Current disappeared, International Women’s Day, Dan Middleton’s Birthday

I’ve got a composite post today.

I wrote recently about the horrific experiences endured by the families of people who were disappeared during Argentina’s ‘Dirty War’ and under the tyrannical rule in Chile of Gen. Augusto Pinochet during the 70s and 80s.

Tracy Wilkinson wrote the following in yesterday’s edition of the Los Angeles Times about a disturbing current version of this practice:

In a chilling byproduct of the drug war raging in Mexico, thousands of people have disappeared. Not killed, as far as is known; not taken for ransom. Simply vanished, leaving families desperate and broken, and a society confused and frightened.

Some are low-level drug gangsters “lifted,” to use the local vernacular, by rivals, then killed and dumped in secret mass graves. Some are last seen in the hands of the military or police, picked up for questioning, fates unknown. Thousands of others are immigrants who can’t pay their smugglers.

And some, in the most unsettling instances, disappear for reasons no one can fathom.

Families tell themselves their loved ones were taken by traffickers and forced into slave labor in marijuana fields and methamphetamine labs. It may be true in some cases, but more often it is a form of self-deluding comfort.

The disappearances are a disturbing echo of a tactic employed by dictatorships in the so-called dirty wars that plagued parts of Latin America in the last half of the 20th century.

Whether practiced by governments or by criminals, it is a form of control and intimidation that in some ways has an even more profound effect on society because it is an “ambiguous loss,” said psychologist Carlos Beristain, a Spaniard who has counseled families of the missing throughout the region.

Friend, poet and human rights activist Marjorie Agosin explored this ambiguity in her books about the mothers of the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires and in her work that profiled the tapestries woven by the arpilleristas in Chile.

Toward the end of the article, Wilkinson wrote that law enforcement seems often to drop their attention toward finding the disappeared, turning instead in border city Ciudad Juarez to solving the hundreds of unresolved murders there.

Many of the victims are women.

Yesterday marked International Women’s Day, and, just as every day should be Mother’s Day, it is highly appropriate to take a day to reflect on, think about and celebrate the world’s women.

In Half The Sky, Sheryl WuDunn and Nicholas Kristof write about the abuse to which many women are subjected and the courage and strength they bring to meet these challenges.

Yesterday was also Dan Middleton’s birthday.

We have been friends for close to 30 years now, meeting in Rinconada, our freshman door at Stanford University.

In a wheelchair since a skiing accident in February 1982 robbed him of his ability to walk, Dano, as I call him, has been friend, confidant, teacher and inspiration.

During the past few years we have spoken on nearly a weekly basis, covering the gamut from politics to sports to books to family life to college memories.

Yesterday, he turned 46.

Those of you know him, please join me in wishing him a happy, healthy and productive year.


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