Let me explain this statement a bit with a personal experience.
In the early 90’s I took a picture of a girl fleeing from the bombs dropped over her rural area by state armed forces who were (and still are) fighting left wing rebels in Colombia.
This little girl was sitting in a 30 gallon bucket taking a refreshing bath. She was one of several dozen people who had made it to a school in Yondo, a small town along the banks of the Magdalena River in central Colombia.
There are now over 4 million displaced men, women, children in that country who have fled their lands and homes.
They know war. They have survived in the midst of death, bullets, men with guns, some sanctioned by law others called terrorists by those same laws. Those men on both sides of the conflict have been accused of thousands of crimes: rape, torture, murder, kidnapping and forced displacement.
Civlians know about war and that is why it is more than necessary to show their knowledge and experience in any way possible because it just so happens that the narrative of war is mostly about soldiers and battles, technology and weapons, and that narrative almost always comes to us from the perspective of the conquering forces, and their plight, their pain and loss.
This is not an exaggeration. All we need to do is watch the dozens of flicks and documentaries made in the U.S. about U.S. loss of life for U.S. audiences in wars fabricated with U.S. assistance.
The little girls and the throngs of parents, brothers, grandmothers, aunts who survive war do not get many opportunities to bank roll, make and distribute films that tell us their stories of war fought on their soil, in their villages and neighborhoods, wars that leave them with death as part of their historical memory. They have much more urgent needs.
This is where people who tell the stories of those who are declared [or not] enemies of the state, the motherland, the fatherland, the nation come into the picture. There are people in power who consider that poets, novelists, play writers, reporters, photographers, cinematographers who push and pull with their work deserve to die. They too can be collateral damage. No exaggeration. Think about the Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca.
And this is where the powerful come in: words can come back to hold you responsible, especially if you have ordered a killing, or a genocide; even if the order was given in the name of security, peace and democracy. So new orders are issued and reporters, writers are killed.
Yet there never seems to be a deep sense of loss when a artisan of the word is murdered. It is necessary though to remember that not all dead are created equal: the media exalt some and condemn others. It even turns out that we civilians victims of war were in the wrong place at the wrong time; and nobody ever said life was fair, right?
Maybe those pervasive TV images and scripts about callous reporters, ass wipes who care not an iota about people and roam the landscape looking for the next best headline desensitize the audience. Nobodies perfect. Reporters like that are out there.
But there is also Julio Daniel Chaparro, Rodolfo Walsh and Veronica Guerin and Marie Colvin. Just four names. Reporters, writers and poets, men and women who grappled with words, persecuted and murdered.
Julio Daniel Chaparro’s murder, shrouded in impunity, hit that statute of limitations on April 24 2011. Earlier this year Argentine General Jorge Rafael Videla acknowledged some irregularities during the dictatorship he led, like the kidnapping and murder of Rodolfo Walsh. The poet Juan Gelman also persecuted lives on long after Videla and his regime were gone, but his family was murdered.
Like so many people, civilians we are called, people on the street we are, we survivors may one day tell the children and grandchildren what ‘that’ war was like, if only we find the words, the patience, and the reassuring sense that our story matters, if we find those who care to listen.