Thursday, August 26, 2010

#151 – THE ENEMY

If there were some paid athletes who were no longer just dumb bullies, there were still no right wing politicians and soldiers who were anything except the enemy. A week to the day after the end of the 1986 world series, where people who were never meant to win had won, we are gathered again in my apartment. These women and men I had been with me all year and who were closing in on nearly forgotten scenes from their own lives, as crucial as anything we could see anyone else going through on television. All of us here joined together with a sense of mission that is as focused as that of a Jesuit, or a Navy seal, or a bomb throwing Quebec or Basque Separatist.

Right now a smug looking golfer type is on the TV in a lineup of devious and frightened looking little people who turn out to all be Republican congressmen. The smug golfer, is named Trent, which sounds like a good ole boy name though he looks more like someone who might be found getting drunk in the Yale Club, or on a golf course wearing crimson trousers. Trent says not to worry, everything is all right. And he is echoed by the others. But not even the docile TV news people seem to be thinking it was all right to turn big national security measures over to a nasty guy named Oliver who has been supervising the illegal sale of arms to our enemy, Iran, and using the precedes to illegally finance the awful things being done by sadistic, right-wing militia thugs who use an American client state as a safe place from which to conduct bloody raids on Nicaragua. A Ronald Reagan war against uppity impoverished people who bucked his will. I know Nicaragua, which has a leftist government now, the Sandinistas, named for a leader killed in the 1930s by the Americans the first time Nicaragua had tried something different.
And since the TV commentators qualify what they say be adding that Reagan is an honorable man, it looks like the shoddy adventurers in Washington are going to get way with it.

So I am here with new friends looking at these awful people on television but I am also, in my mind, back in a long afternoon in the mid-seventies with the then Nicaraguan dictator, the last of the old American backed Somozas, Anastasio Somoza, a tall, obese old crook who had a private army of murderous, drunken, looting national guardsmen at his disposal. In the mid-seventies I had, for devious journalism reasons, spent a long afternoon with Somoza in his office, which by then was an actual bunker built into a hill next to Managua’s principal edifice, which since an earthquake had been an Intercontinental hotel. That day Somoza talked and talked in fragments of English he had learned while being raised in Miami, mixed with some of the fragments of Spanish he had picked up later. Despite having no real language, he managed to tell lie after lie, such that as his National Guardsmen, whom he called "my boys" – were so clean cut they could not possibly have taken part in all the rapes and murders and killings, the torture and the looting, that the opposition attributed to them. He kept saying that any Nicaraguan who said otherwise was “a fucker.” His most used words being fucking and fuck and fucker. He would tell me that this person or that was a fucking fucker. After each lie he would lean forward, fix beady black eyes on me, slap his enormous thigh, and say, like the heavy in a movie comedy but in all seriousness “That is true as sure as my name is Somoza.” And while he talked I was thinking of the previous night when I was in the hands of priests and other underground figures right out of a Graham Green novel, speeding from interview to interview, changing cars frequently in case we were followed. And I was thinking of the bright afternoon when I talked with a sparkling girl, a girl coming into her own, in an above ground opposition organization, and the woman who took me there, a Maryknoll nun, who got off the subject of the need for radical change and said “Maybe while you’re here you’ll meet someone to marry.”

And although this was my first time in Central America, and my guides were mostly liberation minded nuns and priests, everything about Nicaragua seemed absolutely familiar. I was making connections with where I came from before I realized that that was what I was doing. I had not grown up in a slovenly Latin American dictatorship. Nicaragua feeling familiar, as over the years, when far away from the family, did tyrannies in Haiti and the Philippines and also Cyprus and Beirut and Sarajevo and Cuba, and even Brunei.

I had been more or less underground in the last days of Somoza, the way more recently I had been more or less underground in the Marcos Philippines, whose end was on TV earlier in the year, and also the way long ago when I had been hidden from the murderous thugs in the Haiti of the Duvaliers, the last of whom had finally fled this year at almost the same moment the Marcoses were fleeing. These scenes from the past on my mind, and on TV.

And now Reagan and his boys, using illegal arms sales money, were financing the Contras the slovenly old National Guardsmen who with American money had become slovenly militiamen.


  1. I see you are censuring my comments which challenge you "memories" with fact and truth.
    Somoza wasn't obese as you recall, he had lost 80+ lbs. by the time you say you spent an afternoon with him. So out the window is impartiality with fair and balanced reporting. Leave it to the left to rewrite history as often as it fits their views. I guess you won't post this comment either. What a man!

  2. That long afternoon in the bunker was in 1975. Maybe he lost weight later.

    I appreciate your courage -- whoever you are -- in giving your view of Somoza.

    An "objective" news story, fair and balanced or not, is one thing. What an honest memoir can do is give the writer's impression. This is not a small matter. I am grateful that you are reading mine.