Magazine article Tikkun

The Revolution: A Memoir

Magazine article Tikkun

The Revolution: A Memoir

Article excerpt

A Memoir

Im writing. Specifically I'm writing historical/ literary memoir. I have a doctorate in history and a deep, early brainwashing in the importance and methodologies of discovering and writing history, including oral history, thanks to my activism in the American Indian Movement during the 1970s. I have written and published traditional history. But I can no longer bear to write-or to read-- dense, footnoted texts in which the author is only insidiously present behind a maze of screens, pretending objectivity. Instead, I now follow the path of Emma Goldman, Big Bill Haywood, Elizabeth Gurley Brown, Agnes Smedley, Simone de Beauvoir, Oscar Ameringer, Che Guevara, Bobbi Lee (Lee Maracle), and dozens of others who knew that memoir is itself important political work, as important as activism itself. I feel my memoir writing is as important as my past organizing in the anti-war and anti-imperialist, women's liberation, labor, indigenous peoples, and international human rights movements. Why? History. The battle over history.

I think we activists are becoming increasingly aware that History is an issue, often the issue: Who owns the history of the United States? Whose version of history is valid in Palestine/Israel, in Northern Ireland, in Greek and Turkish Cyprus, in Kashmir caught between India and Pakistan? The question of the state, and who owns it, is at the heart of my current project, a memoir in which I try to unravel and explore what happened in one marginal corner of the world, Nicaragua, between 1981 and 1988, and what happened to me when I spent every waking moment obsessed with that country, nearly destroyed by my personal involvement.

I call my memoir "Norther: Re-Covering Nicaragua," or alternatively it could be called "Living-and Dying-under Reagan's America," or "Site(s) of Shame." The site of shame was the northeastern region of Nicaragua. Although Nicaragua (and Central America in general) was a sideshow, if not a smokescreen, to the more important Cold War site of shame, Afghanistan. Hundreds of thousands of people died or were maimed during the Central American civil wars, with the United States as usual propping up the landed oligarchies by providing war machinery against the insurgent masses. The war in Nicaragua makes the case for the necessity of understanding U.S. history, and continued U.S. struggle for world power.

The war really began once the Sandinistas took the reins of the state, such as they were, from Somoza's one-man rule, and went about nation-building, stoked by enthusiasm and high ideals to eradicate poverty, disease, and illiteracy, and to introduce poetry writing to every woman, man, and child. In a fairytale, the story would end here. But Nicaragua is a real place, with historic complexities. The story of Nicaragua is not just a story of a people rising up against an empire, because there are more than one people in Nicaragua.

On the Mosquito Coast, webbed with rivers and rapids, where travel is by dugout, tens of thousands of Miskitu and thousands of Sumu and Rama people demanded from the Sandinistas acknowledgment and regional autonomy.

The Sandinistas agreed to a literacy program in the indigenous languages but balked at political/economic autonomy. Overwhelmingly Spanish-speaking, the Sandinistas were nationalists and felt threatened by indigenous demands, particularly because those communities were dominated by U. …

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