They needed jobs. Trump promised jobs. Many were coal minors. Trump promised to mine more coal. They were against Roe v Wade. Trump promised them a Supreme Court who would overturn it. They didn’t think Hillary was honest. Trump promised them the truth, even if based on “alternative facts”.

They were 94% white. Trump called undocumented brown immigrants rapists and drug-dealers, and promised to make their town safe again from these Latinos who were supposedly crossing the Mexican-US border in record numbers to come into West Frankfort, Illinois. Never mind that there were only 66 Hispanics in this small Illinois town of 8,000. One can’t be too sure.

Whether or not President Trump can deliver on his promises is beside the point. I mean, what did they really have to lose?

The word about Carlos’ detention spread rapidly throughout the town. Suddenly he wasn’t there to greet them as manager of the La Fiesta Mexican Restaurant. The tacos and enchiladas just weren’t the same without Carlos. He was more than restaurant manager for the last decade at the popular restaurant. He was the reason for its success. His Mexican values of friendship and hospitality, and his selfless character permeated his adopted town. He called his customers by name, including their growing children.

When the local fireman faced a serious fire, Carlos asked if he might bring some food. He brought his restaurant to the fireman, setting up several tents.

When a fund-raising gala was about to be called off, Carlos offered his facility and guaranteed its success.

If you went to a local chamber of commerce, or other community meeting, there was Carlos, wanting to know how to help make the town more successful. The truth of the matter was that he already had!

When Candidate Trump labeled Mexicans as dangerous and worthy of rejection, the Illinois voters apparently didn’t flinch. I mean why should they concern themselves with people they didn’t want to know.

So caught up were they in the Trumpian harangue, that they never thought about Carlos’ US-American citizen wife, or his three US-American children. The “dangerous they” never have families, names or value. They are trotted out into the imaginations of unsuspecting voters who are encouraged to fear “the others” and vote.

Jobs may never come to Franklin County as a result of Trump’s election. The coal may stay in the ground, as other energy sources offer better options. Roe v Wade was affirmed by Republican and Democratic Supreme Court Justices, and has stood the test of time.

The best thing going for the small town was the Mexican with the big heart who, after conquering alcohol addiction ten years before, gave himself fully to his family and his community.

But Trump is Trump. With his flamboyant and blunt use of presidential power, he has traumatized a little town that gave him their vote.

The president would like us to believe that he is removing more criminals than the previous administration. On Tuesday night, February 28, 2017, he claimed:

As we speak, we are removing gang members, drug dealers and criminals that threaten our communities and prey on our citizens. Bad ones are going out as I speak tonight and as I have promised.

What the president has done differently is to remove Carlos from the family and town that he loves. Nothing about Carlos has changed.  What has changed is the priority for deportations. Congratulations Mr. Trump.

After being incarcerated for 20 days in another state, and with city officials petitioning the immigration judge to release him on bond, Carlos was allowed to return to his family and restaurant in southern Illinois. Should Carlos lose his case, despite his community’s campaign to stay his deportation, then there may be one town in forgotten America that will feel deminished, wishing to be great again.

 

About Larry Eppley

Larry Eppley's background is diverse. A former pulpit minister, he was a real estate agent before spending about ten years as a computer software trainer and IT support specialist. Now retired, he teaches English as Second Language classes for Spanish speakers, as well as a weekly bilingual Bible class.


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