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Perspective: Living in a dictatorship?

John Hain

Leer en español.

During the last years, the political discourse in this country has gone from hyperbolic to absurd. The most frustrating aspect is how some claim that any governmental action is an act of tyranny. In the past, this argument was used against seat belts, and now it reappears to fight the COVID vaccine and mask mandates.

Those who use this argument fail to see that a dictatorship would not let them complain at all. See… dictatorships don't allow dissent because they serve only the dictator's interests. In fact, they won't even admit their own existence. I know it because I lived under a de facto military dictatorship in Guatemala, from the late 60s to the mid-80s. We were in constant fear of bullets in the streets, voted for candidates in rigged elections, and distrusted all officers of the law. But we couldn't say anything, not even in jest, because we could end up in jail or dead. As for laws… we had curfews from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m., and regulations against two people riding a motorcycle. And beards were forbidden!

So, let's enjoy what we can do while respecting limitations aimed to protect our health. We actually live in a culture that encourages dissent in a civil manner. What better proof of a free and democratic society?

I am Francisco Solares-Larrave, and this is my perspective.

A Guatemalan native, he arrived in the United States in the late eighties on a Fulbright Scholarship to do graduate studies in comparative literature at the University of Illinois in Champaign Urbana. He has been teaching Spanish language, literature and culture at NIU since August 2000, and his main research interests are 19th-century Spanish American literature.
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