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Denial As A Method Of Dealing With

Political Violence Essay, Research Paper Denial as a Method of Dealing With Political Violence Allyson Runfola Latin American Civilization April 11, 2000

Political Violence Essay, Research Paper

Denial as a Method of Dealing With Political Violence

Allyson Runfola

Latin American Civilization

April 11, 2000

People chose every day, in a myriad of ways, between denial and self-knowledge. Most of the time this choice is innocuous. A parent may believe their obviously lying child rather than accept the emotional distress that comes with be lied to. The body politic may believe an unscrupulous politician rather than to get out and work for real change. Many times, however, denial may have far-reaching and disastrous consequences. In the case of the violent political upheaval that occurred in Latin American from 1964 until the 1990s, the citizens of the affected countries remained divided between those who wanted to know and those who didn?t. Men With Guns, a fictional film by John Sayles, Four Days in September, a fact-based film by Bruno Barreto and A Matter of Fear – Portrait of an Argentinian Exile, the memoirs of journalist Andrew Graham-Yooll, offer a unique perspective into the psychology of denial in the face of violence.

Men With Guns, a classic picaresque, tells of one man?s enlightenment towards the true nature of the political and military atrocities in his country. The main character, Dr. Fuentes (played by Federico Luppi) has one major flaw; he naively believes in the goodness of men, and despite his apparent intelligence, transfers this belief onto the complexities of his country?s political system. Although his portrayal in the movie is personalized and deeply affecting, Dr. Fuentes is the epitome of an educated, urban bourgeoisie who has no real concept of what is happening in his own country. As a man with a social conscious, Dr. Fuentes had implemented a medical program to assist the indigenous population of his country. It is during the journey he takes to check up on his trainees? progress that causes true enlightenment to form. Step by step, the shocking reality of the brutality towards the indigenous people becomes painfully apparent to Dr. Fuentes yet he continually reassures himself that his government treats all citizens of his country with an equal measure of respect and compassion. The viewer wants to know: is it the comfort of his well-ordered life that inhibits his acceptance of the truth? Challenging the established political powers could, and most probably would, lead to major disruption in his life. Or could it be the inherent characteristic of humans to resist change? The latter is the more likely scenario; Dr Fuentes did not wish to acknowledge the cruelty in the world around him simply because it was not comfortable to him psychologically. And what was the cost to Dr. Fuentes? Not only did he feel a tremendous emptiness at his death, but also his dream of a leaving behind a legacy ? the establishment of medical care for the indigenous population ? was no longer tangent.

Four Days in September, a film based on the kidnapping of the United States Ambassador Charles Elbrick in Brazil of 1969, offers a dramatized recounting of the event. The mov?? 7 ? ? ?”

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Denial as a Method of Dealing With Political Violence

Allyson Runfola

Latin American Civilization

April 11, 2000

People chose every day, in a myriad of ways, between denial and self-knowledge. Most of the time this choice is innocuous. A parent may believe their obviously lying child rather than accept the emotional distress that comes with be lied to. The body politic may believe an unscrupulous politician rather than to get out and work for real change. Many times, however, denial may have far-reaching and disastrous consequences. In the case of the violent political upheaval that occurred in Latin American from 1964 until the 1990s, the citizens of the affected countries remained divided between those who wanted to know and those who didn?t. Men With Guns, a fictional film by John Sayles, Four Days in September, a fact-based film by Bruno Barreto and A Matter of Fear – Portrait of an Argentinian Exile, the memoirs of journalist Andrew Graham-Yooll, offer a unique perspective inthe time, he did nothing to protect himself. Elbrick was displaying a classic form of American denial: the seemingly invincibility of the United States would shield him from violence practiced by others.

A Matter of Fear, by Andrew Graham-Yooll, is a hauntingly real memoir of the travesties that occurred in Argentina between 1976 and 1981. Graham-Yooll, a well-respected journalist, graphically describes the events that he has witnessed during this period. As are the characters in the films mentioned above, Graham-Yooll is a solidly middle-class, educated person caught up in a struggle not of his own choosing. The similarity ends there. This is not an aged man afraid of change, nor is this a youthful idealist. Graham-Yooll has the added benefit of information garnered through his role as a journalist, the certainty of middle age to help stabilize his opinions and the intelligence to see his countries struggles without jaundice. Yet, he too is in denial.

?It was a Friday afternoon and I was planning to take an early cut from the paper, to get to a garden cocktail near home. The formula was one of comfort, spring, Friday and a garden cocktail and it made the very idea of 90 political murders unreal and something that I could not, I would not have happening around me.? (p.52)

Graham-Yooll intellectually understands the horrific situation that he is caught up in, yet emotionally the reality of it all is just too much for him. Like Dr. Fuentes and the vast majority of people around the world, Graham-Yooll was not comfortable psychologically with his countries violent situation. It was much simpler for him pretend that life was normal ? ?I went to the cocktail and enjoyed it.? (p.54) It is only after Graham-Yooll?s exile to Britain that enough physical distance has been placed between himself and the events that he could look back and feel the need, the responsibility, to record said events for prosperity.

Are there really places that still exist that torture individuals for political beliefs, kidnap innocent bureaucrats and slaughter indigenous people for the sake of a plot of earth? Are there really people within these places that turn a blind eye to the controversy surrounding them, become violent themselves or continue to go to cocktail parties? Of course there are. Without malice we should ask ourselves to weigh the price between not knowing and knowing and between silence and acknowledgement. All the characters we have looked at, whether real or fictional, have had to confront these choices. The choices made differed from character to character, yet the common human trait of denial was ever present. Would we behave any differently?

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