Guatemala and Massacres…

A little glum of me perhaps, but I have been musing about the unspeakable awfulness of massacres for the past week or so. Every time I hear someone tell the tale of a massacre that they have survived, I feel devastated.  And since most massacres usually involve innocents, and oftentimes are largely women and children, it seems that my emotional response is even more intense now that Kazuo is around, I just fail to see how you could go on living if anything like that happened to your own child, and you were somehow spared.  Yet, remarkably, people do, and go on to transform their experiences in incredible ways.

Last Tuesday we had a report back at our Amnesty Meeting from our friends Paul and Kate who have spent a bit of time this year in Guatemala.  Last year our group attempted to bring the plight of the Mayan people in northern Guatemala to the attention of AIUSA… we are still working on that issue, and Paul and Kate have spent time in the region discovering some of the stories that have arisen over the past 30 years in a region where major hydroelectric projects have displaced hundreds of villagers and subsistence farmers.  In the early 80’s there were several massacres along the Rio Negro as the Government forces and militia attempted to clear the region of dissenters to their multi-million dollar dam scheme.

One survivor of one of these massacres was Jesus Tecu Osorio, whose story is told in the film  Rainmaker.  He is now a peace activist in Guatemala who works selflessly to bring justice both to the survivors of the massacres and to the families of those who perished.  I was deeply moved by the story he told and by the bravery of his activism, especially given that he has a young family of his own now, who give him hope, but make him more vulnerable again.  It is amazing that love thrives even in the wake of such adversity.

The other thing that got me thinking on this theme again last week was watching Waltz with Bashir on the weekend.  An excellent animation that examines Israeli soldiers’ involvment in refugee camp massacres in West Beirut in the 80’s.  There were some very provocative images, especially towards the end of the film, and although it was not a wonderful pick me up, it was excellent film making that explored some very important ideas about war and memory.

Perhaps I don’t have anything to conclude… or add to this discussion… maybe I just wanted to say, I am thinking about people being massacred and I am thinking that there is no way that should ever happen, and how do we let it happen?  Perhaps all I want to ask is why? and how do we stop that kind of madness? and I know that probably somewhere in a little quiet corner of the world today, or maybe tomorrow, another, equally ghastly thing will happen, and some people will be culpable – and have to live with that – and some bereft – and have to live with that – and I wish that we could stop that before it happened…


Tonight I am leading my first local meeting for the St Louis chapter of Amnesty International.  We are examining the use of Torture by the USA in particular, and I am presenting material that will hopefully give us a focus for action that spurs the current government onto seeking accountability for the atrocities carried out by the previous administration.  However, the thing that really concerns me is that images like this are not really historical:


Tragically, although Obama signed a key declaration in January, pledging to close Guantanamo and put an end to torture, these practices continue – perhaps not as extreme as the above image, but certainly force-feeding and other personal violations continue at Gitmo, and so the culpability is transferred to the Obama administration, and our great hopes for change begin to fade.

It is sobering reading, the preparation I have done for tonight, and I guess it just makes me despair when I think of the unnecessary and dreadful treatment some people have been subjected to in the name of freedom and democracy. Sigh.

He Made It!

One week on and I can report that our new wee man is doing well. He made his entrance last Friday and has been making himself at home since.

Since his arrival, it seemed that nothing about me was working anymore… though now I can see that things are starting to heal, and I am getting the hang of sleep deprivation and the sacrifices necessary to ensure he is adequately nourished. But it looks like hard work ahead!

However, nothing – as they say – prepares you for how much your emotions soar at the sight of your own offspring. So any effort – even the most desparate and supreme effort – on his behalf just seems instinctive and unselfishly necessary. I am starting to sound rather martyrish… ugh!

One person who has been working in this period has been our new president – I say ‘our’ in sort of proprietary sense, even though I am still an alien… because I feel like Obama is such a man for the people that it doesn’t seem like I am disconnected from the massive political impact his courageous leadership can make in our whole world. Also, our wee man is now a US citizen, so no matter where in the world we go next, there will be a family tie to this land.

We managed to bring our little lad home just in time to hear the inaugural speech on Tuesday. It was such a moving and happy day in so many ways. And so great to be home.

So we are excited and impressed by the decisive new initiatives to already come from the White House. Particularly the plan to close Guantanamo and the CIA ghost prisons and to put an end to govt sanctioned torture such as waterboarding. Such shame attached to the brutal practises in these places. I do hope that they manage to address the impact of other such US-run prisions abroad, like in Afghanistan and Iraq. We are really looking forward to see what other important decisions will come from the work of this promising new administration.

Not sure if I will be working on this blog too often in the coming days… am still not working in the employable sense, but sense that a lot of work on good family life is ahead. Work worth doing!