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On Sweden's National Day

Hope, change and other strange bugs.

January 22nd, 2010 by Gonzo

A little more than a year ago, after a sea of expectation and excitement had hit the entire world, Barack Obama swore as the 44th President of the United States of America. I would lie if I said I wasn’t excited myself, of course I was, and not only because of the firing speeches and the close race, but because it actually seemed as a change of paradigms from the Bush-era world to a more reasonable and diplomatic one. However if you take a look on US newspapers you will find out that the words hope and change have been substituted by underachievement and disappointment, you will face an enormous amount of analysis where the pros and cons lists are as huge as my own groceries list at the end of the month, like if the love affair between a country and its messiah was over.

But America ended up its honeymoon with its flamboyant President long ago, perhaps even at the very first moment he swore in. Guantanamo Bay’s closure was a major unfulfilled promise that hit on the US’s main priority: security. Then, not long after settling into the White House and acquiring a Portuguese waterdog, President Obama went after a major issue, one that has been left in the dark one administration to the next one; health care. Spending an enormous amount of political capital and taking advantage of a filibuster-proof Senate majority and a super majority in the House of Representatives, President Obama soon found enormous resistance in his intentions to push forward universal health care. He even took the issue to town hall meetings all over the country that soon came out of control, becoming some sort of with hunting trials where people would scream out their fears, their concerns and more than once, their incongruences.

Universal health care isn’t  a major issue in a country like Sweden or anywhere else in Europe, where it is a given fact that the State should look after everyone who hasn’t the possibility to receive proper health care. Well, that vision in America is not the rule, where more taxes is not the option and universal health care can dubbed as socialism, adjective powerful enough to drive someone out of office. So far a bill on health care reform has been boycotted by Congressmen, Senators, the media and the public in general that after voting for Obama and his idea of health care reform, now say they are just fine with what they have. Yes, voters are that moody.

The thing is that Barack Obama has been surrounded by controversy ever since taking office, he was a man that inherited a lacerated government, a major economic meltdown, two wars and a country divided in every major issue. He had to take fierce movements and tough decisions and that he did. He pushed forward the largest bailout program in the US history, took over failed financial institutions and rescued the dying auto industry… I mean, the guy saved Detroit and that is a huge city!

However all the good things he did, he certainly lost touch with the common man’s interests and that reflected on the Massachusetts Senate election lost by the Democrats (sure the Democratic candidate sucked but still…), he failed twice in Copenhagen (Chicago Olympic bid and Climate Change summit), he did not succeed on achieving a health care reform, bipartisanship in Washington is still MIA, Wall Street has not change its casino economics style and Al-Qaeda has grown even more powerful. Despite all the bad stuff President Obama might have on its first year resumé, he has certainly given huge steps in areas like diplomacy where he has been able to restore some of America’s image around the world, his speech at El Cairo was perhaps one of the most reconciling ones in the history of presidential oratory.

So, after one year I believe his presidency is not the failure that Glenn Beck and Fox News wants us to believe nor the complete success anyone thinks it is. It has been the year where reality hit us hard again, where the honeymoon ended and where even weird things happened (Peace Nobel Prize? Really?), this was a year of adjustments and disappointments, a year where we found out that hope and change can be really strange bugs.

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Already 20?

January 20th, 2010 by Gonzo

Yes, it is an astonishing truth, repeated over and over again by people whose activities lead them to think that time, that miserable enslaver, is on a rush. It has already been twenty days since 2010 and the second decade of the XXI century arrived and to be honest, I actually do not feel that I’ve done anything yet so far. Maybe it is this rapid, non-stop, self centered existence we have when you live in a big city, maybe it is that days are shorter, maybe it is just me, however, I find it fair to say that little by little I see the calendar go by without giving me a chance to think about tomorrow, let alone today.

Anyway, I decided that beginning today I will not keep track of time for at least a week, I will lose my watch, I will disable the clock from the desktop, I will not check on my cellphone for the time. Actually, I will only guide myself by doing things I like, let’s say watching a good TV show or listening to an special radio program and then, when it is over, go back to my erratic chronologic existence.

I know it sounds really dumb but I am kind of desperate about my time usage. So, I will start now and then let’s see what happens, I will not live in complete ignorance of the time, that is virtually impossible, but I won’t be keeping track of time and becoming desperate about how much time I waste in one day… Yes, it will make me feel less guilty.

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Thirties are the new twenties.

January 14th, 2010 by Gonzo

Hi there!

I just finished reading a blog from a Grad student at CUNY, it was really interesting since he talked about the inadequacies of the phrase I used to title this entry: Thirties are the new twenties. The first time I heard that was in San Francisco, California, I was visiting some family there when one of my cousins, who is 27 years old, told me that he had so many plans ahead of him and that he was way too young to settle down and have a family. Really? I replied. Yes, he told me, after all thirties are the new twenties!

I laughed of course, I actually thought that phrase was quite catchy and it held some truth in it. The thing is that this blogger I began talking about, said that those kinds of thoughts are mediocre and full of conformity, he argued that the twenties is the decade in which a person forms its character, develops its personality, and must achieve early success. The thirties are the age where responsibilities settle in, its the decade of family breeding and achieving economic success.

