I was raised to think of myself as Hispanic, but in retrospect, I was trained to worship like a white man. My mother was from Honduras, but she might as well have come from Mayberry. Back “home,” our family history had been difficult. Lots of great people but even more hard times. People had been beaten up, tortured, gunned down, and kidnapped. One of my relatives was conscripted into some kind of a militia. He was put into a boot camp and sent out to kill people. I never found out which side it was for. From the sound of it, neither did my mom.
These stories of Latin America have stuck with me as far back as I can remember. I never went back to visit anyone there, and, in truth, I never wanted to. Because Honduras was a nightmare, I was trained to check the back seats of my car, whenever I got in it, to make sure there wasn’t a kidnapper hiding there. I heard stories about left-wing students rioting in the streets and attacking people. My relatives, last time Mom visited Tegucigalpa, had to hire people to stand guard all night with machetes. There was family back home who loved us, but little safety. We were up here grilling in the parks for fun, and they were running home stoves off fumes from pig feces.
She apparently wanted none of this for us and went full-bore Americana. The family she adores was Catholic, but we would all be raised Protestant. Baptist, most accurately. An almost Southern, honky, big tent revivalist, Dwight Moody and Billy Graham spirit. Not the respectable Frozen Chosen Euro-Episcopalian, but the things you’d most likely find in Arkansas. We were raised celebrating the Magna Carta, Martin Luther, the Mayflower, George Washington, Jonathan Edwards, and Adam Smith — the whole shebang, and I never heard the name of Simon Bolivar until my 20s. You’re a Hispanic, now act like one was the wording, especially when dealing with family matters. But the practice?
We were told my country, right or wrong — a saying that made me uneasy as a teenager, but in retrospect impresses me. It didn’t matter to her if somebody’d had slaves, or bullied South and Central America, or if we got into the wrong war for the wrong reason. We had this country, and we were going to love it and fight for it. We were taught that we had to breed to keep this thing going, and that the commies were coming for us, and that we had to raise our kids on our own or the commies, right here, entrenched in our country, would turn them on us — all true, as she spoke it in the ’90s. She spoke English as a second language, but she made it our first, and she used it as best as she could to teach us the best about the English-speakers.
Many people, especially on the left, would question why she’d do this. But the answer is obvious. She saw something going well, and she wanted to be like the people who made it. She saw America falling apart, and she wanted to put it back together. Why cling to your race when you can cling to a spirit? Especially when that spirit is responsible for some of the greatest words and deeds in history? America opened the door for her, and she took hold and never once considered letting go. (She says people have snubbed her, occasionally, because of how brown she is, and that might be true. But she considered this a flaw on the greatest country the world had ever seen, not the bedrock substance. She’s right.)
What my mother represents would be called “reactionary” today, and from the idiotic left wing “white nationalist,” or “fascist.” All slander, in the end; but what was she to do? Was she supposed to just see the left wing, who ruined her country, taking over our schools, our media, and the reins of government, and not react? She found something not only working, but thriving, booming — safely, beautifully, but precariously. It was weakening, softening, suffering, decaying. She wanted to go back — not to a place, but to a time. If we were doing better then, then why not do what they did then now?
It wasn’t quite conservatism, even though that’s what we called it. Conservatism changes with the times, and is often rightly attacked as progressivism with the parking brake on. She lived by the old code instead, thus she could be classified either as a fossil or a revolutionary. Few of our heroes, other than Ronald Reagan and Chuck Colson and the other “moral majority” Evangelicals, were modern. We were taught that today was a state of degeneracy. That we had been better and ought to be better. That in different words we would make American great again. She believed that if others were afraid to pick up the torch we would do it. She believed, as all Christians must, that brotherhood reached beyond race and into our souls. That just because we were Hispanic, that didn’t mean that America wasn’t ours, that Ben Franklin wasn’t ours, that the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and winning World War 2 weren’t ours. We had been handed something, but it required us to be some-one. That was her mission in life: to make us people worthy of this great country.
I mention all this because I got an email from the New York Times about Hispanics. It read:
Biden continues to struggle with Hispanic voters. Trump, despite making repeated appeals to white nationalism and castigating immigrants, has a chance to do better among Hispanic voters than he did in 2016, and win more than a third of them, even as he does worse with white voters. One possible explanation — a worrisome one for Democrats in the long run — is that Hispanics are following a path not so different from earlier European immigrant groups, like Italian and Irish Americans. As they assimilated, they became less reliably Democratic. To oversimplify, they voted for F.D.R. and then for Reagan.
It then went on to say that 53% of Hispanics actually identify as white; that they’ve got strong feelings on communist Cuba; and that culturally, they’re rock-solid right-wingers. This means that they hate being called Latinx by ugly, infertile white women, that they believe in gender roles, that they don’t like killing babies, that they like owning their own businesses and believe that talent and hard work ought to pay off — i.e., capitalism. And they really like Jesus.
The Democratic Party thinks it owns them because they’re brown. But these people are more than just brown — they’re grateful to be here because they’re a lifestyle, a philosophy, an outlook, and a dream. They are, in essence, a spirit totally incompatible with the leftists running the Democratic Party, and my mom and many others like her are proof of it. The Democrats think Hispanics want socialism and an open border. What the Democrats are finding out, especially as Hispanics get entrenched in this country, is that they have become the country — and that when they’re a part of it, the Hispanics increasingly want MAGA.