Categories
Commentary Opinion

Perilous Times, The End Could Be Near

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

 

It is so “1984,” so “Brave New World,” so Nazi Germany. In a way, it’s also “The end is near,” the end of times, Armageddon. But a good chunk of Americans don’t see it that way. They liked what the reality TV showman said before he was elected president and continue to like what he says now. It’s stuff that talks to their core angst, their turbid idiosyncrasies. They also like his bravado, his tough pulpit talk, his trashing of a world they do not fully understand and the subliminal promise for America to return to the way it was when mostly white men ran the joint. His followers hope to soon go back to those days, the good old days.

They like Trump, his Hitler-like charisma, and his disparaging talk about people of color. They also like his dictator-like pseudo qualities and approve of his pursuit to legislate by executive order. They like him, there is no doubt, because they don’t know any better. They’re just ignorant Trump ditto heads. On the other hand, that blind allegiance, which is constantly being fomented by Trump’s incendiary tweets and live comments, is dangerously helping propel our nation into lawlessness. It’s scary.

Many on the Trump camp are okay with his constant lying, too, and his cheating and his alternative reality. Or with his own kind of “newspeak” and “doublethink.” They’re also okay with his caging of the children of asylum seeking immigrants or with his attempts to do away with due process in our legal system. They openly support his “big brother” approach to running the government and his fondness for ruthless dictators from distressed nations. Trump is the ditto heads hero, there is no doubt. They don’t really realize it, but they’re helping destroy America. America the beautiful.

Donald J. Trump, the forty-fifth president of the United States, however, is no hero. Not to me, anyway. He’s a bum. The known facts speak for themselves. Besides being a sociopath and a liar, Trump doesn’t care about anyone but himself. He’s also a narcissist. He loves attention and adulation. He demands trust from those around him, but he trusts no one. My take is that if he were to have a dog, he wouldn’t trust the pet. Trump has no real friends, either, just the convenient type. The dog, if he had one, would be his friend though. Dogs are true friends.

Of course, the psychological quirks of Donald Trump wouldn’t matter much, unless one had a business or personal relationship with him and that stuff got in the way. Unfortunately, his equanimity or lack thereof, is important to all of us, not only in this nation, but throughout the world. Being the president of the most powerful country on the planet requires a great amount of levelheadedness. Trump doesn’t have it and has proven it by his actions on the international stage. He has antagonized our traditional allies and has acted recklessly while dealing with important matters of international stature. He has gone back on his word and has thrown our world’s friends under the proverbial bus. Trump is an idiot, if you were to ask me. No wonder the former secretary of state Rex Tillerson called him “a moron.”

And that is the big problem. A moron is in charge of our nuclear arsenal and our military. Based on what he has done on complex matters, which he mostly doesn’t truly understand, things like trade tariffs and international commerce, how soon will it be before the moron in charge launches an unnecessary warlike action against some country, maybe a nuke, just to satisfy his narcissistic needs?

It’s scary, as I said before.

 

AUTHOR: Pedro Chávez

Categories
Commentary Opinion

Justice Will Be Done; America Will Survive

NEW YORK CITY: Republican candidate for president Donald Trump. iStock photo.

 

Ours is not just a nation of republicans and democrats, of red and blue states, or of conservatives and liberals. Ours is a bastion of freedom for all of the people. Also of self-government and justice for all — a country in which those that call this place home can say it’s theirs. Ours, too, is a democratic experiment founded on the principle that government is instituted by us, we the people, to help us secure our unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Our nation, however, is being thrust into an unknown abyss by the trials and tribulations brought forth by a man that has broken most rules of civility and continues to speak to a political base brimming with the ignorant and the misinformed. To win the election, he tricked middle of the road, disheartened voters into believing in him, asserting that he would drain the swamp in the nation’s capital. He followed his circus barker act with raw words that negatively touched and inflamed the inner fears of a lot of Americans.

