The Dictator

by Ares Demertzis (April 2008)

"To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child."  Cicero.

(i)

The Presidente would frequently wake bathed in moist perspiration; silk pajamas and silk sheets dripping with his anguished liquid.  This morning he was startled from a troubled slumber by the violent trembling of his bed.  Earthquake!  His sleep swelled eyes opened. Riveting his gaze apprehensively out of the bedroom window, he focused on the smoking volcano in the distance.

Perro!  Stop scratching and get out from under the bed!”

Liquid brown eyes.  Short, pointed ears.  A bright gold collar encrusted with diamonds, rubies and pearls.  The dog panted into the Presidente’s face and attempted to affectionately lick him with a long, wet tongue, grateful that he was no longer asleep.

The Presidente remembered again the recurrent dream that frequently came to haunt him during those early hours of dawn when the tenuous light of morning faintly illuminated the luxurious façade of his mansion.  A golden hue would filter cautiously through the abundantly flowering shrubs and plenteous fruit trees of meticulously landscaped, tranquil gardens, reaching high up and through the flowering, treacherously barbed bougainvillea that grasped an intricately forged iron balustrade to suffuse his bedroom with a soft, warming glow.  A slice of yellow sunlight would invariably abruptly burst through leaves trembling in a warm breeze, spilling a gentle caress against his face, waking him. But this morning, it was the shaking of the earth that jarred him into consciousness.

“Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.”

Iridescent pheasants shrieked their welcome to the new day; caged parrots and cockatoos burst into a cacophony of irritated complaint.    

He arranged the overstuffed pillows carefully against an intricately carved headboard.  Relaxing with a weary sigh into the yielding down, he struggled to hear the comforting soft whisper of rippling, crystalline water as it meandered through narrow streams, cascading into reflecting pools where elegant swans glided, and small birds splashed ruffled feathers amongst the water lilies. 

This was the Presidente’s Elysian Field.  His Chahar Bag.  His Garden of the Gods.  His Jannat.  His Eden.  Here.  On Earth. 

In his unsettling dream the Presidente was a Matador clothed in a sparkling suit of lights, the Presidential sash, symbol of his privileged rank firmly set over his shoulder, diagonally crossing his chest; he was performing in the Fiesta Brava.  Capriciously, the Plaza de Toros of his vision always metamorphosed, and he would find himself abruptly immersed in the deep, steaming crucible of a volcano, surrounded from the base of the scorching crater to its jagged rim by shrill aficionados whose allegiance he could not with precision determine.  A black bird invariably flew over his left shoulder in an ominous Homerian portent of destiny. 

He always faced a dark and towering megatherian mass that lunged at him violently as he shrewdly curved his body to elude the lethal, pointed horns.  He was eventually capable of dominating the beast, overpowering the brute force by deception, by swirling a small red cloth, the engaño, which swiftly and inexplicably burst away from his body to flutter in an enigmatic breeze, metamorphosing into an outsized capote.  His innate political expertise recognized this protective mantle to be the flag of the Republic; the frayed, blood and mud spattered cloth enfolded him protectively within its immense wings.

The persistent dream’s unrelenting torment had originated simultaneously with the initiation of the Presidente´s political aspirations.  He never confided this dream to anyone in those days, and not even at present, notwithstanding he was the head of State.  He understood the implicit, disparaging significance to that most sacrosanct emblem of national pride; its cryptic, Pharaonic significance advocating the cynical exploitation of patriotism as an indispensable contrivance for the successful execution of political ambition.  He concurred enthusiastically with the still enforceable archaic law providing Tartaric punishment for those who demonstrate a lack of respect for the Nation’s symbols. 

¡Emasculate Him!  Rip out her ovaries!  ¡Tración a la Pátria!.

How many flags have come and gone?  How many traitors executed?  And for what ultimately inconsequential agenda were they manipulated by the invisible threads of imperceptible puppeteers?  Eventually, aren’t treason and patriotism, heresy and piety defined by the beholder?

