My Reaction to America’s Scariest GOP Debate Yet

I don’t watch horror movies. When I was a kid I watched “Scream” and I couldn’t be alone in the dark for months because of the fear that the killer would emerge from the shadows and stab me to death. To this day, a chill still runs up my spine if I see the “Scream” mask, or any other mask really.
That childhood fear came back to me anew while watching last night’s GOP debate on CNN. As a Muslim, as a Latina, as an American I am fucking petrified by what I saw on my screen. This country is being forced to choose from a group of some of the most incompetent people I’ve seen in my 20 years living.
What caused this fear to materialize?
It started at 6:30 P.M. eastern standard time when I tuned to CNN to watch the bottom four candidates hold their debate. All the questions were about terrorism — not just any kind of terrorism — but radical Islamic terrorism; a term to which I don’t even give credence.
To throw around the word “Islam” so carelessly and attach it to terrorism every time you open your mouth is to tell the American people that Muslims are dangerous and should be treated as the enemy. In just 10 minutes, four old men completely alienated me while simultaneously asking for my vote.
What I found even more disturbing is that these men — George Pataki, Rick Santorum, Lindsey Graham, and Mike Huckabee — spoke about airstrikes as if they were discussing a strategy for the game “Battleship.”
They want to go in and they want to kill those bastards. That’s not even hyperbole. That’s a phrase that was actually uttered by a candidate.
They had such an enthusiasm when they spoke about dropping bombs on places that I wonder if they’ve ever even seen places where there are children and civilians and families living under these conditions.
Furthermore, they provided no kind of proof that there was intelligence letting them know that these were appropriate bombing targets. Let the bombs fall where they may. How’s that for foreign policy?
And for those who didn’t believe the battle against terrorism could be won in air, they turned to the catchphrase of the night: “Boots on the ground.” Arab boots, American boots, everyone had to put some kind of boot on some kind of ground.
There’s a young man that serves in the U.S. military, he’s my cousin’s boyfriend. If we go into another war it will be his boot on the ground. It will be my cousin who lays awake at night wondering if the man she loves will return home, a home that is in Puerto Rico. Why is that important? Because while one can serve in the U.S. military, neither of them can vote for president. Neither of them will have a choice over their commander in chief.
But they will both suffer because of his or her decisions.
Every answer to every question about solving terrorism revolved around death and military action. Not one candidate will have to put their own boot on the ground yet they are ready to send thousands out to do just that.
Is this American? To completely forgo diplomacy just so we can all look strong?
Of all the men in the lower four, Graham showed himself to be the monster under the bed. He used all of his talking time to tell viewers that another 9/11 was on its way. Yet he provided no evidence to support that claim.
Lack of evidence didn’t stop him from saying it four times. It didn’t stop him from scaring the life out of every person that was around during 9/11, including myself. I’ve lived in New York my entire life and the aftermath of that day permeates the very street on which I walk. I can’t go anywhere without being reminded of it. And I certainly can’t go anywhere without a reminder that my religion is to blame for those towers coming down.
Despite the fact that I was a child when it happened, 9/11 is in fact my fault and thanks to Mr. Graham — everyone will know who to blame when it happens again. According to him, “ISIL is planning another 9/11” and “ISIL is not George Bush’s fault, I blame Obama for ISIL.”
The building is on fire. It’s the fireman’s fault. Everyone panic.
When the lower four were asked about reinstating the draft, I assumed we would all be on the same page and that page would read “No.”
While Mike Huckabee believes we don’t need the draft he does believe that if kids want to go to college, they should first give something to their country. Huckabee plans to reinstate the GI bill.
Now let’s look at that critically. Who will that affect? Will it affect upper middle class white teenagers who can afford college? Nope. Will it affect minorities who were smart enough to get into college but couldn’t come up with the money? Yes.
So who goes to war? Little Jose from the Bronx whose mom works two jobs to keep food on the table. Who goes to college? Little Thurston II from the Upper East Side whose model sister hardly eats the food on the table. Who gets Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? Who gets shunned by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs? Who commits a crime because he had a war flashback? Jose.
Who reports that violence in the Latino community is growing and we can’t allow anymore immigrants into the U.S.? Thurston II.
Do you see how actually thinking will change the way you say things?
The lack of thought continued on as the main debate started and the power players took to the stage. Everyone, except Dr. Carson, wore signature Republican red. Red like blood — blood like the kind of stuff you’d find on Jason Voorhees. I would’ve rather watched an iteration of Halloween than the debate that took place.
Can we even call it a debate?
The way the candidates spoke to each other was absolutely sophomoric, let me just say that first. At some point Jeb Bush and Donald Trump got into an argument about who was tougher while Carly Fiorina was trying to talk over them and get the cameras focused on her.
Bickering I can deal with, what I could not deal with was another two hours of terrorism talk.
That’s exactly what I got. And because I wanted to see what everyone had to say and was also live tweeting it for MuslimGirl I couldn’t even go hide in my bathroom until the commercial break. Do you know how much stress that put on both my brain and my bladder?
