Monday, May 6, 2019

Rice and Fall: Postscript

Guatemala, last year, photo by Moises Castillo/AP via Washington Post. You may have missed the story, as I did. Ivan Velásquez is a Colombian human rights and anti-corruption activist who has served since 2013 as head of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala, and this is a demonstrator protesting against it on behalf of President Jimmy Morales, who, like many presidents, dislikes being investigated, and announced in August that he was canceling the commission's mandate, while "surrounded by soldiers and police, a powerful image in a country that endured four decades of brutal military governments before transitioning to democracy in 1997. Meanwhile, a column of Jeeps — some with roof-mounted machine guns — rolled through the city, pausing at the CICIG and passing the U.S. Embassy and homes of human rights activists, according to news reports and videos". Supported by people like the demonstrator in the photo and celebratory firecrackers. The Trump administration responded by sending the Guatemalan defense ministry 38 more J-8 Jeeps, which disturbed Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), then ranking member and now chair of the House Foreign Relations Committee: "It is difficult to understand how such a transfer would be made without a resolution of the threatening action by the Guatemalan government against U.S. personnel on Aug. 31." While people who run away from Guatemala because President Morales refuses to protect them are treated as criminals by CBP at the Mexico-US border. And the president of the US who indulges Guatemalan corruption this way isn't so indulgent to the population and cuts off humanitarian aid because he's having a temper tantrum. 

A little more of that colloquy I posted earlier: what led up to the "white nationalist" debacle, on the issue of hate speech:

He didn't mean Jews or Democrats. And he's consciously dehumanizing, like it's moral choice he's proud of, which shocks me a little, and I'm pushing back:

And that's where they got too enraged to carry on in any way—for vocabulary reasons, because they don't know what "white nationalist" means in the common vocabulary, and it sounds on the one hand like a completely natural identity ("I'm white and I'm a nationalist" equals "I love my country") and on the other hand when they see criticism of white nationalists in the usual sense like Bannon and Miller it's people who are expressing their irrational nativist fears that they can't be talked out of (unless, like Nancy Reagan and the stem cells, they are stuck in something like a foxhole with a brave Guatemalan who teaches them about their common humanity etc. etc. like in an uplifting movie, and I bet in real life that doesn't work more than half the time either). These are people who are making themselves into bad people, unconsciously, and more from fear than malevolence, and you can see how tender I was trying to be with them toward the end there, how like a kindly Methodist pastor really, and you saw in the earlier post what a horrible place it ended up in.

If I try to divide them from Bannon and Miller—you're regular guys like I grew up with and they're Nazis—they don't believe me because in fact they agree with Bannon and Miller in some inarticulate  way (I want to say "primitive" or "atavistic" because now I'm starting to dehumanize too, I can't sustain the niceness all day), so they're merely insulted; and they're right. I don't know what to do except wait for them to die in their terror and bitterness. Nothing good is going to happen with them other than by chance.

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