Dear Mr. President…Come Take a Ride with Me

For the past month, I’ve been traveling across Mexico, hitting a few places I’ve never been. Riding on Mexican buses is one of my favorite pastimes of Mexico, particularly the “in country” buses. They defy all stereotypes of the Latin American “chicken bus.” Instead they are luxury buses with reclining seats, elevating footrests, AC power ports, seat-back video screens showing movies, documentaries, and video games. The one I rode yesterday was a giant double-decker with three seats across – one on the left and two on the right. It even had suede leather seats, cup holders, and wood grain accents. Less than thirty bucks will get you a ride between most cities, including a ham and cheese croissant and a coke.

Upper deck of the Mexican bus.

Upper deck of the Mexican bus.

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I love dialing the ipod into my favorite playlists and watching the daily life of Mexico roll by outside my giant panoramic window. In just a few hours, I get a microcosmic view of everything from the most rural and rudimentary of farmers working the fields, to giant manufacturing plants, to urban life including malls with Walmarts, CostCo, and Home Depot.

One of my favorite playlists includes songs from the modern day poet, Alicia Moore, better known as “P!nk!” I love her music, not only for the catchy sing-along beat, but if you listen closely, you will hear some of the most poignant lyrics written since the likes of my very favorite female artist, Joni Mitchell. Although their styles are vastly different, the pain and passion of their poetry is similar. So as the song “Dear Mr. President” comes up, I ponder the irony of this song on this day…inauguration day. The song was written in what now seems like such innocent times, during the presidency of George Bush. In the song, Pink asks Mr. President to “come take a walk with me.” So as I roll across Mexico, I ponder, if were to ask “Dear Mr. President, come take a ride with me” on this Mexican bus, what would he see? What would life be like on either side, should Mr. Tromp (ironically, the Mexican pronunciation of his name sounds like “tromp”) get his “Big, beautiful wall?” Who will suffer the most? IMG_2868

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As I watch the Mexican countryside roll by, I gaze out the window at massive agricultural fields. Avocado trees as far as the eye can see. Blue hills of agave. Vast fields of abundant crops from papaya to peanuts, all thriving in the fertile volcanic soil. I see “infrastructure.” Wide, smooth roads with efficient toll systems. Cell towers that beam internet to my Mexican SIM chip in the most remote of areas. I even wonder how the drug cartels would dwindle should there be no more demand from north of the border.

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The Mexican people have a very family oriented culture. They take care of their own. They risk life and limb to cross the border in order to have a better life for their families. If this does become more difficult, they will adapt. They are resilient people, with a very entrepreneurial spirit. Ask for something from a vendor, and he may not have it today, but will tomorrow. A hurricane comes, and they will rebuild at twice the size in half the time. So I think “Mexico is gonna be juuuusst fine!”

LaLinea Bus Lines with lots of leg room!

LaLinea Bus Lines with lots of leg room!

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But as for imagining the potential effects of life in the US without Mexican immigrants should the dystopian society prevail and the wall go up as promised, I don’t have the same bright outlook. What if we were no longer allowed to “cherry-pick” just the things we needed the immigrants to do? Who is going to pick the strawberries? Roof the houses? Lay the sod and plant the rows of sculpted boxwoods that define the English gardens? Fill those Cider Houses in apple country in Washington, or harvest half the state of Arizona and California? And why is it fair to ask them to do this “grunt work,” yet reap none of the benefits of living in the US such as health care and education? Perhaps “A Day Without A Mexican” should be required viewing for every Tromp supporter.

We're not sending Mexico our best restaurants...(to paraphrase Mr Tromp that "Mexico is not sending it's best people." (Stolen from Don Anthony.)

To paraphrase Mr Tromp that “Mexico is not sending it’s best people,” we’re not sending Mexico our best restaurants…( (Stolen from Don Anthony.)

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So as thousands of women assemble today in not only the USA, but here in Mexico as well to march for their rights, I offer my own “march” of words from my tiny hamlet in Mexico. This new administration threatens just about every aspect I hold dear. My current affordable health care plan, the preservation and protection of national lands, the equal rights for my friends to be free to choose whom they love, women’s health and services and right to choose outcome for their own bodies, and a science-based education that addresses the need to rapidly correct the collision course caused by raping our natural resources.

