July 7th was the first time I attended a protest, and I was shocked by what I saw. I am a conservative married to a Mexican woman, and have children of half-Mexican descent. I know the value of speaking Spanish. My wife and I made it a priority for our children to learn the language. Additionally, my wife teaches traditional Mexican folk dancing, which allows her to share the rich culture of Mexico that she has so much pride in.
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 created mixed emotions for me. After watching media coverage of the protest, I decided to go 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 these issues often raise in people; but I was not prepared for how the media is portraying the issue.
Right away I noticed a trend in the people the various media outlets were choosing to interview. There was a focus on two types of people: those with interesting and provocative signs and shirts, and those who fit a certain profile. I noticed they chose signs and shirts that could be misinterpreted depending on the context of their presentation to the viewing public. Also it became clear they were picking people who fit the narrative that they wanted to put forth, which was that the protesters were 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 a local Spanish-speaking station. I watched as the reporter interviewed the small contingent of counter protesters there in support of the illegal immigrants. I noticed she picked people who were nicely dressed and created a favorable impression. When she moved over to those 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. I discovered later that she was Immigrant Rights Activist Mary Estrada. She asked the protesters why they have hatred towards and lack of compassion for the children on the buses. Some protesters let their passions get the best of them as they responded angrily to her, 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. I then noticed 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 approached the woman, in front of the reporter, and addressed the accusations of racism and hatred. I explained my family connections to Mexico and the Hispanic culture and that I have a degree in international business with Latin America as my region of study. I continued saying I love the people of Latin America and have a deep respect for the culture.
I explained that for me this issue is not about the people being from Latin America. 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 where the rule of law has traditionally governed. These two countries are the United States and Canada, 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 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. Looking south she would see the poverty and lack of opportunity that the rule of man produces. Looking north, she would 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 finished she thanked me for my time and quickly walked away to interview someone from the pro-immigrant side of the street. I found it very interesting that I, a gringo who can speak Spanish, is married to a Mexican, and whose kids only spoke Spanish until they went to kindergarten, was 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.
I now realize I didn’t fit the narrative they wanted to tell. I could not be presented as an uneducated, white racist protesting the arrival of these children for no reason other than their Latin American origins. 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, the immigrant rights activist, admitted 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.”
John L. Hancock is the author of, “Liberty Inherited,” available on Amazon and has been adopted by many high schools for their AP World History and AP U.S. Government classes.