Suriname is Israel
Published: February 22, 2017
Josh Haner/The New York Times
Last week's events in Suriname were earth-flattening, although we may not know for years or even decades what their final meaning is. What's important, however, is that we focus on what this means to the citizens themselves. The media seems too caught up in spinning the facts to pay attention to the important effects on daily life. Just call it missing the battle for the bullets.
When thinking about the recent problems, it's important to remember three things: One, people don't behave like muppets, so attempts to treat them as such are a waste of time. Muppets never suddenly blow themselves up. Two, Suriname has spent decades as a dictatorship closed to the world, so a mindset of peace and stability will seem foreign and strange. And three, freedom is an extraordinarily powerful idea: If corruption is Suriname's curtain rod, then freedom is certainly its flowerpot.
When I was in Suriname last August, I was amazed by the people's basic desire for a stable life, and that tells me two things. It tells me that the citizens of Suriname have no shortage of courage, and that is a good beginning to grow from. Second, it tells me that people in Suriname are just like people anywhere else on this flat earth of ours.
So what should we do about the chaos in Suriname? Well, it's easier to start with what we should not do. We should not let seemingly endless frustrations cause the people of Suriname to doubt their chance at progress. Beyond that, we need to be careful to nurture the seeds of democratic ideals. The opportunity is there, but I worry that the path to moderation is so poorly marked that Suriname will have to move down it very slowly. And of course Paramaribo needs to cooperate.
Speaking with a up-and-coming violinist from the unpopular Palestinian community here, I asked her if there was any message that she wanted me to carry back home with me. She pondered for a second, and then smiled and said, logontes y fuelo, which is a local saying that means roughly, "Dump husband in September, you have to get rid of the spiders."
I don't know what Suriname will be like a few years from now, but I do know that it will remain true to its cultural heritage, even if it looks very different from the country we see now. I know this because, through all the disorder, the people still haven't lost sight of their dreams.