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Choosing to be free in Venezuela

By Michael Rowan, El Universal

The mind likes choices that are black or white, yes or no, this or that, but experience is filled with gray, maybe and something else. For those who believe that the political choice today is between engaging the system or dropping out, think again. There's a third choice: do both at once. A sign of the mature mind is its capacity to hold two contradictory thoughts in suspension as the solution is being worked out. Here is how this mind thinks:

First, I have been denied the right to vote by the government. So, I will create open and honest primary elections for everyone, and simultaneously I will continue to work for a recall referendum but never expect it to occur fairly, and I will advance candidates in official elections, never expecting votes to be counted honestly.

Second, I have been denied justice by the government. So I will make appeals for justice and human rights to international courts and world public opinion, while I continue to pursue my case in government courts that are fixed against me, never expecting justice.

Third, I have been denied rights to work and commerce by the government. So I will create a new system for work and opportunity for all, while I continue to struggle to support my family with dignity, never expecting that dignity to be respected. In sum, I will work for system change while simultaneously living in the system that is catastrophic. Why? Because I believe the institutions of democracy, justice and work will prevail, not the demons who now control them. I am liberated from the demons and committed to the institutions.

Nelson Mandela spent years in prison liberated from those who imprisoned him, and building a society of inclusion and justice that now includes his former tormentors. He did not see South Africa's problem, or its solution, in terms of black or white. Hugo Chavez spent way fewer years in prison scheming about how to destroy his enemies, and that's what he's doing, but in the process he has destroyed himself with his own hate. Mandela's cell is a far better place to be than the cell of Chavez, because Mandela was always free. Likewise, Venezuelans can be free of Chavez the moment they liberate themselves into the ambiguity of life the way it is.

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