Friday Night Story

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I met Hugo Chavez, once. I was a professor at Universidad Simón Bolívar. We discussed his politics, and the effect they were having on the world. What I realized, near the end, was the flaw in Hugo’s plan: He wanted to fix the world.

The problem with this was that HE wanted to FIX the world. Rightfully so, Hugo didn’t trust anyone else with the task. Politicians tend to exist on a pendulum, swinging a country further in each direction from ultraliberal to ultraconservative, thus netting the poorest-conceived outcomes from both. He understood the destinction, that politics were the art of deceiving the public, while governing was the art of shaping the world; his greatest failing was eliminating the former to concentrate on the latter. And he recognized the necessity, and perhaps his ego demanded, that he be the one to fix things. But when one man seeks to fix the world, he rarely takes into account how very many people like the world just the way it is.

Who are these people who prefer a world of suffering, an Africa bleeding resources and choking to death from AIDS, a Middle East where a week can’t go by without civilians blowing up in the middle of the street, an Asia built into an economic juggernaut on the broken backs of its starving people? It’s often enough easily summed by asking qui bono, “Who benefits?” The world today is rich. Rich with resources like oil, and rich with producible and growable goods. However, no one says that these riches need stop at the producers or growers, at the shippers or the sellers. The wealth of the world has always had a tendency to collect in the hands of the few.

And that is why Hugo died. Not because he disrupted the checks and balances within the Venezuelan political system. Not because he centralized power in a surely foolish attempt to install himself as Presidente Aeternum. He died because he wasn’t born in Scandinavia, because he dared to believe in equality- in Latin America of all places. And because he was bad for business.

His death was as inevitable as it was humbling. As a member of the intelligentsia I did not oppose him, and would not denounce him, so I became with him by default. The cadre of men who replaced him were virulent and violent and thorough. Though they came from various backgrounds, philosophies, and styles, they worked together like ghost ants, implying they originated from a single source, protected by the same symbiotic relationship with a larger, predatory spider.

So I fled. Under Chavez, Venezuelans were granted refugee status within the United States. But in New Venezuela I was considered a refugee from Venezuelan justice, and by extension a noncombatant enemy of America. If I purchased a plane ticket with my own name, I would have been seized as I boarded the plane. If perhaps the ghost dictators decided they were better off with me no longer in the country, I would be seized by the Americans when I landed.

So I bought up fake documents, a new name and identity. I shed more than half my life as I entered the country on a lie, naked excepting my forgery. Over time, the American targeting system proved itself to be like U.S. gun laws, hindering law-abiding citizens while virtually ignoring those willing to break the law. Because criminals are always willing to learn the system and its loopholes. Goddamn the people who turned me into a criminal, a mouse in a field of serpents.

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