What happened between an undocumented student and GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney at a recent Manhattan fundraiser reads like something written by the the Brothers Grimm. A deceivingly simple story that’s loaded with nuance, undercurrents, archetypes and mythology.
Here’s what happened, as reported by Telemundo’s Noticiero 47: Lucy Ayain, a journalism student, went to the Romney fundraiser to question the candidate about his stance on the DREAM Act. She caught up with him in a hallway, asked her question andRomney reiterated his plan to veto any DREAM Act legislation if he were elected.
Lucy then held out her hand and identified herself as an undocumented student. Romney, in full campaign mode, held her hand then pulled it away at her revelation. The following translation of Lucy’s Spanish statement is mine:
“When I shook Romney’s hand, I said ‘my name is Lucy’ and he was all happy, thinking I was one of his supporters. When I said ’I’m undocumented” he pulled his hand. So he was giving me a sign that I am a criminal, my hand was dirty and his was not. ”
Lucy was born in Peru and brought to the U.S. when she was 10 years old, she says she has a 4.0 grade point average and belongs to a student advocacy group that fights for DREAMers rights.
“I have confidence in myself and confidence in the Hispanic community that if we work together, he will not win. If he does win, I would be very afraid.”
The Grimm Brother’s would have loved this story — the tale of a young woman from the humblest rungs of society who musters the courage to face the oblivious nobility that threatens her identity. She walks into the Nobles’ lair and identifies herself, making herself at once strong and vulnerable. The Nobleman, surrounded by his kinsmen, is startled, but instead of striking, is repulsed, fearful of holding the woman’s hand.
That was a victory for Lucy in and of itself. But she went on, stating her case, arguing against Romney’s DREAM Act stance, until someone in the crowd (a kinsman) yells at her to go back to Mexico.
“One of the girls there said to me ‘Go back to Mexico’ and she yelled it at me. That was when I really lit up and turned and told her “I’m not from Mexico, I was born in Peru’.”
And by revealing her identity, at that time, in that place, she freed herself of the burden of fear and shadows. It’s the ultimate “outing,” but not in the obvious way. It wasn’t Lucy who was outed, it was Romney who came face-to-face with his own rhetoric and was outed by his fear and repulsion.
In the end Lucy is left with a stronger identity and the clarity of purpose that comes with facing one’s own fears. And Romney is left to be defended by his supporters, not able to rise to the challenge himself. The wonderful thing about stories is that their truths speak to a place beyond the simple narrative, to a common space of understanding. The difference between a simple story and a tale are the universal truths that hold them together.