Thursday, November 3, 2016

What My Travels Have Taught Me About the 2016 Election

I keep thinking of the trip we took to Argentina and Chile and the message in Rick Steves’ book Travel As A Political Act. He talks about the ways in which traveling to foreign countries has helped him to appreciate how fortunate he is to live in the United States of America. It has also helped him to realize that some other countries often have good solutions to problems and also offer their citizens a good life. Sometimes we Americans can even learn from them.

One of the most fascinating places we visited on that trip was the Eva Peron Museum in Buenos Aires. Before that visit, I had thought of the Perons as Fascists who had their opponents imprisoned, disappeared, and in many cases killed. They did do those things, but Eva Peron advocated for women’s rights and suffrage and spearheaded projects to improve the lives of the poor, also. The Perons ruled Argentina by the Cult of Personality, but they weren’t 100% evil. At least they set up low-cost housing projects and free health clinics for poor women thanks to Eva Peron. Even fifty years later, Argentines still revere Eva, visiting her grave and leaving flowers on it. I used to think that “Don’t cry for me Argentina” was just a song in the musical. When we visited the cemetery in Ricoleta and saw Eva Peron’s grave, I learned that it is the beginning of Eva Peron’s epitaph.

picture of Eva Peron hanging in the Eva Peron Museum, Buenos Aires
Eva Peron's gravesite in the Ricoleta Cemetary, Buenos Aires
When I hear Donald Trump denouncing the free press and freedom of speech, ridiculing his opponents, and having opponents at his rallies physically manhandled, I think back to our trip to South America. Yes, Trump has also threatened to have his opponents jailed if he’s elected. He has roiled up latent feelings in Americans of racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and misogyny promising to build a wall between the USA and Mexico, bar Muslims from America, and set up surveillance on immigrants and African-Americans. Donald Trump threatens to rule by the Cult of Personality without regard to any civil liberties.

Argentina has since recovered from Juan Peron’s rule. Nevertheless, think of all the people who were disappeared, imprisoned, and killed while he ruled Argentina. America might survive a Trump presidency, but I shudder with fear to think of all the lives that will be ruined and lost if he comes to power.

Our trip to Argentina taught me that life is complicated and most people aren’t 100% good or 100% evil. At least Juan Peron had Eva to remind him to look out for the poor. Donald’s Melania shows no such inclination. I keep a kitchen magnet with a picture of Eva Peron on it to remind me daily how complicated human beings are. I hope and pray that if the worst happens and Donald Trump becomes President, I’ll find something positive in his actions. Right now, however, I can’t think of a blessed thing that would be. Please, America, come to your senses and vote against this harbinger of racism, misogyny, xenophobia, and anti-Semitism. It could be a matter of life and death for many of us.  


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