But his cataclysmic show was not performed alone; the gone-berserk, “if it bleeds, it leads” media helped him. They gave him TV coverage, newsprint inches, and bytes and bits. They unabashedly devoted resources and time covering the uncultured, vulgar, and hatred-filled rhetoric spewed by candidate Donald Trump. The media, in its quest to grab eyes and ears for their outlets, made it easier for him to enlarge his base, tapping into the undecided and those tired of politics-as-usual.

Now that he’s won, most media joints have reversed course, tracking and smelling the drops of blood from an administration saddled with one scandal after another and led by a man incapable of acting the part. We, Americans, did it, though; we put him there. So we must now live with him, unless he breaks the law and Congress has the guts to impeach him.

Judging by the colossal stature previously projected by some of America’s most prominent presidents, the current leader of our nation is off the chart. On the minus side. During his recent trips abroad he has drawn a mini shadow, a meaningless dot on the world stage, a caricature of the way it was. He has confirmed to our now ambivalent allies that America is being led by a buffoon, a visionless, unprepared, childish, and spoiled brat. Of course, he’s more than that: he’s also a modern tale of trickery and deceit, a “Trump in Boots,” a snake oil salesman who’s gone too far with his lies, his cure-all potions, and his pettiness.

But some folks are still sticking by him, mainly his uneducated base and some Grand Old Party timid souls supposedly representing all of the people in Congress. Most of those political animals, by the way, have also grown a diminished shadow on their own stages as they try to cover up for their party leader or pretend that nothing is wrong at our nation’s floundering executive hall. The GOP has lost its soul.

We, the people, though, will right the ship. We will do it together without regard to political leanings or openness of minds. And just as in the past, America will survive and go forth, pained, but stronger.

Soon after we correct our calamitous detour from what is right, we will regain our stature and our leadership status in the world, a place that many nations in the planet have for a long time expected from us. We will survive; it is our promise. As a nation and as people bound by the principles that we inherited from our founding fathers.

 

AUTHOR: Pedro Chávez

 

Categories
Commentary Stories

Virtual Fence, a Border Tale

IMAGE: Border patrolman opens gate to a dirt road next to the Mexico-United States border fence.

 

NOTE: The following piece is one of several fiction stories that I called “Border Tales” when they were first written. I began creating them in 2006. The topics are based on events that were current at that time. Unfortunately, the problems aired then are still with us today. The writing is based on real dilemmas that affect us all. It is work of fiction. Names, characters, places, events and incidents are products of my imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

 

VIRTUAL FENCE

National City, California. Circa 2006.

 

“Why do you say it’s not a real fence?” asked Carlos.

“Because it isn’t,” answered Jeff, an agent with the Border Patrol. “It’s just a virtual fence, you know, a sort of make-believe fence that is real, but it isn’t.”

“Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Make believe? Real, but not real? C’mon man!” Carlos still did not understand what Jeff was talking about.

“Ok, Carlos,” Jeff replied. “I said sort of make believe. I should’ve said a fence that is there, but it’s not really physically there.”

“You mean, like an invisible fence?” Carlos asked.

“Yes, that’s it, like an invisible fence,” Jeff replied. “But one that will help us stop illegals from crossing the border.”

Both Jeff and Carlos lived in an apartment complex on the east end of National City, not too far from the San Diego-Tijuana border. The people that rented the apartments were mostly connected with the Navy or the Border Patrol. The proximity to the military installations and the border area made it convenient for them to live there.

“I think I get it, now,” Carlos said. “The fence is not really a fence; it’s really a line on the ground telling people not to cross it. You know? A line, like those imaginary and invisible lines we used to point to with our fingers to tell others not to cross them when we were kids?”

“And if they crossed them, we’d kick their butts,” Jeff corroborated. “Yeah, the virtual fence is basically the same thing, but on a much larger scale, of course.”

The fence that they were both discussing was, according to the government and other folks in favor of it, an electronic tracking mix of devices that was to be built along the Mexico-U.S. border to warn the border patrolmen of possible incursions of unidentified objects and people coming from Mexico. The ploy had been pushed by a number of congressmen and senators with close ties to government contractors who had built a number of these gadgets to be used in war operations. Some of the devices were judged to be at best faulty, after having been tested in actual war, but were still being described as cutting edge technology by the contractors and their insider allies – the spineless folks we often vote for to protect our rights and our money in the halls of the nation’s Capitol.

