Nicanotes: Of 9/11, Beethoven, and Mother Earth

By Paul Baker Hernandez

“When Americans are in need. Americans pull together and we are one country.” President Trump’s words ‘honoring’ victims of September 11, 2001, and the lashings of Irma and Harvey, have all the tawdry familiarity of last year’s Halloween costume. You have to feel for comfy politicians faced with yet another random catastrophe visited on the hoy polloi by the God ‘in whom we trust’. “Mar-a-Lago is fine. Your house got blown away. What can I say?”

What indeed, when your one ‘America’ is being torn apart by enduring political and economic forces that make Irma shrivel to a storm in a tea cup? While the largely white affluent chuckle their way to the bank, prisons burst with impoverished African Americans. Katrina. Charlottesville. Imposed poverty corroding one third of homes headed by single women. Four in ten US children living close to or below the poverty line. Congressional healthcare plans to strip millions of coverage. The lashing winds of desperate silence that so many of “My fellow Americans” endure daily, without so much as a passing nod from the presidential motorcade, much less the fulfilment of the tired rhetoric of, “I pledge allegiance to … one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

The pledge, composed in 1892 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s catastrophic invasion of the New World, betrays every “American” into routine hypocrisy and denial. For today’s Selfie Society, where the average US person lives about 500% beyond global justice, is the (un)natural outcome of a system based on exactly opposite values, on profound divisions of race, gender and class, where liberty is for the predators and justice for the powerful few.

For me, a conservative white male Catholic, cosy conventionalism was forever disembowelled by 9/11. Not ‘America’s’ 9/11, but the 9/11 of Margarita and Gabriel. Refugees. Refugees betrayed, tortured and exiled during the first ghastly act of terrorism on that fateful date: the Kissinger/Nixon/Pinochet coup in Chile, 9/11 1973, overthrowing the elected government of Dr. Salvador Allende. The power of music is astonishing. These refugees sang to us, above all the songs of their just-butchered compañero, the great and greatly-loved Víctor Jara. And where we had preached distant cold charity, suddenly warm justice stood among us, strong and vibrant. For Víctor unmasked the hypocrisy.

He sang of the impoverished children, of murdered miners, of peasants with their skins burned black. All victims of that original systemic ravening greed that tore the “land of freedom and democracy” from its first nations, that fattened itself on slavery, tobacco, sugar, gold, silver, copper, tin, invasions and proxy wars, and, a cancer unleashed, that was even then beginning to gnaw its way through the very sinews of the planet from which we all draw life. Therefore,

“It was in the cold dark stadium, they swore they’d beat him down.
They broke his wrists and fingers, saying, ‘Sing now! – if you can.’”

Last night, September 11th 2017, we had a wonderful celebration of life. Singing Víctor. Not just me, an old relic from those distant days, but a host of young musicians, an eager audience of mostly young Nicaraguans, singing, dancing, laughing, re-committing to the great dream.

“But his love, his song, his courage, no Kissinger could fight
And I thought I heard sweet Víctor, singing in the night:
‘Don’t give up, don’t give up, don’t give up the struggle now.
Keep on singing out for justice, don’t give up the struggle now!’”

Margarita used to quote Che’s, “Above all, always be capable of feeling deeply any injustice committed against anyone, anywhere in the world. This is the most beautiful quality in a revolutionary.” Which, naturally, brings us to Beethoven.

In these global warming days we all pay lip service to the notion that ‘We humans are all one people’. Beethoven, that deaf, irascible, soaring, profoundly revolutionary, genius believed it with all his soul. And, like Víctor, he poured his belief into his music, into its profound silences which liberate us from, and to be, ourselves, and, most clearly, into his universally-beloved, ‘Ode to Joy’. It’s an astonishing melody, even little guys in our barrio can hum it, and when I sing my way down the road, people smile.

In choosing the text to set to music, Beethoven was very precise. His ‘Joy’ isjoy expressly as the bringer of universal sister and brotherhood. But, just as the origins of today’s hyper-consumerist Mother’s Day in Julia Ward Howe’s searing call for peace after the US Civil War were quickly bought over, so we Starbucks revolutionaries usually prefer to ‘turn our heads, pretending we just don’t see’.

“O Joy, where your gentle wings hover,
peace and brotherhood will reign.”

Today, with its rampant fear and racism, its sexism and catastrophic consumerism, this is all completely beyond the politicians /military /corporations /1%ers. They will never save life on Earth.

And us, hoy polloi? Well, right now, with the drunken soldiery, we’re packed into Zola’s hurtling, driverless train, heading headlong to certain crushing death, Unless. Unless? Unless, “We, the Peoples” of this one, exquisite, and exquisitely fragile, planet take it back. Now. All of which, naturally again, brings us to the ‘Great Global Hum’. This has been labelled, “crazy”, “quixotic”, and worse. Yet some of my most trusted and sober friends say,“That’s a wonderful idea!” Let us know what you think. Here’s the gist, Click here for details!

1. Teach the whole world “to sing/hum an ‘Ode to Earth’ in perfect harmony”, replacing fear, frustration and drowned refugee children with hope, energy and community (You speak Greek, I speak Aramaic, we can hum together!).
2. Require 3% of military resources to be re-allocated to regreen the planet and bring pure water to all. (Wars for water are even more savage than those over oil. The military is the planet’s worst polluter, and wastes much of its budget.)
3. Build a “Global Standing Rock” united peace action movement to pressure for the above by providing on-the-ground action, backed by cell phone strikes/internet actions/social media campaigns, etc.
4. Create a just, peace-filled and healed planet as the only truly fitting memorial to all who gave their lives, ‘to end all war’.

