Thursday, August 14, 2014

History repeats itself


The news for last couple of months has me brokenhearted, and unfortunately I get angry when my heart is broken, so...fair warning.

What is wrong with us these days?
  • Police shooting or choking Black and Brown men is an almost weekly occurrence.
  • Supplying weapons and money to a country bombing the civilian population back to the stone age. 
  •  Air raids on Iraq. 
  •  Troops in Iraq. 
  •  NSA and CIA spying on everyone, including their own people. 
  • Reporters arrested trying to cover the protests in St. Louis over the shooting of a unarmed black teenager. 
  •  Republicans and Democrats fighting over minutia so that there is no real governance. 
  •  Mass shootings… again, almost weekly. 
  •  Children…CHILDREN…being detained and sent back to their countries to die with hateful protests calling for those children to go home.
I’m appalled.  I’m shocked.  I’m ashamed.

And yet, I was a history major:

Until the Civil Rights movement refusing the vote to Black people, beating Black people, LYNCHING Black people by cops, the KKK, the Establishment was hardly news worthy.

The US has supported Israel through its many wars and occupation of Palestine.  With weapons, policies, and our own CIA, we have propped up dictators who jailed, tortured, killed, and terrorized their own peoples:  Iran, Chile, El Salvador, Brazil, Philippines, Honduras (now), Guatemala, and here, Nicaragua.

Air raids in Iraq…Daddy Bush, W. Bush, Obama, and Obama again.

Troops in Iraq…see above.

Sen. McCarthy keeping the US "safe"
Much of the spying when I was a girl and a young woman was done by the FBI but it was done on peace and justice groups, peace churches, and “radicals” who oppose nuclear weapons.  William Stringfellow, a lay theologian, used to read his Bible into his phone…he thought the people tapping his phone ought to hear it.  And let’s not forget the McCarthy hearings in the 50s.

Reducing the access of the press has been a tactic by the government for years.  In WWI and WWII most of what was heard by the American public was approved by the government.  In the Vietnam War, the press covered the war on the ground and the war was immensely unpopular as a result…ergo the government put a stop on full and free access of the media in times of war. 

Just having a two party system limits what concerns and needs are addressed.  Since Abraham Lincoln,  almost every president has taken more and more power than was originally proposed by the constitution.  Now with more and more money going into elections, corporations are taking more and more control.  But this is not new: remember that the founding fathers were wealthy. 

Mass shootings are new, but people of color can cite time and time again when THEIR people have been targets of lynchings, bombings, genocide (tribal people), internment (Japanese during WWII), etc.

And the children from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras coming to the US just to have a chance to grow up…well, we immigrants have always hated other immigrants and refugees…that started when the first immigrants grabbed the land from the people who were already here and then did not want to share anymore.

The one thing I truly internalized from all my history classes back in the day was that if we do not know our history, then we are doomed to repeat it.  So let’s learn…let’s not repeat the same horrors…let’s evolve…let’s repent.  From where I stand, change is a good thing…it is hope.
-Kathleen

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Speak the Truth


Language is a powerful tool.  Feminists learned this early on…when we always refer to people with masculine nouns like “mankind,” we forget that women and girls are an integral part.  Refer to an individual as “he” and a man or boy image pops in the brain.  “Chairman,” and people are more likely to nominate a man. 

Language reflects our thoughts, but also more importantly creates our thoughts as well.

People in power have learned this, and use it to influence our thinking, and too much of the media is playing right along.
  • We are "in danger of Obamacare bankrupting the country” BUT “We put our soldiers in harm’s way.”
  • “We murder unborn children.”  BUT “The drone bombings unfortunately and occasionally result in the deaths of non-combatants.”
  • “Illegal immigrant children are crashing our borders.”  BUT “refugees are fleeing the Al Qaeda terrorists in Iraq.”
  • “Terrorists bomb the US embassy in Benghazi.”  BUT “Non-military installations have been hit in the Israeli air raids.”
  • “The unconstitutionally elected president Daniel Ortega…” BUT “the former president of Honduras, Manual Zelaya, who was removed from office…”.

