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Land shark (Trumpsidedown)

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OKLAHOMA CITY – Was it mere coincidence that I was reading Juan Jose Arévalo’s The Shark and the Sardines in a Guatemalan restaurant – a book written by a former Guatemalan president who wrote the controversial book as a denunciation of U.S. foreign policy in Latin America?

Perhaps. Perhaps not. These things simply happen and later you step back and go, “Hmmm.”

America is the Shark. And small, allegedly sovereign nations in Latin America (and elsewhere, for that matter) are seen as the Sardines, just waiting to be exploited and consumed. An appropriate, geopolitical metaphor. 

Outside this particular Guatemalan restaurant, a pickup truck was parked. And on the back window was a single bumper sticker - it was a "TRUMP: MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN" bumper sticker. And it was upside-down. 

Or is that "Trumpsidedown?"

Trump sticker on pickup outside Guatemalan restaurant in Oklahoma City. (Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report)

Curiously, the first time I saw a Trump bumper sticker was in October 2015 in New Orleans. It was the same day that my brother and I had tramped over to the area of Camp Street to see if there was any evidence of the offices where Oswald allegedly hung out, in connection with the pro-Castro Fair Play for Cuba Committee. Oh, yeah, and Fidel Castro just died as well. I feel as though we are passing through into a new era - a new dark age - where war of the nuclear sort seems ever closer. These are indeed troubled times. Uncertain times. Dangerous times.

The first Trump sticker I ever saw on a vehicle - this one in New Orleans. (Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report)

On page 777 of his 2007 book Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy , Vincent Bugliosi notes that on Nov. 6, 1963, assassin/patsy Lee Harvey Oswald “visited the branch of the Dallas Public Library in Oak Cliff, where he checked out a book called The Shark and the Sardines. The book was by the former president of Guatemala, Juan Jose Arevalo, and was directly addressed to the American people. It accused American policy of being predatory toward the people and governments of Latin America, which Arevalo compared to the policy of the shark toward sardines. (Another Guatemalan president, Jacobo Arbenz, had been overthrown by a CIA-inspired coup in 1954.) Translated from the Spanish by June Cobb and Dr. Raul Osegueda, Arévalo writes to the American reader in the introduction, ‘This book (does not) seek to cast blame on the North American people, people who, like us, are victims of the imperialist policy of promoting business, multiplying markets, and hoarding money.’ Symphonic music to Oswald’s ears, no doubt.

Bugliosi continues: “The theme of the book, most like the last book Oswald ever read, was very much in keeping with Oswald’s passionate advocacy of the Cuban cause, and it may have colored his view of President Kennedy as well. Although Arevalo first published the book in Spanish during the Eisenhower administration, he added language to it after the election of John F. Kennedy, who, Arevalo said, owed his presidency to big money as surely as Eisenhower had. After saying that Eisenhower had been ‘negotiated and bought by Wall Street and the Republican Party,’ Arévalo wrote that one should not ever forget that ‘his successor John Kennedy is the son of the number one landlord in the United States, or that Calvin Coolidge was president thanks to the ringing and ready money of the House of Morgan in which Coolidge was a powerful stockbroker.

And finally: “While not expressly about the political situation then existing in Cuba, the book was widely popular with the part of the Left that was concerned with Cuba and the Kennedy administration’s general policy on Latin America, including the Alliance for Progress, and it was advertised in leftist political papers and magazines. Newman noticed copies of it displayed for sale at the headquarters of the Socialist Workers Party when he visited there doing research for his 1970 book on the assassination.”

In 2013, The Dallas Morning News noted Oswald checking out The Shark and the Sardines and the fact that the copy Oswald checked out “was never returned,” even though a rare copy was featured in a display at the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library, interestingly enough. And this, just as a book about JFK assassination investigator and newspaper columnist Dorothy Kilgallen has a book written about her investigation - and mysterious death in 1965.

