Sunday, February 25, 2018

BrooklynFans Of Books: Jorge Ramos On Being A "Stranger" In Trump's America

Stranger: The Challenge Of A Latino Immigrant In The Trump Era
By Jorge Ramos
Vintage Books, A Division of Penguin Random House, available February 27th

Jorge Ramos, the Emmy-award winning journalist and Univision anchor, answers the question of what it means to be an American in his new book Stranger.

This question has taken on a new meaning in President Donald Trump's America.

A lot of Ramos' focus is on immigration changing the face of America, and Stranger comes out amidst the debate on the fate of the Dreamers as DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) is set to expire.

Ramos, considered "the Walter Cronkite of Latin America" and the most influential journalist in Latin America, writes of the current moment, "There are times when I feel like a stranger in this country where I've spent more than half my life. I'm not complaining, and it's not for lack of opportunity. But it is something of a disappointment. I never would have imagined that after having spent thirty-five years in the United States, I would still be a stranger to so many. But that's how it is.

"Despite this feeling, I want to begin with gratitude. The United States is the birthplace of my children, whom I love more than anything in this world. It is here that I was able to pursue my passion and my profession - journalism - with absolute freedom. Here we can feel the energy of change: a desire for openings and innovations that can be hard to find in other parts of the world. Almost all of us here are either immigrants or the descendants of foreigners, and that has always helped us to cross borders and exceed the limits of what we thought was possible. Democracy is still the accepted political system here, and the notion of equality was established from the very moment this nation declared its independence. Here, people can live well and enjoy justice, which, in its original sense, means giving everyone his or her due.

"That's why I live here. I have the wonderful circumstance and privilege - one shared by millions of people - of living in a country that accepts you with open arms. I became an American of my own free will, and the United States willingly accepted me.

"Of course, none of this erases where I came from. I was born and raised in Mexico, and I will never cease to be Mexican. I love the solidarity of the Mexican people; it is a wonderful nation, one in which you will never feel alone, with a magical and incomparable history. It is an extraordinary country bursting with hopes and desires and extending its culture across the globe: a very different place from the one we see in the news, portrayed through images of violent and corrupt politicians. Most of my family still lives in Mexico. I visit them several times a year, and I am always concerned  about what is happening on both sides of the border.

"Both my private and public lives are binational and transnational. I am at once Mexican, American, Latino, foreigner, immigrant, emigrant, and chilango, among many other things. In other words, to many people, I represent the Other.

"But the United States as a country has historically been accustomed to others - newcomers, those born elsewhere, those who see and speak differently - and therefore has developed a healthy tolerance for those who appear different."

Ramos is well-known for confronting candidate Trump about his controversial remarks on Mexicans, the need for a border wall, and deportations during a 2015 press conference and being removed by a member of Trump's security team.

Ramos writes of the exchange and its aftermath, "After I was forcibly expelled, two other reporters - Kasie Hunt of MSNBC and Tom Llamas of ABC News - came to my defense and challenged Trump hard. Why did he have me kicked out of the press conference?

"'I don't know really much about him,' he told them. 'I don't believe I've ever met him, except he started screaming. I didn't escort him out. You have to talk to security; whoever security is has escorted him out. But certainly he was not chosen. I chose you, I chose other people. he just stands up and starts screaming. So, you know, maybe he's at fault also. I don't even know where he is. I don't mind if he comes back, frankly.'

"It was quite telling that Trump told the members of the press that he didn't know who I was. After all, he had published my letter online just two months earlier. Besides, during our exchange in the conference room, he had specifically told me to 'go back to Univision.' If he truly didn't know who I was, how did he know who I worked for?

"The answer is that Trump was lying."

As Ramos was being led out, he was attacked by a supporter in the crowd, and he writes of that, "The man who said 'Get out of my country' was a Trump supporter. I know this because he was wearing a pin identifying the then candidate on one of his lapels. But most of all, I know this because of the way he said it to me. He looked me straight in the eyes, pointed a finger at me, and shouted.

"Time and again, I've gone back to watch video of the incident, which took place in August 2015, and I still don't know how I was able to remain calm. I remember the tone of his voice caught me by surprise. Trump, with the brutal and cowardly help of a bodyguard, had just ejected me from a press conference in Dubuque, Iowa. I had just started thinking about how to respond when suddenly I heard a madman shouting and pointing his finger.

"I looked up - instead of simply ignoring his rudeness, as I would have preferred - I settled myself and simply replied, 'I'm also a U.S. citizen.'

"His response made me laugh. 'Whatever,' he said, sounding like a teenager. A police officer who overheard the exchange outside the press conference stepped between us, and that was where it ended. But the hatred stuck.

"Hatred is contagious.

"And Trump is infectious.
"I am convinced that if Trump had treated me differently, his supporter would not have spoken to me as he had."

For Ramos, it was easy for him, and certainly many others, to pinpoint when their issue with Trump the presidential candidate began.

"My problems with Trump began in New York on June 16, 2015, the day he launched his presidential campaign. It was there that he made the following statement: 'When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best...They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people....It's coming from more than Mexico. It's coming from all over South and Latin America....'

"These are racist comments. Period.

"He lumped all Mexican and Latin American immigrants in the same bag. He made a sweeping generalization. He lacked the intellectual honesty to say that only some immigrants commit crimes, not the majority of them. Later, several of Trump's supporters swore that he was referring only to a specific type of undocumented immigrant - the most violent ones - not all who come across the southern border.

"Perhaps. We will never know for sure. But regardless, that is not what he said. What I do know is that when Trump launched his campaign, he accused all Mexican immigrants of being criminals, drug traffickers, and rapists.

"What he said is absolutely false.

"All the studies I have read - especially the one conducted by the American Immigration Council - have come to the same conclusion: namely, that 'immigrants are less likely to commit serious crimes or be behind bars more than the native-born, and high rates of immigration are associated with lower rates of violent crime and property crime.'

"Trump started his path to the White House with a massive lie."

Ramos explores the thought process he went through in responding to Trump throughout the campaign and into his administration in gripping detail.

There also is a lot about his personal experience as an immigrant from Mexico, fulfilling his "American Dream" of becoming a U.S. citizen, raising his two American-born children, and rising professionally while also examining why he and others still feel like strangers in Trump's America.

This is one of the best works on the impact of the Trump era by someone personally affected in so many ways.

Stranger is also available simultaneously in Spanish from Vintage Espanol.


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