An Argentine woman scolded me for mentioning that I am not a fan of the Argentine president. Mind you, I lived in Buenos Aires long enough to understand the delicate and insanely complicated social, political, and economic intricacies of the third-world country –which I absolutely adore-, so my comment wasn’t out of place. Truth be told, it was a bit more in line than hers, since she’s been out of the country for 23 years; however, it was something else she said that struck a nerve: “Yes, the President is corrupt. So? What’s new? That’s how it’s always been and how it always will be.” (Note: I’m paraphrasing the latter part, but that basically summarizes the rest of the conversation we had.)
This type of mentality severely irritates me. It is very common for Latin Americans to think this way; after all, most of them have grown up with corruption for generations. Even my family considers it the norm, but for myself personally, having lived both in Argentina and the US, where the federal government functions in an organized manner and justice is, for the most part, served, this passive acceptance of a political circus is disappointing.
However, here we are, in the world’s most powerful country by almost all standards, and yet it’s now been over a week since the government shutdown, both parties refusing to come to an agreement. News channels discuss the situation endlessly, online coverage bombards us, people post statuses and tweets and blog posts –just like I’m doing; I’m completely guilty-, but there has been no real social outcry. Why?
Most of us agree that what Congress is doing is absolutely ridiculous and intolerable, but all we do is talk about it; no action has been taken. In Argentina, whenever something of the sort occurs, people take to the streets, and although riots are not uncommon, most protests are peaceful, believe it or not. They get out there, they bang pots and pans if the they have to, but the point is that they don’t just talk: they make sure they are heard. I’ve always admired them for this, at the very least.
It’s weird to me, though, because it makes it seem like roles are reversed to a certain degree. If you’re so used to corruption, why bother trying to do anything about anything? On the flip side, if you’re so used to things working properly and in an organized fashion, when things suddenly don’t, why wouldn’t you demand otherwise? Why wouldn’t there be a call to peaceful action?
I apologize if I sound angry… At this point, I’m mostly frustrated. To quote the overly quoted Voltaire: “With great power comes great responsibility.” It’s true, which is why I expect so much more of this country. Nothing is perfect, of course. Issues should absolutely be discussed and resolved with words and not weapons, but I would love for there to come a day when the majority of US citizens would take a firm, definitive action against injustices as a unified, collective force.
My heart, as well as my respect, goes out to all the souls that are trying.
**Title quote by William Shakespeare**
Photo: Belén Alemán / Buenos Aires, Argentina