We thought it was interesting, and somewhat ironic, that just the day after the United States closed its border with Tijuana after tear gassing several hundred migrants from Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras who were storming the U.S. border with Mexico on Sunday, November 25, seeking asylum in the U.S., the Insight Mars Lander, a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) spacecraft built by Lockheed Martin, will try to land on Mars on Monday, November 26, after a journey from earth of nearly 300 million miles, lasting more than six months.
We say “try to land,” because landing on Mars is a very dangerous and tricky operation, mainly because the atmosphere on Mars, unlike earth’s atmosphere, is extremely thin, perhaps one-hundreth the density of earth’s. The Insight Mars Lander could easily crash, wasting billions and trillions of NASA’s budget. It is NASA’s first probe to reach Mars in six years. Reportedly, NASA’s long term goal is to send a manned mission to Mars in the 2030s.
Several weeks ago, human caravans of socio-political-economic refugees from the Central American republics of Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras began marching north towards and through Mexico with the intention of seeking asylum in the United States. Apparently a few thousand of those refugees were able to get on buses in Mexico City, thus hastening their arrival in Tijuana, a Mexican border city which is well known to us Belizeans who have been crossing from there into Lower California for many decades.
We considered the two pieces of news ironic because the socio-political-economic conditions at the base in the three Central American republics are to a great extent the result of the fact that American foreign policy, since the last century, has viewed the said republics primarily as markets for U.S. consumer goods and services, and as fortresses to prevent the spread of communism, first from Russia and later China, in the region. Thus, Washington supported the rise of national oligarchies and military dictatorships in the three republics which neglected the needs of their masses.
Pursuing its regional and international foreign policy, the United States became the most powerful and wealthy nation in the world, enabling the Americans to finance very, very expensive scientific research and space missions in competition with Soviet Russia from the 1950s until the 1990s, and beyond.
An additional and relevant, we think, news story derives from the fact that on the aforementioned Sunday, November 25, 2018, Russian forces are reported to have opened fire on Ukrainian naval vessels in the Black Sea near Crimea hours after a Russian coast guard vessel rammed a Ukrainian navy tugboat. Russia has seized Ukrainian naval vessels. Russia and Ukraine are two former republics of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), a massive world power which lasted from 1922 to 1991. Modern Russia is much larger and more powerful than Ukraine. As a result of the incidents, the United Nations
Security Council will enter an emergency session.
The relevant background to these incidents and ironies is that Russia and the United States were two of the three Allied powers which defeated Nazi Germany and their Axis partners in World War II, which lasted from 1939 to 1945. Russian and American troops rushed, from different directions, to enter defeated Germany in the final days of the war. The competition between communist Russia and capitalist Washington resulted in the establishment of two Germanys – East Germany, controlled by the Russians, and West Germany, under the influence of the Americans. The Russians actually built a wall between East and West Germany. When that wall fell in 1989, the breakup of the USSR followed two years later.
After World War II, the bitter fight between Russia and the United States for world hegemony became known as the Cold War. An aspect of that fight involved scientific and space research in both Russia and the U.S. which featured German scientists and researchers, refugees from Nazi Germany, who led the two competing space programs. When Russia rocketed the first satellite, Sputnik, into space in October of 1957, and followed up that triumph with the first manned space flight, that of Yuri Gagarin in April of 1961, the Americans felt compelled to go all out to land the first man on the moon, which they accomplished in July of 1969.
There are various metals and minerals on planets like Mars which are considered strategically vital with respect to the fight for manufacturing and military dominance. In that sense, space research may be viewed as an investment of the United States where maintaining its world hegemony is concerned.
At this newspaper, we have spoken to you often about something called white supremacy. In concrete terms, regionally speaking, this is what it means: the policy makers in Washington care far more about their space research than they do about frightened human beings fleeing their homes in republics which have been under Washington’s aegis for so many decades. The election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency two years ago amounted to a statement by America’s majority white population that they wanted to focus exclusively on their own situation. Make America great again. If such a perspective translates into a border crisis which requires military firepower more lethal than tear gas, it does not appear that the Trump administration would hesitate.
An observer from another part of the world might note that there were no Belizeans in the human caravans, and ask why. Guatemala and Honduras are, of course, Belize’s neighbors. Well, Belizeans have been making the trek north into the United States in numbers since the 1950s. It’s a strange thing, in that before Belize achieved self-government in 1964, the U.S. had liberal immigrant quotas for the said three Central American republics which allowed them as many as 30,000 visas a year to enter the States. As British subjects, however, Belizeans were not so favored, but we had a land bridge to the Rio Grande, unlike British West Indians, and we spoke English, unlike Central Americans. No base citizenry in the West Indies or Central America made it to the United States as easily as Belizeans.
Today, as we Belizeans are being challenged to preserve our national, territorial integrity, and to increase our productivity, there are many questions which have to be answered where the present and the future of our emigrant populations are concerned. America has become harder for the Belizean diaspora, and more and more of us are being deported, sometimes arbitrarily. We Belizeans must begin to think as one, no matter where we are. This was what 1981’s independence was supposed to be all about: Belize, now and forever.
Power to the people.