Sunday, November 21, 2004

THE OTHER FACE OF OUR WAR

Gregory J. Smith - Painting the scene behind the canvas
In the poor communities, which are most affected by the violence, the number of people who’s moral and physical integrity has been damaged is really frightening. - Yvonne Bezerra de Mello

This is the hidden face of our war that nobody assumes as being his or her responsibility.


In the following article, our Brazilian colleague and Child Rights Defender, President of Project UERÊ in Rio de Janeiro, Yvonne Bezerra de Mello, touches the surface of a constant war, long silenced by the ignorance of incompetent politicians. Yvonne’s frustrations are shared by those of us face-to-face with such a reality as we strive to reconstruct the lives of children and families trying to survive under extraordinarily difficult conditions - Gregory J. Smith, CARF.

The photos of adults splattered in blood and of wounded children in Iraq, especially the boy without arms, remind us of Mi-Lai and the burnt girl who became a symbol of the atrocities of the wars that only satisfy the egos of the governments that provoke them. This war over the power of Iraqi oil diverted the attention of Brazilians, from the atrocities committed in our own city and our country.

Yes! The newspapers headlines do transmit the war against drug trafficking and our pathetic combat against it, represented by hair-brained and unintelligent declarations from so-called specialists in public security that seem more worried about government intrigues and blunders instead of the population.

The war against drug trafficking and our pathetic combat against it
We need many crutches for the victims wounded by those well-aimed shots or so-called “stray” bullets during police raids.

Blaming the cause on ill-prepared politicians, police and judiciary authorities, unable to deal with the urban violence, the number of victims of our war grows every day. In the poor communities, which are most affected by the violence, the number of people who’s moral and physical integrity has been damaged is really frightening. Some time ago there was a film scene showing hundreds of pairs of crutches being thrown from airplanes to those that had been injured or lost their legs in Afghanistan. We also need those crutches for the victims wounded by those well-aimed shots or so-called “stray” bullets, who find themselves disabled, thrown in a bed, without attendance, with a bullet lodged in their spine or some other vital muscle.

Anonymity and public indifference to violence and death
The anonymity and public indifference to violence and death, are typical of the bureaucratic disregard of the lives and deaths of no-account people, threatening our notions of civil society and human rights.

We need tons of boxes of Gardenol for all those inhabitants who end up with convulsions when shantytowns are attacked by drug traffickers or the police, using that very same violence. One shot is enough to spark off the delirious shouts of children who have already seen their relatives or acquaintances not only hit by gunfire, but also torn apart or burnt alive in the entrance of their own homes. Even worse, are those youngsters on the verge of adolescence, who in loss of all common sense, are obliged to kill to be able to survive. The fear is printed in all their faces.

The boot of a policeman breaking down the door of a house signifies extortion, violence and pain. A message from an outlaw to his family means death, torture or house arrest for undetermined time.

The barbarity installed in our ghettos in reality differs nothing from others such as Warsaw
The barbarity installed in our ghettos in reality differs nothing from others such as Warsaw.

The bullet ridden or mutilated bodies are strewn in the filthy alleyways until somebody decides to ditch them in any old gutter to leave them to sink in the silt, only to be disregarded by all. Or scenes of human body parts being torn apart by the sharp teeth of pigs that are so fat they seem more like horses. They are people of all ages that have to live with the daily pain. They are our army of suffering people whose state of being finds no adequate remedy. Then there are the specialists with their diplomas, comfortably seated in their chairs, anonymous or pretending to not know of this reality.

Adding to this is the hunger, the malnutrition and the precocious death of our children and young people.

Children are excluded and threatened even before they are born
Children are excluded and threatened even before they are born.

The result of it all are the children who do not learn and whose school discrepancy leads them into sub-employment, continuing their exclusion and increasing even more the distance between the social classes in this country. They are youngsters who don’t believe in a future because they are the forgotten ones rarely benefited by crippled or delayed public policy making which changes direction each time a new government is elected and needs to show results. They are adults without jobs who drown in alcoholism and marginality. Better to belong to the drug traffickers than to die of hunger.

They are youngsters who don’t believe in a future because they are the forgotten ones
They are youngsters who don’t believe in a future because they are the forgotten ones.

This is the hidden face of our war that nobody assumes as being his or her responsibility. But everyone seems unanimous in blaming the poor population as the guilty ones, either due to their lack of family planning or the excess of northeastern migrants. Here in our war we also exchange prisoners, we also traffic people whose price tag depends on who the buyer is. Ours is a cynical war where guns, grenades and other heavy weapons arrive every day, arming the cities and the fields to guarantee the status quo of this insane society.

The scene behind the painted canvas is a most complex one.
The scene behind the painted canvas is so complex and the challenges so great, that even the world’s finest artists would have great difficulty in painting a brighter picture.

Scenes such as those from Iraq repeat themselves every day, just here, in front of our very noses. What a shame that our indignation is not so great and enthusiastic as that which we express concerning episodes arising beyond our borders. It is reasonable to think about the reconstruction of Iraq. But who will finance ours?

Yvonne Bezerra de Mello
Yvonne Bezerra de Mello
Child Rights Defender and President of the Project UERÊ
Rio de Janeiro - BRAZIL

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