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A stain on Peru's birthday celebrations
By Roxana Garmendia
August 8, 2012
A week ago, we all celebrated the nation’s 191st birthday. Hurray! Red and white flags of all sizes were showing off from balconies and rooftops, smaller versions hanging out from cars in the streets of Lima, creole music pounding from most radio stations, family and friends spending time together, perhaps enjoying the extra money received this month, while others sat comfortably sitting in front of the TV set, cup of freshly brewed coffee in one hand, and in the other, our inseparable companion, the remote control – just in case!
As I zapped through the channels and realized that they all had similar programs, a particular one caught my attention. It was a reporter who was testing ‘how Peruvian we really are.’’ This young man was stopping people, mainly in their early twenties, in the streets in order to ask them questions about Peruvian history and the significance of the national symbols.
The answers this reporter was getting were beyond belief, as more than one interviewee could not get the origins of Simon Bolivar and Jose de San Martin right, believed the 28 July celebrations were about becoming independent from our next door neighbor Bolivia, and that the cute four-legged animal displayed in our national shield is the llama! Is this how bad our education system is? Is this how much we love and care for our country?
However, there was more to come. As the morning hours passed by, I found myself watching the military parade. I have to say, I am not a fan of military parades as I would much rather prefer a parade or some kind of display that represents society as a whole, its values, culture and history. I recognize and am grateful, of course, for those in the military who are ready to give their lives for us civilians and who fight for good causes, but why have a display of military might when most countries, including Peru, proclaim to be pacifist? I think this country is more than a military parade and has countless positive things and traditions we can all be proud of as well.
As I was going through these thoughts, I could clearly hear the voice of retired General Edwin Donayre making comments on the military parade, military life and how much it has changed. He was narrating how ill-treatment and sexual harassment may now lead to serious trouble for the offender.
Suddenly, the general started elaborating, this time in much detail, about how sexual harassment in the Armed Forces resembled a military man’s sword, and the sheath was a woman. Such a story was utterly vulgar and totally inappropriate considering the time of the day and the thousands of families gathered around the TV. It was also insulting, I believe, for anyone who has been a victim of sexual harassment and for women in general who the retiree shamelessly blamed for such acts, calling them ‘insinuadoras’, whatever that means to the high official.
For some, the general remains a funny guy who made the parade worth watching, while for others, and I include myself, it was a shameful spectacle to say the least and an offensive one to be more precise. There is no question that the general owes a public apology to the Armed Forces and to women in general for such remarks. Let us hope he finds the courage military men and women do have. And let us hope our mass media geniuses know better next time!
It is not enough to wear a military uniform or a T-shirt with ‘Te amo Peru’, eat cebiche and drink only pisco or queue in line to catch the best seat to watch the military parade to say we love our country. It is about knowing our country and its history (remote and recent), respecting each other, and being responsible with what we say and do when we are given the chance to speak to the country.
Total coments: 10
Commented By: Oscar
On: August 8, 2012. 4:09 pm
Totally true. This person is the portrait of the most primitive and bully behavior within Army. It's a pity that his behavior and comments are still celebrated.
Commented By: jsmd59
On: August 8, 2012. 5:34 pm
Roxana, totally in agreement with you . The Educational system has failed and continues to do so. Kids cannot identify our national heroes, like Bolognesi, or writers, like Vallejo, as evidenced by a TV show. This includes university students. Shame on the educational system, and even more so on Donayre.
Commented By: Dale Hemme
On: August 8, 2012. 7:40 pm
Unfortunately the educational system has done exactly what it has been designed to do. Please examine exhibit A, Charlotte Iserbyt - Deliberate Dumbing Down of the World, a 9 minute video.
Commented By: Brian H
On: August 8, 2012. 8:15 pm
It's sad but a fact of life in Lima that there is an identity crisis. Kids don't care about their country or its history.. in fact, this is probably true of Peruvians in general
Commented By: Wilde
On: August 8, 2012. 8:15 pm
Totally agree with you Roxanna. To love a country is to give respect to all its people.
Commented By: faustus_9
On: August 8, 2012. 9:17 pm
I don't usually watch the July parades because I don't like this saber-waving military show-off that our country engage in every year. But this year, while waking up, with the proverbial cup of coffee, I caught this feller, Donayre, on the air. I remembered him to be the one that spoke too much, and got us into diplomatic troubles with Chile some time ago. And on parade day, he somewhat gave some commentaries that more or less reminded me of his anti-Chileanism, although this time more subtly and cleaner perhaps. And yes, his commentary about the sheath and woman comparison made me cringe because he was showing the machismo that is so prevalent in this country. I must admit that I found myself smiling at some of the things he was saying, but at the same time I got this feeling of vicarious embarrassment too. The lady reporter reacted to some of his comments also, although she preferred not to "pull him by the ears." At any rate, it is sad that we have to learn so much in this country. Our culture is so low that it's ridiculous. Teachers do not teach - they throw garbage at mediators that try to get them to stop striking. Teachers talk and they speak so badly that it is painful to listen to them. Imagine what the children learn! And machismo is so ingrained that it is not funny. We have gone from the chacra to the world market without going through the transitional educational and culturing process. Thus we find people that make lots of money and have houses and cars and do not know their history, neither their language. It is depressing to think about it. It is difficult because it is hard to change a culture, or to make it better, more ecological, more humanist, more connected to the global reality. Everyone blames education, but it is more than that: our culture is alienated (to use a psychoanalytical term); it has been broken on the way of our growth as a country, and we have become atrophied. Just watch half an hour of news and we can see how primitive we really are, and we applaud those who show this troglodyte mental make-up in public behind their disguises of congressmen, generals, teachers and even reporters. It is really a pity!
Commented By: email@example.com
On: August 9, 2012. 12:02 pm
Thank you for all your comments, they are much appreciated and I am happy to know I am not alone in this! I do not watch the news or hardly any peruvian TV except the Government channel and another one that have quite interesting programs. I watched the video recommended by one of you and I found it interesting. It reminded me of the film 'Detachment' with Adrien Brody which questions the American Public Éducation system, a very good film with an excellent interpretation by the actor who also played in 'The Pianist'.
Commented By: jrivera
On: August 10, 2012. 2:18 pm
I thought Gnl Donayre was a true patriot and a legitimate soldier of the Peruvian Armed Forces. However, his comments fall nothing less than being sexist and down right vulgar to say the least. We all deserve respect and this man is just a complete....., well, he is an A..HOLE!! What a shame!! for crying out loud.... Jaime E Rivera
Commented By: Kim
On: August 13, 2012. 7:13 pm
Thoughtful article - thank you
Commented By: Claire
On: August 22, 2012. 3:46 pm
Another great article by Roxana Garmendia showing all of us the way towards a Peru where comments like those made by a GENERAL, or anyone for that matter, are NOT FUNNY but rahter are totally unacceptable and for all the reasons she elucidated. He should hang his head in shame, apologize sincerely and move on to much better communication skills. I hope that he doesn't have any children because he is among the worst of role models and Peruvians have a right to expect more from those who are educated, are in positions of authority and who have a public voice.
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