America’s Arab Spring

ugly american in mexicoLast year, my life was altered by an early morning telephone call from my physician whose opening remarks were, “Jim, I need to talk to you about your lab results…” That particular conversation caused me to reevaluate my entire life and bring into question what activities I would chose for my remaining days. Upon retrospect, this is something I strongly feel we all need to do regardless of health issues.

An opportunity “accidently” generated itself for us to retreat to Cozumel, Mexico, whereas I hoped to put the finishing touches on a documentary I am writing about our Vietnam involvement. As we had a week of below freezing weather in Alabama, the high 70, low 80 degree Cozumel weather was too inviting to pass up.

The Cancun-Cozumel area of Mexico reminds us a great deal of Vietnam with their friendly people, jungle, and French occupation style buildings and colors; however, there are serious and important differences. This area of Mexico caters to the well-to-do American; spoiled US college students on their parents’ dole; and the regular tourist trade.

This entire region has become a foreign playground — somewhat of a de facto American backyard with a Las Vegas mentality where alcohol is king,. “Gentlemen’s clubs” and casinos are on the rise. Locals accept their station as a ‘servant class’ and readily tolerate degrading behaviors, as acceptance translates into cash in their pockets.

Since the last time we were here prices have significantly spiked; US banks are as plentiful as weeds; ATMs are literally everywhere; there are more Union Jacks, American and Canadian colors than Mexican flags; most beaches have been privatized; no taxi has a meter as free market bargaining rules; and overweight foreigners can also rent a skinny horse and buggy for that Central Park experience. On the up-side, unlike certain other areas of Mexico, security is top notch, whereas crime, kidnappings, drugs, bad publicity are far removed from the alien cash cows.

The scantitly clad beautiful people sit by pools, or in hot tubs, in the 80 degree sun, using their laptops while sipping an endless supply of mixed drinks. In the distance we can see intoxicated jet skiers avoid multitudes of swimmers while rushing toward the beach, killing their engines just in time to coast onto the sand. This game is repeated time and again. Even on foreign soil, Americans of power, privilege, wealth exhibit their arrogance and have become the new generation of “Ugly Americans.”

I remember seeing Kathie Lee Giffords some years ago when she addressed the Honduras child sweat shop allegations. Of the numerous points she made, I distinctly remember two:

  • She, Kathie Lee Giffords, was the real victim; and
  • (Those children) were lucky to have jobs.

To her credit Mrs. Giffords is involved with various charities that benefit abused children; but the wealthy seem to have a perverted view of the world.

Perhaps that point is best illustrated by former presidential candidate, Mitt Romney. I clearly remember the photo taken with his colleagues while he was CEO of Bain Capital. All proudly exhibited fists and pockets full of currency. Profits were everything. Human lives were nothing. Among Romney’s “successes” as a financial manager included bankrupting the 100-year-old company ARMCO Steel, which cost the American taxpayer over $44 million in pension fund bail-outs as well as 750 employees their jobs; but, on the other hand created a $36 million profit for Bain Capital.

American Pad & Paper was another company Romney and Bain sent into bankruptcy costing 1500 US workers their jobs while at the same time generating a $100 million profit for Bain Capital. Dade Behring was also forced into bankruptcy, losing another 1700 American jobs while at the same time creating an additional $240 in profits for Bain. After their bankruptcy, Stage Stores laid off over 5000 US workers to add an additional $175 million to Bain’s coffers.

After much thought and witnessing what is going on down here in Mexico, I find it only natural to ask myself: “How much more of this immoral (but legally sanctioned and rewarded) behavior will we tolerate before the United States has an “Arab Spring”?

jim rhodesAs I continue to work on my war documentary, we miss Vietnam. The simplicity, good nature, and morality of the Vietnamese people are things money cannot buy. Perhaps this is why so many affluent people don’t have them? I have learned a great deal from the Vietnamese people and their ‘Buddhist mind-set’ for which I am truly grateful as they have shown me the true “Golden Rule” as opposed to the golden rule currently practiced in America: ‘He who has the gold, makes the rules’.

If you knew your time remaining on this plane of existence were limited, would you change? What would you do differently? Sadly, I fear. the answer to this question, at least for our Washington audience, would be “nothing.”

James Rhodes


  1. harry says

    When I loved in Vietnam, travel on highway 13 was so risky even angles would not use that road. I traded goods at a mountain yard village on that road often. I have often wondered how things are going for the people now. When I left Vietnam, An Loc was surrounded and one could not get out by land transport.
    Enjoyed your article even though I could not discern your point.

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