by Erik Anderson
My neighbor thought I was hilarious. She just couldn’t understand what I was doing, or maybe she couldn’t believe it. She kept calling the flight attendant over to translate. There was a girl? In San Salvador? Doing what? With which children?
These weren’t her real questions, I know now. But back then I was bewildered by her bewilderment, which was more like disbelief than confusion. I didn’t get what was so funny.
I knew there had been a civil war, and that the peace was only a handful of years old. I knew this because the children Susan was working with had been orphaned through the conflict. I knew that my own country had been, at best, complicit in the fracturing of their families. I knew this because on college campuses at the time there was a movement to close what was then known as the School of the Americas, a military training program housed at Fort Benning, Georgia, since renamed the Western Hemispheric Institute for Security Cooperation. I just didn’t know what it really meant to be an orphan, or what it meant to live in a country full of them.
The childhood I was then emerging from had been very middle class and very white. My life had been stable and uneventful and secure. It was the sort of sanitized childhood from which struggle and mess had been, as with a tough stain, scrubbed away. It was as if pretending that other lives were as untroubled as we imagined our own to be might keep us happy and safe.
Whereas I may have been, as a teenager, essentially apolitical, Susan had published letters to the editor in our small-town newspaper, decrying, for instance, the fact that we were all living on stolen ground. She was the one with moral compass. I was just a middle-class white boy from Michigan who, for some reason, happened to like poetry. And her.
So while my college friends were spending their spring breaks at home or skiing or on the beach, I was going to El Salvador. A place, as the woman on the plane knew far better than I did, where my presence echoed the disastrous Americans who preceded me.
The strangest moment in Joan Didion’s 1983 book Salvador comes, for me, three-quarters of the way through, when she mentions, almost offhandedly, that “a Salvadoran woman who works for my husband and me in Los Angeles gave me repeated instructions about what we must and must not do.” Do not go out at night, the woman warns. Stay off the streets. Don’t ride in buses or taxis. Don’t leave the city. Don’t think, even for a moment, that your wealth or country will save you.
What’s strange to me isn’t the warning itself; it’s that Didion doesn’t clarify the nature of her relationship to her Salvadoran employee. Is that because the nature of the relationship is irrelevant, or is it because Didion wants to believe it’s irrelevant?
What sorts of employment would have been available to a Salvadoran immigrant in the home of a wealthy and almost comically urbane white couple in Los Angeles in the early 1980s? While she may have been a secretary to the two writers, or their accountant, it’s more likely that she was a cleaning woman, a cook, or both.
Two of the woman’s brothers, she tells Didion, were killed in their beds the previous summer, their throats slashed. “Her father had been cut but stayed alive,” Didion records, and “her mother had been beaten. Twelve of her other relatives, aunts and uncles and cousins, had been taken from their houses one night the same August, and their bodies had been found some time later, in a ditch.”
What’s strange to me, in other words, is the nature of Didion’s relationship with El Salvador itself. She spends a mere two weeks at the Camino Real, the favored hotel of western journalists and diplomats at the time, since renamed the InterContinental, and then she returns to the States to write and publish a book-length essay. Meanwhile, her Salvadoran employee has had her family decimated by the very conflict Didion is investigating. She may be famous for her clear-eyed detachment, but is there not something deeply exploitative, something really quite icky about detailing your (probable) housekeeper’s trauma?
In what may be the book’s signature passage, Didion visits the same mall Susan and I would walk through almost twenty years later: “this being the kind of ‘color’ I knew how to interpret,” she writes, “the kind of inductive irony, the detail that was supposed to illuminate the story.” And yet, Didion notes, she is “no longer much interested in this kind of irony.” She begins to think, instead, “that this was a story that would not be illuminated by such details, that this was a story that would perhaps not be illuminated at all.” She then describes how, crossing the Boulevard de los Heroes back to the hotel, she notices soldiers “herding a young civilian into a van, their guns at the boy’s back.” She keeps walking.
From a certain angle, Didion winds up doing the thing she rejects. In “not wanting to see anything at all,” she captures the exact detail that illuminates the story: a young man disappears, and Didion’s reportage, or her inability to report, implicates her in his death. The irony, as in much of Didion’s writing, has to do with her position as an observer. She cannot help but make the sorts of moves she’s accustomed to even if her subject means those moves are obscenities.
