Yesterday was the most powerful day for me. Most likely the few people who visit this blog already know my family’s connection to El Salvador. If not, you can read about it in the Family Therapy Magazine (page 22) – Here. Yesterday we visited a community called Santa Marta, one of the communities most brutally impacted by the war in El Salvador. The most powerful experiences for me is to sit in a circle with a group of other humans and talk and that is what we did with the community yesterday. We heard multiple stories of valor, strength and examples of survival from people who lived through the most ugly and darkest of times. I don’t know if being here this week has made my feelings about the path my brother’s life has taken less complicated. It has made the hellish context he came from seem more concrete and real such as the violence he was exposed to and likely experienced. There were so many instances of human life being valued so little. On the other hand, so many of the people who have opened their hearts and told us their stories this week have taken such a different path than my brother. When I shift my brain toward our ideas about therapy, I wonder, what is the difference that makes a difference in the path a person’s life takes after exposure to war and violence?
A lot of our most powerful conversations are not on the schedule. The bus driver who drove us to the community was talking with Choco and shared that he had been a soldier in the war. He was recruited when he was 10 years old. He said he didn’t understand the reason for shooting women and children and would try to shoot into the air. It put him at risk. His leaders would count his bullets at the end of the day and there was always the risk of being seen as not doing your job. You could be killed for it.
To negotiate a peace treaty, they granted amnesty to everyone. No one would be held accountable. I can understand that drastic steps sometimes need to be taken in order to bring about peace, but this week I am thinking about the psychological implications of impunity again (as I do in many contexts, like Cambodia and Mexico and the United States). Does justice need to happen for people to heal? I have to think not, because too often there will be no justice.