This is Not the Time to be Divisive

By Kassel Franco Garibay

It was nearly 2 a.m in the Acorn office when my screen lit up with the New York Times notification. Mexico City, the beautiful city I grew up in, had just been rattled with an 8.2 magnitude earthquake, the strongest the country had experienced in over a century. Even after getting confirmation from my family that they were all safe, I had trouble falling asleep. Eleven days later, it happened all over again.

I grew up with horror stories of the infamous Mexico City earthquake of 1985. Everyone I know has a heartbreaking tale of finding their home destroyed, of watching buildings crumble before their very eyes, of a family member or a friend that was never seen again. I was raised on the knowledge that earthquakes are unpredictable, terrifying and utterly devastating. On the 32 anniversary of this deadly and sad event, September 19, a 7.1 earthquake hit my country.

I was scrolling down Facebook as I often do when I walk down the path on my way to class and saw a post by my high school teacher asking her friends if they were fine after the earthquake. There was no media coverage yet; I didn’t know what was going on. I tried to call my parents, but the telephone lines were not functioning. When I sat down at my usual seat in the classroom, I had still not heard from my parents.

Halfway through the class, the first articles started showing up online. It felt as if the ground was shaking in New Jersey too.

Over the past few weeks, it seems like there have been nothing but fucking disasters in the media. Between Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria, the wildfires on the West Coast and the earthquakes in Mexico, it’s hard to find a headline that doesn’t make your heart sink. Many of us can find friends or family members that were directly impacted by these events. It is important to remember that it is times like these that give us the opportunity to reach out and help others.

While I have received a lot of thoughtful emails and messages from the most unexpected sources –– professors, acquaintances and staff –– asking me if my family was doing fine after the earthquake, I have also overheard many conversations that were simply not okay.

After the DACA repeal, I overheard a group of people saying that “fucking immigrants should have taken their sombreros and left a long time ago anyway.” I witnessed people making a case for hurricanes touching land in Caribbean islands being “better” than it happening in Florida, since Florida was more valuable. The amount of harmful memes I have seen of the two Mexico earthquakes make my stomach twist.  

This is not the time to be divisive. This is not the time to mock other people’s misfortune. Both the natural disasters and the current developments in the political climate are real and countless people have been affected by them. Now is the time to reach out to your neighbor and see if they are okay, if their family is okay. Now is a time to lend a helping hand to those in need and remember that the U.S. is not the center of the world.

Kassel is a sophomore Women & Gender Studies and International Relations double major with a Latin American Studies minor.

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