Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Reflections on this day
I had restless sleep last night and was anxious to awaken this morning and read the news. Even though six years have passed since the tragedy of September 11, 2001, the misery, bloodshed, war, fear and anger that resulted are more present today than ever. Looking at the clouds hover over the Avila mountain here in Caracas (which everyday is more beautiful and picturesque), the reality of that day seems so distant. But when I moved my manual calendar to Tuesday, September 11, I felt a jolt. It was a Tuesday then too, right? At this very same hour I had left for law school, driving from Brooklyn to Queens, dropping off my step-son at school (I was married back then), listening to WBAI (New York's real progressive radio) when the first plane hit. "A plane has just hit one of the World Trade Centers," commented the broadcasters on the morning show, "wierd, must have been an accident," said one almost jokingly. In fact, they were talking with such uncertainty and faint humor that I thought it was a joke. But when I switched stations, the news was the same; "A plane has hit the Twin Towers," "a small private plane has just crashed into the Trade Center," "no, it looks like a passenger plan," "what? Could this be a mistake?" Everybody was confused in those first minutes. I pulled over somewhere nearing Queens and looked behind me. Sure enough, one of the Twin Towers was billowing with grey-black smoke, burning flames visible near the top. I debated turning around but thought, what better place to go then my very radical law school, full of progressive thinkers and thoughtful people? But when I got there, just a few folks were crowded around a big screen television in one of the common rooms, watching the images. Then, "bamn!", the second plane hit the South Tower, and everyone knew it was no longer an accident. I could see the towers burning in the distance, the black smoke covering Manhattan's most famous skyline. I went by my classroom where normally Civil Procedure was held just to see if my compañeros were talking about what was happening, when, to my surprise, class was in session! I thought, are these people nuts? I could feel war, chaos and pretty much bad vibes all around and here they were starting a mock trial on some traffic violation or something? I spoke out to all of them and said, "The Twin Towers have just been hit, another plane is on its way to Washington (it hadn't yet reached the vicinity) and while we don't know what is happening, clearly this is an attack - a declaration of war - and personally, I cannot sit here talking about the Rules of Civil Procedure! I am going to pick up my step-son from school, get my family to safety and figure out what is going on." And I left. Can you believe that they actually stayed in session until noon when finally they realized the towers had fallen to pieces, the Pentagon had been hit and a State of Emergency nationwide had been declared? For me that was a true demonstration of the numbness and blasé attitude of the people of the USA in the face of world crises.
I couldn't bring myself to join my friends and neighbors in a candlelight vigil down at the Brooklyn waterfront facing the now fallen towers. I knew that whatever had happened, the responsibility belonged to the United States; for its imperialist government, its intrusive foreign policy, its misuse and exploitation of other nation's resources, and of course, for having elected a war-mongering, ruthlessly idiotic president who brought with him perhaps the most horrific and blood-thirsty team of old-school thugs. Today we know that, conspiracy theories aside, the Bush Administration has profitted from that tragedy by tightening control over the US people, shredding constitutional rights that always "bothered" the neo-cons, increasing and imposing its dominance worldwide, and of course, executing a war based on revenge (for Bush papá) and an unsatiable and unsustainable thirst for oil. We can debate over the details of planes vs. missiles, or demolition vs. direct cause from fire, but in the end, the circumstantial evidence exists and is strong to show that the US Government benefitted from the 9/11 attacks. It's actually quite atrocious.
Thirty-four years ago on this day the US Government also benefitted from the overthrow and assasination of Chilean's socialist president, Salvador Allende. In a bloody coup, which was later used by the CIA as a model for the coup d'etat against Chávez in Venezuela on April 11, 2002, Chile's democratically-elected and beloved Presidente Allende was killed; his government removed from power. One of the most brutal and ruthless dictators in Latin American history, General Augustus Pinochet, was installed with 100% US support -financial and political - to rule for almost two decades, using torture, political assasination, persecution, disappearance and fear to impose a right-wing, neoliberal system on the people of Chile; a people who had opted for socialism with the election of Allende.
Those scars on Chile's history will never fade. Today in Caracas, Salvador Allende is celebrated and remembered in different events throughout the city. Venezuela's path to socialism shares resemblence to Allende's Chile, and we know all too well from history how vicious the Empire can be when a "subordinate" nation chooses its own path. But we also know that once repressed, the people will rise again.
*Venezuela's armed forces have just announced that the last 6 months of enlisted training will be dedicated to a social mission of choice so that new soldiers will have the opportunity to engage in voluntary social work. The missions focus on education (from basic literacy to university), health care (general care to complex surgical procedures), cultural affairs, job capacitation and training, environmental conservation, indigenous people's rights, and rehabilitation (from addictions, street living, etc). President Chávez abolished the military draft once winning office in 1998. Venezuela's draft - imposed throughout the years of so-called "representative democracy" by the parties now in the opposition - was arbitrarily implemented to repress and control the people, particularly young men involved in "leftist" movements.
*Today the National Assembly will hold the second debate on President Chávez's proposed reforms to 33 articles in the 1999 Constitution. There will be some modifications to certain articles - like removing the word "patron" (boss) from Article 90 which deals with the work hour and worker's rights - but overall, the reform is expected to be approved by the legislature. The final discussion, which should take place in about 3 weeks, will detail article by articles changes that have been made, suggestions and additions incorporated as a result of the national debate in communities nationwide, and will solidify the final proposal that will be submitted to national referendum in December.
*Finally, stop eating butter-flavored microwave popcorn!. You can die! Personally, I am traditionalist when it comes to popcorn. Hate that microwave crap.