Tuesday, May 23, 2006


When that stooge of the first Bush regieme, Violetta Chamorro, was elected by the defeated population of Nicaragua in 1990 I had one of those crises that plague leftists. Nicaragua had successfully overthrown fascism for a government which instituted literacy and child nutrition programs, abolished the death penalty and began to give the coungry back to its citizens. They had known that they were going to be targeted by the Government of the United States which had never been able to stand a good example springing up in Latin America. They knew they were in for a long struggle against the most powerful country on Earth. It being the Reagan-Bush I administration, a covert campaign of terror against the people of Nicaragua was as certain as the sunset. After a decade of heroic resistance they were forced into accepting an aristocrat with no governing experience, the figurehead for people who were openly in league with a foreign government which had waged a campaign of terror against them. The Reagan-Bush terrorism campaign had worked.

I mention in passing that Violetta Chamorro is the matriarch of a family of journalists. So much for that guarantee of the peoples' freedom.

In my depression that followed, I heard Noam Chomsky talking about it. He pointed out that a tiny, impoverished population had held out against terrorism longer than the population of the United States would in a similar situation. Prophetic words, as the reaction to Sept. 11th has shown.

I wondered how he did it. How did he keep up the fight decade after decade. I wrote to him asking him how he did do it, apologizing for taking up his time and excusing him from answering, if he didn't have the time. An answer came in less than a week. It wasn't a secret at all. There wasn't a remedy. He said:

"I don't have any right to become discouraged".

That was the totally unexpected and entirely appropriate answer. Discouragement is a self-indulgence as much as it is a reaction to bad news. And it is one that makes the leftist's mind into a tool of the right. Dwelling on my state of mind was not going to help and as a citizen of the United States I had a responsibility to do something useful. I will always be greatful to Chomsky for that kind slap in the face.

To this advice I'll add two more pieces. After M. Ivins. Action, deliberate, practical, effective and unself-interested action is the best remedy to discouragement. It can take as many forms as you can think up but the most practical ones will be the most therapeutic. Everything from writing letters to your representatives to those much less promising ones to NPR. Unglamorous labor, as most of the really important work is, such as working on a voter list or working the phones will do more to fix the hole in your heart than dwelling on it. But you can't get your hopes up too high, you will often fail. That's just the way it is but as a leftist you don't have a choice but to take the chance. If you need comfort, a lot of important change is incremental and the progress is often too small to notice. If that isn't enough, then comfort yourself that at least you're fighting fasicsm.

The other piece of advice comes from me. Take up meditation. Breath counting is a good place to start. Get a good pair of hearing protectors if you can't find somwhere quiet enough. Cover those with clean socks if you sweat a lot. Metta mediation is after that.

But it's the action that will really change things.

Thank you for the encouraging words conta discouragement.

I am not quite sure if I agree with your implied take on Nicaraguan history, though. I mention this in passing (and link to this post) in my blog.
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