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But as someone who prefers to think of myself as a “global citizen,” one of the most painful threats of the incoming administration is our rapidly dwindling reputation among the rest of the world. We are now a laughing stock. But worse, we risk retaliation for what is now being doled out in rhetoric, sure to soon be reality. At the risk of sounding boastful, I have visited just shy of 80 countries in my lifetime. The one overarching theme in every country has been admiration for “America.” From the young boy in Jordon who said “It’s every boy’s dream to come to America” to the man in Egypt who had a life-sized poster of Bill Clinton in his living room, to the almost embarrassing display of affection from Iranians for….not the Aussies or the Brits….but the two “Americans” in our tour group. I have enjoyed that love and admiration of our country for a lifetime. I’m sad my young niece is not likely to receive the same warm reception.
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We are global society, and as sure as the laptop made in China that I type on, or the translator app that I hold up to the sign to convert Spanish to English, rapidly breaking down the borders of language, we need the mixed blood and brains of immigrants to thrive. It’s like the Genie in the bottle, there’s no going back, no matter how big or beautiful Mr. Tromp’s wall. As altruistic as “Buy American, Hire American” sounds, it’s not feasible. We need the rest of the world as much as they need us, and not to hide behind a wall while cherry picking what we need as if ordering from Amazon.

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It’s a frightening, destructive thing that fear, bigotry, misogyny and xenophobia can do…So today, I “march” for a greater idea than that which now resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

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“Dear Mr. President,
Come take a walk with me.
Let’s pretend we’re just two people and
You’re not better than me.
I’d like to ask you some questions if we can speak honestly.

How do you sleep while the rest of us cry?
How do you dream when a mother has no chance to say goodbye?
How do you walk with your head held high?
Can you even look me in the eye
And tell me why?

What kind of father would take his own daughter’s rights away?
And what kind of father might hate his own daughter if she were gay?
I can only imagine what the first lady has to say
You’ve come a long way from whiskey and cocaine.

How do you sleep while the rest of us cry?
How do you dream when a mother has no chance to say goodbye?
How do you walk with your head held high?
Can you even look me in the eye?

Let me tell you ’bout hard work
Minimum wage with a baby on the way
Let me tell you ’bout hard work
Rebuilding your house after the bombs took them away
Let me tell you ’bout hard work
Building a bed out of a cardboard box
Let me tell you ’bout hard work
You don’t know nothing ’bout hard work

How do you sleep at night?
How do you walk with your head held high?
Dear Mr. President,
You’d never take a walk with me.
Would you?”
~ P!nk

43 thoughts on “Dear Mr. President…Come Take a Ride with Me

  1. I hear ya. I have felt physically ill over the way things have gone.

    On the lighter side of the equation…(have to look for one, right?) have you seen the satirical movie, A Day Without A Mexican? It hits on several of your points about “who will do it?” Humorous but realistic in many ways.

    Have fun and stay safe.

  2. Yet another thoughtful post. I couldn’t agree with you more and again, I stand with you and everyone who marched today. Excellent choice with Pink’s “Dear Mr. Present.” Love your blog. Take care and safe travels.

  3. As always, your message is clear – yet kind and respectful. Surely, even Trump’s supporters will be able to read it to the end. After all, the whole point of marching is to have our message heard.

  4. Well said! Wish I would have had the urge to join in the marches but I just feel like it will make no difference at this point in time, although I admire and respect those who went. It’s going to be a long four years, I’m afraid.

  5. Very well thought out and expressed! I was in the Barrio Logan’s Chicano Park today and your prose and pictures do more to express the emotions of the murals than I ever could. Continued safe travels as we all await your next post.

  6. Hey here’s a thought why don’t you just stay down there in Mexico see what kind of health care you have then Maybe if they came here legally that would just great

    • Don, (from another Don): Funny you should mention health care and tie it to Mexico. Just so happens that Mexico, like all other civilized western countries (except ours of course), has free public health care. (Damn the luck, you might be saying.) In fact there actually is a serious problem to the point “the wall” may gladly be funded by Mexico in the near future once Mexico gets a real understanding of the growing migration of US Citizens southward. Pew research says more and more people from the US are moving south of the border and surprisingly, more and more Mexican citizens are returning to their country as well. (http://www.pewhispanic.org/2015/11/19/more-mexicans-leaving-than-coming-to-the-u-s/). So while building a wall may be good to divert those who are less than genius for the duration of a four year term, I’m betting on the slowest construction in history, least it be revealed the problem is Mexico’s imports rather than their exports.

