Several months ago, my friend—we’ll call her Carmen—and I were chatting nostalgically over lunch about the atmosphere of street protest in Bolivia. We had met in Bolivia where she worked for many years as a journalist. She was intimately familiar with the patterns of political activism, intellectual life, and statecraft there.
In Frederick Douglass’s famous oration, “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?,” he calls himself a citizen, but the speech is full of references to “your national independence” and “your political freedom.” This ambivalence reflects the bitter irony of celebrating the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence while black men and women were held as slaves, bought and sold like animals.
Police all over the world take things from people. Whether legal or illegal, the practice often depends on keeping up a double meaning that provides cover.
One of my friends in San Ignacio de Mojos, Bolivia was Don Santiago (not his real name). By the time I met him, he had already held several positions within the indigenous organizations that represent the Ignaciano community, and he had served as Secretary of Land and Territory during part of an extended legal battle to title land that indigenous communities farmed and occupied throughout the municipality. During one of our conversations, he reflected on his experience with this legal activism.
When the news broke that Special Counsel Robert Mueller III indicted a Russian “troll farm” and 13 individuals associated with it, news and commentary reacted with outrage over the allegations that a foreign government had interfered in a US election.
A friend of mine from Peru—we’ll call him Martín—recently applied for a visa to attend graduate school in the United States. Moving to the US involved filling out lots of forms, and this presented a dilemma: When I had to mark a category for race, I couldn’t find the word “mestizo,” which is the option […]