Monday, July 15, 2019

Nature Can Sometimes Be Cruel, Capitalism Always Is

Nature can be quite unforgiving. When life and death are on the line, nature will grant you no extra chances, show no pity, make no exceptions. Nature can be cold, uncaring, indifferent to your survival. At such moments, people have to put aside excuses, realize there is no point in asking for pity, and do whatever they have to in order to survive. Because nature simply does not respond to our wish for a kinder, gentler, world. Nature can often be a jerk.

It is for this reason that humans have created societies and civilizations, in order to provide some sort of cushion against unyielding, unforgiving, uncaring nature. Sure, being tough and sucking it up is one way of dealing with the harshness of nature, but there are a lot easier, less taxing ways of surviving. It may be manly to learn how to sleep in an igloo or eat squirrel, but it’s a lot more fun to be civilized and sleep on a nice warm bed in a climate-controlled house. The civilization we’ve created offers many perks such as this.

But nature is not always heartless. In fact, nature often gives humans—and all other species— wondrous blessings from her bounty. Primitive humans were as likely to come across a field of berries or a grove of apple trees as they were to come across a period of hunger. They were as likely to be blessed with more food than they could hope to eat as they were to go without. Indeed, any primitive human being would have had frequent instances when they were blessed by the generosity of nature: a time when the river ran thick with salmon, the fields rumbled with the hooves of bison, the boughs of trees hung low from the amount of fruit they bore.

For primitive man, all that nature gave, it gave for free. Though effort was sometimes required to harvest or prepare what was given, no price was placed upon what nature gave. Primitive houses might need to be built, but there was no charge for the lumber. Water might have to be carried from one place to another, but nobody had to go into debt to acquire essentials.

And when it came to the non-necessities, those things we do not need but which make life truly beautiful, nature gave without asking for anything in return. A person in nature did not have to pay to go to the beach, nor were beaches deprived them because they were not in possession of a piece of paper proving ownership of said stretch of waterfront property. Man could wander where he would without paying tolls, could sleep where he wished without paying rent, could eat what he wanted without having to pay for the privilege. Camping out beneath the stars and hanging around the campfire did not require a park permit or a lot site.

Nevertheless, man realized he could purchase an insurance policy of sorts against nature by creating societies and civilizations, and in so doing, reduce the risks of being eaten by a cougar or being undone by a failed crop. By working together, humanity could absorb the overall costs that would sometimes be too much for individuals and smaller groups. Groups in areas experiencing the excess nature often provides would be able to share from their excess with those experiencing a drought or other misfortune. When this is working well, humanity is able to thrive.

But somehow it is going all wrong. While society is still capable of providing wealth and comfort for many, it not only does not give freely, it no longer allows nature to do so. Visit any place where great populations of humans are assembled together, and you will soon find that nothing is available without cost. Whereas nature was often quite generous in providing food, humanity has replaced that abundance with qualifiers. Yes, you can have all you care to eat, if you can give something in return. Otherwise, perhaps you will be able to find something in the garbage of others that will give you strength to live another day. Yes, you can sleep somewhere, but only if you can pay for the privilege. Otherwise, police will rouse you from your sleep upon the cold pavement and send you on your way. Yes, you can live wherever you like, if you can pay rent to those who have claimed ownership of the land that once belonged to no one. Your choices of beverages are virtually endless. If you can pay. Otherwise, even life-giving water is becoming something which society can no longer provide to all.

You see, capitalists have taken all of nature’s blessings, of God’s blessings, and claimed them for their own. Your very existence depends upon your ability to increase their wealth. Whether you live or die does not matter to them, only whether you can increase their bottom lines or not.

You are now living in an artificial world created by capitalists. Your connection to others and to the planet is dead. They want you to think that capitalism is a natural extension of nature. They are very big on reminding people about the natural law of survival of the fittest and how merciless nature can be, but they are quite mum when it comes to reminding you of how nature is often quite free with its gifts. No other species but our own is required to pay for what they acquire. Even today, there exist cultures living close to nature for whom such a capitalist system would appear quite unnatural.

