by Santiago de Juan

One of my early memory in life happened when I was four years old. I know my exact age because it happened after my father died and before I was sent to an orphanage. At that time, I was always hungry.

One day, while playing hide and seek with a friend, I noticed my mother hiding a bag of cookies in a kitchen cabinet. I kept playing. When my friend left, I waited for the moment when there was no one in the kitchen, climbed on a chair and reached for the cookies. I had just finished eating the first one when my mother caught me. She snatched the bag from my hands and while yelling at me, left the mark of her fingers on my butt. Then in a calm voice she proceeded to explain that those cookies were to be divided equally among the seven of us, that my share was at least three of them but since she caught me stealing, the punishment was a week without playing with my friends and no more cookies from that bag.

I did not cry from the spanking or the punishment, as I knew I deserved it. However, she continued: “Why did you steal the cookies if all you had to do was ask for them?”

She was lying to me. Why did she have to lie?

More clear in my memory is what happened a few years later. I know I was older than seven since I was preparing to take my first communion. I went to catechism classes. There, the priest told us about Jesus and what He did for all of us. He told us that God was our heavenly Father. That we all were brothers and sisters. That He loved all of us equally. What I could not understand is why, if we all were God’s children and that He loved all of us equally, why some children were much better off than others?

Was he lying to me? Why did he have to lie?

It was not until a few years later that I was taken, for the first time, into a movie house. But before meeting Tarzan, a newsreel showed us the atrocities committed by some strange looking people they called Japanese. They also referred to them as the enemy. In addition, they were called Evil people. Those fighting the “enemy” were called allies or the good people. Good fighting Evil.

I was happy that I was on the side of the good people. Tarzan was also on the side of the good people. Since that day, though I was not even ten all I wanted when I grew up was, like Tarzan, to fight evil people. The enemy.

But why, even at the movie house was I lied to? Why did they have to lie?

A few months later on a hot summer evening, the whole town filled the streets in celebration. The Japanese have surrendered. The Allies have won. Good has won over evil. I also celebrated.

One aftrnoon, not long after evil was defeated, a man pushing a cart and ringing a bell, cried in the streets, in a unusual voice: “Ice Cream, many flavors. A penny a scoop”. But no one dared to get near that strange man. Curiosity overcame fear and I came closer. He looked different from us. He was shorter, his eyes almost closed. Someone grabs my arm and whisper in my ear: “Watch out, he is Japanese”. But he did not look mean to me. As a matter of fact, he smiled and gave me a free cone.

A while later, I heard on the radio and read in the newspaper, that the Russian was the enemy and the Japanese our friends. Now the Russians were the bad guys and the Japanese the good guys. How could that be?

Someone was lying. Why did they have to lie?

I decided to concentrate on my schooling. Life was getting much better. Excelling in school brought me popularity. The future looked brighter and brighter. One Monday morning, on a beautiful Spring day, I was told by the Principal of the Institute that Batista has deposed the President of the our country by means of a coup d’état. I did not pay much attention to that event for it did not affect me at all. I was wrong.

Batista became a dictator and soon I too would get my chance to battle evil. And for almost seven years we did. It was bloody but we won. Good once more defeated evil. But within a few months, the liberators became evil. So evil that out of respect for that long civil war we had just endured only to be deceived we felt forced to fight again and make things right. By this time, we have lost our innocence and were not up against evil but fighting just to survive. And we lost.

Almost fifty years later this evil maintains its hold on my country. And, it has spread across the globe. In my second country, they attacked us. Almost three thousand innocent lives were lost in one day in September. They called this evil “terrorists” and we are told these terrorists are all over the world, that an evil tyrant was murdering thousands in a country called Iraq and these are also terrorists, and therefore the enemy. We invaded them and good prevailed over evil and we defeated the tyrant. But the people we liberated from the tyrant became terrorists, and began to fight us and call us invaders, infidels, the enemy. We fight them because we are the good people and we want them to be like us. Thousands of people, on both sides are killed every month. There is no end in sight.

Who is lying to us? Why do they have to lie?

I am now old and tired. I do not believe anymore in good and evil. I do not want to be lied to any longer. I reason. We, the good people, the saviors, the liberators claim that we cannot leave Iraq until there is peace there. The terrorists claim that they will continue fighting as long as the invaders remain occupying their country. What’s wrong with this picture?

Someone is lying. Why do they have to lie?

The logic says that, if the terrorists want what they say they want, they don’t need to fight. On the contrary, they need not to fight. If they don’t fight the invaders there will be peace. The invaders claim that, as soon as there is peace in Iraq, they will leave. Therefore, the terrorists should stop fighting. Peace. The invaders leave. End of the story. If when the liberators leave the terrorists start to decimate each other, what’s the problem? If that is what they want, why not please them?

Definitely, someone is lying to us big time. Why do they have to lie?

Winter Park, Florida,
September 11, 2006

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