01 Oct Feeling Funky about Fierce Mother…
Right from the start, Carmen Aguirre’s memoir, Something Fierce, captures the reader’s attention with its fascinating premise: a young Chilean refugee leaves the safety of her Canadian homeland to travel back to Chile with her revolutionary mother and step father. Told in everyday language, blunt and basic, yet captivating, the tone is clearly pre-teen and endearing without being sentimental. It’s funny as hell, too.
But while I am quick to turn the pages, I’m also quick to judge Carmen’s crazy mother. It’s difficult to fathom how a woman forced to flee her homeland because of Pinochet’s violent 1973 coup could possibly be so driven to return to her country–kids in tow–when she was one of the fortunate few granted refuge in Canada by the Trudeau government.
I’ve traveled a lot. I’ve lived overseas. The Middle East, in fact. Non-democratic, non-equal, enveloped in a culture and religion utterly unique to me, entirely foreign. While I loved my experiences, I often say you’ll never be a more patriotic Canadian than when you leave. I am passionate about my homeland, so I get that fierce determination to fight to regain it, but as a Canadian, I am well aware of how incredibly lucky Auguirre’s family was to land, not only in Canada, but Vancouver!
I do get the pain of adjustment. And maybe I don’t know the agony, the bitterness of being pushed out of your home, forced to flee, but once safe in Canada, how could Carmen’s mother yearn so desperately to go back, she was willing to sacrifice her family for it?
As a mother of two kids, I just didn’t get that. Once you have children, in my humble opinion, your job it to fight to protect them, not drag them into your own fight. To intentionally put them in harm’s way, especially when when it’s out of desire to fulfill your own passion, or fight for your own cause, is unfathomable to me. One could argue the mother felt returning to Chile to fight for the freedom of all Chileans was in some round about way fighting for her daughters, but I’m sorry…I don’t buy it. At least not yet…
At the very least, she should have left her daughters in the safe keeping of their father, still in Vancouver. While the parents were divorced, by beginning accounts, Carmen and her sister were close to him, and indeed, were then forced to refrain from contacting him while they went underground.
Carmen’s mother’s speech to her girls in the Vancouver airport, prior to departure, says it all:
“To be in the resistance is a matter of life and death. To say the wrong thing to the wrong person is a matter of life and death…You must assume everybody is the wrong person…In the resistance, we agree to give our lives to the people, for a better society. I’m asking a lot of you, but you must remember the sacrifices you’ll have to make are nothing compared with the majority of children in this world. So many of them die of curable diseases and work twelve-hour shifts in factories, without ever learning to read and write. We are fighting for a society in which all children have the right to a childhood. I’m so proud of you for that.”
This tirade screams of irony. How could her mother be so blinded by her own ambition that she fails to see her own children are being denied their right to the innocence and protection that ought to be inherent of childhood?
Will I change my opinion by the end of the book? Tune in for the next 10 days and find out!