Those on one side of the spectrum use language to inflame
people’s emotions while the media at large and the government use language to let itself and those countries and factions we support get away with murder…literally.

When did real, physical danger become “in harm’s way”?  When the government wanted to soften, yet not completely  dismiss, the soldier's reality.

When did women, children, old people…innocents…become “non-combatants”?  When the media did not want us to see or imagine the people who have done nothing but be in the wrong place at the wrong time and get blown to bits.

When did children fleeing violence, gangs, and death squads become “illegal immigrants” while other children fleeing violence, gangs, and militias become “refugees fleeing terrorists”?  When those corrupt governments are the ones we prop up, and no one wants U.S. citizens to think about the reason that desperate parents would send their precious ones far away.
 
When did hospitals, schools, and people’s homes – poor as they are – become “non-military installations”?  When people of power do not want us to imagine what it would be like to be stuck in a hospital with injuries resulting from your home being bombed during supper and have another bomb hit the hospital…that sounds like something that evil people would do.

Why wasn't President Zelaya always referred to as “the coup-deposed president” and why isn't Honduras called “the land of death squads, gangs, and terrorists" since the 2009 coup?  Because the US backed that coup and does not want to call attention to the mess it has created.  YET.  AGAIN.

We need to start using “true language” and demanding of our media and government that they use true language, and quit softening the impact of horror and violence.  

When I was in young I saw on the nightly news horrors of the Vietnam War…I saw children firebombed.  I saw mothers weeping for their lost children.  I saw coffin after coffin come home and I grew to be anti-war…and THAT is why we never see or hear reality now, because there are enough people who are basically good and if they see and hear the truth they will say “NO.  MORE.”   

Frankly, the government and those who own the media know that and are afraid.
-Kathleen



Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Drought Threatens Nicaraguan Food Supply



July is the end of the first growing season in Nicaragua…or should be, but Nicaragua is in a drought caused by a meteorological phenomenon called El Niño.  The band of warm Pacific waters collects off the coasts in South America and creates drought around the countries along the equator. 

Nicaragua gets rain typically from May to November.  Usually it starts raining in May and farmers hurriedly plant their crops.  From mid-July to mid-August the rains slack off and farmers harvest their first crop of the season.  When the rains start back up, the next crop goes in the ground to be harvested in November and December.  From November to May, hardly a drop of rain falls.

This year the first season’s crops failed due to no rain or not enough rain.  What does this mean for the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere?
  • ·         Food prices have risen including meat and dairy as cattle starve.
  • ·         Red beans (the most important source for protein) are now imported beans and have doubled in price.
  • ·         Rural farmers do not have enough to feed their families and have lost all capital.
  • ·         Coffee the main export crop, which suffered last year from a fungus, is now suffering from lack of rain.  This hits the national budget as well as small coffee producers and  the already low paid, landless, temporary workers.
·         Most of the food grown for local consumption is grown in the Western and central part of Nicaragua which is the section of Nicaragua that is being affected by El Niño.

The rains are not expected to start until September and no one really knows how well these rains will be.  Nicaragua is one of the 10 most vulnerable countries for climate change.  Many climatologists consider that El Niño has been strengthened due to the warming of the sea waters because of climate change.

The chart to the left is Nasa's reporting of the rise of temperatures over the 60 years.

Nicaragua has 52% of its energy coming from renewable sources with a goal of 94% by 2017.  Nicaragua has an aggressive reforestation program.  Nicaragua has the second largest rain forest in the Western Hemisphere and yet suffers severely from climate change…doesn’t seem fair, does it?  

But as history dictates the poor suffer while the wealthy consume and consume…which is why Gandhi said that “Poverty is the worst form of violence.”  Clothed in silence poverty breaks the human spirit and kills on a rampant scale.

-Kathleen

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Why No Nicaraguan Children?

Since last October, 52,000 unaccompanied children from Central America have entered the U.S. with no documentation...so many have been detained by immigration that there is a real humanitarian crisis in detention centers.  But these children are all from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador...no Nicaraguan children.  

