Chicano Studies Paper
The United States, a place associated with hope, equal opportunity and freedom also faces many underlying issues. The idea of this “perfect” country has been corrupted with problems such as immigration, growing class division and most prominently the 2007 recession. These burdens have prevented people from living the “American Dream”, a concept that our country has over glorified. The root of these ongoing problems has not been properly addressed, preventing our nation from making any progress.
Looking closely at the continuous problems that the Unites States has and still faces, it is viable to say that these issues revolve around capitalism. The novel, The Barbarian Nurseries by Hector Tobar illustrates how immigrants like Araceli are victimized due to unresolved issues with money and the recession. When Araceli is prosecuted for abusing and kidnapping the Torres-Thompson children, the case eventually transitions into an issue with immigration. As the case gains media attention people like Ian Goller and Janet Bryson express resentment toward Araceli.
Within Araceli, Goller and Bryson saw a representation of immigrants, who in their mind were to blame for the issues that had erupted in “their” country, such as the everlasting recession. Janet Bryson exemplifies this anger and bitterness when she boldly states: “To those who want to point out how much these illegal immigrants […] contribute to their society [.. ] Look at our full prisons, our higher insurance rates, our lowering education standards”(325). Bryson and Goller’s actions symbolize the result of capitalism, the true villain within the novel.
Capitalism has never been fully recognized as the true cause for many of the problems the U. S has faced causing immigrants like Araceli to be used as scapegoats for issues they had little influence in causing. As a result, capitalism can be seen as the barbarian in the novel, which in turn leads to barbaric actions on behalf of people like Goller and Bryson, against immigrants like Araceli who are innocently trying to secure a better life for themselves in the United States.
I personally found it appalling that even after Araceli was found innocent for harming and kidnapping of the Thompson kids, Goller had the audacity to try and prosecute and deport Araceli: “Your honor before you adjourn, [.. ] there is also the matter of the defendant’s immigration status” (408). These never ending accusations that immigrants have to carry, prevent them from reaching that better life that they work so hard to one day achieve in the Unites States. In the end Araceli is unjustly forced to escape and essentially start a new life from scratch due to the negative associations that an immigrant label carriers.
In the film A Better Life, capitalism is also a hidden factor to many of the conflicts that are portrayed throughout the film. The film depicts Carlos, a hardworking immigrant worker striving to do all he possibly can to create a better life for him and his son. This proves to be easier said than done as Carlos’ continuous efforts backfire and he ends up getting deported. The driving force behind his inability to reach the better life he so desperately desires is capitalism.
Passion and motivation can be seen within Carlos’ optimism and spirit when he says: “This country is a land of dreams, it can be a hard place, a cruel place, but it’s where I work and I dream for a better place for my son”. Unfortunately his drive is not enough to move up economically which is the key to sustaining a better living. Even when hope is created through the purchase of a truck, his gateway to living the American dream is quickly shattered when his truck is stolen by Santiago, another immigrant worker.
The injustice that he had faced when getting his truck stolen led me to resent Santiago, but I later realized that he was going through his own hardships in trying to live out his own American Dream. The darkness of capitalism had led him to a desperate barbaric action, emphasizing the want for a better life as a universal battle. Capitalism further acts as a catalyst in the film as seen through Carlos unstable living in a run down neighborhood, preventing his son Luis from getting getting the proper education he deserves and needs to accomplish a better future.
The probability of his son ending up in the same oppressive situation as him becomes very probable, causing doubts of the possibility of ever reaching success. This never ending cycle of constant input with no output leads to the devastating realization that this idea of a better life may be unattainable. This understanding is described by Celo who chose to face the reality of his limited opportunities by joining a gang: “They either lock us out or lock us up”. This makes me stop and realize that there is a reason behind all of the “bad” decisions that people make, sometimes it’s becomes their only option.
At the end of the film, a better life is not achieved by Carlos, instead he is seen in the desert trying to cross the border, back to the same place that he had started, making one wonder if a better life is even reachable. The 2007 recession, a result of capitalism has also had a personal impact on my family’s lives. Before the recession, my family lived a pretty stable life in a beautiful home that my parents had worked so hard to provide for us. When the recession struck its effects took a toll on my family for several years to come. Around 2009 my mom was laid off from her teaching position, leaving her jobless for over a year.
During this time all of the financial responsibilities for the house were left to my dad who did not gain much income as a truck driver. Without any financial help from my mom, money became a huge issue for my family. Letting go of certain luxuries, such as going out to eat frequently and shopping for new gadgets whenever we pleased became difficult. As payments for the house became more complicated to pay, my parents also started drifting apart. Eventually my dad was unable to make the payments for the house causing us to lose our home as well as deal with the eventual separation of my parents.
All of these events led back to the recession which has definitely taken us off the path from living the better life that my parents worked so hard to achieve. Looking back at the successes that my parents have achieved only to be beaten down by the devious recession, I strive to rebuild that “better life” that we once had, full of unity, happiness, and achievement. Due to these burdens, several years later my family is still dealing with the consequences of an issue that has yet to be dealt with efficiently by the United States.
Reaching a better life has become more difficult due to the Unites States’ inability to address a problem that has been plaguing our nation over and over again. This capitalist issue has shattered many hopes and dreams that many hoped to achieve. Life should not be based on lost aspirations but on anticipation for a successful future. Through the text, the novel and my personal experience our nation’s issue with capitalism can be seen as an unchanging factor in our society in both the past and present.
Due to our nation’s failure in providing a solution for the problems that capitalism has ensued, its negative effects have come up time and time again. During the 1930’s the Unites States faced an economic depression resulting in a very high unemployment rate. In order to deflect the nation away from the issues the nation was facing, immigrants were targeted for the country’s falling out. The justification for these unjust actions is portrayed in the reader stating that “The deportation of more Mexicans meant more jobs for real Americans” (147).
These unreasonable initiatives that the nation took in order to draw attention away from United State’s real issues, appear to be very similar to the actions taken by the nation in today’s recession. It is due to these continued patterns that reaching for a more stable, successful life has become difficult not only for immigrants but for everyone in the United States trying to make something of themselves. As Sunny Patterson states in her poem, “Money and power and greed, the game. They suck and devour the souls of the slain”.
Patterson highlights how our societies corrupted desire for money and control has selfishly left the rest of the population thirsting for the day they will be able to rebuild the path toward their desired life. It is for these reasons that I believe that our nation is still in the “dessert” as Patterson suggests, facing the same unresolved problems that have progressively lead to high unemployment, rising tuition for educations, higher costs of living and so on. A positive initiative needs to be taken in order to prevent our nations from getting even worse than it already is.
Martin Luther King proposes a solution to this problem when he states: “We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing oriented society to a person oriented society” (A Time to Break Silence). He suggests that a shift needs to be made from individualistic selfish needs to a population coming together and conquering the nation’s issues in unison. This idea is also suggested by Patterson after addressing all of the abominations that the Unites States has yet to address when she states: “But come, come children, rally around and maybe together we can make a sound that will shake the trees or rattle the ground”.
This simple change of coming together to change a cause is an effortless act that can bring just the right push to in bringing a positive change to our nation. This small yet useful act can be used as a way to express common concerns within a population to bring about the urgently needed change that we need in our nation. It is only through this radical change as King speaks out about that our nation will finally get out of the all too familiar desert that we have revisited over and over again.