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Gustavo Gac-Artigas

The United Nations General Assembly 72nd Session and the 25th Hour

Never had there been a sadder view beneath the crystal domes and through those broad windows with their beautiful New York views, with marble blocks standing as a reminder of the distant solidity of the U.N.’s foundations, with leaders passing before the eyes of the world, not to give an account of their actions or of the goals they had achieved for the good of humanity, for the protection of the disadvantaged, the advancement of the rights of women, of children, of those who are different, of those who flee, or in defense of our future or simply of the survival of our planet and our human race.

No, they were passing before the eyes of the world, after a moment of glory, just as the new president of the United States was passing, with a smug smile that reflected neither his country nor a humanitarian policy – despite the fact that he had the nerve to mention the latter –to show off his personal power, his satisfied ego, his sense of I-the-Supreme.

The man who claims to represent the nation of peace promises instead the total destruction of another nation, and people are outraged, since the word “war” lies beyond the boundaries of the beautiful buildings; the word, not the act, since everyone knows that we are approaching the 25th hour, the hour that will lead us to our future.

Minutes of glory in which those leaders, believing themselves to be the navel of the world and while trying to conceal the past, talk of the people’s right to self-determination and declare that no one should control another’s destiny, pronouncements made by those who are not even capable of guiding the destiny of their own people.

And, with a fake smile, he hides the past as if there had never been takeovers, crimes, torture, blockades that translate into hunger for some, malnutrition for children, the same children whose rights he will speak of a few hours later. And just as the past is concealed, so too are the present and the future and his real intentions.

In those minutes of glory on the world stage, he tries to shine with the same double-talk that led to his success in achieving the presidency, that two-edged sword, the one that cuts both ways, with no direction other than that of the power grab, of boundless ambition, of the ignorance necessary to survive in darkness, through the closed windows behind the heavy curtains that hide the 25th hour, as it lashes the United States and the world.

Outside those windows, the furious wind of reality is unleashed, the waters swollen by refugees’ tears and the tears of the dreamers, of those who gave birth to the dream, those who led their young by the hand across the desert, those men and women who lent them the warmth of their bodies as they crossed the border, those people, the first to dream of giving them a better life, the dreamers who passed the dream on to their children.

Unprecedented “hundred year events” begin to appear, one after another. We open the door of destruction to them by denying that we are destroying our planet. We have the temerity to set the 25th hour in motion, the hour of hurricanes and hunger and devastation and rockets crossing the heavens in a child’s – or a madman’s –  game of dares and double-dares, defying one another to cross the line, the line that we, as children, used to scratch in the dirt, spitting on our hands and challenging our opponent to guess which one held the candy,  and, depending on their choice, using that hand to launch a childish fight to demonstrate our machismo and power.

Please, for my children’s sake, for my granddaughter, for all of you, understand this: we need the United Nations. United, the façade declares: it was the United Nations that plucked me from a prison cell in Chile during the Pinochet dictatorship. We need to draw back the curtains and let ideas, ethics, and morality in; we need to let books in, and with them, understanding. In short, let a wind of renewal blow in and sweep away bureaucracy, bad leaders, King Midases, the ignorant, the powerful, petty-ante dictators of every ilk, those who will return to their gilded castles when the Assembly is over:  the dictators, to continue destroying and denying their people’s fundamental rights; the corrupt, to continue lining their pockets at the expense of the dispossessed.

Please understand: we need to stop the clock before the 25th hour and begin the reconstruction of the destroyed nations, the destroyed cities, the destroyed forests, the destroyed heavens, of our dear, destroyed Puerto Rico, which might well now be called Puerto Pobre. We need to restore the rights of the first hour, the right to education, health, a decent job, self-governance. May all these rights pass through the windows in both directions without waiting for the next United Nations General Assembly meeting, your Excellencies.

 Translated by Andrea G. Labinger     

Ph.D. in Spanish and Latin American Literature, Harvard University

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