Reformed, Recalled or Illusory Memories in the Post-Truth Era: A family affair

Continuing my rereading excursion, last week I started with Tom Robbins’ awesome “Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates” but Amazon, which I loathe and ought not to patronize (as I ought not to patronize Facebook), facilitated my recuperation of a bunch of Robert Heinlein philosophical novels (they really are more philosophical than science fiction) which had been lost to me many decades ago when a former friend’s now ex-wife decided they were demon inspired and confined them to the pit.  And so I’ve ordered duplicates, mostly used (for some reason I like them more when they’re used) and they’ve started arriving. 

I really wanted to delve back into Lazarus Long (as I approach the three quarter of a century mark) but somehow, I got confused and “I will Fear No Evil” came first.  I hope Heinlein`s writing style is not catching.  What was a delight in my youth frequently seems lacking polish and seems tedious now as I too have embarked in the writers’ art, but the themes remain challenging and fascinating and daring, and every once in a while, … a relevant pearl of wisdom drops.  In this case (excuse the long prelude; … I hate long preludes), in the middle of page 174 of an extremely well worn, possibly fifth hand paperback copy, Ace Edition, 1987, the phrase:

“Nobody knows how memory works

except that everyone is sure he knows

and thinks all others are fools.”

That seems so relevant today, perhaps more than ever. 

I know the memories my children and my ex-wife share keep getting more and more strange until they’ve become completely divorced from those I recall.  To some extent, I believe that is based on the deliberate falsification of memory (see “Purportedly Recovered Memories”), now a science engaged in by former spouses (male and female) with the assistance of purported therapists, and of course, on a societal level, by the corporate media.  Political differences translate from the civic into the personal and into irreconcilable pasts that break up families, something I’ve experienced. 

My kids blame me and Trump, I opposed but did not hate him, at least, not enough for their “awoke” tastes.  So now I too am (and apparently always have been) a horrible human being. 

I don’t blame them, or hold it against them, but the consequences are the same.  And since we no longer communicate, the consequences seem unlikely to change.  The truth is not something to be explored lest it not agree with what they or I recall, or what they’ve been told over and over and over and over again. 

Something to think about as everyone around us, including those once most dear to us, morphs into very different beings.

Or is it us?

_______

© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2021; all rights reserved.  Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution. Guillermo (“Bill”) Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia (although he has primarily lived in the United States of America of which he is also a citizen).  Until 2017 he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales.  He is currently a strategic analyst employed by Qest Consulting Group, Inc.  He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies).  He can be contacted at guillermo.calvo.mahe@gmail.com and much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.

Thoughts on a Terrible Day in January, 2021

Incoherence and hypocrisy seem in total control today. Truth has been vanquished, at least for now. Intolerance in the name of tolerance is the order of the day. Censorship in the name of liberty has become the rule.

Sigmund Freud, perhaps in the throes of depression, seeking solace once wrote “in darker times there was a person who thought as you do”. In the United States these are clearly such darker times and it is time to take stock as to who the real antagonists are.

The civic crisis in the United States today is not between purported fascist right wing extremists and radical leftist communists. That is the scenario that has been drawn to divide and polarize us by those who seek to maintain complete control over us. Today’s battle pits the populist wings, both left and right, against the Deep State and its minions, and, as should now be obvious, there is nothing the Deep State will not do, is not doing, to grasp and maintain power. It does so through Identity Politics which politicizes serious social ills, not in order to resolve them but as a tool to distract us and set us at each other’s throats, to divide us, to divide our families, to generate hate and vanquish empathy. Empathy leads to discourse, to open minds and to solutions, and that is intolerable to the Deep State.

The portion of our populace involved in empowering the total takeover by the Deep State is magnified by its minions, but they too are victims, manipulated emotionally by a constant barrage of propaganda where truth has no place, nor does constancy nor logic. Hypocrisy rules. The sane still exist, they exist on the left and on the right wings of the political spectrum, differing as to policies but with a profound faith in democracy and dialogue. Things seem hopeless today but the United States is not the whole world, nor is today eternity. If we on the left and on the right, those who have woken to the reality that the government is not our friend and that the major political parties, like the corporate media, are all too efficient tools of the worst among us, if we keep dialogue open and seek what unites us instead of what divides us, someday we may prevail and this dark night will witness a new dawn.

