Sunday, December 10, 2006

Ballad of Deading Gaol

Dear Swill:

The passing of Pinochet, with all its alliterative charm, puts me in a bind. As usual, I rejoice when a public figure I detest dies--it's nice, nice to outlive the assholes who make the world such a grim place for so many. Even the glum thought that there's an eternally- replenished source of venal scum doesn't quite dim this bit of Schadenfreude.

Parties were thrown at Phredward's when Francisco Franco finally kicked the tube, when Reagan joined his ancestors, when the grotesque John Paul II finally went to greet Peter at the pearlies, when Jean Kirkpatrick, that totalitarian prune, allowed her small heart to burst one night, when Hassan II of Morocco, against whom my family nurses a very particular animosity, one of my relatives having spent seventeen years in Hassan's jails, alternatingly suffering torture and isolation, shuffled off his mortal coil.

Yes, good deaths, all of them.

But among these good deaths that have come, limpingly, to evil men and women, Pinochet's provokes some of the most mixed feelings. Not because yours truly joins the flocks of Chilean bourgeois fools and US neocons-in-the-totalitarian-vs-authoritarian-mold, à la Kirkpatrick--of course not. Because the more-or-less peaceful death at the fine age of 91 of a particularly disgusting criminal so ripely proves that justice doesn't come when called (or even when summoned by drop-dead gorgeous Spanish judges like Baltasar Garzón), and because this confirms one's own views, viz., that justice, being nothing in particular, never comes on time, if at all.

I am gladdened, horribly, in this way: the worse the perpetrator, the more awful the crimes, and the less he or she is punished, the clearer the thrown circumstances of folks become--the clearer it is that no gods, justice or even Baltasar Garzón, however loudly or persuasively addressed, will show up to toot the final trump. I have an obscure sense that Primo Levi, and Paul Celan, and Jean Améry bumped into this sense, maybe once too often, in the years after they left the camps, after Nuremberg.

In any event--here's a sentence I address not to justice, who won't show and might not be welcome at my party if she did, but to another no-show whom I prize as highly--the thousands that Pinochet had tortured and killed, the disappeared, the lost: compañeros, the pig is dead, and you are not forgotten.



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