In another passage, Didion records having dinner with Victor Barriere, grandson of Maximiliano Hernández Martínez, the architect of the 1932 massacre of tens of thousands of indigenous Salvadorans, and the namesake of an active death squad. Didion makes no attempt to hide her disdain for Barriere’s repugnant politics. Instead, she notes “that this was the first time in my life that I had been in the presence of obvious ‘material’ and felt no professional exhilaration at all, only personal dread.”
That dread in the face of “material,” that disgust at reducing the slaughter to information or evidence, is arguably the point of the book. It’s a portrait of a stomach turning, not simply because of what Didion has seen but because of how she has seen it. Her nod to the woman who may or may not have been her cook or maid or accountant could be seen as an acknowledgement that she had no right to be in the country in the first place.
The story Heather told was that she had been kicked out of the Peace Corps. She just never said for what. In her version, she had decided to stay because she didn’t have anything to return to. The whole thing felt fishy, but we could never suss out exactly why. She seemed like a person who was hiding from something, a person who had fallen out of the world and liked it that way. Susan thought she came from money, but you would have never known it from her apartment, which remains one of the more squalid places I’ve ever spent the night.
Mornings, a woman would call—Diario, Diario—from the street, selling the daily paper. Afternoons, a different woman would walk by hawking empanadas, amplifying the words as she spoke: lle-vo em-pa-na-DAS! At night, a vigilante would appear, a paid guard whose job it was to watch over the street, a hangover from the dangers of the war years.
Heather had encouraged us to take the bus to Guatemala, probably to free up the apartment for trysts with her married lover, Miguel Angel, but ostensibly because, as a tourist, there was nothing to see in El Salvador. Guatemala, despite its own protracted civil war, was more wired for tourists. It was ready to house and feed and entertain us.
El Salvador, by contrast, was uninviting. Intimidating even. Armed men didn’t just guard the airport or the banks, they stood outside the Pizza Hut holding Uzis. The city felt like a place on just the other side of the lawlessness it had only recently escaped. It felt like a place where the illusion of stability could quickly disappear.
None of that kept us from walking through the botanical garden, one of Susan’s regular haunts, but it did mean that we were the only people there when we went. The same was true of the Teleférico, a sort of lookout over the city that you normally reached via cable car (un teleférico), although I seem to remember driving. In a pair of photographs from that day, Susan and I sit on the edge of what appears to be an abandoned restaurant, clowning around for Heather’s camera.
That I would never be this young again sounds more obvious than it is.
Google tells me that it’s a four-hour drive from San Salvador to Guatemala City, and that it’s another hour to Antigua. I remember almost nothing of the trip except for the chaotic taxi ride in Guatemala City, how every car on the street seemed to be heading in a slightly different direction, and how our driver would reach out of his window to slap other cars on the side or the hood, letting them know we were there.
In Antigua, we stayed in an absurdly beautiful hotel where the nightly rate struck me as self-destructively low. There were other gringos there, walking the cobblestone streets, hiking up the volcano. Other than Heather, they were the first white people I’d seen in Central America, but if their presence reflected something about our own, it was only much later that I perceived it. Flipping through the photos now, I wonder what that blonde woman is doing beneath that arch. Why, exactly, was she there?
One day I sat on a bench in the square while Susan browsed in a nearby shop. A man joined me and asked if I minded if he smoked. Then he proceeded to tell me that although the bombs that had killed his grandmother and uncle some fifty years earlier had belonged to my military, they had been dropped from unmarked planes owned by the fruit companies.
His face is lost to me now, two decades later, but his parting words remain. You need to know, he said, what your country has done here.
Carolyn Forché is no Joan Didion, but reading her account of her deeper engagement with the country is, at times, no less peculiar. Her story begins when Leonel Gómez Vides arrives unannounced at her house in southern California one day in the late 70s. He spends the next three days giving her a history lesson, accompanied by illustrations on butcher paper, at the end of which he asks if she’ll join him in El Salvador. He calls it a kind of reverse Peace Corps.
“What are you going to do,” Gómez asks, “Write poetry about yourself for the rest of your life?” The question barely conceals its assertion: that to be of any enduring value, poetry, and perhaps all writing, must become a social exercise. And thus the question also contains an accusation: the solipsistic writer is lazy and self-indulgent and irresponsible. Forché proves herself not to be such stony ground. She agrees. And her agreement changes everything.
