Editorials: The same but not the usual; and US race relations

From a driver’s image of a roadblock protest in eastern Chiriqui province, posted on social media.

Generic, in a way

People have a complaint with the government, and with no response, or an unacceptable one, they go block one of the country’s major traffic arteries until their complaint elicits some attention. It’s part of Panamanian political culture. It’s like that in a number of other Latin American countries, too.

The riot squad will eventually arrive, and sometimes a representative of the government to talk with those who are disrupting traffic.

What’s different now? The government’s resources are depleted, after a huge spending binge on behalf of PRD incumbents trying to get through that party’s recent primaries. In some of these cases the government has some time ago made promises to fix the public school, or make the local roads passable again, started on the work and then run out of money with jobs unfinished and contractors and workers unpaid.

It’s election year smash and grab season, with so many of those who reasonably fear to be jobless after the next change of government finding ever less to grab. “He stole, but he got things done?” More like he and a succession of others stole, and now the bills can’t be paid.

The forms of protest will remain with us, notwithstanding the calls of rash know-nothings for more violent responses. But Panama can’t go on living this way.


A pragmatic military order from way back when: the handwritten order to notify Texans that chattel slavery was over, from the US National Archives. It’s a matter of American history, and not just for black people.

An out of sorts USA on Juneteenth

On June 19, 1865, black people in Texas were told that they were no longer slaves. That minority of white Texans who had owned slaves was informed that such relationships were over.

The Emancipation Proclamation, which was at the time more an aspiration than an enforced law, had been issued some years before. The Confederate armies had been defeated and surrendered, Abraham Lincoln had been assassinated and buried and now the era of chattel slavery was at an end on that day.

If we said that Americans lived happily ever after, it would be a lie. Race relations in the United States still aren’t right. But the Juneteenth milestone is still worth remembering. It’s part of a nation’s long march toward dignity.

Indignant white supremacists were on terrible behavior, but knowing a bit of history, including that of recent years, it would be wrong to characterize it as their worst.

On social media, racists were demanding apologies from blacks for the deprivation of property that emancipation meant for white slaveowners in the middle of the 19th century. They denounced the notion that black people didn’t want to be slaves as “CRT.” They denied that there were any historic wrongs remaining to be corrected, and especially railed against any notion of reparations. Some of them have called for a new secessionist movement, a “national divorce.” Some talk about taking up arms against a “woke” US government.

Michelle Obama, the former first lady, put it in better perspective. “Juneteenth is a celebration of freedom – a chance to pay tribute to countless advocates, activists, and changemakers and the work they did to build a more perfect Union,” she wrote in her Twitter account. Her advice for its most apt celebration? Register and vote.

Which, of course, many a red state legislature is trying to make more difficult and less possible.

Juneteenth 2023 was an occasion for many to celebrate one of freedom’s milestones, but for the wiser adults of the USA it was a day to take stock of obstacles that have been interposed since that day in 1865 and to consider the next strides toward liberty and justice for all.



Bear in mind…


Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it.

Helen Keller


Science can destroy religion by ignoring it as well as by disproving its tenets. No one ever demonstrated, so far as I am aware, the non-existence of Zeus or Thor, but they have few followers now.

Arthur C. Clarke


Evil when we are in its power is not felt as evil but as a necessity, or even a duty.

Simone Weil



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