Can I speak Ill of the Dead Yet

Michael Ortiz Hill

I was in Nicaragua when Ronald Reagan was crucifying that little country.
And I was in San Diego when Ronald Reagan was being buried to much acclaim.

A doctors appointment. The television on. The doctors secretary was praising Reagan and I held my council, did not speak of the blood of that time.

When I was in Esteli the Sandinistas were very popular. A hundred miles to the north on the Honduran border the United States was doing war games. Also warships off the Atlantic and Pacific Coast. Everybody was hungry because of the sanctions against basic foodstuffs. Esteli had lost a third of their population in the war against the American supported dictatorship of Somoza and all were expecting the US to invade.

Outside of Esteli the Contras, who Reagan called freedom fighters, had tortured and killed a teenage boy in a cornfield at the edge of town. All of the city accompanied the family to his burial. And we sandalistas norteamericanos were honored to join.

As the coffin was being lowered into the earth the boy's mother had to be restrained by her two adult daughters from throwing herself into the grave. I hear her wail every time America makes war.

After the funeral I went to drink rum with a few fellow Americans. Out of our minds with the grief of it we speculated on how to greet the anticipated American soldiers should the invasion actually happen.

At about 9 PM I staggered to the house of Dr. Borges the pediatrician with whose family I was living. I was ashamed to greet them drunk, did little to yoga and limbered up. In Nicaragua people go to sleep very early and so I tried to scale the stone fence.

Straddling the fence I could hear mumbling in Spanish on the other side. I soon realized I had to declare myself. I did so and was invited down by a visibly shaken Dr. Borges.

We sat together for perhaps an hour. He had a gun in his hand and, trembling, put it down on the coffee table between us. "Do you know that you almost went home in a body bag? And do you know who your president Reagan is? He is waiting in for any excuse to invade this country and your death would have been sufficient."

He was protecting his wife and children from contra as I would do if I were in the same situation.

Can I speak now ill of the dead? That particular dead white man?

Can I?

I am now an employee of Ronald Reagan Medical Center And truthfully I just as soon have it named after that other great communicator, Joseph Goebbels.

I write this as that not so great communicator, John McCain, is feted as a war hero at the Republican National Convention. Having been celebrated for bombing civilians in Vietnam and being shot down for it he is eager to assume the mantle of war president from George W. Bush.

It is obligatory for all of whatever political stripe to praise McCain heroism in a most unheroic war and to unreflectively laud his service to America without asking what the support of a bloody dictatorship in South Vietnam ever had anything to do with the welfare of America.

Three million Vietnamese dead. Eighty percent civilian.

Now \one million Iraqi dead.


And Nicaragua? El Salvador? Panama? Granada? Cambodia?

When will we ever learn?