Archives for category: Social Justice Concerns

tearWHAT IT MEANS TO ME TO BE WHITE

I sit inside seventy-seven year old white skin which once covered a four-pound baby born into a family whose neighbors said, “Mrs. Bradley had one white baby and one dark baby.”  Skin color myths came early to us on Wren Street in West Roxbury, Massachusetts in 1938.  We were an Irish-Catholic family with four kids born within three years.

Class consciousness ruled our small crowded house. Mom had student taught one of the ghettos, and she was a stalwart advocate of the public school system. We kids attended Randall G. Morris Elementary School a block down for our little brown house on Wren Street.  My mom also taught there.  Our neighborhood was white.  Any idea of difference was inconceivable in our young world.

We were white on the Green Street Bus to downtown Boston, but we were definitely black and white at Dudley Street rapid transit station as people of all colors, particularly black, poured into hot steamy trains.  Our skin color difference seemed purposefully ignored by our parents.

Roslindale High School gave us a window into races when we took buses to our guys’ basketball games in East and South Boston.  The black girls didn’t like us and became angry.  We were told to leave in the middle of a basketball game, and we were hurried out a back door and onto buses headed back to our high school.  I think I slotted these kids as tougher, never wondering if their life conditions were harder because of skin color.

I had two options after high school graduation:  Boston Teacher’s College and Boston Clerical School.  I was afraid to go to Teacher’s College so I chose Boston Clerical School, a red brick building, smack down in Roxbury, a predominantly poor and black neighborhood.  I discovered my prejudices flat on, but didn’t think of them as prejudices, but felt a white superiority.

My mother died when my twin and I were in our last year of high school.  My father married a few years later.  He and my step-mother were class conscious, and cast low slung scorn towards lower economic and less educated classes of people.  Their attitudes were scornful of those with different skin color. Boston was a racist town.  Still I remained unaware.  Liz, my twin, and I mixed with all classes of people, but still lived in an all-white world.  Looking back, I felt I grew up inside a large brown paper bag and questioned nothing.  At Emerson College, a close friend confided to me of her deep love for a young black man, but she couldn’t marry him.  “My father would beat me up,” she said.

I left Boston, driving alone out to California in my beat up 57 VW Convertible.  I felt protected in an unseen spiritual sense, a definitely new experience. Before I left Boston the Cuban Crisis erupted.  Nuclear war threatened our nation.  A friend’s father was in the Federal Reserve. She spoke of members of the Federal Reserve going to safe surroundings in case of a nuclear attack. Boston also harbored fear because the infamous Boston Strangler, who raped and killed old women, stalked an edgy silence which seemed to hedge in the City.

I had rented a room in Belmont, and a very old, pale and fearful lady, Miss Gunn, rented the other room.  I was nervous about the Strangler.  Then the Cuban Crisis ended, and a lighter, less fear-filled atmosphere took over the City, but the Boston Strangler was still on the loose. I continued throwing everything I could into a large black trunk and even bought a dime store wedding ring.  If anyone stopped me on the road, I’d tell them, ‘I’m meeting my husband at an army base.”  One very early Monday morning in October, with the cold nipping my heels and a car heater that was kaput, I headed out via Route 66 towards Buffalo, my final destination: Los Angeles . My aunt knew I was headed their way. Boston was stultifying to me.  Get me out of here, thoughts banged inside my head.  Critical parental lectures as to my failures in life set off images of Bambi and his bags packed at the edge of the forest. I had to get out of Boston.

I made it to Ohio, eventually Texas, Arizona, and in California I took a right on Western, drove up to Franklin Avenue, took a left into Griffith Park, twisted on paths by smooth stucco walls, until I drove into a large patio overlooking the city, and stood and looked at the roses blooming.

My trip lasted 6 and half days. My relatives seemed wealthy and imperialistic.  “We never knew a working girl,” was an early comment as I headed off to work in a law firm.  One relief was eighty year old Uncle Charlie who came from Los Angeles when it was small, and covered with Orange Groves.  He’d tell me, “Drive in the middle lane of the freeway where you’ll feel safer.”  He was real. I never wore jeans, only dresses or skirts and blouses.  Occasionally the family would host a black tie party.

My aunt was very kind to me.  I walked into the basement of this large house, and its beauty greeted me.  Everything was in soft greens, and rich black oriental screens and gleaming silver and even a Japanese sword decorated the walls.  She had traveled the world as a Navy wife, and her home seemed to represent a lush salon. She took me under her wing and buffed me up socially, and she accepted me a stark contrast to my father and stepmother’s view.

God help me.  I drank alcohol and took a little blue over-the counter Compos to quell my fear of social groups was invited to someone’s New Years Day party. “Dress is informal,” my date said.  So I showed up wearing sneakers, a wrap around Madras skirt, and light blue long-sleeved blouse.  The women wore Talbot dresses and low slung heels.  I immediately took a drink, and another.  Casual on the East Coast differed from that of the West.  They were forming a Young Republicans’ club which in my hazed condition seemed splendiferous.  After that, I was invited to Bachelors’ Balls in Los Angeles and San Francisco and did the social scene, all the while working in law firms, finding myself scared and bewildered.  I found a roommate and lived in the Wilshire District.  Then I met a guy and married him on a May day in 1965.

