We live in a country where, depending on which party is in control of the White House, some not insignificant portion of the population thinks it’s okay for the president to have the power to order extrajudicial killings simply because…they trust him. They like him. They can imagine having a beer with him. They like his wife. Her bangs. Their daughters. Or any one of a number of possible reasons of the republic.
And yet, writes Alma Guillermoprieto in the New York Review of Books, it is the Venezuelan people who are children, in thrall to a regressive fantasy of their dearly departed leader.
Perhaps in trying to evaluate the astonishing rule of Hugo Chávez the question to ask is this: whether the people he leaves behind regressed into a kind of childhood faith and dependency under his spell and what the price of such regression might be. Perhaps this is the state brought forth by those rulers we call caudillos—willful chieftans who rule by force of personality—of which Hugo Chávez Frías may have been the greatest of all. “There is no chavismo without Chavez,” he proclaimed repeatedly. Who now will dry Venezuela’s tears?
Update (March 18, 4:30 pm)
On the accession of Pope Francis, NPR’s Melissa Block interviewed John Connaughton, a 37-year-old American seminarian in Rome. Here’s what he had to say:
JOHN CONNAUGHTON: It was an amazing experience because in that time period between Pope Benedict’s resignation and the election of Francis I, you could feel the absence of the Holy Father.
BLOCK: What does that feel like from your perspective?
CONNAUGHTON: Well, we call him the Holy Father because he is our father. He’s our spiritual father. And just like when your father goes away for a trip, you feel his absence. So you could feel it. You could feel it spiritually, and there’s a great sense of relief and joy when we did receive Francis I.
Eagerly awaiting Guillermoprieto’s thoughts on how Catholics are receiving this newest strongman from Latin America.
And as Laura Tanenbaum reminded me on FB over this past weekend: “While doing course prep this week I kept thinking: I hope these people never get ahold of Whitman writing about Lincoln. Father, captain, him I love, martyr, and that’s just the half of it.” Indeed.