Do Haeng Michael Kitchen

Writer. Attorney. Detroit City FC Til I Die.

Where do enemies come from?

The American Heritage Dictionary defines enemy as “one who feels hatred toward, intends injury to, or opposes the interests of another.”

In our personal life, an enemy can be obvious.  In elementary school, a kid who conspired with two of my friends to steal baseball cards from me became someone I considered an enemy.  In middle school, a kid who introduced me to comic book collecting made physical threats via telephone when in high school became someone I considered an enemy.  I felt hatred towards those two people as a result of their actions towards me.

An enemy can expand into a broader group.  For example, sports rivalries can create enemies.  University of Michigan football fans hate Ohio State University and its football fans and visa-verse.  The rivalry arises from opposing interests seeking the same goal that only one can achieve – a victory over the other on the field of play.  As an Arsenal fan, I hate Manchester United.  I’m also supposed to hate Tottenham Hotspur, because they are the main geographic rival to the Gunners; their stadiums just a few miles apart.  But not having grown up in north London, the battle for the top of the league against Manchester United formed my hatred of the Red Devils and my ambivalence towards Tottenham.

Enemies emerge out of competing ideologies; religion and politics, for example.  Others are based on cultural identities, like nationalities or regions within a country.  There are some people in the southern states of the US that still despise “Yankees.”

These latter group enemies I believe are not genuinely made, but rather learned.  When one identifies with a certain group, the person becomes indoctrinated into making an enemy of another group.  Being a Michigan resident, and not having any ties or familial history with the University of Michigan, I don’t think twice about driving to Columbus, Ohio and calling the Columbus Crew my favorite Major League Soccer team.  I had a conversation with a friend about soccer and going to Crew home games.  He being a University of Michigan fan stated that he could never see himself rooting for a team from Columbus.

I pondered this question of where enemies come from as a result of the recent death of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.  To listen to American media and elected officials, one might have been indoctrinated to believe the Venezuelan president was our enemy.  I reject that notion.

United States media has portrayed Chavez as an enemy.  Democratic strategist Doug Schoen on CNN in January, 2009, said of Chavez that “He’s given Al-Qaeda and Hamas an open invitation to come to Caracas.”  Newsweek compared Chavez to Mussolini, Hitler and Stalin.  ABC labeled him as a “fierce enemy of the United States.”  The Washington Post declared Chavez an “autocratic demagogue.”  And of course, Fox News said that Chavez’s government was “really communism.”

A closer examination reveals that Hugo Chavez was nothing close to what the US media painted him to be.

In 1998, Hugo Chavez won the election for President with 56% of the vote, and was inaugurated in 1999.  Speaking out forcefully against globalization, he introduced a hydrocarbons law that doubled royalties charged to foreign oil companies and replaced Petroleos de Venezuela, the state-owned oil company’s top executives with people loyal to him.  (Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, John Perkins, pg 196).  Prior to his election, austerity measures imposed by the IMF in 1989, saw Venezuela’s per capita income plummet 40% between 1978 and 2003.  (Perkins, page 197).

 Chavez kept his commitments to the poor – urban and rural.  Instead of re-injecting profits into the oil industry, he invested them in projects aimed at combating illiteracy, malnutrition, diseases, and other social ills.  Rather than declaring huge dividends for investors, he helped Argentina’s embattled President Kirchner buy down that nation’s IMF debts of more than $10 billion and he sold discounted oil to those who could not afford to pay the going price – including communities in the United States.  He earmarked a portion of his oil revenues for Cuba so it could send medical doctors to impoverished areas around the continent.  He forged laws that consolidated the rights of indigenous people – including language and land ownership rights – and fought for the establishment of Afro-Venezuelan curricula in public schools.  (The Secret History of the American Empire by John Perkins, pg 111).

The Bush administration was complicit with a coup attempt in Venezuela in April, 2002, removing Chavez from power.  However, they underestimated the Venezuelan people’s support of Chavez, who ran out the insurgents and returned Chavez to power 48 hours later.

During Chavez’ 14 year presidency, poverty fell from 55% in 1995 to 26.4% in 2009.  Unemployment was 15% in 1999, which has fallen to 7.8% in June, 2009.    “Over the last fourteen years, Chávez has submitted himself and his agenda to fourteen national votes, winning thirteen of them by large margins, in polling deemed by Jimmy Carter to be “best in the world” out of the ninety-two elections that he has monitored.”  Over 30,000 communal councils, direct participatory democratic structures were formed over Chavez’s presidency, making the country more democratic than prior to Chavez’s first election victory in 1998.  Cooperatives and self-managed workplaces also grew.

Perhaps you’ll recall Hugo Chavez’s speech on September 20, 2006 before the United Nations.  Popularized in the news was his referral to George W. Bush as “the devil” who, having spoken there the day before, Chavez said he could  smell sulfur.  A New York Times reporter said that Chavez received “loud applause that lasted so long that the organization’s officials had to tell the cheering group to cut it out.”  (Helene Cooper, “Iran Who? Venezuela Takes the Lead in a Battle of Anti-U.S. Sound Bites,” New York Times, 21 September 2006, cited in What We Say Goes by Noam Chomsky, pg 45).  Did they cheer about Chavez’s name calling?  The NY Times reporter did not address that question.  “It was because he (Chavez) was expressing a point of view that happens to be very widely accepted in the world.  In fact it’s the overwhelmingly dominant position.  Chavez’s views are called “controversial.”  It’s quite the opposite.  It’s the views of the U.S media and commentators that are controversial.”  (Chomsky, pg 45)

Where do enemies come from?  There are those who harm you personally, the ones you know and can identify.  But then there are others who try to convince you that “they” are your enemy, because you are one of “us.”  The corporatocracy tried to sell to me that Hugo Chavez was an enemy.  He was an enemy to their tyranny only.  Not to the people of Venezuela or, for that matter, people around the world, including Americans.


“Hugo Chavez Kept His Promise to the People of Venezuela” by Oscar Guardiola-Rivera

“Chavez Democratized Venezuela Making it the Most Equal Country in Latin America” By Gregory Wilpert

“In Death as in Life, Chavez Target of Media Scorn” by Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting.

“The CIA Was Involved in the Coup Against Venezuela’s Chavez” by Eva Golinger

“On the Legacy of Hugo Chavez” by Greg Grandin

“Hugo Chavez Dead:  Transformed Venezuela & Survived U.S.-Backed Coup, Now Leaves Uncertainty Behind” – Democracy Now!

Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc. 2004).

The Secret History of the American Empire by John Perkins (Dutton, 2007)

What We Say Goes by Noam Chomsky (Metropolitan Books, 2007)

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