Why not? Perhaps looking at the reasons why Nicaraguan children are not immigrating would help the U.S. to shape an effective policy to keep Central American kids at home with their families instead of having to flee.  
 
In a recent article, the organization NicaNet stated: "The problem of the children migrants is blowback from US policy in the 1980s when our government trained and funded Salvadoran and Guatemalan military and police to prevent popular revolutions and more recently when the US supported the coup against President Manuel Zelaya in Honduras. Those countries were left with brutal, corrupt armies and police forces whereas Nicaragua, with its successful 1979 revolution, got rid of Somoza's brutal National Guard and formed a new army and a new police made up of upstanding citizens.

"Who consumes all those drugs that are causing all that violence and corruption in Latin America? Who has militarized the Drug War and is funding and training repressive militaries and police in the countries from which the children are fleeing? In both cases it is the United States."  


Take a moment to imagine making a decision to send your child by herself to a country where you have never been, knowing that she must travel more than one thousand miles with strangers, riding on top of trains, walking through desert, all in hope that if she gets there, she can find her way to a distant relative.  What situation would you have to be in to make that decision?  As a mother of two girls, I can only imagine one: where it is more dangerous for them to stay at home.  

Kids from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador are being forced to emigrate to the U.S. by themselves because their countries are very dangerous.  Honduras, with 92 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, has the highest murder rate in the world. El Salvador has 69, Guatemala 39, Panama 14.9 and Costa Rica 10.3 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants. Nicaragua disproves the myth that poverty causes violence: it's the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, but has a homicide rate of just 8.7 per 100,000 inhabitants. 

Recently Nicaragua's Police spokesman was at a regional conference on community policing in San Salvador and in his talk credited Nicaragua's community policing model for making the it  one of the safest countries in Latin America, describing it as “a model of shared responsibility, that of person-family-community” which shapes all the areas of police work. In 2013, out of each 100 cases reported to the Nicaraguan police, they have been able to resolve 79. This compares to the almost complete impunity for crime, especially politically motivated crime, in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador -- in Honduras only 3 out of 100 crimes are even investigated.  

In addition to safety, many Central American kids simply don't see any future for themselves at home.  According to an article this week by Portillo and Torres, in Honduras, young women and children are most vulnerable from "an attack on the education system, a shockingly poor healthcare system, poor incentives, a violence created by drug cartels that the government cannot control, low wages in export processing zone industries, and a rate of inflation that leaves people not being able to afford quality food and goods, what future is there for a working class kid?


Meanwhile, the situation in Nicaragua is strikingly different.  Nicaragua's expected 2014 GDP growth rate will put it among the five fastest growing countries in Latin America, prospering even though its significant investments in poverty reduction, education and health care go against the austerity and structural readjustment programs prescribed by multilateral agencies like the IMF and World Bank:

  •  Nicaragua has achieved the goals set by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Zero Hunger Challenge ahead of schedule and lowered the extreme poverty level from 17.2% to 7.6%.  
  • Nicaragua ranks second in Latin America and the Caribbean after Venezuela as the country that most reduced the gap between rich and poor in recent years. 
  • Health care is improving all the time with immunization coverage at more than 95% and in 7 years maternal mortality rates have been reduced from 93 per 100,000 live births to 50 per 100,000 live births. 
  •  More kids are going to school and staying there: Nicaragua has a school retention rate of approximately 96% of the students enrolled and ALL students get a free meal at public preschools, elementary and high schools each day. 
  • Nicaragua is the country with the most gender equality in Latin America and the Caribbean and tenth worldwide, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF). This means that in Nicaraguan women have greater access to health and education, and more  political participation and economic inclusion. 
Of course, Nicaragua still has a long way to go...but Nicaraguan children don't. They are safe staying right where they are at home, and if the U.S. government wants to keep unaccompanied children from crossing the border, then it should focus its Latin American policy on making sure that Honduran, Salvadoran and Guatemalan kids are safe, healthy, educated and have a future in their home countries. -- Becca