“A Girl In Iowa”: How Both Sides of the Political Spectrum are Mishandling Mollie Tibbetts
Around 7:30 PM on the night of July 18th, University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts was seen jogging around the small town of Brooklyn. This was the last anyone would see her alive. For more than a month, news of Tibbett’s disappearance sparked headlines, prompting local initiatives to bring her home and national discussions about the safety of all Americans when going about their daily lives. Sadly, on August 21st, Tibbetts’ body was found dead in a cornfield as a result of sharp force injuries she had received. What happened to Mollie is extremely disturbing, and her life and story deserve an adequate platform, so as to prevent similar horrific things from occurring in the future. However, media coverage of her death, on both sides of the aisle, has perverted the case to comply with partisan agendas that do nothing but devalue her life.
The main reason for all this commotion regarding Tibbetts’ murder is because the suspect of the crime, 24-year-old farm worker Cristhian Bahena Rivera, is of Mexican heritage. While at this point there is still major discussion regarding whether Rivera came into this country legally or illegally, this has not stopped conservative outlets from steering conversation away from Tibbetts in order to bolster the anti-immigrant rhetoric supported by the current administration. Much of Trump’s success in winning the presidential nomination was based in tapping into the fears and implicit biases many Americans have of individuals who do not look, speak, or act like them. Therefore, conservative media outlets act purposely when they overwhelmingly discuss America’s immigration crisis over Tibbetts’ death, harping on our own implicit xenophobic tendencies to increase strong support for the right-wing agendas of American sanctity and purity. This not only aids in perpetuating a society that is far from unified and safe for non-minority groups, but it reduces Mollie’s life to a mere statistic. Continuing to equate all Hispanics as illegal immigrants, and by extension equating all immigrants (illegal or not) to violent crime, will prevent us from participating as a unified and free America. This frame of thinking lends to Molly being remembered as a number to prove a point, not as a human person with emotions, hopes and dreams that deserve their own attention.
It is clear that conservative outlets are perverting the story to fit their agenda, which adds fuel to the fire that Americans should be concerned and scared of immigrants and other non-white peoples. However, individuals on the left too are not properly addressing Mollie’s death and what it means for our country and the safety of civilians. One day after news broke about Tibbetts’ body being found, Christina Greer, political science professor at Fordham University - Lincoln Center, went on MSNBC and voiced deep concern for what she believed was an overemphasis on the Tibbetts case compared to other issues facing the nation. Blasting FOX News for continuing to talk about “a girl in Iowa,” Greer had stated that it was much more important to bring to light the continued failures of the Trump administration, more specifically Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election and the legal actions being taken against Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen. After coverage of this interview aired, there was extreme backlash against Greer for what was considered to be an insensitive consideration of Tibbetts’ death. Greer has since apologized for her remarks and has permanently deleted her Twitter account. In a similar way to those opinions of far right conservatives, Greer’s statements should not be lauded as an appropriate way of addressing the nature of media and the coverage of certain news. The nature of current events is based in new developments happening constantly, so it is only natural that some topics lose immediate social relevance compared to stories occurring more recently. This is not to say that those stories are no longer important, but we must recognize that all stories, all lives lost, and all struggles, have their own unique place in the world and deserve to be brought to light. Mollie did not deserve to die, and being upset at our current administration for its transgression does not justify dismissing her life and her story as pointless.
After Mollie’s death, her parents have been active and vocal in addressing the murder while fighting back against the vitriol that has been building against Hispanics, immigrants, and other non-whites. For the Tibbett’s, Hispanics in Iowa are just as much Iowans as their white neighbors. They play vital roles in the local community and share similar values as other Iowans, all while maintaining their individuality and rich heritage that makes them who they are. The words and actions of Mollie’s parents, even after the murder of their daughter, speaks volumes for how we as Americans should really be treating our neighbors, peers, and our fellow Americans. Nothing, not our skin color, not our birthplace, and not our language, make us better than anyone else or deserving of more time. Regardless of political affiliation, we are all worth life and time. Republicans and Democrats alike should consider this before promoting their political agendas, which forever have rendered people like Mollie Tibbetts irrelevant in the game of political dominance.
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Video | RealClearPolitics, RealClearPolitics, 2018, www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2018/08/22/msnbc_guest_christina_greer_mollie_tibbetts_a_girl_in_iowa_fox_news_is_talking_about.html
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