Liz’s Weekly Poetry Series: War On Drugs, Caravan For Peace
After his 24 year old son was found bound and shot—another casualty of Mexico’s drug war—poet Javier Sicilia wrote the following lines before later stating in an interview “Poetry doesn’t exist in me anymore.”
The world is not worthy of words
they have been suffocated from the inside
as they suffocated you, as they tore apart your lungs …
the pain does not leave me
all that remains is a world
through the silence of the righteous,
only through your silence and my silence, Juanelo.
In the year since poetry’s departure from Javier’s life, he has been anything but silent. Last Sunday, Javier helped launch a Caravan For Peace. The location for the kickoff event is described in this piece by Paul Imison, titled Along the Border of the Surreal:
On Sunday, Border Field State Park was the venue for the opening ceremony of the Caravan for Peace, a 30-day tour of 27 US cities by Mexico’s Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity. Specifically, the ceremony took place in what used to be known as Friendship Park (inaugurated by – irony of ironies – former First Lady Pat Nixon in 1971). The park was a meeting spot for families separated by the border for years until the Department of Homeland Security closed it in 2009 amid yet more paranoia about “border security”.
The symbolism of the venue was glaring. As the Mexican government fights a so-called “drug war” (lately rebranded by President Felipe Calderon as the “war on organized crime”), which has taken anywhere between 60,000 and 100,000 lives in less than six years, one might ask exactly where is the “friendship” in the US-Mexico relationship? US trade policy destroys Mexican jobs and wages, immigration policy criminalizes those looking to escape their country’s economic quagmire, and US-trained Mexican troops run roughshod through the country’s cities. Meanwhile, 70% of firearms seized south of the border are illegally smuggled from – Well, where else?
While the right went apoplectic over Fast and Furious, which resulted in a few border agents getting killed by guns that “walked” south of the border, the death toll of Mexico’s drug war is estimated to be around 60,000 people, with 10,000 people disappeared, and well over 100,000 people displaced.
This is a direct result of our guns, our insatiable appetite for drugs, and our government’s insatiable appetite for war.
Speaking of the latter, as reported by the NYT in July, the war-loving Obama administration has found another opportunity to expand his predecessors death policies.
In a significant expansion of the war on drugs, the United States has begun training an elite unit of counternarcotics police in Ghana and planning similar units in Nigeria and Kenya as part of an effort to combat the Latin American cartels that are increasingly using Africa to smuggle cocaine into Europe.
The growing American involvement in Africa follows an earlier escalation of antidrug efforts in Central America, according to documents, Congressional testimony and interviews with a range of officials at the State Department, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Pentagon.
Plenty of people in the states—probably a majority—don’t think America has anything to apologize for. Any president, for example, who publicly acknowledges some “accidental” atrocity, gets immediately lambasted for doing so.
Rebecca Solnit, writing for The Nation, isn’t afraid to apologize to Mexico for the role America plays in perpetuating the conditions of their abject misery.
Criticizing policy is not what makes Rebecca’s apology so compelling; it’s her examination of the underlying reason Americans spend billions of dollars on illegal drugs:
The drug war is fueled by many things, and maybe the worst drug of all is money, to which so many are so addicted that they can never get enough. It’s a drug for which they will kill, destroying communities and ecologies, even societies, whether for the sake of making drones, Wall Street profits, or massive heroin sales. Then there are the actual drugs, to which so many others turn for numbness.
There is variety in the range of drugs. I know that marijuana mostly just makes you like patio furniture, while heroin renders you ethereally indifferent and a little reptilian, and cocaine pumps you up with your own imaginary fabulousness before throwing you down into your own trashiness. And then there’s meth, which seems to have the same general effect as rabies, except that the victims crave it desperately.
Whatever their differences, these drugs, when used consistently, constantly, destructively, are all anesthesia from pain. The Mexican drug cartels crave money, but they make that money from the way Yankees across the border crave numbness. They sell unfeeling. We buy it. We spend tens of billions of dollars a year doing so, and by some estimates about a third to a half of that money goes back to Mexico.
If you think the war on drugs is about eliminating drugs, then you’d probably think the war was a failure. Also, you’d be wrong. The war is a success, which is why it’s being taken to Africa.
I wonder if the war on drugs will be brought up at any of the presidential debates, and if it does, how will the only two “viable” candidates respond?
Imagine Javier Sicilia walking on stage, saying nothing, just giving both men a cold, dark stare.
Because the world is not worthy of words.