I think this is the Friday Forgtten Books post where I catch hell.
By typing this right now perhaps I'll get tagged by some supercomputer over at the NSA’s black box building in Greenbelt, Maryland. But, hey, you know...playing it safe leads to a very dull life. If those DHS smarties actually think I’m some sort of "subversive" well, let's just say they've been snacking on the wrong beef jerky.
The book I want to talk about today is called Our Word Is Our Weapon: Selected Writings by Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos. Briefly, Subcomandante Marcos (or Delegate Zero as he is sometimes called) is the enigmatic leader of the EZLN (the Zapatista Army of National Liberation). No one knows for sure Delegate Zero's true identity, but many in power surely want the man dead. What is known about El Sup is that in the mid-to late 90s he organized a small army of impoverished Indians in the Chiapas region of Mexico to rise up against the Mexican government’s wholesale rape of the indigenous Indians' land, rights, and culture. Imagine sticks against guns and you have a fairly accurate picture...kind of like an updated Oliver Cromwell slaughtering the Irish only way south of the border.
For a short time the EZLN had some traction on the world stage. Their popular support peaked in early 2001, but then the world crumbled into its present doom spiral and their largely peaceful revolt was soon lumped in with all the other terrorist bogeymen. President and fat-cat U.S. crony Vincente Fox was "replaced" in a sketchy election with ultra-conservative Felipe Calderon (more business as usual) and the hammer came down. The EZLN dove for cover. Perhaps for good, but not likely. The Mexican people have deep scars dating back centuries and the truth is scars never really heal. Victims' scars are the maps of assailants' hubristic folly, follow them long enough and they'll lead to the towering strength of the willful heart.
So, one might ask... why all the hubbub, Kieran? Gee, I guess I forgot to mention that under Chiapas is probably the motherload of Central American oil. Funny that. My hunch is I don't have to draw you a connect the dots picture of who wants a piece of that action.
But back to the book and why I want to talk about it today. This collection is great, just freakin' great. Foremost, Marcos is a philosopher poet and quite the humorous storyteller. To connect with the illiterate and oppressed Indians he recognized that great truths can be conveyed in the simple telling of a story. Heroes and villains, triumphs against impossible odds, the silly crocodile and the wise bird. In this collection El Sup dispatches not only some of his most articulate intellectual arguments against neo-liberalism greed, but he also shares beautiful poems and funny stories to be shared with friends around a campfire or over a few glasses of beer.
Folktales are powerful. They can convey passions to even the smallest of children and the most jaded of adults. Their beauty lies in their universal humanity.
This Fall I am teaching some third graders about the power of good storytelling. We discuss and engage after reading tales from around the world. It's a shake-n-bake kind of cultural mix. And you know what? Children understand greater truths better than you think. It's amazing to see them light up and affirm that it's better to fight for fairness and justice, that is better to speak kindly and help those who are starved with want rather than just take and take and take.
Anyway---Our Word Is Our Weapon: Selected Writings by Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos. This is my Friday Forgotten Book.
KIERAN SHEA’s fiction has appeared in dozens of venues including Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Thuglit, Dogmatika, Word Riot, Plots with Guns, Beat to a Pulp, Crimefactory, and Needle: A Magazine of Noir ...as well as in some beefy-looking anthologies most of which will make you question the tether of his shiny, red balloon. To his self-deprecating astonishment he's also been nominated for the Story South’s Million Writers Award twice without sending the judges so much as a thank you note. He co-edited the satiric transgressive fiction collection D*CKED: DARK FICTION INSPIRED BY DICK CHENEY and his debut novel KOKO TAKES A HOLIDAY is out now from Titan Books. Kieran divides his time between 38°58′22.6″N- 76°30′4.17″W and 39.2775° N, 74.5750° W.