Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Report from El Salvador: Tears for a great man

How quickly we forget and how quickly things change. On March 9, 1980, Archbishop Oscar Romero, one of the most holy and compassionate men who ever lived, was shot down like a dog in the streets of El Salvador because he stood in opposition to war. It's been almost thirty years to the day since the archbishop's death and I am standing here in front of his crypt with tears streaming down my cheeks.

Would I cry like this if we lost George Bush or Dick Cheney or any of the other dreary heads of state who have engineered so many mass murders and mass graves in the last 30 years? Did I cry when Ronnie Reagan died? Hardly. My ideal of a great man is one who stands up for what is right no matter what the odds -- not some cheap-suit Hitler wannabees who seek to rule the world by torture, mass murder and brute force.

Archbishop Oscar Romero was one of those men who give us hope in the possible evolution of the human race away from greed and caveman behavior and toward the image of Christ and Buddha and Gandhi.

We can't all be Christs or Buddhas or freaking Gandhis -- but at least we can damn well try.

When I arrived at the airport in San Salvador, there was a delightful and friendly poster that read, "El Salvador welcomes you with open arms." What a good change from the horrible days of the 1980s Iran-Contra wars when thousands were slaughtered in El Salvador. From what I can see from a quick visit windshield tour, El Salvador has apparently healed itself since then. There's no fighting in the streets now, and members of the old guerrilla FMLN force now sit in congress.

I can only hope and pray that 30 years from now, I will be able to return to Iraq and Afghanistan and Palestine and be able to say the same thing about them.

PS: Here's my video of the Archbishop's crypt: