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After Russia and so many other oppressed nations threw off their oppressors, we could have allowed new societies to form, develop, and flourish. We could have helped nurture whatever systems of government arose organically out of local history, lore, mythology, and environment. We could have watered whatever took root.

We could have exported democracy, not capitalism. We could have helped. Whatever local systems developed of their own agency, of their own history, mythology, and circumstance, even in our big-as-a-hemisphere backyard, they could not have been worse than the torturers and killers we selected and imposed. Had we helped, we’d have many more friends, and the world would be far less fraught

But, despite the sentiments of Christmas carols, less fraught—peace on Earth—is not the capitalists’ goal. Less fraught—cooperation, sharing—threatens the wealth and incomes of rich American capitalists, nominally citizens of the United States but actually citizens of the Nation of Sovereign Wealth. (L'état, c'est eux.) They are people who, despite their American flag self-cloaking, their American flag waving, their American flag lapel pins, care nothing about America or about democracy or about anything except hanging on to their wealth and accumulating even more.

Money knows neither conscience nor allegiance. For AINOs (American In Name Only), people with names like Musk, Koch, Zuckerberg, Trump, Murdoch—America is a convenience, a satisfactory location that checks critical boxes: a stable banking system; a strong currency; a supply of talented publicists and propagandists (a fine line there); accessible publicity and propaganda distribution systems (ditto); abundant, long-runway airports; deep harbors; available sycophants and wannabes; and greedy, tractable politicians with sufficient numbers of self-cheating imbeciles willing to vote for them. Unaccountably, all of the above are grateful for the opportunity to carry the uber rich’s water. (‘Splain me that, Ricky.)

That’s what we could have done. It’s not what we did. Instead we allowed Chicago School free market economists and their student progeny to use Latin America as a repression-research laboratory, the costs of which we bore. As much as we make an issue of taxation, we bore those costs philosophically, disengaged from what was taking place en otra parte (elsewhere) at the direction of our government. As our puppet dictadores and juntas reigned and rained down unspeakable torture and terror on their people, we were complacent and complicit, untouched, easily distracted—anesthetized—by shiny news objects.

But please notice what School of the Americas does not say: It does not say School of the Latin Americas. We have always thought of Latin American repression as happening en otra parte. But for the Chicago School free market believers, Latin America was a living laboratory where crackpot experiments in repression and social control were conducted, and not only by laissez-faire freakazoids, but also by US government alphabet agencies. All that research, all that inexcusable fucking with Latin America, all that misery we enabled, sanctioned, devised, compelled, committed, refined (and paid for) was documented and digested. A body of knowledge was gathered and archived. People with or who aspired to power learned from it. And like all research—academic, corporate, psychological, and military—lessons learned in one place can be applied en otra parte.

Including here. Like on the people at the bandstand. [Note to self: Possible Netflix series—The Dancing Dead.] We paid for research that no doubt has been and no doubt will be used against us. Is there karma? Is it patriotic to ask?

It’s not happening only here. It’s happening worldwide. The amount of money they have is limitless. Their loyalty extends only to themselves, each other, and wealth. They will spend whatever it takes to keep it and increase it. Not only American democracy is under attack; global democracy is under attack. After many decades of corporations and governments gathering data into immense databases that are now, because of advances in computing power, speedily searchable, the propulsez-faire capitalists have unprecedented ability to implement never before seen levels of repression and control. 1984 will look like a Disney tale. No one who is not already one of them will be safe.

The Latin American desaparecidos were students and working people hoping for better, fairer lives. In response, we imposed governments that were agents of terror and provided them with weapons and training. Their governments were financed with predatory loans provided by the World Bank and other less than altruistic entities. Governments that resisted were framed as enemies of the US, demonized as Marxists, and overthrown. People who resisted—disidentes—were desaparecidos. It was all quite rational in an Ayn Randy kind of way.

At the Playa Vista bandshell, I was laid low by a premonition that, despite our being aware of history, it was about to repeat. I was also freezing. After so many hours unable to move in the crowded press pen, I couldn’t walk, my arthritic knees and hips frozen from having stood in one place while numb fingers held up my phone to record the speeches. I felt like the Tin Man without his oil can.

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Hello Darkness My Old Friend

The specters of pale but joyful Sandernista not-yet-ghosts filled my head as, like the Tin Man as I hobbled away, an earworm murmuring: The people, defeated, will never be united. Doom and gloom reinforces itself because we convince ourselves that resistance is futile, but chirpy self-delusion is not a viable alternative; they’re two sides of complicity. I believe in ghosts, and the restless ghosts of los desaparecidos wander. I saw them standing among the Sandernista not-yet-ghosts at the bandshell.

Shuffling slowly and stiffly toward my motorcycle, facing a long, cold ride home (because I could), I thought about those of us who fear for democracy. Honestly? We’re not afraid enough. For all its flaws, there was beauty here, and it’s dying. Right before our eyes, America is being disappeared.

Disappearing America Series:

Disappearing America: Feeling the Bern—Part 1
Monday, 28 November 2022

Disappearing America: The Red Menace—Part 2
Tuesday, 29 November 2022

Disappearing America: I Was Objective When I Started—Part 3
Wednesday, 30 November 2022

Disappearing America: It’s Only Faire—Part 4
Thursday, 1 December 2022

Disappearing America: More For Me—Part 5
Friday, 2 December 2022

Disappearing America: Indoctrination Nation—Part 6
Saturday, 3 December 2022

America Disappeared: What We Could Have Been Doing in the Shadows—Part 7
Friday, 4 December 2022