Book shows the conflict through the eyes of a good and anguished priest
Reviewed by TOM CARNEY
It’s not easy to read Through a Glass Darkly. It tells the awful story of innocent people who were not allowed to be neutral in a brutal civil war that pitted succeeding Guatemalan governments, backed by the United States, against a ragtag insurgency representing Mayan peasants and various factions.
It’s particularly hard for Americans to read because it reveals the extent to which successive American governments in the name of anti-communism sponsored, and even directed, the government side in the war. And at a time when the American government is accused of torture and spying on its own citizens in the name of the fight on terrorism, it’s especially disturbing.
Compensating for the soul-wrenching subject matter is the book’s readability. Though the subject matter is often horrific, the story is clear and vivid without being sensational. It is also well-documented, a combination that’s uncommon with such books. It has 20 pages of notes, attributing to official and other sources the book’s disturbing accounts.
Mr. Melville tells the story of the conflict through the eyes of Ronald W. Hennessey, a Maryknoll priest who worked among the Mayan people of northern Guatemala from 1964 through 1985, and again from 1992 to his death in 1999 while home in Iowa for the funeral of his sister. Two of his sisters, Gwen and Dorothy, are well-known in the family’s home state because of their sentencing to five months in federal prison — at 68 and 88 years old respectively — in January 2002 for trespassing on the grounds of the U.S. Army’s School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Ga
Hundreds of thousands slaughtered, and tens of thousands driven into the hills by right-wing death squads, helicopter gunships, soldiers etc. Nobody knows how many died of exposure, or whatever. It depresses me to think about it. They're a beautiful people.