June 6, 2006

Negroponte comes to Vermont

Yesterday, Director of Total Information Awareness John Negroponte spoke at his son's high school graduation from the supposedly prestigious St. Johnsbury Academy in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. Needless to say, this offended many people, including many who protested at the ceremony (and several who were arrested) (though the local peace & justice center decided not to disturb anyone about it). Many remember the man as a central figure -- while "proconsul" to Honduras in the early 1980s -- to the U.S.'s illegal support of the "Contras" to fight a brutal war against the socialist Sandinista government in Nicaragua. The Academy's headcase, er, headmaster, said that it never occurred to him that the invitation would have political overtones: just another dad at his son's graduation. The best letter so far in the local (Negroponte-backing) rag has been the following.
In August of 1990, it was my great pleasure and privilege to drive a used 4-wheel-drive Toyota pickup truck to a farmer's co-op in San Juan de Limay, Nicaragua, the sister co-op of Hardwick's Buffalo Mountain Co-op and the Vermont Northern Growers Co-op in East Hardwick. We purchased the pick-up and packed it with seeds, clothes and tools that had been purchased after a year of fund-raising by our co-ops. The truck and supplies were a much-needed boost to our sister co-op, which had been suffering along with much of the rest of the Nicaraguan economy due to the illegal, covert and immoral war raged on the Nicaraguan people by our government.

This war was directed largely by John Negroponte, then-U.S. ambassador to Honduras. The small village of San Juan de Limay lies just south of the Honduran border, and was subject to multiple attacks from the United States-funded Contras. The farmer members of our sister co-op farmed about 350 acres of land -- raised a few cows, some chickens, beans and corn, barely eking out a living on rocky hillsides with either too much or too little rain, depending on the season.

One of the first people I was introduced to when I arrived, was the 7-year-old daughter of the co-op baseball team's former pitcher. He had been killed by Contras a year and a half earlier while serving on a community defense brigade in the nearby mountains. I'm sorry to say that I don't remember that little girl's name. I do remember her beautiful brown eyes and the sadness I saw in them every now and then, and I remember her father's name; Hector Orlando Gomez. The co-op members were doing the best they could to provide for her, her younger brother and sister and their mother, who helped with weeding and harvesting when she was able to. They lived in a small house with a dirt floor, clay walls and a tile on stick roof. In spite of that dirt floor, their clothes, which their mother washed in the river next to the village, were always immaculate.

I was told that the children's mother was struggling to keep her kids in school altho it was a hardship to buy the school books and paper and pay the small fee for tuition. Judging by the determination that I saw in her eyes, I imagine, I hope, that her daughter was able to complete her schooling and graduate along with the other kids in her class fortunate enough to still have a father. I do know that if she did, her father was not there to smile proudly and applaud loudly when she rose to receive her diploma -- he was not there to be able to give a speech about the lessons to be learned from his life as a hard-working and struggling farmer who still took the time to play baseball with his neighbors. He was not there to wipe away the tears from his wife's eyes of both pride in her daughter and sadness that he was not there to celebrate her success.

We are asked why we wish to interfere with or obstruct this Negroponte family moment between father and son -- his opportunity to bless the graduating class with his gathered truths. The truth I believe is that John Negroponte, and his fellows have been wantonly destroying families for decades -- in Nicaragua, in Iraq, they are responsible for some of the most dishonest and inhumane warfare against members of our human family in recent generations. His is a legacy of death, destruction, short-sighted corporate profiteering, and a burgeoning hatred for our American government. We cannot remain silent while his accomplishments are foolishly and obscenely lauded. It is our duty to bear witness to and denounce the crimes committed in our names. It is our duty to demand a foreign policy and world order with love, families and common decency at its core, not just for the privileged few, but for the many, the humble, the powerful all of us.

Hector Orlando Gomez, a loving father and husband, a good farmer and an even better pitcher -- Presente!

Robin Cappuccino
West Wheelock

Vermont, anarchism