In English Voices From Spain

No man’s land

Published originally in Spanish. Isabel Coixet. El País.

I find myself in a silent place where there are many people and no hymns or screams make a sound, where the air only moves white flags.  

My face burns as I write this. Not with shame but with anger. Two people with the estelada flag tied round their necks have started shouting at me at the door of my house  crying “Fascist! Shame on you!”. I had gone out to walk my dog and to recycle some plastic and initially, because it was very early and I was half asleep since I hadn’t been able to sleep all night, I didn’t realise they were talking to me and I carried on. But they kept shouting so I turned round in a calm manner that two hours later still amazes me and I told them: “Aren’t you ashamed to shout that at me when you don’t even know me?”. They went on shouting. The dog pulled me away. I walked on.   

I threw the plastic to the recycling bin. I kept walking in shock. Slowly a quiet, nasty rage overtook me. It’s been months, even years if we go back to when I signed the petition of the Foro Babel for an effective bilingualism in Catalonia, of constant insults and attacks against those who, like myself, don’t follow the independentist group think and show our disagreement. And in these last few months the level of hate we have received has been incredible.

Till now it had been limited to digital lynching and I dealt with it by not being in Facebook or Twitter (my Twitter account was hacked, as was my WhatsApp trying to assign to me a text I hadn’t written), although there’s always someone who tells you about the black tide of dirt they throw upon you, but this is the third time this week they shout fascist at me (the first time I answer back) and there’s something in me that’s beginning to break. I realise with a frightening lucidity that, whatever happens, there’s no room for me or for anyone who dares think for himself in this place where I was born. It was today’s incident, yesterday’s insults against members of my family, two days ago friends whose friends criticise harshly that they are still my friends, and tomorrow something worse.

It doesn’t matter that you absolutely condemn police brutality o that you ask for Rajoy’s resignation (which I did long before any of this happened). If at the same time as you condemn the Spanish government’s behaviour you don’t expressly approve the Catalan government’s actions, you immediately become the enemy, a fascist, fascistic, francoist, excrement. And you think about the fear that has fallen like spores on the skin of those who keep quiet and secretly come to tell you that they are with you, that they thank you for what you do, that they can’t even speak in the privacy of their homes because they don’t want the kids to overhear and then have problems at school. This are not anecdotes, this is the reality that we live here. The incredible fracture of a society that lived in peace and free from fear, with the obvious differences of opinions and values and ideas, but with respect.   

As I think all of this, I calm down and see that after all this is a pittance; right now across the world there are men and women suffering all sorts of indignities, catastrophes and horrible humiliations. My problem, and that of others like me, is a first world problem. I try, as I often do, to minimise what I go through so as not to feed the monster of hate that would make me no different from those who insult me. I had never imagined that the price to pay for speaking my mind with respect and honesty would be so high. And yet, I would never give up this dry and quiet no man’s land on which I stand, on which I know many more stand, free of anthems, and shouts and slogans, where the wind only moves white flags that whisper “help” with the faint hope that someone, somewhere might, before it’s too late, listen.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.

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