During the struggle against Nicaragua’s former dictator, Anastacio Somoza, one phrase was often repeated: “Anything will be better than Somoza”. That phrase perpetrated the belief, or the illusion, that the Somoza dictatorship was worse than anything past or future. The post-Somoza era would therefore, by necessity, be better; and the great majority of Nicaraguans bet on that.
That bet fell short after Somoza left power. We suffered from a tragedy of even greater proportions: tens of thousands dead and wounded; widows, orphans, families torn apart; Nicaraguans in exile, property confiscations; and destruction. Society is suffering from wounds that have yet to heal.
History shows us that the “anything will be better” approach ended up worse than Somoza and set us back decades.
This proved to be the case not only in that instance. Throughout our nearly 200-year history as a nation, our longing for change has run aground. It happened thus with our nation’s independence. And with President Zelaya. And with the “Somoza” machine. And with the 1980s revolution. And our hopes were dashed once again by the strong-man pact that derailed the transition process initiated in 1990 by Violeta Chamorro’s government.
At the moment, we are faced with the highly plausible opportunity to break those disastrous cycles of the past.
For the first time in our history, the people took to the streets cloaked in our blue and white national flag; and therein lies the seed of one nation for all.
For the first time in our history, people took to the streets bearing the flags of justice and liberty, without being led or manipulated by party rhetoric or strong-man proclamations. Therein lies the seed of peaceful and democratic co-existence.
People took to the streets of their own volition, exercising their individual rights, assuming their personal responsibilities. Therein lies the seed of citizenship.
Without citizens, there is no nation nor democracy. And today we have the opportunity to build our nation with justice, liberty and democracy. And citizens. But we mustn’t be misled into believing that change comes about on its own or that “anything” will be better than Ortega.
Change is something we ourselves must build. Change is within us. It doesn’t fall from the sky as the result of a miracle.
Do we want democracy?
As a rule of conduct, democracy demands tolerance of the opinions and beliefs of others.
Do we want democracy?
Democracy demands respect for the physical and emotional safety of others.
Do we want democracy?
Democracy demands the responsible exercise of liberty. Personal liberty cannot be used as an excuse for crushing the liberty of others.
Change is something we ourselves must build. It doesn’t fall from the sky as the result of a miracle.
It is important that we understand that democratic change doesn’t begin when Ortega leaves power. If we want true change, that change begins here and now in each one of us.
It begins in the family, workplace, street, bus, taxi, neighborhood; in our labor unions or political organizations. And in our internet social networks.
Do we want a democratic country?
For a democracy to be long-lasting, it must be based on honor, integrity, consistency and transparency.
In the same way that democracy isn’t built with strong-man tactics, it is also not built with one upmanship, greed and opportunism.
It’s not true that once Ortega is out of power, a formerly dishonest person will magically transform into a decent person regardless of age, gender, level of education or social condition. Or the intolerant person into a tolerant person. Or the offensive into the respectful. Or the greedy into the generous. Or the dogmatic into the acquiescent.
A true democracy must be built upon values; and those values must be built, day by day, by each one of us, in every one of our actions, in every instance.
And in this task of democracy building, we must all help each other because we can’t just believe in white doves.
We must also resuscitate the daily use of words and phrases that our moral decline has let fall into disuse. This seems like an insignificant detail, but it isn’t.
Honesty. Integrity. Honor. Decency. Word of honor. Poor but honorable. These are phrases and words that are being lost despite the heavy value they carry. Why? Because for those who have been in power, saying these words is akin to mentioning the devil. Have you heard Daniel or any of his lackeys talk about decency or honesty?
We are the agents of change. We are the change. If we don’t fundamentally change ourselves, the faces, dates and names might change but everything else will remain the same.
In short, if we truly want to defeat Ortega and all the “Ortega” machine, the first Ortega we must defeat is that which we carry inside our heads and reproduce through our actions.
We must not repeat the phrase with which we began this commentary: “Anything will be better than Somoza”. No sir. No mam. It is not a question of “Anything will be better than Daniel”. The change to bring about a New Nicaragua begins here and now. In each one of us.