Different Problems

Historically, one of the biggest struggles of the first-year writing students I’ve worked with is their adherence to the “rules” of writing they’ve either been explicitly taught or implicitly internalized. The five-paragraph structure, which includes a thesis at the end of the first paragraph, and a concluding paragraph which starts with “In conclusion…” are two of the most common moves in evidence.

God, I would kill to get this person’s students for a change. It would be fantastic to struggle with these kinds of issues instead of discovering anew each semester that nobody has ever introduced students to the idea that a text should have a beginning and an end.


Where Are They Now?

And so where do you think the chief organizer of the whole charade described in Volpi’s novel is right now? The fellow who came up with the whole plan of “let’s grab these innocent bystanders, torture and rape them with broomsticks and get them to confess to the kidnapping of these other poor bastards whom we tortured and raped with broomsticks a little earlier”? The fellow whose plan was wildly successful? Where do you think he is?

He’s where I am. In Florida.

And where are the real kidnappers? The ones whose crimes were not investigated even though Volpi has demonstrated that there is overwhelming evidence of their guilt? The ones who went free because the police was too busy organizing that whole charade with torturing innocent bystanders?

Hmm, what a mystery. Where can they possibly be?

I’ll let you guess.

What Went Wrong in Mexico?

At the turn of the 21 century, things started going very badly for Mexico. Of course, it’s not like the country was problem-free before. There was all kinds of bad stuff going on. But there was a definite feeling of things getting better and the country going in a positive direction overall at the end of the twentieth century.

In 2000, when the political party that had been in power for 70 years finally lost an election, there was a great enthusiasm and a confidence that now finally Mexico’s path towards a true, functioning democracy was complete. Mexico is quite unique among Hispanic countries in that it hasn’t had a military dictatorship in over a century but its democracy was always limited in scope by the fact that a single party was always in power. So when a true multi-party system finally arose, it was a big deal.

And then it all went to the dogs.

The new party of power wanted to score big victories fast and adopted a strategy of fighting drug cartels that was very counterproductive and only fed the chaos. The opioid crisis in the US was creating a growing demand for heroin that put more cartels in business. NAFTA was putting great pressure on an economy that wasn’t ready for such an intense plunge into globalization. I know there must be something else, another major factor I’m not seeing right now, but I know it’s there.

Mind you, I don’t in the least think that Mexico is hopeless or anything of the kind. Mexico is strong and will figure it out. Right now is a shitty moment, but this is a country I believe in.

Making It Interesting

So. How can I make the story of false imprisonments in Mexico more appealing?

Ok, let’s try this. Miranda de Wallace, the activist who has been the most vocal and aggressive supporter of keeping the falsely accused, raped and tortured folks in jail, is the person who organized the anti-Trump protests in Mexico in 2017. And the relatives of the victims she was trying to keep in jail were attempting to stop the protest.

These days, unless you make it about Trump, it generates zero interest.