Killing the father

This Venezuelan writer’s analysis on Yibram Saab’s viral video denouncing his father’s lack of courage takes the case into a ground far beyond politics –that of values.

The first thing that draws one’s attention in Yibram Saab Fornino’s video, Ombudsman Tarek William Saab’s son, is the context. There’s a garden bordered by a hedge wall in the background. To the left, a palm tree frames the image. The video was shot at night and the only light seems to come from behind the camera.

Ready? a voice asks.

Yibram nods and, immediately, a second voice adds:

I’m recording.

The following is one of the most significant episodes of the gradual but unstoppable process of chavismo’s destruction as a political power.

Yibram starts by introducing himself as a “citizen and Law student.” Not as “people” or indistinguishable mass, but as an autonomous, thinking individual. He reinforces this condition by stating what he does study Law; in other words, understanding the reaches and boundaries of his own freedom.

His skin is white, but his face shows the insolation typical of Venezuelan democrats these days: the burning evidence of many hours spent under the sun fighting to topple Nicolás Maduro’s dictatorship.

The video’s scarcely a minute and fifty two seconds long, but it’s carefully structured from beginning to end.

After introducing himself and ratifying how the Supreme Tribunal of Justices’ rulings 155 and 156 have ruptured constitutional order in Venezuela, Yibram sets forth his stance, “freely before the country, as a Venezuelan and as the eldest son of Ombudsman Tarek William Saab: my dad.”

Yibram pauses for a second after saying this, raises his eyes from the paper he’s reading and looks directly to the camera.

“I do this inspired by the principles and values my dad taught. I thank you for that.”

Yibram doesn’t say “my father,” he says “my dad,” which despite the severity in his eyes, revealing the awareness of the moral lesson that he’s giving the Ombudsman before the country, seeks to preserve family unity.

The son’s courage reveals the father’s cowardice. In view of the ultimatum issued by the National Assembly to pressure him to assume the responsibility of his office, Tarek William Saab shielded himself behind his wife and children, seeing that demand as a personal threat and blaming the opposition for anything that could happen to him and his family.

This is Yibram’s response:

“First, I want to say that neither me nor my eighteen-year old sister Sofía, nor my youngest, fourteen-year old brother have been threatened in any way.”

Why does Yibram do this? Why does he do this to his own father? Yibram immediately clarifies it:

“I do this inspired by the principles and values my dad taught. I thank you for that.”

I’m sure that in certain radical circles within the opposition, this statement is enough to disregard Yibram’s words. They’ll call for what they truly wish would happen between Venezuelans: a lynching. However, Yibram has done something far more complex, smarter and also quite moving: he’s disarmed his father with his own weapons. The weapons of values and justice that the Ombudsman himself replaced with a kit of dumbbells and a few portraits of Chávez.

I want to say that neither me nor my eighteen-year old sister Sofía, nor my youngest, fourteen-year old brother have been threatened.

Yibram has fulfilled that ritual that all boys must deliberately go through to become men: kill their fathers. In other words, take the father’s shadow into himself. A ritual that Yibram has fulfilled with courage and also tenderness, before a stunned country that became an Elizabethan audience for a minute and fifty two seconds.

It wasn’t only the family drama that made Yibram do what he did, however. Yibram decided to take a stand at the end of a particularly painful day. The day in which the dictatorship murdered student Juan Pernalete, firing a tear-gas bomb directly to his chest at close-range, breaking his heart, and the hearts of his family and the entire country.

“That could’ve been me,” Yibram says and looks to the camera again. Looking, through all of us, at the man he still calls “dad.”

Yibram concludes by asking Tarek, with an impressive stoicism, to reconsider and do what he has to do.

“I understand you. I know it’s not easy, but it’s the right thing to do,” the son tells the father.

With his letter, Yibram Saab Fornino has become a man. Not just in the sense of an affirmation of virility that’s necessary on certain occasions, such as this one, but also in the sense of become a whole person. Someone who has embraced his own shadow, advising and loving it.

Deep inside, Yibram’s deed is spiritual. He’s vanquished the ghost that nervous Hamlet couldn’t defeat. The same ghost that devoured Jorge Rodríguez during a similar night and which has cost Venezuelans so many rivers of tears and blood.

This post originally ran in Spanish on the author’s blog, El Atajo Más Largo.