Sunday, December 11, 2011

Panama, a homecoming

Recently (& not so recently) a handful of rock bands have been on the news quite irked that their music was being used as, dare I say it, an instrument of torture.  Apocalypse Now aside, that musical torture was largely incidental (the soldiers just happened to like it that loud), the first time I ever heard of it was those 15 days Noriega spent holed up in the little piece of the Roman Catholic Church that was the Vatican Embassy while outside US Troops blasted the Rolling Stones (if memory serves-wait let me look it up...yup The Rolling Stones, & Hendrix & Bon Jovi & others) to make life just that much miserable for those holed up inside.

There is a lot of fodder in that whole story:  the church really will shelter anyone at all if they think anyone might find out they didn't & we apparently have no problem considering what we enjoy to be a plague on others.  But I'm not going there today.  Today I am going to France.

In 1990 Daniel Noriega did finally surrender to the rock'n'roll army & was shipped off to a US trial & US prison & that's the end of the story.  Well actually it isn't.  After the US was done with him...did you know the US was done with Noriega?  I missed that story last year, on April 26 2010 precisely.  Turns out between the Gulf Oil Spill & the 20th anniversary of the Hubble it just never came up.  Anyhow, so Noriega went to Paris & to prison & maybe even brought is Legion of Honor medal with him.

Wait, you didn't know that (me neither)?  Noriega was awarded the highest decoration in France in 1987 although his name was not on the list of recipients when I checked just now so apparently they can take that back.

Why am I going on & on about Noriega?  Because a judge in France has ruled in favor of yet another extradition & this morning he should be heading back to Panama.  Panama has been trying to get their hands on him for awhile & I for one am happy to know he is going.  The Panama he left & the country he returns to are like different worlds.  There have been elections, no doubt imperfect ones but still much improved.  Crime is hardly eradicated, but the police force are no longer just a thuggish arm of the current president-for-life.  Best of all, there is no such thing as president-for-life. 

As for the Rolling Stones, they will probably be playing somewhere, but Panama has had quite the cultural revolution since  Noriega left & now he will be treated to the not-so-smooth stylings of Panamas biggest musical export: a kind of sort of reggae hip-hop mosh.  What can I say Mr. President, the times they are a-changing.

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