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As an immigrant and now a citizen of the United States, I was impacted by Michelle Obama’s words at the Democratic National Convention this week. It was an intelligent, emotional, realistic, encouraging and alerting speech. For those of us who have fled countries in which dictators by nature used democratic institutions to sneak into power and progressively become de facto dictators, her words had the bitter taste of a nightmare that could recur.

History teaches us that born dictators are narcissists who lack empathy, and who learn from childhood to lie pathologically in order to get what they want. They have no qualms about resorting to flattery, bribery, friendships and the law itself to get what they want. Their objective is always to reach maximum power over their friends, their wife, their family, at the club, in the country or in the world. When they unfortunately become president, they start gnawing at democracy, small bits at a time, the more imperceptible the better for them, until they devour it whole. They concoct conflicts, divisions, and domestic and foreign enemies to infuse fear and hate.

That is why Michelle Obama’s alerting words sent shivers down the spine of many of us who have been there, those of us who have had to leave our countries due precisely to the election of a populist who destroyed the democratic institutions by stirring up confrontation and conflict, by creating “the good guys” and “the bad guys” as he sees fit, forgetting along the way to be everyone’s president to become the ruthless protector of those who worship him with blind loyalty. Today I join singer-songwriter Joan Manuel Serrat in saying: if they were not so scary they would be laughable, and if they were not so harmful they would be pitiful.

The former first lady painfully highlighted the divisions that have engulfed the United States: “Now, I understand that my message won’t be heard by some people. We live in a nation that is deeply divided, and I am a Black woman speaking at the Democratic Convention,”. With great conviction, she then warned the audience that the one take away from her speech was the following alert: the way things are going, things are going to get worse. “So, if you take one thing from my words tonight, it is this: if you think things cannot possibly get worse, trust me, they can; and they will if we don’t make a change in this election.”

As first lady and attesting witness of what she called “the immense weight and awesome power of the presidency”, she stated “The job is hard. It requires clear-headed judgment, a mastery of complex and competing issues, a devotion to facts and history, a moral compass, and an ability to listen—and an abiding belief that each of the 330,000,000 lives in this country has meaning and worth.” This last quote resounds in our Latino community with a special tone, in all the people of color, in those of us who are immigrants, and also in women, who have been deemed domestic enemies by the White House just because we demand respect to our constitutional rights. More than 170,000 citizens of this country have lost their lives because of the pandemic we are living through. It is an open secret that the majority of the deceased are persons of color, Afro-Americans and Latinos. I am afraid, and I hope to be wrong, that the evident lack of empathy on the part of the White House with this terrible tragedy, may have a lot to do with the idea that the life of white people is worth more. It is frightening to think of the spread of the unconstitutional social imaginary that this country belongs to white people and that the only right that matters to them is the right to bear arms. The rest of us, who right now feel as second class citizens, long for the country to which we swore to belong when we became US citizens: “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

The president who does not respect these words of our Founding Fathers does not deserve to be in the White House, just as Michelle Obama said.


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