Categories
Commentary Opinion

Government of the People

Embedded in our declaration of independence is the principle that we the people hire the government to protect our lives and our property. In a sense, we employ the men and women in public offices: the elected officials and everyone else. They all work for us.

Governments are instituted by us says our own magna carta. Those public entities in charge derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, us, so we may be able to seek life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

In today’s United States of America that inherent right of the people has been progressively usurped from us, as the folks that we hired to run the joint have become less of an employee and more of an owner. That cannot be. We the people are the ones in charge.

Therefore, let it be known that henceforth, no scoundrel, no circus barker, no reality TV showman, no liar, no fake rich man and his beholden flock or a scum bag anointed by special interests, will be allowed to lead our nation. Nor will we allow others of his kind (like those making their dwelling in the halls of congress), to try to curtail the rights that are inherent to us.

We are the people. We’re the employers of everyone in government; we’re the ones who hired them and can fire them. And if they do wrong, we will do just that. Unless, of course, they decide to mend their evil ways and trek back to the place selected for them by our founding fathers. So they can begin to serve the people again. The way it was supposed to be at the beginning.

 

AUTHOR: Pedro Chávez

Categories
Commentary Tales

President Trump: A One-Man Wrecking Crew

 

IMAGE: A street in New York, sometime in the winter of 2019. Themexicannextdoor art by Rebeka Schoffer.

 

NOTE: This tale of an imaginary world with Trump as President was first published on November 7, 2016, a day before the general election. Some facts have changed, but the probability of an ominous future still looms.

 

A TALE OF A PRESIDENT GONE BERSERK

It was the winter of 2019. Donald Trump had already been the president of the United States for close to three years. But he was about to be impeached, in absentia, because he was nowhere to be found. For more than a year he had been trying to run the country from a hiding place through members of his family and a few underlings. Most people thought he was in New York, in some underground tunnels. It was believed too, though it was mostly hearsay, that he feared for his life and that the paranoid traits that he had shown during the presidential campaign were nothing compared to the psychological mess that he had become. He suffered a severe mental disorder, some close anonymous associates mentioned to the press. His speech and his behavior, they added, were disorganized and he was often the subject of delusions and hallucinations.

Trump had won the presidency because of a fluke. Although early on in the campaign he lagged behind his opponent, Hillary Clinton, on different national polls and was not projected to win the election in November of 2016, he won it in a bizarre way. Though Clinton won the national popular vote and Trump won many key states, neither one received the 270 Electoral College votes required to be elected president. Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, who won a small state as a third party nominee, can probably be blamed for the fluke.

Due to the lack of a majority of electoral votes for any of the candidates, the House of Representatives decided the selection of the president. Members of that legislative body voted for Trump just a few days prior to the January 20, 2017 oath of office ceremony in Washington, DC. Three months after he became president, those in the House that sided with Trump wished they had not done so.

President Trump quickly became a one-man wrecking crew, at home and abroad. On the same day that he took the oath of office, he signed his first executive order, ending the nation’s participation in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). A day later, Trump ordered the dismantling of the Affordable Care Act. Other executive orders followed quickly.

Without consulting with Congress or the Pentagon, he broke ties with NATO and ordered the complete pullout of American troops from the European theatre. A few days later Trump signed an order to also pull out troops from many strategic outposts in the Pacific Rim and the Asian theatre. The Defense Department generals were flabbergasted.

“America will no longer pay for the defense of other nations,” said President Trump on a tweet.

Congress immediately filed suits in federal courts to stop some of the actions called for by the stream of executive orders. Sadly, before any court could issue stays on key defense related matters, American troops began to arrive to the mainland from their worldwide military bases. Those soldiers, along with thousands and thousands of dependents, quickly overwhelmed most military installations in the United States. Once those domestic defense posts were filled to capacity, soldiers and their families were forced to live in hotels and other temporary quarters.

To make matters worse, the schools that served those bases were also overwhelmed by the needs of the newcomers. Because there were not enough classrooms for all the new students, many of those dependent children had to be bused to schools in far away districts. It was a mess.