The society we created in order to protect ourselves against the savageries of nature has now become feral as well. It has devolved from a way of allowing people to work together for the benefit of all into a jungle in which the strong prey upon the weak.

The lesson the capitalists would have you learn is that it is up to the parents to protect their children from the dangers the capitalist system thrusts upon them. It is the parents’ responsibility to shield their children from the vulgarity and immorality that passes for culture in a capitalist society. It is the parents’ responsibility to keep their children away from the unhealthy foods created by corporations, foods that are causing record obesity and diabetes in children. Short of kidnapping your children, the capitalist advertisers do everything in their power to insure your children spend their (your) money on things that are neither good for them nor for society. But the blame is all yours should they succeed.

But this is not the way our primitive ancestors would have dealt with this threat. They would have taught their children to stay away from danger, yes, but when there was a dangerous beast lurking nearby, they understood something had to be done about it. They set traps, or they hunted it down and killed it. Primitive man did not hesitate to neutralize a problem that threatened their children. Not so in a capitalist society. Children of a primitive culture were never threatened by the dangers of obesity, diabetes, corporate branding, and a host of other ills foisted upon them by corporate marketing. But the answer is always to blame the parent, never the corporations.

There are very few threats we face from nature, nowadays. Humanity has created technology that has allowed us to grow more food than we know what to do with, to provide shelter and clothing to all. The main threats to our children now are the ones created by us, by people looking to enrich themselves at the expense of others. Predatory capitalism is the most prevalent manifestation of man’s inhumanity to his fellow man. We must learn from our ancestors how to protect ourselves, our children, and our very species from the threat of such predation. We must create civil structures strong enough to defend against predators, and we must do whatever it takes to remove such threats from prowling around wherever our children, our elderly, and ourselves are potential prey.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Where's My Cut Of The Children's Detention Profits?

I have to admit, I have a problem with the way the Trump administration is handling the children of immigrants. Private corporations are charging $775 dollars a day to house just one child. It seems to me this is another outrageous example of crony capitalism. Allow the free market to work it’s magic, and the price to taxpayers will go way down. Let everybody place their bid and cut the small businessman in on the action, rather than letting President Trump’s buddies make all the money.

As for myself, I’ve been crunching numbers and I’m pretty sure I could do the job for $500 per child per day. It’s not like I have a big basement or anything, but I think I could shove a dozen or more of the little tykes down there, which would be a real boon to my personal income. And what helps me will be sure to trickle down into the local economy. It's not me I'm thinking of, you understand, it's my local shopkeeper, barber, masseuse. 

My wife usually comes home for lunch, so she could check on the little immies during the day to make sure they’re okay. And seeing how she works for a dentist, I’m sure she could snag a few toothbrushes and toothpaste from the office, so we’d be one up on the people doing the job now. And my wife only works a few blocks from home, so it’s not like we wouldn’t be able to respond to any emergency or attempted escape.

I’m sure there’d be some initial outlay, after all we’d need to pick up some steel fencing and some kind of surveillance system so we’d know what was going on while we were away. In order to make sure we'd recoup our investment, we'd  have to make some kind of agreement with the government to make sure we had a steady supply of immigrant children. That shouldn’t be a problem because the government already signs agreements with for-profit prisons to ensure that they’ll be booked solid. Investors have to protect against risk, after all.

I do have to say Donald Trump has let me down on this issue. I really thought he’d be looking out for the small businessman. This could be a golden moment for small-scale entrepreneurs to shine. 
Innovation takes place at the micro level, small business is the driver of the economy. This could be the cottage industry that could breath new life into the middle class. A friend of mine has shared with me images of her proposed child immigration holding pens she sent along with her bid to the White House: 

Hell, she was even planning on giving them real blankets, not that aluminum crap. Alas, they were rejected in favor of this:

Now tell me, which do you think is more humane? I think my friend’s plan looks downright homey in comparison. I've stayed in many an airbnb that was far less accommodating

I'm beginning to think the interests of the dis-empowered are not being fairly represented on this issue. The poor, beleaguered, hardworking small businessmen are once again being given short shrift. It's sad to say, but it appears Trump has forgotten where he came from, that success has caused him to forget what it was like to struggle to evict a single elderly woman from her home in order to build a casino. You've gone Washington on us, Donald.

