Something large flashes by the window – blue, yellow and red with a beak open emitting a shrill squawk. Then another, and another; tens become hundreds become maybe thousands. Suddenly Caracas is full of birds. Not just any birds – big, bright macaws. Macaws are not new to the coasts of northern South America; they love the sun and the free skies and the great green jungles that they call home. But unexpectedly there are more of them; nesting on high rises, alighting on power lines and appearing by the dozens on window sills and balconies.
The birds are bringing beauty – a reminder that color and liberty are not forever-lost.
It’s easy to be overtaken by the colorlessness of communism and the darkness of dictatorship. One hour becomes two becomes ten in an endless line for food. The same stale propaganda over and over; the vitriolic attempts at total control that gives ‘totalitarianism’ its name. Fear. Crippling, infuriating, maddening fear. Fear of the future lest things get worse (which they almost surely will); fear of the past – because memories are harder now, more bitter, laced with rancor because we can never go back.
It’s as if God is using the birds to deliver a message, ‘even in the bitter darkness of dictatorship I am sending you something beautiful to remind you that I am, that I am good, and that you need not fear.’ God has used birds in the past – for the same purpose. For Noah, God used a dove. For Elisha, a raven. Jesus himself used the story of birds to remind us not to worry.
I wonder if Leopoldo Lopez can see the birds? Or Antonio Ledezma or Raul Baduel Jr. or now Manuel Rosales? Do they alight upon the prison windows? Do these men, prisoners of conscience to those who have none, take comfort in the colors? I’d like to think that they do; and that they understand that God, who commands all the creatures, sends birds too in times of great darkness to show us the way and give us courage. Because my friends need the courage – now more than ever.