Wednesday, February 20, 2008

american guilt and redemptive friendship

I know. My North American guilt is a product of the constant suffering I see Nicaraguans experiencing and doesn't actually change anything, nor is it really healthy.

But you see, my guilt comes from a growing awareness that Nicaragua's potential as a nation has been continually stifled, first by the Spaniards during the Colonial Period (which ended in 1820) and then by the entire course of US foreign policy since then.

A visiting professor remarked last week that of all the countries in Latin America, Nicaragua is the one one most intricately linked with the disasterous policies of the US government. From William Walker to the US-backed 30 years Somoza dictatorship to the funding for the Contras in the 1980s, there is just no end to the presumptous, imperialistic, schoolyard bullying that Nicaragua has experienced at the hands of my country's leaders. So should I feel some guilt about that history? Yes, I think so. The same way I feel guilt over the inhumanity of slavery, the forced relocation of Native Americans, and countless other wrongs perpetuated by my government and/or certain people within my country.

Perhaps the guilt in itself accomplishes nothing, except to provide me with a good dose of humility when I start to think I have the least idea what Nicaraguans should do to solve one of their problems. Who am I to think I have any right at all to speak into this nation's reality? I have to remind myself regularly that the most important voices calling for change and development in this country are the Nicaraguans themselves. And then I ask myself, so then what exactly am I doing here?

Today, in a meeting with a group of leaders in Chinandega, I was retelling the story of a young Nicaraguan woman who challenged me with that very question--in slightly different words. And how her question left me speechless and thinking. But that at this moment, I had just one answer.

"I was brought here to be a friend to the Nicaraguan people."

Friendship seems like a small thing, too small to make any difference at all in a country burdened by decades of war, natural disasters, and corrupt leaders. But today it took on new significance as person after person gave me their warmest greetings--a smile, a kiss, a hug. And as I thought about my two new invitations to visit the homes of 2 newer Nica friends ("not to take pictures or video or to do interviews, but to RELAX", Arlene said pointedly), I began to remember something very important, something I had forgotten in the midst of a very emotionally challenging last couple of weeks.

Friendship is redemptive. John 15:13


Jenny said...

So true Pam!
Can I tell you that I just love reading your blog. I can relate to your struggle, guilt, conflicting feelings, and desire for change. Thank you for honestly sharing your feelings and experiences with us in this journey.

Josh said...

As always Pammy, very descriptive writing. nice.

havent got a chance to really visit this site due to my lack of computer time as of late but I'll be on here more soon.

Hope everything's going better then the last few weeks

Love you!