Crucify Him who scatters the coins of the money lenders; the meddler who disturbs the revenue of the Temple!  Behead the Infidel and the Apostate in the name of Allah!  The State.  The Organization.  The Mob.

EyAntny.  Whackim.  Sendimtasleepwidafishes.

 

(ii)

The Presidente seized every occasion to cloak himself in patriotic symbols, vehemently and stridently proclaiming national sovereignty at the slightest foreign derogation of the imposed faux-democratic system practiced in his country. However, in truth, he was simply an opportunist; a cynical populist who had a relentless, secretive pecuniary agenda as the primary motivation for being chief executive.  Over the years he had skillfully manipulated his political wagering, securing the nomination of his party by ingratiating himself to the powerful colleagues of the ruling oligarchy

The political system of the State had astutely discarded the currently unacceptable traditional structure of unconditional dictatorship, replacing it with a unique concept worthy of the most insidious Machiavellian schemes; a perfect faux democratic despotism.  Undisguised totalitarianism was replaced with allegedly competitive elections that selected a president; in reality, the system merely provided for a limited period of (absolute) rule by one (authoritarian despot) assuming power through an ersatz electoral process who had been previously clandestinely chosen by the country’s political elite.  When each Presidente ended his plethoric term in office, the perpetual dictatorship continued, embodied in a ruling party controlled by the privileged few who remained in power and clandestinely selected the next president-in-turn.

Since the desired image to be projected by this faux democratic despotism was that of a genuinely democratic state, there was also a need to fashion a Congress pretending a representation of the citizenry; a Lower and an Upper House.  The shrewdly agreed upon organization for that Congress prohibited the re-election to office by its members, thereby making the career politician dependent not on the wishes of  a constituency, but on loyally following the dictates of the party which provided for dependable and continuing employment within the numerous existent and imaginary activities of government.  The promise of a paycheck; the guarantor of survival.

The party held this Presidente in great esteem, even when he was merely a state governor; one more compliant bureaucrat implementing its political judgment.  He could always be counted on to provide the numerous duplicate ballot boxes that were exchanged for those at the polling booths throughout the state and which were stuffed with votes for their candidate.  His state also produced an astonishing voter turnout; indeed, more people than those registered by the latest census, with all their votes being cast for the party’s contender.  In what could be considered a supernatural phenomenon, the town’s deceased also took part in the election. The Governor’s office controlled the archives listing the names of all who had died during the year; these names were used by the living to cast votes from beyond the grave.  And the party machine bussed citizens by the thousands to the polling stations where they sold their suffrage for a boxed lunch, a T shirt and a baseball cap.

In actual fact it wasn’t necessary to employ such elaborate subterfuge to accomplish electoral fraud, even taking into account that international delegations were invariably present to supervise the voting, nonetheless, there was substantial interest at the highest levels of government in the pretense of a seemingly transparent political process for universal dissemination.  This country was puzzlingly identified as a democratic republic; a craven international organization, the United Nations, also going so far as to inexcusably recognize it as such, notwithstanding the documented abusive violations of the rights and privileges of its citizens.

"Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those others that have been tried." Winston Churchill.

It was well chronicled within the intimate circles of the ruling elite that the Presidente admired and envied his bearded island colleague who dispensed entirely with the sham of representative government, the joke of democracy, opting for a secure lifetime of public service afforded by implementing, through armed insurrection, a totalitarian Communist regime.

“He didn’t eat shit in the Sierra Maestra and dodge bullets in order to have the ignorant unwashed vote him out of government!”

The democratically elected Presidente could relate to that; under similar circumstances, and given the political option, he would have repeated the formula.  The truth be known, I could more than probably also be tempted.  Owning a country is an exceptionally lucrative enterprise.

