Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Disappered

"They disappeared him."

I thought that this subtitle was another error in a documentary that, simply put, was a bad movie.

I should say that it was bad as a movie. Not very filmic. The plotting was slow, the editing couldn't seem to find a rhythm, the whole set-up was less-than-inspired.

But the stories, the reason for the documentary (and unlike most documentaries, not the other way around), were profoundly gripping. Justice Without Borders was a movie produced by the human rights watchgroup Amnesty International and it was a bit on the sprawling side. The theme of the movie was the reign of terror of despotic leaders of state and paramilitaries who rely on the lack of international law to hold them accountable and about the efforts of organizations like Amnesty and the International Criminal Court to bring them to justice.

But this phrase, "they disappeared him." It just sounded so obscure and out of place in this sentence structure, I almost spit out my Corona (along with its little lime slice). Couldn't this grand community with chapters in nearly every country have found someone who could actually translate from Spanish? What's next to crawl at the bottom of the screen? "All your syntax are belong to us"?

But then the word appeared again. And again. And many times over, in subtitled Spanish and plain English, in verb usage as well as descriptive nouns.

They were disappeared.

My daughters are disappeared.

They disappeared them.

The disappeared.

Forced disappearances is what it's known as in Wikipedia. And it's happened all over, but especially in Latin American countries and - as far as I know - throughout the 70's and 80's, when the U. S. government was most worried about Communists and we were best friends with anyone else who was worried about the Communists. That spirit has led to atrocities and blinded eyes.

(Click here to view the video)

After the screening, a woman who was featured in the movie, who had both a father and her two daughters disappeared during an over-night stay, spoke poetically, bravely and achingly about her loss and plight.

I could not imagine being in her shoes. I physically wince every time someone mentions the death or even the hurting of a little one now. And if someone were to hurt my daughter, I don't think that I would have the patience to await justice as served by the courts - certainly not the fair trials that many of the loved ones of the Disappeared call for.

The actions in Guatemala - which were the ones depicted in the film - and many others happened over two decades ago, three in other states. There has yet to be resolution, which is why this U2 song, haunting me in its hushed melody and forgotten lyrics, seemed to so-appropriately abide in my head for the rest of the night.

Mothers of the Disappeared

Midnight, our sons and daughters
were cut down and taken from us
Hear their heartbeat...
We hear their heartbeat

In the wind
we hear their laughter
In the rain
we see their tears
Hear their heartbeat...
We hear their heartbeat

Night hangs like a prisoner
Stretched over black and blue
Hear their heartbeat...
We hear their heartbeat.

In the trees
Our sons stand naked
Through the walls
Our daughters cry
See their tears in the rainfall


  1. I will admit that "disappeared" is awkward when used as a verb in English. It just seems wrong.

    But it is apt because it describes what has happened.

    Which is even more wrong.

  2. more wrong than grammatically incorrect, eh?


Be kind. Rewind.