The Generals of South America
Why is it that when I look at the dictators of South America I see my grandfather, “El Turco” as they called him, brown paper-bag skin, teeth and mouth ready to smile. I see these generals of Chile or Argentina or Cuba, and in Fidel I see my father, an old world Jew, black bearded, thin-faced, ready for prayers, for oaths, for Sunday lunch with wine. These are pictures of men I know. On CNN they tell me about their dirty wars, their missions of disappearing thousands, using electricity and hoods and dark vans in the middle of the night, the tentacles of power covering a whole nation in the darkness of what happens after a coup. I have read about mangled bodies, blood and vomit on metal slabs, priests giving benedictions for death squads, for infants wrestled out of mothers’ bodies, stolen and given to señoras with manicured lawns, pressed pastel suits, and rose gardens. But I look at these pictures of the generals of South America and see men I know and love and miss in death. And I wonder about the daughters, the ones who sit in courtrooms now, and listen to their fathers’ lives of torture and midnight shootings and electricity in the soft blue places of the body, and I wonder if they see their fathers still in those faces.