How often do you find yourself talking to people who fought a war on both sides?
Last week I was in El Salvador, a country the size of Massachusetts that was choked by a civil war for 12 years. The war ended in 1992, but it takes longer than 20 years for many people to heal their wounds, especially those in their hearts.
Same old story... the dichotomy between richness and poverty, oppressors and oppressed, corruption and idealism. It seems easy to choose which side to stand for. It feels even easier to forget about the other side.
During my trip I was fortunate to meet Arnulfo and Jose', two ordinary men with extraordinary past. Two men similar to each other, yet so distant. Both, unspoiled by mass tourism and genuine in their intentions. Both, tools utilized in the same sanguinary war, yet on opposite sides.
Arnulfo was a kid when people started disappearing and bombs begun to fall. His eyes tell you about the days he spent hiding inside underground shelters. And they show you the features of his 2 older brothers who lost their lives in the Salvadoran guerrilla before the war was over.
Jose' - a former soldier turned veteran entrepreneur after the war ended - marched for 6 years in the army of the conservative government, eating whatever was dropped, shooting with whatever was provided. Never spending time with his family. Never really knowing the reason he was forced to fight his people or why his people were so eager to fight him.
It feels automatic to side with the oppressed, but wasn't Jose' as oppressed as Arnulfo? He certainly didn't have the luxury of choosing. They were both clean pawns of the same filthy chess game.
The Salvadoran civil war taught me a lesson: we should take more time to think before voicing our opinion, and control our impulses before judging events too soon.
This is how we get it all wrong.