The biggest problem related to this redeployment of troops had to do with finding work for all those unneeded soldiers, airmen, and sailors. There were no chores for them to do and instead of dedicating their time to doing what they had learned during their military careers, they passed the hours of the day doing nothing. Eventually, some of them were used to work in mess halls and military hospitals or other service oriented facilities, putting out of work the civilians that had previously done those jobs.

By the end of the third month of being immersed in this boondoggle, Trump signed an executive order to cut the size of the military by half. Congress stopped him, though. That body of government was able to get a stay of execution from the courts, postponing, in a way, the reduction in force. Most troops, however, still lived off base, in temporary shelters. The civilians whose jobs were now being done by servicemen, were mostly unemployed or scratching a living with the meager income derived from doing odd jobs. Some survived off the benefits of unemployment insurance.

THE CHINA SYNDROME

During his second week as president, Trump announced that all trade deals with China would be abrogated immediately, although some clauses in the agreements did not allow for the instantaneous cancelation of those pacts. He followed his announcement with an executive order revoking all previous trade accords with the world’s second largest economy. He also warned American companies that all products imported from China would be subject to newly created tariffs.

Though most Americans were beginning to get used to Trump’s capriciousness, his arbitrary tendencies, and the inordinate number of executive orders signed on an almost everyday basis, the abrogation of all China deals was seen as an ominous sign by corporate America. They would not allow such irresponsible mandates to take place, leaders of many global companies said.

By the beginning of March 2017, relations with China had already derailed and were heading towards a point of no return. The Asian nation was caught off guard; its leaders had believed that Trump’s bombastic presidential campaign messages about trade and other matters were just part of the showman’s scheme to attract support for his make America great promise.

In an act of retaliation for the trade actions, China began to demand the immediate repayment of the $1.5 trillion debt owed to that Asian nation, mainly by the U.S. federal government. Trump balked and stated through a tweet that the terms of all of America’s debt would be analyzed and more than likely would be renegotiated with all the lenders.

As accusations and unrelenting allegations were heard from the leaders of both nations, China’s economy continued to unravel. It had already been suffering from a series of adjustments prior to Trump shutting off most trade with that country, but the convoluted situation became worse once thousands of its factories were forced to stop production. Workers were laid off and soon began to feel the outrageous pains of an economy gone bad. To make matters worse, China, the communist nation that for decades had flirted with capitalism, did not have viable mechanisms in place to deal with an economic downturn. The precarious condition was further thrown into a downward spiral by civil discontent and unending violent unrest.

THE RUSSIAN BEAR AWAKENS

Once the United States completed its military pullout from NATO, Vladimir Putin’s Russia began to flex its warmongering muscle and again threatened the old continent and its balance of power. Russia’s push to regain strongholds in past Soviet nations, though, were immediately met by strong opposition from Western Europe. It responded by forming a new defense pact that united most nations, including France and Great Britain. It wasn’t a strong union, but it was good enough to eventually nip Russia’s thirst for power and continental hegemony in the bud. Putin was told in an ultimatum that there would be serious consequences if Russia continued its belligerent push in the continent.

Putin answered back claiming that his country’s new generation of nuclear missiles nicknamed “Satan 2”, could wipe out Western Europe on a heartbeat. But, it was a bluff that didn’t work. Vladimir was told with few words that the new continental union was ready to preemptively launch a nuclear attack against Russia if it was deemed necessary. “We’re ready to die to preserve our liberty,” the leaders of the new European defense union said in a statement.

The threat worked and Putin halted for the time being his belligerent actions in the European theatre. It was a sort of new détente, similar to the one forged by the world’s two superpowers during the Cold War. In an unspoken way, Russia would be allowed to practice its warmongering in other parts of the world as long as those actions did not affect the interests of the nations in the new European union.

Taking advantage of the absence of America’s military presence in the Middle East and Africa, Putin decided to direct his military quests in those regions instead. He partnered with one Arab nation after another, promising security, peace and wealth for the region, while placing in harm’s way the lives of hundreds of thousands of Russian soldiers. By early 2019, Putin and a few Machiavellian Arab dictators managed to exterminate most revolutionary combatants, including all ISIS forces. But millions of innocent people also died, some of them caught in the crossfire, others annihilated by the ruthless new rulers of the region.

