Between 1976 and 1983, as many as 30,000 people in Argentina simply disappeared. These “Desaparecidos”, as they were known, simply vanished at the hands of the regime. After a while, mothers of the disappeared started marching in the Plaza de Mayo carrying pictures and demanding answers. Eventually, the government fell and a long process of truth and reconciliation began.
Recently in the USofA, people have started to disappear. Government agencies and nonprofits who track foreclosures have found it nearly impossible to find the people who have turned in their homes throughout the nation. The kids are no longer in schools and the families are no longer on the tax rolls; they simply disappear. Similarly, people who have taken unemployment insurance for the full six months become “discouraged workers” and no longer count as unemployed; they have also simply disappeared.
Naturally, the comparison is a hard one to make. It’s not as though anyone has actually been tortured and killed in the USofA, and they all have gone somewhere. But as far as our government is concerned, they have disappeared. Technically speaking, these people no longer count.
Yet noone’s mother is marching in the Plaza to ask where they have gone.
The outrage in Argentina that started as a dour march gradually boiled over into a political movement. If people are disappearing, the government should not be part of the cover-up. A civilized people demand answers to these questions, and there is no doubt that Argentines are civilized. It’s not as clear that we can say as much for the USofA. No one is demanding answers, no one is figuring out what is happening. Not counting is apparently good enough for us.
The vast machine that is our government lives off of data. From the Census Bureau to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the way we are governed is largely as statistics, numbers and categories that, when pushed together, provide our leaders and our people with an accurate picture of where we are and what must be done. Without accurate information, the machine tells us nonsense. Without any trace of the disappeared, we have happy talk replacing real policy.
When will we march in the streets demanding that the information we have is real? When will we realize that the machine has been deliberately set up to not inform us, but to pacify us? When will we rise up and do something about it?
It took a lot of time in Argentina, even with a more dire situation. But they did it. I wonder how long it will take us to realize that those who have disappeared are real people, people that count no matter what the machinery tells us. I wonder if we have no choice but to throw out the machinery and have our leaders get out and see the world, rather than a power point presentation with happy little graphs on it.
Someday, the mothers will march. It’s only a matter of time and a matter of how our own truth and reconciliation process goes. That’s when we find out how much we have to throw out to give a real voice to everyone, even those we thought had simply disappeared. After all, they have gone somewhere. They weren’t victims of torture, they were victims of an economic system that has started to seriously fail in many ways. Let’s see how badly it has to fail before we do something about it.