I had something prepared that was full of sweetness and light, when I learned that Gabriel Garcia Marquez had walked on. That threw me into a funk. I'm not a great consumer of his work -- I've only read a few of his short stories. My husband and daughter have read him extensively, though. Mr. rb137 waxes on exaltingly about him, but my daughter once said, "My personal beef with One Hundred Years of Solitude is that it should not take over 500 pages for me to learn that everything is cyclical just so I am prepared for the MA exam."
There is a wide range of opinion in my family on everything.
I think Gabriel Garcia Marquez's life was important for another reason, and it has everything to do with what is happening in America today.
I am not sure what kind of humanitarian Garcia Marquez was, but he was a vocal opponent of Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship in Chile. He sat on the Russell Tribunal on Latin America that addressed human rights abuses perpetrated by the Pinochet regime.
He was known to be a close friend of Fidel Castro, in fact, Castro often read Garcia Marquez's unpublished manuscripts. Human rights activists in the US were sometimes critical of Garcia Marquez because of his relationship with Castro, citing human rights abuses in Cuba. But that isn't where I want to go today.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez was one of the few artists whose pen and voice extended into the United States from Latin America during a time when we were supporting the coup d'état led by Augusto Pinochet in 1973 and the subsequent brutal dictatorship that followed. Arguably, without the United States' help, Pinochet would not have come to power, and could not have destroyed lives, disappeared families, or punished dissenters on a grand scale. The lucky ones spent decades in exile. Many that didn't get out died.
Garcia Marquez was telling us about it. We just didn't hear him.
We can't change what happened in the past, but our hindsight extends to the present day. A quick look at history will tell us that Pinochet came to power in 1973 -- when the White House was occupied by Richard Nixon. On Nixon's high-level staff were Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney.
Today, Cheney and Rumsfeld are still front and center on the human rights abuse stage, defending their enhanced interrogation program as something both useful and free of torture -- in direct contradiction to the recent Senate report on the subject. And Cheney is in fact worried about the consequences of his actions. He even uses "Pinochet" as a verb:
Dick Cheney, it has been said, fears that "somebody will Pinochet him."The people that Garcia Marquez spoke out against are still creating media narratives. They are no longer in the White House, but they do have influence. And the final irony? They live in their own universe of magical realism. They just don't understand that it's fiction.
This extraordinary grammatical twist of the word Pinochet cannot be found in Cheney's recently published memoirs. It was used in several television interviews by Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, the former chief of staff to Colin Powell, to suggest that George W. Bush's vice president dreads the possibility that he, like Gen. Augusto Pinochet, Chile's late dictator, will be put on trial for crimes against humanity in a foreign land.
Walk well, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. May we pay better attention today.
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