Or perhaps, perhaps  Donald Trump is not the brilliant tactician I thought he was. 

Saturday, June 15, 2019

I Never Bought Levi's That Didn't Say "Made In The U.S.A.

I grew up in a time when it was not only possible but affordable to dress yourself in clothing made by unionized American workers. It was just a thing, nobody thought twice about it. And when I got my first job, I bought Levi Jeans which were union-made in the U.S.A. After all, why shouldn’t the people who make our clothes earn a decent living?

Then came a day when I saw on the news that Oshkosh B’gosh was closing its plant in Wisconsin and was going to manufacture in Mexico. This didn’t concern me over much because they mainly made children’s cloths, but I remember the shock and anger of the workers they interviewed who would be losing their jobs.

It really hit me when Levi’s announced that they too were closing down operations in the U.S.A. and shipping operations elsewhere. I proudly continued to where the jeans I owned that had the Made In U.S.A. label on them, but I never again bought another pair of Levi’s. It’s foolish to show loyalty to those who are incapable of loyalty themselves.

Then before you knew it, every clothing manufacturer was closing up shop in the United States and moving overseas. I recall news programs covering this phenomena and how it not only hurt American workers but relied on near-slave labor in other countries.

Of course, while the truth of the way the workers were treated could not be denied, the news segments were always certain to have some economist or business executive on to explain why this was not only necessary but beneficial to our country and the world at large. They told us that American workers were destined for bigger and better things. And that while the workers in other countries were paid barely subsistence wages, this was no different than how things had occurred in the United States. They were starting the climb up the economic ladder and they would have to start at the bottom, just as we had. But in starting this climb they would soon elevate themselves so that everyone in their country would achieve the same kind of wealth Americans had achieved. It was merely the first step that would be the difficult one.

I felt in my gut that this was a lie, that there was no reason ever to treat people like slaves, to allow young girls to work long hours and then dismiss them when they had outlived their usefulness. But the people on the TV were so calm and certain in their arguments. They were the experts and I was just a kid fresh out of high school who knew nothing of the world and the way it worked. I knew in my heart they were wrong but because I could not match their arguments with sufficient facts, I did not speak out as loudly as I should have. And for a long time I simply ceased to worry so much about where my clothes come from. There are so many issues to deal with in life and, for a time, this one has taken a lesser place in mine. But I have still never bought a pair of Levi’s.

Time has born out my concerns. The United States continues to export its work and the people doing the work are still working for slave wages. For the most part, our clothes are still made in places where union organizers are murdered and workers earn nothing compared to what American workers once made. It turns out the people who sold this economic lie were nothing but sociopaths that placed the wealth they stood to make by supporting such a system over the welfare of their fellow men and women. And still the apologists are to be found on the media, spewing out their rationalizations for how worker exploitation is a good thing for Americans and the rest of the world.

But now the truth has hit home to a bunch of blue-collar Americans, who are feeling the pinch of thirty years of job-exportation. The pain they are feeling can not be explained away by the so-called experts who are really nothing more than spokespersons for the interests of multi-national corporations. These people are angry and are looking for someone who will speak up for them. More than anything, they’re looking for anyone who’s willing to call bullshit on the lies that have been fed them by the “experts” all these many years. And those who are still listening to the experts, who’ve not seen their jobs shipped overseas, well they have little interest in the problems of the people who's way of life has disappeared.

Enter a new set of authority figures. They’re willing to tell those who’ve lost their jobs, who live in communities with shuttered factories, that they’ve been screwed over and they have every right to be angry. They point the blame overseas to the people and nations that now do the work Americans once proudly did.

Unfortunately, this new set of spokespersons are working for the same interests the old set of spokespersons did, they’re just putting a different spin on things. It wasn’t poor people from other countries who took our jobs. Corporations had a choice, and they chose to ship your jobs overseas for greater profits. They figured out it was cheaper to bribe politicians here and overseas, pay influential experts to pedal their narrative, and ship merchandise all across the globe, than it was to pay decent wages to the workers who produced them.