“So how does this virtual fence work?” Carlos asked.

“I don’t know for sure,” Jeff said, “because we don’t have it yet. But, from what I understand, once in place, the virtual border fence will track the illegals as they enter our territory.”

“For how long?” Carlos asked.

“For a little while,” Jeff replied. “But, hopefully, we’ll be able to catch them while they’re being tracked.”

“What if they get out of range from the tracking system or what if more illegals than you and your partners can catch come across at the same time? What do you do then?” Carlos continued his questioning, playing, as he often did, the Devil’s advocate.

“Then is business as usual,” said Jeff. “That’s what we do now when we’re overrun by too many crossers. We just catch as many as we can and hope that the rest can be caught later on at work sites.”

“You mean, during your show of force raids?” asked Carlos.

“Yeah, Carlos, during our workplace raids,” Jeff replied, sounding somewhat upset. “Yeah, the raids, the ones you call ‘chicken shit raping’ of your people.”

Carlos had been in the Navy for over three hitches and was currently assigned to a ship based at the 32nd Street Naval Base in National City. Originally from Mexico, Carlos was a naturalized U.S. citizen who hadn’t forgotten his roots or wasn’t afraid to rally for the rights of what he often called his brothers and sisters that crossed the border looking for work. While living at the apartment complex, he repeatedly discussed the issues affecting the undocumented with many of the border patrolmen that also lived there. During some of these discussions, sometimes under the influence of mind altering malts and spirits, Carlos had become acquainted with some the joys and fears that filled the cop-like minds of his green-uniformed neighbors. Most of the border patrolmen liked Carlos, though, especially those that praised the food that both he and his wife prepared for the weekly by-the-pool potluck parties. They also liked his sense of humor and his ability to deflate heated discussions with his timely one-liners.

“Okay, Jeff, I won’t mention the raids to you anymore,” said Carlos, displaying his usual disarming grin as he mimicked the arm movements that normally adorn a heartfelt hug. “That’s my virtual abrazo, Jeff,” he added.

Jeff laughed, but insisted on talking about the recent raids the Border Patrol had made on several day-laborer centers in San Diego. “It’s our job,” he said. “We need to show the illegals that we mean business.”

“You mean business as usual, right, Jeff?” Carlos told his friend. “You know, a few mean raids that scare our people half-to-death, as you guys, the enforcers, just go on with your own lives while most of those living in the shadows of what many call legitimacy, suffer from never-ending traumas caused by the ever present fear of not knowing when the next raid is going to come about. Right, Jeff?

“C’mon, Carlos, you’re getting too damned serious,” his neighbor replied.

“Serious? You damned right I’m serious! You’re killing my brothers and sisters, Jeff,” said Carlos. “With fear, with family separation, with uncertainty. Your actions are no different than those taken by our government during the Viet Nam war, when we dropped napalm and cluster bombs on innocent civilians, on children. Remember that little girl in that infamous photograph? That little Vietnamese girl that had to get rid of her napalm stricken clothes and ran naked away from her burning village? Remember? She was an innocent child. Remember her, Jeff?”

“I don’t. I’m too young. It happened before my time.”

“But, it happened, Jeff,” Carlos replied. “And there’s nothing virtual about that reality. Or about the Border Patrol raids and fear tactics I’m talking about. And all the other acts that you and your buddies carry out with the excuse of protecting our borders. They’re real, Jeff. And just as bad as what our government did in Viet Nam.”

“Why are you so serious today, Carlos?” asked Jeff. “What happened to your sense of humor?”

“My sense of humor?” Carlos replied.

“Just call it virtual, just like your fence. It’s there, but it’s not really there.”

