GABRIEL MAGALHÃES – portuguese writer
Armed militiamen rest on a terrace in a central cofee in Barcelona on the morning of July 19, 1936 (JUAN GUZMAN / EFE)
When the civil wars are over, the hell they were living has not been solved. This happens because no one wins them; both sides lose them. The victor is awaited by the moral defeat of knowing his own brother’s executioner. The secret remorse of being more sweet in the art of killing. And all this pain of the vanquished and victors is hidden in the apparent aftermath of peace, like a crouching monster, who can return to the scene at any time. A nation that has lived through a civil war is like a person who has suffered cancer, whose metastases spread on both rival sides. With peace, the war tumor is removed, but the threat of a new carcinogenic ailment will float over that country for a long time.
Healing from a civil war is very hard for a nation. It is a therapy that takes a long time: in fact, this involves the work of several generations. In Portugal, we had a very serious fratricidal strife between 1832 and 1834, with a replica in 1846 and 1847. After the republican revolution of 1910, preceded by a regicicide, in 1908, there were constant and bloody conflicts, which could have led to a new conflict, which was almost averted from a miracle. Among many victims, a President of the Republic and a Prime Minister were assassinated. Portugal was not always the oasis of peace with which travelers meet today. There are nations that stand out for their ability to develop economically. The great product that Portuguese society has been able to manufacture throughout the twentieth century has been a peaceful culture: a collection of tranquility and stillness.
The Spanish Parliament is bowling, and no one knows that inside the balls there is historical nitroglycerin
In Spain, in recent times, politics is being played as if you were in a casino. It bets on people’s lives, with his future, managing the citizenship tokens without respect or moderation, revealing an irresponsibility that cries out to heaven. Statements about illegitimate governments or coups amount to kicking the crouching monster of the Spanish Civil War. Which, we all know, is still there. In the Parliament, bowling is played, trying to take down the opponent anyway, and no one seems to know that, inside the balls thrown, there is historical nitroglycerin.
Of course, it is not 1976, after Franco’s death, when that crouching monster was a very concrete reality, the army, whose encouragement the political leaders, the king included, felt in the neck. Nor are we in the 1930s, when the European and international context loomed into a brutal conflict, which somehow encouraged the Spanish Civil War. Today the framework, for now, is different. And there is not – also for the moment – in Spanish society that abundant, unhinged and tragic misery, which pushed many to play in a fratricidal conflict a life that, deep down, were already lost, so rough were some biographies of those years.
However, democracy built since 1978 is beginning to reveal troubling aspects. In fact, this is increasingly emerging as a troubled journey, marked by postmodern Carlist wars: the drama of the Basque terrorism, happily very downwards, and the Catalan conflict are by the end of the twentieth century and for the twenty-first century what these Carlist wars were – for the nineteenth century. Spain does not escape its internal tension. That today’s politicians like to ride these apocalyptic steeds, snailing irresponsible claims, causes sadness. They prepare to leave, as an inheritance, a country to be solved, when, enjoying civic freedom, they had conditions to achieve another result.
Above all, people don’t deserve this. It would be possible to be a Spain proud of all its languages, tolerant and respectful of the other, socially just and economically prosperous: a small Europe, model for the whole continent. But if you put this idea on people floating above, they look at you strangely: with empty pupils, as if you were talking to them about the planet Mars. Because everyone, more or less, has gotten into his trench. And from there they think and shoot: they have no horizon other than that firing line, with the only landscape of their interests. But if you share this possibility with the ordinary citizen, the perspective loves it, only that almost no one tells it so that they can believe it.
Portugal is a amassing of virtues and defects, like all nations. It is not, in fact, in the pandemic fight that we have highlighted, as the most recent numbers are not, quite worrying. If something Spain wants to learn from us, peace would perhaps be the main lesson we could give to our neighbors. Something that requires the work of several generations; that is conquered over time, with a long time. And the present batch of Spanish politicians should know that one of their main responsibilities remains, for the good of all, to take determined steps towards a harmonious, peaceful and concordant society.