Bitten by the bug of waging war and building strategic global outposts, Russia decided to continue its military undertakings in Northern Africa. It was a natural choice for Putin. It was next to the Middle East, it had oil, and was basically defenseless. The area would also, Vladimir thought, provide a vantage point for Russia to eventually conquer the rest of the world.

But he had forgotten about taking care of something very important: The home front. Russians were turning on him. The masses of parents of the thousands of soldiers who had come home in coffins from foreign wars had had enough of Vladimir Putin. Times weren’t good either. While he was waging war and looking for global hegemony, his country’s economy was falling apart. Self imposed isolationism and decreased commercial international trade had taken its toll on Russia and its people. Just like other rapacious and predatory warmongers found in the annals of world history, Putin failed miserably in his attempt for world dominance and as political leader. A few days before he was supposed to land troops in Africa, he was deposed as president of the Russian Federation.

Once Putin was gone, Russia, the old bastion of communism and former head of the Soviet empire, had become a house of cards. Though the nation had once had a large economy, it lacked the nuts and bolts that provide the checks and balances in a capitalist world. It spent too much on defense efforts and weaponry and very little on finding ways to create jobs and feed its people. On top of that, the country was jam-packed with swindlers and corrupt government officials that stole the people’s money at every turn. It was a sad time in Russia. And just like in China, violent civil unrest kept sinking the nation into an apocalyptic total destruction.

THE CANADA-MEXICO AND LATIN AMERICAN ALLIANCE

The dissolution of NAFTA became a blessing in disguise for Mexico, Canada and a host of Latin American nations. Soon after Trump announced that the United States would no longer participate in the North America Free Trade Agreement, Canadian and Mexican representatives met to find ways to continue to work together as trading partners. They were later joined by envoys of global companies that were already involved in doing business in Mexico and Canada. An agreement was soon reached and by the middle of the summer of 2017, those initial talks had evolved into an innovative and visionary plan that included creating jobs in Latin America and growing viable consumer markets in many of its countries.

Like all plans that offer much, but deliver little, the deal reached in that first attempt to partner with a group of nations that until then had been overlooked, was at first sight nothing more than a utopian dream. But once put in place, it wasn’t really so. The plan made sense and offered a rational strategy to attain long-term economic growth. It also offered a welcome ray of hope and enticed the minds and vigor of millions of people of a vast continent who were fully committed to work hard and judiciously to make the arrangement successful.

Like most strokes of luck, the plan was the result circumstances and timing. Mexico and Canada had to find a way to continue the economic growth afforded by NAFTA. American multinationals had to find ways to serve other markets in case the U.S. economy went south under Trump. Most of the global corporate entities that participated in the meetings already had a manufacturing presence in Mexico. They knew the ropes and understood well the opportunities at hand.

Just like planned, a year later a consortium of large construction companies was plowing through the Darien jungles, building a highway that would for the first time connect the north with the south of the American continent. To build the road, the consortium used local labor and provided opportunities to local professionals with the appropriate know how and others from the local labor force, so they could benefit from the project. It was a win-win plan.

To insure safety for the visiting workers, the manufacturing plants and other workplaces, Mexico and other Latin American countries in the compact allowed the creation of a private security police force. It was made up of professionally trained officers from all the participating nations in the alliance. Just six months after its inception, crime in most countries decreased and took a turn for the better.

By the beginning of the year 2019, economic growth in Mexico and some nations in Central America had done so well that many of the undocumented immigrants in the Unites States had decided to go back to their places of birth. Jobs were blooming in those countries. It made no sense to live in the shadows in America anymore.

SOUTH KOREA TAKES ON THE NORTH, CHINA AND RUSSIA

Once Trump’s America left South Korea to fend for itself, the nut case that led North Korea, Kim Jong-un, decided to escalate his threats to the nation to the south. He launched rockets into the ocean and repeatedly made claims of having nukes that could destroy many nations along the western end of the Pacific Rim. Those were old threats and shows of force that the United States had not in the past countered with ultimatums or actions for fear of upsetting China or Russia. South Korea, however, now that it was left to defend itself, decided to do something about the ongoing threat from the kid-turned-dictator from the north.