 

AUTHOR: Pedro Chávez

 

Categories
Commentary Opinion

Heartbreaking Time in America

 

Friday, January 20, 2017, borrowing from FDR’s enduring words, shall also be “a date which will live in infamy.” On that day, a reality television showman, a snake oil salesman who promoted himself by tapping into the hidden rancor of the ignorant voter, the uninformed, will become the next president of the United States.

The date will be a heartbreaking time in America. For me, for many others. It will also be the beginning of an era that shall forever blemish our tradition of being a place for all of the people and a beacon of hope for the world’s masses seeking to breathe free. The nation founded on the principles of justice for all and the belief that all men and women are created equal, will be forever tarnished by the unhinged decisions of a tendentious, petty and know nothing leader.

Judging by his previous and current statements and actions, his presidency will test the American Union’s aged, but until now sound system of checks and balances; a blueprint that has held our nation together for more than two hundred and forty years. But if the majority in the three branches of government is soon anchored by followers of the party that nominated the president-elect, that time-tested scheme might falter.

America the beautiful, for sure, will flounder under the rule of a man who claims that only he knows how to fix the flaws in our government. That no one else does.

Our country will suffer, there is no doubt. My ardent hope is that the elected representatives of the people and others in the halls of political power do not give in to the fastidious and authoritarian ways of the president to be. That they say no when required to a man that has demonstrated during the campaign trail and now that he knows little about the workings of government, at home or abroad.

I hope too that all Americans rise to the occasion and pressure Congress and the courts to protect us all from the potential machinations patented by a man who seems more comfortable picking fights on Twitter than in caring for the people he’s about to represent. A man whose track record paints him as someone who cares about no one except himself. One, too, that respects no one. Not women, not men, not the poor, the downtrodden. Not minorities, not the disabled, not our heroes.

The election of Donald Trump to be our president is an aberration, a quirk, and a great mistake. He was elected with less than the popular vote received by his main opponent, but had sufficient electoral votes to be declared the winner of the race. In a nation of laws we must respect that outcome and support the office of the presidency accordingly.

It doesn’t mean, however, that in my heart I must support a man better known for being a circus barker, a promoter of ill will, and a distorter of facts. A man who has claimed that a person of Mexican descent cannot be a fair judge just because he, candidate Trump, was going to build a wall between Mexico and the United States. No, I cannot support that person. In my heart it will always be:

Never, Never Trump.

 

AUTHOR: Pedro Chávez

 

Categories
Anecdotes Commentary

New York, New York

IMAGE: Visitors take photos with the charging bull during a cold day in Wall Street.

 

Going to New York in the middle of December was a no brainer to me. But not to my wife. She feared that Manhattan would be cold and miserable at that time of the year and was also afraid that all of us would get stuck in a small room with nothing to do and unable to do much outside because of snow and bad weather. She also worried about not returning home on time because of cancelled flights.

“I don’t know why we have to go there now,” she complained a few weeks before leaving.

Playing for change in Central Park

I wanted her, our twenty-something daughter, and me to experience the Christmas season in the city that never sleeps. I planned to show them around during such a special time. I had been in New York before on several occasions, for business; they had never been there.

It was a good thing that we all went. They both loved it. My wife hasn’t stopped talking about the trip with friends and family and she’s already planning to spend the New Year’s Eve celebration there next December.

Makes sense. We had a ball during our short, five-day visit to that magic, ethnically diverse and sophisticated metropolis. We were there from December twelve to the sixteenth. It was cold, no doubt, especially on the last two days of our stay, but it was fun. We had a fairytale kind of time there, quartered in a small, but cozy airbnb studio in the proximity of 53rd street and Second Avenue, living the life that mostly dreams provide. And near almost everything. On foot, on Uber or the subway.

Nani serving hot dogs and pretzels near Rockefeller Center.

Gotta hand it to airbnb for providing the means for finding economical and convenient lodging all over the globe. That alternative way of securing a place to stay works for me. Instead of having to pay a ton of money for a small, often smoke tainted room in some chain hotel in Manhattan, we got a nice studio near everything, with plenty room, a kitchen, a fridge, plates and wine glasses. And lots of coziness, for close to the same price.

