San Vicente del Caguan, Colombia April 14, 2001
Member of the FARC political team which advises guerrilla peace negotiators.
San Vicente del Caguan, Colombia, April 14, 2001
Late in the night I talk with one young commander who is part of a team
advising the peace negotiators. He is intelligent with a broad-ranging
and inquisitive mind. When the conversation turns to international human
rights law I'm unsurprised but deeply disheartened by views he expresses.
His ideologically predictable logic--citing US sins as an excuse for
FARC refusal to comply with protocols requiring the abandonment of practices
such as the use of gas tank bombs or kidnapping--may serve a narrowly
conceived military strategy, but in human, moral and political terms?
Changing subject he asks if I've read a book called Angela's Ashes.
I'm amazed that Irish American writer Frank McCourt's memoir of impoverished
Irish childhood has made it all the way to the jungles of Colombia.
We talk about Ireland about the legend of Cuchulain and laugh over some
of the memoir's more humorous moments. Suddenly he grows earnest. "You
know what part of the book moved me the most. I remember that despite
that terrible poverty McCourt describes a teacher at school who told
his class: 'you may be poor but your mind is a castle to be filled with
treasures.' I'm reading McCourt's second book now."
I wonder what my friend will make of McCourt's descriptions of American
immigrant experience. I picture him surfing the web on his laptop. I
hope he finds many new treasures there for himself and his earnest younger
comrades--treasures to bridge 19th and 20th century struggles and to
inspire 21st century dreams.
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Colombia April 24, 2001