PUEBLA - It took a while for the Ferguson protest to grab my attention. I scanned past the story a few times while skimming Twitter and the Wall Street Journal—my usual news sources. In fact it wasn’t until one of my friends used the Ferguson hashtag that I decided to do a little research, and to follow it more closely.
Like many other Americans, I was saddened and perplexed by both sides of the story. A few days before I found out about the infamous shooting of Michael Brown, another story caught my attention. One, that I think, should change our perspective on the Ferguson protests.
In August, around the time the Ferguson protest were first heating up, I moved to Puebla, Mexico for an internship. About a month after I got to Mexico, I heard about 43 missing students, who had been captured by corrupt police in Guerrero, Puebla’s neighboring state. Even when I heard the story, I was two or three weeks late on the scene. And American media wouldn’t pick it up until protest ignited in Mexico City about a month later, in October.
For those unfamiliar with the story, local government in Iguala, Guerrero allegedly ordered the execution of the 43 University Students for protesting. The 43 students were presumably shot, burned, and later buried by the drug cartel, who where in cooperation with the local police. I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t heard about something so upsetting sooner. Sadly, it is nearly four months later and many Americans are still unaware.
Last night, my Mexican host family and I were watching the Iguala protests on the evening news. “Normalistas,” a term used here in Mexico for the people who are protesting the 43 missing students, were breaking windows, looting stores and even setting fire to the Mexican President Peña Nieto’s door. My host father turned and reminded me in Spanish, “The same thing is happening in the United States.”
“Yes, Ferguson, Missouri; and New York” I responded.
“A police officer shot a young man, right?” he said, making gun with his hand and popping it back, as if to shot someone.
“Yes, it seems we have similar problems right now.” I thought to myself.
In a few moments, however, I realized that we don’t have the same problem, though protesters may be responding in the same way. The two events are evidence of deeply rooted problems found in our two countries. Despite the fact that the two events are leading us to the same question, “Can we trust those who govern us?” the answers couldn’t be more different.
Ferguson is a case about one police officer shooting, possibly lawfully, possibly not, and unarmed teen. But both Micheal Brown, and more recently recent Eric Garner, were breaking the law. In comparison, the Guerrero narrative is about a whole city of politicians and police officers carrying out an execution on 43 unarguably innocent protesters.
I don’t want to minimize Michael Brown’s death, as it is a tragic story no matter the circumstances. But the 43 students were only “guilty” of protesting a government where innocent people go missing. And that should help us realize that although we do have problems in the US, we have a lot to be grateful for.
It is important to note that it was Mexican police who intercepted the bus containing the 43 university students. Some were shot on site, and the rest were handed over to one of Mexico’s worst drug cartels, Guerrero State. What happened next is still under speculation, but it is understood that they were most likely decapitated, burned, and buried. This technique of homicide is used often by the Guerrero State drug cartel, as it makes it difficult to later ID the bodies. Over 70 police officers and politicians involved have already been arrested.
In comparison, Ferguson and New York protesters live in a world where they risk being pepper-sprayed, arrested, or at worst battered up. Yes there is a history of police using excessive force in the US, and I am not saying police are always in the right. But we are fortunate enough to live in a country where police would never do what they did in Mexico. Even beyond that, peaceful protesters don’t really have to worry about any type of abuse, as long as they operate within the law.
Imagine living in a world where protesting what you believe in is actually an act that is putting your life at risk. There are many other parts of the world where this is the case, not only in Mexico. The Kiev protest that ignited a revolution, and left 3,600 people dead, comes to mind. As well as the Occupy Central protest, where brave men and women stood up against the Chinese government—a notoriously dangerous regime. And with the memory of Tiananmen Square in their minds, where China opened fire on a square of protesters.
If the question is "can we trust those that govern us?" then for the most part, I think the answer is yes. What I didn't realize last night when talking to my Mexican Family is that although we have similar protests as Mexico right now, Americans live in a world where they don't have to be scared if they aren't doing anything illegal. Unfortunately, many Mexicans don't have that luxury. And that's something we need to remember when judging the situation in Ferguson and New york. As things heat up in the US, its important to have a world perspective and what it means to be American, despite our problems.