Thursday, September 16, 2010

Lessons Learned from our Southern Neighbor

American front - Failed states
Mexico celebrating 200th birthday - Arizona Republic (see link)
"Mexico celebrates its 200th birthday tonight, kicking off a two-day bicentennial extravaganza of lasers, fireworks and music aimed at lifting citizens' spirits in the midst of a recession and a bloody war against drug cartels. Even as crews tested hundreds of lights in Mexico City's main Zocalo Plaza on Tuesday, riot police and armored vehicles practiced crowd-control techniques because of worries that cartels might stage an attack during the festivities. Two years ago, attackers hurled grenades during an Independence Day festival in the central city of Morelia, killing seven people and wounding 132. 'We're in bad shape, as far as violence goes ... but you can't deny people a party if they want to celebrate something,' said Francisco Segura, 52, a building contractor." (09/15/10)

This news story gives us an opportunity to reflect back on the past and present conditions in Mexico. As I’ve mentioned before, borders - whether between two totally separate polities (“national”) or between two associated polities (“states of the Union” for example) are MORE than just imaginary lines on the ground and pretty lines on maps: they are REAL in the minds and actions of people, AND in the differences between the two sides of the border. Nowhere in my personal experience has that been more visible than on the Inter-German Border (IGB) between the Ostzone (East Germany) and the Bundesrepublik Deutschland in the mid 1980s, whether from the ground or especially from the air. But the border between the United States of America and the Estados Unitos Mexicanos (United Mexican States) is also very distinct: from the ground, from the air, and from the society and people. It was the first international border I crossed as a child, and even then, I saw the difference. Today that distinction is even clearer based on the way bullets fly and bombs shatter the night and the way bodies are found, day after day after day.
Why? It is clear in the history of the two nations - and of the states on both sides of the border. The land called Mexico today has a VERY long history - much of it has been “civilized” by the usual standards of historians and archaeologists since 1800 BC. By the standards of libertarians, most of it has NEVER been civilized: its history is one of bloody tyranny and repression and a constant trading of masters and varying degrees of slavery that make pre-1865 slavery in the United States look almost benign. Modern Mexico, like ancient Mexico, is a land and society and people which is VERY different - starkly contrasted - from the United States.
Unlike Anglo-French North America (that is, the part to the north of Mexico), Mexico does not have a history in which a dominant civilization came in and overwhelmed a number of various smaller (and weaker) civilizations and large barbarian areas; a dominant civilization (English-British) built on a painfully developed foundation of human freedom and liberty forged in centuries of conflict and migration and a series of fortuitous events. Rather, Mexico is the product of a clash and then merger of two civilizations that were themselves products of long cruelty and abuse and evils. The clash was initiated and “won” by a newly-merged Spanish civilization that had just emerged from 700 years of bloody tyranny by Islamic forces and a similar period of rebellion and warfare to overthrow that tyranny. In the process, that Spanish civilization had taken on many of the characteristics of its enemy. Facing it was perhaps the most evil and tyrannical empire known in mankind’s long and black history: the Azteca rule over central Mexico. Why do I make that claim? No other human “civilization” has been documented as having not just killed hundreds of thousands (or millions) of its enemies and subjects on the battlefield or in killing fields but by planned and carefully orchestrated mass-human sacrifices in their temples - and no other “civilization” has made a common practice of actually eating the dead bodies of its enemies and subjects. None that I am aware of. Ironically, this clash was initiated by what was essentially a private-enterprise (though officially approved by the crown) free-booting expedition. What they found was a tyranny and society that was even more evil, more perverse, more tyrannical than the Islamic system which they had finally driven off their home peninsula mere decades earlier; and they responded as they had been bred to do.
What developed, in Mexico and the rest of Meso- and South America, can be readily identified as the product of its antecedents: Iberian Islamic, Visigothic Iberian (Hispanic), and Aztec. Even in 2010.
Perhaps the difference between this Mexican civilization and Anglo-American civilization can best be illustrated by looking at this 200th Anniversary of Mexican “Independence.”
