For Costa Rica, it’s peace, palaver and maybe even pragmatism

Other than the check for my rent, dating this column is the first time to write the year. Writing the 20 still looks strange after so many years writing 19 before the last two numbers, but I’m happy to be doing it. And I will get used to the 13.

As we enter the New Year, my home country is in danger of becoming an armed camp beginning with the airports and probably ending with day care centers being protected by guards with guns. Half the population will be armed. War seems to have come home to the United States.

In my adopted country of Costa Rica, although violence has increased over the years, that is not the case. I recall when I first came here, some 20 years ago, being surprised to see an armed guard outside some of the banks. When I asked a Tico about this, he shrugged and said, “Don’t worry, the guns are not loaded.” However, to enter some banks, it is necessary to pass through an x-ray door (or whatever they are called) or to open one’s purse or backpack, but so far, armed guards are not the norm.

Costa Rica has some new additions, thanks to the kindness of strangers in other countries. Thanks to the Chinese we have the stadium and Chinatown. Other countries have donated money for sun panels, hydroelectric power and means to protect the environment. Over the years so-called First World countries have come forth to offer goodies and help to this little country. In a sense, it is the darling of the richer countries. And, as I have said before, like the International House at San Jose State, where I once worked, Costa Rica has gained its reputation and admiration, not by its strength or size or possession of energy sources, but by being an example of peacefulness and taking care of their environment, as well as having happy people. While for other countries might makes right, for Costa Rica, it is peace and palaver and maybe even pragmatism.

Not everyone who visits or thinks of making Costa Rica home, likes what they experience. They are more willing to accept the downside of a militaristic country than the downside of a peaceful one. They would rather deal with aggressive/aggressive behavior than passive/aggressive behavior, which can manifest itself as “learned helplessness, procrastination, or deliberate/repeated failure to accomplish requested tasks for which one is (often explicitly) responsible,” to quote a Wikipedia definition from the coiner of the phrase, Col. William Menninger, who found the behavior among soldiers in World War II. It is easy to imagine aggressive aggressive behavior.

Meanwhile, other countries continue to donate and contribute, not without strings or an attitude. Certainly that was true of China when it donated all those cars for the police with the caveat that they had to be Chinese-made cars and repaired with Chinese-made parts. Many of them now sit without parts.

The United States has long been a major donator. Recently the State Department has included Costa Rica in its list of countries that can apply for grants given by the U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act. A survey of countries that have problems in human trafficking indicates to me that women and girls are overwhelmingly the victims and that there are other countries that are in greater need of this help. As this paper has pointed out more than once, the State Department seems to ignore the fact that prostitution is not illegal in Costa Rica. The numerous tourists from the States do not suffer from that same ignorance.

It is not that I think that prostitution is a great idea, I think that women should not be arrested for choosing to prostitute their bodies for money; (we have never been arrested for prostituting our brains in mind-numbing jobs to make a living.) If women are working in the oldest profession against their will, they should be rescued.

So there we have the beginnings of the New Year. The American Congress did not allow the country to go over the cliff (in my mind’s eye I always thought of that phrase with the picture of John Boehner in a George Washington hat, captaining a boat shaped like the country going over Niagara Falls).

It didn’t happen. But there are still financial rapids to maneuver, and the global village waits with bated breath.

This entry was posted in Friday Column. Bookmark the permalink.