People have a right to be angry. But be smart angry. If you’re listening to talking heads who get rich spinning the story the way the corporate bosses want it told, you’re being stupid angry, and that is a very dangerous combination. Those people overseas working long hours for subsistence wages are not your enemies, they’re being used the same way you were. They’re suffering more than you, don’t make their lives any worse by blaming the victims. Because when you blame other victims, you are no longer worthy of anyone’s sympathy.

And for God’s sake, buy responsibly. It takes a little extra effort and a little extra expense, but it’s the right thing to do. Start small, but start.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Nature Gave You Water, Capitalism Gave You Waters

I was in the waiting room as my car was being repaired recently and I heard a woman offer a young girl “a water”. That was perhaps not the first time I had heard the term, but it was the first time I realized how strange that would have sounded to a younger me, or my parents, or their parents, or anyone living in any past age. Only in this time and place can “a water” exist. I suppose it’s only a matter of time before I am asked if I would like “an air”. 

Water was a free-flowing liquid with no set boundaries before it entered the free market. Only capitalism is capable of taking something so far-ranging and nebulous as water and atomizing it. Because that’s what capitalism does. It takes what is ours and breaks it down into yours and mine. The next time you’re on an airplane, take a look down at the neighborhoods and see how all of nature has been broken down into individual lots. Primitive man couldn’t have understood this concept. They wouldn’t have been able to understand how one person might own water while another person is allowed to go without.

Capitalists will tell you that ownership is natural and that the government needs to keep its nose out of their right to ownership. But the truth is the government exists to enforce ownership rights. Nobody could own the water or the mineral rights of an area unless government granted such rights to a certain group of people. Without government you would have no private ownership of anything other than the most basic of possessions, the sort of things the working class might have ownership of: a modest house, furniture, tools, etc. It is government that grants private ownership of what we would otherwise consider common resources.

Capitalists are fond of telling you how bad it is that the government gets involved in business, but there would be nothing but the smallest of business interests if corporations did not create governments to justify their ownership. There would be no private beach, no shopping mall, no plot of farmland except that a government exists to decree it so. 

John Malone owns 2,200,000 acres of land. How did he come to own so much land? Did we the American people or the citizens of the planet decide to give it to him? No. “Ah,” you say, “he purchased it fair and square. It is his by right.” “Purchased it from who?” I would ask. “Why, from the rightful owner.” But who did he purchase it from? Surely another rightful owner, but let us work our way back to the beginning and ask how land originally came to belong to anybody. Who decided that someone owned what once was not owned by anybody but shared by everybody? Only the government has such authority. And what kind of government would bestow land that was shared into the hands of someone who wants the land all to himself? Only a government that was working for an elite few at the expense of the rest of us.

So the next time you hear some propagandist for the ultra-rich complaining that the government is meddling in the interests of private companies, remind yourself that more than likely they are meddling for the benefit of those private companies far more than they are against them. Whatever limits government places on the wealthiest of its citizens is done so only because the avarice of the wealthy elite has become so great that if some limits had not been placed the people would have risen up and gotten rid of them by now. Rest assured that it is mere window dressing. 

As water has been broken down into individual units, so too have human beings. In both cases it is not a natural condition but one that was carefully constructed. We are divided into two parties, but more than that we are divided from each other, have been taken out of our natural state of communal living and been set one against the other in a competitive model. This is not our inclination, but we are taught to follow the lead of the capitalists, in whom the communal aspect of their personalities is peculiarly lacking. It is true that in a healthy society we are to a degree both communal AND competitive, but the environment we inhabit now has become one of toxic competitiveness. Capitalists call it “freedom”. Keep in mind that to a capitalist the word freedom means the ability to accumulate as much wealth as possible and little else.

As our water and our citizenry are divided into individual units, so too are the nations of the world. As we view our fellow Americans as threats and competitors, so must we view other nations in the same light. With such a worldview, we will never know peace, cannot even lay a contextual framework for imagining peace. In the world as it now stands, each waning war corresponds with the build-up to the next one.

As the capitalist desires ownership of the land and resources here in the United States, so too is he covetous of the resources of other countries. As he seeks to profit from the labor of his fellow citizens, so does he wish to profit from the work of citizens of foreign lands. To this end he will once again employ the government he allegedly despises to threaten violence against other nations in order that his profits might increase greater still.