Fortunately, South Korea already had an operational squadron of Lockheed Martin F-35 Lighting II fighter planes. It had received the first shipment of those advanced air and ground superiority supersonic aircraft a few months before Trump decided to pull American troops from that country. They were stealth planes with leading edge technology that could help them penetrate the most well guarded sites of any country on earth. South Koreans were proud of having such planes at their disposal and were ready to use them if needed. As mentioned before, unlike the United States, South Korea decided to neutralize the child-dictator from the north.

Less than a month after U.S. forces left the country, South Korea was ready to invade the north and capture Kim Jong-un dead or alive. It hired mercenaries, mostly former U.S. Navy seals trained for such missions, and an array of professional (former) soldiers with only one objective in mind: get the job done. It also employed the services of battle planners from different countries whose skills in military secret operations had been well documented in the annals of such undertakings.

On the day South Korea was about to launch its mission to find Kim Jung-un, it sent a message to both China and Russia. The missive was explicit. “We’re in our way to destroy all missile sites in North Korea and capture that nation’s leader dead or alive. If we perceive that you’ve decided to try to stop us from our objective, we are ready to destroy you, too. We have several fighter airplanes heading your way with nuclear bombs on board.”

The statement about having nukes was true. American forces had left the south in such haste, after being ordered to do so by Trump, that they had decided to retrieve all nuclear bombs from their guarded shelters at a later date. With the help of experts from third countries, South Korea was able to figure out how to enable the bombs for possible detonation.

The mission was successful. Neither Russia or China intervened. Both nations had been caught off guard and had given little validity to the messages sent by South Korea. A day later, however, Kim Jong-un was securely locked up in a cell in the south. It was believed that all weapons and all the military installations in the north had been completely destroyed. As the poem says, there was joy in Mudville that day. In the south and in the north.

APOCALYPSE NOW

In less than three years after taking the oath of office, Donald Trump had turned a great country into a third world nation. The United States and its people were desperately looking for a way out of their misery. The nation was in complete disarray, leaderless and out of control. The economy was in shambles. Jobs were scarce, the soup lines of yesteryear (of the Great Depression) were present again. The affluent society of yore was gone.

America the beautiful, the great, had also become a rats’ nest, a place for thieves and scoundrels that preyed on the have-nots and the weak. The safe country of the old days had disappeared. Most people lived in fear, behind bars in their own homes. It was worse in the streets.

The do-nothing Congress that had plagued the country with inaction for years was still an impotent legislative body of government. Though it claimed it tried, it had been wistfully unable to stop President Trump from ruining the country. Instead of protecting the people from the malicious actions of a president gone berserk, the scoundrels in Congress acted in hideous ways, shunning their responsibilities.

There was no hope in sight. Company after company had already left the country for other places and so had millions of jobs and millions of people. Some went to Europe, others to Canada and even to Mexico. The nation was done.

The reality TV showman from New York who had promised to make America great again, had run the country into the ground.

 

Categories
Commentary Opinion

Lessons from Our Children

IMAGE: César Chávez, in the center, during a march in the summer of 1981, protesting the use of certain pesticides in the agricultural fields. The march began in French Camp and ended in Stockton, California’s McKinley Park. Photo by Pedro Chávez.

 

NOTE: I wrote this commentary in April 2006, right after hundreds of thousands of students throughout many cities in the nation walked out of classrooms to protest the language in a congressional bill meant to address immigration reform. This piece was at that time published in Enlace, the San Diego Union-Tribune’s Spanish and English weekly. This is a slightly edited version of that article.

 

    *  *  *

We’ve opened our eyes, César. Our kids opened them for us. It’s amazing! It almost seems as if they had actually listened to your advice.

Remember? During the marches, when you used to tell us to stick together and peacefully go to the rancher’s office to ask for a raise and for better working conditions? And to go into his office and sit on the floor until he agreed to talk to us and discuss our grievances? And that if we were thrown out of his place, to peacefully return as a group and to again try to talk to the rancher? As many times as necessary until he agreed to listen to us?

I know that you remember what you told us, César. That was the message that you repeated over and over again during all those marches that I walked with you in the Central Valley. I remember your words well.

And you know something? That’s in a way what our kids did recently when they walked out of their schools to tell a nation bent on calling us criminals that a proposed immigration reform act passed by Congress was wrong. They exercised their rights to peacefully assemble and petition the government, César. Amazing kids. Did you advise them from the ever after? Something tells me you did.