Hundreds of individuals were executed in Havana’s La Cabaña Fortress by military tribunals imitating the example of Stalin´s murderous “show trials.”  Comandante Che Guevarra was known as “Fidel’s Executioner.”  He was appointed Supreme Prosecutor, acknowledging that he ordered several thousand people to the “paredon,” the firing squad wall, during the first year of the Castro regime.  Fourteen thousand are estimated to have been annihilated from the sparse population of that small Caribbean island within a decade after the Triumph of the Revolution.  Che Guevarra paraded the families of those executed in front of the wall to view the corpses of their bound, and blindfolded relatives; an exercise in planned terror and intimidation of the population.

"Evidence is an archaic bourgeois detail. We execute from revolutionary conviction…  We don't need proof to execute a man. We only need proof that it's necessary to execute him. A revolutionary must become a cold killing machine motivated by pure hate." Che Guevarra.

"Yes, we execute.  And we will keep executing as long as it is necessary. This is a war to the death against the Revolution's enemies." Che Guevarra addressing an encouraging UN General Assembly.

 

"I'd like to confess, Papa …I discovered that I really like killing." Che in a letter to his father.

 

“Hasta la victoria siempre!”

It has been estimated that in the course of the forty nine year dictatorship, forty thousand Cubans perished at sea attempting to escape from that Communist Island Paradise.

New York Times: “This is not a Communist Revolution in any sense of the term.  Fidel Castro is not only not a Communist, he is decidedly anti-Communist.”

Washington Post: “It would be a great mistake even to intimate that Castro’s Cuba has any real prospect of becoming a Soviet satellite.”

London Observer: “Mr. Castro’s bearded, youthful figure has become a symbol of Latin America’s rejection of brutality and lying.  Every sign is that he will reject personal rule and violence.”

The Presidente respected reputed idealistic Revolutionaries turned autocratic Dictators for their courageous rejection of unwelcome First World inquiry into affairs that concerned their private Kleptocracies.  He particularly revered what he considered the extraordinarily successful German Wall as a superlative response to what he secretly acknowledged to be, not a response to the counterfeit fable of Western imperialist design, but rather the censored reality: that violent aggression and armed hostility of a devouring Crimson East gorging on its neighbors, near and far, in a superlative bulimic frenzy.

Sovereignty!  Sovereignty!

On the direct orders of Erich Honecker, Chairman of the Council of State, the leader of the euphemistically designated German Democratic Republic, one thousand eight people were murdered by the Communist government attempting to cross The Wall, seeking self determination in the decadent West.

Freedom!  Freedom!

“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

Humpty Dumpty sat on a Wall

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.

All the King’s horses

And all the King’s men

Couldn’t put Humpty together again.

“Not true, my Gringo friend,” I was cautioned.  “As they say in your country, one must not count the chicken before she is hatched.  We have lost a battle.  That is all.  We will continue to violate treaties; we will use the signed paper to wipe our ass.  We will win the war.  You will be defeated by your own democracy; your inalienable freedoms.  We will take power legitimately, replace revolution with illusion.  Once in power, we control the Congress, re-write the Constitution, and change the Law to suit our purpose.  We will bury you!”

This expression immediately invoked the image of a rotund, crude and offensive little man removing his shoe and striking with insulting, vulgar theatrics against the podium from where he was delivering a hateful speech before the astonished and admiring multitude of the United Nations; an injudicious and ultimately ineffectual deliberative world body.

“We will bury you!”

Sunday, somewhere in the East African Tanzanian bush, the sharp crack of Kalishnikov fire from President Nyerere´s troops can be heard in the distance as they murder those who resist being herded into the villages of an eventually failed, compulsory Socialist experiment known as “Ujamaa.”  Sitting on rough hewn wood benches following the religious service, after all the parishioners had abandoned the thatch roofed church, the cassocked Liberation Theology priest who had officiated the mass whispered to me with a passion one normally associates with spiritual conviction, however, it was the unwavering zeal of an ideologue.

