Belly of the Beast

By Milo Fitzgerald Contributing Writer

   As I stood in Lafayette Park in Washington D.C., protest sign in hand and comrades by my side, I couldn’t help but laugh at the White House. That laughter turned from genuine to exasperated as a tour group of kids no older than twelve, wearing USA hoodies and MAGA caps, strutted past with their phones directed at us, pointing and laughing. We were the entertainment part of their tour.

   I was in D.C. that day to march alongside the Answer Coalition and the Party for Socialism and Liberation in a demonstration condemning U.S. intervention and imperialism in Venezuela. Under the socialist-leaning government of the late Hugo Chávez and current president Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela has provided its people with hundreds of social programs benefiting millions of its poorest citizens. Maduro’s Venezuela has protected Indigenous rights, raised literacy rates to nearly 100%, and continued the legacy of the Bolivarian Revolution. Venezuela has even been providing free oil heating to impoverished communities in the South Bronx since 2006.

   An article from teleSUR written by former war correspondent John Pilger reports that the 2018 Venezuelan presidential elections, where President Maduro was re-elected with 68% of the vote, were free of crime and corruption. “‘Of the 92 elections that we’ve monitored,” said former President Jimmy Carter, whose Carter Centre is a respected monitor of elections around the world, “I would say the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world.” By way of contrast, said Carter, the U.S. election system, with its emphasis on campaign money, “is one of the worst.’”

   Venezuela also happens to have the current largest natural oil reserves on the planet. What a coincidence that the U.S. is attempting a coup, right? Not like the same excuse hasn’t been used in Iraq or anything.

   The United States is using its power and leverage to economically choke the Venezuelan people through sanctions and support terrorist opposition groups and leaders, including Juan Guaidó, the self-declared “president” who 81% of Venezuelans had never heard of prior to his announcement. Through decades of sanctions, the United States has banned Venezuela from importing food, medicine and other life necessities, and from nationalizing their oil reserves, which could dramatically boost their economy. On top of this, the U.S., Canada and Europe are holding over $23 billion dollars of Venezuelan gold and refuse to give it back to the country unless Guaido is sworn in as president. This is what you call democracy?

   Several weeks ago, a “humanitarian aid” truck tried crossing over the Colombia-Venezuela border. In western media outlets, including CNN and BBC, it was reported that the food aid in the truck was burned by President Maduro’s National Guard. This lie was spread across the globe until a few weeks later, when the New York Times published an article admitting there was video evidence of the opposition group (under Juan Guaidó) making molotov cocktails and burning the “aid.” The Intercept claims, “The liars from the U.S. Government and their allies in the corporate media were, as usual, given a platform to spread their lies without any challenge or dissent.”

   This is not to say that the government of Venezuela is blocking genuine humanitarian aid. The only countries blocked from sending aid are the U.S., Brazil (under fascist President Bolsonaro) and Colombia. The Intercept reports, “Both the Red Cross and the United Nations expressed concerns about ‘humanitarian aid’ from the U.S. on the grounds that it was a pretext for regime change and would politicize humanitarian aid,” as it has done so in the past.

   Venezuela has every right to doubt the authenticity of U.S. aid. Elliott Abrams, Mr. Trump’s newly-appointed special envoy to Venezuela, was let off the hook by President Bush in the 1980s for helping smuggle illegal weapons to terrorist organizations in Nicaragua in the Iran-Contra scandal. Seriously, look it up. There is no doubt in my mind that the same thing is happening in Venezuela. Just within the past couple months, the U.S. has sent cargo planes to Venezuela containing assault rifles, ammo and radios intended for Juan Guaidó and his mercenaries.

    We are witnessing a sequel to the 2003 Iraq invasion, although it can be hardly called a sequel when the United States has attempted to overthrow foreign governments over one hundred times within the past century.

   You will hear propaganda about the “corruption” and the “repression of free speech” in Venezuela, repeated by white Venezuelan bourgeois in Miami and American war mongers alike. I implore you to study these accounts critically. The U.S. has lied to you about nuclear weapons in the Gulf War, Iraq and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. They have lied to you about the civil wars in Libya, Syria and Yemen.

   They have lied to you about the social and economic progress achieved through socialism in Cuba, and the intake of hundreds of Nazi war criminals into the U.S. following WW2, who would later become doctors, scientists, researchers and CIA agents. They have lied to you about the genocides in North America, Palestine, Korea, Viet Nam, Iraq, East Timor, the Philippines and Afghanistan.

