To a few brave Mexicans

Dear Hannah,

The press says that this election season, eighty mayoral candidates have been shot down in Mexico.  At first you hear this number and think it's bizarre -- a footnote on some banana republic beyond the rule of law and order. But when you really think about what's happening, 80 men and women wanted to save their own cities, and as the people started listening and thinking maybe things could get better*, these hopefuls found themselves walking to their front door in the middle of the day or heard a loud bang on their office door, a masked man or two made an appearance, and their brains were splattered all over the ground.

I wonder when I read these stories what kind of a stand these candidates made: whether they knew what was coming or were caught by surprise.  I wonder what looks they had on their faces: whether a manly defiance or a eye full of terror.  Did they cut and run, or try to shoot back?  I don't fault a man for making a hasty retreat, but I wonder about the way that he did it.  Were their friends and family shot down alongside them?  How many people escaped from these shootings?  Were their rivals gunning them down or just the cartels?  With a number like 80 there are too many questions, too many stories, too many heroes, and too many martyrs.  We can't tell them all due to time and the Mexicans can't tell them all due to fear.  The press is under fire in Mexico, and telling the truth about what happened or too many details about who did it means you're the next number.  They technically have freedom of speech.  Like with the antifa in the US, the men in the masks determine the practice.

Nobody knows what a man's going to do under fire.  You can brag all day but the moment it happens you find out who you are.  A lot of our tough talkers turn tail and run -- not an orderly retreat but an inglorious panic.  Others, knowing what game they'd been playing all along, beg for their lives.  Some men strike back.  Others, losing all hope of saving themselves, stand steady and stare steady and die steady.  Others try to save others.

We can prepare for these things but we can't really be ready.  You're either born for it or accustomed to it or surprised by it.  A moment of decision is only a moment.  There is no time to revisit Montaigne's essays on death, or for pep talks, or to decide what heroism is or how you can be it.  You are what you are -- fight or flight, terror or coolness, order or chaos.  A man of action is made for it.  The rest of us, if we can't be him, at the very least should cherish him.  Which is why I wonder how these 80 of them died, and which of them I would worship.

T.R. Fehrenbach writes in his history of Texas that the government of New Spain, in modern day Mexico and Texas, was intolerable; and because it was intolerable it resulted in several rebellions.  One of these rebels, a wealthy republican named Bernardo Gutierrez de Lara, needed an army.  Some people from the American army were looking for an adventure.  And so these two forces, one wanting land and the other one liberty, joined hands and nearly started a new country.  The year was 1812.

The fight was going well because the American recruits, accustomed to the frontier, were brave and born fighting.  They drove all loyalist forces out of Texas and drafted their own declaration of independence.  But the Mexican leadership committed too many political blunders and too many atrocities.  The army was split out of anger and conscience.  Most Mexicans went one way and most Americans the other.  Meanwhile the loyalists got angry and collected a large army, far larger than the rag-tag army of deserting Americans; this large army found the Americans and nearly surrounded them, and when they had them nearly surrounded they began to enclose them.  There was only one smart thing left to do, and it was an orderly retreat.  "God DAMNIT.  We NEVER retreat!" were the last words heard from this battalion too heroic to win.  One of the ninety-three survivors, a man with brains, heard their war whoop of approval, turned tail, and told of their fate.  All the rest of these stay-behinds were cut down to pieces, and the rebellion was crushed after mass executions.  God bless them -- they were great fighters but they were morons.

Your father,

*It should be noted here that some of these candidates were merely on the side of the wrong cartel.  Not every victim is a maryr.  God bless the ones who are.  Good riddance to those who aren't.

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