July Letter from South America

Dear Bob,
 
You recently posted news about censorship, specifically about a new Florida law that lets anyone challenge topics children learn in school. One complaint is that evolution is taught as if it is ‘reality’. Regression. It is like we are living in Descartes times! And we need him again to appease the Christian right and its anti-evolution stand and let science and rationality keep working (but isn’t that what Pope Francis tried to do when he affirmed that “evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation”? ) We are living this kind of regression in politics over here. It is like every right wing politician wants to turn every important issue into a religious dispute. In a religious country this strategy pays off. Last year, when we had a referendum about a peace process with the oldest guerrilla group in Colombia, there was a strong campaign against it alleging that the agreement included legalization of gay marriage, adoption by gay couples and a broad support for homosexuals. The agreement did include a provision for inclusion, tolerance and more opportunities for single mothers.
 
Also last year there was a major scandal that involved the Minister of Education. Due to a sentence from the Supreme Court, which ordered the ministry to implement a program to stop bullying of gay and transsexual kids in schools, the Ministry published an informative leaflet that was supposed to help teachers and staff at schools deal with students’ different sexual orientations. The opposition party went up in arms: the government was trying to corrupt our kids and force people to compromise their moral views. The scandal paid off and helped the opposition win the referendum.
 
Many people now see with concern how political parties associate with churches, aligning their political goals with the religious views. We have an election next year and I am afraid it is going to be ‘religiously’ nasty. Regression. I don’t like the two kinds (or maybe they’re the same kind): those politicians/religious leaders whose goal is to turn the state into the religious state they dream of, or the other kind: the kind that abound here, those who just calculate when to create a moral debate in order to divide and win.  
 
Then they get elected. And it is no wonder how bad they are. It is shocking how far a politician can go to benefit himself. People in politics who seem smart, honest and educated turn out to be so obscure, so horrible, and so manipulative. It is so ironic that the former anticorruption watchman in Colombia is being extradited to the United States on charges of laundering money collected from bribes. He would approach politicians being accused of corruption and work a scheme to clear them from the charges. But in a kind of Shakespearean act, one of the politicians, object of the official’s briberies, blew the whistle with the DEA and they set the anti-corruption chief a trap.  It worked.
 
I find it so urgent to learn how science works, how critical thinking works, how important it is to be skeptical, always believing in a politician for good reasons and not believing for equally good reasons; otherwise, it is just a very easy game for them.
 
Laura.