Category Archives: Politics

Our Poison kills you nicer than their poison: The Democratic Party of the USA

Henry David Thoreau was once locked up for refusing to pay a poll tax. He opposed the tax on moral grounds – in a democracy, he argued, a man shouldn’t have to pay to vote.

That night Thoreau looked up from his jail cell to see Ralph Waldo Emerson standing outside. Emerson looked at him and asked, “Henry, why are you in there?” Thoreau fired right back: “Ralph, why are you out there?”

The point being that having morals has consequences. No one who is sane wants Trump to be President again.

Trump is a disaster

It’s a strong argument: voting blue no matter who is a matter of fundamental importance to saving the United State. So the distaste for Biden seems foolhardy and self-destructive. We are drowning, the metaphor says. If someone throws you a life preserver, you don’t criticize the color or shape of the preserver. You climb back on the bloody ship!

There are vital concerns. 4 more years of Trump will likely doom the Supreme Court. His special brand of institutionalized racism and border cruelty is heartbreaking. There’s the threat of Trump going full dictator as well.

One of the pair of Biden and Trump will be the next president. It sucks, but chose the lesser of two poisons.And if you’re planning to vote for Joe Biden, I get it.

If you find yourself in that camp, I can’t blame you. I’m not saying you’re wrong. But if you’re curious why other progressives don’t agree with you, I’ll try to give you some idea.

Over on twitter, progressives like Kyle Kulinski, Krystal Ball, and Briahna Joy Gray have received nothing but vitriol for suggesting that they can’t or won’t vote for Biden.

The case for not voting for Joe Biden

This largely comes from a different way of viewing the world. For many progressives, those who are unlikely to vote for Biden, Trump is as much a symptom as he is a cause. He’s a product of a decadent society that has voted rich actors and tv stars as president twice in the last 40 years. Neoliberal policies have made the rich richer and the poor poorer, have stripped jobs from the working class.

The thinking is that Democrats and Republicans are as similar as they are different, in that both are fundamentally beholden to corporate interests. In this mindset, Biden is part of the same system as Trump—both are corporatist servants of the neoliberal status quo. To some, mostly those that live in the US, that seems radical but to others, mostly those that live in other countries, it’s self-evident.

Sanders seemed different. He didn’t take any corporate money. He seemed to stand as champion of the downtrodden. He stood as the first real choice that many minorities and poor and downtrodden had ever had at the presidential level. He was not seen as the 1A to Biden’s 2A. He was different at the atomic level.

As for Joe Biden? Even his supporters know that there are the flaws with him. All together, it’s not worse than Trump, probably, but it’s bad enough for some to say they cannot ever support him.

sharon-mccutcheon-NeRKgBUUDjM-unsplash

On the left: Republicans. On the right: Democrats.

 

A brief summary of Biden

He’s lost 2 presidential runs already. He seems to be in cognitive decline.

He’s received the lowest possible score on his environmental policies. His legacy is also one of kids in cages, of pushing Nafta, of cutting Social Security. He actually asked Bush for more war in Iraq. He was part of the Obama admin that first put kids in cages. Frankly, if he didn’t have the (D) after his name, there would be very little to recommend him.

It gets worse. He stood for segregation and racist policies. He’s been accused of sexual assault. His very campaign promises echo Trump’s. Let’s go back to a better time, he says. It’s another version of Make America Great Again, only tinted blue. No part of Biden’s policies or expected Cabinet addresses the concerns of progressives. Should he win, these progressive feel their issues will be neglected for the next 4-12 years.

So there’s a real disgust toward Biden. But there’s also strategy. For decades, the Democrats have moved to the right as their old progressive roots have withered and died. The idea is that power is never given away freely. If leftists fight for their beliefs, they think, they’ll try to exact some movement toward true progressive policies.

markus-spiske-xH8_bSnpH5Q-unsplash

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

We can’t return to normal, the thinking goes, when normal was always part of the problem.

Many poor people cannot afford incremental change. They don’t have dependable jobs or savings or healthcare or own homes and it’s unlikely they will get those things in their lifetime. So replacing the despicable Trump with the slightly less despicable Biden doesn’t feel like a solution. The status quo is quashing millions of people and Biden’s promises to return to pre-Trumpian times sounds terrifying to the less fortunate.

For the #neverbiden progressives, the metaphor isn’t grabbing the life preserver but trying to figure out a way not to let the boat sink at all.

 

 

The Finca of Santander Valley #21N #ParoNacional21N

Of course you know that many countries in South America have recently gone of the rails. Venezuela has become a failed state. Ecuador, Haiti to Honduras are suffering from demonstrations. Chile was once a model of stability but has declared a state of emergency. Most recently, Bolivia* ousted their leader.

