On March 20 2018 Archbishop of San Salvador Oscar Romero was murdered while celebrating Mass. He broadcast speeches and homilies on the radio and one of his most famous became immortalised by the Hollywood treatment in a movie about his life. This speech called on the solders of the army to stop the repression because they were the brothers killing their own. The speech below is the actor Raúl Juliá recreating (in English) this speech.
To call each other to account, to recongise we are all connected and our liberation is bound to our brothers and our sisters is a call to action every day.It makes no difference if we are in the the informal theatres where terrorism and guerrilla make their home or the clinical formality of technologically driven machines and sophisticated weaponry – the result is the same – war is made.
The word war comes from the late Old English werre, from an Anglo-Norman French variant of Old French guerre, from a Germanic base shared by worse. It is our worst selves on display when we make war. Far from the battlefields our taxes are used to build, deploy and send bodies to zones where the only outcome will be destruction. Romero called on the men in the army, it was a direct appeal, not to the chiefs or the captains or colonels, but to the foot soldiers those on the front line enforcing repression through the potent currency of fear.
Communities glue together the self preserving elements of fear and sometimes rise up to remove repression from their lives, but rarely is this done without a leader – I think of Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi. Antidotes to repression are built in movements for change, but if we are not careful, just like the frog in the jar as the water gradually rises in temperature, many societies don’t notice before it is too late and the repression is in full swing. To call out repression early and often is left to the prophets and the poets, the story tellers and the singers. The voices are the first ones to be silenced or to go underground. All the more reason for those with access to microphones to speak into the public space and follow Romero’s example, to name and claim the people as brothers and sisters, one family, naming the divide and relentlessly seeking union.
In psychology the notion of repression is the rejection from consciousness of painful or disagreeable ideas, memories, feelings, or impulses. The acts to bury and hide and cover up what we don’t want to face, making the often difficult and tortured journey to rise to the surface and come into plain view, unfettered. This is an ugly and painful trip from the toxic dump into the light if liberation calls. Romero’s voice was extinguished as other before him and many more to come will be too, but the prophet will not be silenced and is the ultimate guide to release the sticky mess of quagmire where repression is fed by fear.
The ones who take their voice to the streets and speak up are our psychologists dragging what we don’t want to face into the light and sadly it is inevitable that along the way there is collateral damage, there are those who get radicalized (on all fronts) and those who find their home on the edges or in exile.
Perhaps we take an examen of consciousness in the tradition of Romero’s spirituality:
Where is repression making an appearance in my world?
What repression am I stopping?
Where did I experience liberation today?
What holds me back?
What sets me free?