Living in the Now. Be Ready.
On Being a Person, Are We What We Contribute?
(Disclaimer. I firmly promised no ‘diary’ posts or–gasp–anything that has a scent of political issues. I don’t for a moment think my life is so interesting the world can’t do without hearing about it. Still, I couldn’t resist sharing this moment in hopes one other person who, like me, thinks and talks about social justice but does little–may be touched or moved and touch someone else. If I–one of those people who switches channels when the starving children standing in doorways with sad big eyes flash on the screen–could do something. If I–who clicks away the shots of emaciated horses and the calls to do more for public television–if I could be touched–who knows what’s possible?)
Every once in a life, maybe only once for me, you have a chance to stand up against oppression, however small an impact you or I may have. Maybe we have only one shot at doing more than talking, talking, talking . . . about poverty and injustice.
I didn’t go to Queretaro, Mexico, a couple of months ago to protest anything. I was there for my usual blurry reasons that link back to my childhood. To explain my weird connection to Mexico, I’ve included a couple of paragraphs from a new book in which I wrote about the incident at the center of this protest.
My mother died when I was a teenager. Thus, the memories of the happy family in Mexico are special. THE MERCY will be available in May. In this scene, Dr. Jessica LeFave, in a quest to find a killer, is landing in Mexico City. (This is not a veiled attempt to mention the book. I don’t do that and I don’t appreciate it when other authors do. The coincidence is just too much to pass up. If you really want to, you can use the email on the contract page: firstname.lastname@example.org to go on the pre-sell list.)
Jessica: “I spotted the gold-domed Fine Arts Palace and the copper cupola of the Monument to the Revolution, favorites since those summers when the five Roses piled into the peach-colored van we’d been packing for weeks and headed south.
Each of us has slipped contraband into the car. I sneaked aboard extra books and the plastic two-dollar Target bargain bucket binoculars I wasn’t supposed to bring because they were worse than no lenses at all, and the camera I’d been forbidden to bring because, over and over, I would stop and arrange everyone for a picture, then say the shot wasn’t perfect, because I didn’t want to spend the money to develop more than one roll of film. My older sister, of course, just had to have her fake white alligator make-up box with its stupid little handle on top, and my little brother hid tiny metal cars and trucks and hundreds of green plastic army soldiers all over the vehicle.
Mother wrote every day for the papers back home and we gave her plenty of material beyond the food, the blossom-adorned swimming pools on converted haciendas, and what it was like for children meeting others with different backgrounds and speaking a different language. We provided periodic colorful diseases, new uses for Mexican curios, and we ended up lost on mountain roads after we’d beg to see this or that village. My mother could turn a disaster—like the time the luggage rack flew off the top of the van and we spent the afternoon on the side of a mountain retrieving our clothes–into fun. She thought we were all hilarious, which was what readers liked most in her columns.
On our drives from village to village, we dopey, happy kids waved wildly out the windows to everyone we passed and they would smile and wave to us. Not until I was a few weeks into my first clinical internship did I realize that my family experience was the exception not the rule. That’s how dopey happy we Roses were.”
Thus, Mexico has a special place in my heart or maybe there’s a place for me in the heart of Mexico. But back to a couple of months ago in Queretaro.
Here I am all these years later, a tourist boob comfy in my cargo shorts eating barbecued shrimp on the patio of a fine dining establishment in the central historical district of Queretaro—when it happened. Boom. My moment, my maybe only one possible chance to stand up popped up in front of my face.
And how. Two priests in full length black cassocks and scarlet sashes led a chanting group of mothers, fathers, grandparents and children, carrying signs with the photos of their children who were killed in the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ra%C3%BAl_Isidro_Burgos_Rural_Teachers%27_College. murders. (I found several other references including U-tubes, but each required you to tolerate commercials and, well, no. Life’s too precious.)
The delicious shrimp hit the plate. How could this be happening? How could the federal police have killed busloads of student teachers? And how could it be true that those dead students had been on their way to Mexico City to honor the memory of the atrocity I had just written about? After all, those murders happened way back in 1968, long before the new “disappeared” students were born.
Reading about the Night of Tlatelolco was when I learned that in Mexico (and many other countries) federal police, rather than deal with the messy remainders of murdered people, “disappear” human beings. When your loved one is “disappeared” there’s no crime, nothing to pretend to investigate. And now, here were the family members of the latest group of people “disappeared” for calling attention to the Night of Tlatelolco. Hey, I knew that story.
I deserted my precious computer like a used Dixie Cup. My heart was already in the street. I’ll admit the protest had me pretty much at the priests with torches. Also, the main chant was a refrain counting off the dead students, “uno . . . dos . . .” and I’m confident in my Spanish when it comes to counting.
I asked one of the leaders for a flag and tried to pay for it. “No, no!” he insisted. Then I explained (tried to in pitiful Spanish) that I couldn’t be helpful since I was a U.S. citizen. (They don’t call us Americans. The people of Mexico, Central, and South America also consider themselves Americans.) With that news, the man pointed at my poofy and very blond hair and pulled me to the front line of the protest. Yikes!
I gathered enough from what he said to understand that the oppressed in Mexico can only improve their situation if they can convince other countries to recognize human rights violations in the country, not thousands of miles around the world, but connected to the supposed human rights advocate nation, the United States.
Thus, there I was–chief emotional weenie– front and center on the video. Bimbo in cargo shorts and now, thanks to my over exuberant approach, in the middle of the front carrying a real flag emblazoned with words I couldn’t make out. A real flag. With real people. Not talkers. Real people.
There was no big worry about local exposure. The news of the protest was not covered in Mexico beyond slight references. Mexico CNN covered the much larger demonstration (over 100,000) in Mexico City until the protesters breached the police line. Then . . . this was particularly rich, the station popped in an old interview with Deepok Chopra https://www.deepakchopra.com/ talking about peace. Talk about irony.
Why am I posting this information now? The movement is here now. Austin, Texas. http://www.caravana43.com/. My heart is moved to know they’ve made it this far and have scraped enough money together to keep this caravan going. What were the odds?
Also, I’m writing this now because just maybe, seeing how wildly coincidental and brief your chance may be, maybe you’ll be a tiny bit more aware, more prepared. I certainly wasn’t looking for anything other than the most chocolatey item on the dessert menu.
Maybe there is more to this gig on Earth than competing in school, making money, spending money, and entertaining ourselves. I know there’s more to it than psychology.