The United States celebrates its Independence Day on 4 July, the date of its Declaration of Independence. That incredible document was the product of many, many hours of work, deliberation, prayer, argument, and thought by a body of men which represented all of the thirteen British colonies that formed the original United States, meeting in the most populous and important city in those colonies. Contrast that to the Independence Day of Mexico, which celebrates 16 September, the day that a lone priest (Miguel Hidalgo) in a small and unimportant town (Dolores, Guanajuato) and about 300 of his followers proclaimed rebellion against a French-installed (and therefore technically usurping) Spanish monarchy in support of the deposed Spanish king, and then led an “army” (mob) on a months-long killing spree, failed to conquer Mexico City, and was defeated. Hidalgo was ultimately betrayed and captured on 21 March 1811 and executed on 30 July 1811. It was not until 06 November 1813 - more than two years later - that a Congress was assembled in Chilpancingo and wrote and signed the "Solemn Act of the Declaration of Independence of Northern America" that was followed by six years of war before Spain recognized their independence as the “Mexican Empire” - complete with an emperor. So much for freedom and liberty.
There is NOTHING comparable to this in the history of the United States. NOTHING. It is as though we claimed Independence Day as celebrating the day that Nathaniel Bacon began his Rebellion in Virginia in 1676, or perhaps the 5th of March (the day in 1770 when some Boston citizens attacked British troops and triggered the Boston Massacre), or maybe 16 December (the Boston Tea Party in 1773). But only if Samuel Adams had been a dissolute, immoral, Church of England priest who then led a mob of crazed killers in an attempt to occupy New York and Philadelphia in support of Bonnie Prince Charlie as rightful king of Britain. And only if eight years of war had led to the Treaty of Paris in which the UK recognized American independence and George Washington then declared himself Emperor of United America.
We may, as Americans, decry the many, many mistakes that these United States made, up to the most recent abrogation of our Constitution - mistakes which many of us believe include replacing the Articles of Confederation with that Constitution, the “imperialism” of the Mexican-American War, Abe Lincoln’s Republican (Socialist)-led tyranny and its catastrophic fallout, the nanny-state progressive imperialism of Wilson and Roosevelt, and all the rest. But when we compare American history to the series of catastrophes and evils that make up Mexican history since 1810, it is light contrasted to utter blackness.
Mexico was built on class warfare between the pure Indio (the survivors of centuries of Aztec and Olmec imperialism), the mixed-blood Mestizos, and the relatively pure European descendents, and on religious-political conflicts. Its first empire lasted only two years, followed by the 1824 republic which quickly deteriorated into a military dictatorship (Santa Ana’s) (and led to independence movements in Texas, the Yucatan, and on the Rio Grande). That was followed by the war with the United States and a new attempt to establish a republic, a military occupation by France (and the Second Empire), another republic deteriorating into a dictatorship (Porfirio Diaz), followed by another revolution and another republic (Constitution of 1917), which slid into a one-party “republican” state for more than 70 years. This is a pattern followed by most Hispanic societies and rooted in the 700 years of the Reconquista struggle against Islam in Iberia itself. Only for a brief period of time (from perhaps 2000 to 2006) was there even a shadow of the political life and relative lack of tyranny enjoyed by the United States; then the current troubles began which by 2010 have deteriorated into yet another war: call it “revolution” or “civil war” or “narco-war” as you will. Mexican condemnation of American “imperialism” in annexing California and New Mexico in 1848 and the Gadsden Purchase in 1853) is hypocritical at best, given its several attempts to reconquer Texas, its annexation of Chiapas in 1824, the Soconusco Annexation in 1842, and the Annexation of the Republic of Yucatan in 1848, to say nothing of Mexico’s Indian Wars, which lasted until 1830. At best, Mexico’s imperialism has been less successful than the United States, but no less fervent.
I have many friends and even relatives that are of Hispanic and Mexican descent - virtually NONE of them would ever want to live in Mexico or “enjoy” Mexican (or Hispanic) culture and society and politics. Some of my ancestors were Mexican citizens (in Texas) - others of my ancestors “enjoyed” the attention of the Ejercito Mexicanos (Mexican Army) and Federales for a long time - and the Spanish army and militias for centuries. It was not pleasant, even when compared to having to deal with the US Army for a few decades of the 1800s. Sadly, for 200 years, Mexican celebration of Independence Day has been as great a bitter farce as Independence Day threatens to become in the United States in 2010. At the same time, we should be grateful for object lesson so clearly displayed just on the other side of that “imaginary line” called the border.