To many who have been deluded by centuries of propaganda presented as history, perhaps the injustice they face today, the frustration and impotence in the face raw power, will lead to a metamorphosis in our dealings with the world at large, with recognition that tolerance for differences and the choices of others in other societies must be respected and not merely eradicated. That while terrorism exists, those whom we have labelled terrorists are merely desperate people who have been flagrantly denied access to justice and served up hubris instead. Like the hubris we face today.

Let us not be like those enthralled with power who believe they can change minds through ridicule and belittling while keeping their own minds tightly shut. Today is their day but it needn’t last forever. Don’t isolate and withdraw. Find those with whom you do not agree and with kindness and diplomacy and reason and examples, engage in dialogue; willing to listen as well as to preach, and someday this too will be behind us.

“Someday”, as the beautiful African American anthem proclaims, “We Will Overcome”.


© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2021; all rights reserved. Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.

Guillermo (“Bill”) Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia (although he has primarily lived in the United States of America of which he is also a citizen). Until 2017 he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales. He is currently a strategic analyst employed by Qest Consulting Group, Inc. He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies). He can be contacted at guillermo.calvo.mahe@gmail.com and much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.

Reflections on a January Morn as 2021 Spreads its Sullied Wings

Bald eagles tear at white doves, they always have and seemingly always will.

Pandora’s Box has been open for a while now and its contents, for a time useful, at least to some, are now inconvenient.  Tides turn, shoes are exchanged; perceptions change seemingly overnight.

“What’s good for the goose is [not] good for the gander”! “Do as I say, not as I do”!  “Close the damned barn door, all the horses have already left”!

“Shut the damn lid on that terrible box!”  Wishful thinking as roosters come home to roost.

“A nation divided against itself cannot stand”, at least until it’s been taken apart and rebuilt and the divisions healed, … Or perhaps just “eliminated”. 

“Eliminate them all, the lying treasonous bastards” echoes from all sides.

From the grandstands and especially the press box, cheering and laughter eggs the bloodied players on as from deep within the bowels of Hell, Caligula laughs.

“I see” exclaims the blind woman as her deaf mute neighbor ripostes “you obviously lie” and life moves on, the blind led by the deaf and dumb into tombs that once served as echo chambers for deluded mobs.
_______

© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2021; all rights reserved.  Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.

Guillermo (“Bill”) Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia (although he has primarily lived in the United States of America of which he is also a citizen).  Until 2017 he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales.  He is currently a strategic analyst employed by Qest Consulting Group, Inc.  He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies).  He can be contacted at guillermo.calvo.mahe@gmail.com and much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.

Response to the Latest Criticism of VMI by the Corporate Media in a Case a Bit too Close to Home: The expulsion of a black cadet, the son of a Citadel graduate, for violating the VMI Honor Code

On December 21, 2020 Ian Shapira published an article in the Washington Post entitled “A Black VMI cadet was threatened with a lynching, then with expulsion”. 

The article dealt with the expulsion of the son of a Citadel graduate for having been “adjudged” to have violated the Virginia Military Institute’s (VMI) Honor Code.  I am a 1968 part-Hispanic graduate of the Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina and the article hit very close to home in a very conflicted manner because the young man involved is the son of a Citadel graduate and VMI is in many aspects the institution most similar to my own alma mater. 

The first part of the article dealt with racism at VMI.  Racism, that scourge that has afflicted us since Europeans first set foot in this hemisphere and which, like xenophobia and misogyny, has no place in our society or our culture but which cannot merely be erased from our history by destroying its indicia or by setting us at each other’s throats.  The incident seems to have been appropriately dealt with, the guilty student was suspended for a year after admitting his misconduct and apologizing to the black student involved for it, and then elected not to return to VMI, an institution at which he did not belong.  The second chapter is significantly more complicated, it dealt with the eventual expulsion of the black cadet involved in the racist incident for a violation of VMI’s Honor Code in a totally unrelated matter initiated by a faculty member, not another cadet.  Read the article.  Although it appears somewhat biased against VMI which the Washington Post seems to have targeted for extinction, the facts are there and they seem clear.