It is almost unspeakably naïve of her. She barely knows Leonel, has hardly any notion of how severe the situation is, how dire the consequences of her decision could be. But it’s the prospect of a life in which she didn’t say yes that scares her more. At the crossroads of who she has been and who she might become, she chooses the possibly larger but undoubtedly less certain life. It’s a kind of bravery most of us never summon.
Whereas Didion seems to have more or less heeded her employee’s advice, rarely straying far from the Camino Real, Forché’s El Salvador is grittier. What Didion sees from a distance, Forché experiences up close. She nearly becomes the boy in the truck more than once. But she also spends time meeting people, and not just those in positions of power or privilege. She gets to know the prisoners, the poets, the rebels, the campesinos.
Unlike Didion, she is so shaken by what she learns that she can’t shut it off. She can’t choose to unlearn it, and she doesn’t want to. She decides, after one particularly trying day, that she isn’t “going to get tired or need a shower or want to call something off so I could rest.” Instead, she wants to summon the things she’s seen to wake her up, to keep her going, to center herself in her purpose, which is to bear witness, so as to testify.
“From the beginning,” Gómez tells her near the end, “this has been your journey, your coming to consciousness.” He particularly, though not exclusively, means class consciousness, an awareness of the structural injustice that separates the poor from everybody else, suppressing their potential, obstructing their humanity. Because Forché lived on the privileged side of that divide, to come to consciousness meant a departure. She had, at least temporarily, to leave her life behind.
Gómez quotes an American attaché who, prior to the 1932 uprising, summarized the situation in the country: “Thirty or forty families own nearly everything . . . They live in almost regal style . . . The rest of the population has practically nothing. These poor people work for a few cents a day and exist as best they can.” Nothing, Gómez says, has changed. Not even the Americans, it would seem, present without having arrived.
The week after Forché leaves, Óscar Romero is assassinated, and the civil war escalates even further. A dozen years pass before Forché returns, and although she publishes poems about the country in the interim, it’s nearly thirty years after those first days in California that she tells the full story. She calls her book What You Have Heard Is True, but the question for me, having read it, is how to leave myself behind.
It occurs to me, looking at photos of the children, that many of them are likely dead. Those who survived would be in their late twenties or early thirties as I write this. At the time, the oldest was maybe fifteen, the youngest no more than seven or eight. They spent their days in a city park, where they scavenged and stole and slept. I can’t be sure, and Susan doesn’t remember, but it was probably the recently revamped Parque Cuscatlán—a multimillion-dollar project that includes an elevated walkway based on Manhattan’s High Line.
Many of the children in the pictures are barefoot. All are thin and malnourished, with visible ribcages and collarbones, thin arms and faces. The impact is magnified by the oversized clothes they wear, which appear to have been donated by Americans. One girl wears a Tweety t-shirt that reads I tawt I taw . . . Louisiana. Another sports a World Wrestling Federation logo. Some feet are shod in secondhand Nikes and Adidas. USA is printed on a pair of ankle socks. Next to the pictures, Susan has written in names: Guadalupe, Oscar, Abraham, Papa.
They all walked around with their glue bottles, Susan tells me, their pega. They would keep them in their mouths, and would just inhale all day. The glue was typically meant for mending shoes, but someone had discovered that the high helped with hunger, even if it was terrible for their health, stunting their physical and mental development. See how her eyes are puffy and red, Susan says, pointing to one smiling girl. It was always like that.
Every day we would organize activities, play soccer with them, take them to the doctor, but that was a special day, she says when I ask why they look so happy. We took them to Los Chorros, a waterpark outside the city. Something like this, a trip that had been planned just for them to have fun, to be kids, to eat lunch in a restaurant, was pretty unusual.
They were a ragtag bunch, thrown together by circumstance and neglect, but in many ways they operated like their own little family, with the smaller kids looking up to the bigger ones. There was even a kind of mother in the group, an older girl who walked with a crutch. It was a big deal if you could find a girlfriend because it was mostly boys. This girl, she points at another, is pregnant, and that’s the father with his hand on her knee. You can see the teardrop tattoos under his eye. A few of them had those.