“If I had to personally kill five thousand people in order that fifty thousand could live decent lives, I wouldn’t hesitate an instant.”

“Father, you’re a Catholic priest, and I’m an atheist, if there’s an afterlife, you will surely pass eternity in hellfire.  The decent life you long to provide for all earth’s inhabitants must include respect for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Man has an obligation to aspire to more than shelter and a bowl of rice; he is not an animal created to merely serve his master, to be tethered on a leash in exchange for survival.”

The shameful resume of the Left has been made public; the appalling viciousness of the Believers who would govern this planet has been exposed.  The psychopaths pretending to rule mankind after first compelling submission through violence has been revealed.


(iii)

The redolently perfumed Presidente had the delicate features that could warrant his being called handsome, notwithstanding the unusually small eyes spaced too close together that produced a reptilian appearance and somehow failed to inspire the confidence his perpetual thin lipped, mustachioed smile solicited.  He was without scruples, devoid of morality and incapable of that unique human attribute lacking in all other forms of natures creation: compassion.

He was always impeccably dressed in the currently fashionable uniform of the successful politician, which included a very expensive and faultlessly tailored supple leather jacket over a shirt with no tie.  This uniform was intended to present him as a trusted equal to the tie less proletariat; the opulent ties and sumptuous suits which more correctly portrayed his niche in society were closeted for use during private gatherings.  Moreover, he replaced his costly gold designer timepiece with an economical plastic watch during public appearances, which were precisely the occasions where a politician’s fiction was in the greatest danger of discovery; the revelatory instant becoming manifest to the worker squeezing the dainty, velvety smooth palm of soft flesh that had never experienced physical labor.

The enterprisingly audacious Presidente, a child of Caesar, meticulously cultivated a public image of himself as a patriot and uncompromising nationalist.  He was adamant and unforgiving in reproaching those critics of his government who “washed dirty laundry” in public, predicating his pertinacious hypothesis that government was equivalent to family and therefore it was imperative to obdurately deny anything that would negatively affect family honor and pride.  He preferred an unenlightened and provincial citizenry to gloss over and conceal the perversions of his arbitrary and authoritarian regime, assuring the continuation of his power and privilege. 

Motherland!  Fatherland! 

Disneyland?

He mastered the efficacy of revisionist history and was well versed in fabricating scapegoats; distorting reality in order to channel the perilous discontent of the gullible into resentment of others.

“They are useful idiots.”  Lenin.

The inability of the government to provide for a decorous life wasn’t the fault of his predatory, failed society; foreigners monstrously profited from his citizen’s deplorable innocence, their naiveté, their decency.  It was foreigners who lived sumptuously at their expense.

“American imperialism preserves the domination, exploitation and pillage of the poor and innocent peoples of the world!”

"The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie -- deliberate, contrived and dishonest -- but the myth -- persistent, persuasive and unrealistic." John F. Kennedy.

The Presidente was insistent in controlling the people’s access to information by controlling and intimidating the media, affirming Joseph Goebbel´s observation that “a lie repeated, becomes truth.  Truth is the mortal enemy of the lie and thus truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

Death to America!  Kill the imperialist pigs!

The rare intrepid citizen who attempted to eat of The Tree of Wisdom was not simply banished from the Garden; he was eliminated.

“The Big Lie!”

What?  What was that?  What was that multitude precariously hanging on the insecure ledges of the scorching volcano shouting? 

“Freedom!  Freedom!”

“We the people have been deprived of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness by force of arms and foul manipulation!”

No.  It can’t be!  Is that what my public in my nightmare are shrieking?

The Presidente considered there was Oracular Truth to the wisdom of Oriana Fallaci´s Greek lover who confided, we now know erroneously: “Dictatorships of the Right will sooner or later fall.  Dictatorships of the Left are forever.”