I wrote the following in response to letters circulated to my former Citadel classmates by Chris Hoffman, our class representative.  One of those letters was written by our former classmate, Michael Barrett, a long-time Citadel history professor and also for a long time the faculty advisor to the Citadel’s own Honor Court.  The letters circulated by Chris called the incident to our attention and asked that we reflect on what it means to us, to our beloved institution, and to the other institutions that make an honor system a treasured core value.  The honor system at the United States Military Academy at West Point has also recently been shaken by a large scale violation of its Honor Code on which ours was originally modeled but to which we have managed to remain true, not being subjected to the same political pressures as are the service academies. 

The reflections Chris called on us to make are certainly timely in these very troubled times.  The Honor Code used at the Citadel, VMI and the service academies is short and simple, it should be easy to understand if not to live by.  It provides as follows: “A cadet does not lie, cheat, or steal, nor tolerate those who do”.  My message to my classmates in response to the letters circulated by Chris was essentially as follows:

Honor systems are trying.  My second son elected not to attend the Citadel because he took it seriously and decided that while he could easily respond for his own actions, he did not feel he could turn in a friend.  I was disappointed that he did not follow the path I and his elder brother had “sowed” for him but very proud of his integrity.  Honor systems such as those adopted at the Citadel and VMI are for the very few and as difficult to administer as they are to live by.  That is something too many of today’s journalists cannot understand but that does not mean that they are always wrong, even when they may lack empathy and objectivity in their reporting.

This particular situation is sad because it reflects on the institution most like ours, one experiencing troubled times, and at the same time, it deals with the son of one of our own.  I am pleased to know that our honor system seems superior not only to that employed at VMI but to those used in the service academies.  It is among the aspects of our alma mater we hold most dear and which permits us, as Pat Conroy once wrote, to entrust the keys to our homes to anyone who wears the ring, whether we know him or her or not (although admittedly we have our own bad apples and malcontents).

These are trying times when truth for far too many has become an abstraction and irrelevancy.  When hypocrisy is the order of the day.  But we are each among those most fortunate because of the traditions woven into our being during our four years together at a place we love, even if she sometimes seemed a harsh mistress.

Hopefully, at some point in this sad case, the truth will out and justice will be served, but as the Boo[1] taught us through his own experiences, that is not always the case, and it is when injustice prevails that our mettle is truly tested. 

When to our own selves we must most be true.

Honor should not be a difficult concept to grasp but it is, especially today.  It is disappointing that politics has diluted its rigor at the service academies, something which I believe those sworn to abide by its terms in those historic institutions do not support, but honor and truth seem irrelevant in a society where almost all news is challenged as fake by one side of the political spectrum or the other.  Real heroes, which we desperately need, seem in short supply, although they are probably abundant and merely unrecognized.  All of our systems of justice seem to be failing us having become terminally politicized, but systems of justice, as in the case of honor systems, are as difficult to administer as they are to live by.  Hopefully VMI, the service academies, my beloved Citadel, and the other institutions that take honor systems seriously will avoid their pitfalls, improve them, and continue to produce the very best among us.

No one today really knows whether the black former VMI cadet, the son of a fellow Citadel alumni whom, although I do not know, I would trust with everything I own, committed an honor violation or not. Except for him.  But it appears that some modifications to the manner in which adjudications are arrived at in VMI’s honor system should be considered, albeit not its rigor, and that the service academies should either discard their honor systems if they deem them anachronistic or return to the rigor that once made them so useful in producing principled leaders. 

Honor systems are pretty much black and white and, even if they involve long grey lines, do not work in shades of grey.
_______

© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2020; all rights reserved.  Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.

Guillermo (“Bill”) Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia (although he has primarily lived in the United States of America of which he is also a citizen).  Until 2017 he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales.  He is currently a strategic analyst employed by Qest Consulting Group, Inc.  He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies).  He can be contacted at guillermo.calvo.mahe@gmail.com and much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.


[1] Lt. Col. Thomas Nugent Courvoisie, known by most as “The Boo”, was the assistant commandant of cadets in charge of discipline at the Citadel during the 1960’s and ironically, probably the person most beloved by its corps of cadets because of his fairness, integrity, humor and sense of honor.

Of Linus and Lucy: a sad almost love story

Lucy and Linus on a field of green, gazing at a goal post, wondering what it was that was about to happen.

Neither new for sure.  Perhaps they both had faith that this time it’d be different but, when crunch time came, Lucy couldn´t help herself, and Linus, already head over heels, once more found an empty space where he’d expected much more and fell head over heels some again.

