Rosa Montero is a highly respected Spanish journalist and author. She writes a regular column in the newspaper El País and has published 29 books.
Rosa Montero, El País, 9/01/21.
Original article: elpais.com/elpais/2021/01/04/eps/1609775968_400975.html
The misogynistic attitudes and harassment that still persist in the military must be eradicated once and for all.
The universe doesn’t really do moderation. That’s why phenomena such as the famous Matthew effect occur, based on the Parable of the Talents. “For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath,” which describes the ease with which the rich become richer and the poor become poorer; a most unpleasant parable indeed.
We also see it in so many proverbs, with references to streaks of bad luck – bad things come in threes; when it rains, it pours; or, that terrible, politically incorrect Spanish saying: pongo un circo y me crecen los enanos [“I put on a circus and the dwarves start growing.”]
Well, we Spaniards are currently in the middle of such a streak. Added to the scourge of coronavirus is our economic situation, especially affected by our dependency on tourism, and a suffocating political environment thanks to the toxic sectarianism we often seem to cultivate in this country. And to top it off, most recently we can add to the list the rattle of sabres, soldiers doing the Nazi salute or making atrocious statements; foul, regressive notions that seem to come from the Dark Ages.
In November 1982, I covered John Paul II’s first visit to Spain. Tons of journalists followed him on a strenuous schedule that passed through Ávila, Segovia and the Sanctuaries of Guadalupe and Loyola. We did various legs of the journey in an army helicopter; a Chinook like in Apocalypse Now. They were complicated and difficult journeys, especially through the tense environment of the Basque Country – that year, ETA had murdered 41 people.
When we were going to be moved for the last time via helicopter, it occurred to me that we could get a little something for the soldiers who had been taking us back and forth. I suggested that we get them a bunch of flowers, an idea that some of my journalist colleagues rejected, as they refused to fraternise with the soldiers. It was understandable; only a year had passed since the traumatic attempted coup of 1981, and not only were we mistrustful of the army, we were also fairly afraid of them. But at that time, we were still living through the final stages of the Transition, a period of hope and generosity, unheard of in our history. We genuinely wanted to build a new country, and we were willing to roll our sleeves up. That was how I managed to convince the reluctant journalists that the future belonged to everyone and that progress happened through action.
We bought a big bunch of red and yellow roses, and we gave them to the young commanding officer (a lieutenant, I think), who was left speechless and taken aback. I don’t think he’d ever been given flowers in his life. We began that journey full of resentful silences from both parties, and we finished it amicably and with respect.
Since then, nearly 40 years have passed, and the image of the military and their relationship with society has completely shifted. Today, we have a professional, modern and democratic army of which we can be proud for their humanitarian missions and their brilliant work during the pandemic. That said, this trust and positive image has taken many years to build. To me, it seems they should be the first ones to want to clean up the lingering presence of some unpleasant individuals that are surely not as relevant as they’d have you believe.
And, incidentally, they should eradicate once and for all the misogynistic attitudes that still persist in the military; the harassment of all kinds, sexual or work-related, that they perpetrate against women in the army, and that unfortunately are still far too common. In fact, the newspaper Diario16 has published several horrible cases in the last few years. One such case is the recent four-year prison sentence of the lieutenant paratrooper Fernando Corona, who from 2014 to 2016 made life hell for one of his subordinates, with unwanted touching, masturbating in front of her, etc; the female soldier has suffered PTSD, and is receiving psychiatric treatment with two years’ sick leave. His prosecution and sentencing are an encouraging start. Let’s hope the army seizes the opportunity prove their critics wrong, because I would like to keep giving them flowers.
Translated by Molly Shevlin