The Presidente supported dictatorships of the Left.  The humane, indulgent, moderate, gentle hearted Socialist dictatorships.

Censorship.  Corruption.  Impunity.  Non-accountability.  Official Secrecy.  Clandestine Surveillance.  Purges.  Forced Labor.  Torture.  Show Trials.  Injustice.  Re-Education Camps. Gulag.  Execution.

Fear.

The Great Terror.  The Killing Fields.  The Cultural Revolution.

Fear. 

Two hundred million non-combatants sentenced to Death by Marxism, and counting.  Murdered by totalitarian Marxist-Leninist Communist Regimes because they did not share the Theology of their Worker’s Paradise.  The Dictatorship of the Proletariat.  The Peoples Democratic Republics.

Stalin:  “One mans death is a tragedy, millions of deaths are a statistic.”

The betrayal and subsequent massacre of the South Vietnamese by an insurgent Communist North was directly a consequence of the unscrupulous, manipulative distortions and lies of, among others, Jane and John; Kerry & Fonda, respectively.

"If you understood what Communism was, you would hope, you would pray on your knees that we would some day become Communist." Jane Fonda at U. of Michigan.

 

"I, a socialist, think that we should strive toward a socialist society, all the way to

Communism."  Jane Fonda at Duke University.

 

The American military has “raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam." John Kerry before the United States Congress.

There was additional support from a cooperatively mendacious Media, exemplified in the person of Walter Cronkite.  Yes, that Cronkite, “Uncle Walter,”  “the most trusted man in America,” who misrepresented the “Tet” offensive as an awesome defeat for the United States military, instead of the annihilation of the invading Communist North that it actually was.  "...And that's the way it is," the “Pinko Cronkite” affirmed unquestionably.  One could consider his fabrications wishful thinking, although they more probably illustrate agenda driven reportage.  Following Cronkite’s news report, Lyndon Johnson is reported to have said: “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost the American people.”  Finally, the Democrats controlling Congress delivered the coup de grace by prohibiting funds for combat.

“Congress snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.” Melvin Laird.

"Never have we had military and political conditions so perfect or a strategic advantage as great as we have now.” North Vietnamese First Party Secretary Le Duan.

But those were the days before the internet, before the pillars of journalism, “speaking truth to power,” as they so pretentiously characterize their function, could be toppled by an alert and responsive citizenry now capable of unmasking their deceitful fabrications.  The information monopoly has been rather devastated.

It was a different, proud and confident America that rescued my family from State imposed servitude.  In Greece, the Communist Guerillas would steal out of their mountain hideouts at night to the homes of those families where a father, while sipping his coffee with friends at the local kafeneio earlier in the evening, was overheard being accidentally indiscreet, committing that unpardonable offence of criticizing Socialism.  The entire family was forced to kneel in front of their house, where each would receive a bullet through the brain, frequently delivered by a brother, uncle, or cousin.  Greeks have always been celebrated for their generosity.  The Cambodian Communists were stingy; they preferred to club their victims to death or place plastic bags over their heads until the finality of suffocation.

“Those who can induce you to believe absurdities can induce you to commit atrocities.”  Voltaire.

Herod, is reviled for appalling violence against children.  At a later time, Muslim hordes conquered the civilized world to their barbarian cries of “Alahu Akbar!”  Seizing Christian children, they converted them to Janissaries with which to defeat remaining infidel lands.  Later still, Communist guerrillas in Greece, losing their war, initiated the paidomazoma; the kidnapping of thousands of Greek children from their families.  Those children that survived the ensuing deprivations, including starvation and disease were scattered throughout the Socialist countries: Albania, Romania, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, and the Soviet Union, where they were indoctrinated as militants to later infiltrate, as adults, the country of their birth as Communist Janissaries.

The United Nations in November 1948, and again in November 1949, condemned the kidnapping of the Greek Children.  The UN resolutions, not surprisingly, remained unanswered.

