Commentary by Mumia Abu-Jamal: Voices from the Other America

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People in the United States, drunk on imperial pride, think of themselves as quintessential Americans, and think of the rest of the people of the world as something else; something lesser: the Other.

It would surprise such people to learn that there are indeed millions of people, in other countries, who see themselves as Americans, and see residents of the United States (and Canada) as norteamericanos. Chileans are Americans. Cubans are Americans. Argentines are Americans.

And they have their own perspectives on things that have happened in the U.S., like the planes slamming into the twin towers of New York and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. Although their perspectives may not merit the attention of the big networks, or of the mega-corporate media, their perspectives provide valuable insights into how they think, and how they see the norteamericanos.

Consider how Chileans reacted. Novelist Ariel Dorfman saw it as a morbid kind of deja vu:

“During the last 28 years, Tuesday, Sept. 11, has been a date of mourning, for me and millions of others, ever since that day in 1973 when Chile lost its democracy in a military coup, that day when death irrevocably entered our lives and changed us forever….”

Dorfman wrote of Chile’s painful history, of the U.S.-backed coup that supported the bombing of the Presidential Palace, which led to the removal and death of the elected Salvador Allende, and also to the installation of the military dictator, Augusto Pinochet.

For many Chileans, Sept. 11 marks the day democracy died. When foreign terrorists (like the U.S. CIA) supported a reign of dark terror upon the people of Chile, when thousands were tortured or killed by the military, a military trained in terror by the U.S. at the infamous School of the Americas in Columbus, Georgia. While surely many feel sympathy for Americans, their feelings must be somewhat mixed.

Panamanian commentator Ricardo Stevens looked at Sept. 11, and saw mirrors in his country’s history:

“But how much alike these new victims are to the boys and girls, to those who were unable to be born that Dec. 20 [1989] that they imposed on us in Chorrillo; [a poor ghetto/ barrio in Panama City, where an unknown number were killed by U.S. forces] how much alike they seem to the mothers, the grandfathers and the little old grandmothers, all of them also innocent and anonymous deaths, whose terrors were called Just Cause and the terrorist called liberator” [from Radio La Voz del Tropico (Panama), Oct. 15, 2001].

Argentine columnist Membo Giardinelli, in his Sept. 13 Pagina 12 piece, wrote of the 30,000 “disappeared” during the Dirty War, when the U.S.-backed military slaughtered unionists, students, and leftists. He damned “the United States’ leading role” in such events that led to a harvest of hatred, not toward Americans, “but your arrogant leaders…”

Regardless of the sweet speech of diplomats, writers often give voice to the true feelings of peoples. Americans should know how that Other America feels. Perhaps they will ask why.

Information can be found in the NACLA Report on the Americas, Nov./Dec. 2001; Website,; Phone, (212) 870-3146.


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