December 7, 2014
This time of year makes me reflective. Christmas lights illuminating every street corner and an almost palpable energy that comes with the holiday season. I’ve never been much of a religious man, but I feel blessed in December. Of course, that hasn’t always been the case. I remember many Christmases of nightmares and isolated anger at my countrymen, my patria, my father. Looking back over the past 40 years that anger hasn’t disappeared, but it has changed. I have hope for a better future.
My son turned 22 yesterday. It’s incredible to think about my world at 22 and his. He wants to be a journalist like me, and at the rate he is excelling in university, I am quite confident he will be able to do whatever he wants. I’m thankful for our close relationship. I’ve always been worried that my estranged relationship with my father would affect him. It did, but he also made his own decisions. I remember when I found out two years ago that Vicente met my father at least three times without my knowledge. When I first found out I felt betrayed—my son went against my wishes and saw a man I had no interest in him ever meeting. However, after some contemplation, I realized that I had no right to keep them from each other. I was so angry and I still haven’t forgiven him for his crimes, but I have found some semblance of inner peace, and I’m glad my son could know his grandfather before he died.
Our past is messy. There are no cure-alls or easy fixes. People have different ways of confronting and dealing with painful histories, and there is also still no hegemonic national narrative to remember. Throughout my lifetime I have experienced a number of methods of relating with my past. For a long time, I tried to run from it and forget my pain–a path that many of my countrymen are still choosing. It didn’t work. At least for me, I found it impossible to disconnect myself from my history, and it ended up being worse for my psychological well-being when I tried.
We are still fighting our demons, but there are steps of progress. The Museum of Memory and Human Rights, for example, is an important addition to the national memorialization project. While it does not provide a pre-coup narrative to give context to the events of the 1970s and 1980s, it does document and explore the pain of the past in order to move to a better future. I want Vicente to grow up with an understanding of where he came from and where he wants to go. I am impressed with the amount of youth from his generation that are now becoming interested in memory projects that connect with the past.
Only time will tell what the next chapter brings for Chile. The other day I read an article about the shrinking income gap between the rich and the poor in Chile and the various factors that could be causing that change—both good and bad. Moving forward is always complex. I don’t know what the future holds, but I know confronting our past is key to creating a better one.