We see the wealth of the great capitalists and we mistake it for a sign of their great human qualities rather than their great human flaws. And in making that mistake, we allow ourselves to accept the mindset of the extreme capitalists as a good one, we see competition as preferable to cooperation. We see what divides us all rather than what it is we together share. Until we cannot even see water as a shared blessing but instead individual commodities to be purchased. And so we end up with our lakes and rivers as receptacles of our single use water bottles. We pollute our common resources with our selfish behavior, as we pollute our shared values with our inability to see what is in the best interest of all. The picture you see below is the result of thousands of selfish decisions and the unwillingness of each of us to work together for a common good. 

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Corporate Values Are Not Human Values

A line can be drawn quite neatly between corporate interests and human interests. You can throw in the interests of animals as well, because to corporations they have value only in so much as they have capital value. If it is cheaper to shoot an animal than feed it, there is no question what the corporate choice will be.

Same thing with humans, although a thin facade of concern for the sanctity of human life must be maintained. So rather than mercifully killing us quickly, corporations and corporate government do not actively kill human beings, but they do allow them to die slow and preventable deaths.

Corporate values and human values are two very distinct ways of looking at life. For a while now we have rationalized that corporate values could serve human values. For a time we were able to ameliorate the suffering that corporate values impose upon the majority of humans. But the choice between the two value systems is becoming increasingly stark as corporations are gaining control of society as never before. A hundred years ago corporations attempted to wrest all power, but there were other institutions and schools of thought that held the minds of the masses. The mindsets that once held back complete corporate dominance are mostly gone now.

A century ago, religion still played a major part in most people’s lives. Say what you will about religion, it has its own agenda and way of seeing the world, and many of its tenets run contrary to the corporate set of values. If you have any doubts, I invite you to read Capital And Labor by Reverand Hugo C. Koehler, an analysis of the encyclicals of Popes Leo XIII and Pius XI. In the 80 years since that was written, it was not merely modernity and science that have been chipping away at religious institutions, it has also been corporate forces. Where the church has opposed corporate values, it has been attacked, and where the church has been amenable to corporate values, it has been corrupted. Witness now the religious right that mirrors not Christ’s teachings but the values that support corporate control of our society and the world. Religion no longer presents a significant barrier to corporate values.

As the church was still a strong influencer of people’s values a hundred years ago, so to were the values of feudalism, nationalism, and monarchy. A social compact still existed that stated that, while not everyone was equal and some were born to rule while others born to serve, everybody had a place in society. Nobody was outside, everybody was (theoretically) valued. Not so in a corporate system. While a nation had to admit that even the lowliest of us were still members of the country in which they live, corporations were able to slough off those who provided no value to the corporation without compunction. Whereas individuals in the past had a sense of belonging in even primitive feudalism, they no longer counted as anything in a corporate society. The worker who was not needed by corporations was a man without a country. His loyalty was demanded of him but no loyalty could be expected from a corporate system. Pre-corporate ways of viewing nations are no longer a barrier to corporate values.

Lastly, communism and socialism were forces to be reckoned with. Constructed from first-hand-observations of what corporations wrought upon the underclasses, such ideologies jibed with the ideas of community, fairness, kindness, and inclusion that existed within feudalistic and especially Christian values. Whereas feudalism justified the superior position of one human being over another as God’s will, corporatism stripped such justifications away. In a corporate system, money was all the proof needed of superiority. And the best way of acquiring money and therefore success was to make money for corporations.

Also, the means of indoctrinating the masses were not nearly as great as they are today. Whereas humans interacted face to face a century ago, they now mainly communicate with each other through electronic means. Instead of sitting around after work at bars, clubs, or front porches discussing ideas, many now are on social media, where billionaires who received their wealth through corporations decide what we are allowed to see, hear, and think. Post on Facebook and there is no way of knowing who will see your posting. Write an article on your blog, and you have no way of knowing where Google will place you in their search lists. More than ever before in history, corporations have placed themselves between the communication of people. Even within the sanctuary of our own homes, propaganda is constantly flowing in while our personal data is flowing out. 

