A few weeks after my arrival in Washington, DC, I dispelled some of the myths and prejudices that I had about the US. As a Brazilian born in the 80s who grew up in the 90s, the first thing that came to my mind when I heard the word “Washington” was the economic consensus reached in 1989, which was often referred to by Latin American politicians as one of the biggest causes for the economic failures in the continent during the 90s.
However, now I can say that Washington is much more than that. In the USA I had a warm and friendly welcome week from the Atlas Corps and América Solidaria staff, where everyone welcomed me with open arms and big smiles. Thanks for that USA! Out of the several great activities in DC, the one that I enjoyed the most was the monuments tour. I liked it not only because I could walk around and see this beautiful and well-planned city, but also because it was a unique way to better understand US history. In particular, I was very touched by the WWII Memorial. I believe it is essential to any society to have this sort of monument in order to always remember those who lost their lives fighting for a better future. Yet, such peaceful sites can sometimes make us forget about how many lives are being lost nowadays in places like Syria, Iraq, Gaza, Eritrea, Somalia, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Darfur, Kivu, and others. According to a recent report from the UN, the number of people uprooted from their homes by war and persecution in 2014 was larger than in any year since this sort of detailed record-keeping began. In other words, this is the worst humanitarian crisis since WWII and world leaders are not taking any steps to really change that.
While I was in DC another Latin American came to the city and reminded us about all these lives. Pope Francis spoke to the US Congress and, addressing the current humanitarian crises, asked lawmakers “to respond in a way which is always humane, just, and fraternal.” Clearly, the ongoing policy of the USA in these matters is anything but fraternal. It is well known that the USA, and other great powers such as Russia and China, supply weapons to different conflict zones worldwide. In view of that the Pope added: “Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money—money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood.”
Under these circumstances, it seems urgent that the USA, as the largest military power in our planet, immediately change its policy on these issues. If it is not receiving refugees from these areas, it should at least stop sending weapons and promoting violence in these regions. Otherwise, right near the memorial which reminds us of the role that the USA proudly played during WWII, the next generation of America Solidaria fellows might see a memorial for the shameful reality that we are now living in.
Pablo Pereira de Mattos
America Solidaria U.S. | Atlas Corps Fellow
Cohort September 2015-2016
San Antonio, Texas