Being Frank...

Written by Anthony Douglas on 20 May 2018.

FrancoFrancisco Franco presided over a military dictatorship in Spain for the best part of four decades. He was both deeply loved and deeply hated within a divided country, but let’s put the politics aside for a moment.

As Franco lay on his deathbed, surrounded by his loyal generals, he heard a soft roar coming from outside his window, behind the drawn curtains. He asked an aide to investigate the sound, who returned from his errand with a lump in his throat and tears in his eyes. “Sir, it’s the people. Thousands of them. They have come to say goodbye.”

Franco raised himself on an elbow and barked his reply: “Why? Where are they going?”

We might laugh, but he was serious. His words are simply a sharp illustration of one of the unrealities of modern life: we live very much in denial of death. By mutual consent, we structure our society to downplay the inevitability of death, to sequester any acknowledgement of it to special times and places, and above all to avoid admitting even to ourselves that our time is running out.

The thing I love about this story is the absurdity. A man with two names that both connote honest truth who is staring death in the face, and still can’t be honest about it! Or perhaps he is being honest: yes, we really do imagine we can wish death away.

That power, however, is reserved to him who has defeated death, our loving leader, for all of time.

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