THEY DANCE ALONE
By Jan Chavez
By Jan Chavez
In November 1970, Chile had her first popularly elected Marxist head of state in Latin American history. He was Salvador Allende. Within a year of his administration, he had expropriated the copper properties and was acquiring, through purchase, control of other mining operations and all private banks. Land reform was accelerated.
However, in September 1973, after weeks of nationwide strikes and economic chaos, the socialist experiment came to a violent end. Allende was overthrown in a military coup, and he reportedly committed suicide.
The junta, led by General Augusto Pinochet Ugarte, pledge to "eliminate" Marxism and "reconstruct" the country. Pinochet took the title chief of state in June 1974 and that of president in December. A state of siege was declared, and before it was replaced in 1978 by a state of emergency, political parties had been banned and the government had been condemned by the United Nations General Assembly for its violation of human rights. A new constitution, approved in 1980, permitted Pinochet to retain power until 1998.
There followed a period of political repression and guerrilla activities. By 1982, more than 400 cases of torture had been presented to the courts without a single conviction.
This Chilean scenario is the topic of the very political singer-songwriter Gordon Summer, a.k.a Sting, in his song "They Dance Alone" from his 1987-released album Nothing Like The Sun.
Like his predecessors of the rebellious 1960s, Sting states his anti-war message directly sometimes to the point of being pretentious.
However, that doesn't weaken Sting's tragic story of human rights victims. He focuses not on the victims, but on their families who were left behind.
"Why are these women here dancing on their own?
Why is there sadness in their eyes?
Why are the soldiers here, their faces fixed like stone?
I can't see what it is that they despise."
Sting's political leanings are pretty obvious and his world is the stuff B-movies are made of, divided into two sides, namely good and evil.
Sting even identifies the villian.
"Hey Mr. Pinochet, you've sown a bitter crop
It's foreign money that supports you
One day the money's gonna stop,
No wages for your torturer,
No budget for your gun
Can you think of your own mother
Dancin' with her invisible son?"
Reports on the situation in Chile show without doubt that military atrocities do occur in this country, and the song is one of the strongest against human rights abuses:
"They're dancing with the missin'
They're dancing with the dead,
They dance with the invisible ones
Their anguish is unsaid."
Sting also denounces the hopelessness of the people in dealing with the dictatorship. People are not even allowed to voice their protest, and once they do, they suffer the same fate that befell their missing or departed loved ones.
"The only protest they're allowed
I've seen their silent faces,
they screamed so loud,
If they were to speak these words
they'd go missing too
Another woman on the torture table,
what else can they do?"
However, like all dictatorships, any oppressive regime will fall one day.
In his chorus, Sting offers hope to the oppressed, and a violent end to the regime.
"One day we'll dance on their graves
One day we'll sing our freedom,
One day we'll laugh in our joy
And we'll dance alone."
For Sting, it is inevitable that the dance for the dead will become a dance for JUSTICE.