The American Dream Was Never for You

The end of ‘America.’ Millions of people in the United States today awoke to a new dread that will sleep beside them for years to come. From Mexico’s Aristegui Noticias, a powerful essay on the dream of an America that was never meant to be for millions of Latin Americans, and of the expiration of a vision of ‘America’ that stood at the head of a world order whose time has now passed.

Today is Wednesday Nov. 9, 2016. It is the morning after the presidential elections in the United States. Looking at the results of the elections on my phone, I expect to read that Hillary Clinton has won by carrying the votes of women, African Americans, sexual and religious minorities, and of informed citizens who believe in the political and democratic system of the United States.

But it is not to be. Like many millions of people within and outside of the United States, the idea that Donald Trump would become president seemed to me to be a bad dream, a nightmare. The beliefs of Trump-in particular the xenophobia, the anti-intellectualism, and the macho imperialism that he celebrates-while all being so gringo, also seemed to be relics of an ideology that had already passed away.

But the incompetence and ignorance that Trump adopted have now threatened the legitimacy of the democratic order and exposed the vulnerability of the political system in the United States. What does ‘America’ mean after these elections? What will be the impact of Trump on the hegemony of the ‘Free World- in other words, on the leadership of the world by the western Anglo-Saxons?

Trump has shouted into the faces of millions of migrants that the American Dream is not for them. And he is right, as painful as this may be to admit. I think of the millions of Mexicans, Latin Americans, and people from every other country who live in the United States without documents. They have come to that country with the idea that they might reach the celebrated American Dream. They have come looking for a salary that is unthinkable in the country where they were born. They have come following the film and television images of families living in the suburbs in huge houses with two floors, surrounded by yards and big cars in the garages. The gigantic refrigerators that can hold enough food for weeks. The urban life style of the big American cities. They have come the United States, only to realize that the American dream is not for them.

The last immigration reform in the United States was in 1986. In the thirty years since, more than 11 million people have settled there without residency permission, the majority of them Latin Americans. People who have themselves had families, knitted their lives into the economy, into the tax system, and into the lives of the “legal” people around them. Every four years, in every presidential campaign, there are the same promises of an immigration reform to regularize the situation of the undocumented. But after every election these promises are forgotten.

With his xenophobic discourse and his threats of massive deportations, Trump has said nothing new. In fact, Trump has made manifest the hypocrisy of the US political system. Even as Barack Obama was transformed into an icon of world peace (after winning the Nobel Prize at the beginning of his term) and marched at the vanguard of civil rights in the United States, his practical policies were troubling, and did not always accord with the values that Barack and his wife Michelle professed during his presidency.

According to the Customs and Border Protection agency, between 2008 and 2015, more than 2.5 million people were expelled from the United States. More than a million were Mexicans. Obama has in fact deported more migrants than any president in the history of the country. In other words, Trump’s promise of mass deportation is in fact already the migratory policy of the United States. There was no need to vote for Trump.

Trump has made apparent how vulnerable the political institutions are, and how fragile democracy is, something which has been happening in Europe with the conservative nationalists since the decade of the 2000s. It is terrible that Trump has made an electoral career out of a discourse of violence, racism, sexism, misogyny, ignorance, hatred, nationalism and ‘white’ supremacy. It is anti-humanist that there exists a radical electorate which responds to these anti-values and xenophobia. It is unacceptable that the traditional churches, like the Catholics, have remained silent in the face of the millionaire’s barbarities.

Trump won these elections by affirming the notion that the United States of America is a “WASP” (White Anglo Saxon Protestant) nation. The now president-elect has convinced millions of unemployed and racist ‘whites’ that the neoliberal policies of the united states are the cause of their discomfort. Trump has exploited their rage and hatred as a motor of political and social emancipation, as has already happened with the nationalists in the United Kingdom, France and the Netherlands.

But what has happened in the United States at the same time reflects the position of this country in a global context. When Trump speaks contemptuously of “the Russians,” “the Chinese,” “the Arabs,” and above all, of what “Mexico” has to do or must pay for, he does nothing but destroy the leadership position of the United States in the rest of the world. In his simplistic assertions, it seemed that Trump believes that international politics is somehow like a game of Monopoly or Risk, in which you can simply take away or move pieces around at will. His vision is superficial, and his way of speaking about the world encapsulates the form of Gringo imperialism that Latin Americans have long suffered and learned to fear.

Trump did not need to win in order to demonstrate the global hegemony of the United States has already ended. And with his victory, the supremacy of the Anglo-Saxon world and its claim to define modernity has evaporated. While The United Kingdom works out its Brexit, and while Trump puts into practice his ideas for isolating “America” from the world, the Anglo-Saxon West loses its legitimacy as the leader of the free nations, and of capitalist hegemony. The “North” or the West’ is no longer an undisputed political authority. Taking it all in, we are already in the midst of a chaotic transition toward a world without Western leadership. And unlike in movies like The Day After Tomorrow, ‘America’ is not going to step in to save the world.

José Carlos G. Aguiar Translated from Spanish by International Boulevard