This video will make you tremble with fear, outrage, and sadness.
Kindergarten teacher Martha Rivera Alanis captures on her cell phone how she calmed her students by singing Barney songs, as a gunfight raged near the school in Monterrey, Mexico’s industrial hub in the northern state of Nuevo León.
Rivera Alanis sweetly instructs the kids to keep their heads down. She gently calls them “sweetheart” and “my love.”
This is likely the toughest minute plus video you will watch:
The confusion and fear on these children’s faces and Rivera Alanis’ ingenuity and cool have moved millions around the world, including Colombian cross-over singing sensation Shakira who tweeted, “Esto fue durante un tiroteo afuera de un jardín escolar. La valentía de esta educadora me ha hecho un nudo en la garganta y lo quería compartir. // This was during a gun battle outside a Kindergarten. The bravery of the teacher has put a knot in my throat and I wanted to share with you.”
Yet this should not be filed away as one more internet viral sensation validated by a certificate for valor presented to Rivera Alanis by the governor of Nuevo León.
Instead, as I alude in the post about President Obama’s visit to South America, “Mr. President: Try Substantive Instead of ‘Equal’ Partnership with Latin America,” our decision makers must be asked–and pressed to answer–hard questions about the U.S. role in stopping this violence which has killed thousands, as Mexican government security forces battle drug cartels who fight each other to gain control of the lucrative passages to the U.S.:
- Will lawmakers vote in favor of a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearm, and Explosive’s (ATF) pilot program similar to federal law that aims to disrupt the southern flow of guns to drug cartels by requiring gun dealers in the border states of California, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona to report multiple sales of semi-automatic weapons within any five-day span?
- The majority of cocaine, marijuana, and meth smuggled from Latin America is consumed in the U.S. What policies are immediately being put in place or scrapped to address consumption and addiction?
- Why does a war raging steps away from the U.S. not get the same attention in U.S. foreign policy and the mainstream media as events that happen in other parts of the world such as the Middle East?
By no means am I suggesting that we should turn away from the Arab Spring or other world events. However, what happens in Mexico matters greatly to the U.S. in terms of geo-politics, security, immigration, and to constituents and consumers of information who are increasingly Latino, particularly Mexican-American, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. U.S.-Mexico border resident @Evie on Facebook understands the ramifications of sharing a border with a country where parts are controlled by drug cartels, “It [is] unbelievable that this beautiful country is being destroyed and we.. the U.S. are doing nothing about it.” She believes that “this is more of a threat to us than anyone in the middle east.”
President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, UN Ambassador Susan Rice, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell, Speaker of the House John Boehner, House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi, and decision makers in newsrooms (particularly those with a national presence) shape U.S. policy toward Mexico by turning toward or away from Mexico’s–and the region’s–struggle with the cartels.
Mexico matters. It’s time U.S. policy and media coverage reflected this reality.