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Doris writes a weekly column for LaGaceta, the nation's only trilingual newspaper, which has pages in English, Spanish, and Italian.  Begun in 1922 for Tampa's immigrant community, it continues to thrive more than a century later.  Her column is titled "In Context," as it aims to put contemporary issues in the context of the past.

Historians Have the Last Word

That’s why I’m glad I am one. We make predictions based on our knowledge of the past, and sometimes we live to see the end of the story. Although I’m not yet ready to write the last word on this wild and crazy election year, I think I’m nearly just about sort of prepared to say that one of my longtime predictions perhaps may be coming true. Most of my colleagues would use fancier jargon for this equivocation, but as you know, I’m sort of plain spoken. I’m almost going to bravely assert right here and now that this will be the presidential election year I’ve been waiting for since 1980.

If you weren’t alive or paying attention then, that was when Ronald Reagan, a divorced Hollywood actor who didn’t speak to his children, defeated Jimmy Carter, a nearly saintly Baptist Sunday School teacher – on a platform of family values! That was the year when clever advertisers on Madison Street took Wall Street money to persuade Main Street and (even trailer park residents, who have no symbolic street) that they should vote for the candidates endorsed by the very rich. That was when my cleaning lady – whose entire family would have been dead without Medicaid – began voting Republican because her preacher convinced her that God would not approve of a collective system of paying for public health.

Republicans ran that calumny up the flagpole again with Obamacare, but this time fewer people saluted. It was a warning that voters have gotten smarter, but Republican delegates ignored it and in a fraternity-like convention, nominated a true con man for president. A man who not only is in the gambling business, but who also repeatedly declared bankruptcy and left his bills unpaid. A man who has been sued some 3500 times, a man who never has paid his fair share of taxes – and who smirks at us when he says that such morally corrupt behavior is “smart.”

Donald Trump is a man who doesn’t even pretend to be a church member, a man who has been married three times (twice to immigrants), and a man who bragged about his sexual conquests outside of marriage. He is a man full of hatred for those unlike him, a man so incapable of sympathy that he mocks the disabled and the grieving. A man who is proud to be compared to Russian thug Valdimir Putin, and a man who never has denounced the frequent comparisons of his demagoguery to that of Hitler and Mussolini in the 1930s.

Those men also were sexually deviate and pathologically lacking in empathy, but nonetheless won support from millions of sincere but thoughtless Christians. Surely we have learned our lesson. Surely this is the year that evangelicals will revolt and adopt the political values that Jesus truly taught, the values of love and understanding and respect for all of God’s children. But I’m not yet ready to write the last word. So instead, here are some things you might have missed while the TV endlessly repeats its hot stories.

“Good Morning, Miss Dove”

You probably don’t remember this book/movie of the 1950s. I see that it didn’t make my very fat reference book of more than 18,000 films, and I can’t imagine why. It was a big hit when I was a kid, and Amazon offers it now. Miss Dove, an elderly teacher who was dying, flashbacks on her life and those of her students. I don’t remember any of those personal tales: instead, what stuck in my preteen mind was Miss Dove’s fondness for geography, and especially her assertion to a disbelieving man that if she could have been an explorer, she might have found the “Northwest Passage.”

I didn’t know what that was, and it took a while for me to uncover this navigational belief that there should be a waterway across northern Canada that did not freeze. If you look on a map at the many islands in Artic waters, you can see why sailors so long hoped for that discovery. Such a route connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans would make it possible to ship goods (and people) from Asia to Europe and the Americas without the era’s long sea voyages. Especially before the 1914 opening of the Panama Canal, a Northwest Passage could reduce global trips from tens of thousands of miles to mere thousands.

And now we have it. Not because of any new discovery in the Artic, of course, nor even because we have ice-breaking ships. It’s because of global warming. The Crystal Serenity – a luxury cruise ship, not a military expedition – recently followed the passage from sea to sea, something that would have been impossible a century ago. Where icebergs once would have wrecked a ship, the Crystal Serenity sailed serenely through open waters, not even having to use its ice-cutter blades.

Adventurers led by Captain Birger Vorland – who follows Scandinavia’s tradition of both scientific sea exploration and world peace – spent 32 days onboard, with none of the problems predicted by the Titanic obsessed. Unlike the 1912 Titanic, which made its profit by packing its below-decks with the poor, the Crystal Serenity charged passengers full cost – with the result that Hubby and I couldn’t conceive of affording to go. But I’m happy for those who could. This is real history in the making. This is important, and it reinforces the economic advice I’ve been offering to young people for quite a while now: buy land in Canada.

But it is not good news for those of us who live in Florida. Hillary understands that, and she is inviting Al Gore – who saw this future a long time ago – to speak in Miami about climate change. I’m sorry, but it is an inconvenient truth, and one that we and our descendants must face. Florida is going, not coming, and ridiculing scientists won’t work. Nor will building walls.

An Election Already Past

I wrote several weeks ago that the decennial election of the head of the United Nations would be coming up this fall. This should be the most important race in the world, but we Americans are so self-absorbed that most of us are completely clueless. We manage to remember the world’s Olympics every four years, but focusing on global politics once every ten years seems to be too much to ask.

I wrote about the UN election primarily because five of the ten candidates were women, a precedent akin to our first female nominee for the top job. The winner was again a man, but not an anti-globalist like Donald Trump. He is Antonio Guterres of Portugal. Hubby and I lived there for three months in 1988, but that was well before Guterres became prime minister in 1995. I don’t know anything to add from a personal point of view, but I would point out that Portugal has managed to support world unity and stay out of war for a long time now.

Guterres became the UN’s commissioner for war refugees in 2005, a tough job that he held until last year. Presumably those who know him best think that this international experience made Guterres the best choice, and he appears to be free of any scandals. That the representatives of both Valdimir Putin and Barack Obama could agree on him and refrain from exercising their veto powers also speaks to a hopeful future.

Again, I learned about the United Nations’ election while listening to BBC News on WUSF Radio, 89.7 FM, at 6:30 weeknights. Shut off the TV and tune in. By this time next month, the interminable general election season will be over, and I’ll start making plans for the inauguration of the first woman in American history -- who also happens to be by far the best qualified.


Doris Weatherford writes a weekly column for La Gaceta, the nation's only trilingual newspaper. With pages in Spanish, Italian, and English, it has been published in Tampa since 1922.
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