A note for my fellow New Mexicans
Why Donald J. Trump isn’t right for us
When my family and I first arrived here from Connecticut in the late summer of ’98, you kissed my cheeks with your foehn wind beneath a canopy of incandescent pink. It was beneath these skies for twenty years that you watched me grow from a toddler not much taller than the cacti that lined our adobe home into the woman who I am today. In summers, you bathed me in a pool of your dazzling sunlight as I sat beside the glistening blue belt that is the Pecos River. In winters, you soothed me with the warm spices of posole that blossomed within me, from my throat down to my toes. For years, you cared for me like a dear friend and so, New Mexico, it’s only fair I return the favor. That’s why I’m here to tell you that the man with whom you’ve spent the last four years is simply not right for you. Donald J. Trump has got to go.
From his earliest days on the campaign trail, Trump has insulted the very people who make our state so great, calling Mexican immigrants “rapists” who are “bringing crime” into our country, reducing women down to nothing but their physical appearance through his repeated lewd comments about their figures and faces, and dishonoring Indigenous people by using “Pocahontas” and other terms as racial slurs.
Some may brush off his insolent remarks as nothing but words, claiming that they vote not for what the man tweets but for how he governs. If that’s the case, however, why vote for a president whose governance has only exacerbated a pandemic that has killed over 230,000 Americans? That’s a death toll greater than any other nation’s and it’s more than one-fifth of the global total, despite us accounting for just 4% of the world’s population. With each passing day since the start of this pandemic, it’s become clearer and clearer that Trump’s willful negligence has caused far too many New Mexicans to say goodbye to their loved ones for reasons entirely avoidable.
My own father was one of those very people on the brink of death as he battled COVID just a few months ago. Through my phone screen, as I helplessly watched him lying in the ICU breathing what I thought might be his very last breath, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the painful and sickening reality that Donald Trump and his administration will stop at nothing — absolutely nothing — to grasp onto every last strand of power he has. Merely for the sake of keeping up appearances (and his approval rating), Trump has denied states adequate access to testing for fear that an uptick in the number of confirmed cases would reflect poorly on his administration, and he severely downplayed the risks of COVID from the start (though privately he was perfectly aware of the magnitude of the situation). Had 45 taken early detection and preventative measures even somewhat seriously, there could have been one less granddaughter whose last glimpse of her grandfather would be from outside his nursing home window, one less sibling missing at the dinner table, one less mother who’d have to bury her son. But ignoring the facts and ignoring the science, Trump made his choice, and he chose his reelection campaign over our own lives.
Unfortunately, the COVID pandemic isn’t the only time that Trump has chosen to deny science at our expense. For years, as the world’s temperature has been steadily rising, thousands of farmers — many of whom hail from our very own state — have borne the brunt of climate change. Despite the hotter summers, less predictable winters, and greater scarcity of water that have all severely disrupted crop yield for farmers, Trump and his administration have continued their assault on our climate by dismantling policies put in place to curb greenhouse gas emissions, weakening rules limiting pollution, diminishing the role of science at the US Environmental Protection Agency, and flatout denying the very real existence of climate change.
The consequences of such reckless decisions would make anyone who knows anything about New Mexico’s rapidly changing climate a little nervous. Just in the last 50 years, New Mexico’s average annual temperature has risen by 3 degrees Fahrenheit. Our Rio Grande and Elephant Butte reservoirs have reached historically low levels, reducing allocations of irrigation water for farmers by more than 90 percent. Ranchers have struggled to maintain their herds, and farmers have become increasingly dependent on groundwater resources, adding significant costs to save their pecan orchards, chiles, and other crops that characterize the stretches of desert land across our beautiful state.
Most recently in his active destruction of our state’s natural environment, Trump’s administration attempted to frack a region of our very own Chaco Canyon National Historic Park. Yes, the same Chaco Canyon whose rust-colored curves and edges you likely admired on field trips as a kid growing up in New Mexico, the same Chaco Canyon designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site, and the same Chaco Canyon whose sacred land carries deep religious and cultural value to the Navajo people of our state. For the uninitiated, fracking is the extremely destructive process of injecting liquid at a very high pressure into the ground to fracture underground rock formations in order to extract whatever oil or gas may lurk underneath. In addition to the immense environmental damage it creates, fracking causes serious health problems including increased rates of asthma, cardiovascular disease, and neurological disorders for people living near fracking sites. Yet despite knowing all of this, the Trump administration continued to carry out their efforts to destroy our land and the health of New Mexico’s Indigenous population in the middle of a pandemic that was already disproportionately affecting Indigenous communities, instead prioritizing the greed of the fossil fuel industry over our state’s irreplaceable natural beauty and putting profit over people.
But sadly, Trump’s disregard for our Indigenous population comes as no surprise. If the man has been consistent about anything, it’s been his racist rhetoric, ideology, and policies from Day One. It’s no coincidence that — by embracing birtherism, referring to African nations as “shithole countries,” telling congresswomen of color to go back to where they came from, and emboldening white supremacists — Trump’s normalization of this pugnacious behavior on a national stage has resulted in hate-crime violence that has reached a 16-year-high since he first took office. We’ve experienced the effects of this firsthand in our very own state, with increased rates of police brutality targeting people of color, greater violence against Latinx communities, and more acts of aggression towards immigrants.
There’s one incident that I think of frequently from this past summer, when a locally-owned South Asian restaurant in Santa Fe was vandalized by white supremacists from floor to ceiling with over $100,000 in damage: broken furniture, pieces of broken glass strewn all over the floor, and — perhaps most disturbingly — a series of racist phrases and “Trump 2020” spray painted on every wall of a restaurant that has served its neighborhood for over 30 years. The owners are not much different from my own parents, also South Asians immigrants who moved to New Mexico several years ago with the oh-so-bold idea that — through honest and hard work — they could create a better future for themselves and their children while also giving back to their community.
But such hateful crimes in my home state serve as a painful reminder of the “great” America that Trump and his followers have crafted over the last four years; it’s certainly far from the America my bright-eyed parents envisioned before they moved here at an age not much greater than my current one. Still, I refuse to accept where we are now as the New Mexico that I know. The New Mexico I know accepts its people for who they are — regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion, or sexuality. The New Mexico I know is full of hard-working generations of farmers, scientists, and business owners who have toiled away for years to make our state as great as it is and in return deserve to be rewarded with the basic security of healthcare, a decent wage, and a government that believes in facts. The New Mexico I know is one that does what’s in the best interest of its people — el espíritu del pueblo. So from one New Mexican to another, I ask that — if you haven’t already — you sacrifice time today to uphold these very qualities that make our state so special. I could talk endlessly about all the ways in which Trump and the GOP have endangered our jobs, our homes, our dreams and our lives, but the clock is ticking and you have a ballot to submit. Go to iwillvote.com to find your nearest polling place, grab your mask (maybe some piñon coffee too), and vote for Democrats up and down the ballot as if our lives depend on it — because they do.