Chris and Trish Morck and their daughters are TEC missionaries from the Diocese of Massachusetts serving in Central Ecuador. Chris published this open letter to the president elect in alc noticias, which really sums up my thoughts and feelings about the relationships between the U.S.A. and Latin America, too. He kindly gave me permission to post it here and at the Dance Party
An open letter to my new President
6 November 2008
Dear President Barack Obama,
Although I am a U.S. American and live in Ecuador, this week I have been in meetings in Brazil with a group of leaders from many different Christian churches from many parts of Latin America – Brazil, Chile, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, Argentina, Bolivia, Mexico, Panama, Ecuador. We are indigenous, mestizo, African descendents, European descendents. It has been very interesting to be able to experience the U.S. election here, with my Latin American sisters and brothers. It has been a blessing to be able to see this incredible event in a different way, through different eyes.
It is worth saying that there has been a lot of enthusiasm here for your election, and yesterday everyone joined me in celebrating this historic moment in the life of my country.
We celebrated together, while also recognizing that after so much damage done by George Bush, this is only the first, though incredibly significant, step down a long road that the U.S. has to walk toward reconciliation, repentance and true well-being. We are realistic and know that there is a system and an ideology in the U.S. that present you with many very concrete limitations. Nevertheless, there is hope. We recognize that in U.S. terms your election represents an incredible moment, and holds the possibility of representing real change. And in this hope there is the deep desire for dialogue and mutual respect.
I believe that this desire is representative of many people across Latin America and many leaders from this part of the world. Everyone recognizes that your election is an extraordinary event in the history of the U.S., and can bring about concrete positive changes there, especially in the midst of so much pain and difficulty.
As you know, in the last two days Latin American leaders have reached out to you and expressed their hopes for an opening in U.S. policy, for conversation and the active search for mutual understanding. There are even dreams of opening possibilities for common work together towards justice and peace. Among others, President Fernando Lugo has written you with hope for constructive dialogue. President Evo Morales has contacted you with the desire for better relations between the two countries. There is also the recognition that your own struggle in the midst of U.S. racism and marginalization is similar to Evo Morales's struggles in Bolivia. President Lula da Silva has asked you to search for better and more authentic relationships with the countries of Latin America.
President Obama, I want to encourage you that this might be your desire as well. That you seek out dialogue, the dialogue that you have spoken of so many times.
The way that Bush has alienated the U.S. and demonized others has caused so much damage. Bush has made enemies when he could have found points of contact, when he could have approached others in some positive and creative way. He has misrepresented the situations in Latin America to the U.S. and deceived us. He has searched first for confrontation when so many other paths were possible.
Many times you have expressed an openness to meet with leaders with whom the U.S. government has differences, and although many U.S. Americans have criticized you for it, I want to assure you that you are right.
We know that every situation, leader and country is distinct. Nevertheless, in Latin America I see the tremendous need to repair relationships and the possibility of building bridges, and I believe that countries in Latin America desire this. It is true that there are real differences between the ideology of the U.S. and that which is occurring in many Latin American countries, but these differences do not have to be pretexts for aggression and isolation, as has happened in the past and still happens today.
Many countries have democratically decided to follow a different direction than the U.S., directions with better possibilities for the true well-being of their peoples. Our own country does not have to treat these movements as threats to be eliminated. There are other paths. And, as I hope you do as well, these leaders are looking for points of contact and constructive relationships. Many countries in Latin America are living within new and propitious moments and, guided by your leadership, I hope that this many be the case in the U.S. as well.
In the midst of this, it is important that we remember that times have changed. The U.S. can no longer continue thinking that it can do what it wants in Latin America. It should not even attempt to return to those days when it did as it pleased in these countries, even deposing and installing governments.
Quite frankly, Latin America does not have to depend upon the U.S., and the U.S. definitely cannot continue involving itself in their regional and national issues. Especially in many countries in South America, there is no longer space for the U.S. to attempt to impose its will upon others. It now has to honor the sovereignty of Latin American countries and seek out a greater mutual respect. Latin America does not need us to solve its problems. And, as you know very well, the U.S. has its own problems – more than enough – to deal with; many problems that it has created for itself.
So then, my President (and thanks be to God that I can now say that with pride instead of shame), even in the midst of real and sometimes profound differences, I hope that this might be the moment for the U.S. to seek out collaboration and mutual respect, and that we do this not as another tactic in order to control or manipulate but with a spirit of integrity, out of a longing for the common good and with a true desire for a more sane and healthy way forward.
We all can benefit from the relationships that can be created from respectful, honest and open conversations between you and Latin American leaders. We all need this, especially us as U.S. Americans. I am asking you to seek out these conversations and relationships.
I will keep you in my prayers during this difficult work ahead.