Papa here, the small and squirrelly one, he was very naughty but very cute, always pulling pranks, taking people’s things. When the others caught him, they would beat him. That was pretty typical. We had to break up a lot of fights, mediate a lot of arguments. Because some of the kids, like Abraham, were really angry. They had such shitty lives, and there wasn’t any way for things to get better. Plus, they were often getting killed, even the youngest ones—shot in the head, execution style, usually in the middle of the day. And nobody batted an eye because why would you?
Susan’s boss thought the killers, who were never brought to justice, were private citizens who had taken it upon themselves to “clean up” the streets. Sometimes she would accompany him to identify bodies in the morgue.
I ask her what the kids thought of her, if she could even guess, and she tells me she thinks they were in awe. They probably thought I was some kind of goddess, that I was super rich, from some very wealthy family, that I had power or something. And even though I wasn’t that person, in a way they were right. Compared to them, I was unimaginably rich. Compared to them, I had power. I could get them a shower if they needed one. I could take them to the dentist. I could buy them a meal. I could also come to their country from mine and return again, which is a kind of power they could only dream of.
It’s ironic, I say to Sandra, that I’ve been to El Salvador and you haven’t. But ironic isn’t quite the word I’m looking for. I mean something like unjust. It isn’t right that, while I’ve technically crossed the border twice, she has never seen the country where her parents were born, the country they fled with good reason. It isn’t fair.
This year, in her independent study, Sandra is writing about home, but home, we’re both coming to realize, is a complicated notion for her. How can home be El Salvador when home has always been Los Angeles? It’s a familiar dilemma for immigrant families but one made more complex by the violence her parents escaped. The real irony is that they left behind a conflict that, in many ways, the United States created.
Sandra tells me she would like to visit her aging abuela, but her mother has forbidden it. Too dangerous, her Mami says. You’re an American. You could be kidnapped or worse. I tell her I think she should go, that she should see her history for herself, but I wonder how much of my privilege is showing. It had been so easy for me, after all. I was more of a tourist than Didion by far.
The prefix im-, meaning in or into, assumes a lot. It centers the United States as the place people move, while decentering the countries people leave, as though those countries were irrelevant to their migration, a word which, sans prefix, may be preferable in its neutrality. Then again, perhaps emigration is better. Because whether it’s war or persecution or poverty or all three, through its economic policies and foreign interference the United States has brought about—or at very least exacerbated—unbearable conditions in many parts of the world.
If you really want to stop people from migrating—and, by the way, good luck—you might want to stop screwing around in other countries, undermining their sovereignty and stability. You might want to stop using the drugs that are trafficked through other nations. Because both people and drugs—not that they’re the same—will find their ways through or under or over or around any obstacle you might set in their path.
From the very beginning of our species, we have been itinerant. We have always moved from one place to another. And it’s not just restlessness that drives us: we seek the optimum environments for ourselves and our families. There are maybe one or two instinctual drives as primal. Borders are arbitrary impediments, but the will to exclude will never be as strong as the will to survive.
The philosopher Peter Singer offers this famous thought experiment. Say you’re walking through a park on a chilly day. You pass a pond that appears to be frozen over. Except it’s not. A child has fallen through the ice. She’s flailing, probably drowning. There’s no one else around. You know the water’s not deep, probably no deeper than your torso. But you’re also wearing your best shoes, and they would undoubtedly be ruined if you jumped in to save her.
The point, Singer says, isn’t really to determine what you would do, because nearly everybody would ruin their shoes to save the child. The point is more metaphorical. If you know that $200 could save lives in an impoverished part of the world, would you be a bad person for spending that money on something you don’t really need, like a fancy pair of shoes?
There are problems with the experiment, of course. It infantilizes the “developing” world, for one thing, while simultaneously casting the “developed” world as saints and saviors. The experiment also equates agency with money, reducing the sphere of activism to one’s bank account. It’s a kind of fiscal utilitarianism that runs through individual wallets.
Here’s what the experiment gets right, though: it’s easier to help the kid if you can see her. It’s hard to recognize a problem as a problem if you don’t live in proximity to it, if you don’t see it every day. This has been the biggest obstacle to climate action, for instance, although it’s unlikely to remain so much longer.
The same problem pertains when it comes to income inequality. The segregated lives most Americans live ensure, by design, that the rich are insulated from the poor. This is even truer internationally, where the wealth gap really skews. The majority of the world’s population lives in poverty so dire that most citizens of “developed” nations cannot imagine it. And even when we do, as in a film like Slumdog Millionaire, our representations inevitably fail the lives they intend to portray.
