Do me a favor. Open up a new tab in your browser's window. Click on Google's search bar. There are only a few steps left—you're doing great. Type down the following word: Venezuela. Now, select the 'News' category, visible in your screen frame's upper left corner. Voilà! You have reached your destination, and you are more than ready to start perusing away. Enjoy, and don't even bother thanking me, because you are already most welcome.
Please, go on! Continue examining, and don't let me stop you. I'm not going anywhere. In fact, if you're feeling adventurous (perhaps you're of the risky sort, and whatnot), you can throw in some extra words into your search. Here are a couple of nice additions: crime, violence, shortages, inflation, poverty, illegal drug trade, protests, and human rights violations. You can just type these next to that first term, 'Venezuela,' and it'll do. I guarantee you'll be getting a juicy set of results in a matter of milliseconds. But do remember to come back here afterwards—once you've fully taken in the glorious ethos of my country.
Ready? Oh, was reading about a 14-year old boy's cold-blooded murder by state police not just thrilling? What about the various torture accounts of political prisoners? Are you telling me you didn't enjoy learning about how a former mayor was flung with excrement in his jail cell? No, you're not feeling it, is what I'm sensing... Jeez, okay—I guess you must be a real human then.
This is great, though. It means you have passed the test, so I can now safely cut down on the sarcasm. (Using it was all part of a ploy to capture your attention—I really didn't mean to be patronizing.) As it happens, while you're staring at your glossy computer screen, I hope you're feeling shocked, outraged, and more than a little unsettled. Given, of course, that you gave the news reports an honest glance.
Those horror stories—or rather, alarming headlines, if you weren't up for the full task—have been my morning cup of coffee for the past five years. (Before that, they were my morning bowl of cereal for roughly a decade.) That adds up to fifteen years of soaking up—on a daily basis—an intensely bleak reality, enveloped in death, corruption, and impunity. But it gets worse. In harboring these sentiments, I have been anything but alone.
The 'Bolivarian diaspora,' as its Wikipedia page has deemed to call it, has driven more than 1.5 million Venezuelan citizens—mostly young and educated—outside of the country. I, myself, am part of that statistic. You—well, you are probably not. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't care.
As an international student currently attending an American university, I have been amazed by the degree of support, guidance, and care that my institution and its people have offered me, on a personal and academic level, thus far. Yet, on a separate note, I have also felt an acute sense of detachment, from the college community, in its response—or lack thereof, I should say—to particular global issues, including those pertaining to Venezuela.
Don't get me wrong—I'm not hoping to admonish anybody here, nor am I intending to proclaim myself as a model citizen of ultra-high moral grounds. By no means! The world is ridden will all sorts of large-scale problems—not including those we have to deal with personally. Not everyone can be an expert in diseases, energy and sustainability considerations, climate change, and all of the other hundreds of problems that we—as a species—collectively face. It's okay to be ignorant. It's perfectly acceptable to not know about some—better yet, most—of the stuff that goes on internationally day after day. After all, who ever could?
I perfectly understand this. But you see, what I take issue with is the following: the prevalence of individuals who don't seem to care to listen. Or, worse yet, the pervasiveness of those who don't bother to care once they have listened.
During the past few months, many of the students I have met have asked me questions about my origins. When I have given them the appropriate answer, most have gasped with bewilderment and excitement. "But your English is so good! Now tell me, what is it like in Venezuela?" It's as if I'm an exotic creature to them, full of fascinating and strange secrets. When I have provided the fitting response to their second question, I have usually been confronted with a "Wow, that's a bummer" comment, followed by a swift desire to move on to the next interesting topic of conversation.
I refuse to think that the brilliant young minds I am surrounded by are also callous and brutally self-serving. It just can't be so. Yet, the extent of apathy towards all problems non-American I have repeatedly encountered has been severely disheartening. Sure, some international news stories do get students' deserved attention—notably among these are the ceaseless Arab-Israeli conflict and the terror war currently paved by ISIS. But what about the rest of the world?
America's most famous humanitarian and father of the African-American Civil Rights Movement could not have put it any better (with my own emphasis here): "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." In the 2013-2014 record-breaking school year, colleges and universities in the U.S. enrolled more than 800,000 international undergraduates and graduate students. That means there could be nearly one million voices like mine out there, wishing to be recognized and heard. Yes, college students have their own share of worries, with frequent assignments and challenging tests popping up every now and then. But that shouldn't justify their living in a bubble. After all, isn't college precisely the place to break that kind of life model? I'm not asking for solutions, neither am I saying that all students are unaware of their overarching global backyard. All I am craving for is more substantial acknowledgement and perhaps even sympathy from individuals too engrossed in their local realities. Venezuela, along with every other country in the world, matters too. Is this really too much to ask?
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