12.9.18

El PIP es parte del problema

Este corto ensayo lo escribí luego de leer el artículo de El Nuevo Día titulado, El Partido Independentista defiende su vigencia, del 12 de septiembre de 2018.

Aun si en una minoría del electorado (de la cual soy parte), la ideología independista continúa vigente en Puerto Rico. Mientras seamos una colonia la independencia será una opción. Lo lamentable es que el ecosistema político en el que subsiste el PIP hace que éste sea más parte del problema que la solución. Hablo aquí del PIP como institución política de PR. La paradoja del PIP es que aboga por la solución correcta en circunstancias totalmente adversas, psicológicamente hablando, a la situación colonial de Puerto Rico. Parte del problema es la potente combinación de ignorancia y miedo que nos consume como puertorriqueños ante la independencia. Otra parte del problema es que resulta mucho más fácil mantener el status quo o someternos a una absorción artificial, porque no sería otra cosa, por parte de los Estados Unidos que considerar el costo y sacrificio que conlleva tomar las riendas de nuestro propio destino y formar parte de la comunidad internacional. Esto no es fácil decirlo, mucho menos con nuestra realidad fiscal de por medio.

El PIP será más de lo mismo en la realidad política puertorriqueña mientras continúe jugando dentro del tóxico juego político que nos consume no cada cuatro años sino todos los días. El Partido Independentista Puertorriqueño debe urgentemente buscar formas alternativas de presentar su plataforma independentista para PR si ha de salir de su aislamiento electoral.

Puerto Rico tiene un legado histórico independentista que trasciende por mucho las fronteras del PIP. Enseñar ese legado de manera objetiva, transparente y consistente en nuestras escuelas públicas con todas sus glorias y vergüenzas, con todas sus figuras ilustres y no tan ilustres sería una manera muy efectiva de descrubir porqué la lucha independista en PR ha tomado los rumbos que ha tomado hasta nuestros días, y nuevamente más allá del PIP.

Un gran sector de la diáspora puertorriqueña (de la cual también soy parte) aboga por la indepencia de nuestro país. No me queda claro como el PIP ha procurado buscar y organizar los recursos de la diáspora para abogar por la causa de nuestra independencia. Por eso pienso que el problema del PIP, problema que ha tenido por mucho de su exitencia, no es uno de plataforma sino de miopía política.

En menos de dos semanas, el 23 de septiembre, los puertorriqueños celebramos en #PuertoRico el Grito de Lares. El contexto se dio en el siglo XIX y lamentablemente, un evento que muy bien pudiéramos estar celebrando hoy día como estado independiente y de manera colectiva en vez de fragmentada, fracasó. No olvidemos que ese no fue el caso del resto de nuestros países hermanos latinoamericanos. La gran mayoría de esos gritos por la independencia en la América colonizada tuvo éxito. Incluyendo el grito independentista del país del cual otra gran parte de los puertorriqueños quiere ser parte. Necesitamos un nuevo grito independentista en Puerto Rico. Definitivamente, tiene que ser muy distinto a ese primer Grito de de Lares, pero a nadie dentro y fuera de Puerto Rico le cabe la menor duda de que lo necesitamos.

#PuertoRicoLibre
#MuertealaColonia
#GritodeLares

17.8.18

The Resistors

27.6.18

On a silver platter


In upholding Trump's travel ban today, the majority of the Supreme Court justices that ruled in favor of it missed the forest for the trees. It is truly mind-blowing that they did. The lower courts had enough legal and judicial sense to strike the travel ban not once, not twice but three times before it was accepted by the Supreme Court for review.

These lower court justices saw the ban for what it was, a power-grabbing threat by an autocratic president who not ironically is pushing for our immigration system to bypass judicial review for refugees and asylum seekers by precisely getting rid of judges. The travel ban had come prefaced by disparaging and bigoted campaign statements and promises. Promises this same president brags about keeping. They were made against Muslims in general and Muslim immigrants in particular. Real human beings.

