share the rich culture of Mexico that she is so proud of. After 20 years of marriage, I have also developed a great respect for the culture, its history, and its people. It would be an understatement to say that the current events happening in the nearby town of Murrieta has created mixed emotions for me. After having watched the media coverage of the protest, I decided to go down to the Border Patrol station to get a firsthand view of what was really happening. So when I attended the protest last Monday, I did so as someone with sympathies for both sides. I was prepared for the heated passions that these issues often raise in people; but I was not prepared to witness how the media is portraying the issue.
Right away I began to see a trend in the people who the various media outlets were choosing to interview. I noticed that they all tended to focus on two types of people; those with interesting signs and shirts and those who fit a certain profile. In the first case, I noticed that they chose signs and shirts that could be misinterpreted depending on the context in which they are presented to the viewing public. As for the individuals interviewed, it became clear to me that they were picking people who fit the narrative that they wanted to put forth; which is that the protesters are mainly Tea Partiers who are nothing more than anti-Obama racist xenophobes. In a word they were "profiling" the protesters.
My observations were confirmed while watching a reporter and camera team from one of the local Spanish-speaking stations. I watched as the reporter interviewed the small contingent of counter protesters who were there in support of the illegal immigrants. I noticed that she picked people who were nicely dressed and created a favorable impression. When she moved over to those who were protesting the dumping of illegal immigrants into their neighborhoods, she focused on individuals whose signs, shirts, speech, and actions could, if presented out of context, be seen as being nothing more than anti-Obama, racist, and xenophobic.
The reporter became very interested when a woman claiming to be a resident of Murrieta ventured into the mass of protesters and asked them why they have so much hatred towards and lack of compassion for the children on the buses. Some of the protesters let their passions get the best of them as they responded angrily to this woman and the reporter was more than happy to record the exchange. After approximately 20 minutes of sometimes tense debate, news came that the buses were not coming to the Murrieta Border Patrol station. People started drifting back to their cars as the police were taking down the barriers that separated the two sides. It was then that I noticed that the reporter talking to the woman.
As I got closer, I could hear the woman telling the reporter that she could not understand how such racism and hatred could come to her town of Murrieta. I chose this opportunity to approach the woman in front of the reporter and address the accusations of racism and hatred. I explained that my wife is from Mexico, my children are half Mexican, that Spanish was their primary language until they entered kindergarten, that I am fluent in Spanish, that my wife teaches Ballet Folklorico (traditional Mexican folk dancing) to youths of a nearby city, and that I have a degree in international business with Latin America being my region of study. I went on to explain that I love the people of Latin America and have a deep respect for their culture.
So for me, I explained, this issue is not about these people being from Latin America. What it is about is the rule of law. This means that the law of the land–which in the United States is the Constitution– is supreme and that no man has the authority to override it. There are only two countries in the Americas were the rule of law has traditionally governed. These two countries are the United States and Canada and they are the two most prosperous and freest nations in all of the Americas. The dozen or so countries that make up the rest of the Americas are governed by the rule of man. This means that the leaders have little or no restrictions on their power and are able to make laws that suit their own needs. I finished by telling her if she wants to see the difference between the rule of man and the rule of law, all she has to do is go to the Mexican border. If she looks south she would see the poverty and lack of opportunity that the rule of man produces. If she looks north, she will see the freedom and prosperity that the rule of law produces. I do not want my children or grandchildren to live in the society that the rule of man produces. That is why I am here and it has nothing to do with racism or hatred.
The reporter quietly listened to this discussion but had dropped her microphone and sent her cameraman away. When I had finished, she thanked me for my time and quickly walked away to interview someone from the pro-immigrant side of the street. I found this very interesting because here I am, a gringo who can speak Spanish, who is married to a Mexican, whose kids only spoke Spanish until they went to kindergarten and, yet, I am not interesting enough to interview. I could have done the whole interview in Spanish; no translation required. But this reporter did not want to have anything to do with me. In fact, she drew away for me so fast that you would've thought that I was the one with the communicable disease.
It is now 24 hours later and I am still thinking about what happened. I thought for sure the reporter from a Spanish-speaking station would love to interview a white protester who is fluent in Spanish. I now realize that I just didn't fit the narrative that they wanted to tell. I could not be presented as an uneducated, white racist who is protesting the arrival of these children for no other reason than that they are from Latin American countries. I kick myself for being so naïve. Over the years, I have watched my share of Spanish-language TV and I have seen that they are further left than even the English-language mainstream media is.
The woman from Murrieta admitted that she was unaware of everything I told her and she thanked me for my time. As we were preparing to part we cordially shook hands. Another protester who stayed for the conversation pointed out to the woman that, even though I had a compelling story, the reporter made no attempt to do an interview with me. "This," the protester said, "is why conservatives don't trust the media."
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