Mark Palermo

He Was Our S.O.B.

He Was Our S.O.B.
Long Ago Saturday Nights at the Circle 9
The Dark Side of Vaccinations
Wine: Where Ignorance and Pretension Find their Loudest Voice
A 1976 Journey in Search of Self
The Machinery of Mass Dreams
The Outlaw Georgie Bush
Sex Offender Registries Out of Control
Extreme Makeover for Airheads
The Fault Lies not in the Stars, but in Ourselves
Reconsidering George Carlin
If You Think Liberals Are Jerks...
She Couldn't Do Her Chores
Remembering Viktor Frankl
One Day on the Farm-1977
A Fresh Look at Meat
How the Real World Works: A Lesson
30 Bucks for the Human Touch
1929 All Over Again
An Old Man's War, A Young Man's Fight
More Things in Heaven and Earth...
Our Dumbed-down Public Discourse
Bread, But No Roses
Earth's the Right Place for Love
Read This Before Enlisting
Poison Is Good for You: The Fluoridation Scam
Ron Paul:He Makes Too Much Sense
War Is a Racket
Brazil's National Orgasm Day
Calling all Liberals!
Why I Don't Get Flu Shots
What is Community?
Haverhillicus Homocrisicum
If You Wanna Be a Junkie, Why?
Do We Know His Family?
Scam: Youth Sports
A Subsidy for the Human Touch?
How Not to Be Boring
If the Bread and Roses Strike Were NOW
America's Problem with the Body
Columbus Day? or Renaissance Day?
Depleted Uranium Weapons
Mitt Romney: A Clintonian Republican
A Checklist for Conservatives
On Torture and Torturers
Pimp of the Nation
Romney is a Jerk
Hypocrisy and its Champions
The Dumb Society
The Men's Taverns of Yesteryear
On Dittoheads!
Let China Sleep
2004 McDebates
Animal Rights Page
US Wealth Distribution Chart
Public Grief, Private Lives


He Was Our S.O.B.   by Mark Palermo

I was getting away quickly from an ugly scene when I took the above photo, which is why it is not well –focused. The year was 1994, the place, the Dominican Republic. The subject: our tax dollars at work.


I was with a Dominican friend, driving through this small coastal village- I can’t recall its name- when we rounded a corner and ran into an angry street mob carrying baseball bats, knives and firearms. Later we heard the news: announcement of the presidential election results had been postponed while the votes were recounted. The so-called “recount” showed what everybody feared: the populist candidate, Pena Gomez, had lost by a narrow margin while the CIA-backed puppet president and de-facto dictator, Joachim Balaguer- 87 years old and blind-was declared winner just as he had been in previous so-called free elections. Once again democracy had been successfully thwarted in the Dominican Republic. International observers concurred that the election was rigged and the response you see in this picture followed.


What made these folks take to the streets? After all, we Americans didn’t take to the streets after Bush stole an election. Look again at the photo. This is what people look like when all their self-determination is crushed and they have no recourse to law or justice.  


Author William Blum writes, “Joachin Balaguer… ruled…his people in the grand Latin American style: The rich became richer and the poor had babies, hungry babies; democracy remained an alien concept; the police and military regularly kidnapped, tortured and murdered opponents of the government and terrorized union organizers. But the man was not, personally, the monster that Trujillo was. There was relative calm and peace. No ‘communist threat’ hovered over the land. The pot was sweetened for foreign investors, and American corporations moved in with big bucks…”


As bad as Belaguer was, the guy that preceded him was worse. Rafael Trujillo was one of Latin America’s leading anti-communists and friend of the United States. A psychopathic, serial-murdering rapist, Trujillo used political power to amass vast personal wealth and ruled the island for 30 years until his assassination in 1961. Trujillo outlawed political parties- except for his own-- while imprisonment, torture and mysterious disappearances of any opposition, real or imagined, were  accomplished  by his thugs and secret police.  Every classroom, church and public office is said to have displayed a portrait of “El Benefactor” as he was known. Statues of Trujillo were mass produced and erected in every town and village with the inscription “Trujillo on Earth, God in the Sky.” Illiterate peasants were even taught that Trujillo was an all-powerful deity. Franklin Roosevelt once remarked to U.S. Secretary of State, Cordell Hull, "He (Trujillo) may be a son-of-a-bitch, but he is our son-of-a-bitch."


On my first trip to the island some years ago, a friend took me to several museums. I was immediately struck by a curious feature: the common theme of most Dominican art is the legacy of slavery and/or colonialism, which- if art is a barometer of culture- indicates how authoritarian social organization is deeply internalized in the island’s collective psyche. Indeed, colonialism has deep roots on the island: after Columbus established slavery, decades of Spanish and French rule gave way to domination by the United States, which under the Monroe Doctrine, occupied the country three times between 1903 and 1965.


To understand Dominican politics, you have to start with the fact that Dominicans have never experienced a period of self determination and democracy in over 500 years- except for one brief window of opportunity. 


 That opportunity came in 1962, when Juan Bosch, a respected author and exiled opposition leader, returned to the island upon Trujillo’s death. Bosch, a brilliant orator whose appeal cut across demographic lines, was supported by the urban middle class, intellectuals and rural peasants, and elected president in 1962. He quickly opened a national dialogue about land redistribution, workers rights and democratic reforms, all of which proved too much for the island’s ruling families, church leaders, and foreign investors. As a result, Bosch- a legitimately elected president - was deposed in a military coup which led to civil war.


Meanwhile, the Johnson administration was wary of Bosch’s populism, which looked to them like Communism, and they feared another Cuba near its shores. The American media framed Bosch as a communist, and in the resulting hysteria, the United States, under the pretext of putting down a communist rebellion, sent a military invasion force to the island and installed a CIA-backed puppet government headed by Joachim Belaguer. (Until his death in 2001, Bosch insisted that he had never been a Communist.)


That was your tax dollars and mine at work. (I don’t know about you, but I would have preferred a tax rebate to an invasion of the Dominican Republic.) Maybe someday we can have a dialogue in this country about our foreign policy which nurtures so many corrupt, brutal dictators, but I doubt it. Maybe we are ourselves becoming another Latin American dictatorship.


November 2009