So I had a little down time yesterday, and was surfing through YouTube watching some videos from the past. I find that YouTube is an amazing tool, allowing us to catch and preserve the great moments in humanity’s struggles. In this case I was watching a speech by Maria Corina Machado, a well-known Venezuelan opposition parliamentarian who has suffered a great deal of abuse for her steadfast stance against Venezuela’s revolutionary government. In this video – an amazing video – she stands in Venezuela’s revolutionary parliament, against all the powers of Venezuela’s narco-dictatorship, as she defends the 2013 Presidential electoral victory of Governor Henrique Capriles Radonski – after Caprlies himself waffled rather than confront the regime. “If you even think about sending Capriles to prison, you are going to have to build jail cells for millions of Venezuelans,” Machado said. True courage, especially considering the evil she was facing.
YouTube then took me, as it often does, to a related video, an earlier video also featuring Machado; this one of Hugo Chavez holding court with his cabinet ministers. In this video he is seen mocking Maria Corina Machado; imitating her by reading a letter that he penned in her ‘voice’, complaining about the shortages which have become the hallmark of the revolution.
This video was also remarkable – albeit for different reasons. You see – and as you can see in the video – the Hugo Chavez that took time to prepare and deliver this verbal abuse on another Venezuelan citizen, and an elected member of parliament (albeit of the opposition) was well into the final stages of an aggressive cancer. In point of fact he was dying – and he knew it. To me this is the greatest example of what is wrong with socialist Venezuela; it is a country whose entire political project – the whole edifice of government from the top to the bottom – seethes with hate. Here he was, a popularly elected president at the very end of his life, and all that occurred to Chavez was to prepare a nasty little pantomime to belittle a woman parliamentarian (I bring up women because the farce is quite misogynistic). This, instead of the myriad other possible responses to his own demise; responses which would come natural to most of us. He could have apologized for the hurts caused; he could have made right so many things he got wrong; he could have tried to assemble a legacy for himself that would reach across political lines; he could have even used his death as an example of sacrifice and leadership to his people. Of course, in reality he could have done none of these things – or he would not have been Hugo Chavez; the man who discovered the hate, who nurtured it, who empowered it and gave it direction and meaning and legitimacy. The greatest hate peddler of our time.
There is a lesson here for us; all of us as citizens of a crowded and complicated world. We are susceptible to the hate too; and it will lead us to the same place. We see it in our increasingly bitter politics; on our facebook and twitter feeds; in the television commercials that bombard us and the laws enacted “on our behalf”. Sometimes it hides as pity; sometimes it hides as hate’s ugly cousin envy; and sometimes it even finds meaning in purposefully murky words like “social justice”. It’s still hate; and still preaches violence against others. And I, for one, am tired of the hate – wherever it comes from. Thankfully, there is an antidote for hate. No, not love – I’m not a pop singer. The antidote for the hate is respect; and this is something I think we all can agree on. So next time you cast a vote, make a post on facebook, write a blog or march for what you believe in – check your motivations before pushing “publish” or walking out the door. Are you answering the clarion’s call of hate, or are you seeking to build a world through mutual respect? I will do the same.