Is Unity Possible for Social Justice in the World? In the United States?

Carlos, Mario, and Cesar are three of the young Venezuelans who've been helping some of the US delegates during our stay. There were many others, men and women, who've made sure we were safe, our belongings protected, and that we received proper directions for wherever we were going. It's always hard to manuever around in a foreign land, especially in a large and crowded city like Caracas. A few of our party have already had their cameras and wallets stolen. At one point, I was walking with another companion late at night to my hotel in a dark section of town when one of our Venezuelan hosts stopped in a taxi to make sure we were okay. We were only a couple of blocks from our destination, but this was most appreciated.

These young Venezuelans, dedicated to the growing revolution in their country, made sure we were welcomed and taken care of. With no pay (they were mostly volunteers). No tips. Nothing but thanks and un abrazo (a hug).

Yesterday, January 27, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez addressed participants to the World Social Forum at one of the stadiums where apparently performers like N'Sync play when they're in the country. The place was packed with people, signs, and mucho animo (much spirit). Countries like Bolivia, Colombia, Brazil, Mexico, and others were well represented. Our delegates from the Poor People's Economic and Human Rights Campaign of the United States were also in attendance. To signify the importance of our group, the Venezuelan government made sure six of us (including yours truly) were seated in the front roll in the center part of the stadium reserved for special guests. Among the dignitaries at the podium on either side of President Chavez was Cindy Sheehan, the US mother who lost her son in the Iraqi War and who has helped further propel the growing movement in the US to stop the war.

Song and chants honoring revolutionaries such as Simon Bolivar, Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Evo Morales, the Zapatistas of Mexico, Lula of Brazil, and others were heard in preparation of the President's talk. When finally Mr. Chavez came to the podium, introduced by a leading priest from revolutionary Brazil, the audience was rapt (with interruptions of chants and applause). Chavez spoke for two to three hours. I don't know exactly because despite the time (and I may be a good case for adult ADD), I did not tire nor miss what he had to say. Chavez, in the tradition of Latin American poets, intellectuals, and political leaders, wove in history, famous quotes, the Bible, indigenous values, and political and philosphical discourse, while maintaining an engaging and lively tone.

Chavez stood firm against the policies of US President Bush, against war, against media distortions and manipulations, and against the growing marginalization of the poor in the world. He declared his roots in socialism and cooperation, going back to the first peoples on the continent, the Native peoples, as response to the wealth and power that capitalism places in the hands of a few. He spoke about Africa and its links to the Venezuelan people, but also in most of the Caribbean, and how the poor and forgotten are now gaining voice and power throughout that continent as well. He spoke about his friendship with revolutionary Cuba, still under the sword of a US-led blockade, and how Cuba, despite this, has sent doctors, engineers and others to help the Venezuelan revolutionary process (moreover, Cuba has invited Venezuelans to study medicine, social planning, and other important subjects).

Chavez welcomed representatives from France, the Phillipines, and other countries who have also supported the Venezuelan struggle. But he also spoke strongly in support of the people in the US, in support of those who are also suffering under the policies of Bush and US Empire. He called Ms. Sheehan a hero for her valiant efforts to challenge Bush. And he recognized the growing movement of the poor in the US as vital to hemispheric and global social justice and peace.

While it may not appear likely that real unity can exist in the world, or in the United States for that matter, for these causes and struggles, that night, with so many different faces, so many distinct tongues, so many races and religions (one group had a sign that read "Jesus Christ, the First Revolutionary"), unity was possible. Unity was reality. That unity in deed, in the word, and in the spirit could be realized for all.

I know the difficulties and sacrifices such unity will entail, but that night my bones sang and my heart rejoiced in the idea, the spirit, and the imagination that such unity will eventually uproot the present US-government led, capitalist-rooted, war, lies, and misery.

And in people like Carlos, Mario, and Cesar, I know the seed of this unity has already been planted and even blossomed.

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.