Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Mexico and the Death of Poetry

Few are the times we'd choose death as an option when offered others, but one such time is in the case of your own child.

Nobody wants to outlive their kid.

In Mexico, where President Felipe Calderon unleashed a civil war against drug cartels that has claimed the lives of nearly 60,000 since 2006, a lot of parents are burying their children.

Most of them are anonymous and stained with the implication of having been involved in the drug trade.

But last week, the savages whom ply the death hovering over Mexico like a toxic cloud, picked on the child of a man with a voice.

One of the six, ill-fated young fellows found tortured and asphyxiated, in a car south of Cuernavaca, was the son of noted Mexican poet Javier Sicilia who had to get the news while working in the Philippines.

They were killed by gangsters for having alerted authorities to shady behavior for being citizens. On the plane ride home, Sicilia wrote a poem to his boy.

highwayscribery has done his best to translate:

The world is no longer worthy of the word
(El Mundo ya no es digno de la palabra)

They have drowned it inside us
(Nos lo ahogaron adentro)

In the same way they suffocated you
(Como te asfixiaron)

In the same way they clawed out your lungs
(Como te desgarraron a ti los pulmones)

And the pain refuses to leave me
(Y el dolor no se me aparta)

All that is left is a world
(Solo queda un mundo)

For the silence of the just
(Por el silencio de los justos)

For your silence and my silence alone, Juanelo.
(Solo por tu silencio y por mi silencio, Juanelo).

When Sicilia (pictured above) arrived in Mexico he read the poem and added, “It’s my last poem. I can’t write poetry. Poetry no longer exists in me.”

And so another voice, a precious one, was silenced by heartless beings who resist application of the term “human.”

Forgive us if piling politics on top of poetry seems inappropriate in this instance, but that’s what we promise and pledge here at highwayscribery: politics, poetry and prose.

Back in 2006, when the Mexican presidential campaign was in full swing, this blog surprised no one with its full-throated support of the left-wing offering, Manuel Lopez Obrador.

An outspoken advocate for the poor, a strong candidate with a healthy coalition of peasants, unionists, and urban hepcats, he was defeated through a combination of cynical Madison Avenue-styled attacks from his opponents and, when that did not work, screwed by the country’s supreme court.

Sound familiar?

Calderon, a diminutive nerd with an educational pedigree in the U.S., dressed in military garb for his inauguration, in breach of the country’s laws.

It was all downhill from there.

The little soldier that could launched Mexico’s armed forces into a war they were not prepared to win, because many of them were part of the drug transport-selling complex and the rest were under-armed and under-trained when compared with professional assassins their commander and chief had targeted.

You might be asking how the other guy, Lopez Obrador, would have handled the same intractable situation.

Well, and we are speculating here, he might have legalized the drugs and pulled the rug out from under the murderers by taking the risk and, hence, the profit, out of moving the stuff north the border.

Calderon’s predecessor, Vicente Fox, actually did this and had to backtrack in approximately two days time when our last president, Little Bush, told him to do so.

In left-wing fantasy land, we tell ourselves Lopez Obrador, had he been elected, would have legalized the stuff and then held fast.

Because that would have been right.

Mexico has, for too long, paid not only the price of America’s drug habit, but that of its policies, which entail the imposition of prohibitions confected by a moral few on everybody else.

Here in California, over the last year or so, we saw a burgeoning of retail pharmacies made possible by the state’s medical marijuana law, the Obama administration’s announcement that it would not persecute such enterprises, and local authorities’ slowness to respond.

Street life got cleaner. Supply went local, became plentiful and cheaper. The market saw some interesting permutations as people who would have indulged, but had no interest in plumbing dangerous corners for their stash, suddenly could do so in safety.

Now they’re rolling it back into the hands of criminals and those daring enough to do business with them.

The Obama administration, transformative in no way any of us who supported the candidate might have hoped, is falling into the familiar patterns of governance, sticking its federal nose into state affairs or resorting to military tribunals first prescribed by the most rancid and reactionary elements of our political class.

Wars. Drug wars. Oil wars. War wars.

More wars, the death of poetry, and a silencing of the lambs.