I wrote recently about a book I had just finished, Shadows at Dawn by Karl Jacoby.
Many sides to every story
I mentioned in this post a desire to visit the site of the tragedy outlined in this book – Aravaipa Canyon. And so on this trip to Tucson, I did just that. This morning I headed up to the canyon to just be there at dawn – to listen for the silence.
There is no memorial to this tragedy, no marker identifying the site of the massacre of more than 100 Apache, mostly women and children by a posse made up of Papago Indian, Americans and Mexican Americans (noting this part of the USA had only recently been part of Mexico). So I wandered a few miles up the road that more or less follows Aravaipa Creek from its confluence with the San Pedro river, the site of Camp Grant, the US army base after which the massacre is most commonly named.
And stopped – and listened to the silence…
I guess I don’t really know what I expected to see… or feel… or think...
Some words from the gospels came back to me
“What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind?”
Didn’t really help – but it got me thinking.
I wandered around a little in the crisp morning air. Heard what might have been 3 different types of bird chirping from somewhere in the peculiar foliage that adorns the desert. Listened carefully for rattle snakes. Watched a rabbit scurrying about, probably annoyed I had disturbed his morning. And finally it sunk in…
Injustice is not an event, something you can pin down with at marker or a memorial. Injustice is not a moment in time that can be frozen. Something you can look at and say, yeah – glad we put that behind us. Although often I think that is exactly what we hope to do.
Very few are truly willing to listen to the other side(s), before or after major events that erupt due to injustice, to truly understand what the injustice represents, why it exists, and . The passage I quoted in the aforementioned post still stands well in this regard, particularly from that sense that we are so eager to point out how we have been wronged, we find it impossible to listen well to other parties.
“Given the obstacles to merging these fragile and diverse forms of storytelling into a single tale, it is, paradoxically, by venturing in the opposite direction -- by listening for the silences between accounts; by discovering what each genre of recordkeeping cannot tell us -- that we can capture most fully the human struggle to understand our elusive past. What this past asks of us in return is a willingness to recount all our stories -- our darkest tales as well as our most inspiring ones -- and to ponder those stories that violence has silenced forever. For until we recognize our shared capacity for inhumanity, how can we ever hope to tell stories of our mutual humanity?”
Karl Jacoby, Shadows at Dawn: A Borderlands Massacre and the Violence of History
The injustices, in this particular instance suffered by all the involved parties in one way of another at the hands of one of the others led to this shameful massacre as the milestone event recorded in history. And they also did not end there. The legacy of the event for some was very clear and tangible, for others less so. The underlying causes of these injustices were not resolved by this event, they continued for many years, decades even, some not fully resolved today.