Gioconda Belli: One Swallow Doesn’t Make a Summer; or Does It?

One Swallow Doesn’t Make a Summer; or Does It?

Recognizing past mistakes is a valuable exercise because they provide lessons that can be shared, so that the same mistakes aren’t repeated.

By Gioconda Belli  (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – I make reference to the saying, “One swallow doesn’t make a summer”, to express my assessment of my incorporation into the Civic Alliance. I considered myself to be just one more to be included. However, during recent days I’ve realized with surprise that one swallow can, in fact, have more impact that one might think, judging from the reaction in social media, both in favor and against my inclusion.

Social media presents, without a doubt, a relatively new forum for those who have no other means of communication to share their ideas and concerns. As someone in the public eye, either as a writer or as a political activist, I am not exempt from debating ideas, like any other citizen; nor from being contradicted. That’s how a democracy functions and we’re lucky to have this freedom of expression, at least within these public fora.

Yet, I also consider these social networks to be a double-edged sword. I have seen accusations that border on post-truth, false accusations, extracts from interviews taken out of context to prove something that would be understood in an entirely different manner by someone seeing the entire interview.

My honesty, my sexuality, my past have all been attacked; and those responsible for the attacks have had little interest in the past 30 years in which I have rectified and criticized, and written books and given interviews on the difficulties and errors of the Sandinista Revolution, and the result of that revolution, which is, tragically, the Ortega-Murillo dictatorship we are suffering under today.

I am who I am, and who I have been in the past. I take responsibility for my actions, both right and wrong. I clearly understand the resentment against the Sandinista movement. As Edgard Tijerino said, we are a generation that failed to conduct Nicaragua towards the freedom that had been won by blood and fire following the Somoza dictatorship.

When we triumphed over that dictatorship, we held ideals of the “left” that were mistaken. At that time, after 45 years of dictatorship, it was easy to throw out democracy for those who didn’t think like us; to say that we were building a “popular” democracy for the very people we were denying not only democracy, but freedom and human rights. Unfortunately, this is a common error of the left, and has led to the creation of dictatorships on the same level or worse, than those we were trying to discard. Cuba and Venezuela share with us this disgrace.

I totally agree that the new generations must bring about changes in Nicaragua. However, recognizing the mistakes of the past is also a valuable exercise because they provide lessons that can be shared, so we don’t repeat the same mistakes. Youth is a period of learning. It isn’t always on track. The best proof of this is the Sandinista Revolution itself, whose leaders and members were young.

Sharing our experiences is something that my generation can offer. In fact, some of the youths involved in the April Rebellion come from homes with Sandinista parents; some of whom were in the Sandinista Youth and even the UNEN. The original Sandinista movement also left an inheritance of rejecting tyrants.

I accepted Dr. Tunnermann’s proposal [to join the Civic Alliance] because I thought I could contribute in a variety of ways. I hope I can reassure the international actors that want to support our changes and who are concerned with the way in which we are disqualifying each other, and our idea that unity can only be built among a group of “equals”, when not even the “equals” share the same ideas.

Debate, however, with all its diversity, is important. It’s healthy. I don’t feel the same way about the attacks, nor the maneuvering to disqualify people who want to contribute to ending this national emergency. I can’t be in favor of efforts to undermine because it makes us weak and reveals ill-will and bad intentions. It’s exclusive and looks too much like the same power discourse we are questioning.

I could make a list of the insults I’ve been saddled with, in the same way lists have been made of the insults that Murillo has hurled at the Blue and White opposition movement. These actions, on both sides, incite the most primitive and vengeful instincts of our society. Excluding others through insults is to behave in the same way as those whom we criticize.

The democracy we hope to build doesn’t require that we abstain from criticizing. Criticism is the essence of democracy. However, the methods we use cannot be the same as those we are seeing in our current political culture because, if that is the case, we can only deduce that the cycle will be repeated; not because older people are involved, nor because of the involvement of worthy people who, in the past, were also compelled to participate in a struggle against a dictator, but because we ourselves are repeating the same mistakes that we would like to leave behind us.  

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