Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Children of Fear.

I’ve always found it fascinating to meet people my age from different places in our world. There is something special about knowing that we’ve been living parallel lives of sorts, just in different places. A few years back, while working at Open Arms, I made a friend from South Africa who was a part of the ‘healing of memories’, a project striving to find true reconciliation for the pain of apartheid in South Africa. He was exactly my age, and had grown up outside of Durban, South Africa. While I was enjoying elementary school, piano lessons and Odessy of the Mind, my friend was experiencing the battle against apartheid - by the age of 10, he had endured things so horrific they are difficult to even imagine.

In Buenos Aires, I discovered more “parallel” lives – my Spanish teachers, Martin and Pedro, are both close to my age. In an Argentine History Charla (lecture), they described our generation in Argentina as the children of the disappeared ... the children of fear. In the mid-seventies, as they (and I) were being born, their parents were witness to one of the darkest times in Argentine History. Their earliest years were surrounded by Argentina’s silent fear. In 1976, a military junta overthrew Argentina’s president. In an effort to gain complete control, they began a secret movement to capture, detain, and often kill anyone they suspected of government resistance. As part of their torture tactics, they often demanded that prisoners give them another name of someone involved in “leftist resistance”. When they received a new name, they would kidnap the person – often from the safety of their own home. One by one, people silently disappeared from Argentine neighborhoods – with fear of repercussions keeping most witnesses silent. Despite years of inquiries and protests from the families (especially the mothers) of the disappeared, the government continually denied their involvement until they were final overthrown in 1983. By that time, more than 30,000 Argentines are estimated to have disappeared.

Just last year, the government built a memorial to honor these Argentines – people kidnapped, brutally tortured and killed by their own government. The wall is a work in progress, as they are still, today, learning about this awful time in their own history. As new people’s names are confirmed, they are added to the wall.

As a visitor in Argentina, my understanding of the era of ‘the disappeared’ is very limited. I have hesitated to even write about it, knowing that my knowledge is lacking – and that an overview of the history doesn’t do it justice. But, after visiting the memorial, I knew that these are the kinds of things in our world’s history that we must write about, talk about, build memorials for, learn from – these are the things in our world’s history that we must remember.

No comments: