May 13, 2013 – Guatemala City

Twins from the same womb: despair and hope. Alex said that today. It’s kind of like in the Simpsons with Bart and his evil twin that lives in the attic—I forget his name. The history here is so recent, but it reminds me of so many things in the United State’s past—things that most people would rather forget: the Holocaust and the Indians.

The first because of something Hector said. He talked about blame and forgiveness in relation to Rios Montt’s trial and conviction. Victims of circumstance (Jews and indigenous peoples) and victims of choice (the SS and the army). I mean, how many people really set out to commit heinous acts of violence against another person? There have been so many tests and experiments done that show when there is someone else giving the order, someone else who is more distanced from the actual event, that the person committing the act feels more able and willing to do so and less responsible for the action. The person distanced also feels less responsible because they are not the one committing the act themselves. Is this the cycle of violence? How does it stop?

If everything happens because of the circumstances and because of a choice that was made, the choice, while morally reprehensible, is a choice between a bad and bad. It’s not like they simply could choose not to follow an order, there are IMG_5559plenty of TV shows, movies, and books out there, as well as real life examples to show that there are often times severe consequences for not following orders. Everything is a dance in finding the balance the best suits the individual—but when does the great view come into play? When are the needs of the many (to quote a fantastic man) above and beyond the needs and thoughts of the one? Individuals chose which action they thought was the lesser of two evils. Can we fault them for that?

Not everyone is a martyr and most people don’t seek out to become martyrs. It happens because of circumstance and because certain cards have fallen in a certain place. Likewise everyone is a victim. Forgiveness must happen, but in that people need to realize that they will no longer be a victim once that forgiveness is given. Sometimes one’s identity has a victimIMG_5269 is harder to give than the forgiveness itself. Once they are no longer a victim, they will become a survivor. It is far harder to give forgiveness without having an individual to blame and without having a confession of the crimes—but I do not believe that it is impossible.

The Indians: in so many ways the indigenous populations here are like the Indians in the United States. Beliefs, culture, everything persecuted simply because it does not fit in with the colonial or empiric way of living or understanding. Simply because it is “different.” ELIMINATED DIVERSITY! Say what? Having talks and conversations with them through human rights and religion will open those doors—will allow them, hopefully, a better life than the Indians on reservations, and will allow those who are not indigenous a new understanding about the minority.

There is such passion here for everything that is going on. For a history once wiped out, it seems to be reborn in the new generation of Guatemalans and those seeking to remember what they can. The city itself is an interesting mix of shambles and utter beauty. I see it not only in the build graffitied, broken and cracked sidewalks, but in the people—the street vendors, the professionals and the children, trying to speak EnIMG_5561glish to an American they see on the sidewalk.

The United States has created the beauty, but it has also created the detriment. Hector said it was either we didn’t care or ignored it—I think it’s ignorance. Particularly of this generation. We are at the same fault as some of the Guatemalans in that this history is not in our history—we don’t talk about. Not many people in the United States understand what actual globalization is. They think it’s talking to friends from across the world on their computers or visiting other countries of the same “status” that they are from.IMG_5281

They don’t see places like Guatemala, who has people far more aware of American economy and decisions than its own college students who study for years in their own country. We keep asking and looking for what the Guatemalans are doing here for the people here, for the culture and the religion. Maybe we should be asking what we in the United States should be doing in our schools and in our communities. First, for starters, we should probably teach them what true globalization is.

***

If you don’t know what happened in Guatemala, I suggest looking it up. There was a thirty-six year war, from 1960-1996 when the peace accords were signed. Mass genocide and persecution of the Mayan people followed an invasion led by the CIA because of claims against the president that he was a communist. Rios Montt (US trained in tactics and military) was a general and was a current leader in Guatemala until the trial. It is the first time that I trial for crimes against humanity has even been done, with success I might add, in a domestic court. The charges were brought against Montt in 2002 (I think), and it wasn’t until now that any court was in the position to actual have a trial for the charges.

The Mayan people live off about $4 a day. That’s for their entire family. You hear all about the people in Africa starving. Well, I might have some shocking news. There’s people right here in North America starving, they are a lot damn closer, and they are more our responsibility since we helped cause it.

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  1. Trackback: #ROW80 Check-in: a WIP meme | A Keyboard and an Open Mind

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