*(A quick diversion on Bolivia. The Western news I follow is calling it a coup, another example of Western Powers ousting a popular leader. If I were still in North America, I would have never questioned that take considering how many times that has been exactly the case. However, having heard from several actual Bolivians, they HATED Morales and considered him a murderous dictator. I’m not informed enough to say which take is right, but it’s interesting to note the discrepancy.)

IMG_20191121_174920

Bogota Protests

Unrest

In Colombia, there was a worry that things could go bad as well. A coalition of left-wing leaders including FARC, former Mayors, the three largest unions, farmers, indigenous groups, environmentalists, students, artists, and even Bogota’s two biggest football bravas (hooligans) have gathered, promising millions of marchers in the streets across all the big cities.

What brings all these disparate groups together? Well since Ivan Duque was elected there have been 188 deaths of human rights activists, community leaders, and demobilized FARC combatants. Recently, an entire camp of “dissidents” was killed but later it was revealed that 8 of the 19 were children. The army goes so far as to kill civilians then dress them in camo. Simply put, a lot of shit has been going down and people don’t want to take it anymore.

The marches were considered the biggest threat to Duque since taking the presidency a little over a year ago. Colombia’s government did not take them lightly;  closing the land and water crossings, expelling 25 Venezuelans for allegedly fomenting violence, imposing curfews, and sent 8,000 soldiers to the big cities to augment the police. I’m writing this Sunday night, 3 days later, and there are still thousands of demonstrators in Bogota. (To learn more, follow the twitter hashtags in the title: #21N #ParoNacional21N).

20191121084456

The Finca

The Finca

With all this in mind, Zulia and I left Medellin and went to a farm in the area of Bucaramanga. We stayed with the mother of a friend of hers. We kept hearing about the finca, the farm, which would be safe. When I heard farm, I imagined crops and produce. But as I understand it, finca is better translated as country house or perhaps the New Zealand word bach.

Whatever you call it, the finca was beautiful and safe and a good base to explore the Santander region. The entire area is packed with rugged terrain, deep river valleys, craggy mountains, beautiful colonial towns, and the infamous Chicamocha National Park.

20191122133134

20191124_144302

Views of the Chicamocha canyon

The National Park is basically a crappy would-be amusement park located across an awesome canyon. The views were worth the 50,000 COP (15 USD) and the cable car covers 6.3 kilometers, descending all the way down to the bottom before climbing back up. Views of giant cactuses, little farms, grazing goats, and a big brown river accompany the trip. For some reason, you can buy a ticket for just the park and not just the cable car, even though the park is on the other side of the canyon.
Apart from the visit to the National Park, we got to spend some time in the small town; meeting locals, picking citrus fruits off over-laden trees, playing with wild cats and dogs, reading books, and so on and so on.
But the best thing we did was: Take several busses to get to one of the most beautiful towns in Colombia.

Barichara

20191123113126

Catedral de la Inmaculada Concepción

Catedral de la Inmaculada Concepción – Founded in the 1700s

It’s an old town, one so pretty and so untouched by history that many films and telenovelas are filmed here. The famous snack around here are the famous hormigas culonas – or big-ass ants. I declined the offer of a free sample and we climbed to the top of the town. Pretty as it was, we didn’t spend a super long time in Barichara. We’d come for the walk to another pretty town.
The walk we did was only 5 km and took just over an hour. If you have more time, you can do a 3-day hike connecting lots of these small towns and if/when I come back to Colombia, it’s DEFINITELY something I’d do.

El Camino Real

El Camino Real

El Camino Real

20191123114802

Tunnel of trees

Cactus Friends along the way

Cactus Friends along the way

This walk was hyper-pleasant as it was mostly flat with beautiful views of the valley and scattered cows, horses, farms and lots of big cactuses. A few hikers coming the other way greeted us with a weary “buenas tardes.” As the afternoon clouds gathered, we reached our ultimate destination.

Guane

This little town doesn’t have much of a presence on Google, but it’s worth the trip. Not only is the walk amazing, but Gaune was, to my eye, just as pretty as Barichara. It has similar narrow cobblestone streets and a big square with a historic church and friendly wild dogs.

20191123131144
2019112313053220191123130009
It would have been nice to stay and see the stars, but we had to get a move on. From Guane, we caught a bus back to Barichara, where we transferred to another bus going to San Gil, took a cab to another bus station in San Gil, hopped on a 3 hour bus to Bucaramanga, then got on the night bus to Medellin. It took about 12 hours altogether, but considering our 8 hour night bus took 20 hours to get to Bucaramanga on the way here, it was super easy, barely an inconvenience.
The demonstrations in Medellin have faded and the city feels normal. This part of South America, for now of course, is still safe and incredible to travel around.