I found the debate to be a barrage of politicians reminding Americans that Muslims, no matter where they are, can not be trusted. Trump did his usual talk about the wall and being great. Jeb Bush tried desperately to escape his brother’s shadow and form some sentences. Carson bored me to within an inch of my life. Chris Christie made frightening eye contact with the viewers at home. The theatrics were abundant. So was the fear mongering.
At some point Christie noted that there were thousands of people at home scared to death or terrorists. That’s a baseless exaggeration. People are not scared of terrorists. They’re scared of Muslims. They’re also scared of Sikhs because Sikhs look like Muslims if you don’t know any better.
Why are these people scared? Because the only thing that our leaders want to talk about his terrorism. They are literally terrorizing us with the terrorism of others.
Terrorist rhetoric which easily slips into anti-Muslim rhetoric is what has made it unsafe for me to wear a hijab on my way to prayer on Fridays. The rhetoric got so bad at some point that I stopped going to prayer because I didn’t want to get pushed into a subway track.
Do the people who want my vote try to talk to me to assuage those fears and tell me that I’m being paranoid. No! They go from zero to a thousand on the fear scale and before I know it Dr. Carson is saying, in the most roundabout way possible, that he’s okay with dropping bombs that may or may not kill thousands of children.
Again not hyperbole, just collateral damage I suppose.
And while anti-Muslim rhetoric fills me with fear and anger, anti-immigration rhetoric fills me with even more anger. My grandmother wasn’t born on the mainland, she was born in Puerto Rico, a commonwealth of the United State. Does the wall that Trump want to build know the difference between Latinos from a commonwealth and Latinos from a different country? Would she have made it?
The way in which GOP candidates talk about immigration disgusts me to my core. It’s as if they’re talking about wild animals — not human beings. What disgusts me even more is when Marco Rubio tries to sway conservative Latinos to his side by tokenizing immigration.
Whenever he wants to appear sympathetic he reminds us of his immigrant roots and how he sympathizes with their plight. Meanwhile, he’s constantly flip flopped on what to do with the so-called immigration problem to appease the party. Rubio cannot stand on the back of the Latino population and call himself tall. We do not play that game, sir.
Immigration is hard in ways that a person like Rubio cannot even imagine.
This year, I worked at a shelter that was supposed to receive boys who had been detained at the border. During my time there, I learned every single day what these boys would endure just to get to Mexico and have a chance of getting into America. I heard from a woman who went through it herself, who watched someone die on the road from Honduras to Arizona. I heard things that were unimaginable.
People like Rubio use immigration as a tool to gain points with no respect for the weight that word holds. Latinos are not migrating in mass amount because it’s something fun to do on the weekend. They’re doing it because the U.S. has fed the world this untrue idea that we’ve got it all and it’s all to give.
Well, guess what? Immigrants are ready to take us up on that deal.
The topic of immigration eventually faded from discussion and the candidates turned back to foreign policy and all the things that needed to be done in the Middle East. In fact, there was so much talk about the Middle East that everyone forgot this was a debate to determine who would be the best candidate for president of the United States.
At no point was there talk about things like education, healthcare, poverty, gun control; things that are happening on the ground in the U.S. right now. That’s scary!
This tells me and viewers everywhere that the only thing the media and the candidates deem important right now is terrorism. They’ve got nothing else in their line of view aside from airstrikes and boots on the ground.
How can voters make informed decisions without adequate information?
Not that any of these candidates would provide information. Honestly, those people avoided giving direct answers harder than the Academy Awards avoid Leonardo DiCaprio’s movies.
No one seems to have an answer for anything. No one seems to have a plan that they can present that I can judge. I don’t know who’s a good candidate because they spend so much time picking at each other like high school children that I can’t decide which person will be the safest bet.
A lot of people make the joke that if someone from the GOP wins, they’ll go to Canada.
Even in joking form, I don’t have that option. Canada is ripe with anti-Muslim hate crimes. The spread of Islamophobia is so vast that there is nowhere for someone like me to go if someone like Ted Cruz takes power. I cannot hide from this.
American Muslims cannot hide from this.
We are on the brink of one of the most difficult voting seasons since that one season of American Idol where it was Clay Aiken versus Ruben Studdard. On the one hand, we have the Democratic Party that panders to minorities and shows little support for Muslims.
On the other, we have the Republican Party that would see mosques shut down and entire Middle Eastern cities blown off the map.
Out of those two options, we’ve got to pick one to represent us on the world stage for four years. We’ve got to pick one who will be responsible for deciding if and when we go to war.
We’ve got to pick one.
I don’t understand fear as a form of entertainment. I don’t like to be scared. As a Muslim-Latina-American who has watched many a debate, I find myself with no desire to vote and every desire to hide under my blankets until it’s over.
I don’t watch horror movies. But there’s a slight chance I’m living in one.

Image: Flickr