by Carolyn Forché
The Colonel Foreignness and the Other Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Sentence)
The parrot said hello on the terrace. The colonel told it to shut up (17-18)
This signals the end of the whole smile-and-play-nice act. The parrot repeats a fatuous pleasantry, but the colonel tells it to shut it. On this interchange, the welcome shifts to threat. (Check out "Theme: Language and Communication" for more about how this is crucial to the feeling of foreignness.)
As for the rights of anyone, tell your people they can go fuck themselves. (27)
"Your people"? What does the colonel mean? The North American public? The politicians? Her family? Journalists? Whoever he means, this is the line in the sand, with her and her friend on one side and the colonel and his cohorts in the death squads on the other. His language is as violent as he is. He means to shock and offend. He means to threaten. It works.