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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 62 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

A Real Hero

Credit: Facebook/Maria Santos Gorrostieta)

Copyright © 2012 by Ralph Couey 
Written content only.

In these days of trial and adversity, we seek heroes, but few step up.  If you’re in need of a hero, I offer one to you.
Dr. Maria Santos Gorrostieta Salazar.
For several decades, a war has been going on just across our southwest border.  In Mexico, rival drug cartels have been shooting up towns, villages, and each other in a desperate and violent effort to dominate the drug trade.  Some 60,000 people have been slaughtered in this war, and not all of them cartel members.  They have been the number one priority of three Mexican presidential administrations, but endemic corruption and the sheer economic power of the criminals has made the fight an uphill battle. 
To the north, the 21 million of America’s citizens who use and abuse drugs have funded the violence, apparently too high to see the bloodstains on their hands.
The Mexican state of Michoacán has been one of the eyes of this storm, being home turf to several of the more violent groups.  Politicians and police, outgunned, outmanned, and out-financed, have pursued the path of least resistance, rather than risk the wrath of the drug lords.  Until 2008.
Maria Salazar was a physician.  Angered by what was happening to her country, she became involved in politics, winning the election that put her in the Mayor’s chair of the town of Tiquicheo.  She ran on a platform characterized by defiance of the cartels.  She won the election, and less than three months after taking office, she was sent a message.
She and her first husband were traveling near a rural community when their car was cut off by another vehicle.  The occupants sprang out, fired guns in the air, and warned her to resign.  Undaunted, she soldiered on.  About a year later, in January 2009, they were attacked, suffering injuries that did not prevent them from carrying on their public lives.  In October of that same year, they were ambushed.  Her husband was killed, and Dr. Salazar was wounded, but feigned death enough to fool their attackers.
After recovering from her wounds, she resumed her duties.  She appealed to the leadership of her political party, the PRI, for protection, but they refused to help.
In January of 2010, she was attacked again, this time wounded three times, along with her brother, the head of the local Institute of Women, and a journalist.  Still, she returned to work, in constant pain and wearing a colostomy bag.  She proudly and publically displayed her wounds, saying,
“I wanted to show you my wounded, mutilated, humiliated body,
because I’m not ashamed of it.
It is the product of the great misfortunes that have scarred my life,
that of my children, and my family. 
Freedom brings with it responsibilities and I don’t dare fall behind. 
My long road is not yet finished.”
On November 12, 2012, Mayor Salazar was driving her daughter to school when she was intercepted.  She pleaded with the attackers to let her daughter go, agreeing to go with them in their vehicle.  The kidnappers then drove away.  It was the last time anyone would see her alive.
Her family waited in vain two days for ransom demands before notifying the police.  But on November 15, her body was found, beaten, mutilated, and burned.  She died of blunt force trauma to the head.  Her second husband is now apparently missing.
Our own history is full of people who stood tall in the face of personal danger, defending any number of noble causes, for example Nathan Hale and Rosa Parks.  This is the kind of thing we call courage; placing high ideals above the value of even their own lives.  Dr. Maria Santos Gorrostieta Salazar was that kind of hero.
Her story, and her death, received scant attention in U.S. newspapers, still fixated on the election and its aftermath.  But our journalists have never seemed to take serious interest in Mexico.  This is surprising, because many of their fellow writers have been among those brutally murdered.  One major newspaper threw up the proverbial white flag, publishing a full-page letter to the drug traffickers, telling them that the newspaper would only print stories approved by the criminals. 
To acknowledge the war would also require us to also take responsibility for it.  Americans are the world’s largest consumer of illegal drugs, and as long as that continues, so will the violence.
Some say legalization would stop the violence. But government control of anything increases its cost, not the least of which would be the huge taxes that would be levied on those products.  All the cartels have to do is undercut those high prices.  Stoners are consumer-minded like anyone else.  If the same product is available at a lower price, they will take their business to those distributors.  Rather than crippling the cartels, it is likely to swell their accounts even further.  Besides, legalization is, for all intents and purposes, surrender.
And this is America.  We don’t do surrender.

If you need someone to inspire you, someone whose example of courage and stubbornness could help you change the world, look to the story of Dr. Maria Santos Gorrostieta Salazar.  
She never dunked a basketball, or scored a touchdown.  But I believe she earned the right to be everyone's hero.
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