   It seemed almost funny to me that day at Lafayette Park, that the world’s most brutal military force receives orders from such a disappointing and lame building surrounded by brainwashed children with red hats. As the sun burned my neck and my voice became hoarse, while men in business suits lined up on rooftops to observe our march and I was offered water, snacks and hot packs, I realized that we are living in the belly of the beast and have the ability to take direct action against the capitalist and imperialist forces that threaten freedom and self-determination at home and abroad. The heart of the empire is a scary place to be, but that’s where the change needs to be demanded.

   History will absolve us.


My First Corn Maze Experience: Wicked Fun!

My First Corn Maze Experience: Wicked Fun!

By Haiyu Zheng -Contributing Writer


   When the view of ten acres of cornfield finally came into sight as we drove, my friends and I started feeling thrilled about heading out to the field with excitement and an adrenaline rush.

   I was a little bit overwhelmed when standing in front of the massive landscape with piles of brown plants filled with ripening ears of corn. Looking up at these huge rippling stalks, I thought to myself, “Oh my gosh, they are wicked tall.” This was my first experience of seeing a corn maze in person. It reminded me of the crop circle that I saw in a documentary when I was in China, before I came to UMF.

   That Sunday afternoon, instead of dying while doing my homework, I decided to have an adventure at the corn maze at the Sandy River Farm on Farmington Falls Road with UMF senior Elina Shapiro, and Chinese instructor Hui Shao.

From L to R: Haiyu Zheng, Elina E. Shapiro, and Hui Shao at the Sandy River Corn Maze.
(Photo by Hui Shao)

   Sandy River Farm is a vast fascinating landscape that consists of 600 acres of land in pastures, hayland, and rows of crops as well as approximately 1000 acres of forest land. The corn maze named “Amazing Maize” is held on the field south of the farm. In addition to the maze, the farm also offers a pumpkin patch and a “Cow Train” ride for kids.

   The first thing we noticed was the tower near the entrance of the maze. Visitors could go upstairs on a staircase ascending to the top of a tower to perceive the entire farm.

   Shapiro commented that “the view was as far as you could see and pretty much any direction you looked there was corn.” Surprised, she raised her voice and said, “even behind me I saw corn.”

   After that, we finally started our journey.

   I honestly didn’t know what I expected in the beginning, so I think I made a lot of stupid suggestions.

  “I’ve heard a theory that you can go out very quickly if you chose the same direction every time you have to make a choice,” I said. “Like you just stay to the right side.” I was as confident as a professional.

   After the first few minutes, we found that we were back to the same spot we started from, which meant we didn’t go anywhere.

   This time I changed the strategy. I picked some corn up off the ground and made signs with them. I thought I was pretty smart.

  A few minutes later, I heard Shao’s voice. “Oh, no! I think we’ve been here before!” Yes, we got lost in the circular trails created by these tall plants.

   “What if we cannot find the way out?” Shao asked. Well, this was a good question.

   One of the things that I was hyper-aware of was how confusing it was. After failing so many times, I realized that I was probably not a “puzzle” person so I totally gave up and let my friends lead me to whichever direction they thought fit.  

   We came across several families with distinctive, interesting approaches. Many families enjoyed getting lost in the maze. One family said  quite casually, “we were just wandering.” Another used their Google map to direct their way, and one just enjoyed playing with their kids while they were walking.

   Shapiro suggested taking on the philosophy of wandering instead of being nervous about figuring out which way to go. We all thought that was a good idea, so we ended up following the family using the Google map. (Technology is good.)

   I remember how excited we were when making a significant breakthrough of going through the intermediate part of the maze. As the maze went on, we passed through the paths more easily when we found that there were signs of numbers placing strategically throughout the maze. In another twenty minutes, we found the exit!

   I couldn’t believe we made it! We celebrated our victory by taking a lot of selfies with a werewolf statue at the exit, which was also near the entrance.  

   Before leaving, we had a short tour exploring the other parts of the farm. Walking through a sea of pumpkins of all kinds of shapes, we got on a truck that took us to a place with some animals. I approached a goat and pet his fuzzy head. Embraced by the unexpected natural grace, I forgot all the clutter and clatter of life in this bright, breezy Sunday afternoon. It was an awesome trip.

   There will be a haunted maze going at the end of October. It freaks me out when thinking about encountering creepy clowns or vampires who suddenly pop out of a corner. But for students who have a resilient heart, more information can be found on the Sandy River Farm’s Facebook page.