Survival of a species is not a corporate value. Not even the survival of the human species. Certainly, corporations could not exist without us (at least in the present, but who knows if in the near future they could be self-sufficient. Sounds, crazy, doesn’t it? But so does destroying the planet for profit), but corporate values don’t factor the survival of the species into the equation. I assure you if you were to enter a boardroom of any of the largest corporations, nobody will be talking about the threats that face us as a species but instead will be plotting paths to increase profit.

If survival of the human species is of value to you, it is necessary to realize that your values are quite different than those of corporations. Corporate media will tell you otherwise, they will try to pretend that corporate values ARE human values.

That’s because they are lying. You see, truth is not a corporate value.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

A Recipe For Russiagate Cake

Are you like me, do you miss the taste of McCarthyite pie like grandma used to make? Well I’ve come across a recipe that will take you right back to the old days. It even has a modern twist that appeals to the liberal set. It’s called Russiagate Cake and it’s all the rage right now in Hollywood. Just listen to some of what they’re saying:

“It’s all I can think about.” Rob Reiner

Whenever I want to get the bitter taste of defeat out of my mouth, I simply consume a heaping serving of Russiagate. Yum!” -Bill Maher

“It’ll drive anyone who tastes it absolutely crazy.” -Kathy Griffin

Sounds delish, right? And what’s even better, it’s simple to make. So let’s get to it, shall we?

We’ll get to the frosting later, but right now let’s list the main ingredients:
1.       An out of touch liberal class unable to understand blue-collar frustration.
2.       A Military Industrial Complex that wants increased hostilities with foreign nations.
3.       A Corporate media infiltrated with intelligence agents.
4.       Secret ingredient (only available from anonymous agents within intelligence agencies.)

Before you start adding the ingredients together, make sure you sift them very carefully in order to remove any possible dissenting voices. This cake is not going to rise unless they have been removed. I cannot stress this step too much.

Now when you mix these four ingredients together, you’re going to notice the end result isn’t going to hold together real well. So you’re going to want to baste it in the crazed stares of Adam Schiff and Rachel Maddow for as long as you can stand it before creeping out. Then, in order to help it congeal into anything that looks like it won’t fall to pieces, immediately store it overnight in the deep freeze of Hillary Clinton’s stony soul.

In the meantime, get the oven ready. You’re going to want to turn the heat up as high as it will go if you have any hope of making this cake a reality. And then once you’ve got it pre-heated, simply pop it in and let it bake for two-and-a-half years.

After the two-and-a-half-years (don’t take it out early), it may appear to still be only half-baked. This is to be expected. It’s not the cake itself that is of importance. In fact, the beauty of this recipe is that even if you add in wrong ingredients, you will never have to own up to it. Once you cover it up with enough sugary frosting, everybody will be in such a state of diabetic coma they won’t be capable of reflecting on what they’ve just ingested.

And now to the main part of this cake: the frosting. Whip it into a lather. I can’t stress this part enough because this dish is all frosting and no cake. Whip it as you would a dead horse. Whip it until it is the same consistency of the froth on a rabid dog’s muzzle. Whip it until you have enough of it to cover the entirety of the cake so nobody can see what’s underneath.

And there you have it, a dessert that’s sure to satisfy even those who have been suffering from an upset stomach since the 2016 presidential election. One cake, served liberally, should be enough to satiate 65,844,954. Moreover, it keeps well, so that you can continue to serve it to your guests for as long as they continue coming back for more.

One last note: should the guests you were anticipating not show up and you find yourself hosting a group of FOX News Republicans, you merely have to add extra nuts and bananas and presto: you have a wonderful Benghazi Fruitcake they’ll be sure to enjoy.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

A Trip To Colombia And The Barriers Of Language And Walls

I spent last week visiting Colombia. It was the first time in my life I visited another country without having much of an idea how to speak the language. Nevertheless, I made my best attempts to communicate to the people I met without demanding they use my language.