I gave it a thought for a minute and couldn’t disagree more. I truly think that the thirties are the new twenties for many reasons, for instance, life span is much wider than before and the opportunities to experience the world and its bargains are bigger. Society tends to associate economic success with intelligence and life/personal quality, which in my opinion is wrong. Early professional development is always welcome and obviously a good thing, however, thinking of it as the ultimate goal is a mistake since there are bigger things that define a person. Sometimes the environment where we live is ruthless and demands us to be awake 24/7, to appreciate every second in life, by working of course, and get the best of all opportunities, sometimes whatever it takes.

I think that life should be lived according to everyone’s rhythm, to each one’s desire and expectations. My grandma used to say that there is more time than life, so if one day goes by and we did nothing but contemplate it, well… so be it. After all, we achieve our happiness in the very pursuit of it, in the twenties or in the thirties, maybe even ’till the forties who knows? I just remember I once read that life should not be like driving on a highway at full speed… looking through the rear mirror.

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Haiti and the future to come…

January 14th, 2010 by Gonzo

First of all, I would like to express my condolences to the families of  the people who died in Haiti after the devastating earthquake that hit the island yesterday January the 12th. To the people that are missing, my best hopes that you will be found soon, really soon. To an island that has been ravaged by history and its people deprived from a better future, this was a brutal blow to their efforts of constructing a better, fairer, prosperous nation, however I am sure, the ever fighting, hard working, big hearted Haitians will get back on their feet.

Understanding the magnitude of the consequences of a natural disaster like the one Haiti just suffered, can only be fully understood by living it closely; it is scar left deep in the psyche of everyone who experienced it and can be seen through the permanent cracks in the eyes of those who survived.  Living on tho verge of survival on one of the poorest countries in the world is an already tough thing to do, after this, things will be even tougher than ever and I hope the international community will gather around the island and procure its well being. I don’t pretend to say that Haiti will need a permanent guardian but a many friends, yes, friends. In nowadays world, where every country belongs to an exclusive club: European Union, ASEAN, G8, NAFTA, etc. solidarity tends to come in small packages, nevertheless, civil society tends to be bigger than governments in disasters and that is the way it should be now.

I was impressed after I saw what had happened, I’ve never been to Haiti but I have visited the Dominican Republic, its neighbor, and I have close friends who have family in Port-au-Prince, to whom I send my support and hopes that everyone is fine. In this decade and in this century, where we share so many shallow values, the ones that tie us as human beings should prevail and support must be given to those who need it. The next few days, when the numbers in the missing and deceased columns will increase, will be crucial for the immediate humanitarian crisis, but the efforts must remain to prevent another catastrophe of this magnitude. I am sure more than one will say “it was an earthquake! What was supposed to be prevented?” According to Port-au-Prince’s mayor, around 60% of the buildings in the city were unstable, that is a huge risk that should be prevented during the country’s reconstruction.

I hope everyone could help, after the devastating 1985 earthquake in Mexico, my home country, people rallied in the streets and gave support to each other while the government just looked. After the tragedy, Mexicans had built a new identity, one that remains. That is what I am sure will happen in Haiti, it will be a defining moment on its history, one that will left beyond generation gaps and destroyed buildings. A country that is impoverished, that has suffered civil wars, had unstable governments,  and experienced social unrest, will find in their own hands the key for their own reconstruction, will leave behind for a moment old struggles and will focus on building up their nation, one that will be truly of their own. In the aftermath of the earthquake, we will mourn the death and the missing and Haiti will build its country back. In the aftermath of the reconstruction the Haitians will be build its nation back.

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Like going back again…

December 25th, 2009 by Gonzo

Happy Holidays to all!

Today is Christmas and well, I should be opening my not so well deserved presents from people I rarely see along the year, however, it is a fine morning and it actually made me realize the importance of this day. So far I had breakfast with a couple of friends and we chatted for a couple of hours about all the things we’ve done this year, for instance I traveled home and spent a really good time with my family which could suffice for an already good year given the distance from home and the little time to travel. Lessons always come and go as the days and hours go by, not all the time do we open up our eyes and, as cheesy as it may sound, our hearts. But this day, my mother told me, is a day for thinking and analyzing our life and actions before the year is completely over and go out and celebrate with a bottle of champagne in one hand and, hopefully this year, with a lovely lady on the other one (just kidding… well, half of it).

I think she is right about this one, in the life-in-the-fast-lane existence that we have nowadays, where Internet is God and YouTube its greatest creation, we tend to forget the truly valuable things of life like family of course, but also health, wellness, friends and love, you know, the kind of things you can’t wrap up and put under a Christmas tree (although you can actually do that with a drunk friend). The year is almost over and some people get a little nostalgic about it, I try to think of it as a chapter that has come to an end and the show must go on.

I think is enough cheesy stuff for today, I just wanted to speak my mind on this day, in which I really should be opening presents, to say something that was shared to me and maybe now that time has gone by and we are about to begin something brand new, we should all remember what Antoine de Saint Exupèrry once wrote: “It is only with the heart that one can see clearly”, I think he is damn right in this one. And well, since it doesn’t hurt anyone to be reflective for once I shared this one with you and… happy holidays to all again.

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