Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Día de los Muertos

Today was the Day of the Dead, which is an important day in all of Latinamerica and of course Spain. People in Mexico create elaborate shrines, in Nicaragua flock to the cemeteries to beautify the graves of their departed, and in Spain, party all night long (not that that's particularly different from any other holiday in Spain, of course). I happen to be in Berlin, with its paucity of Catholic churches. But the historic Marienkirche in Alexanderplatz, which somehow survived both World War II and the DDR, has real votive candles for the public to light and that's where I ended up today.

I lit a candle for Bob who was brutally murdered in Ensenada two weeks ago; I think he would have appreciated the gesture. The tourists, in contrast, didn't seem to understand what the nice-looking middle-aged woman was doing kneeling in one of the pews off to the side, crying into her hands on a Tuesday afternoon. I attributed it to their lack of culture, don't you know.

Since losing Bob, it's been difficult to think about much more than the question of evil. It's a debate in which I've long engaged: trying to pin down the thin line between true evil (so intangible and difficult to define) and personal weakness (that I often think, in its tired banality, causes as much harm to others). There's no doubt that what was done to Bob was truly evil, but it was evil on a pedestrian scale, without meaning or significance. In Germany of course one always and forever thinks about the quintessential evil of Hitler, and then the German people and their collaboration. A book that strongly affected me, again recommended by my ex, is Hans Fallada's Jeder Stirbt Fur Sich Allein (Every Man Dies Alone). There is always some way to resist evil, however small.

Tonight I remember two imperfect men who resisted as best they could, consistently, clear-headedly and actively. My father who died at home twenty years ago, with my mother and me at his side. And Bob whose cruel death will never supplant the example he set for the rest of us. Rest in peace, queridos míos.

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