You all know how the story goes:
It was a normal day, like any other — the sky was blue, the clouds were white, the money was green, and the food, well, it was pretty good — and then, KABAM, there’s a tornado in Kansas! Run Toto! Run!
I can hear that good old “Wizard of Oz” music playing already. Only it wasn’t a tornado this time, but rather a text message on my phone: “Chávez is dead.”
Hugo Chávez, the President of Venezuela, is dead. My International Relations senses are tingling.
I guess being geographical accurate, it would have been more of a hurricane than a tornado, but either way, my first question was, how did he die?
Well it wasn’t a house driven by an ill-trained ginge, I can tell you that. No, this time it was cancer. A disease that the Venezuelan President had been struggling with for almost two years now, and to those aware of the situation, his death didn’t really come as a shock. Yet even without this “shock-factor” the world has really become a different place.
In the words of my close Venezuelan friend, “I was just cooking curry chicken for dinner and then . . . Chávez was dead.” She told me that she wasn’t happy for his death, a man that had been in power since people our age were 9 years old (that’s more than half of our lives). But she wasn’t sad either, for a man who had literally dragged his people through the dirt and the mud, a man that she had been fighting against for years. It was just, surreal.
She said, “I never knew that one man could change so much of my life.” She wasn’t referring to his politics or his actions as president, but rather she was trying to process the myriad of unknowns he has left for Venezuela upon death — all the questions that need answering. Who will lead the country? Will there be elections? Can Venezuela find stability and peace? Or will everything fall into chaos and civil war?
So much of history stands on the individuals, the heroes and villains of our stories, adjectives that often change hands depending on who’s telling the “facts.” I mean, if you asked the Venezuelan Vice President, he’d let you know straight up that Chávez’s death was directly caused by his enemies . . . also known as us, or rather the U.S. of good old A. But, our generation knows all too well that even the straightforward, black and white stories like the “Wicked Witch of the West” have more than one side to them. I guess it really is a Technicolor world out there, wouldn’t you say so, Dorothy?
But unfortunately, in the hours and days after his death, as the country begins to answer these unknowns, turning this surrealist image into an clear mural, or at the very least an impressionist painting, I think the world will realize yet again that no country, or group of people for that matter, have any real ruby slippers on hand. There will be no clicking heels or “There’s no place like home”-s. It’ll be hard work and determination. Mistakes will be made, and I hope remedied.
So, as Venezuelans are looking to the future, as the world is looking to move forward, I guess I’ll be right here, in my high-back armchair: documenting what I see, making a few educated guess, and like any good historian, getting it all completely, and utterly wrong.
But hey, at least I’ll be doing it with a good laugh or two. Here’s to you Venezuela, I wish you all the best of luck. And your little dogs too.