I was six at the time.  My parents sought refuge in America.  They were so traumatized and cowed by the brutality of the Greek Communist uprising, a “civil war” initiated and supported by the USSR, that not even forty years residence in the United States could erase the cruel memories of that brutality; the experience had left them mute.  Politics was never a subject for discussion in my family, even within what they considered to be the insecure surroundings of home, and the unreliable, changeable attitudes of family and assumed friends.

 I was in China shortly after President Nixon’s visit, and was privileged to gain the confidence of a local who risked his life to provide me with the following anecdote:  “Comrade, the Labor Ministry is uninterested and unmoved by the fact that you were married to this woman four days ago.  We need nurses in Hunan Province and she is a nurse.  She leaves immediately.  You are a translator and we need translators here, in Beijing.  You stay.  What’s that you say?  She is a civilian?  Don’t joke with me.  We are all soldiers dedicated to the glory of the State.  Never forget that, Comrade.  Next!”

“Your application for an exit visa has been denied.  You are not permitted to leave your country.  Next!”

“Sacrifice is necessary to save the world from the brutal slavery of capitalism.”


(iv)

The Presidente slipped a silk robe over his shoulders and stepped out on the balcony.  He looked out on Nationalism Avenue, a wide and ostentatious boulevard which, at the edge of the city, where the pavement ended and the arduous climb into the foothills began, abruptly changed its name to Revolution Street, undergoing significant deterioration in its trajectory, becoming a multi-rutted, stone strewn, almost impassable dirt road that forked into Constitution Alley; a narrow, weed encroached dead end.

A thoroughfare named Democracy had never been a serious consideration of the authorities, although they continuously promised its imminent construction.  Every year the necessary funds were appropriated and formed part of an undisclosed budget, however they seemed to always mysteriously disappear.  The secretive, authoritarian government, empowered and maintained through cronyism, denied with presumptuous arrogance any public scrutiny of information regarding its resources and allocation of funds, including the salaries of all public officials.  Access to government information was proscribed. 

There was no protest from the citizens, who accepted this as a natural and logical attitude by the owners of their country.

Pongase la camiseta.”   

From his balcony overlooking the principal square, the Presidente watched the flag of the democratic republic being unfurled in the brilliant morning sun.  In its billowing trajectory it cast a fluttering silhouette, like the spread wings of some giant bird of prey, or the inquiring forked tongue of a serpent probing the streets and patios, slipping through the windows and under the doorways of the community.  It slithered across a grimy, unkempt little girl in a too small, torn dress guiding her blind father begging for a coin.  The ruthless gloom flickered playfully against a face wearing a red rubber nose, displaying the artificial wide smile of a clown, pleading with an outstretched hand.  The silent darkness concealed features streaked with soot, unsuccessfully attempting to disguise the desperation in wild eyes as gasoline impregnated lips spit a fountain of fire with a harsh grimace.  Its black shadow sliced across the crimson stained chest of a shirtless, emaciated man rolling his bare torso against sharp shards of broken glass spread on a cloth in the center of the asphalt paved street.  It snaked up the legs of an ancient man on makeshift crutches nailed together from odd pieces of wood, proffering bony, cupped fingers.  And it shaded the blackened, armless figure blowing into a harmonica held in place by a bent wire clothes hanger from which was suspended a rusted, empty soup can.

Intense competition among the blind, the lame, the wretched, the poor and the thieves in search of survival.

And the dogs.  The myriad dogs.  The uncountable dogs.  All stray, streetwise dogs.  Ribs vertically scarring shriveled bodies, the bones of their haunches protruding through disease infected skin.  They roam the streets like shadows, heads bowed, tails tucked between their hind legs, muzzles grazing the earth, searching for any available scrap.  At the approach of a human they slink away swiftly and silently, knowing from experience that these two legged mammals, possessors of an incomprehensible legerdemain, will only harm them.

 

END

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