Saturday, March 2, 2013

Cartoon 38: Peoples Stories of Dictatorships

It was raining torrentially and I was sitting on a bus in Santiago, Chile.  I asked the guy seated next to me where I should get off so that I wouldn't have a long walk to the metro and he told me.  Then, he looked at me and said "You're from the U.S. right?" I nodded and he came back with, "So what do you know about your government's involvement in the military coup that put Pinochet into power?" He was happily surprised when I said that I had learned that, along with the usual training and weaponry, the U.S. government had financed in large part the manipulation of the media and transportation systems so that people could not get food or honest information eventually facilitating the coup(I had only just learned about this because of similar interactions). We continued to talk for a while, him offering me more detail about how everything went down. This type of interaction has happened to me so many times on this trip.  It seems like people are bursting at the seams to explain to me what's really going on with U.S. foreign policy.  Along with the more political conversations, people also share with me their personal experiences....

In Santiago, I stayed with a sweet couple who made home cooked meals everyday with yummy green beans just like at home.  During the 'sobremesa' (the tradition of sitting a while and talking after eating) they told me stories of their experience of Pinochet's regime.  They explained that the first year was like hell on earth.  The mother only left the house when totally necessary, like to pick the children up at their different schools because so often people, even children, left their houses and never came back.  Everyone had to be inside their houses by nine at night, if you were out it was a great excuse to be  disappeared. The mother said she didn't really even want to leave the house so that she wouldn't have to see the dead bodies floating down the huge river that runs through the city. Amazingly, she said, she didn't loose any immediate family, just a young man in the neighborhood.  He was involved in the resistance movement and one day was sent to leave a pre-set bomb at a strategic location.  At the last minute the location was changed. On his way to the new place, time ran out and the bomb exploded.  His friends still remember seeing parts of him splattered and hanging on the powerlines.

An army tank driving through downtown Atlanta or any other city of the U.S. is unimaginable to me, much less all of the other horrors that these folks lived through.  So I'm only left with questions and a wild search for real life ways to answer them through my actions....
How do I deal with the fact that my government did this claiming to protect me from the 'Communist Threat' when the government that was taken out was a Social Democracy chosen by the people?
How do I make it so that my tax dollars don't pay for this to happen anywhere else???!!!!!
Could this happen in my country?
Inside the U.S., what would we do if it did?
We live such separate lives...would we be able to unite enough to forcefully and peacefully resist?

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