In arguing for the broad powers of the president in matters of "national security", the 5 justices of the majority opinion of the day handed in their own integrity on a silver platter, but they did worse than that. They eroded the very reason why the Supreme Court exists, to hold the other branches of government accountable. This is what the lower courts were not willing to do, but now that battle is over. By a decree of 5-4, the Supreme Court whether realizing it or not (I'm willing to bet the 5 don't have a clue) folded. It eroded its own power to hold a megalomaniacal president accountable for generations to come. That is unless the remaining branch of government, the legislature, does something to stop this leaps-and-bounds overreach. Can we hold our breaths?

Obviously, the long game of waiting president Obama out of the White House in order for a hopefully "Republican" president to appoint "conservative" judges worked like a charm. This ruling proves that the political maneuvering is alive and kicking wherever it is played. But at what cost? At the grave cost of the very erosion of the power that handed us down a disgraceful and misguided ruling. Unlike what some might argue is his business sense, President Trump is not a smart and calculating politician. He rules by instinct and impulse. These are real dangers when one possesses political power because instinct and impulse are easily exploited.

Yet, there's one thing that will encourage President Trump to be more calculating from this day forward. He'd submitted the concept of presidential power to an impressive test and he won. Bigly. He will be intentionally calculating as to how his own presidential power can continue to expand. Of that we can all be certain. There is an increasing reversal of freedoms running amok around the world. Duterte, Putin, Erdogan, Maduro, Xi Jinping, Kim Jong-un are worrisome and sure examples of contemporary leaders who do not care about civil liberties. They do care about power, in particular how they can keep it to wield it for their own purposes, and insofar they keep it and use it they see themselves as supreme servants of their interests, agendas, nations accordingly. Don't be fooled. This is how nationalism takes hold and I think we're seeing it unfold before our very eyes.

In the service of this so called "Make *Whatever* Great Again" campaign, systems and institutions that have served the common good for generations begin to be transformed and deconstructed. It is my belief that one of the most resilient institutions in the history of the United States has entered into an accelerated phase of deconstruction. By their decision today, the majority justices have no one to blame in this process but themselves. Even the president himself tweeted in disbelief or surprise or both when he heard about the ruling this morning. "Wow!"

#thisisamerica
#trump
#supremecourt
#freedom

29.4.18

Wild Wild Country


To what lengths will people go to create heaven on earth? This is the quintessential quest of man and the central question the Netflix documentary Wild Wild Country deals with. Originally a Sundance Official Selection, the six-part documentary debuted on Netflix in March 2018.

Wild Wild Country traces the origin of the religious cult of Rajneeshism from its somewhat mysterious central figure, guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, in India to the settlement and eventual demise of the Rajneeshpuram commune in Wasco County, Oregon during the 1980s.


Directed by brothers Maclain and Chapman Way, WWC blossoms before the viewer as an impressive production that is detail oriented without being overbearing and in which the protagonists are given the opportunity to share their experience unencumbered and unfiltered before the camera whether their experience was within the commune, the surrounding towns and the greater Wasco County, or law enforcement.

The documentary is strikingly gripping throughout its six episodes, each lasting little over an hour and showing the weird and yet powerful cult of personality that develops around Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, who was considered an enlightened teacher, philosopher, guru and iconoclast who preached an anti-establishment mix bag creed of Eastern mysticism and free "love". For example, social conventions like marriage were held in little to no regard. The guru himself states plainly that he doesn't believe in the institution of marriage.

Therefore, the commune of  Rajneeshpuram was a place where free sex was practiced indiscriminately among its members, whether married or not, at any given time. The series shows disturbing footage of the commune's sex rituals which viewers should be strongly cautioned about before viewing, but the documentary does not dwell on the base sexual instincts and practices of Rajneesh's followers. Rather, it focuses on the strong relationship of teacher and disciple, in particular the means by which such relationship is established and cemented.

It is obvious that the element of mind control by geographical isolation on the one hand - life in a "free" commune where at face value all things are held in common - and idolatrous devotion to the infallible enlightened teacher who promises heaven on earth on the other are at play from the outset of the Rajneeshes' story. The viewer is witness to the unquestioned loyalty and total surrender of the Sannyasins, as the members of the cult were also known, to their master guru.

