What if I were to tell you that, from 1980 to 1992, the U.S. backed a war that killed 75,000 people, 97 percent of them civilians, and left 96 percent of families living below the poverty line?
What if I were to tell you the U.S. invested over $6 billion in this war, money used to buy weapons and train a military that killed innocents, massacred villages, and displaced a population?
What if I were to tell you the U.S. also trained, on their soil, assassins who killed religious leaders seeking social justice for their people?
This might seem hard to believe, so I’ll start from the beginning.
I began my postgraduate life as a student of English Literature. I had a passion for reading, for characters—I loved how you could get into somebody else’s head—and how these characters could transform your perspective. The characters of my books taught me to stop, to think, to be patient, and to know that there is always a motivation behind someone’s actions. You never know what secrets can be revealed if you just listen to somebody else’s voice.
Though I loved my program, I was drawn to another, the Social Justice and Peace Studies program—referred to as SJPS—that was uniquely taught at my school. I wanted to challenge myself, to learn something new, which was why I enrolled in SJPS’s introductory class. And this class was like an addiction: I began learning how the world worked, and I just couldn’t stop.
I decided to pair my English major with a major in SJPS. This has been both the best, and the worst, decision I have ever made.
You see, growing up as a middle class, first generation Canadian, living a life full of privilege and free of worry, things were pretty good. My reality was presented to me like a beautiful tapestry, an intricately woven pattern of coloured thread. SJPS introduced me to the first loose thread in this tapestry, and encouraged me to pull. And as I pulled this one loose thread, slowly the entire tapestry began unravelling, destroying my reality and revealing what was behind.
While in my third year of studies, I was presented with the opportunity to travel to El Salvador with 11 other students. The trip was being led by a law student, Selvin, himself a graduate of the SJPS program and a native of El Salvador. I had learnt about Canadian mining issues in Central America, so I knew this trip was important. What I didn’t realize was the transformative impact it would have on me. I would hear stories and listen to voices that provided insight into the theory I had learned, and make the issues I’d read about in the classroom all too real.
Monique Veselovsky has always loved the art of the story. As an advocate for social justice, she understands the power of storytelling in overcoming difference. Her greatest desire is to create dialogue and share knowledge, for there is no greater story than someone’s lived experience.
She hopes to tell her story here.
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