Thursday, August 27, 2009

Our Hemisphere Is Asking Us A Question

It has not been an ideal time for writing. Our house is small, our son is very young, and there simply is not the space or the time to work on anything but small writing projects. In the last year, I have managed a few outlines, a couple of short plays, a few op-eds for the local paper. Time may loosen up later, but right now it is what it is.

So instead of working on more ambitious writing projects, I've been expanding my awareness of news around the hemisphere. There is much going on in the Americas.

Unfortunately, there are many deeply sad and infuriating things going on, like this horror in Guatemala. There's nothing wrong having a business and making money, but when it comes to driving people off their land because you've dammed up the river and set up checkpoints on public roads to prevent them from moving around, and open fire on peaceful protesters -- where is the human conscience?

On the other hand, there are more positive and interesting things going on. In the United States, Hugo Chavez is often spoken of with deep suspicion or worse. He is spoken of as a dictator, a socialist strongman. It is true that he has worked very hard to establish an alternative to the neoliberal "free trade" model, and regional domination by the U.S. For this reason the corporations that shape our news reporting and political dialogue have to regard him as an enemy.

But give him credit where it is due. His commitment to food sovereignty in Venezuela is sincere and smart. A very interesting and detailed article about what Venezuela is doing can be read here.

What do these stories have in common, other than the coincidence of my having read them both recently and wanting to share them? They both have to do with feeding people. They both have to do with the use of money and power. Events in our hemisphere provide us with good teaching moments and questions here in the United States, where there is so much money, technology, and military might.

For what purposes do we use our power?

Every morning at school, we recite the pledge of allegiance with our kids and I wonder, "What is true patriotism?" So much of American life is influenced by large, immensely wealthy organizations that take no responsibility or care for the kids I teach or their families. To call it class warfare in the United States might be a touch hyperbolic, but it isn't much of an exaggeration. And in other states, most recently in Peru, it does resemble a war.

To observe this in contemplative silence, even with a tear running down our cheek, seems to miss the mark. But what is to be said? What to be done?

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