Let’s Talk About Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Oh, Ocasio-Cortez. That sangria-selling swindler. That stupid, sexist, socialist Stalin-supporter. She wants to turn the United States into a failed state like Venezuela or Cuba, and the youth of this country are too enchanted by her wiles to see past her promises of free stuff or recognize her plan to destroy this country with an invasion of illegal immigrants and big government spending. She represents everything that’s wrong with this country. No morals, always looking for a handout, and set to destroy the foundation the Republic.

Except… not really. Without getting into the fallacy of conflating Democratic Socialism with the policies of Maduro and Stalin, I want to talk about how ridiculously wrong it is to portray Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as an entitled bimbo. Born in 1989 in the South Bronx, Alexandria is a third-generation New Yorker. Her mother is an immigrant from Puerto Rico, while her father was a small business owner also born in the Bronx. Her parents worked to put her in a public school in Yorktown, 40 minutes away from where they lived. The decision to send their daughter to a well-funded school so far outside their working class neighborhood gave Alexandria the opportunity to reach her full potential. In 2007, she placed second in the International Science and Engineering Fair in Microbiology. A small asteroid is named after her in honor of this accomplishment. After graduating from high school, Alexandria enrolled in Boston University, where she would graduate cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in both economics and international relations.

Unfortunately, her father died of cancer during her sophomore year of college, forcing her to engage with an exhausting legal battle over the fate of her house at the height of the 2008 financial crisis. At the same time, she was helping families navigate the immigration system as the only Spanish-speaking intern at the foreign affairs and immigration office of Senator Ted Kennedy. Immediately after her graduation in 2011, Alexandria postponed her political career to help her mom save their home from foreclosure. Alexandria moonlighted as both a waitress and a bartender while her mother worked as a bus driver and a house cleaner. Around this time, Alexandria launched a publishing company aimed at promoting literacy for inner-city kids, although the business later became defunct. After securing the house in 2012, she moved back into politics, becoming a community organizer and famously supporting Bernie Sander’s 2016 presidential campaign. In 2018, she became the youngest woman ever elected to the congress of the United States. She defeated an incumbent who had been in Congress for nearly 20 years by nearly 15 points, despite being outspent at a ratio of 18 to 1, all while operating her campaign out of a paper bag she kept hidden behind the bar she still worked.

For me, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez exemplifies the best our country has to offer, the real reason why America is great. So, what’s with the first paragraph? I’ve already written an article about the tactics I use in my writing, but specifically I wanted to paint a contrast between the genuine Alexandria and the disgusting caricature that far too many people know her by. When I try to think of the most admirable people according to the purported values of the Republican Party, I think of immigrant families, small business owners, people who worked hard and beat the odds, people who pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and gave back to their communities. These are all things that come to mind for me when I think of Alexandria.

Apparently, this is not so for many on the right. Fox News brings her up constantly as a sort of leftist boogeyman, discussing a distorted vision of her to the point of obsession. The number of false claims made about her is astounding, and prominent commentators like Rush Limbaugh and compare her to figures like Adolf Hitler while complaining about her “minority privilege”. Attacks against her often target her supposed lack of intelligence, and many have sexist and racist undertones. I will not go too much into these attacks here. You can get completely lost in the strange world of attacks on AOC, and I have linked to a number of articles in this paragraph, many of which will lead down a labyrinth of awful claims about Alexandria. Particularly nasty attacks include photoshopping her face onto a pornographic image of a woman spreading her legs, claiming she supported an American citizen joining ISIS, and spreading rumors that she had been evicted twice and her credit score was 430. This is all to discredit a woman who accomplished more in the first 30 years of her life than most of these trolls will achieve in their entire lives.

Concerning the first image in this article, the ghoulish cartoon that serves as this article’s preview image, I have to apologize. My disgust for that cartoon grows every time I look at it. Not only is it ignorant, xenophobic, misogynistic, and classist, it’s nauseating to look at. As far as I can find, Alexandria has never worn a necklace carrying the image of the Puerto Rican flag. The cartoonist has invented it as a way to imply a foreignness to Alexandria, as if Puerto Rico weren’t a territory of the United States in the first place. I don’t think it’s lost on Ben Garrison the visual similarity between that flag and the flag of Cuba, another popular right-wing boogeyman. The crop top labeled “Socialism is Sexy” is another transparent jab at prejudice. I have been unable to find any photos where Alexandria does not dress conservatively, and despite many efforts to sexualize her, she has never said or promoted anything even remotely along the lines of “socialism is sexy”.

There is nothing wrong with being an immigrant from any country or choosing to sexualize yourself. However, if we are to respect Garrison’s cartoon as a piece of art (a horrid proposition, I know), we need to look closely at the specific choices he makes. Every detail is important, especially when he’s making stuff up about the subject. In my opinion, Ben Garrison is trying to elicit a very specific image in the minds of his audience. This image doesn’t just dehumanize Alexandria; it dehumanizes Latina women in general. This is a bit horrifying, especially considering recent trends. AOC is exceptional, but she should not have to be exceptional to be treated as a human being. I implore you, if you were the type of person who clicked on this article because you wanted to read a character assassination of Alexandria, think deeply about your attitudes coming into and now out of this article. You don’t have to agree with her politics, but it may be edifying to meditate on her as a fellow human being with values that may align very closely to your own.

The only enjoyment I got out of this cartoon was misreading “NO ICE” as “NOICE”, so I’ve decided to end this article on a palate cleanser.

I hope you all enjoy the rest of your day.

Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations.

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