I’m not sure which is worse: the failure to imagine the suffering of others or the failure to accurately represent it. Both suggest an absence of testimony, a shortage of reliable witnesses.
Some years ago now, Susan worked with a program that brought social work students to Cuernavaca for a series of immersive experiences in which—much like Leonel Gómez’s reverse Peace Corps—members of Mexico’s vast underclass taught the students about their lives, their meaning both the Mexicans’ lives and the students’.
The Americans met with domestic workers, street vendors, artisans, professors, Zapatistas. They visited Los Patios de la Estación, an old national railyard where the residents who had squatted on vacant land were continually threatened with eviction. They visited the village of Tlamacazapa, in the state of Guerrero, where, the year I accompanied them, an old woman writhed in a thatched hut, delirious without the medicine she couldn’t afford.
Back in the States, the mostly white students fretted. They had seen the child drowning. How could they save her? As days became weeks became years, however, the child receded. The pond, it turned out, only appeared to be a pond. It wasn’t filled with water, but with distance.
Susan tells me about her friends and coworkers. About Yesenia, her mentor at the foundation, who lives in Europe now, with her wife and kid. About los Españoles, Victor and Isabel, political idealists who eventually moved back to Toledo, where they still live. About Camiel, then a Fulbright scholar from Montana, now an immigration lawyer in San Francisco.
And then she tells me about Alejandro, who was fifteen when he flew to Fort Benning, where, as he put it, they taught him how to kill people. Which is precisely what he did when he returned to El Salvador. He killed many, many people.
At first, before she’d learned his story, Susan says she was put off by him. He always seemed angry. The slightest thing could set him off. But then it made sense: the mood swings, the rage. He had been a child soldier, recruited against his will. He was deeply traumatized by what he had been forced to do.
His was the sort of typology you couldn’t unsee, like learning a new word then encountering it everywhere. Susan saw it, among other places, in the older brother of one of the murdered kids. The tiny casket, the solemn procession—and yet the young man acted as if he was doing his chores. But then his mother was already dead. His father, disappeared.
There was a halfway house, she says, but not many of the kids—everyone called them cipotes—wanted to leave the streets. You would think more of them would have chosen safety, I say, considering how hungry they were, not to mention the murders. But again, she says, it was their family out there. They felt safe with each other even if they weren’t.
I ask what else she’s written in her journals from that time, if she’ll let me cannibalize them for this essay. You have to understand, she says, that the whole experience would have been different for me if I hadn’t been in love. You were only there a week, but so much of what I wrote is about us. I know now, she laughs, that I should have spent more time writing about the kids.
Maybe love, I say, was a way to cope, to get your mind off of what you were seeing. Well, sure, she says, but we also watched a lot of movies. It seems like every day Heather and I went to the theater. Actually, you and I went to see Pulp Fiction, she tells me, pointing to a place in her journal. Dubbed in Spanish, with English subtitles.
Singer presents a tough question: where do we draw the line between required conduct and conduct that, though good, is not required? Or so I wrote in college, taking notes for a course called “Problems of Philosophy” with Stephen Yablo, now at MIT. The particular problem in this lecture was altruism: the “selfless concern for the well-being of others.”
Yablo had assigned, as a counterpoint to Singer’s thought experiment, some reading from Ayn Rand. In my notes, which emerged recently from a pile of old loose-leaf, I’ve written down some quotes. “One’s happiness is the moral purpose of one’s life,” for example. And: “The fact is that men do not live in lifeboats—and that a lifeboat is not the place on which to base one’s metaphysics.”
I’m sure I could google whether these are direct quotes or paraphrases, but over the years I’ve become allergic to Ayn Rand. The mere mention of her here irritates my eyes. My throat seems to be clogging.
Which is why it surprises me that, a year before I travelled to El Salvador, I wrote that while I felt Rand had argued poorly, while I felt that Singer was right that “we should sacrifice more than we do,” I believed she was “correct that one should not subordinate oneself to much.” It seems I believed her when she wrote, or Yablo paraphrased, that “Altruism gauges a man’s virtue by the degree to which he surrenders, renounces, or betrays his value.” I believed her that a person’s own value is something one shouldn’t betray.
