Week Eleven

At the beginning of this week’s chapter, Dawson points out that, “We can transform certain victims… into romantic figures…[which] may allow us to tell stories with definitive heroes and villains, to satisfy our desire for moral clarity. [But] what we risk is gaining that clarity at the expense of understanding the past for all its ambiguity.” I highlighted that point because I think this is a general truth, not just for The Terror in Latin America, but for when we recount the past. We like to paint historical figures as saints or devils but in reality, they usually lie somewhere in the middle. Moreover, these icons themselves also tend to see their world in black and white, where they are the heroes and their enemies the villains. In this case, Socialists and Communists were fighting for the poor and the people, and Conservatives and right-wing parties were concerned about the loss of tradition and power. Both thought they were doing the right thing but thousands of lives were lost as collateral for their beliefs. Furthermore, those in the middle were also too afraid to act, as sticking strongly to a side nearly always meant putting your life on the line and endangering your family. I think that this was one of the most important factors that contributed to the frenzy in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. people were scared and saw the worst in each other, which helped them dehumanize and justify the atrocities they committed.

Seeing as this still seems to be a problem today, I wonder how can we stop the escalation of these problems before they get out of hand. Can we learn from history to create a better future for both sides of a fight, not just in Latin America, but in other world conflicts? Or are we doomed to repeat these mistakes until the end of time? Looking at what is happening today, we can see some evidence of history repeating itself with fear-mongering, and blaming internal problems on the “other.”

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