December 10, 2006

At first I didn’t believe it. Then I didn’t want to believe it. Then I was the kind of happy that isn’t really happiness, just anger wearing different clothes. I’m still feeling all of these things, all at once. I have to write it to make it feel real: Augusto José Ramón Pinochet Ugarte is dead.

People have been in the streets all day, celebrating and mourning. Raúl wasn’t home when I left for work this morning, and I wonder if he was able to get home at all, the city’s so crowded. He’s been staying out a lot lately, and I’ve stopped asking why. I’m not angry, not really. I never made it easy for him to love me – I’m not sure I ever wanted to. Part of the reason, I think, is that only think of him as a distraction, first from my fear and then from the work I used to get over my fear. That’s no way to treat a person. So I feel compassion for him, even though he’s probably with another woman right now, talking about the mobs in Santiago, wondering what will happen.

See? I didn’t set out to write about him, it’s just so hard to write about Pinochet. I’m certainly not mourning him, but I can’t find it in me to celebrate. After so many years of indecision, my savior was this idea of justice. In this instance, I have to admit, divine justice isn’t enough for me. He committed his crimes on earth, and I wanted to see him tried in an earthly court. My co-workers mostly feel the same; we’ve spent so much time pouring over case after case, complaint after complaint, dealing with scheme after scheme from his lawyers and any representative the elite can find. I heard Judge Guzmán was disconsolate when he found out.

Honestly, the most peace I’ve gotten about it has come from Mamá. I called her the second I found out (now that she’s retired, we talk on the phone much more often.) I was telling her how frustrated I feel, and she said, “But he had no peace. The most dangerous thing about power is getting to believe that everyone agrees with you. He lost that. From the moment he returned, it wasn’t as a conquering hero, it was as a criminal.” I suppose if that’s the justice we got, that’s the justice I’ll take.

Ana, surprisingly, was more at peace with it too. We had lunch together today, in a cafe not far from the one where I saw a stranger disappeared. “Him dying won’t bring the dead back, and him going to prison wouldn’t do that either. The past can’t be forgotten, but we have to think about what we can do going forwards.”

I don’t disagree, but I don’t think it’s that simple either. The living carry the wounds of the dead with them, in many ways. I see it in the families of the desaparecidos, each memory a scar. When people push them to forget, their lost die all over again. I want to heal that past for the girl I used to be and the people I used to know, but also for the people we are now. This country deserves better than buried stories and half-truths. It can’t have an absolute of anything, especially not now, but we can at least strive for some combination of truth, reconciliation, and justice.

Ana’s going to keep trying to heal our political system, and I’m going to keep working in our legal one. I’m going to keep trying these military men, these murderers. Every time I try a case, or hear a complaint, every time my work makes my heart race, I close my eyes. I think of her hands closed in on mind, and remember how it felt to hear the call of the person, and the country, that needed me. I remind myself that they still do.

1 thought on “December 10, 2006

  1. ssvolk says:

    As you said before, Clara, between Ana and you, you’ve got all the bases covered. I’m pretty content with that!

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