One of the strongest relationships portrayed in the series having to do with the teacher and his disciple is the close up treatment given to Bhagwan's and his First Lieutenant Ma Anand Sheela, a tough as nails, faithful follower who rose through the ranks of the Sannyasins to become Bhagwan's most trusted follower.

By her own admission, Sheela had no trouble laying down her life for her master and there are many instances in the series where that is plainly shown. She comes across as a natural leader, charismatic, committed and trustful, while at the same time allowing us to perceive that there are some dark forces at work in her that border on madness. In fact, the relationship between her and Bhagwan is one permeated by total control to the point where it's not clear who's in charge of the Rajneeshpuram project.

As with every cult, the appearance of a world full of happiness where everyone smiles and has a blissful existence is short-lived, dampened by the increasing tensions that immediately develop between the longtime members of the local community of Antelope and the newly arrived Rajneeshees. Everything that can go wrong goes wrong indeed as the story unfolds and this is not an accidental happening.

In her pursuit for the preservation of the commune, Ma Anand Sheela goes to extreme and illegal lengths to keep an utopia that never was and whose activities eventually catch the attention of law enforcement at the highest levels. Her world comes crashing down in the most dramatic fashion- a federal indictment and warrant for her arrest reaches her in a secluded hideout island in Germany, where she had fled with some members of her inner circle. The same fate happens to the enlightened guru, a man who has a fetish for shiny and expensive things. The Feds come breathing down his neck after his desperate attempt to flee the country and he is stopped in his tracks at an airport in North Carolina.

Wild Wild Country will stay with you long after the journey is over. It is an amazing story of cultic self-deception in which we witness the evil that takes place in the dynamic between deceived and deceiver. It is a lamentable tale of tantric exploitation where the God-given gift of sex is defaced and trampled upon. But in my view, the saddest thing about WWC is how that ultimate human aspiration or, better yet, longing for meaning and purpose in life is manipulated through the interplay of loyalty, betrayal, and ultimately criminal powerplays in the name of religious fanaticism. And while all this is happening we also get to see firsthand the destructive tensions that emerge when that which we term foreign enters our personal space, be it spiritually, emotionally or physically.

In spite of all of this, WWC is not devoid of redeeming moments and the viewer will be relieved to know how powerful these moments are in the story.

The executive producers and directors should be commended and awarded respectively for not editorializing their documentary and allowing the primary actors to tell their story through historical, archival footage and witness testimony even to the present day. Wild Wild Country exposes us to the horrible dangers of a blind trust, faith if you will, in something or someone that in the end cannot deliver the promises made, especially if those promises entail the human establishment of heaven on earth.

Read about WWC.

21.3.18

#Trumpgate

In 2017, #Trumpgate burst into the scene like nothing audiences had ever seen before. It afforded the suburb and the ghetto, the sophisticated and the ordinary, the emotional and the rational alike a front row seat at the happenings churning out of the White House in real time. Viewers all around the world were simply fascinated by it because of its many twists and turns. The show was completely (un)predictable, except when it wasn’t, which was most of the time. Its protagonist was a man named Trump.  

The series began with a bang! Its first episode was called The Crowd and it centered on the argument that the crowd at Trump’s inauguration day was the biggest ever. People where a little bemused because the show had been sold as a reality tv drama (the producers really couldn’t make up their minds as to whether it was drama or reality tv), but that first episode got everyone laughing instead.

Then in a one two punch fashion came The Muslim Ban. In it people from some Muslim countries were not allowed to travel to the US. The government used code words like “national security” as the excuse to justify the ban. The scenes filmed at the airports were without a doubt the most heart-wrenching, and the ratings went through the roof as soon as the show hit C-SPAN, which had gone on a bidding war with Netflix and came out on top obtaining the rights to broadcast the series.

Audiences made a mental adjustment back to drama when The Muslim Ban came out, but eventually, this reality tv flick settled as a dramedy in most people’s minds. It was truly painful to watch, but viewers had no choice because the laughs it provoked were well worth it. Everyone was hooked. All it had taken was two episodes.

