Eugene Robinson, I don’t know where to start regarding your utterly unnecessary article, “When Slapped, Slap Back.” For some reason, you think it is a good idea to jump on the Republican bandwagon, albeit very temporarily, to hurl insults at Chavez and ding President Obama concerning their interaction at the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago last weekend.
Although you can’t declare it openly, I know you are a liberal kind of guy. I see you on Keith Olbermann’s show generally making alot of sense. But, something is “off” about your article — it’s as if you didn’t write it. Now I know you wrote it, but it is a mosaic of the vituperative kind of stuff that you find in Wikipedia and Fox News. This article is not you, my friend.
Let’s take a look at some of the themes in your article and see why a highly successful columnist at the Washington Post would espouse them.
Let’s deal with the toughest one first. Why did Chavez and Ortega “insult” the United States and Obama? I don’t know how telling the truth constitutes an insult. It might have made Obama reach for an aspirin, but he could not (should not) have been offended. After all, this was a Summit among “equals,” said Obama.
Actually, it was Obama who insulted virtually every head of state at the Summit when he said he was not going to dwell on the past and would, instead, look to the future. This is a tantamount to a “get over it” and is like a dagger in the heart of Latin Americans. Obama, along with many others, will have to deal with the past because it is the only way to go forward. The past must be dealt with because millions and millions of lives will continue to be negatively affected if it is not done. You said, “the history of U.S. involvement in Latin America is pretty sordid.” Sordid? Merriam-Webbster defines sordid as “marked by baseness or grossness.” Ortegea would be delighted if this was all that the US did to his country. It’s an insult for you to use this word to describe the US relationship with Latin America that has been marked by (yes, ALL of these apply): genocide, assassination, starvation, illiteracy, crop devastation, bombings, invasions, massive funding of mercenary-animals whose purpose was to murder the peasantry in several Latin American countries, etc. No, Ortega is not going to “get over it” and neither will Chavez, Lula da Silva, Lugo, Bachelet, Morales, etc. They can’t because the pain is ever present and hurts too much. To get over it is to sell your people out. These issues can only be dealt with through reparations and public mea culpas.
Your article used highly charged word associations that are inaccurate and here is where I think Fox News comes in. The problem with using them is that when repeated often enough they belie reality and are passed off for the truth. I am sure you are sensitive to the role of the media in demonizing democratically-elected leaders so that the US could topple or murder them. In this century alone, the media collaborated with the US in taking down Aristide in Haiti, a coup in Venezuela and most recently, an attempted assassination of Morales. I urge you to be careful about who you call what. Here are some examples from your article:
Chavez “wants to be president-for-life.” Wrong. He wants to be president long enough to make sure that the life-saving, enabling movement that is the Bolivarian revolution takes root. Without the revolution, it all goes to hell and the elite rules again.
Chavez uses “anti-democratic methods of silencing critics” and “neutralizing potential opposition.” I’d say it was quite the opposite. During the coup, private TV stations outnumbered the state TV five to one. And, his critics cut the power of the state TV station. Now, I call that anti-democratic! Remember, the private TV stations were all on the side of the opposition and collaborated in the coup in the most treasonous of ways.
Now, Ortega. So, you thought it a good idea for Obama and others to deliver a “pushback against those who would rather relive the insults of the past than move forward.” Good lord, Robinson. If it was just US insults that were used on the Sandinistas, I think Ortega could hold his own in Spanish with insults that would burn the hair off of your ears. By suggesting that Ortega was reliving insults, you show an embarrassing lack of context and you belittle the pain of the US’ murderous involvement in Nicaragua.
I think before you write another word about Latin America, you need to order yourself a copy of Eduardo Galeano’s “Open Veins of Latin America.”
Finally, shame on you, Mr. Robinson. I think you are a better man than this, but you will need to show us now.