Dec 8-El Salvad
Vigilance Voice


Dec. 8--Saturday--Ground Zero Plus 88

            Terrorism can and does terrorize those who wish not to kill it, but have the courage to face it in its darkest caves with nothing but their naked faith.
            I was reminded of that the other day when my son-in-law, Joe, celebrated his tenth year of survival after being captured and locked up in a dingy cell by El Salvadoran police

known for their quick and ruthless extermination of prisoners who deny their authority.
            I was walking with my daughter when she casually mentioned it was a decade ago that Joe and she walked into the mouth of the Terrorism Beast in the distant jungles of a land that was torn by war.
            My wife and I could not stop our daughter from going alone down to the war-torn country to provide aid for the villagers who were being oppressed by the government.   Many of the indigenous people “disappeared” until someone stumbled upon a grave where they were buried with their hands tied behind their backs and a plastic bag over their heads—a common way of torturing and then killing any dissidents.

       Sabra, our older daughter, went down to the strife-riddled country to participate in “live-ins” with villagers who were attempting to take their illegally seized  land back from the government.   She met Joe in Central America and the two Americans linked up with other fearless world citizens willing to risk their lives by exposing themselves to a country’s brutality over its people.   The theory was that if an American, or a German, or a Swiss was part of the indigenous community, the military would not randomly kill or torture the villagers for fear of “bad press.”
            But on this particular day, ten years ago, the villagers pushed the military to the extreme.  They were on a “land take.”  The villagers, nearly 500 of them, had hidden for over two years in the bottom of church after being driven away from their land and having their lives threatened by the government.  They were tired of running. As the war in El Salvador was nearing its end, the villagers mustered the courage to assemble and “squat” on a piece of land to claim it for their own.  Under the “old law” if they could possess the land it would become theirs--squatters rights!.
            Sabra and Joe and a contingent of other “foreign Nationals” from various countries, were living with the villagers to thwart the military from razing the primitive complex.   On this particular day the local people and foreigners marched deep into the jungles to “squat” on a chunk of potential  homeland.
            The military appeared, armed to the teeth.  Machine guns were jammed in people’s faces and bullhorns shouted that they must disperse or die.  A Jesuit priest began to say the world’s longest Mass.  He performed a spiritual filibuster, designed to intimidate the troops from violence, because they were primarily Catholic.

        As the primitive Mass drew on, the military began to circle the cluster of villagers, knotted into a ball similar to how a "wild west" wagon train formed a circle when under attack.   The El Salvadoran military began to pluck out the foreigners, reaching in and snagging the German, the Swiss, and Joe.  They dragged them to a truck under the muzzle of machine guns, forcing them into the back to await God only knew what.   They attempted to capture my daughter, but the women of the village formed a thick wall of defiance around her—knowing that  a woman would suffer far greater harm and horrible possibilities versus what a man might endure.

            My daughter, safely jammed in the epicenter of the village women as troops tried unsuccessfully to reach her and extract her, watched the truck pull away and her finance, Joe, disappear.   Hours passed and the tension grew to such an extreme that the villagers finally broke and dispersed, walking back to their make-shift camp by a river.  
            Sabra gathered all the belongings for Joe and the others and hitched a ride into the main city to find out what had happened—to see if he was still alive—and to put as much pressure on the government to release him and the others.
            She went to the U.S. Embassy, which, at the time, was siding with the military.  They said they would “look into it,” but didn’t.   Days passed.   Then, Joe was released.  The newspapers showed pictures of him and the other foreigners, with a headline saying they were “foreign terrorists,” who attempted to blow up a government facility.  They were being “kicked out of the country.”
            The story was a nightmare when Sabra and Joe related it.   I felt my skin crawl with fear for them.   They had fought Terrorism with naked faith.   They put themselves in the jaws of the Beast, and felt its sharp, fetid teeth and its foul breath.   They were lucky.  They survived the Terror.   They are now personas non grata of a country that, at the time, held no compunction for killing anyone or anything that stood in its totalitarian way.
            Locked in the cell, Joe told of his fear when the guards harassed them.   Of being interrogated.   Of the fear of being exterminated and dumped in some shallow grave.   Of the CIA coming in and out, ignoring them.  Of not being able to communicate or having any rights or freedom to defend himself against the oppression.
            Then there was my daughter’s fear of what might happen.   Her struggles and pounding on the doors of the Embassies, trying to raise awareness, trying to get information, trying to “save her future husband.”
            I had gone to war in Vietnam with weapons, airpower, artillery.  My fear was minimal compared to the unarmed fear of those who fight the enemy with faith alone.   I thought a lot about that on December 5, the anniversary of Joe's and Sabra’s Day of Terror.  September 11, 2001—when Terrorists threatened their lives, their security, their  country of birth and its citizens-- was equal to their December 5, 1991 when Terrorists threatened the rights of all the innocent women and children of El Salvador who did not agree with the " terrorist point-of-view".
            Faith is a great shield.   It drives people to the edge of human challenge.   It makes a priest stand in front of bulldozer driven by a squad of military soldiers with machine guns, rifles and pistols about to tear down a hut to remove squatters.  

