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'Sharing the Blame'

August 24, 1986

Your editorial has deplored Congress' decision to spend $100 million of our tax dollars to feed Ronald Reagan's personal vendetta against diversity and popular sovereignty in Nicaragua. I and most North Americans agree with you. So do most of the world's leaders.

I wish that the family-loving men and women in our Congress could see what I saw in a recent trip to northern Nicaragua. The scene is a dirt floor hut, which serves as the Christian community center of a poor barrio in Esteli. At present it also shelters dozens of men, women, and children who have, for the fourth time, fled the smoking ruins of their once-successful farming community just north of there.

We North American university professors have come to hear their story. Incredibly, we have been welcomed with love, and with a grave and touching faith that we can do something to halt the terrible $100 million that every peasant, every schoolchild knows about.

It is plain, as they speak, that only the worst of times could induce these stiffly dignified farmers to share the details of their grief with strangers. They say they are ashamed to ask for help, though the contras have burned their harvest, their warehouses, and their homes, have exploded grenades into the bodies of their children, have tortured to death their government agricultural technician.

The shelter's occupants have vacated its few benches for the comfort of the rich visitors, but there is still not enough seating to go around. I am seated in a corner on piled bags of community staples--beans, rice, powdered milk from Holland--and rifle bullets.

We have been told that a quarter of the laborers on these rural farms must be assigned to self-defense patrols. No one is safe, because, as a representative of La Prensa newspaper in Managua coldly told us, in a war where children can carry ammunition and their parents must know how to shoot, there are no truly civilian casualties. A friendly baby toddles up and offers me, as babies do everywhere, the contents of his grimy little fist. It is a shiny brass bullet as long as my little finger.

I am making sketches to amuse 8-year-old Maria, who has her arm around me. I draw her a rabbit; she draws me a peace dove and a flower. A young boy grabs my notebook to write a message to Nancy Reagan: "My name is Emiliano and I study in the 16th of July school and I want to study and work in peace and not war. Please do not send the millions that are making the war on us, but don't worry, if the enemy comes, we will annihilate him." The lesson we are teaching these children about America is not the one in the history books.

It is no coincidence that the national slogan of this revolutionary people has a familiar ring to it, because it is one we all learned in school: "Liberty or death!" And it is not the slightest exaggeration to say that the majority of the U.S. Congress will have their blood upon its hands. Never have I felt such shame for America.


Associate Professor of Law

Loyola Law School

Los Angeles

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