      Now after having spent the past 10 years traversing the country of Mexico via auto, bus and plane, this is exactly what I am seeing. More and more visitors to the United States of America are realizing that the American Dream is dying. Still, sadly for at least half the people of our country it may be some considerable time before it can be learned that someone like Donald Trump will not be able to do much about that, especially by simply flogging rhetoric and building a wall while lining congress with more billionaires. (Slow lessons seem to be our mantra.)

      Many of the Mexican people who are returning home that I have spoken with say they are tired of working some two bit construction job in the dead of a Chicago winter or a Texas summer, while their loving families are back in Mexico. They are tired of the rat race, the stone cold hollowness and lack of loving hearts and kindness here while they continue to yearn for the love and support which is freely exhibited in their own homeland. (Spend a few weeks in Mexico to see it is as different from the drug lord bandito movies we see on the nightly news as night is to day.) In fact, compare it enough and you will see that we are all slowly dying here in the USA, mainly from eating each other alive.

      And while you may have been just kibitzing with your comment of “see what you can get there”, the thing that is most amazing is …. you can get a lot more there (Mexico) than you can here (the US). For the time being Mexico has an open immigration path for US Citizens who qualify financially, while allowing them to move to Mexico and become “Residente Temporal” and “Resident Permanente” which in effect means you get the benefits of being a Mexican Citizen without being born in Mexico. As part of the perks of this you receive either the default free health care or you can purchase a better insurance policy with enhanced service for a cost of less than $400 per year. Even if you are not on one of these programs and are just simply visiting short-term, the fee to see most doctors in Mexico is $25US for a specialist or $5US for a simple problem requiring a GP and with no more normally than a half hour wait. Additionally the prescriptions in Mexico are sometimes 90% cheaper than the same exact bottle or drug sold in the US. Or how about the two root canals and three crowns I bought last month for under $1000US?

      The benefits of living in Mexico are much more than healthcare, to boot. Mexico has a thriving community heavily seated in family culture. In Mexico, you know your neighbor, you talk to them and you interact with them to enrich both your lives. Outside of a community you may never want to leave, the countryside is beautiful and full of attractions, weekend getaways and week-long, month-long and year-long exploration opportunities to comb the vastly diverse areas of the country and factions of the culture which abound. And you won’t see Chili’s, Walmart’s and Outback’s on every corner here (Mexico is about 5 years behind us on their globalization efforts). There are actually houses and stores and roofs and homes and cities that have different colors than beige to light tan and differ in size on each block! There’s eternal spring-like weather, underground caves and hot and cold natural springs, jungles and deserts and mountains and oceans stretching as far as the eye can see.

      And in Mexico scarcely anyone will concentrate on “one upping” or having more “things” than their neighbor, but instead residents typically establish a real interactive social structure with their neighbors and community, something that has long ago vanished from the US Culture and will never return regardless of how many red caps anyone wears. There is a thriving creative and historical dedication to the arts in Mexico including sculpture, music, architecture and crafts of all sorts. There is a willingness to help one another in Mexico, something that long ago vanished from the US. And I am betting that no amount of red caps will ever make someone in the US stop to assist you when you land in a ditch or get stuck in the mud, or stalled with a dead battery or a flat tire while stranded on the road. In Mexico what you find is when you encounter trouble, someone is almost always there to help.

      Additionally, the kind and friendly people of Mexico appear to be so well integrated as they are working, selling, buying, and simply going on with their daily routine that they can twist the most masterful mind with the raw complexity of it all. Workers are so abundant everywhere, each occupied with every job imaginable. The landscape crawls like an anthill or beehive – the whole country seems to keep moving like a well oiled clock. There appears to be near zero unemployed; and working or not, there is happiness which abounds from every nook and cranny. In fact, a feeling of warm contentment will grow in anyone from simply walking down the street. There are mothers in the park with strollers after dark and men with balloons and toys on every city center square. There are ice cream carts and hamburger and hotdog stands and fried bread with brown sugar on top. There are swirls and fruit cups and cream corn sticks and coke bottles bobbing in ice water. There are chiclets and candies and friendly and smiling faces offering each of these to you all over every city.

