Democracy & the Dodo Bird


I was born and raised in Venezuela. I grew up under the dictatorship of Perez Jimenez who, in 1958, fled to the U.S. after embezzling an estimated $200 million from the Venezuelan oil coffers. I remember standing on the balcony of the apartment where my sister and I lived with our parents, watching Jimenez’s motorcade racing down the mountain roads toward the airport.

I remember my dad saying, “There’s going to be a revolution in this country. We’re going to have to leave.”

And in 1963, when the government nationalized the oil companies, we left.

Venezuela always has been rich in oil. It’s why my dad went there in 1937, an accountant for Creole, a subsidiary of Exxon. During the turmoil of Jimenez’s reign and afterward, we experienced bombings in the city, turmoil, chaos. I remember walking into our local supermarket during these tense times and finding the shelves bare because a strike was underway. Or a revolution had started. Maybe it was training for what happens South Florida when a hurricane is on the way.

In the 1980s, wealthy Venezuelans arrived in South Florida for lunch, pedicures, shopping sprees. Now many of them are refugees fleeing to the U.S. and to Colombia.   Now, thanks to the regime of Nicholas Maduro, the people don’t have the basics – food, clean water, jobs. After more than 100 days of street protests, in which hundreds of Venezuelans have been killed, Maduro has tossed out the Venezuelan congress and intends to rewrite the constitution so that the executive – Maduro – has more power.

Sound familiar?

Maduro is like Trump, a congenital liar, a guy who promises much and never delivers. Now that sanctions have been imposed by the trump administration, it means the locals are hurt, the ones who lack food, clean water, medical services.  But it’s not clear that trump understands what that means. It’s not clear that trump understands anything about how the world works.

These sanctions, like those the U.S. imposed against Cuba for nearly 60 years, won’t change Maduro or his authoritarian rule. Nothing changed in Cuba until Castro died and his brother took over, and Obama re-opened diplomatic relations. Trump has now scaled back travel to Cuba for Americans – even though we can still fly freely to China, Saudi Arabia, even North Korea, countries whose dictatorships and human rights violations are appalling.

Here’s an excellent article from The Guardian about the parallels around the world to what trump is doing to the U.S., a hollowing out of Democracy. From Maduro in Venezuela, to Putin in Russia to Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (and that’s just for starters, Democracy may go the way of the dodo bird.

From The Guardian:

Let’s be brutal: democracy is dying. And the most startling thing is how few ordinary people are worried about it. Instead we compartmentalise the problem. Americans worried about the present situation typically worry about Trump – not the pliability of the most fetishised constitution in the world to kleptocratic rule. EU politicians express polite diplomatic displeasure, as Erdoğan’s AK party machine attempts to degrade their own democracies. As in the early 1930s, the death of democracy always seems to be happening somewhere else.

 In the U.S., it’s happening right in front of us.

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7 Responses to Democracy & the Dodo Bird

  1. Darren says:

    I saw this news story this morning –
    US orders all American passport holders out of North Korea by September 1

  2. lauren raine says:

    Thank you for your impassioned post, it speaks to the shock and tragedy I see occurring daily. It’s with great sadness that, basically, I see the United States of America deconstruct, fall apart, the imperfect union, the ideals, flawed as they often were, nevertheless, they were there. And now they aren’t. The country is deeply divided, as as everyone on all sides is angry and confused, and the media no longer makes any sense, Trump, and the regime he represents, just take over with an increasing level of authoritarian fascism that seems textbook, nepotism, disinformation, never seen before. No one knows what to believe, the trump regime makes no attempt to even hide their contempt for journalism, the propaganda machine they want to set up, their need to control education and the rights of women……..textbook.

    How do you live with it? And if you factor in the great universal tragedy of the destruction of our global environment, already obvious as the Great Barrier Reef dies, the permafrost melts in Mongolia and Canada, island nations are disappearing into the sea, and record temperatures occur everywhere………if you factor in this loss of hope for future generations, Trump is far from amusing. The corruption he represents is true evil, because it represents not only the end of democracy, but also the end of any concern for life on this planet. We are witnessing a great tragedy, and I am deeply sorry that I have to live to see it.

    • Rob and Trish says:

      My hope, Lauren, is that we can somehow change it, collectively, at a mythic, archetypal level. Already, I’m noticing how brutal some members of the media are toward trump, calling him the outright liar and con man that he is. Susan Miller, probably the best astrologer on the planet, mentioned in her August roundup that “a leader falls,” and notes it’s from an ancient text. Astrologer Alex Miller, whose specialty is asteroi8ds – yesterday’s post – also sees it. So, we keep moving forward, envisioning the world we would like to see.

      • lauren raine says:

        I hope so, I hope that this is something that will wake people up, show what’s wrong. But I also am very disillusioned by the human ability to hate, to deny the truth, to blame lately. Let’s imagine a better world, as you say……

  3. Darren says:

    It’s funny reading this post then seeing Trump nearly played the President in the cult movie franchise ‘Sharknado 3’, but pulled out because he decided to run for the real President of the White House –
    I also see today that ‘The Guardian’ is reporting that Australian surfer Mick Fanning, who famously encountered a shark in a surfing tournament a few years back is retiring from the shark infested waters of surfing in two years time –
    Weird times indeed where sharks seem to be circling everywhere right now.