And yes, it is bloody bananas but tragically true.
My firsthand experience living for two decades abroad–14 years in banana republics–gives me the street cred to answer Dana Milbank’s Washington Post op ed question of August 6th.
“Have we become a shithole country?”
Yes indeed. Hop in your TARDIS to time travel back to Donald J. Trump’s kvetch about the state of our union, claiming the “Make America Great Again” mantle from the very cold, dead shoulders of Ronald Reagan’s “Let’s make America great again.”
From an unscientific view of the banana republics of my past, I’ll begin with life in Peru, from 1972-73. When the traffic lights often didn’t work–due to power outages, drivers enlisted machismo aggressive driving to intimidate other drivers, just to get through an intersection.
Rules of the road, be damned. Left on red? No problem. Breezing through red lights with impunity? No problem. Passing school buses? No problem. Those describe not only Peru, but what I’ve seen in the past 20 plus years in the USA. Vehicles of all sorts breaking the sound barrier speeding on Interstates. No problem, unlike Peru, no bribe need be paid (as far as I know).
To paraphrase Leona Helmsley, rules are for wusses. Just ask fellow New Yorker Donald J. Trump.
During our years in the Caribbean, briefly in Puerto Rico and later in Curacao from 1982-86, I saw a medical care system so third world that I was told people only went to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital on the rock island of Curacao, to die.
Allergy testing at the hospital involved shooting up the patient with a full dose of the allergen being tested, an act that could have killed a highly allergic person. But in Curacao it was called healthcare. In America, healthcare companies daily do battle with patients who are repeatedly denied services in order to ensure that the healthcare companies can make higher profits.
Even Murder Inc. realized if you kill the goose, you won’t make money off dead bodies. Not unless the healthcare companies begin to sell overpriced funerals.
Ecuador offered all the basic American banana republic options of rats, water and air pollution, dengue and other 3rd world illnesses that since 1986-89 when I lived there, have moved north to the USA thanks to Global Climate Chaos. Protecting our environment is no longer an aspiration, but a financial drain on profits. Dead customers, no problem when you buy your politicians, is it Michigan?
And buying politicians is so banana republic. Just like America, or Paraguay where we lived from 1979-80. While I was in a Connecticut hospital on September 17, 1980, my husband breathlessly entered my hospital room to tell me that former Nicaragua dictator Somoza, had been assassinated.
It felt personal, for while living in Paraguay my husband drove our toddler daughter past Somoza’s house en route to nursery school. When I hear gun massacre survivors say, they never imagined it would happen to them I am shocked. I always imagine it might happen, leading me to look for exit doors when with crowds. Just in case.
Thought Somoza had been given shelter by the longtime dictator of Paraguay, in the tradition of mob bosses turning on mob bosses, Strossner hadn’t fulfilled the deal to invest his ill-gotten gains in Paraguay. He’d invested in neighboring Brazil.
To add insult to this, the rumor on the streets was that Somoza had expropriated Strossner’s former son-in-law’s mistress. And Paraguay house guest, Somoza’s wild parties, that had pissed off the wrong people. Maybe they weren’t invited.
If this sounds like a soap opera, it was, but a deadly one.
And about the guns. Having joined a handgun control group while living in Canada, I never thought those days would be the good old days of guns. While living in Mexico from 1995-2001, the expatriate community would learn about Americans jailed driving over the US-Mexico border. Not for carrying a gun over the border, which was illegal in Mexico, but for driving over the border with one loose bullet knocking about the floorboards of their vehicle. Yes, one bullet could land you in jail in Mexico.
Though guns are mostly illegal, Mexico suffered and suffers like Chicago, at having lousy neighbors awash in non-existent gun laws, and guns and ammo. So I’m on AMLO’s side, the current President of Mexico. Sue America. I’m sure our current President knows some litigious lawyers-for-pay.