Javier Sicilia Talks to L.A.
Let me start with a few verses from “Not Dark Yet” by Bob Dylan:
[…] I’ve been down on the bottom of a World full of lies/ I ain’t looking for nothing in anyone’s eyes/ Sometimes my burden seems more than I can bear/ It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there […]
We blame this darkness, which has not stopped threatening Mexico and the United States, and which portrays the face of hundreds of thousands of dead, disappeared, persecuted, tortured, butchered, displaced and incarcerated; for all of them, I ask for a minute of silence.
We have reached, as Dylan says, the “bottom of a world full of lies” underneath war, especially when it comes to such an absurd war as the one against drugs. We call such bottom death, humiliation, illegal trade of guns, money laundering, criminalization, corruption, fear, horror, prisons, the strengthening of crime and government violence. For the same reason, we refer to it as the crisis of democracy, the annihilation of freedoms and the contempt for immigrants. This bottom of pain is also, as the song of Dylan says: “a burden that seems more than we can bear”.
The burden we bear upon us contains the weight of our dead, of our missing ones, of those displaced, of our criminalized and humiliated immigrants and, in my case, the weight of the murdering of a good, professional and athletic son, who had never tried drugs; an innocent victim of this imbecilic war just as thousands more. Despite this tragedy, that we have not ceased carrying as a burden for over a year, instead of looking for nothing in anyone’s eyes as Dylan says, we are looking for something, always looking for something in everyone’s eyes: relief, justice and a path to peace. We have done so in Mexico, traveling across the country and holding a dialogue with everyone. We now do it here, traveling across the United States while intending to also hold a dialogue with you, because if Mexico has grave responsibilities for this war that is sinking everything into darkness, the United States also has a part in this. This war began here 40 years ago, when president Nixon decided against all sense of democracy and forgetting what had formerly happened with the prohibition of alcohol in the 30’s, that drugs are not a matter of freedom, of the market and the government’s control, but a matter of national security that had to be fought through violence.
Since then, in order to protect the 23 million drug consumers in the United States, this nation initiated this war that has destroyed Colombia and which now in turn is destroying Mexico, Central America, and is also menacing to destroy in the medium term the United States itself. This is nothing but the imposition of barbarity over civilization, of violence over peace and the triumph of authoritarianism over democracy.
This war’s failure is devastating: the 23 million American drug consumers are far from diminishing but increasing instead; in the past 5 years, Mexico has accumulated almost 70 thousand dead, more than 20 thousand missing people, more than 250 thousand have been displaced, along with hundreds of thousands of widows and orphans, and these figures keep rising. The American gun manufacturers arm the organized crime through illegal trade, while the Mérida Initiative legally arms the Mexican army, fostering war. The American jails imprison millions of human beings because of drug consumption. The immigrants are criminalized on this side of the border and extorted or made to disappear on the other side; the temptation to militarize using the police regime emerges on both sides, while setting a deep crisis for democracy and undermining the greatness of open societies.
“It’s not dark yet”, says Dylan’s song, but this reality foretells that night is about to fall, obscure, terrible and deeper than the shadows that are foreboding. But not yet, not yet, not yet, as we stated more than a year ago in Mexico City’s Zocalo, despite the unquenchable necessity, despite all the suffering, despite all this nameless pain, despite the growing and progressive lack of peace, despite the growing confusion, not yet.
If we are to prevent this night from arriving and enduring forever, the responsibility to stop it falls on all of us, not only on the Mexican and American citizens, but also on Central and Latin America.
If you, people of the United States, do not take on the errors of your governments – as we are doing with ours – and ask them to change their war policies toward drugs, to exert a strict control over the illegal gun trafficking into Mexico, to demand them to drastically attack money laundering, and to create human and inclusive policies for immigrants in order to rebuild not only the social tissue of México, but also that of Central America and the places within the United States stroked by misery, this night will in fact arrive, an absolute night, tantamount to the one that spread over those countries where crime, authoritarianism and militarism has rooted.
Only together we can save our democracy so threatened by war.
The pain of Mexico, Central America, Colombia and Brazil is not, as many of you believe and as some media intend to set in your minds, a matter merely concerning these citizens. Rather, it is a commonly shared issue that has emerged here as a war which was lost from its very inception, because it is absurd and because it has already cost too much pain.
This is why, from here, from Los Angeles, from the state of California, one of the fairest faces of democracy, we ask you, citizens of all over the United States, using the same words that many years ago Bob Dylan addressed while the devastating Vietnam War was taking place: “How many ears must one man have/ Before he can hear people cry?/ How many deaths will it take/ till he knows/ That too many people have died?”
Do not wait until this pain reaches your own lives to listen to the cry that we have not ceased to utter; do not wait until the death that this war has unleashed sets into your lives, as it did in ours, to know that death exists and that it must be stopped. This is the moment for us together to change this policy of war and save peace, life and democracy.
I will finish paraphrasing some verses from Bertol Brecht that, as some say, are really those of the Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller, verses that appeal to your conscience and your heart:
“One day they humiliated Colombians/ and I said nothing / because I was not Colombian / Then they tore Mexicans apart / and I said nothing / because I was not Mexican. / One day they came to get the African-Americans / but I said nothing / because I was not African-American. / Then they messed with the immigrants/ and I said nothing / because I was not an immigrant. / And then one day when they came for me / there was no one left either to protest, to stop war or death, or to save democracy.”
Los Angeles, California, August 13th 2012. More about the Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity in the USA headed to Washington DC