Lucy, outwardly smirking, inwardly asked herself: “now why did I do that?  Again?  And how many times will it happen before I lose him for good?”

Linus was just sad and confused and befuddled, vowing not to keep falling for the same old trick, but knowing he would. 

At least for a while.

And they both wondered: what then?

And then “what then” happened. 

Unexpectedly albeit not inexplicably. 

And what might have been, what should have been, vanished in a puff.

Very much like that football so often had.
_______

© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2020; all rights reserved.  Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.

Guillermo (“Bill”) Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia (although he has primarily lived in the United States of America of which he is also a citizen).  Until 2017 he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales.  He is currently a strategic analyst employed by Qest Consulting Group, Inc.  He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies).  He can be contacted at guillermo.calvo.mahe@gmail.com and much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.

On Entropy and Evil and Harbingers of Hope

Silly similes, awful metaphors and pseudo allegory abound, wrapping us in fetid mists, trapping our senses which gasp for metaphorical breath.  Trying to swim we find ourselves drowning in quicksand and the more we struggle the deeper we’re bound as if by the Chinese handcuffs of our vanishing youth. 

Emotional entropy seems to be getting the best of many of us.  Unfortunately, probably the most decent among us, but that’s been evil’s plan all along. 

To wear us down. 

Lying and distortion and manipulation are fun: no truth to be bound by and defend, no coherence or consistency required, just perpetual attacks no matter what.  Free to be feckless, unbound and free to parody and calumny and betray, all interest free.  And the result is that some of us are subverted and join the party, while others, despairing, just withdraw. 

And evil wins.

Again.

As it seemingly almost always does.

Still, Sigmund Freud, he of analytical sexual mania, once urged us to recall that when things seem hopeless “in darker days there lived a man who thought as we do”, a harbinger of hope, and these are indeed “darker times. One wonders where that man (or woman) was, … or will be?
_______

© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2020; all rights reserved.  Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.

Guillermo (“Bill”) Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia (although he has primarily lived in the United States of America of which he is also a citizen).  Until 2017 he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales.  He is currently a strategic analyst employed by Qest Consulting Group, Inc.  He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies).  He can be contacted at guillermo.calvo.mahe@gmail.com and much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.

November 22, 1963

Image for post

Fifty-seven years ago the day dawned normally, and then some hours later, out of Dallas, shocked the Hell out of us, for an instant levelling the walls of polarization that then infected us, for a few days turning Americans into one people, hiding the tons of coalescing ugly realities, realities of the Great Chicago march of the Dead to vote for a handsome young president, and of his subsequent betrayal of the Mafia and the Deep State that placed him in the apparent seat of power, and then, the “unfortunate consequences of that betrayal. 

During the ensuing years of that decade we were traumatized by even worse polarization as the emerging Deep State brutalized idealists on both the left and the right until the traditionalist politicians in both major parties acted like Ray Bradbury’s firemen and calmed things down.  For a while.  But they did not capture all the sparks and today, just like that dawn in Dallas on November 22, 1963, we are at each other’s’ throats, cleverly manipulated by an evil corporate media. And the Deep State, more omnipotent now, moves on over a highway paved in billions.
_______

© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2020; all rights reserved.  Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.

Guillermo (“Bill”) Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia (although he has primarily lived in the United States of America of which he is also a citizen).  Until 2017 he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales.  He is currently a strategic analyst employed by Qest Consulting Group, Inc.  He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies).  He can be contacted at guillermo.calvo.mahe@gmail.com and much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.

Thirty-Four

He hadn´t realized that thirty-four was old but perhaps she had.

She’d had her first two sons when she was not yet thirty and not yet thirty-two, but the third one had come when she was already thirty-four and that had made a difference, a rather large difference, indeed, all the difference.

She’d suddenly grown and had started on the path that leads to old. But neither he nor she had realized it. They’d thought it was a passing thing, that her body would soon be slender again, yet curved in all the right places, and that somehow, their old world would be back, and that their newest addition would fit right in, and they’d be the ideal family everyone believed them to be, and which they’d in fact been.

He’d not started to grow old yet then. Strange, he’d started earlier, and then, started later too, fighting off the changes that assailed them on all sides, the darkness that kept seeping in and nesting and brooding and breeding insidious offspring. Insidious but frequently disguised as friends and though the disguises were thin, they were thick enough, … unfortunately.