 It drives armless, driven young people to live among the “victims of tyranny” in hopes they might stave off the assault on the women and children’s right to claim a homeland ripped from them by a government seeking to empower itself over its citizens.  
            When I write about Semper Vigilante—Always Vigilant—and extol the Three Shields of Vigilance—Courage, Conviction and Action—I forget to remember often about my son-in-law's and my daughter’s trek to a far-off land where their naked faith stood one day under the threat of death to underscore the virtues of the Three Shields.
            I was glad my daughter casually reminded me about the ten-year anniversary.   It made me proud to know that not only were they Parents of Vigilance, both of them were Warriors of Vigilance.
            But the war they waged was not one where they chose to “kill Terrorism.”  Rather, they chose to “face Terrorism.”  

            In the conversation that ensued with my daughter, she was deeply troubled about the idea of “killing all the Terrorists,” which is the current strategy of the U.S.   Her instincts were non-violent, but then over the past ten years her world had changed.  She has two children and the Terrorists were attacking their security by blowing up the World Trade Center, and vowing to indiscriminately kill anyone or anything that got in their way.   She was knotted up between the desire to know her children were safe from Terrorism’s long and ugly reach, and her desire for a non-violent solution.
            I spouted out my militaristic point of view.   How we must eradicate the “rats” or they will keep infesting our homeland.   It sounded good, but deep down I wondered if that were possible.  Could we “kill all the rats” of the world?  Could we bomb and strafe and execute all the Terrorists of the world?

            Even as the words passed my lips I felt uneasy too.
            Yet I knew that standing up to them, face-to-face, would mean certain death.   They had no ability to relate to the safety of a child, or distinguish between the innocent and the military.  We were all enemies of their beliefs.  
            But I did know one thing for sure.  I knew that Terrorism sought to create Fear, Intimidation and produce Complacency in a society.   That was a bottom-line truth.
            I knew also that a Parent of Vigilance, a Citizen of Vigilance, a Relative of Vigilance, could stand face-to-face against the Fear, the Intimidation and the Complacency if they took the Vow of Vigilance.

         I knew in some small but defiant way, an American father or mother or uncle or aunt or cousin of a child could take the position that they were not going to let Terrorism expel them from their own country.   They were not going to be driven away from the security of their homeland by Fear of the Oppressor.
            As the villagers in El Salvador, Americans could perform a “land-take.”  They could “squat on their rights” to preserve and protect their children.  They could, as the village women had done for my daughter over a decade ago, circle the children of our nation with vigilance.   They could form a wall of “naked Conviction” so strong as to drive the Oppressors away eventually.  They could show strength rather than weakness that their children were more important than their own lives.
            The villagers ten years ago had taken my daughter as “child of Terrorism” and formed a human ring around her.  They had become the “Mothers of Vigilance,” willing to risk their lives to protect her from the grasp of Terrorism.

          I hoped that Americans were willing to form a human knot around their children.  I hoped they had the courage the indigent, uneducated, struggling peasants of El Salvador had shown to my daughter that day, December 5, 1991.

Go To: "Let's Not Shut The Eye Of Vigilance Ever Again"

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