It’s one of those simple phrases ubiquitous in the Spanish language which contain a lot of meaning in so little verbiage: Ya me cansé. When spoken by a protester, it’s more sigh than words, more gesture than actual speech. The phrase became a slogan for protesters in Mexico as soon as the exasperated attorney general ended a recent news conference by letting reporters know he was tired and had enough.
What the protesters are tired of is a system of state corruption and abuse eroding the bond between the government of Mexico and the Mexican people. The disappearance (and presumed massacre) of 43 students in Guerrero back in September was merely one manifestation of the betrayal. The people of Mexico have long known their government —or, better said, the government— to be in league with vulture capitalist, violent drug cartels and nearly every brand of bandit that exists in Mexico. Government officials aren’t trusted so much as they’re resented or even feared. Most Mexicans viewed the return of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional to the presidency in December 2012 as simply one cartel reasserting its ascendancy. Enrique Peña Nieto taking up residence in Los Pinos was like watching “El Chapo” Guzmán being sworn into office.
But the case of the missing 43 students appears to have been the back-breaking straw, as protests have raged in the ensuing weeks. Protesters even set fire to the presidential palace’s immense wooden door, and the Guerrero state legislature was nearly burnt to the ground. Since then the demonstrations have only intensified. The public’s anger has now reached a flashpoint.
On Wednesday protesters will come together in 43 cities across the United States in a display of solidarity to demand that the U.S. government uphold its own human rights laws. Because the 43 students from the Ayotzinapa teachers college were kidnapped by police officers and handed over to gang members just a few miles from an Mexican army base, and because the soldiers stationed there did nothing to find the students and return them safely to their families, the Mexican public is pinning much of the blame on military and police collusion with thugs. And because the Leahy Law is supposed to keep Washington from providing aid to foreign armies suspected of violating human rights, the protesters’ demands on Wednesday will be nothing more than what U.S. law already requires.
Unfortunately the protest will be far too easy for many Americans to ignore: Latino or not, Mexican or not. After all, Mexico is not the United States. There is not here, and for too many people, what happens over there has little to no effect on what happens over here. A lot of people feel this way even when the cause is something truly close to their hearts, like passing fair immigration reform, curtailing Wall Street avarice, or scaling back the U.S. military-industrial complex. The half-hearted remain comfortably on their couches; some are found everywhere except at the protest itself.
Still for others the USTired2 protests (which is what they’re called) are just more in an endless train of protests. And in an age of perpetual protesting, since time and energy are limited resources, one must prioritize—that is, one must which protests to join and which to ignore.
In the wake of the non-indictment verdict out of St. Louis last week, many eager dissidents might be tempted into thinking the that Ferguson protests and their satellite demonstrations across the country are especially important, seeing as the protests lie at an intersection of two of America’s most thorny questions: that of government authority and race. These are issues every American can get behind. In fact, they’re questions every American must help answer.
Yet government authority and race aren’t issues exclusive to American experience. They’ve been intrinsic to the political history of Mexico, and not only Mexico but Brazil and plenty of other countries as well. A single thread runs through the protests in Guerrero, Ferguson, Belém and Hong Kong. In each the people aren’t attacking the government, as much of the mainstream media would have us believe. On the contrary, protesters in each have taken to the streets in a counterattack against a pattern of violence committed by the state.
In this sense, Wednesday’s USTired2 protests are merely another form of the protests taking place in Ferguson. They’re a reaffirmation not only of the people’s right to protest and be heard, but of the government’s obligation to listen and satisfy their demands. Anyone who takes issue with government abuse in any form, in any part of the world should participate in Wednesday’s nationwide protest. Only through solidarity and combined effort will oppressive systems be made to realize that the people will not accept their battering in silence; they will not stand idly by and watch as their young are plucked off like vulnerable prey; they will no longer suffer in the shadows as the system continues to forgo justice to maintain order.
Millions of people across the United States and Mexico are tired of the system—the one that shot Michael Brown dead in the street and incinerated the bodies of Mexican students in a midnight pyre. They’ve had enough of the abuse, corruption, intimidation and theft. Maybe there are enough people in this country who feel the same way. Hopefully people in the U.S. are just as tired as those in Mexico.
But what are they willing to do about it?
Hector Luis Alamo is a Chicago-based writer. You can connect with him @HectorLuisAlamo.