      And if you don’t want to look for yourself, you’ll just have to trust me that Mexico is thriving with life, love and the pursuit of happiness – things that today are age old forgotten dreams in our country. In fact, the best thing the United States could do at our border is to build a giant periscope into the heart of Mexico to understand all the positive aspects of how this country operates, while not wasting another dime, dollar or vote “on your fucking wall” (to quote from ex Mexican President, Vicente Fox).

      • Dear “Don Capellani,” whoever you are…Congratulations for being the first comment out of over 6,000 on over 500 posts on the Take to the Highway blog to be deleted. Sorry, but name calling will not be tolerated by anyone on my blog…especially when it is directed at my brother. Adios.

  7. Great post.
    You speak for many of us who have traveled the world.
    Maybe one of the requirements for running for president should be having backpacked around a foreign country?

  8. Great message Suzanne. It looks to be a long four years ahead… Mexico looks very nice, I like the idea of traveling by bus there.

  9. I joined in the small march in my town today. I felt a bit like Gayle, thinking it probably would make no difference, and what was the point. But then I went, to march with my transgender grandchild in solidarity, to show my support for the things that matter, all those you listed. Somehow, in the energy of that small town march, I was encouraged. Now I am trying to figure out how that energy stays focused, and the world we envision becomes a reality. As Obama said, it isn’t a period, but just a comma. At the moment, I am feeling hopeful that we will keep moving forward, stay energized and stop the travesty that we are currently watching in the white house. Good to hear from you, Suzanne, and know you are doing what you do best, writing, photographing, and traveling, and talking about it.

  10. Beautiful post on a difficult ugly situation. My Mexican casa owner had a great idea today– let Donald and Enrique P-N (who Mexicans hate as much as we hate Trump) head out on a long cruise together. Perhaps they’ll get lost and not find thei way back!

  11. Thoughtful, intelligent, and very well said, Suzanne. I agree with you, “A Day Without A Mexican” should be required viewing for everyone who believes that “making America great again” means shutting out the rest of the world. We all need each other. To think any other way is selfish and shortsighted (not to mention self destructive).

  12. Good post and very thoughtful. If home ground labour is used for many of the mundane jobs then prices will rise accordingly as I doubt if Americans will do the work for the same wages as are paid now. We have exactly the same situation here especially in the agricultural industry.

    Suzanne I have to chastise you, after describing how great and luxourious the Mexican buses are how can you sit with your feet up and shoes on the seats. !!

    • Hi, Dave — I have sciatica. So on a 9 hour bus ride, it’s more a question of “How could I NOT sit with my feet up?” Of course I should have removed my shoes, but then I have to wear lace-ups due to the plantar-fasciitis. Getting old ain’t for sissies….or for manners. 😉

  13. One again, you’ve hit the nail on the head.

    I fear for my health, living with this stress and frustration and worry for our country and way of life and standing in the world, for the next for years.

    May we be well, may we be happy, may we be free of suffering. May we make our voices heard to counter any and all damage to come from this administration.

  14. What beautiful rides through the country and who knew the buses were so amazing! We truly are in trouble without the Mexican people to help plant and pick our produce. A few years back Alabama tried to ban all illegals from working the farms. They said the illegal were taking jobs from the Americans. So…the tomato crop was left to the American citizens to pick. The tomatoes rotted on the vines because “we” wouldn’t do that work!! Tomatoes are rather easy to pick…imagine the backlash if they tried it with strawberries!! We better all get our own gardens going!!

  15. Bravo Suzanne, no other words for it. Excellent post. Too bad that the fool in the White House will never understand the need to be part of the global society.

    ps: Allison and I marched yesterday.