This could have gone poorly. If the people I had encountered hadn’t been kind and patient, I’m sure I would have withdrawn and not attempted to communicate with the people of this country any more than was necessary. But they were all very friendly. Not once did I get a look that made me feel someone thought unkindly of me because I couldn’t speak their language. Not once did I have a situation where someone wasn’t willing to sit through my pointing and mangling their native tongue in order to be of assistance to me.

I could see how it would be easy to assimilate into such a culture. Which makes me realize it is not merely the outsider but the insiders who are responsible for making assimilation possible. This is an idea that is never expressed by those who say that people coming into our country need to assimilate. They never look at themselves as part of the equation, never see in themselves anything that needs to change.

It is unrealistic to believe that anyone entering another country should abandon everything that has made them who they are. To do so would demand immigrants and outsiders pretend to be something they are not. The healthy way to assimilate is for the outsider to understand as best he can the culture he is joining and seeing how he can become a part of it while maintaining his core values and integrity. In this way the country that welcomes others grows in the process. Colombia is a mix of many different cultures that have blended together to make the nation what it is today. It is still growing, still has room for newcomers and visitors to make it a better country.

The United States is no different. If we had rejected all outside influences, we wouldn’t be able to find pizza or eggrolls today. We would be a nation of Puritans. Or if you want to get technical, the Puritans never would have been allowed in without shedding their silly clothes and odd religious customs.

Now you may think that I was treated well by the Colombian people merely because they wanted the U.S. currency I was carrying, and that may be somewhat true. But the fact of the matter is they shared with me their labor, the fruit from their trees and the fish from their waters, and all I gave them is a few rectangular pieces of paper with green ink on it. I can’t help thinking I got the better end of the bargain.

Oh, I know, it’s more complicated than that. Those U.S. dollars are an abstraction of the wealth created by our nation. It seems every time someone wants to explain away what is on the surface quite obvious, they point to abstract ideas even they do not understand in order to explain why seeming injustices make sense. It’s the same complicated reasoning they use to explain how foreigners are coming to our country and taking advantage of us by giving to us their labor in exchange for living at the bottom of the social scale.

There are a lot of people in the United States who fear being taken advantage of by their neighbors to the south. What they don’t seem to realize is that their neighbors have more to fear from us than we of them. Since the proclamation of the Monroe Doctrine, the United States—at first tacitly, then overtly—claimed the right to insure they had significant input into the doings of the nations to their south. Since then, the influence the United States has asserted has been too immense to speak of here. This has resulted in a lot of suffering for people in Central and South America, so much so that it has resulted in a desire to migrate to the United States.

My tour guide in Medellin, Santi, did not hold such meddling against me or my country, however. He told me he forgave me (us) for taking Panama away from Colombia, reminding me that Teddy Roosevelt helped in fomenting a revolution in order to make a canal there that would be of benefit to the U.S.A.

I was fortunate enough to be escorted around by several local guides to various places of historical interest. The history of the conquest and extermination of the indigenous people by Europeans was brought up more than once, as was the fact that slaves were imported from Africa. This was necessarily brought up to explain the ethnic diversity of the region, but there was no untoward animosity for the unwelcomed immigrants involved. They did not harbor hatred for those who came to their land unbidden, despite the fact they caused more harm than any illegal immigrants ever did to the United States.

While there I saw a white-haired Caucasian gentleman waiting for the elevator that led to the hotel rooms accompanied by a young woman young enough to be his granddaughter. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that it wasn’t his granddaughter, since her skin color was so different than his. I’d go so far as to guess that he was there to take advantage of the fact that prostitution is legal in Colombia. If this is true, then the rape of the indigenous people by people with European roots is not a dim and distant memory.

Considering the damage outsiders have caused and are still continuing to cause in Colombia, it is a wonder they haven’t built a wall. It is a wonder that they treat people such as myself as kindly as they do even though I have not learned to speak their language. But the truth is, no wall that humans could build would be as great a barrier as the Andes Mountains and even they were unable to stop unwanted foreigners from entering their country. Similarly, whatever language barriers that may exist can and will be surmounted by genuine goodwill and a desire to get along. The fact is, divisions are only an illusion and we are all one people. Everything we in the United States do affects others, and history shows we have been the victimizer far more often than the victim. As for the people of Colombia, I would like to thank you for your kindness and hospitality.