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Friday, March 09, 2007

Priests to purify site after Bush visit

A funny story I came across from Excite. If the Democrate retake the White House next year, I wonder if they could hire these guys. The picture of the ruins is one I dug up, so to speak. More conversation, and a question of semantics related to the Bush administration, below the article.

Priests to Purify Site After Bush Visit
Mar 9, 12:20 AM (ET)
GUATEMALA CITY (AP) - Mayan priests will purify a sacred archaeological site to eliminate "bad spirits" after President Bush visits next week, an official with close ties to the group said Thursday.

"That a person like (Bush), with the persecution of our migrant brothers in the United States, with the wars he has provoked, is going to walk in our sacred lands, is an offense for the Mayan people and their culture," Juan Tiney, the director of a Mayan nongovernmental organization with close ties to Mayan religious and political leaders, said Thursday.

Bush's seven-day tour of Latin America includes a stopover beginning late Sunday in Guatemala. On Monday morning he is scheduled to visit the archaeological site Iximche on the high western plateau in a region of the Central American country populated mostly by Mayans.

Tiney said the "spirit guides of the Mayan community" decided it would be necessary to cleanse the sacred site of "bad spirits" after Bush's visit so that their ancestors could rest in peace. He also said the rites - which entail chanting and burning incense, herbs and candles - would prepare the site for the third summit of Latin American Indians March 26-30.

Bush's trip has already has sparked protests elsewhere in Latin America, including protests and clashes with police in Brazil hours before his arrival. In Bogota, Colombia, which Bush will visit on Sunday, 200 masked students battled 300 riot police with rocks and small homemade explosives.

The tour is aimed at challenging a widespread perception that the United States has neglected the region and at combatting the rising influence of Venezuelan leftist President Hugo Chavez, who has called Bush "history's greatest killer" and "the devil."

Iximche, 30 miles west of the capital of Guatemala City, was founded as the capital of the Kaqchiqueles kingdom before the Spanish conquest in 1524.
This article reminded me of something that's been on my mind the last couple of days. Media stories about Bush's trip to Latin America have discussed his early promises of focusing attention on relations with Latin America, and how that changed after the September 11 attacks. The phrase I've been hearing a lot, and not from Bush's spokespeople, but mostly from news people on NPR, is that the war on terror "took priority" over relations with countries in Latin America. To me, that's pretty poor phrasing coming from a group that's supposed to be neutral to Bush, and certainly for one that's been accused of being too liberal and too hard on him. It takes a certain responsibility off of his shoulders.

What follows is probably less of a political rant than a linguistic one, so bear with me here. Priorities are assessed and decided on. What made the war on terror a priority over Latin America was a decision from the Bush administration, conscious or unconscious. The Bush administration made the one thing a priority over the other. It didn't just happen by itself.

Now I'm not saying that that was a bad decision. I think that Bush and his cronies have made lots of bad decisions, and that history will continue to turn up more and more of these. But if I had been president, I would have started focusing on terrorism over Latin America, too.*

On the other hand, the fact remains that a choice was made here. To use an extreme example, if there's a fire and I grab my children and get them out of the house and leave a toaster to get burned, that's a choice. It's the right one, but it's a choice. My kids didn't "take priority" over the toaster. I prioritized my kids above the toaster. The war on terror didn't "take priority" over Latin American relations. The Bush administration prioritized the war on terror over Latin American relations.

* At least for the year or so following those attacks. I likely wouldn't have gotten us into a war on Iraq, though, so I would have had a lot more time on my hands to get back to addressing other things, including maintaining relations with neighbors in the Western Hemisphere, signing the Kyoto Protocol, not alienating the entire world, etc.

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