In a Trumpian-era of "alternative facts" what does the truth mean? And what does the truth mean when we are complicit in obscuring it?
A few days ago, I heard the testimony of Mexican journalist Anabel Hernandez whose recent investigative book, La Verdadera Noche de Iguala, describes her findings around the disappearance of 43 normal school students on the 26th of September 2014. Speaking to an audience at the University of Texas at El Paso, Hernandez described how the students at la Escuela Normal Rural "Raul Isidro Burgos" in Ayotzinapa were disappeared in Iguala in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero. They are among 26,000 people who have been disappeared in the country, including women, men, children, and babies. Hernandez believes in naming names and she says she has the names of every person on the list of 26,000 disappeared. Over 100,000 people have been killed in the past decade as part of Mexico's war on drugs.
Anabel Hernandez has uncovered evidence that the attack on the students that left the streets like "a river of blood" and their subsequent disappearance was the result of a collaboration among several levels of law enforcement with the military. The attack was an effort to disappear witnesses to the military removing two million dollars worth of heroin that had been hidden on the buses that the students occupied. The students had no knowledge of the heroin. They had "sequestered" the buses in order to get to a commemoration in Mexico City of the 1968 Massacre of Tlatelolco.
The 43 first year students whose faces stare at us from the poster above have been missing for over two and a half years. Their parents continue to insist that the search for them must continue. On April 25, the parents arrived at the office of the Ministry of the Interior to request a meeting, continuing to demand that their sons be returned alive. After a hour of waiting for their request to be "processed," they began symbolically touching the wall that surrounds the Ministry building. They were met with tear gas grenades that injured five of the parents. Ayotzinapa students who were returning to Guerrero to inform the school of the attack on the parents were attacked by state police.
So what does all of this have to do with the truth and with us?
It has everything to do with us. Shocking images of the tragedies created by the opioid epidemic in the United States are increasingly reported in the media. The Center for Disease Control reports that 91 Americans die each day from opioid overdose. Increasingly heroin substitutes for prescription opioids. As a result of the increasing demand for heroin in the United States, Mexican drug cartels are turning to heroin as the profitable drug of choice. Heroin abuse has grown most dramatically in the Midwest and the Northeast. Whites between 18 and 45 years of age now have the highest death rate from heroin overdose.
Increasing addiction to heroin is a complicated issue and the racial/ socio-economic politics behind how our government is treating this epidemic are another story. But we have to start by confronting the truth that the deaths and disappearances in Mexico are not solely a consequence of Mexican governmental corruption nor cartel criminals.
The truth is that our government is complicit. The truth is that we are complicit as a society that consumes the drugs. The blood of the 43 Ayotzinapa students is surely on our hands as much as that of the Mexican government.
Anabel Hernandez says that no nation can move forward without knowing the truth that they have a right to know. We not only have the right to know the truth, we have an obligation to take responsibility for the truth. This is even clearer during these times of "alternative facts" and a President who lies, exaggerates, and misrepresents.
Only when we look truth in the fact can we begin to understand how our actions reverberate well beyond the borders of our nation.