Don’t Underestimate the Force!

What if the democracy we thought we were serving no longer exists, and the Republic has become the very evil we’ve been fighting to destroy?

PADME AMIDALA, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

It may seem rather strange to use a Star Wars quote to begin a piece on the death of Ben Linder, but I’ve thought about the forces at play that undermine a peaceful coexistence on our planet. Politically speaking, a peaceful coexistence among countries requires mutual trust, understanding, and the ability to negotiate rationally when resolving disputes. In order to coexist peacefully, all countries must recognize each others’ rights to choose the political and economic systems that meet their needs, whether they be socialism, capitalism, or communism.

The way I see it, the political “isms” were the downfall of Ben Linder. It was the classic battle of capitalism vs. socialism. The United States violated all aspects of a peaceful coexistence by ignoring the sovereignty and territorial rights of Nicaragua in the 1980’s. But, why did this happen? What were the forces at play that led to the senseless slaughter of 40,000 Nicaraguans and one young U.S. engineer, from which all weapons, land mines, and Contra soldiers were funded by the United States of America?

The sad truth behind the U.S. bullishness in Nicaragua, as well as many other countries, originates from the “ism” of capitalism. In my humble opinion, the major force at play was, and still is, greed. When Anastasio Somoza, the U.S. backed tyrannical dictator, was overthrown in 1979 by the Sandinista left-wing socialist party, the U.S. was terrified. For the first time, the Nicaraguans had a government that cared about its people and enacted successful reforms to abolish the inequalities among its citizens through land reform acts, socialized health care, and increased agricultural and educational opportunities.

The U.S violently protested against this new political model. “Back in 1981, a State Department insider boasted that we would “turn Nicaragua into the Albania of Central America” – that is, poor, isolated and politically radical – so that the Sandinista dream of creating a new, more exemplary political model for Latin America would be in ruins.” (Noam Chomsky) Under the threat of a good example, the U.S. terminated all projects and assistance to Nicaragua, President Reagan supplied the Contras with weapons to bring down the Sandinista Party to the tune of $30 million U.S. Congress apportioned funds,  and mined the Nicaraguan harbors.

In the 1984 case of the Republic of Nicaragua vs. the United States of America, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled in favor of Nicaragua and against the United States of America and awarded reparations to Nicaragua. All 16 final decisions were based on the United States of America’s violations of contributing to a peaceful coexistence among countries on our planet. What did the U.S. do? They poo-pooed the entire verdict. “It’s not fair. It was done in self-defense. We don’t owe Nicaragua anything and we refuse to comply with this verdict,” they whined.

So, Ben Linder, a 27-year-old peaceful supporter of a new political model, a clown and avid unicyclist, a young engineer who’s only goal was to bring clean water and electricity to the peasants in the highlands of Nicaragua, was assassinated by U.S. funded weapons, gunned down, his brains splayed out on a rock near the small hydroelectric dam he was beginning, in the name of what? Greed? Fear of a new, maybe better “ism”?  I wish I knew.

Ben was honored by being buried in the local cemetery in Matagalpa. There is a foreign cemetery across the street, the only foreign cemetery in Nicaragua, built for the German immigrants who started the coffee cooperatives in the highlands of Nicaragua. Daniel Ortega gave a moving eulogy to thousands of mourners who lined the streets of Matagalpa.

In it he said, ” Ben did not arrive in a flight full of weapons, or with millions of dollars. He arrived in a flight full of dreams, which were born, in his belief that the ethical values of the American people were much greater than the illegal policy of the United States.” He quoted Earnest Hemingway’s, For Whom the Bell Tolls, recounting the names, occupations, and ages of 10 foreigners senselessly gunned down, and ended with ” May the blood of the innocents move the conscience of those who govern the United States, so that the bells no longer toll, so the aggression ceases, so that the military maneuvers end, so that dialogue with Nicaragua will be accepted. No to war! Yes to Peace. Benjamin Linder‘s blood cries out, so that the bells no longer toll in Nicaragua.”

Ben Linder’s grave..who is going to weed it?

Standing at Ben’s grave, I was haunted by the forces at play that undermine a peaceful coexistence on our planet. What will it take to end the evil forces that dictate domination, subjugation, and exploitation of our human race? What if Padme Admedala is right? What can we do so that the bells no longer toll, the blood no longer oozes an evil trail of “isms”, and peaceful coexistence exists in our troubled world? I only wish I knew!

17 thoughts on “Don’t Underestimate the Force!

  1. Thank you so much for writing this. Just today I finished rereading “Thh Death of Ben Linder” by Joan Kruckewitt. I met Ben when he came to Bellingham Washington [my home] in 1986, before he returned to Nicaragua for the last time.
    I am planning a trip later this winter, and a visit to his grave, as well as to El Cua and Bocay, are part of the plan. Can you direct me to his grave?
    I’ll pull some weeds.
    Dave Tucker, Bellingham, WA

    • Ahhh Dave, thanks. Pull some weeds for me. Ben’s grave is in the local cemetery, not the foreign cemetery across the street, in Matagalpa. When you enter the cemetery, walk to the top of the hill, turn right and follow the paved road. His grave is near the end of the paved road on the right. The cemetery is on a hill overlooking the city. It’s gorgeous. After reading the book, the visit to Ben’s grave was very emotional and meaningful. I wish I had had an opportunity to meet him. Have a wonderful trip.

      • Debbie,
        Thanks for the quick response and the directions. I see you have a request for information about the people who read your blog. I am Dave Tucker, in Bellingham Washington, USA. Tucked up against the border with BC- Vancouver is our Big City. I am a volcano researcher working on eruptive history & hazards at Mount Baker, right out our back door. Planning a vist to Nica next year to climb & observe volcanoes. Interesting in learning more about them- how to, etc. Seeking local contacts. Great blog! Dave

        • Dave, thanks so much for the link and your information. Please let me know when you arrive in Nicaragua. I would love to talk with you about Ometepe’s volcanoes. I’ll be on the lookout for contacts for you. I know several good guides that can take you up Vulcan Concepcion. This is exciting! I learn so many new things just from the people who visit my blog! 🙂

        • I wil greatly appreciate any connections you can make to help make my Concepcion and any other volcano experience better. I have just put off my trip until 2013, due to a necessary committment to my publisher. Please feel free to communicate directly with me via email:
          tuckerd at geol dot wwu dot edu
          Dave Tucker

    • Tamara, those were my intentions in writing this piece. Visiting Ben Linder’s grave, I had the same reaction as when I visited the Peace Memorial in Hiroshima, Japan. The first floor of the museum was plastered with maps and photos of Hiroshima before and after. But, when I visited the second floor, behind glass display cases were twisted bicycles and charred lunch boxes of the kids who were on their way to school that morning. I couldn’t hold back the tears. While I was sobbing in the middle of the room, a Japanese woman came over to me and gently put her arms around me and hugged me. No communication other than the hug…that was all I needed. Her gentle hug spoke forgiveness for the atrocities of war.

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