Roxanne and I saw “The Silence of Others” on Saturday. It was a powerful documentary of the struggle of heirs and survivors of the Franco regime’s slaughter of hundreds of thousands in Spain. It was both painful and inspiring, and it triggered an insight that I will share today with the usual Monday Week in Review that covers refugees, US isolationism and irresponsibility, the timid Democratic Party, and the state of our ‘democracy.’
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Tomorrow’s blog will report on what I learned at the Precautionary Principle training put on by TEWA Women’s Unitied and the Communities for Clean Water. It was a very illuminating training both in terms of the wealth of background information on LANL, the Department of Energy and the way in which regulations are enforced, regulations that are supposed to protect us. It also introduced us to the Precautionary Principle as a criteria that could and should be used by the State in regulating ongoing operations and the clean up of the three underground plumes that threatens our water supply. We also discussed strategy for the Nov 7 hearing on the Chromium 6 plume. They will be meeting again next Sunday to advance their strategy. You will want to check out Tuesday’s blog and, if you are not canvassing, consider going to the next planning session. Details tomorrow.
The Silence of Others–An Inspiring Film of the Human Capacity for Hope and Tenacious Commitment to Justice
What a film — 90 minutes of heart-wrenching tales from tenacious survivors or the children of those ‘gone missing’ during the Franco regime and their refusal to accept the post-Franco Amnesty Law that freed many political prisoners but closed the door to victims seeking justice for their torture, stolen infants, and the mass murder of their relatives. Most of us know something about Franco and his dictatorship that spanned 40 years in Spain. But whatever you may have read can’t compare to the vivid testimony of those who were there, who suffered, and who now seek justice. With spliced footage of executions and short commentary from those seeking justice, you get a much more visceral and real understanding of just how despotic Franco was, how revered by some, and how feared by others. But more than a history lesson on Franco and Spain, it is the human story of a half dozen individuals who were unrelenting in seeking justice. They refused to accept that the Spanish government would not allow investigations into thousands of babies stolen from women viewed as ‘reds’ and given to upper middle class families, or into individuals who savagely tortured thousands who disagreed with the regime. They also refused to investigate or hold accountable those who executed tens of thousands and dumped them into mass graves.
While you do get a history lesson, it is told by individuals who experienced the despotism of the Franco regime directly: a man who was tortured by the infamous “Billy the Kid”; an 88-year-old woman who wanted to reclaim the remains of her father who had been executed and thrown in a mass grave, and an even older woman who opens the film pushing her walker on cobblestone streets to a bridge outside her village where her mother was executed. Her wrinkled face, toothless mouth and pained eyes convey far more than any narrative, as she says, “Life is unjust….no it is not life, it is humans who are unjust” as a tear falls down her cheek. While the movie is painful to watch, it is also inspiring, as the characters you follow relentlessly seek justice, going to the Spanish courts over and over again, only to be rebuked. Going to Argentina to ask a court there to take their testimony, to allow them to tell their stories. And when an Argentine judge convenes a hearing and Spain blocks Argentina from taking video testimony from victims, scores of them go to Argentina to testify.
Along the way, there are small victories–the Madrid City Council approves name changes of a dozen streets named after Franco and his henchmen being one. Imagine living on a street named after the person who was responsible for your torture. I don’t want to ruin the movie by telling you more. Below is a link where you can download the entire film. But I do want to present one of the things Roxanne and I took from this. The characters in this film were fighting against impossible odds. In the beginning there were only a handful seeking justice and they were faced with a country that simply did not want to revisit the past and open old wounds. And yet they persisted for years and years and slowly built a movement. The power of their efforts, indeed its meaning, was not to be found in whether they succeeded, but rather in the dignity of their work and their refusal to accept anything less than justice.
As I sat in the theater, I thought of how they were fighting to preserve a memory of the past….against all odds. I couldn’t help but think about the struggle ahead in trying to preserve a future for our grandchildren and their children in the face of climate change and the newest projections indicating that we have just 10-12 years to completely reverse the laws of not just a Spanish court, but the way of being of an entire world, a world in which too many leaders are simply unwilling or unable to grasp the necessary path. And if that weren’t enough of a challenge, we simultaneously face the ongoing fight for economic and racial justice.
