“México, Lindo y Querido.” “Sung” by Donald Trump? Also “Despacito”? Even the U.S. President “singing” (well, lip-syncing) the Mexican National Anthem? Those are some of the memes comin’ atcha on YouTube. Laugh at the irony.
Then—facing reality—cry for Mexico and for the United States—for democracy itself. Mexican humor is often notoriously dark. Perhaps the root is the need to laugh through the pain.
Perhaps it helps. SOMETHING to assuage the sadness, some release from the fear and anxiety. But is it enough? Mexico has its famous humor. We in the U.S have SNL, clever, late-night comedians Stephen Colbert, Trevor Noah, and, more recently, Anthony Atamanuik, with his dead-on parody of Trump’s “I Came Up with Christmas.” All funny, often brilliant. Momentary release. But, no, not enough. After the laughter, the grim reality of a dictatorship forming in front of our eyes is still all too real—all too depressing and dangerous.
Recent examples of crumbling rights and Orwellian thought-control? Trump’s order to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), America’s top public health agency, prohibiting the use of certain words. Among them: “fetus, transgender, diversity” (Lena Sun and Juliet Eilperia, “CDC List of Forbidden Words,” Washington Post, 15 Dec 17). More ominous and also banned: “evidence-based” and “science-based.” Health and Human Services was ordered to remove information regarding LGBT Americans. Congressman Ted Lieu of California asks: “are we now going to use Voodoo and leeches to treat diseases?” (Jon Queally, “Making America Stupid Again,” Common Dreams, 16 Dec 2017).
Leaders and citizens alike are increasingly asking: are we—drip by drip—losing our democracy? “Can it happen here?” Predictions have long existed. There is historical evidence of dictatorship (Napoleon, et. al.) emerging from within democratic republics (Mario Loyda, “Dictatorship: American Style,” National Review, 11 Feb 16). Even Pope Francis suggested obliquely that Trump’s rise, in many ways, parallels that of Hitler’s (Noah Berlatsky, Quartz, 13 Feb 17).
Subtle comparisons range between just kleptocracy (Italian oligarch Berlusconi) or full-blown dictators, Mussolini and Hitler. Adolph anticipated Trump’s fawning relationship with big business. El Duche anticipated Trump’s body-language, the strutting and posturing, over seventy years ago. One does not have to look that far back.
Recall other dictatorships – Latin America, Africa, Middle East (Saddam Hussein, anyone?) Clues are staring us in the face: 1) insertion of family with no experience in the seat of power, profiting off their public office; 2) hatred and attacks against the media; 3) hatred and attacks against ethnic minorities; 4) surrounding the would-be dictator with military generals; 5) support for White Supremacist gangs; (Brian Katulis, “Five Signs President Trump Leads Like a Middle East Dictator,” Fortune, 5 Apr 17).
The poseur does not act alone. Hitler, in two short years, went from fringe political actor to full power. He relied on right wing religious groups—good Christian folks, all – for support (sound familiar?). His right wing party, Nazis, of course cheered him on. Others participated or stood silently by as he pumped the super-nationalistic mantra of “Make Germany Great Again!” He used (or instigated) violent events, such as the Reichstag fire, to blame or quiet his “enemies” (Henry Blodget, Business Insider, 19 Oct 16).
Players and circumstances are different today. America is not, yet, Nazi Germany. One hopes, with decreasing certainty, in our Constitution’s “checks and balances.” One tries to believe in the wisdom of the majority of Americans and their ability to fight for their democracy. We still need, however, their sense of humor. May we also profit from the dark humor of our Mexican neighbors. Maybe, if our democracy dies, we can move to Mexico? As with the song “México Lindo y Querido” (Lovely and Beloved Mexico) we can ask: “si muero lejos de ti. . . que digan que estoy dormido . . . .” “If I die, just say I am sleeping and carry me there.”
We still have the need to sing and to mourn the increasing damage to our culture. We still have the right to our Mexican and U.S. comedic parodies, the right to “forward” funny memes on YouTube. We still can chat and joke—even with some of our friends and relatives who may be of different partisan persuasions. But, for how long? Can we heal the divisiveness?
Can we push back against what seems to be a creeping, perhaps ultimately over-powering anti-democratic, dictatorial malaise? We must. I love to sing, to joke, but I wouldn’t trade those gifts for my beloved country, for our heritage nor for our future.