While establishment leaders from both parties and their many hangers-on in mainstream media feed the 24-hour consumer news cycle with banal and insipid debates about partisan wars on women, homosexuals, minorities and the poor, there are people outside the U.S. who would love to have our problems – and who would likely be confused by the political games Americans lawmakers play with non-issues in order to incite indignity in ignorant voters.
Take Venezuela, where Hugo Chavez’ successor, Nicolas Maduro, is alternating between free-market threats and populist-pandering bread and circuses in order to quell an ongoing uprising that has killed at least 50 people and featured police state treatment in the face of popular protest.
Forget gay marriage and minimum wage: Maduro has declared war on basic human rights – private property, free speech, self-determination and peaceful dissent. People in Venezuela don’t have the sort of problems our elected class tries to convince us we have – they have problems that don’t have to be explained by enlightened interpreters. And many of the fundamental problems Americans do face are buffered from the meddling of most elected leaders, safe from legislative adjustment and secreted from the 24-hour news cycle and its vapid talking heads. Our problems are a slow suck toward tyranny, but there are places in the world where we can see in real time where we might be headed.
Read this appeal to Pope Francis, penned last week by Venezuelan opposition leader (and Princeton educated) Leopoldo Mendoza, for some perspective on what a real war on freedom looks like. It sure as hell doesn’t look like a “war on women” or some such similar nonsense in this country:
With deep admiration and full of humility, I ask your blessings to the people of Venezuela in moments of profound difficulty for all Venezuelans hit by the most severe economic crisis, by insecurity accompanied by unleashed impunity and the loss increasingly accelerated of our freedoms for all Venezuelans, especially those of us who have contrary thoughts to those who govern today.
I am writing this letter from the underground and within a few hours of appearing before the manipulated justice of my country, which has issued an arrest warrant attributing against me the crimes of murder and terrorism, for the simple fact of having called our people to exercise our right to protest as it is protected in our Constitution and the fundamental rights of free men. This situation of persecution and criminalization of protest has affected hundreds of youth who have been detained, tortured and subjected to unfounded processes that seek to plant fear and limit the voice of millions of Venezuelans who promote change.
I have taken the audacity to write these lines because I am convinced, as millions are in Venezuela , that your voice , your guidance and your blessing to our people at this time can make a profound impact on the next destination of our country.
A few years ago I had the opportunity to talk with the Polish leader Lech Walesa, who I asked what was the most decisive event in his years long struggle that culminated with the fall of communism, his response was immediate and very precise: The visit and the message of John Paul II to Poland.
I understand that the historical circumstances are very different , but like the twilight years of communism in Europe, now in Venezuela we are living in times of deep despair and hopelessness, a word, a sentence, a message from you I’m sure could make a significant impact, the encounter of our people with peace, liberty and democracy.
Chances are when you read this letter I will already be jailed on the orders of Nicolas Maduro; a situation that I ‘m willing to take on if in something it contributes to awaken our people on the need to together make a change.
With the mere fact that you read these lines and keep a place in your heart for the Venezuelan people will give us immense strength to move forward, guided by the teachings of Christ our Lord.
Leopoldo López Mendoza
Sure enough, López was arrested the next day.