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.”
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!