It is an axiom that no culture can look upon its sins objectively without flinching. Actually, I just made that up, but it certainly sounds axiomatic to me.
For example, here in the United States, we went decades before admitting that putting Japanese Americans in camps during World War II was a bad idea. And that was positively light speed compared to how long it took us to apologize for slavery or to acknowledge that we weren’t exactly nice to the Native Americans.
Before we beat up too much on the USA, keep in mind that nations such as Germany, Turkey, and China all have trouble acknowledging that at some point in the past, they kind of, sort of, did some unpleasant things.
That’s why it’s fascinating that Guatemala is the first nation “in the Americas to prosecute a former head of state, in its own domestic courts, for the ultimate crime.”
The crime is genocide, and the defendant is former dictator Efraín Ríos Montt, whose forces wiped out whole villages when he was in power during the 1980s.
The outcome of the trail, of course, is of great interest to Guatemalans in the United States, many of whom fled here during Efraín Ríos Montt’s reign of terror.
On a larger scale, however, the trail shows how it’s never too late for a nation to face its past, no matter how unpleasant the process.