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