Nicolás Maduro's Obscene Constitutional Pantomime

The constitution mandates one thing, the president does another. It's happened so often, the real challenge is to stay mad. To keep reminding ourselves that, damn it, this is not ok.

Yesterday’s spectacle, with President Maduro once again thumbing his nose at the constitution by giving his yearly accountability speech to a wholly subservient Supreme Tribunal rather than to the people elected to hold him accountable, fits the pattern of institutional involution Venezuela’s been subjected to so neatly it’s easy to just roll your eyes at it. “What’s new?”, right?

As Maduro freelances himself some new powers and attributions that are nowhere to be found in the constitution, shedding constitutional norm after constitutional norm while insisting on portraying himself as a bulwark for the coup he pulls off day after day, it’s hard to even know what the right analogy for what the Venezuelan government is doing to the rule of law in our country right now.

Everything useful that could have been said, has been said, and we’re left to look around for useful visual analogies. Maybe this one:

Our constitutional tradition is on the left: damaged, yes, and in need of repair. But profound, delicate, and instantly recognizable…not to mention beautiful. It connects us directly to profound strands of our heritage, to the best of the Western tradition, to our aspirations to transcend a humdrum here and now and reach for universal values.

On the right, Maduro’s restoration: a grotesque distortion of the original, an amateur’s blunder, an aggressive disfigurement that amounts to a mockery. A slap in the face made worse by the pig-headed determination to insist that no, honest, this one is just the same as the original — better, even.

Exhausted and traumatized, Venezuelans have largely run out of the energy it takes to sustain the level of outrage the government’s violence against the rule of law demands. Staying mad is exhausting, it can feel pointless, it wears us out and it wears us down.

But staying mad is also our sacred duty: a final, intimate token of resistance. The one place the regime can’t reach into and force itself on. Our conscience.

I’m mad at the shit Maduro pulled yesterday at the Supreme Tribunal. I do not and will not accept this way of governing as normal. I refuse them the luxury of my resignation. They have the guns, they can take everything else. But not that.