On Trump and MS-13, From Someone Who Knows What The Hell They’re Talking About

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My uncle was shot by MS-13 in El Salvador. He was fishing and they shot him in the back like cowards. He was fully paralyzed and lived a few years after that, but he eventually succumbed to complications and infections related to his quadriplegia. I comforted my mom as she cried and helped her send money back home so that my great aunt could bury her son. She buried him in an adjacent country so that MS-13 wouldn’t desecrate his grave.

I know firsthand that MS-13’s violence is wretched and disgusting. I don’t dispute that. But it gives me pause when the President of the United States is eager to repeatedly call them “animals” and dehumanize them in multiple public forums like his own speeches and the White House website, but fails to condemn the neo-Nazis who terrorize Americans every day and even says that some of them are “very fine people”.

Do you know why that is? Do you pretend not to? It’s okay, I’ll say it, you can quote me. Donald Trump is a racist and a xenophobe, and he’s not worth the dirt my uncle is buried under.

Talking about Trump and his followers drains my energy. It forms a knot in my stomach and I hate how much it affects me. But how could it not? I’m fluent in Spanish but afraid to speak it because I don’t want some jackoff getting in my face while I’m trying to buy lunch. I’m terrified every day I’m going to get a call from my mom telling me she’s in custody even though her papers are in progress and being sent back to a country she hasn’t lived in since she was 16. I’m constantly angry at how Trump has latched onto MS-13 as a talking point for his immigration policy, and how he uses fear mongering tactics to equate Latino immigrants with violence. Do you really think that every single person who crosses the border is a monster filled with bloodlust? Are you so obtuse that you’d rather write off an entire population as murderers rather than see the world with a minimal amount of nuance?

The gang members of MS-13 are just that. Gang members. Sure, I’m positive some of them are depraved sacks of shit who get off on terrorizing their victims, much like the predominantly white male mass shooters that our country is riddled with. But many of them entered MS-13 because, like many gangs, it was their only option. Are we ignoring how big of a hand the United States had in the Salvadoran Civil War which ravaged the country and set up a system where the only ways to get ahead are to leave, have a family member who left and can send back money, or join a gang where if you’re not with them, you’re against them? Do we not remember how America is complicit in the murder of Salvadoran children and the elderly? Can Trump even fucking find El Salvador on a map?

I know I sound angry. That’s because I am angry. I am angry that, with each passing day, Trump’s fear mongering rhetoric gets louder, his followers and fellow bigots get more emboldened, and my family and millions like us get more and more frightened. I am angry, because it makes me so achingly sad that I wish I could keep my head down and say nothing, but I am lucky enough to have a voice to cut through all this bullshit. I am angry, because I truly, genuinely, deeply know what the hell I’m talking about.

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