Quixotic? You bet. But then I sing

“Stand up and see the wonder of the mountain
Source of the sun the water and the wild wind
You who can harness the rush of mighty waters
You who with the seed sow the longings of your soul
Stand up and see these hands with which we labour
Stretch out, grow tall, hands joined with your sisters and your brothers
Working together, by deepest blood united.
Knowing, together, the future can be now!” (Victor Jara, Plegaria a un Labrador)

And I laugh again at Margaret Thatcher’s “Anyone who thinks that Nelson Mandela will ever be free is living in cloud-cuckoo land.” I listen again to Mandela himself, that afternoon in Los Angeles, just four months after his cloud cuckoo release, thanking us for the “‘countless small steps’ that have led us here today. Together.” Together, that’s the key. ONE planet. ONE People. El pueblo unido jamás será vencido!

As JFK might’ve said, “So, my fellow Earthlings, ask not what your planet can do for you – ask what you can do for your planet.” Welcome to cloud cuckoo land, Folks!



  • Cesar Zamora, president of the Chamber of Energy agreed on Monday to end his defamation lawsuit against US right-wing think tank Freedom House and its Latin America director Carlos Ponce. Ponce had claimed on a radio show in mid-August that the US government had a blacklist of Nicaraguan government officials and business leaders who would be sanctioned for corruption and human rights violations. Zamora, Ponce claimed, was one of the business leaders to be sanctioned. Zamora filed a defamation lawsuit against Ponce and Freedom House and Ponce quickly admitted that he had received “bad information” and admitted that there was no list and Zamora wasn’t on it. The out-of-court settlement requires Freedom House to post Ponce’s letter admitting the claim was false on its website for “at least seven days.” Click here to read the letter. (El Nuevo Diario, Sept. 12)
  • Roberto Rivas, president of the Nicaragua Supreme Electoral Council (CSE), announced that representatives of the nine political parties participating in the municipal elections signed an agreement in Managua ratifying their commitment to promote a peaceful and respectful electoral campaign. “We want to reiterate that the two incidents that were reported in recent days are linked to common crimes and are in no way related to the electoral process. The CSE reiterates its unwavering commitment to promote and ensure a safe, peaceful and respectful electoral process,” Rivas said. OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro condemned the two murders of Constitutional Liberal Party candidates. “We condemn this murder and what happened last Saturday. We urge a prompt investigation. Violence cannot be part of politics,” Almagro wrote on Twitter. (Nicaragua News, Sept. 7; El Nuevo Diario, Sept. 6.)
  • President of the Nicaragua Housing Chamber (CADUR) Héctor Lacayo announced that a US$25 million housing project was inaugurated in Managua. “This is a very important investment by Nicaraguan development company Construcciones Lacayo Fiallos that consists of more than 1,100 low cost housing ranging from US$20-$ 30,000,” Lacayo said. (Nicaragua News, Sept. 6)
  • The President of the Nicaragua National Port Authority (EPN), Virgilio Silva, announced that more than US$18 million is being invested in the Infrastructure Modernization Plan at Port Corinto in Chinandega Department. “The Plan includes the installation of four new container cranes and renovation of the entire dock infrastructure. This investment will help to reduce costs and expedite shipment of freight, improving competitiveness and strengthening port safety in Corinto,” Silva said. (Nicaragua News, Sept. 5)
  • US Embassy economic counselor, William Muntean, warned US citizens operating businesses in Nicaragua that they are restricted on the business they can do with Venezuela by the sanctions decreed by US President Donald Trump which are aimed to cut President Nicolas Maduro off from the sources of “funds he needs to stay in power.” Muntean said it is illegal for US-owned companies to do business with or sign contracts with “sanctioned” individuals in government or the Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA. He particularly called attention to Albanisa which is a joint Venezuela-Nicaragua company that manages Venezuela’s oil aid for poverty alleviation programs in Nicaragua. It is 51% owned by PDVSA and therefore falls under US sanctions according to Muntean. José Adán Aguerri, president of the big business association COSEP, noted that the US sanctions do not affect Nicaraguan companies doing business with Venezuela. (El Nuevo Diario, Sept. 8; Informe Pastran, Sept. 8)
  • US President Donald Trump’s phase out of the Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program will affect 2,506 Nicaraguans who were taken to the US as minors. Nicaraguans comprise a very small fraction of the 800,000 beneficiaries of DACA who now face the prospect of being deported to a country they hardly remember where people speak a language they may not speak at all. However, for those Nicaraguans affected, the disruption to their lives will be just as devastating as it will be for the undocumented citizens of other countries. Congress has six months to pass some form of relief. Otherwise DACA recipients will lose their work permits and be vulnerable to deportation. (El Nuevo Diario, Sept. 6)
  • HKND Group, the company with the concession to build an interoceanic canal across Nicaragua, announced that it will begin to implement a massive reforestation project along the projected canal route to “reverse the environmental degradation that is taking place.” The company noted that the canal route crosses a number of different kinds of terrain including forests, rivers, mangrove swamps, etc. and therefore is working with the Ministry of the Environment (MARENA) to determine the most appropriate plants for each area. The project will begin with establishing nurseries, staffed by Nicaraguan employees, to raise 17 varieties of trees for the different ecosystems. (Informe Pastran, Sept. 8)