Thirty-four seemed a strange age then.

He’d been thirty-four when they’d met and she almost a decade younger, but he’d not been close to old. Immortality indeed still seemed not only possible but probable, all but certain, but then again, time was not as old as it would be either. Time ages too. And during that first decade she’d not aged at all, or matured. And while he’d not aged, perhaps he’d had to mature facing more and more unpleasant things, unfair things, unexpectedly expected things, and apparently, while he’d been able to protect her from them for a time, when they hit, they’d all hit at once. When she’d turned thirty-four.

Thirty-four. Strange. He’d always believed that twenty-five was the age at which things crystalized and coalesced in the women who’d impacted him. But perhaps at thirty-four things calcified. Time aged. The world shifted in its restless dreams and carelessly crushed hopes and expectations, and opened crevices through which alternate realities crept in. Unpleasant alternate realities.

Thirty-four, an age which neither the Nazarene nor the Macedonian attained, but then again, they were both men.

Thirty-four. Perhaps, in forty years or so, he’d have a chance to start a cycle once again, perhaps with someone who was still just thirty-three, about to turn thirty-four, and perhaps, then things would coalesce in different streams, singing different themes. “Perhaps” is such a fascinating word, full of the inchoate and perhaps of chaos too. Everything possible. Spring and late autumn walking together into winter.

Wishful dreams perhaps, but wishful dreams sometimes come true, just as youthful dreams are too often crushed.


© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2020; all rights reserved. Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.

Guillermo (“Bill”) Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia (although he has primarily lived in the United States of America of which he is also a citizen). Until 2017 he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales. He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies). He can be contacted at guillermo.calvo.mahe@gmail.com and much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.

Electoral Fraud, a Cynical Reality, Indeed, a Cynical Tradition We’ve Come to Accept

Today, all major media sources in the United States are discredited and rightfully so.  The current “extradition” hearings in the United Kingdom involving the world’s most authentic journalist, Julian Assange, makes that blaringly clear.  Indeed, one of the news sources I find most reliable because of the credentials of its authors, most of whom are western academics, is utterly disparaged as a mere tool for Russian interference in the internal affairs of others.  Still, the United States corporate media frequently comes through with stillborn seeds of truth that one can analyze and from which one can find useful ideas, concepts, issues and information.  Just not all that complete, contextualized or accurate, and certainly not fair and balanced.  One such article appeared today on the Fox New site, an article entitled “DOJ orders Pennsylvania county to change ballot practices after ‘troubling’ findings”.  Myriads of other articles from opposing news organizations such as CNN, MSNBC, the NYT, the Washington Post, the Huffington Post, etc., are instead focused on the refusal of President Trump to acknowledge that the next election will be free of electoral fraud and that he will abide without protest with the published results, “turning over power peacefully”.  A strange redux of the same issue during the last election when Democrats all took the pledge and then have spent the next four years violating it.  But then, we, the electorate, are seemingly not all that bright, we are seemingly all too easy to manipulate, at least usually.

Electoral fraud is the central issue involved in the foregoing “news” stories and it comes in many flavors.  Electoral promises, platforms and related paraphernalia is one form of electoral fraud favored by both major parties.  Indeed, it seems to have become a tradition expected by the electorate.  We seem to plead for it: “fool us again, please, please, just say what we want to hear, tell us you love us and agree with us and that this time you really will solve the problems that plague us most, and that this time you really, really mean it!”  And the parties and their leaders and their candidates are happy to oblige, after all, they honestly and truly are the lesser evil.  And this time, the election really is existential.  And even if there are better candidates and better parties, they can’t win so “don’t waste your vote on them!”

Electoral fraud is and always has been a real issue, in the United States and elsewhere, and not just because of perpetually broken electoral promises.  The United States elections of 1876 (stolen through obvious fraud by the new oxymoronically named Grand “Old” Party) and the election of 1860 when the dead in Chicago, obeying their Mafia masters, stormed the polls to elect the flamboyant young Democrat, John F. Kennedy, are obvious examples.  But they are different only because the electoral theft was obvious.  Gerrymandering is a bipartisan tradition and after the 2016 elections, the Democratic Party argued in open court that its primary elections were not subject to restrictions designed to assure they would be fair, even if such restrictions had been promised.  Sorry Sanderistas, you lose and you will always lose!!!