The host, or perhaps the previous tenant, left a six-pack of beer in the fridge. That was nice. It feels good to down suds after a long flight and a ride from the airport.

New York, however, is not about spending your vacation time stuck in a room. The stay in it was good, though. While there, we had wine and cheese one night along with pizza. On another evening, we enjoyed Chinese take out and ramen from neighborhood joints. I was also sent out (by wife and daughter) to fetch breakfast, fresh morning bread and (on one night) microwavable popcorn from a CVS nearby.

We also ate out. It was fun. Pizza on the first night. Italian two days later. I know, we had too much of the same thing. But hey, that kind of chow is great in New York. It’s hard not to have it at least twice.

We did a lot during our visit. Our daughter was our guide. Young people are good at that, I must admit; all they need is a cell phone and the fingers to do the walking (much, much faster than in the old yellow pages days). It’s amazing; kids can find anything via those darn wireless and magically connected thingamajigs. She found restaurants, places of interest, transportation and much more just clicking on that phone. That’s why we were able to do a lot. Thank you daughter.

In just four days we managed to check mark many bucket list items, the must do things of life. Went to the Rock and up the 65th floor and from that vantage point got to admire the city’s skyline at night. I had a rum and coke at the bar of that place. Pricey, but worth every penny. My ears, by the way, are still popping from that quick rise in the Rock’s elevator. Just kidding.

Saw the NBC studio (from the outside) on our first night; it was being prepared for the following morning’s Today Show. That was fun too, especially for my wife. She bought a couple of pastries at the Bouchon Bakery right across the place. The next morning, while relaxing in our room, we noticed the notable bakeshop in the background in one of the scenes of that day’s show with Hoda and Kathie.

World Trade Center Memorial.

It was a great trip. We followed trail after trail in Central Park and walked quietly in the halls of the New York Public Library. Went to the Metropolitan Museum and were awed by its art collections from all over the world. Saw the Christmas Spectacular show performed by the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall. Spent an evening at Times Square. Visited stores and ate in small cafes, in the street. Saw the city; felt its vibrancy.

It was a happy time. It was also a time of reflection. On Thursday, the coldest day of our stay, we visited the World Trade Center Memorial. Seeing the names of the fallen carved on stones brought back memories of a time of despair and human suffering. But also of uncompromising resolute to move on and continue to fight for the ideals that have made this country a beacon of hope and freedom.

Statue of Liberty as viewed from the south of Manhattan.

After leaving the Memorial, we walked towards the south, past Wall Street’s charging bull, and to a small park next to the bay. From there we saw the Statue of Liberty. It was far away, but the silhouette was conspicuous. A great dame lifting her lamp welcoming the world’s people to New York and America.

 

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

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 Mexican Next Door

PHOTO: Farm workers picking peppers near Gilroy, California. Getty Images.

 

I am the Mexican next door. Next to your country, next to your home. To your office, your cubicle, your seat at school. Next to your parking space, your locker, your desk. The one that often speaks in Spanish and laughs loudly when needing to laugh and turns serious when it’s time to be serious.

I am the Mexican next door. Willing to work long hours in the fields, picking the fruit and vegetables that grow abundantly in the Southwest and other parts of this land: The United States of America, a beacon of freedom and a place blessed by the genius and purpose of its founders.

I am the Mexican next door. Working smartly to steal a living wage from a job that pays little, planting, growing and harvesting the crops we all need. Although you often tell me and others that you don’t want me here, I am, in a way, the one that makes the picking of crops happen and allows you to enjoy these treasures pulled from the bosom of our Earth for pennies on the dollar.

I do other work too, mostly menial, the tasks most Americans aren’t willing to do because they’re hard and shamelessly provide at best sordid wages. But, I’m not complaining, really. I am grateful for the work because I need it to support the family I left behind in Mexico. Things weren’t good there. Plain and simple.

I am the Mexican next door, at your favorite restaurant, busing tables, serving you, washing dishes, throwing out the garbage. Cooking. In many cities across this vast land. Washing your cars, cleaning your homes, mowing your lawns, maintaining your gardens. Helping you. Looking after your children. Feeding them, listening to them. Playing with them.