Do you remember, too, that story you used to tell us at the end of the marches about that young boy, a farm worker’s son, that was selling his just-days-old puppies outside a field somewhere along the San Joaquín Valley? That story about the power of knowledge and about a young child who knew how to negotiate and leverage the value of his product to get a better price for it? Remember?

I’m sure you do. You know, the story about that rancher, the one who stopped at the intersection just before his land where the young farm worker’s son had posted a sign announcing puppies for sale at one dollar each. You remember it, right?

I’ve never forgotten the story, César. It had a great message for me and I will never forget it. But, just in case you – and others – have forgotten it, here’s the ending, trying to quote the actual words you used, but warning you beforehand that there could be some inconsistencies in my choice of words. With the passing of time, my ability to remember your exact words is somewhat difficult.

“Two weeks after having seen the puppies for the first time,” you would tell us, “the rancher again stopped at the intersection and noticing that the boy still had three of the dogs for sale, he parked his truck, got out, and walked towards the area where the puppies were running around and playing with each other in a large cardboard box.”

Next to them, you would explain, there was a new sign announcing: “Choose your puppy. Only three left. $5 each.”

As the rancher noticed the new asking price, you would continue, he complained, questioning the new cost.

“Two weeks ago the puppies were only a dollar,” the rancher told the child. “Today you’re selling them for five. How can you justify such drastic rise in price?”

“It’s because the puppies already opened their eyes, sir,” the boy replied.

We’ve opened our eyes, too, César. Thanks to our children and to the things they did when they decided to en masse leave their classrooms to protest the things those congressmen and others are saying about us. They are calling us criminals, César. Just because we come here to work.

But, we’re not criminals. And just like our children did, we are going to follow your repeated advice. We’re going to march again and we’re going to walk through the streets of this nation to remind others that we have rights, too. Again, following your advice, we’re going to stick together and walk peacefully.

We’re also going to ask our children to go back to school. To get an education, so they may have the tools to succeed. And so their children and the children of their children may have a voice in government.

The fight is ours now, César. It belongs to the adults. But, we’re not going to let our kids down. We are going to fight for our rights and we’re going to demand respect from those in government. We won’t let them to call us criminals again. We will do it peacefully, just like you taught us, César.

Of course, we’re never going to forget that the student walkouts and the subsequent marches through our cities were the events that provided the needed sparks to light up the new phase of our struggle. The unfinished fight we had forgotten.

Our kids did it, César. Sí se pudo.

 

April 2006

 

Categories
Commentary Opinion

Trump, Old Yellowstain and the Strawberries

 

Couldn’t help myself reminiscing about a scene in Edward Dmytryk’s 1954 film “The Caine Mutiny” and comparing it to an unhinged moment in the life of The Donald, the presidential candidate. I have to admit beforehand that I am a Humphrey Bogart fan and that his acting in the “Caine” film was near thespian perfection as he brilliantly played the part of Captain Queeg. His testimony during the fictional court martial was truly Shakespearean. He was good, even better than in his portrayal of Rick Blaine in “Casablanca,” the best movie ever according to me.

In the “Caine” film, Queeg, the “battle fatigued” captain of a former destroyer turned into a minesweeper during WW II, displays definite signs of paranoia as he testifies on the stand during the proceedings. It’s a scene that I will never forget because of the great acting done by Bogart. That Freudian moment came to mind again as Trump was being interviewed by CNN reporter Jake Tapper a couple of months ago. Sometime during the conversation, when The Donald is asked about the Trump University lawsuit, he responded that a judge of Mexican heritage could not be fair because of his ethnic background and because he (Trump) was going to build a wall between the United States and Mexico once he took office.

“I’m building a wall, I’m building a wall,” he kept saying. “I’m building a wall, okay. I’m building a wall. I’m trying to keep business out of Mexico,” he continued as he was asked whether race could get in the way as the judge did his job.

As I observed that satirical, but ominous scene play on the small screen, I couldn’t help myself. I cringed. For a fraction of a moment a sinister thought invaded my mind. What if this deranged prime-time reality showman gets elected to lead our nation? After all, it could happen. A cold sweat invaded me and covered my body from head to toe. Luckily, the apocalyptic vision went away soon. There was no way that such a clown would ever become president of the United States, I told myself.

