I've been down on the bottom of a world full of lies/ I ain't looking for nothing in anyone's eyes/ Sometimes my burden seems more than I can bear/ It's not dark yet, but it's getting there. ~ Bob Dylan
In recognition of that darkness that seeps through both Mexico and the United States and carries with it the faces of hundreds of thousands of dead, disappeared, persecuted, tortured, dismembered, displaced and jailed, I ask for a moment of silence.
We have arrived, as Dylan sings, at the "bottom of a world of lies" commonly referred to as the war on drugs. But the true name of that bottom is death, humiliation, fear, horror, jails, the empowerment of crime and the empowerment of state violence. We can also call it a crisis of democracy, the destruction of civil liberties and disdain for migrants. And that bottom of pain is, as Dylan warns, a burden too heavy to bear.
That burden is the weight of our disappeared, of our dismembered, of our criminalized and humiliated migrants and, in my case, the weight of the death of my good son, an athlete and a professional who never tried drugs and who was an innocent victim like thousands of others in this imbecilic war. In spite of all, we are bearing those burdens we believed too great, looking for in the eyes of everyone consolation, justice, and the path toward peace. We have done it in Mexico, crossing the country in two caravans and holding dialogues all along the way, pushing people to consider how we can rethink and re-imagine the way our country approaches drug policy. Now we come from Mexico to you in the United States to invite you to be part of this critical dialogue about the war on drugs.
Because if in this war that brings such darkness Mexico has a grave responsibility, so too does the United States. This war began forty years ago when President Richard Nixon decided, contrary to any sense of democracy and forgetting what happened with Prohibition in the early twentieth century, that drugs were not a matter of choice or freedom, of the market or regulation by the state, but a matter of national security that is must be fought with violence.
Since then, to "protect" the twenty-three million drug users in the United States, we've waged a war that has destroyed Colombia and that now destroys Mexico, Central America and will eventually destroy the United States itself. And to what end? Drugs are cheaper and more widely available than before Nixon's declaration. Through this war safety and health is not offered to our peoples, but rather barbarism is imposed, violence and resurgent authoritarianism over democracy.
This war is an unspeakable failure. The twenty-three million drug users in America, far from diminishing in number, only increase. Mexico in the last five years has accumulated more than 70,000 deaths, more than 20,000 disappeared, more than a quarter million displaced, tens of thousands of widows and orphans. American gun manufacturers funnel weapons for this conflict via illegal networks as well as legal structures like Plan Mérida, which arms the Mexican military. American prisons hold millions for merely consuming drugs. Migrants are criminalized on this side of the border or extorted or disappeared on the other, and the temptation to militarize, to resort to the tactics of a police state, arises on both sides, placing democracy and the grand ideal of an open society in a profound crisis.
"It's not dark yet," Dylan says in his song, but this reality signals that night will be coming soon -- dark, atrocious, and deeper than the shadows that herald it.
But not yet, not quite yet, in spite -- as we said a year ago in the zócalo in the heart of Mexico City -- of the incommensurable need, in spite of all the suffering, in spite of this nameless pain, in spite of the lack of progress towards peace, in spite of the growing confusion -- not yet. Because we are here, still able to speak, still able to question. We are seeing changes to policy that encourage reason, are rooted in science, and allow for compassion all across Latin America and in some American cities.
On August 12, I will join dozens of others who have lost loved ones to the senseless drug war in Mexico to embark on the Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity. Starting in San Diego, we will head east along the US-Mexico border, traveling over 5,000 miles through 25 cities - including Los Angeles, Santa Fe, El Paso, Houston, Montgomery, New Orleans, Chicago, and New York -- before arriving in Washington DC on September 10. The goal of our month-long Caravan is to become citizen-diplomats -- to reach out to you in the United States and seek your help in building a true, bi-national movement for peace and justice. Let us work together as neighbors to bring an end to the drug war.
Don't wait until that pain reaches your intimate lives to hear the cry of those of us who cannot keep from uttering it: do not wait until the senseless death that this war has unleashed reaches your lives like it has reached ours, to know that such death exists and that it must be stopped. This is the moment for us to come together and change this policy of war and rescue peace, life and democracy.
Javier Sicilia is one of Mexico's most highly regarded poets and the leader of the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity. His son, Juan Francisco, was murdered last year in Cuernavaca, in a cartel-related crime. The MPJD caravan crosses the border at San Diego on August 12 and will arrive in Washington D.C. a month later.
Translated by Rubén Martínez.
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