Like many men and women that have come to America before me, I hope that one day you will understand that I do not come to this land for a handout, but for an opportunity. I also hope that I am not treated as a lesser human being because I am not one. I come here to help you and to help myself and my family. I am an immigrant. Rising amongst the tempest tossed masses yearning to breathe free. I am the Mexican next door. Your neighbor, a human being like you. Your friend.

I hope that one day too you will understand that just like most other newcomers that have come here and have helped build this nation, I come here to do the same. I come to work, to thrive, and hopefully to continue to help shape the lofty future of America. And please understand that I will always be next to you: to your country, to your home, your workplace, and your future. I will always be there.

I am the Mexican next door.

 

Categories
Commentary Stories

The Trek North: Part Four

PHOTO: Fig tree with fruit. Getty Images.

 

It felt good having a place to stay and knowing that soon we were going to also have food to eat. We selected the house that was next to the entrance of the camp. They were all the same, though. It had an elevated large bedroom with a wooden floor and a small room with a dirt floor and open windows that served as a kitchen. It had a wood stove. There was a set of restrooms (for men and women) and showers in a small building in the center of the camp. They had running water. That was good, too. In Mexicali we had an outhouse and only cold water for the shower.

I don’t remember picking up figs and eating them that day, but we probably did. We were really hungry. Besides, there were lots of them all over the ground. Once settled in our new home, our dad and a couple of us went to the store. It was next to the railroad track, on Bullard Avenue, the same road that ran next to the camp. I remember it well. It was a narrow and straight road with miles and miles of fig trees planted on both sides.

The owner of the small store already knew about us. He told us what kind of stuff we could buy. We picked up a sack of flour, a large bag of pinto beans, potatoes, lard, eggs, butter, some meat, milk, and a few other things. The car still had fuel left, but our dad decided to top it off, just in case we needed it. Once back at the camp, our mother cooked beans, potatoes and meat and made a huge pile of tortillas. I think she used a long, empty glass bottle to roll the dough. Several of us helped.

We had an unforgettable meal that day. The food tasted great. Cooking on a wood stove in an open kitchen, among fig trees, gives food a peculiar flavor. Our mother prepared the beans the same way she had done it before in Mexico, but those beans had a particular scent to them. They were really good. The tortillas were good, too. I ate a lot of them. We all felt tired and full after the feast.

The week went by fast. We had a chance to explore the orchard and other areas close by. We ate a lot of figs and met others that arrived at the camp after we did. They were all Mexican. One family was from Brawley, in Imperial Valley; another one was from Coachella, but was made up of only the father and his four sons. The rest of that family stayed back home they said. Both groups had been coming to Figarden to pick figs for several seasons. At night they would get together and talk and play songs on their radios. I learned a lot about America from them.

On the first day of picking figs, the wife of the contractor joined us, working right along with us. She gave us tips on how to do the work efficiently. She was very nice and spoke some Spanish. She was about thirty, had blond hair and blue eyes. I was surprised to see someone like her involved in such hard work. Although we used ladders to reach the fruit in the trees, we spent part of the day bent down picking up the figs that had fallen on the ground.

I really liked the contractor’s wife; there was a welcoming quality to her. I asked her where she was from; I was curious. She said she was an “Arkie.” I didn’t know what that meant.

“From Arkansas,” she explained in Spanish.

Once we learned the ropes, she left us and wished us good luck. She was very nice. I will never forget her. I wish I could remember her name.

Categories
Commentary Opinion

2007 Message for Hillary, Barack

BAGHDAD, IRAQ: A group of US Army First Armoured Division soldiers survey the scene where a car bomb exploded in front of a hotel killing at least four people on January 28, 2004. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

NOTE: I wrote the following column sometime in July or August of 2007, and emailed it to Keven Ann Willey, who headed the editorial board at the Dallas Morning News. I was trying to land a gig as a columnist and opinion writer at the News at the time. It was one of two columns that I wrote to provide samples of my current news writing skills for her. I didn’t get the gig, but every time I run into this piece (in my computer files), I have a chance to tell myself that I was pretty much on target. I hope you agree. Here it is for your perusal.

Message for Hillary, Barack

The message that I repeatedly hear during your latest debates tells me that both of you, if elected to lead our country during the next four or more years, are ready to almost immediately begin to pull our troops from Iraq.

My suggestion: Don’t do it. Eventually, yes. But, not right away.

Just in case you aren’t aware, America is the de facto policeman of the world. We’ve been that in the past and we continue to be that today. And many civilized nations around the globe, the ones that would rather opt to look the other way than to face trouble, would like us to continue to be that forever. As long as it doesn’t affect them – or their political friends.

The world’s cop? That’s America. We went after the gig and we got it.

Of course, if you were to insist on your election rhetorical promises, I would like to add to my suggestion: Exit strategies are a bummer. Most of the time, it is the end of the line. A step in the unwanted direction, if you will. A save face kind of action. A statement: Our time has run out.

In everyday life, exit strategies are often the unexpected detours on the paths of good intentions. Failed business ventures, failed marriages. Failed relationships.

On the positive side, exit strategies are also built into plans of individuals and public or business entities to determine the next steps to be followed after a set of actions take place. Once such and such objectives are achieved, “I will look for another job,” might say the young, thriving manager seeking higher-level responsibilities. Once the goals of the new venture are met, “we will return to the drawing board to develop new ideas,” we might be told by the group working out of the box in a cutting edge corporation. The strategies are part of the plan. The next step is built into them. Success is the determining factor.

Not so with war. Unless we completely annihilate the enemy – which is not what civilized nations do in our modern, politically correct world – the victors are usually left holding a lose-lose bag of complications that were not anticipated. And there are no spoils. Only infrastructure that requires rebuilding. And destroyed relationships.

Towards the end of the Vietnam conflict, President Nixon and his advisors came up with “Peace with honor,” an exit strategy designed to help us save face as we gave in to the communist North. Within a few years, the South fell. Our former allies ended up with no peace, we ended up with no honor.

Turn the clock forward to Iraq. Shortly after the beginning of the current conflict there, we deposed Saddam. Although unable to confirm the existence of weapons of mass destruction – the excuse we had to place our soldiers in harm’s way – our President, after flying shotgun and landing on a carrier, declared that the war in Iraq had been won. He was wrong. Close to five years later, war is still being waged there. And instead of being the saviors, we are now the enemy.

As we got rid of Saddam, we unleashed the uncompromising and divisive groups that the ruthless dictator had kept dormant – by many counts, irrational, religious and ethnic zealots who are now fighting each other for control of their country. And their oil.

After more than 3,000 of our own soldiers – and more than half a million Iraqis, according to some sources – have perished during our attempt to bring democracy and peace to Iraq, we find ourselves asking whether the time has come to leave that convoluted battleground.

From this vantage point, I only see two reasonable political, slash, military options as we examine the unending violence that has ravaged this Middle Eastern nation, especially after we went in there to supposedly save it from Saddam.

Option one: Maintain our built-up military presence there and continue to attempt to bring the insurgent factions into submission. To be successful, we must force the current Iraqi leaders to form a coalition government that better represents the rights of all the people. Our stance needs to be coupled with a tough, determined campaign aimed at disarming civilians and other non-military Iraqis.

Option two: Leave. And let the Iraqis fend for themselves.

Collateral damage, option one: We will continue to place more of our young in harm’s way for a dubious cause. The odds are that this ethnically and religiously split nation – united by French and British mandates after World War I – will not be put together again, unless another ruthless despot like Saddam rises from the distraught masses and manages to take over the reins of the country – with our blessing.

Collateral damage, option two: America, the lone superpower, the policeman of the world, fails to win a mini-war again. And if we leave, who is going to protect Iraq’s oil wells, to insure that they continue to quench our energy needs?

Exit strategies are a bummer.