For some reason, the discussion about the 1976 coup d’état in Argentina had turned to family education. Ronald (not his real name) raised a hand and elaborated on his theory of the education of children and the impact on the destiny of a society and a nation. That popular myth of “the family is the foundation of society”.
He was 22 years old. He had no children, he said, but he had been raised by two parents who had never given him a flip-flop, not even when he had yelled the classic “n’gger motherfucker” at his father. In Spanish, there is no such obscene offense.
His parents hadn’t even raised their voices to correct him. They had appealed to the classic Disney psychology model, trying to understand his frustration. In his house, everything was discussed democratically.
“But a family is not a democracy,” I observed.
“In mine yes. Not all families are the same…”
“Right. Not all children and not all parents are the same, either…”
By then, Ronald was very young; he had no children, which did not disqualify him from having an opinion on how to raise a child. But to moralize it did. In reality, we are all unable to moralize, especially in matters we are so ignorant of, such as the private lives of our neighbors.
“My parents,” Ronald said, with the faith of the convinced, “were always against all forms of violence in education…”
At this point, he stopped for two seconds and another student took the opportunity to support his classmate with more personal examples. I think someone mentioned Mother Teresa, who hadn’t had children but had been a mother anyway. A terrible mother, she would have to add, like Saint Teresa a few centuries before. Like some celibate priests, but not teetotalers, whom everyone calls father while giving marriage advice and sex education classes.
I don’t remember what the student said about her parents in Nebraska, because I kept thinking about Ronald. The young man suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. The day I showed the movie Missing (about the coup in Chile, with Jack Lemmon), he ran out of the auditorium. Later he told me that due to his condition he could not witness violent scenes because he himself lost control and became violent.
I knew Ronald quite well because he had been in my office many times and many times we had ended up talking about his experience in Iraq. They had sent him to that war justified with lies, like almost every war, from where he returned with that trauma or disorder that seemed to have no cure. The young survivors of that and other wars that I met (some of them dead in life) thought they knew what they were fighting for, although they were too busy spending their days shooting at the enemy, until exhausted, or carrying the body of a fallen friend. A few understood that, in reality, as Mohamed Ali said, they had gone to the other side of the world to kill and die for the old songs: God, Homeland, Freedom, Democracy, and National Security. The last thing the others wanted to hear was that they had been just pawns in an old chess game.
Roland was one of the many war veterans I met, from Vietnam to Afghanistan. Some of them became militants against the wars of the rich; others tried to justify the loss of a leg or a life before many of them committed suicide. Thousands of them (16,000) commit suicide every year in the United States, but the media prefers to focus on real news. Along with their government psychologists, many of these fighters became characters in my novels, such as Crisis and El mar estaba sereno. I think there was no other way to explore the problem from within.
Now, Ronald is a pastor of a church in Texas. That probably saved him from suicide or the government psychologists managed to control his post-traumatic stress disorder. His preaching of the nonviolence of Jesus does not prevent him or his parishioners from storing semi-war weapons in their homes, just in case, in case one day they must defend freedom against other fellow citizens who are not thinking the same way. As in the toxic and viral short videos where a nice boy is harassed by bullies (in a bar, in a classroom, in a jail) and, in the end, he smashes them all with elegant kicks, Roland teaches his children the virtues of education free from all kinds of violence that his parents taught him. Until it is necessary to resort to the expected solution, always in self-defense. Same as against Indian, Mexican, and tropical monkeys’ attacks, we have the right to defend ourselves, haven’t we?
Ronald’s parents raised him with love and without violence. Love of dialogue, of weapons, but only for personal protection and to protect freedom. Love for Jesus, but not the love of Jesus. An upbringing kindly built on neat and proud devotion in church on Sundays, bucolic Thanksgiving dinners in November, and video games almost every day.
Video games and education in values of non-violence, like the one Ronald, continued to play when he was sent to Iraq. But every time he pulled the trigger, the other players actually died. As Andrew Jackson had to take the savages’ land to give it to the lovers of freedom and the good Winston Churchill said when he recommended using chemical weapons, it was a necessary sacrifice to suppress the savages who don’t understand civilization and non-violence.
Jorge Majfud, 2022.
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