Last night, I lay down a little nervous to go to sleep. Images of men ruled by primal extinct pushed over my reason and redrew it into nightmarish images. Children who never had the chance to be innocent had starring roles and black-haired women torn between sides followed suit. In these nightmarish images, I am not sure who is innocent. Unfortunately, I am not sure that it matters because there is blood everywhere on everyone.
I know this all sounds so crazy, and so unrealistic. But yesterday, while on an exhibition at FIU’s Frost Museum I got the chance to see what I wish I did not have to see. And now I will try to communicate what I wish I did not have to communicate. The Frost Museum is hosting a series of paintings drawn by ex-paramilitaries, guerrillas and victims of Colombia’s “drug war.” The paintings are actually painted by perpetrators. They are painted by perpetrators who were once victims. They are painted by people who perpetrate to be on the side against perpetration. They are painted by people who perpetrate to uphold righteousness. They are painted by those innocently affected by 60 years of perpetration.
It’s all so confusing.
However, what is evident when you look at the drawings is the rawness of thought, the muddy, dirty truths of war that had to be released into the fresh air because to hold them inside would be to perpetrate the cleanliness of our American reality. These “painters” were not skilled artists. They were people caught in a vicious cycle of violence who finally had the opportunity to “vomit” as the curator charged.
If I had to explain the vomit, this is how I would describe it. There were innocent, pristine forests, rivers, mountains coated in a seemingly never ending green. The paintings depicted a naturalness that looked like the work of mother nature at its best. Virginal, you longed to be there. But, when you step closer to the paintings, your focus shifts from the greatness of mother nature to the limits of humanity. You see the blood and the gore.
I found myself questioning, “where is the social contract?”
Perhaps,that is the problem. The social contract ended at the edge of the forest, highlighting what may be a part of the real problem: marginalized groups trying to eek out an existence in a reality very different from the other parts of a culturally sophisticated, cosmopolitan Bogota, Medellin and Cali.
I quietly remember that just this year Colombia was honored as one of the most ecologically friendly countries in the Western Hemisphere. Both Colombia and Costa Rica claim honor to that award. But, some of Colombia’s forests have been fertilized with carnage.
Colombia’s greenness is a mainstay of each of the paintings. The greenness spotted with red blood; the greenness tracked with paths of red blood; the greenness a final resting ground to the bodies that had been dragged, and dismembered in cold blood. There were plainclothes people, men, women, children drowning in a lake of red; villages in the center of positioned, firing weapons; women naked, raped and killed; schools painted just yards away from killings; a woman begging for life from a 9-year-old child soldier.
THIS IS THE EXPLANATION YOU HAVEN’T HEARD AS TO WHY COCAINE SHOULD NOT BE USED.
It is simply made from blood.
Our Hollywood celebrities have access to “happy times” with the white stuff and get patted on the wrist when caught. Do they understand its ingredients are made with terror, blood, the displacement of 4 million people largely of Afro-descent and indigenous backgrounds? We need to look at illegal drugs from various ways. We need to understand that yes cocaine and illicit drug use is dangerous to the mind and to the body, but it is dangerous to the very fabric of humanity. I am in no way insisting that celebrities are the only users. I am just highlighting the dichotomy of suffering, against the whim of those who never had to face such terror just to live.
To be perfectly clear, the United States is the world’s largest consumer of cocaine. There is no successful war on drugs without seriously minimizing the consumption of cocaine. There is no minimizing the consumption of cocaine without understanding the lives destroyed in the middle of its growth. There is destruction on both the production and consumption ends. We cannot afford to normalize this drug war as a reality of living. We cannot brush it off as somewhere off in the jungles of Colombia. We must teach our children that drugs are not only bad for our health, but we must make the connection between its horrific mode of production and use. We live in a globalized world. Let’s let the information we have make us more human, more proactive and all the wiser.
*title idea is based on the book named, “Sugar is Made from Blood”