Edina Zephyrus

Was Mollie Tibbetts used as a political pawn?

Looking into objectification, border policy, and political sway following Tibbetts' death

Leo Hickey, staff writer

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In late August, the ongoing investigation involving the murder of 20 year old Mollie Tibbetts ended tragically with a discovery of the college student’s body in her hometown of Brooklyn, Iowa. Soon after, police identified a suspect, 24-year-old Cristhian Rivera, a Mexican immigrant who confessed to the murder. However, the tragedy soon took a political turn.

“The timing, as far as Mr. Trump and his allies were concerned,” The New York Times wrote in an article on August 23rd, “could not have been better.” The outcry began when it was revealed that Mr. Rivera was undocumented and apparently came into the country illegally. Soon after the arrest, on August 22nd, President Trump shared a video to Twitter, saying that “a person came in from Mexico illegally and killed [Mollie]. We need the wall, we need our immigration laws changed.” Many other members of the Republican party followed suit, and soon Mollie’s murder was a rallying point for strengthening border control.

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The political sway towards the tragedy upset Mollie’s family, who protested against Mollie being used as a means to an end for conservative politicians. Tibbetts’ father told the Des Moines Register in an interview on August 27th that conservatives have “chosen to callously distort and corrupt Mollie’s tragic death to advance a cause she vehemently opposed. I encourage the debate on immigration… but do not appropriate Mollie’s soul in advancing views she believed were profoundly racist… the person who is accused of taking Mollie’s life is no more a reflection of the Hispanic community as white supremacists are of all white people.”

Using someone who can’t fight back as an object to forward an agenda is wrong. As Mr. Tibbetts explains, one murder by a Mexican immigrant doesn’t justify a crusade against a whole group of people.

Whenever oppression exists in a society, generalizations made about marginalized groups such as Mexican immigrants are extremely harmful, as these generalizations can lead to an even more skewed perspective and systemic prejudice. It is impossible to deny the racially charged motives behind these accusations; conservative groups would never call for action against all white Americans if the situation was flipped. Cries to strengthen border policy because of this incident are dangerous, not because counties shouldn’t have border protection, but because of the way that the agenda is being forwarded. Regardless of stance on border security laws, the problem, explains Simon Rosenberg, founder of the New Democrat Network Think Tank and Advocacy Organization, is that many contemporary concerns for border security are based in xenophobia.

Nonetheless, the most important issue here is that Tibbets is being objectified to further political action that even she didn’t agree with. Use of citizens, especially ones that can’t defend themselves, as pawns by politicians reduces people to nothing more than data creates pain for families of the people that have been burned as fuel in a bonfire of conflict and hatred.

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About the Writer
Leo Hickey, staff writer

Leo “Leo Hickey” Hickey was born in Chicago one fateful February. He came into the world sporting nearsightedness and disdain for those who put ketchup on hot dogs. Leo quickly made a name for himself by taking up activities such as fencing. After a few years dabbling in this sport, Leo decided he’d rather not spend his time being repeatedly stabbed in a beekeeping outfit. He would bide his time in these formative years by charging other children a nickel to see his various fencing scars. Nowadays, Leo spends his time ludicrously overthinking his homework and sleeping.

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Was Mollie Tibbetts used as a political pawn?