  16. What an intelligent thoughtful post. I agree with all of your thoughts and am fearful of what our country will become in the next 4 years. I am almost 70 and have lived during a time when women did not have freedom of choice ( however wealthy women always did). Thank you for this great post. Mary Lou

  17. Very beautiful post my friend! So thoughtful and on point for where we are at this time. It’s a very scary time, and we are the much less respected in the world view now. The walks yesterday were so amazing to see and brought me hope that we can still right the ship. Safe travels my friend!!

  18. Yes, it’s going to be a long, very difficult 4 years. Yesterday was a wonderful expression of solidarity among those of us who still cannot believe this has happened. My city had a 2 part opportunity of expression. I attended what started out as a solemn recognition for Mary Nolan, an influential suffragist from Florida who is buried in the oldest and most beautiful cemetery in my city, jacksonville, Florida, which was the location of the gathering. For those of you who felt like it would not serve a purpose in participating, the message from the organizers in my town clarified those thoughts. We must activitely tell our Republican Congressional members (democratic ones also ), what we think about each issue about which we have strong feelings. They suggested we flood their phone lines and emails, make them earn their money. Insist they have quarterly town hall meetings within the district the represent. It might not change anything, but bug crap out of them, maybe they will come to realize that intelligent people truly are intolerant of the new administration. Sorry, I forgot to say how wonderful this latest adventure, commentary and photos are, thanks for sharing.

  19. Hello Suzanne

    I have been an avid follower of your writing ever since I “discovered” this blog about a year ago. Today is a first for me..never posted a response to any blog post before. Your writing on this subject compelled me to write a thank you note for so eloquently describing what my heart feels … thank you for your always beautiful writing, photographs, and sharing the perspective of a global citizen with your readers.

  20. Being a global traveler myself. I so agree with everything you so eloquently said. I am a long time reader of your blog. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your travels.

  21. I can’t thank you enough for your candidness Suzanne. More of us need to speak up. If we don’t support what Trump is doing, we must not stick our heads in the sand, hoping things will get better or pray for God’s will to be done, as my cousin suggested to me. Your words, as always, are eloquent and thoughtful…beautifully written. I had forgotten about Pink’s song. Thanks for posting that. Other than at a march, you couldn’t have been in a better place at this time. And one last thing, it must have felt good to delete Dear old Don’s comment. Loved your brother’s response.

  22. P.S. Just reread your post as well as the one from brother, Don. Sure makes me want to go to Mexico and take a great bus ride, see the lovely families spending time together in the parks while appreciating what’s important in life. Thanks again for your wonderful blog. Brother Don in stiff competition, excellent prose must be genetic.

  23. Suzanne, Thanks for this thoughtful post. I confess I have not kept up with your blog lately. But happily you caught my attention and I am back. In distressing times it helps to see that there is beauty and excitement waiting for us to discover; it’s not all “Tromp.”

  24. I do believe the protest marches do matter, and they do make a difference, we should be doing it more and more. Never should a population quietly wait to be preyed upon by a vulgar regime who have plans to dictate to that population. SO far this is all we have seen, a dictator! Great post, and I agree with the notion that the USA can certainly learn a lot from Mexico, unfortunately with Tromp marching his way across the land like Sherman and spouting out his nonsense, things are going to get much worse. As I was sitting here reading this the TV news was playing his response to the President of Mexico concerning his decision to not attend a meeting with Tromp, he said, “the decision is mutual, and Mexico better treat the USA with Respect”…holy cow! Can we all go to Mexico? :o)

  25. Due to my difficulty with crowds I marched in spirit. What is happening in this country is more than horrifying. You put it well. When I lived in WA and too few Mexicans came to pick apples the “Americans” wouldn’t do it as beneath them. Maybe living on the south side of Tromp’s wall is a good idea. It’s a beautiful country with great family values.

  26. Admirable, Suzanne. I love this country of ours but here of late I don’t know our country anymore. I love mountain streams and spend a lot of time sitting by them and as you so poetically stated once before I’ll use those stream as a sentinel of stability amid the “storms” we surely face. Safe travels.

  27. I’m a Month late reading this eloquent Post but it is no less profound Today than it was the day you wrote it, nor will it be any less profound years from now. I have immediate Family on both sides of the border and abroad… and even if I didn’t, I agree we are indeed a Global Community and all need one another more than we may ever know… until the day we don’t have one another. Blessings from the Arizona Desert… Dawn… The Bohemian

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