I just came from Costa Rica for a short stay in the “United” States of America to take care of some pressing issues. My return was shocking. I have been making this transition for decades now with ease and great familiarity. I have felt at home in both countries. Now all that has changed.
Not only has it changed, but the United States is almost unrecognizable as the nation it once was. Almost all the rights of citizens have been eroded or removed. Civil rights are almost a joke, were any of this funny. Any person can be stopped and challenged by any police officer and, if that person’s skin happens to be black, shot and murdered without cause and certainly without due process.
If they are Latinx, they can be instantly imprisoned and if immigrants, separated from their family members. Children are being kept in cages and not being told where their parents are, if the government even knows.
If they are Muslims from certain countries, not even permitted entry and, if already citizens, being blamed for all sorts of crimes and misdemeanors. Muslims who were born here are in danger as well.
Mississippi has just been given permission to discriminate against gay people with impunity and a jury in South Dakota has sentenced a murderer to death rather than life imprisonment because he is a gay man and they imagined that a men’s prison would be no punishment for him at all
Of course, the friends of Trump are becoming billionaires just by running these operations. The amount of greed that is running a country that once stood for compassion is unbelievable. Sometimes I feel that I am about to awaken from a nightmare, but, no, I am wide awake and seeing all this. I am not saying that many marginalized people have not experienced cruelty and discrimination before the current regime, have not already lived this nightmare, but not as the official policy of the country in any of our lifetimes.
The language and the attitude of the presumed president and his supporters have spread like wildfire. I am not naïve. These racist and misogynist comments have always been made, but discreetly and in privacy. Now they are everywhere-in the streets, on public transportation, even in elevators.
How did this happen? Stealthily over many years when it looked publicly like we were making what some people optimistically call progress. Behind the scenes and in collusion with the Russians, who did not have to fire a single shot. We are living under a coup d’etat which most Americans do not even realize. I have never been a believer in progress or in linearity myself. I think that change is elliptical and repetitive, as would any student of history and sociology.
At this point, the Russians have won the Cold War very coldly. Whether the U.S. will ever regain its equilibrium, I cannot say. I can say that it will take many decades to undo the damage that has been done in one year by one man.
Meanwhile, I do not want to idealize Costa Rica. It has its own problems. It is a Catholic country with no separation of Church and State. Yet politicians in the United State quote the Christian scriptures more than any politician in Costa Rica. In a national election that recently took place, Costa Ricans elected Carlos Alvarado who has supported gay rights and gay marriage by a significant margin, rejecting his opponent who was supported by evangelicals who wanted to do many things in the shadow of Mr. Trump.
It is a Third World country, sneeringly known to North Americans as a Banana Republic, but where are all the bananas now? Although the U.S. does not grow bananas per se, many of our crops are left rotting in the fields for lack of Latinx workers and there is definitely much more that is rotten in the non-united States of America.