I still think she’s right, in a way. Virtue is connected, at least for me, to the degree I surrender my value. But that’s only because I am a person whose characteristics have been overvalued by the visible and invisible systems that govern our worth. In that context, self-renunciation—which is not self-hatred, though it can become that at times—is a moral imperative for me even if, given other circumstances, it isn’t for you.
A writer, George Packer says, is an individual, a person who doesn’t write “as anyone beyond themselves,” and yet the nature of social media, he groans, encourages writers to “do their work as easily identifiable, fully paid-up members of a community.” In such an environment a writer loses his individuality, he argues, cultivating followers by kowtowing to the preferences of the group and avoiding anything that might offend.
But the real problem of belonging, for Packer, is “the fear of moral judgment, public shaming, social ridicule, and ostracism.” The fear, in other words, that you might cease to belong. This leads, Packer says, to self-censorship, to a fettered mind with a dulled capacity for thought. A writer who feels compelled to ask Can I say this? Do I have a right? will only produce lifeless, risk-averse prose. Such a person becomes, however unwittingly, the enemy of free expression and, to Packer’s way of thinking, an enemy of writing.
I’m reading Packer’s speech against the backdrop of a literary scandal, the broad strokes of which are as follows. The writer Jeanine Cummins, who is predominantly white, has written a novel about Mexican immigrants called American Dirt. The book, as I understand it, traffics in stereotype and fetishism. It appropriates an experience that isn’t the author’s own, and in so doing, according to the book’s detractors, flattens and distorts and caricatures that experience. It is nothing short of trauma porn, born, in the words of Myriam Gurba, of “the gringo appetite for Mexican pain.”
I shouldn’t be dumbfounded by Cummins’s decision to tell this particular story, and I shouldn’t be astonished by the publisher’s extravagant spending on the book’s acquisition and promotion. That I am at all surprised is in itself surprising. White writers have a well-documented habit of appropriating other cultures, and the big publishing houses have proven to be, on balance, pretty cynical and untrustworthy arbiters of taste.
I would like to believe that, although I have no intention of reading it, I would never write the kind of book Jeanine Cummins has. I would like to believe that my ethics, founded on deference and self-scrutiny, would preclude it. But I have to admit that writing about El Salvador has unsettled me. I feel uneasy about what I’ve written. Because I know, obviously I know, that the story of Salvadoran pain isn’t mine to tell.
The story I get to tell is about a person who stumbles into someone else’s pain and then, just as suddenly, staggers out of it. In my story, the only person I’m in a position to save is someone who, like me, finds herself somewhere she doesn’t belong. Because the idea that it’s possible not to belong at all, the notion that we’re all just individuals thinking and acting independent of social and historical context, is just about the whitest shit ever.
The title of Forché’s memoir comes from the first line of a poem, “The Colonel,” she originally published in 1978. In it, Forché describes a sumptuous dinner: “rack of lamb, good wine, a gold bell . . . on the table for calling the maid.” After his wife clears the plates away, the colonel disappears for a moment only to return with a grocery sack, the contents of which he dumps on the table: human ears, “like dried peach halves.” When he sweeps them onto the floor, some catch the “scrap of his voice,” some are “pressed to the ground.”
Forché says nothing. We hear, as readers, the sound of her silence.
The colonel, meanwhile, taunts her: “Something for your poetry, no?” And: “As for the rights of anyone, tell your people they can go fuck themselves.”
One keeps an ear to the ground to stay abreast of developments, to tune in to the vibrations on the horizon, the trouble headed your way. The irony—or again, the injustice—is that these particular ears, “pressed to the ground,” hear nothing. Forché is their surrogate.
The self, Annie Ernaux argues in The Years, is a register of history, recording all that impresses upon a person, all that transforms in those impressions—products, people, ideologies—over the course of one’s life. And so any piece any self might write—this essay, even—can become an instrument of struggle, a means to act upon the things that outrage us, in the world and in ourselves.
But then again, if you never visit the park where kids drown, you may never know that they do. If you live in a town where they don’t, it may never occur to you that other places aren’t as lucky. What would it take for you to visit? What would you do with what you learned?
What I have heard is also true, and what it forebodes is true too. Our powers of perception may, as quickly as one might split a peach, devolve into metaphor.
Listen well, you who can.