Sunday, September 24, 2006


El diablo

News flash: Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez calls George Bush the devil!

The devil himself is right in the house. And the devil came here yesterday. Right here. It smells of sulfur still today, this table that I am now standing in front of.
Americans are outraged!
"I want President Chávez to please understand that even though many people in the United States are critical of our president that we resent the fact that he would come to the United States and criticize President Bush," said Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y.
That's right: Only we get to call him the devil; you don't! On the other hand, we seem to be perfectly happy to say things about Mr Chávez:
House majority leader, Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, called Chávez a "power-hungry autocrat" [...] The New York Daily News Page 1 headline on Friday told Chávez to "ZIP IT!", and the New York Post called him a "JERK!" and the "Caracas Crackpot."
...but I guess that's different.

OK, let's consider some things here:

First, we know what Mr Chávez has to say about the Devil in Chief, and this isn't the first time he's been outrageous about it. Second, do we really think that the world takes what Mr Chávez says seriously enough that we should worry about it? We'd just do best to enjoy it, roll with it, and laugh with it — I mean, you have to admit that the "sulphur" comment is good, and George Bush does seem to have a sense of humour, after all.

And third, Mr Chávez is only saying what the world thinks, albeit melodramatically. That, of course, is why it bothers us so. It's not really that "he insulted our president," but that he said to the world, and to the mirth of those assembled at the U.N., that we are behaving badly. That our national policies are evil and we are world bullies. That we are, collectively, the devil, by our choice of leader and our accession to those policies. We don't like to think of ourselves that way, and it makes us nervous.

And he's right.

Our government has unilaterally changed all the rules, at least rhetorically. It's created policies that before we'd have attributed to repressive regimes, and would have criticized as human-rights violations, and it's defined them as right because we are doing them. It's stated repeatedly that anything we do is right and necessary; it's what we have to do to be safe, to fight "the enemy". We had rules, in the past, that kept us above our "enemies", but we have those rules no longer, and we are the enemy now. And that scares the hell out of us.

That it scares us is good. That we're uncomfortable with what Mr Chávez said shows that there's hope. But that we accept this "leadership" makes us complicit. We have a choice; we can say "No!"

We need to stop being offended by what the world thinks of us, and start being offended that there's a reason they think of us that way.

1 comment:

Evan said...

I've found it particularly interesting that in the brouhahah (sp?) over Chavez's remarks, the Democrats have been much more vocal in denouncing Chavez than their republican counterparts . . .