And I guess what triggered my interest in writing about this particular topic in relation to synchronicity has to do with actor Ed Harris.

GUNSLINGER

While I have not watched the new HBO series Westworld, I have heard nothing but good things about it. And in the sync community, some have noted Ed Harris’ role as a sadistic gunslinger called “The Man in Black.” Here, Walker talks to The Hollywood Reporter about playing “The Man in Black.” Not all "men in black" are bad. Recall my link with Johnny Cash and my "flood dream" and the "tap" on my shoulder at Sun Studio in Memphis ...

Interestingly, the popularity of Westworld is surpassing that of True Detective, another HBO hit from a few years ago, and a show which triggered my interest during that same New Orleans trip and I wrote "The Yellow Store."

Ed Harris as "The Man in Black" in HBO's 2016 series Westworld. (HBO)

Back in 1987, English director Alex Cox (Repo Man, Sid & Nancy) directed a fantastic, somewhat surrealistic film called Walker, about American newspaperman, lawyer and political figure (and sadistic gunslinger) William Walker (played by Ed Harris – an earlier role where he was a sinister “Man in Black”), who, in the June 1855, was sent, with “a band of mercenaries outfitted with guns and swords” to “liberate” Nicaragua on behalf of American, plutocratic interests – namely New York banker Cornelius Vanderbilt, “who was lord over transportation within the United States and on both oceans and was, besides, making plans for interoceanic canals, already had business down in Nicaragua, where he was carrying out some enterprises for himself and some for others,” as Arévalo writes.

William Walker - Nicaragua's "Man in Black." As featured in the 1987 film Walker. (Universal)

What makes Walker somewhat surreal, or “hallucinatory,” as the DVD case description notes, is that overlays the then-current U.S. battle against the Marxist insurgency in Nicaragua, led by the Sandinistas, with the mid-19th century resistance to Walker’s dictatorial rule of Nicaragua at the time he was there, doing the bidding of monied, American interests (“syndicates”) who only saw Nicaragua – as Arévalo noted in the 1950’s-1960’s period – as a place to rape, rob and pillage, “for the big syndicate.” And now it is the Chinese who want to exploit Nicaragua and build a "Nicaraguan Canal" to compete with the Panama Canal, which Arévalo goes into great detail in in The Shark and the Sardines.

One scene shows Walker’s lackeys reading a 1980’s version of Newsweek, with William Walker on the cover and the cover headline “Nicaragua’s Liberator.” Modern cars and helicopters and Coca-Cola also pop up in this film, set to take place in the 1850’s. It’s all pretty wild – this from the Repo Man guy.

And yet just four years earlier, Harris, in his The Right Stuff role of astronaut and U.S. Senator from Ohio, John Glenn (who died last week at the age of 95), is featured on a real cover of Newsweek, with the cover story: “’The Right Stuff: Can a Movie Help Make a President?” because of Glenn’s interest in running for president as a Democrat in 1984. He failed to secure the nomination, though.

And while Ronald Reagan was an actor – and president at the time that The Right Stuff came out – we could say that Donald J. Trump, who is an actor after all, was elected thanks, in large part, to the media. He may denounce the lügenpresse, a Nazi Germany-era word (used by white supremacist Trumpists) to demonize the press, or “the lying press,” but they clearly helped Trump rise to power. He should love the modern-day press. After all, they are the best at normalizing fascists.

And if history is any guide, a Trump administration will likely do their best to plunder Latin America, as so many other American administrations have done before them. All the while Trump builds the biggest damn wall in world history. The Shark. And the Sardine. Indeed.

In the midst of all of this, John Glenn dies and The Right Stuff is expected to return to theaters this month - ever so briefly - in honor of Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth.

Oh, and Ed Harris made an appearance in one of my favorite Dust Devil Dreams posts - "Oh mi corazon" - written on Valentine's Day 2014, of course. That had to do with a reference to the film Pollock, about the painter Jackson Pollock, which I referenced just yesterday, coincidentally enough.

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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