For some reason, during the past decade, despite the obvious examples referenced above, not all involving ancient history, the corporate media has sought to minimize the problem.  Logic dictates that such effort is a deeply troubling symptom that electoral fraud on behalf of candidates the corporate media favors is a real probability.  In Colombia where I’ve lived during the past thirteen years and where I am active as a political intermediary among diverse political groups, the problem is endemic.  It occurs among officials charged with assuring that it does not occur in the National Electoral Council, and at the local level, through massive vote buying disguised as “charity” (e.g., gifts of baskets of groceries).  One of the most successful and hard to deal with schemes involves the use of pre-prepared ballots handed to targeted voters to cast into the ballot box, and then, to return with the unused ballot he or she was issued at the polling center, which, after receiving the agreed upon payment, is then filled out and distributed to other voters, a ballot exchange program hard to spot but easy to implement. 

Receipt of any kind of compensation in exchange for a promise to vote is electoral fraud and vote buying, even if in the form of charity such as is now being orchestrated in the United States where, in exchange for an implied promise to vote for certain candidates, outstanding penal fines will be paid.  That is electoral fraud no different than that engaged in in Colombia and elsewhere where desperately needed groceries and building materials are “exchanged” for an unused ballot.  This year, taking advantage of the fear instilled with respect to the Covid 19 pandemic, a plethora of free floating ballots will apparently become available through “vote by mail” programs.  Not the now traditional and well-regulated absentee ballot process but the one now already adopted in number of states where all voters receive ballots, by mail which they can then use by mailing them in, or elect to vote in person, or, perhaps, donate the ballots to worthy and sometimes profitable causes.  And like any good crop, harvesters are available to see the process through, harvesters as likely to be Republicans as Democrats as a 2018 Congressional election in North Carolina made clear.  Additionally of course, as the Fox news article referenced above makes clear, the good old fashioned, tried and true technique of “losing”, hiding and destroying unfavorable ballots remains popular, something almost certain to become more problematic with mail in ballots.  We are told that there is no evidence that electoral fraud is a real problem.  That is a blatant lie (as we all know but many will not admit), although it is true that the evidence of such fraud is, as with any crime by competent professionals, carefully obfuscated and denied.

In the United States, with electoral affairs regulated at the local level, adequate policing to prevent fraud is extremely difficult and reliance is based on the integrity of county clerks and state secretaries of state.  However, political polarization and desperation to attain and retain political control have attained levels unsustainable for even the verisimilitude of democracy. And it appears the problem will become worse in the upcoming elections.  If both candidates and voters lose faith in the legitimacy of elections, as has clearly been the case since 2016, even the illusion of democracy cannot survive, perhaps the case in which we find ourselves today.  Which is why the current President’s reticence to pre-accept the integrity of results so fraught with the potential for fraud among partisans willing to do anything to win is hardly unreasonable or indicia that he intends to “steal another election”.

Full disclosure requires that I admit that I have been an advocate for replacement of the de facto two party system with a true multiparty system, and to replace the consolidated monolithic corporate media behemoth with a decentralized media legally responsible when it disseminates false news.  I must also admit to not being so naïve as to believe that as new political parties attain power, they too will not be tempted to use corrupt means to retain power.  Only an active and informed electorate willing to vote in favor of what its members believe rather than against political boogeymen and boogeywomen, one that refuses to vote for evil, even if it is portrayed as lesser, can really implement and maintain functional democracy.  But democracy is a fragile thing reliant on a complex series of factors to function, chief among them: access to accurate and complete unbiased information; the absence of corruption; and, the acceptance of results contrary to our immediate expectations and desires. 

Unfortunately, today, in the United States, none of such factors exist, but then again, perhaps they never have.  As the Trojan seeress and princess Cassandra might have cried to us three thousand years ago: “something to think about.
_______

© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2020; all rights reserved.  Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution. Guillermo Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia (although he has primarily lived in the United States of America of which he is also a citizen).  Until 2017 he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales.  He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies).  He can be contacted at guillermo.calvo.mahe@gmail.com and much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.

So, … Just Which Lives Matter and Why?

