During our whole two hours demonstrating at the pier this Saturday in solidarity with Venezuela, I had only two totally negative experiences. Both were with young women who claimed the authority to speak against us and to have their words considered incontestable. Neither of them would allow the impudence of any dissident to challenge them. Both of them—at two different times—quickly turned and walked away, talking over our voices. In each case, the woman had one and only one argument she held to trump all of ours.
She was Venezuelan.
In each case, the woman had one and only one argument she held to trump all of ours. She was Venezuelan.
Actually, the first experience happened before the rally began. I was walking around the pier looking for lunch, carrying my “Defeat Trump’s Take-Over of Venezuela” sign.
“Let me see your sign!” Her voice had appeared from the crowd while my eyes were reading menus on walls, before I had a chance to size her up for friendliness or hostility. “You’re wrong!” she declared after reading it, and to prove her point she added that she was Venezuelan and the therefore, correct.
“Look,” I began, trying to sound as sympathetic as possible. “I’m from...”
But she moved on, talking over whatever it was that this ignorant non-Venezuelan had to say.
Later, another Venezuelan approached our rally and gave the same justification for denouncing us: she too could speak from the authority of having lived there. But this time, a woman from our crowd turned upon hearing her announcement, and countered her.
She too was Venezuelan.
“You support Maduro?!” the young woman questioned her. The argument lasted a few seconds before she, too, turned and stormed off, talking to prevent hearing, but (it seemed to me) with a bit less authority than before. Now she was maybe only incontestably correct on the grounds that she was, of course, correct.
In both cases, there was an argument I wanted to make to their “I’m Venezuelan.” My time spent in Venezuela was only three days, two at a conference and one in a march with the people, so I couldn’t match their decades there. Sensing that I would only have a few minutes at best to make my argument, I wasn’t going to speak of electoral triumph after triumph of the Bolivarian Revolution, nor even of the recent one with all the international observers praising it. I wasn’t even going to talk about the literacy rates, health indices, and the housing of the formerly homeless. I wasn’t going to try to explain how both the violence and the economic strangulation is being caused by the opposition, including from D.C. Nor would I even try to make the argument that whether she or I like Maduro or not, there is no justification of U.S. economic or military intervention, or that such intervention is based on the same lies, and is carried out for the same purpose, as was the case in Iraq, Afghanistan, and such.
No, all I wanted to say in whatever brief time she would allow me were two points meant to dissolve their basis of authority, so that we could talk on a more rational and level plane. But since neither of them allowed me a moment, I’m just going to write it here.
“Look,” I wanted to say, “I was born and raised in Los Angeles. If at any time in my childhood or early youth I had met a visitor to my city who said to me, ‘In Los Angeles, police beat people up or kill them with impunity, either for the color of their skin or for the union cause they were active in,’ I would have argued, ‘No, that’s not true!’ And I would have known and would have argued that I was correct because I was born and raised in L.A. and knew from experience that the police were friendly and helpful. I would have argued this with passion.
“But I would have been wrong.”
The second point I wanted to make is this: “I was born and raised in the United States, growing up in the fifties, in the McCarthy Era. But if I had traveled out of my country and heard people say, ‘In America, people lose their jobs and even get sent to prison for expressing beliefs opposing the racism, the oppression of labor, or the wars of your country,’ I would have most fervently argued, with all the patriotic gusto that had been bred into me, that this was a lie. I would have declared, ‘ln my country, all people are free!’
[dc]“B[/dc]ut again, I would have been wrong.”
There! I said it. Fat chance that either of these two women would get to read this, but I got it out.