Coco is a great Pixar film. It is about a boy learning the importance of honoring families, understanding kindness, and overcoming the harsh realities of impassable borders. It is the exact sort of movie that we need to be talking about right now, and the exact sort of movie someone should make Donald Trump sit down and watch, because families are not meant to be separated and borders -even between the living the and the dead- are not meant to keep us apart from those we love.
The Land of the Detained
Pixar took a risk by creating Coco. Miguel is Pixar’s first non-white, non-robot, non-car, non-monster, non-talking toy protagonist, and setting the story around a holiday steeped in Mexican traditions could have been a recipe for disaster, but it wasn’t. The story was respectful, uplifting, and entertaining. It did not treat death or Dia de los Muertos as a joke, but as a reverent tradition worthy of praise and honor. By extension the story conveyed the importance of family and connectivity between generations. It is a powerful message, especially for the time we are living in right now. Unfortunately, the story we must now tell is lot less whimsical, and a lot less colorful… unless you count the Naranja en Jefe.
Donald Trump, has done everything he can to tarnish those connections and tear apart families at the American border. For weeks, a policy set forth by Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump separated parents and children, at border crossings, even those people legally coming to America to seek asylum. Parents were lied to, and their children were essentially kidnapped to be held in holding facilities. They were then listed as “unaccompanied minors,” which they were not, because they had literally just been taken from their family. This policy earned the US condemnation from the UN and was a barbaric practice which Trump seemed intent to inflict upon children that looked like Miguel, or like little baby Coco. Last Wednesday, Trump –hombre grande de pollo– caved under public outcry and signed an executive order that ended the policy of child separation, but did not solve the problem.
Trump’s new executive order now keeps children and parents together, except that it keeps them together in detention facilities. Yet, that is not strictly legal. According to a 1997 decree, known as the Flores Statement, authorities are prohibited from keeping children in detention for more than 20 days, even with a parent. The White House is going to try and get around this ruling, If they are successful it would mean that families will be kept together in detention camps, indefinitely. If that makes you uncomfortable it should. Detention camps -for adult immigrants- are actually not new. They existed under Obama in 2014, and for the record that doesn’t make them right either. There is a genuine and nuanced difference between the immigration policies of President Obama and the Rey Bastardo, Trump, but those distinctions are not what we are here to talk about. For the record creating concentration camps to keep people in -even if they are together as a family unit- is wrong, but Trump will need these new concentration camps because his executive order also does one other thing. It solidifies Sessions’ policy of Zero Tolerance, which increases the criminality of border crossing by making them criminal prosecutions instead of civil ones, as has been the norm in the past. This means that adults are now treated as criminals and sentenced to serve time, but thanks to the Flores Statement, children are not supposed to serve more than 20 days. That is how this whole mess started.
Even worse the executive order does nothing to address the 2,300 children who have already been separated from their parents and scattered across the country. It is also worth mentioning that the executive order does not even explicitly end the practice of child separation. It merely states, that families will be housed together “where appropriate and consistent with law and available resources.”
An Ofrenda is a Friend Indeed
Please know that despite what he and his gang of bandidos says, this is not a Democratic policy. This was not a law created under Obama. Child separation and zero tolerance are policies created by none other than Trump himself, and it is so heinous that even he admitted -kind of- he was wrong and backed away from it. In Coco, Miguel learned that people in the Land of the Dead can visit their families across the border of life/death once a year on Dia de los Muertos. However that is only possible if their picture has been placed on an Ofrenda. If not they cannot get past the border -which has border security and everything- Even worse if a person in the Land of the Dead no longer has anyone left on Earth to remember them, then they will permanently fade away… the final death. This is the conflict of Hector whose daughter is beginning to forget him and he is beginning to cease to exist.
This concept of two deaths is very interesting and something worth talking about in relation to America’s larger immigration policy. Ultimately that is what an immigration policy is meant to enforce, not so much a physical death, but a final death. Walls, especially ‘Yuuge Walls’ are built to keep people out and also keep people in. Families separated by the border will be unable to see one another. Immigrants will be unable to connect with their past and their families will be forgotten. Their traditions will be forgotten. They will fade away like Chicharrón -which is kind of Trump’s true point when you think about it- and yet we will all be worse off for the loss. The traditions of immigrants -from Halloween to Dia de los Muertos- enrich America as much as the immigrants themselves. Isolationism and radical paranoia hurt everybody. They make us less strong and ensure that those people trapped on the wrong side of the border from their families will suffer a final death, as they do in Coco.
We believe, that it is no coincidence that the Pixar film portrays the border between life and death as a sort of modern immigration process. Its inclusion puts a modern and familiar face on the process of border crossing, and that is not by accident. The experience of Hector in the movie: facing rejection by border agents; attempting to lie, cheat, and ultimately just rush through the border; and being heartbreakingly unsuccessful at it is a part of the immigrant experience. And much like how certain Morón Presidentes claim that those jumping our border are “bringing crime,” Hector at first appears to be nothing more than a two-bit-hustler, a conman… err con-skeleton. Yet, as the story goes on we start to learn that he is a father, desperately trying to see his daughter, Coco. He is trying to escape a fate worse than death and wants nothing more than to get back to his family. He is the type of person that his reality has made him, but he is a good person and someone we come to cheer for by the end of the movie. There are a thousand people like Hector out there, right now. They are escaping violence and gang warfare. They are just trying to see their daughter, or their son, or their wife, or their family. They don’t want to be killed by very real violence in their own countries, and then shut out and forgotten by their families in this one.
Donald de la Mar-A-Lago
And yet that is exactly what is happening. They are already forgotten. To the people of this nation they are just statistics and to Donald Trump they are just faceless pawns, people to be held hostage for a political agenda. Make no mistake, Donald Trump is the Ernesto del la Cruz in this story. He is the pompous, self-important imbécil who will sacrifice anyone or anything that stands in his way. He will use any means possible to keep his star burning, and he is certainly using children, like Miguel, as he sees fit. At least Ernesto seemed somewhat remorseful at his betrayal. We see none of that from El Donald. Yet, it is he who cares the most about being forgotten. He is the one who fears that final death more than anyone. His constant tweeting, his petty grabs for attention, political stunts, and many many crimes point to a man that is terrified of fading from memory, even for a moment.
So, let’s give the hijo de puta what he wants. Let’s show that we will never forget the atrocities he commits in the name of his own vanity. Let’s come together as a family -an American family- and drop a liberty bell on his head. This Saturday, June 30, 2018, take part in one of the Families Belong Together rallies going on around the country. Do it for all the Miguels and baby Coco’s out there. Do it for the families being held apart by borders and detention centers. Do it for those who have already suffered that final death so that no more will feel the slow sting of that fate. America is the “land of the free and the home of the brave.” Let’s prove to every child, every immigrant currently trapped in cages or shut out by walls and fear that we mean what we say. Show them that the land of the brave is not afraid to stand up to Ernesto de la Trump for the freedom of everyone.
We will be marching in NYC on June 30. Come out and join us, or find another march near year. We have to keep fighting or Miguel will be trapped in the Land of the Dead forever.