Echoes of Cassandra, and of Huxley and Orwell, and of Heinlein as well.  The counterintuitive blues.  Perhaps our hidden pandemic.  The real plague among us.  Our mirrors don’t seem to work anymore.  Narrative is all that counts.  “Resistance is futile”!

As so often happens, diverse parts of the world are being stricken by social convulsions, spontaneity now become a carefully organized production.  Good causes immediately perverted into evil.  Sauron wins again.  At least for now.  As usual, the United States is the focal point, the catalyst, and then, the betrayer.

Although denominated “Black Lives Matter”, the movement convulsing the United States and resonating around the world would be better described as “Criminal Lives Matter”, at least if facts mattered.  And they do.  Both criminal lives and facts.  And they should.  And they must in a system that seeks to reflect the values to which most societies aspire.  But it seems to me that there are three very different issues at play that are being hysterically conflated in the United States into only one for no purpose other than to attain political advantages in upcoming elections.  They involve: (1) the problems of police impunity and corruption; (2) the reality that too many of our citizens find themselves immersed in a life of violent crime; and, (3) the accelerating polarization of our society that increasingly divides us by race, nationality, religion and gender.  Black lives matter.  All lives matter (strange that this statement is now considered racist).  Human dignity matters.  Equity matters.  Equality matters. 

Criminal lives matter but police lives matter just as much.  In each case, both the victims and the perpetrators are human beings.  They are parents and siblings and sons and daughters, cousins and uncles and aunts.  Friends.  They are us, … but for fate and blind fortune, as Joan Baez sang so long ago.  And we probably all agree, regardless of how the corporate media and Deep State seek to confuse and divide us.

Impunity is a poison that leads to corruption and needs to be eliminated, not expanded to criminals as well.  The United States, indeed the world, is full of African American and minority heroes, real role models.  Role models like Mandela and King, and a bit east, like Gandhi.  And their modern variants are myriad and exist at every social level and in most political and social movements.  But career criminals, injured or killed resisting otherwise lawful arrest, do not fit that bill unless what we want to create are more violent criminals resisting arrest.  Role models are people we hold up to emulate, those in whose footsteps we want our children to follow.  But during this past century that role has been perverted.  Our role models are now too often selfish athletes, or selfish singers, or selfish actors, or selfish plutocrats.  And now, seemingly, selfish violent criminals resisting arrest.  Still, notwithstanding that violent criminals ought not to be our role models, extrajudicial killing ought not to be accepted and much less justified.  Criminal lives matter and police impunity deprives the state of the justification for its monopoly on the use of force.  That is the real issue tearing the United States apart, and now the very real issue spreading throughout the world.

As should be the case with public servants across the board (especially those holding higher office), police should be held to higher standards of conduct and perhaps, conviction for misconduct should involve a lower threshold of proof given how easy it is to hide official wrongdoing, and more serious punishment.  But with reference to public servants of whom we demand that they place their lives at risk in order to protect us and our property, that reality also needs to be taken into account.  A complex conundrum not attained through politically expedient, simplistic solutions designed to appeal to emotions of the moment rather than to reason and logic.  The same is true of our military.  In each case we teach that killing and risking our lives are acceptable options, then, after those dehumanizing lessons have been inculcated, we seek to bind the resulting impulses with rules of engagement that are all too frequently impossible to analyze in the split seconds available.  And when the predictable consequences take place, we seek to wash our bloody hands and blame them, and only them.  We fulminate and excoriate and make ludicrous suggestions in lieu of solutions and we do so because their crimes are ours as well.  And that, we prefer to ignore.  If the violators of the public trust are depraved and sick human beings, it is the depraved society that we not only tolerate, but which we select at the polls, that is ultimately responsible.  When war abroad make killing and mayhem quotidian events (a price to be paid only in collateral consequences), how can we be surprised when it comes home to roost?

But what of criminals? 

