I was recovering from a migraine on my terrace patio when my girlfriend gasped and said that Hugo Chavez was dead. Almost immediately after, I found myself weeping. This blog is about why a 40 year old American citizen would hear about the death of a sworn enemy of her country, and find herself inconsolably sad.
I am an American Citizen, and was raised with a healthy love of the principles that my country was founded on.
I sat through hours and hours of 'social studies' and history classes in which we learned about the Bill of Rights and the Constitution of the United States of America, and I developed a certain pride around those documents. It was something that set us apart; something great and true and righteous. We learned that any country that exists without honoring these principles cannot consider themselves to be 'free'. I still believe these founding tenets of our country to be worthy of praise.
I also believe that the United States of America is a country that no longer practices the principles upon which it was founded.
Instead, my country has replaced them for a different set of principles that furthers the interests of an extremist form of market capitalism. These extremist capitalists have garnered complete control of our government, in large part thanks to 'trickle down' economics, but also greatly enabled by the events of 9/11/2001 and the opportunistic changes that have taken place in our country's governance since then.
In my lifetime, my country has presented itself as one thing, and has beyond doubt and almost unilaterally began acting in a way that is directly in conflict with that presentation. Although things might have been heading in that direction long before I was born, we were all still under a certain impression of “how we do” that we have irrefutably become disabused of very recently. The reasons are too many to mention, and if you are not already convinced, my aim is not to convince you here.
But frankly, I have felt scared. I'll say it again: as an American citizen, I have felt afraid of my own country.
And that is a feeling I never expected to have.
Hugo Chavez had many faults.
Although his policies irrefutably increased the standard of living for the poor in his country (this is backed up by the record), his methods have been described as hegemonic and totalitarian. He was a megalith for Venezuela in a way that was at best frustrating and embarrassing for some of his country's citizens. At the same time, he was one of the only voices of international leadership who have been calling the United States on it's slide down the slippery slope of Governance from something more democracy-like into something more corporate-oligarchy-like.
And, although it could be a little ironic coming from such a one as he, it still takes a certain amount of bravery and cojones to stand up to the US.
His leadership created a dialogue that would otherwise have been missing from the global playground, about the true causes of poverty, and about creating a society of equals and opportunity for all, and it is a dialogue that I have been thirsty to hear more of. It offered a sort of hope that my country would somehow correct itself from within: that we would have a 'come to Jesus' moment and get honest with ourselves. That we would once again hold up the revolutionary spirit upon which the tenets of our government were based, and once again earn the title of a free nation with liberty and justice for all.
Sure, his sense of tact was not always in line with our protestant sensibilities. My favorite example of this is when he delivered a speech at the UN and said that he could tell that Satan (referring to George W. Bush) had been there recently because he could still smell the sulfur.
At the same time, he was a man of principles who put his money where his mouth was. His policies had the effect that he said they would: infant mortality rates lowered, unemployment rates lowered, poverty rates lowered, education rates increased, life span increased all during his tenure. He was unambiguous in that he represented himself honestly. Coming from a country where to be a politician is synonymous with being a liar whose chief goal is to cover-up the grand American Coop in which the corporations and banks have taken over, it was a breath of fresh air.
I was deeply saddened by the death of Hugo Chavez, because he was a champion for many of the principles upon which America was founded, and I will miss his role as a thorn in the side of my country's governors who have drifted so far away from those principles. Principles of equality and freedom and justice for all.
My hope is that a unified voice of the Americas will rise up in unity to fill the vacuum of leadership left in his wake. We are all part of that unified voice, and so it falls on each of us individually and together to be similarly principles-lead, and to, in turn and in whatever way we can, lead with our deepest held principles - whatever they are.
For me, my part, this is my bravest first try.
Rest in Peace, Hugo Chavez. I will miss your bravery, your sense of humor, and your sense of what is good and true and important.