Nation Institute Fellow Gary Younge, writer for the Nation and the Guardian (UK), recently conducted an interview with Eduardo Galeano that captures his elegant blend of wit and wisdom. Speaking with Younge, Galeano expressed his mixed emotions about the state of the world, saying, "It depends on when you ask me during the day. From 8am until noon I am pessimistic. Then from 1pm until 4 I feel optimistic."
No matter what time of day you speak with him, though, it is evident that Galeano never stops grappling with the realities of the world around him. His sharp mind never stops making connections, linking the past with the present. He told Younge, "History never really says goodbye. History says, see you later." It is Galeano's intimate relationship with history that adds so much gravity to everything that he writes.
Galeano is a defender of all those that history has forgotten. He told Younge, "My great fear is that we are all suffering from amnesia. I wrote to recover the memory of the human rainbow, which is in danger of being mutilated." Why is our memory being destroyed? Galeano answers, saying, "Our militarism, machismo, racism all blinds us to it. There are so many ways of becoming blind. We are blind to small things and small people."
That militarism, especially the American variety, is the subject of a number of passages in Galeano's latest book, Children of the Days. Tom Engelhardt excerpted a selection of Galeano's most profound passages on the American way of war for his website TomDispatch. Here is one of the most poignant entries:
The Day Mexico Invaded the United States
On this early morning in 1916, Pancho Villa crossed the border with his horsemen, set fire to the city of Columbus, killed several soldiers, nabbed a few horses and guns, and the following day was back in Mexico to tell the tale.
This lightning incursion is the only invasion the United States has suffered since its wars to break free from England.
In contrast, the United States has invaded practically every country in the entire world.
Since 1947 its Department of War has been called the Department of Defense, and its war budget the defense budget.
The names are an enigma as indecipherable as the Holy Trinity.
The beauty of Galeano's writing lies in his ability to devastate the power structures that shape modern life by stripping them down to their indefensible origins. But do not mistake Galeano's realism for despair. As he told Gary Younge, "We are much more than we are told. We are much more beautiful." Each entry in Children of the Days reminds us of that.
The Guardian described the book as a "giftable, covetable, hefty, handsome, a veritable plum pudding of a thing." Greg Grandin, writing for the New York Times Sunday Book Review, brilliantly captured Galeano's essence, saying, "think Pablo Neruda crossed with Howard Zinn." He describes Children of the Days as a book "for those who feel that history has become too much of a burden to bear — a collection of inspirational wisdom, its 366 entries, one for each calendar date in the (leap) year, keeping alive the memory of courage and beauty amid the carnage."
You can buy the book here.