Time to Run; Off, Not Away.
Still feeling the effects of the afterburner singe of the US presidential election, we are quickly preparing our yearly escape to Chile driven by a greater than usual urge to get away.
We’ve decided to leave earlier this year than usual, not so much as a distraction from the incessant post election hand wringing and a deep concern for what is coming (in spite of the oft repeated guarantee that the country will be “great again”, our victories will be “yuge”, and “we’re going to love it”) but mostly due to the frail health of my mother-in-law, dear Pepa, who resides in Santiago. Although tempted to truly run away, I guess I’ll admit I am just running off for awhile; most likely I’ll return next April as we usually do, open up the house, clean up the broken limbs from winter snows and winds, pay my taxes, reconnect with friends, and rush to see our kids and grand kids.
Living awhile in Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Italy, and in and out of the US and Chile for the past fifty years, ours has been a fairly itinerant life, and each time we have taken the running off pretty much in stride; close up one place and say goodbye, open up another and say hello, cancel the newspapers and mail, reconnect the phone, internet and cable TV, charge the batteries in the cars, make sure Mario has renewed the car insurance, check in with old friends to catch up on the gossip left out of the interceding Whatsup and emails, on and on, over and over.
This time it’s different. I can feel it. On the one hand, I am not optimistic about our new president; that should come as no surprise. I am truly saddened by the lost opportunity for my country to finally join the progressive global club of societies that are secure enough in their own skin to choose to be led by a woman. More waiting on that, but I don’t know if I have the time to wait, since it now appears that decision may be quite off in the distance. Maybe I will take advantage of this stay in Chile to get a better feel for how Chileans feel about this gender issue. They’ve voted in a woman twice, albeit the same one, to their presidency; yes, Michelle Bachelet both times. Her public support has nosedived since she was sworn in the second time, and her two comadres in Brazil and Argentina are both facing the “lock her up” syndrome. maybe I should look deeper into how the southern cone of South America is dealing with that, as it may apply to HRC’s fate, and ours. I’ll let you know.
Chileans are concerned, like we are in the US, with the increasing gap between folks at the top and the bottom of the income, wealth, and opportunity charts, since this seems to be the source of growing discontent in the form of “indignados“, “99%ers”, and Bernie’s “army”. It seems to many of us (not all, clearly) that there is something wrong with the way wealth is distributed, and its disproportionate influence, in both Chile and the US. Leaders in both countries argue about the role of education, tax policy, and economic growth as they affect equity of opportunity. In Chile, Michele Bachelet began her present term attacking directly what she thought her supporters wanted her to fix. In her case admittedly, she won the election with a huge majority of the votes; she can be excused for believing she had a mandate to make the changes she had promised in her campaign. Donald Trump lost the popular vote but won via the antiquated (and some would say undemocratic) electoral college, but he too claims to have a mandate to wipe the slate clean of much of what outgoing President Obama struggled to accomplish in the important policy arenas of health care (a mish mash that does need fixing), immigration reform (lot of unresolved issues), and climate change (only got started; education needed).
Today a comparison of Chilean politics and US politics is extremely interesting, rich in thought provoking analogies. When Bachelet took power riding the wave of her apparent huge mandate for change, one of her supporters, the President of a coalition party, stated that what they would use to carry out their overhaul of public policies would be a retroexcavadora, a backhoe so as to completely dig out what was there and build anew. Although somewhat delegitimized in Chile, this concept seems to have been picked up by the Trump folks. While I’m in Chile maybe I’ll try to find out if there is any connection between the Chilean concept of the retroexcavadora, and members of the Trump team; there just might be, since I note that Rudy Giuliani was in Chile recently advising the Chileans on public security! This idea will keep me busy for awhile in Santiago.
Trump wants the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal (TPP) killed. So did Clinton. So did Bachelet when she was campaigning three years ago. Bachelet has since “pivoted”, as we now like to say, and has been convinced (by her country’s exporters and macro economists probably) of the value to Chile of joining such an agreement. Supporters argue that strengthening links to Asia doesn’t just provide a market for Chilean commodities (copper, wood products, fruit, wine) but also strengthens regional security. Clinton saw it that way for the US too, until she had to debate Bernie, and she flopped. It doesn’t matter now if she changes her mind again, but it does matter if Trump stays with his firm opposition which seems to be based in part on objections by the pharmaceutical industry to terms of the agreement that limit patent life, and therefore reduce the price, of their drugs.
There are similar concerns in Chile and in the US about out-of-balance access to quality education and the high cost of University education. Increasing costs of health care and affordable insurance are shared public policy challenges that provoke similar debates in both countries.
But, I don’t want to lose you in the fog of public policy. There is a more enjoyable side of the ledger for this year’s visit to Chile. I can once again run off to my favorite wine country. If I could slough off the negatives of the US election, and make everything right for Pepa, I would still be heading to Chile, and happy to be going early. I would not be running away from anything, nor just running off either. I have learned that if you are going to run, it’s better to run towards something, so as of now I’m describing this trip as having, besides the other motivating pressures, the additional motive of running towards (not off, not away) the vineyards and wineries of the Casablanca, Colchagua, and Maipu Valleys in central Chile, towards their emblematic hefty reds and crisp whites, ever improving and still very reasonable. And maybe, in spite of the other issues that we are faced with, this angle will save the day.
OK. That’s the agenda. Friday we fly to Santiago. We’ll be back in the Spring. Please have everything wonderful for us when we return, warming spring weather, beautiful flowers, civil public (and private) discourse restored, stock market strong, interest rates still low, the New York Yankees promising a championship season, and mostly happy, healthy grand kids. You know, all of it. In the meantime, please watch this blog, Daveschile.com. I’ll be talking to you again soon, from sunny Santiago. Please stay well.
Posted on November 16, 2016, in Leesburg, Virginia.