ROSA ANAYA Writes From El Salvador:
I don’t know if the timing is right to say the things I want to say, but then I guess I never say things at the “right time.” I may be wrong but, amidst all of the joy around the world and the pride felt by citizens of the United States, I find that I still need to say this.
Barack Hussein Obama is going in my dictionary as a reference for the word HOPE — no doubt about it. In many ways he and his wife represent struggles in which blood has been shed for centuries and, despite the fact that time has passed, these wounds continue to bleed. And so I reflect ...
I share in the tears, smiles, hugs and the rest of excitement but ...
We must think about why the world is so happy about the results of the elections in the United States. Why is Africa dancing to the beat of ancient drums? Why does it feel like the Arab world has taken a deep breath after holding its breath to the point of passing out? Did you notice that Latin America’s heart almost stop beating when it received this news of hope? Was it possible to hear Asia’s screams of joy on this side of the world? Did you see Europe’s face of amazement to see a “real” friend again?
I grew up as part of a generation of Salvadorans that lived through civil war and exile, a generation in which everyone knew about the U.S. government’s involvement and its responsibility for the atrocities, massacres, torture, persecution and murder of my people — something that resulted from a cold war that was not even ours.
Yet for some reason, no one was willing to talk about it, as if there was a strange ghost that blocked people from reality.
I am part of a generation that learned to hate the U.S. for the monster that it was, a monster that would hunt you down for the way you thought, the way you chose to live your life, the revolution in your veins. This monster could smell an activist, it had a thirst for vengeance, it would drink “communist” blood and it had the ability of hijacking your entire life. (Ironically, I didn't even know what communism was.)
Growing up I used to ask “Why us?”— El Salvador is such a small country. In time I was able to understand that this same monster was sleeping under the beds of many children all around the world. It spit fire and death in the four corners of the earth, it bred corporations that would eat the world resources and it would shit blood and hunger in the throats of the poor.
This same monster fed lies to the eyes and hearts of its own people in order to justify injustice and crimes. It placed a veil over people’s eyes that transformed occupations, interventions, massacres, torture, robbery, and savagery into a strange and noble crusade for “democracy”. We all felt the empire’s hand choking our throats while everybody was busy denying that an empire existed at all.
Amidst all of this, I learned to separate a government from its citizens and indeed I was saved in many different ways by people from the United States. These people took me and my family into their homes and gave us so much love. Indeed some of them performed heroic acts in name of solidarity and justice. I learned that boundaries were created in our minds that made us look at each other as potential threats instead of as brothers and sisters.
I got a small letter from one of my family’s dearest friends (one of my many “moms”) — a woman we admire for her open heart and willingness to help others. She described the excitement of the elections results in her neighborhood. Among other things she wrote:
“… the most beautiful part of all this is to know that THIS is what the people of the United States really want. They have told us for many years that we are scared assassins, a people who have hoarded everything, and they were able to convince many of this that this was true. Then Barack comes along and says, no, you are not that, and you will no longer be manipulated by fear, lies, and greed. The people have demonstrated that we are what he sees in us.”
I must say those words pulled me back to my reality, get over the drunkenness of other people's joy, and make this reflection.
Where does the excitement in the world come from? Is it “just” over an election of a country that is not our own?
As a victim of the monster, I share with people of the United States the joy, but you must understand that our joy bursts forth out of a long history of fear, death, repression and oppression against humanity itself that was caused by your country.
We are happy to hope with you, to hope that we can start to make decisions in my country, that go in favor of our own country and our people, without any fear that this might be against the interest of the United States (or rather, the elite and powerful of the country whose only God is profit).
We don’t get to vote in your elections, but we suffer the consequences of your decisions.
Barack Obama must recognize that he will be the president of the U.S. but, despite the great power that his country has, he will not be the president of the world nor its savior. This has been the vision of many past U.S. presidents (I won’t even start on Bush’s disgusting worldview).
Many people around the world hate the U.S. for what it represents in our countries and, believe me, the last thing that this country signifies in the minds of the oppressed is “democracy.”
In fact, the image that often comes up is one of massacres, bombings, killings, genocide, “harsh interrogation methods” (which seems very much like torture to us), prison, environmental destruction, lies, and fear.
I guess what I want to say is that “Americans” need to remember that there are more than 35 sovereign countries in the Americas and almost 200 countries in the world and that our mother earth is capable of providing for everyone if only we are willing to share the wealth.
I want to share that there are more intelligent ways — better ways — to solve problems and prevent conflicts if we are able to create foreign policy based on respect for one another.
This may sound like a utopia, but I suppose that utopia is a great friend of HOPE and I think we all agree that in this moment in history this word seems to be a bit closer than ever before. We just need to stay close together and work side by side; if we don’t, this word may slip out of our hands.
Barack is nothing without all of you supporting him and reminding him that he represents the people and not those who have, for years, been hijacking democracy ... among many other things.
Rosa Anaya, 6/11/08