Wednesday, February 20, 2008

american guilt and redemptive friendship

I know. My North American guilt is a product of the constant suffering I see Nicaraguans experiencing and doesn't actually change anything, nor is it really healthy.

But you see, my guilt comes from a growing awareness that Nicaragua's potential as a nation has been continually stifled, first by the Spaniards during the Colonial Period (which ended in 1820) and then by the entire course of US foreign policy since then.

A visiting professor remarked last week that of all the countries in Latin America, Nicaragua is the one one most intricately linked with the disasterous policies of the US government. From William Walker to the US-backed 30 years Somoza dictatorship to the funding for the Contras in the 1980s, there is just no end to the presumptous, imperialistic, schoolyard bullying that Nicaragua has experienced at the hands of my country's leaders. So should I feel some guilt about that history? Yes, I think so. The same way I feel guilt over the inhumanity of slavery, the forced relocation of Native Americans, and countless other wrongs perpetuated by my government and/or certain people within my country.

Perhaps the guilt in itself accomplishes nothing, except to provide me with a good dose of humility when I start to think I have the least idea what Nicaraguans should do to solve one of their problems. Who am I to think I have any right at all to speak into this nation's reality? I have to remind myself regularly that the most important voices calling for change and development in this country are the Nicaraguans themselves. And then I ask myself, so then what exactly am I doing here?

Today, in a meeting with a group of leaders in Chinandega, I was retelling the story of a young Nicaraguan woman who challenged me with that very question--in slightly different words. And how her question left me speechless and thinking. But that at this moment, I had just one answer.

"I was brought here to be a friend to the Nicaraguan people."

Friendship seems like a small thing, too small to make any difference at all in a country burdened by decades of war, natural disasters, and corrupt leaders. But today it took on new significance as person after person gave me their warmest greetings--a smile, a kiss, a hug. And as I thought about my two new invitations to visit the homes of 2 newer Nica friends ("not to take pictures or video or to do interviews, but to RELAX", Arlene said pointedly), I began to remember something very important, something I had forgotten in the midst of a very emotionally challenging last couple of weeks.

Friendship is redemptive. John 15:13

Friday, February 08, 2008

monkey business, and other photos

The view from the top of Volcano Mombacho--with Crater Lake Apoyo in the distance
Coffee beans drying in the southwest Nicaraguan sun

One of 4 monkeys who live on one of the isletas off the coast of Granada--our big question was how did they get there? Swimming? ;-)

Monday, February 04, 2008

if you live in one of these 24 states...

[Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, W. Virginia, Tennessee, Utah]

On the eve of Super Tuesday, I feel it's especially important to call attention to the primaries and caucuses occurring all over the United States tomorrow. If you are registered to vote in any of these states, and the primary/caucus rules permit you to vote, please do so. The strength of our democracy depends on citizen participation.

Some of my readers know my personal candidate preference (and you can read about him here), but I will not use this space to make a political argument. As your fellow citizen, I just ask you to educate yourself about the candidates and the issues, decide what matters most to you, and vote.

Thank you.