HAVANA TIMES — You don’t have to be a war correspondent to be caught in the crossfire these days. Why, sometimes you don’t even have to leave the house.
The Facebook account I opened when I arrived in Caracas lists around 200 people under the category of Friends. Truth is, I’d be surprised if I actually knew more than 5 of them personally. Since things have been extremely tense this week, I posted a photo I thought would help people relax a bit.
That afternoon, it had rained and I had taken a picture of a squirrel, of the kind we’re used to seeing climb up the trees in our backyards. The squirrel, see, was carrying some branches in its mouth, as though involved in some “home” repair work.
So I posted a comment under the photograph, writing something along the lines of: “Urgent aid needed for squirrel affected by Caracas’ rains.”
I suppose 90% of the people who saw the comment got the joke. But, all of a sudden, two people began to insult each other because of my photo.
One of them, whose profile picture suggests she is a Chávez supporter, and who apparently heads some kind of animal rights group, immediately asks me where the squirrel is, so they can go in its aid.
The other, whose profile picture does not suggest any type of affiliation to an organization or group, who I later understood was not a supporter of Chávez, tells her that the post is obviously a joke.
The woman immediately responds with a nasty comment and, before you know it, the man has already retorted with a barrage of insults (including the accusation of “communist”). The two completely forget the squirrel and argue about political and feminist issues.
I got goose-bumps when I logged into Facebook and saw all this. I tried to calm the two down, but soon the woman had found someone to back her comments and, suddenly, I was almost accused of being the cause of animal abuse and male chauvinism worldwide.
I had no choice but to quickly remove the picture of the happy squirrel, lest I also be blamed for the fires around the city or the electoral fraud.
Anything is possible because, though a great many people here refuse to take part in acts of violence, be them of a physical or verbal nature, there is no shortage of fanatics, in both camps.
I cannot but recall the times of the Plague, when anyone could be accused of having contaminated the water or spreading the disease.
Though the streets are much quieter now than they were last Monday [the day after the elections], social networks have become a hotbed of arguments, where people accuse each other of murder, having sown panic and all types of violent acts.
At one point, I’m sure, those who are steering the ship politically, and those who are setting the course of the economy, will come to an understanding as quietly as possible.
In the meantime, friends, neighbors and relatives will continue to slam their doors on each other’s faces and to insult each other for political reasons.