Then again, we might all be in for a big surprise. Think of all the white only nuts and uneducated white trash that follow The Donald. Think also about what the media has done to build and thrust Trump and his dogged waxed wings towards the sun. So far he has survived not only the solar heat, but the hubris thrown at him by his own self, as he continues to draw praise from many Americans that still hallucinate about the good old days (when people of color in this country were considered lesser human beings).

There is no doubt, the Trump presidential nomination has revealed a latent slice of America once covered up by political correctness and decency. In a way, The Donald has awakened the smoldering haters in this nation of freedom and justice for all. In so many ways he has unbridled the chickens. I’m telling you, that gone berserk chunk of the citizenry has come home to roost.

During his testimony in the film, Captain Queeg mentions how he’s being belittled by his men. They call him “Old Yellowstain” and steal his strawberries. They also laugh about him behind his back.

In his run to win the hearts of disgruntled Americans and the presidency, Trump continually complains about the unfairness of the press and those that do not cater to his poisonous mantra. He’s a crybaby.

The fictional Captain Queeg didn’t cry to get his way, he was just paranoid about this and that. But not so Trump. Just like most spoiled brats, he’s always blaming others for his own shortcomings. He’s also a nut case.

You know, he’s “building a wall, building a wall.” And Mexicans are gonna pay for it.

 

AUTHOR: Pedro Chávez

 

 

Categories
Commentary Opinion

The Lure for Cheap Labor

PHOTO: Mexican worker in the service industry. iStock Images.

 

There are tons of Americans that complain about the undocumented immigrants and their presence in this country. They want them to go back to where they came from. Basically, they want to get rid of the masses of people doing the work most folks in our affluent nation won’t do, the cheap labor that fattens the bottom lines of a great chunk of corporate America.

Politicians pandering to those Americans parrot the cry. It’s crazy.

My question is, if those farfetched wishes were by some fluke become reality, where would we get the workers to replace the undocumented? From main street America? From the inner cities? From Africa? The Middle East?

Ten, maybe twelve million immigrants are living in the shadows in America today. Many of them are Mexicans. They are here, but they lead a clandestine existence. They’re here filling the labor needs of our country, but they are denied many of the simple things we take for granted.

In most states, they cannot get something as essential as a driver’s license. They still drive, though. They’re also denied a social security number, but they still work and some pay into the plan. In many cases, the undocumented figure out a way to come forth with the documents needed to verify their right to work in the United States.

If there’s a will, there’s a way.

In some cases, employers get around the requirement to verify employment eligibility by contracting those labor needs with third parties, shifting the verification responsibility to others. The scheme works in an array of ways. That’s how malls get cleaned or cars washed at auto dealerships in the part of the country where I live. That’s also how a lot of construction chores or other work gets done. The undocumented mow lawns, wash cars, lay carpet, install wood floors, put up fences, or climb on top of homes to repair or build roofs.

Contrary to popular belief, they also pay taxes, in different ways. They indirectly pay property taxes when they rent a home or pay them directly if buying one. They pay sales taxes and pay more taxes when they buy gas for their cars or pay their phone bills. Since many of them use bogus social security numbers, they’ll never be able to collect a dime from the Social Security Administration or get the benefits of Medicare. They pay into it, but will get nothing from it.

It’s good for the social security fund, though.

The undocumented work hard, too. Some have two, sometimes three jobs. A full-time and a part-time job during the week and another part-time on weekends. Because of the meager wages most get, they usually need more than one job to provide for themselves and their families.

Although many jingoist Americans will never accept this fact, the undocumented add wealth to the U.S. economy. The value of the services and products created by their work increases the total amount of our gross domestic product. When the undocumented spend part of their earnings on certain products and services, they again help increase the value of our nation’s gross domestic product.

There is no doubt; America is a wealthier nation because of the contributions to the economy made by our brothers and sisters living in the shadows. Yet, some folks want them deported, to pull them from their roots and send them back to their countries of origin. It’s sad.

One part of America has lured them here with work, but another part, the one that doesn’t understand the paradigm, wants them to go away.