Scott on December 11, 2006 at 9:59 pm
This week we get to say goodbye to a man that has been called one of the most evil political figures of the 20th Century – Augusto Pinochet of Chile.
I was only vaguely aware of Pinochet and his history as the leader of Chile until ten years ago when teaching a high school English class. I was doing a unit on modern poetry that included contemporary music lyrics. One of my students brought in the lyrics to the song “They Dance Alone” by Sting, who wrote the song after reading a news story describing how the women of Chile dealt with the disappearance of their men (husbands, brothers, sons, etc). They were not allowed to express their grief, because to do so would have revealed that they were displeased with the Pinochet government. Instead, they took pictures of their missing loved ones and began to dance with the pictures in the streets, using a dance that was a traditional folk dance that was commonly used when men and women would court eachother while dating. In this case, the dance became a nonverbal expression of their grief and outrage.
I knew of Sting’s song but had never taken the time to research the meaning and history behind the song. The student who brought the song did so because his parents were both Chilean and had both escaped from Chile and Pinochet’s reign of terror. Most of their family was still in Chile and this boy knew for a fact that at least one of his uncles had become one of the “Disappeared,” which was the term that was used to refer to the people whom Pinochet and his people caused to disappear after they dared to voice opinions that challenged the government.
It is a shame that Pinochet was never actually taken through a trial and forced to face his accusers. His claims of illness, confusion, ignorance, etc. rang hollow on the ears of those who faced torture and mutilation at the hands of his people and on the ears of the family members of those who were taken away and murdered. He should have faced a Nuremburg-style court to deal with the heinous crimes that he was directly and indirectly responsible for. Instead, he and his attorney’s were allowed to stall the court system for years and years.
Though he should have faced trial and should have, ideally, been forced to endure all of the tortures that the people of Chile endured, he is dead and that is something.
It is amazing, though, how he can still be venerated by some of the people in Chile and how his family can claim offense at Pinochet not being given a funeral befitting a head of state. I think that his body should be dumped outside the presidential residence and left there to rot in view of the world while those who were wronged by him pass by and spit on it…but that’s just me.
Pinochet’s son, though, has a different opinion. According to Reuters, Marco Antonio Pinochet denounced the Chilean government’s decision to deny his father a state funeral as “petty,” saying that the current government was “incapable of taking a noble stance at this moment in history“. He went on to say, “Now those from the other side can see that my father has not been forgotten and that he was a much-loved man.”
It is interesting that Marco Pinochet would talk about the need to take a “noble stance” in relation to his father. Augusto Pinochet was responsible for ordering atrocity upon atrocity for years, and though he claimed ignorance of the acts of rape, torture, mutilation and murder, the only people who believed him also believed that O.J. was innocent. How is genital torture “noble?” How is leaving thousands of children without mothers or fathers or both “noble?” How is what his father did “noble” by any sense of the word, while his father NOT being given a state funeral is ignoble?
Pinochet may have been a much loved man. I’m sure that he had friends and family who loved him and I’m sure that those who benefited from his reign of torture and oppression loved him, but for the most of the people living in Chile and the hundreds of thousands who fled, “love” probably isn’t a very accurate description of their feelings.
Maybe it’s just me, but I’m thinking that Pinochet’s son is in denial. I know that sometimes people argue that the end may justify the means if the end is worthy enough but when is the brutality of the means just too much? The claim is made the Pinochet saved Chile from Communism, but which is worse…escaping the oppression of Communism or experiencing the terror and oppression of the party opposing Communism.
I’m thinking that both suck, but again…that’s just me.
Update: Since it’s available, here’s Sting performing They Dance Alone:
Category: Politics |