The ugly American of cinematic notoriety is no longer exported abroad; he is a proud resident operating at home. It was there before, but was more muted, haphazard, and subtle. Now it is blatant, as in your face, too often for comfort, and increasingly public and violent. It is as if the gloves are off, perpetrators don’t care, are proud of their bigotry, and are inclined to vile invective when unable to get their way, and even to use violence to teach the incoming a harsh lesson.
Undoubtedly, this new face of America exhibited to its immigrants took life since the current president took office. He has been the agitator-in-chief, the inciter-in-chief, and the hater-in-chief playing to his audiences, while bringing out the worst that has been concealed for so long in America. The reports from different sources convey the powerful currents of hatreds. The targets are those who look differently, speak differently, and hail from differently diverse places, and are attacked and humiliated, with ever-increasing frequency.
On September 19, 2019, the New York Times carried a story that involved a sitting judge, which revealed the extent and heights at which bigotry reigns: Kyle R. Canning became a judge in the rural town of Altona, N.Y., in January 2018. Six weeks later, he posted an image of a noose in front of a black background on his Facebook page. “IF WE WANT TO MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, WE WILL HAVE TO MAKE EVIL PEOPLE FEAR PUNISHMENT AGAIN,” the post shouted in large white letters at the top of the image. He was forced to step down, but message sent, audience engaged, damage done. Sounds like something that could have come from the White House.
On September 25, 2019, the New York Daily News reported that, “A man in a Savannah, Ga., McDonald’s was caught on video telling a Spanish-speaking woman to speak English. The woman, Cristina Riofrio, posted video of the middle-aged man screaming at her to “shut the f—k up!” after claiming he “built this f—ing country.”He then accused the woman, who said she was Ecuadorian, of coming “over in a f—ing boat.” Ecuador is part of continental South America. This kind of sentiment was there before, but never so sharply and recklessly, dangerously too, as the next episode indicates.
The New York Daily News on November 9 told the harrowing encounter of a Latin American immigrant. It is of a 42-year-old Milwaukee man originally from Peru, who says he feels “scared being an American citizen” after suffering second-degree burns to his face in a vicious acid attack on Friday night. A 61-year-old white suspect was allegedly responsible for inflicting damage to face, self-esteem, peace of mind, and chosen way of life of this poor, law-abiding foreigner brutalised and traumatised. As Guyana braces for waves of immigrants, its own hospitality and decency will be tested keenly. May we never resort to xenophobic violence, may our culture, and any of our leaders, never prompt us to such deterioration.
Then, the NY Post in coverage on November 25 shared the image of an out-of-control woman captured on camera in full screaming racist meltdown, with a barrage of slurs hurled at a Midtown hotel receptionist — all because the employee asked for identification before handing over a room key, according to a new lawsuit. For maintaining the standards of one’s bread and butter living, there is insult and anguish heaped upon the hapless. There now is this swaggering arrogance, this boiling over bigotry that makes immigrants in the US fear and rethink their choices. They feel unwelcomed, they sense that being legal and hardworking and honest and taxpaying do not matter.
And, just last week, on February 6, the caption of a New York Post headline told this ugly story: “CEO of Arizona company unleashes racist tirade against Uber driver, video shows.” Dirty and derogatory words were used, after being asked to take the back seat, where daily routines now flare viciously.
America the beautiful has metastasized into America the brutalising in words and pictures and deeds that harm most piercingly. It starts from the very top and is stoked from that same top in the Executive Mansion.
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