Charlottesville followed. It described the homegrown terrorist exploits of an alt-right rally whose climax was the murder of a protester by a white supremacist who ran his car into a crowd. Yes, we all wished we hadn’t seen that episode, but what choice did we have? The internet exploded with videoclips of tv viewers witnessing the crime. Glen's death in The Walking Dead had nothing on Charlottesville.

The lure of #Trumpgate had become too powerful. Even though by then many would have wanted the show to end, there would be no light at the end of this not-so-presidential tunnel. Some economic pundits remarked that popcorn sales in the commodities markets had perked up.

Then along came Russia. This one was broken down into a few episodes and introduced archenemy (at least that’s what Trump considered him) Robert S. Mueller, flanked by his team of highly trained attack dogs. The episode involved a rigged election and a mystery girl who came in from the cold. Her name was as confusing as it was musical: Collusion. While the president never said these words, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Collusion,” poll after poll indicated that most of the population believed Ms. Collusion’s involvement in the presidential election of 2016 was a foregone collusion, strike that- conclusion.

Show viewers everywhere began to think that Russia, which alone extended over some 14 episodes, would never come to an end. It was later discovered that the writing team had developed such a convoluted storyline that the show somehow took a life of its own even to the point of beginning to write itself. One writer, who requested to remain anonymous for lack of authorization to discuss the Russia episode, stated that from episode 7 on, all they could do was watch how “the darn thing started to write itself” leaving them baffled and dejected, mere accessories to the tyranny of what they had thought was top pop entertainment for the masses. By episode 21, they had come up with a plan to rein in Russia. They succeeded although many doubted about any real, long term handle on the matter.

However, the talented writers of this darn dramedy had a few more cards up their sleeves. No one was really expecting anything close to the fascination and exhaustion provoked by the Russia episodes. Yet, surpassing expectations beyond their wildest dreams, the writers didn’t skip a beat and immediately launched Rocket Man. It set a new viewing record for primetime tv. On C-SPAN!

In a speech delivered before the UN and for all the world to hear, Trump said “Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.” Yikes! That surely got Rocket Man’s attention. His regime had been aggressively testing nuclear weapons as well as mid and long range missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. Kim Jong-un responded in kind by calling Trump “a mentally deranged dotard” and saying that “a scared dog always barks louder.” People all around the world debated which of the two leaders would prevail in a sumo wrestling match. “Rocket Man, obviously!” said Elton John when asked.

While this exchange may have caused concern in many, especially South Koreans, it wouldn’t be the end of the story between the two leaders. Sources said that Rocket Man and Orange Man, as audiences fondly began calling the US president, will seat down to partake of select eastern and western delicacies in the not so distant future while discussing world peace and prosperity. Apparently, not all is hopeless, although Hope Hicks will be missing the affair.

In spite of the exhaustion caused by all that binge watching, primetime audiences all over the world remained faithful and the ratings kept steady for #Trumpgate. It was at this point that discussions about how the show would come to an end began. The writers were in agreement that the sooner the better. The show had accomplished way more than they had hoped for. It was truly the talk of the town. It had started with promise, according to some, but now plans for a second season were being discussed at C-SPAN HQ.

The writing team started considering ideas for a grand season finale. They candidly argued about what could possibly get them higher ratings than Russia and Rocket Man. Ideas were truly hard to come by and then again they were not. They took a long hard look at the protagonist’s profile and once again inspiration happened. The idea just hit them like a truck!

Forget Russia, that ancient, cold and distant foe. Forget Rocket Man and his megalomaniacal nuclear ambitions. The writers sketched the backstory- a porn star, a pre-election affair and money to keep it all under wraps. Just the right ingredients. Some of the writers said that the entertainment value of this episode would be unprecedented even for a storied network like C-SPAN. Others were more pragmatic and simply said that this was just the logical conclusion to such an ill-fated protagonist. But they all saw fit to call the last episode of #Trumpgate Stormy Daniels.

"It's a bit stormy!"