Friends of my friend were kidnapped in Colombia over the weekend.
Maria Claudia popped up in chat Monday, “Today is a weird day,” she wrote.
“Two of my best friends were kidnapped last night.”
“Oh my god.”
It is real. Violence creeps closer, no matter how hard we try to keep it at bay, no matter how thickly we deny that it could happen to us or those we love.
They were on vacation at a calm, quiet community along the coast of Colombia – their homeland – and took a boat ride with other tourists (a total of six were taken). Maria Claudia sent me a photo of the young couple, they look So Happy Together!
I’ve been keeping their faces in mind, envisioning them safe, imagining processes that will lead to their release. A pastiche of memories and associations float in and out of consciousness. The young man in Qabatiya, Palestine, who argued there is no solution for the Palestinians except to increase the violence until the world forces Israel out; the apparently base “human” instinct of aggression and need for power/control – and how this is exacerbated by constant and unrelenting exposure to the prosperity of others, and how we, the others, persist with our pleasures: intent upon our own islands of happiness amidst great suffering.
FARC. Sure, I know the acronym. Well, I’ve read it. Heard it. The Spanish acronym translates to Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. The history of the group is complicated – associated with a communist movement and the illegal drug trade. FARC has been around since 1964; they are strong and organized enough to run an internal government (called a secretariat) with large-scale organizational strategy conferences, and have been involved in international peace processes. In other words, they are not just going to go away.
Their tactics are abominable, but their ideological goals are not – at least, if they intend to live what they say they seek, then they are in a weird bedfellow relationship with many contemporary peace activists and anti-neoliberal-capitalists. As I say, IF they are primarily motivated by “fighting against privatization of natural resources [and] multinational corporations,” then these are aims shared widely. That they use paramilitary violence (while ostensibly arguing for its end), is qualitatively – but not necessarily substantively – different from the official uses of military (and other) violence sanctioned by democratic and communist governments worldwide. The “other violence” is less overtly horrific, but the violences done by policy are part of what FARC ostensibly says they are against. I’m hedging, here, for a couple of reasons.
- I am just learning the blunt outline of the conflict, let alone any of its nuances.
- If Ana and Alf are to be released, it will be because there are ways to talk with FARC, not only against them.
- To talk with them means to allow them some benefit of doubt.
- What kind of doubt? That there is a nobility buried somewhere underneath the deliberate and active use of physical, mental, and emotional terrorizing.
- On the chance that those honorable intentions can be surfaced and given life in ways that alter the contours of the opposing sides,
- with the hope that the conflict can actually shift, in order that
- others may be saved through the prevention of future acts of violence and
- the aspirations of the FARC community can be legitimately satisfied.
I cannot help but draw parallels to the situation in Palestine. Israel must withdraw. This is the physical and institutional fact. Israelis must move out of the only-always-temporary comfort of The Bubble, must surrender their attachment to the story/history of their own horrific victimization. We in the US must do the same regarding our intent to bolster our status regardless of the fate of others – especially those we know are different; those who think, feel, believe, and perceive the world on other terms than those with which we are most familiar.
We – humanity – must find a way for difference, plurality, and heterogeneity to coexist.