Well they obviously should not resist arrest!  But then, they should not have been criminals in the first place.  The reality is that most criminals did not chose to be criminals for the fun of it.  Some are subject to mental aberrations but many have been drawn to crime by opportunity-denied generationally.  By failure assured.  And the resulting self-loathing is relieved and hidden only under layers of readily available psychotropic drugs.  Those responsible for the evolution of a society where such problems are festering social wounds are much more to blame than are aberrant policemen and women.  In that regard, the Clinton administration with its lurch to the right to attain power at any cost may be the most to blame.  Its penal and welfare “reforms” are what most exacerbated an already seriously unfair economic system whose primary victims were African Americans and Latinos.  “Reforms” that led to the incarceration of a higher percentage of our residents than are incarcerated anywhere else in the world; worse than Russia or China, worse than our allies, Saudi Arabia and Israel.  “Reforms” that destroyed the nucleus of the Black family with males driven out so that welfare benefits might alleviate the existing abject poverty.  Reforms responsible for the fact that African Americans are responsible for more violent crime than any ethnic group despite being a minority of the population.  Odd that African Americans adopted President Clinton as one of their own but then, they don’t call him “Slick Willy” for nothing; feminists have done the same thing. 

As in the case of all aspects of terrorism (and violent crime is just that, whether perpetrated by criminals or rogue police officers), it will not be minimized by eliminating those who engage in terrorist tactics but by minimizing the social factors that maximize inequity and injustice.  Palestinian lives matter but we did not care and the Israeli tactics designed to permanently eliminate the reminders of their own “peculiar institution” have been imported by police departments all over the United States, now forming an integral part of domestic police practices.  Iraqi lives matter but we murdered hundreds of thousands of them, a price Madeline Albright found acceptable.  Afghan lives matter but we murdered tens of thousands of them, a price Bush II, Obama, Clinton and Biden found acceptable.  Libyan and Syrian and Honduran and Ukrainian and Yemeni lives matter too, but every one of our major political leaders in both major political parties have found the price acceptable.  And we, the voters, especially those willing to settle for lesser evils, are personally responsible.

This is who we have become thanks to the bellicose oligarchs we permit to dominate us (and the current president is far from the worst among them; not exactly a tribute).  The Obama-Clinton-Biden triad happily led us into Libya and Syria and Yemen and Honduras and the Ukraine.  And current GOP allies of the Biden presidential campaign such as the Bush family and Colin Powell, and numerous generals and admirals and intelligence officials, current and former, etc., led us into the continuing Iraqi and Afghan quagmires.  So for all the noise and blunder, for all the protests and riots, for all the looting and arson, we keep headed in the same direction.  Not the blind leading the blind but lemmings following bloody murderers to the polls to vote for the same old options.  To vote for evil in the name of lesser evil, but with the same results.

Is America Headed for a Race War” is the headline in an article published on RT by Robert Bridge, an American writer and journalist and the author of Midnight in the American Empire.  The law of unintended consequences strikes hardest when long and intermediate term consequences are ignored in favor of immediate goals such as victory in a single election.  Hopefully Mr. Bridge’s article is hyperbolic as its conclusion ought to be unthinkable.  But it raises valid points.  Points we should consider.  Unfortunately, Mr. Bridge continues to associate the left with the Democratic Party as though they were synonyms, which they are not.  While some leftists are indeed trapped in the Democratic Party, leftists I admire like Tulsi Gabbard and Dennis Kucinich, and others are seduced by fantasies of a shortcut to attaining power by capturing one of the two existing major political parties (but will more likely become what they believe they are fighting), the Democratic Party is utterly controlled by neoliberal, neoconservatives.  One need only consider who their candidates for president and vice president are.  The truth is that rather than being “leftist”, the Democratic Party does not even qualify as center right.  Furthermore many of today’s rioters (as distinct from protesters, two very different social roles) are anarchists rather than socialists, and anarchists are not leftist either; they are far to the right of libertarians in the individual-to-collective spectrum. 

The United States is obsessed with hyperbolic labels (seemingly more now than ever).  Republicans falsely equate the Democratic Party with communists and Democrats return the favor, associating the GOP with fascism.  Neither cares for the truth, only for power.  Something most voters understand but feel incapable of correcting because, this time, the election really is existential  This time one opponent or the other must be stopped, even if evil will win again, as it has for most of the “democratic” elections during our lifetimes.  Perhaps, due to our political apathy coupled with the naivety of too many of us, we’re receiving just what we deserve. 

But does our progeny deserve it as well? 

Perhaps it is their lives that ought to matter most.
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© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2020; all rights reserved.  Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.

Guillermo Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia (although he has primarily lived in the United States of America of which he is also a citizen).  Until 2017 he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales.  He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies).  He can be contacted at guillermo.calvo.mahe@gmail.com and much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.