Where does world peace start? In YOUR heart. Our world is made of the stories we tell ourselves about it.
Let me tell you a story of forgiveness.
In 1989, the US bombed Panama. It was called “Operation Just Cause” and the reason given was “to neutralize Noriega.” This tiny war took five days, and was judged most successful by military standards. However, this “success” ravaged large chunks of both the capital, Panama, and Colon, as well as “uncounted” civilians. Civilian deaths are sometimes estimated at above 4,000.
That would mean – all things being equal demographically, which of course they are not – somewhere in the neighborhood of 8,000 weeping mothers and fathers, half again as many (if not three-quarters) grieving grandparents, around 2,000 terrorized orphans, and maybe 20 or 30,000 tear-soaked brothers and sisters. Roughly. That gives us an estimate of 70-80,000 or so intimately affected survivors, but doesn’t include traumatized friends, heart-broken lovers or shell-shocked neighbors. And cousins. Uncles, aunts and cousins. Remember, nearly everyone in Panama is related to at least 50 other living Panamanians. So raise the number of people intimately affected to a minimum of 250,000. In 1989 the population of Panama was 2.435 million. So probably about 8 percent of the population was closely connected to the deaths involved.
You can read about the events of that time by just Googling “Operation Just Cause” and you’ll get a ton of stuff, including videos. Keep in mind that each writer/videographer has his own point of view on what was happening, why, and whether it was good/bad. No matter what you think about what happened that day, consider this: perhaps the most important lesson is being taught right now: The Panamanians are our friends.
They really are.
THAT is the most amazing part of this story. They have forgiven us. The friendship is not just political lip service, either. They take us into their homes, they help us with this and that, and they are kind to us on a daily basis.
A gringa friend recently told me that one of the principles she tries to live by is to release resentment. She says someone wise told her that “Holding resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other guy to die.”
So what you have here in Panama is a country filled with people drinking to life, and love, and being happy and kind to each other and to US Citizens in spite of things that happened in the past. What a terrific start on world peace. I think there is a lesson there for all of us, don’t you?
I’d also like to suggest a lesson in sensitivity. There is no point to stirring up old resentments that people have tried so hard to forgive. Not everyone is Mother Teresa or The J-Man, or Buddha, even though they might be working at it. So it would be both kind and prudent to stay out of the public eye on December 20, as there will be parades and demonstrations of remembrance for the loved ones who died.
Here is a notice sent out by the US Embassy in Panama:
The U.S. Embassy in Panama City informs U.S. citizens that it has received a report of planned demonstrations in Panama City related to the anniversary of Operation Just Cause on December 20, 2015. One demonstration is scheduled to begin at 8:00 a.m. in the by milittraffic circle between Clayton and Albrook and continue to the U.S. Embassy. A seceeond demonstration is scheduled to begin at 2:00 p.m. on the Cinta Costera. All U.S. citizens are reminded to remain diligent in your personal security.
U.S. Citizens should plan their travel accordingly and avoid all confrontations. Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence. You should avoid areas of demonstrations, and exercise caution if in the vicinity of any large gatherings, protests, or demonstrations.
For up-to-date information on security, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department’s Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov. Further information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
We strongly recommend that U.S. citizens traveling to or residing in Panama enroll in the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) at www.Travel.State.Gov. STEP enrollment gives you the latest security updates, and makes it easier for the U.S. embassy or nearest U.S. consulate to contact you in an emergency. If you don’t have Internet access, enroll directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
If you are a U.S. citizen in need of urgent assistance, the emergency number for the U.S. Embassy/Consulate is 317-5000.