Saturday, September 20, 2008

Impressions: things are better now

“During those days people didn’t leave their homes,” he talked freely without looking over his shoulder to see who might be listening, “but now, those times are past. New businesses are opening all the time and things are better.” He didn’t have to fight during the war even though he was almost recruited by the military, twice. “They would drive around the streets and if they saw young men walking around they would take you and if you didn’t have anyone call to claim you --you would have to fight.” The recruitment process basically involved kidnapping capable young men off the street and if no one you knew saw you, you would be forced to fight.

“With the military it was better, you see,” he said, “you would fight for two years and then they would let you go. With the guerrilla you couldn’t get away and their circumstances were much more rudimentary. They lived in the woods and didn’t always have adequate food or shelter.” He was always intrigued by the military and the study of the war. “It was the same here as in any war. Those who survived moved up in ranks as their friends were killed. There were very few heroics like those that are glamorized on TV. You couldn’t rescue your friends if they were shot, otherwise you would probably also loose your life.”

Then, as we talked about the peace that exists today he said, “No one can take the credit for the peace that we arrived at. It was a collective compromise that led to the ceasing of conflict.” He seemed to think that the international pressure was an important part in arriving at peace here. There were compromises and yet the government still remained in power and the same party is governing the country today. There is still an overt distrust between the two sides.

If you listen to the radio or watch television, the political advertisements warn against the left taking over and governing the country. One ad shows Hugo Chavez from Venezuela expressing his inflammatory opinions about America and then the slogan says “We don’t want Chavez to control El Salvador.” Implying, obviously, that if the opposition were to take power they will join the rest of the Latin American countries who are in solidarity with Chavez. It seems like there is very little alternative to the historical party divisions. (After I wrote this I saw the John McCain ads doing the same exact thing. I think they were doing it here first!)

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live the questions now... R.M. Rilke