On Wednesday I finished packing my bag. I had bought my mother her vitamins, I had a new dress I and got a haircut in order to look put together. I was getting ready to embark on an 18 hour journey to get to Venezuela to witness my brother’s wedding. It’s such a happy occasion for our family. Ever since we lost my my father, it’s a treasure to get together with my family to celebrate love, life, and happiness.
It was six o’clock when I zipped up the suitcase and my husband asked me, “are you really going?”
I looked at him with tears in my eyes, “no, I don’t think I can.”
Over the last week I’ve watched in despair how Venezuela, my native country, goes through a spike in social unrest that has left at least six dead and hundreds injured. Most of them young students.
Try to picture my anxiety as I check Facebook and my feed is inundated with images and videos of young people in the streets, armed forces shooting and throwing tear gas at people, roads barricaded and hundreds of pleas for help and support.
I scan the images and I recognize the corners and street lights and a shiver travels through my spine as count the blocks between that street on fire and my mother’s home.
The anxiety takes over and I become a sleepless zombie glued to my phone and computer incessantly checking social media and asking my family, “are you ok?” I remember feeling something similar with the attack at the Boston Marathon. But there was a big difference, I didn’t feel alone. I felt like EVERYONE cared and I was one more concerned citizen praying for the safety of our people. I felt belonging.
My frustration almost exploded when I was driving and I heard an NPR report on the protests and violence of the last few days not in Venezuela, but in Ukraine. What?! Do this people know what going on there? I mean, we have A LOT MORE OIL!
Yes, Ukraine has gone through a steeper escalation of violence.
Thankfully now they are working out what looks like a temporary solution for a cease fire (update 2/22 spoke to early). But I haven’t really paid attention because I’ve been engrossed with what’s happening to MY country, and MY family and MY friends and MY trip.
You know how it is. I have two little kids, a job, a mortgage and all the ordinary middle-class tensions and distractions that keep me from expressing a mere, “oh God, those poor people!” every time some crisis flares up in any other part of the world that I’m not directly tied to. It’s not like I do much anyway. Frankly, the only news that really affects my daily routine is the weather.
As the days have gone by and news about Venezuela started trickling in the major news outlets, I started to realize that my desperation for news in the United States was a little over-dramatic. The overwhelming feeling that “no one cares” started melting away as I saw the petitions and the tweets praying for our country.
But here’s the thing: How did Venezuela’s situation become news-worthy? And does that matter at all? Over 3,000 videos were uploaded to CNN iReport, Tweets about Venezuela are rapidly increasing. A young student in Florida made a video that summarized “What’s going on in Venezuela (in a nutshell)” with over 2MM views in a few days.
The world started to care (a little bit) because people cared. And when ordinary people like you and me care, pressure mounts. Governments, celebrities, international organizations start to speak out and things start to change. Albeit slowly, but they do, eventually, change. Just take a look at successful social movements like anti-whaling, recycling, anti-tobacco, LGBT rights, etc. Laws and social rules do change, but only after a shift in mass-consciousness is achieved.
Venezuela is not the first example of this case and it won’t be the last. All it takes is for you and me to care a bit more. To read beyond the headlines without dismissing conflict with a sigh, “it’s such a mess….” Yes, each country, each situation is impossibly complicated and I’m sure it’s hard to relate to most of it. But you can help change things by changing your attitude.
In short, to change the world just give a sh#t!
As for my trip, instead of celebrating my brother’s wedding in Venezuela, me and few pela gatos (Venezuelan expression to denote lonely people) will be at the Seattle’s Space Needle at 2 p.m., to join a world-wide call for the preservation of human rights in Venezuela. People are fed up with food shortages, failed security and the faltering economy — those are long term problems.* Right now, I want:
- The government to stop the violence against its people.
- Retreat the National Guard and the paramilitary groups
- Free all political detainees.
- And reinstate freedom of speech.
In preparation for the protest, I read for the first time all thirty articles of the International Human Rights Declaration and I found it so thorough and inspiring. It’s a wonderful pact we have made. We have agreed to observe and uphold this broad set of rights above our local governments and cultures because above all of it, we are humans. And as humans, we can all work a little harder to relate a little more and make this world better.
“UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.”
*Disclaimer: I believe Maduro’s government is illegitimate. I do not support it, but this time I am not interested in demanding his resignation because I am not sure what the alternative is but the violence against its people has to stop.