March 30, 1981: Letter from Pablo with NY Times clipping

(note: though uploaded out of order, this March 30, 1981 post comes chronologically before the preceding Malvinas entry)

Two years ago, I wrote about the heartbreak I experienced at the Mercedes Sosa concert I attended. I wish that this could have been a sweeping romantic aesthetic heartbreak, as her songs moved the depths of my soul and gave voice to hope even as they illuminated the problems of the world. But my heartbreak was no such thing. Instead, I felt a confused and cold heartbreak, cold ringing of the metal van doors as my peers, students, fans, were arrested and thrown in. The cruel chill of seeing beauty like La Negra overcome by ugliness of la junta. Yes, Sosa in exile can now speak to the world about the shadowy horror that grips Argentina. And, as a letter I received yesterday from Pablo demonstrates, the world needs such voices badly.

I haven’t written for a while because my voice felt burdened by a million invisible kilos. All around me, the barrage of official public language seems to be framed in a perverse code: nothing means what it says, and ambiguous threats seem to take precedent over actual communication. Pablo, my brother, couldn’t take it any more: nine months ago, he left to study in los Estados Unidos. He was bright enough to win a scholarship to a Master’s in Public Policy at UCLA , and lucky enough that he was able to fly out of Argentina for the start of last fall’s semester – apparently, word of his participation in the “clandestine” Marxist study group (their meeting in secret hasn’t prevented two members of the group from being disappeared) hadn’t reached the government. Or maybe it had, and their standards for who to apprehend, which lives to ruin or let be, are nothing more than a damn caprice.

In any case, Pablo made it out of the twisted spiderweb of language in this country, at least for a while. Even though I can’t shake the fear that our letters are being opened and read in some bunker en route, the two of us have been corresponding. Hearing from him fills me with joy, although the contents of his letters don’t always. Yesterday, the envelope I received contained not only his words but those of the NY Times. The article clipping he included from the USA’s supposed top newspaper shows how even in a country where language still holds some meaning, some dignity, mainstream discourse suppresses messy suffering into a convenient, self-serving, and easy-to-digest bite of prose:

NY Times 1981

Though Videla handing over the reigns to Viola will only mean a change in the face of the junta, this seems to be enough for the Casa Rosada to placate the White House. But Viola’s language to the American Congress, as reported by these American journalists, earns the Reagan “handshake” in the article’s first sentence only by weaseling out of responsibility. The government will “try harder.” Try harder?! Viola, your sentence structure shows just how you sneak out of trying at all! The syntactic separation of Argentina’s Capital G Government and lowercase m military is a fiction. They are one and the same! The “6,000” (surely a drastic understatement) Argentines haven’t just “disappeared in military custody,” as if vanished by some unknown force. The government, the military, is the actor disappearing them! Viola tries with his rhetoric to join the chorus of this tragedy, analyzing the drama from the outside, to disguise the blood on his villain’s palms, the very same that exchange a handshake with Reagan!!!

1 thought on “March 30, 1981: Letter from Pablo with NY Times clipping

  1. ssvolk says:

    Ah, yes! 6,000 people? I’m sure there’s here somewhere. Has anyone looked in that spare room? Well, we’ll find them, don’t you worry. And I’m sure that General Haig had many notes to compare with General Viola. Disgraceful!

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