It is a steep, steep climb, and there will be many defeats before we can see important wins on the horizon. But you couldn’t help but be inspired by these Spaniards who didn’t care what the odds were or how powerful the opposition –their cause was right, and they would celebrate their wins and redouble their efforts after every defeat. As I left the theater I tried to imagine a documentary about our generation and its response to climate change. I tried to imagine my grandchildren watching a film about us and how we handle the next ten years, and I pray that we seem half as noble as the Spanish heroes who fought to retrieve justice against all odds.
Paul & Roxanne
Click here to download the film, The Silence of Others.
There are some important actions this week, most importantly, opportunities to canvass or call in support of your favorite candidate. Carpools are going to Los Lunas to canvass for Xochitl Torres Small and I imagine for Steve Fischmann, too. And Retake and Adelante Progressive Caucus members will be canvassing for Abbas Akhil in ABQ in an effort to put a climate scientist into the Roundhouse. Click here to look at the options. The Friday New Mexican featured an article about how New Mexico is the most apathetic state in the US when it comes to voting. Please do your part to get out the vote and canvass or call for justice. Just two weeks left. If you want to join us in canvassing for Abbas on either Oct 27-28 or Nov. 3-4, please write me at paul@RetakeOurDemocracy.org. We have about 20 folks signed up so far. We need more. The planet needs you. Please don’t sit on the sidelines. .
Trump’s Lies About Refugees and His America First Policies Can Only Lead Us to a Dystopian Future with the US Barricaded Against the Masses
Saturday, Oct. 20. This post describes the mass caravan of desperate Honduran refugees heading to and through the Mexican border and contrasts their story with Trump’s revolting and entirely unsubstantiated characterizations of these fleeing refugees as “really bad people” who grab children when they get to the border knowing them for less than 20 minutes. His hateful rhetoric is designed to inflame his ardent supporters and reinforce an us-vs-them fear. We also contrast the US’ refugee policies, accepting only 20,000 refugees in 2017-18 fiscal year to Germany who accepted 1 million during 2016. From there we examine how a sustained “America First” policy will require the US to adopt unimaginably selfish policies, ignoring responsibility for worldwide poverty and consequences of climate change that will make the current border crisis seem mild. CNN video of the refugees being attacked with tear gas at the Mexican border is offered at the end of the post.
Trump’s Vile Rhetoric and Policies Focus on Profit Over People or Planet While the Democrats Fiddle in the Dark
Thursday, Oct. 18. The post focuses upon the frightening degree to which Trump’s rhetoric, choice of allies, policies related to climate change and trade, all revolve around corporate profit. In This Changes Everything, Naomi Klein wrote in 2014 that climate change created an urgency that could lead not just to climate justice, but to international economic and social justice. The UN’s IPCC report gives us an even more urgent deadline, but Trump and Democratic leadership show no taste for real solutions. It is all about profit. Where is Democratic Leadership? Shumer went all in on Trump’s military budget and worked behind the scenes to fast track some truly horrific Federal judge appointments to free up a few Senators so they could go home to campaign. But if you can’t mount a principled opposition to insanity, how can you espouse anything meaningful on the campaign trail. The blog borrows heavily from The Nation’s update of its Autopsy of the Democratic Party from Oct 2017, assessing the Party’s lack of progress over the past year. A very, very worthwhile post to read. Click here to read the full post.
13 Red States with 34 Million Voters Have 26 GOP Senators. California with 40 Million Voters Has Two Democratic Senators
Tuesday, October 16. The post focuses upon not just the headline news of the grossly disproportionate representation in the Senate, a decidedly conservative tilt, but also describes the etiology of a wide range of entirely undemocratic features to our ‘democracy’ dating back to our founding fathers. The post examines the historic conservatism of the Supreme Court, touted often as our protector of liberty, but except for a brief period in the 60-80’s it has been anything but a tool for justice. It also examines our campaign finance system that allows the corporatocracy and oligarchy to control the campaign conversation and candidates. The post also includes links to the original CounterPunch article from which excerpts are offered and a number of other articles if you want to go deeper. Click here to get the full blog.