Semi-Daily Journal Archive

The Blogspot archive of the weblog of J. Bradford DeLong, Professor of Economics and Chair of the PEIS major at U.C. Berkeley, a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

By Neddie Jingo!: Pinochet Passes By

Neddie Jingo's encounter with Pinochet:

By Neddie Jingo!: Pinochet Passes By: June, 1975: Santiago de Chile

Your Ned, the son af an American diplomat, is a sophomore at an international school at the farthest edge of town, in the Andean foothills. His anti-authoritarian teenaged years in their fullest pimply bloom, he insists, despite his parents' entreaties (or, who knows, perhaps because of them) on affecting the uniform of the Pissed-Off 1975 Teen: the long, ratty hair, jeans worn through at the knee, the general surliness.

In a fascist dictatorship -- gun emplacements on the public thoroughfare, DINA agents prowling the streets in unmarked cars ready to pounce and "disappear" you to torture chambers on Dawson Island, itchy-trigger-fingered Carabineros on street corners stopping any random passerby who looked vaguely "socialist" -- the Pissed-Off 1975 Teen look is the sort of thing that the Authorities lick their chops at. It's utterly impossible to understand, in a cosmopolitan democracy, the raw, adrenaline-pumping fear that can gnaw at your vitals when you can be hauled off the street at any instant for the way you dress. I'm sorry, punk rockers and Disaffected Victims of the Man: you can't know. There is no comparison.

I came to dread with a sickly nausea those knee-trembling moments when a machine-gun-wielding cop would pick me out of a crowded sidewalk, step in front of me, and accost me for my ID: "A ver, joven..."

And I was safe! I was untouchable! I had Diplomatic Immunity! I had a diplomatic carnet de identidad that rendered me literally untouchable!

Most of my friends were theoretically untouchable, too -- but try explaining that to my pal Joe, son of the Bolivian chargé d' affaires, who got his knee broken in just such an encounter. He'd forgotten his wallet. Boom. Rifle butt to the patella. Don't forget, punk.

The trip to school that year was a bouncy, uncomfortable ride with several other kids in the back of a covered pickup truck. A few families had banded together, hired a driver for the duty. Our outbound trip wound its way through Santiago's fashionable districts, picking up kids, then out to Calle Las Condes for the drive to the beautiful foothills.

One morning, we were going down a one-way street on our usual route. Minding our own business. Obeying the speed limit. Being good citizens. Out of nowhere, coming directly at us, came two motorcyle cops, gesticulating wildly -- get out of the way! Get out of the way!

On a one-way street. Going the wrong way.

Directly into oncoming traffic.

The motorcycles were followed by several police cars, Carabineros leaning out the windows, also waving their arms. One of the cars slowed momentarily, and a particularly vehement cop shouted directly into our drivers' face; apparently the rather deft dive the driver had made onto a spare patch of sidewalk hadn't been fast enough to please him.

Then a Mercedes limousine passed imperiously by, oblivious to the strewn traffic on either side of the quiet city street. A profile in an ornate military peaked cap, distinctive brush moustache clearly visible, adorned the opened back window. Generál Augusto José Ramón Pinochet Ugarte, Presidente de la República de Chile.

It's a good thing those Carabineros were so preoccupied ahead, clearing the way for the Great Man. I'm not sure they would have taken kindly to the Pissed-Off 1975 Teen Neddie's upraised middle finger that extended from the back of the truck.

I hope dying hurt a whole lot, you rat-faced son of a bitch. I hope you suffered the tortures of the damned. I hope no one wiped your brow or comforted you while you suffered and died. I hope you died alone.

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