A year later, I heard about the Baha’i Faith.  As we stood by the Manhattan Beach pier, the waves lapping our bare feet, a close friend, who was a former atheist and then agnostic, told me about progressive revelation, the oneness of humankind, and the purpose of this day and age:  to bring about oneness and much more.  I became a Baha’i within three weeks, and I felt thrust me into a global village.  Seals and Crofts’ manager had large gatherings at her house in Hollywood for anyone who was interested in this Faith. She was Dash Crofts’ mother-in-law, a Baha’i, and her house spilled over with people.  This is before Seals and Crofts were famous.  One Friday night, I sat across from a man who was African-American, Chuck Rhodes, a large handsome man dressed in blue overalls, looking quite serious.  Somehow he took scattered, skinny me, under his wing. He’d tell me becoming a Baha’i was like surfing the waves.  Sometimes I’d feel up, other times down, always stretching and learning. Chuck spoke eleven languages and would later marry Ulla, a lovely Scandinavian woman and they would move to Finland.  He was a big brother to me for over a year, and I am still intensely grateful.

I was now immersed in a world where blacks and whites mixed easily.  We were family.  I also read Black Boy, American Hunger, and since then have inhaled lots of books by people of color and books about white privilege, slavery, you name it. Today I am enormously aware of race, and I have had this developing consciousness since 1966.  I have to say becoming a Baha’i raised my awareness that God’s purpose mandates our oneness as a people.  I still had and have to do the work and become aware as to how this oneness is perceived.  Not as assimilation by people of color into a white world, nor by my ignorance of black culture’s rich heritage, and not by ignoring the dreadful history and treatment in our nation of over 300 years of cruelty.

When I went back to college at age 42 and an African American Baha’i spoke to our community, he challenged our assumed belief that life was fine and we were one.  I was upset that night, and I am sure I sounded racist.  But on campus, my house was filled with black, whites, all of whom could go out a window rather than take time to exit by door.  Kids were mixing.  I was by this time, attending UC Irvine, and my son and I lived in what is known as Old Verano, student housing with periodic plumbing mishaps, and an extremely diversified life.  When Nick went to an Irvine high school; he wasn’t a mainstream kid.  He was asked by his African-American friends to join their club.  He was the first to be asked, and maybe the only one.  I gave all the kids names, and one was Junior High Jared, the other Pomona Dave.  Turns out Pomona Dave’s brother is the African-American comedian on Jon Stewart’s show, and I adore this comic.  Nick was a rebel in high school and caused me concern, but I was proud of his awareness of his black brothers and sisters, and I still am. Still I was not aware of the larger society’s impact, ethos, and all aspects of racism.  I thought because my own small world was unified on some levels, everyone was.

After I graduated and took a year’s Education courses, I flunked the math portion of the State’s C-Best exam.  I was to teach English.  One professor said, “You will save lives.”  So much for saving lives.  Nick went to live with his dad, and I moved to Los Angeles to return to being a legal secretary.  A friend in Manhattan Beach said, “Come stay with me.”

I met my second husband Bill at a local Baha’i gathering. He had just become a Baha’i, and I had been one for twenty years.  We were active regarding racial justice, racial unity, racial amity groups from the get go of our marriage.  He looked black, and whenever we hoofed about walking for good causes, the Brothers nodded at him acknowledging another brother.  People at the market would ask him, “Are you mixed?” and he always said yes, because he probably was.  But he lived with white privilege too.

In Seattle a wonderful activist Harriet came to one of our meetings and told us how the newspapers wouldn’t publish comments written by African-Americans.  I felt a lot of pain in those circles, and know, it was part of my share of the pain that goes into this whole skin color mess.  I went home and wrote a letter to the Seattle Times mentioning their only showing blacks being arrested in photos, never whites.  The day my letter published, we had another race meeting.  Harriet said to me, “You made the black community very happy tonight.”  Boy was I grateful.  Ironically on the same day, my father’s will was mailed to me, and he barely mentioned my twin and me, nor my older sister or brother.  I was stunned.  What were we to my father? Nothing?  But still, I made the people of color in my area happy.  Which is more important,” I said to myself.  I knew the answer.

For the rest of the time, even living in Russia/Ukraine 1990-1993, we would mention color and interface with international African students.  I feel my whiteness.  I feel the agony and despair of blacks, and feel despair and powerlessness. I must never give up.

I am now in an organization called Coming to the Table, which is an offshoot of Gather at the Table, a national organization. www.Gatheratthetable.com.   I feel it is now the time of an ingathering of the earth’s people.  I am humbled to be a part of this organization.

I still feel myself sitting in my skin, but my soul proclaims the oneness of all, and I immerse myself in this oneness.  In the Baha’i Writings, it is suggested blacks must forgive, and whites must rid themselves of their inherent superiority.  Lord, it’s a crawl up the mountain; which is harder?

I feel gut wrenching agony over the conditions in this country. Consider:  if one is white and feels superior how unconscious primitivism is perpetuated.  I think about skin color privilege every day.  This is how I feel: I can drive anywhere sitting inside my aging white skin and feel unquestioned.  No one will follow me in the department stores.  No one will pull me over for driving while white.   Bill got pulled over when we moved to a fringe area in Seattle.  We had friends who walked the neighborhoods in Jamestown, Western New York, stopped by the police as guilty of being “black by walking.”  Overt, institutionalized and unaware racism permeated that town.  We and others started a Downtown Dialogue for Race which caught the attention of our Representative Amo Houghton.  Our family during our time in Jamestown was the people of color, and more than one tragedy wrenched our souls.

Last week I saw a Target ad which showed a game page and who was holding the big plastic Uzi type of gun?  A young African-American boy.   Look at the pictures in newspapers, how many blacks are seen committing a crime? Check out the mainstream magazines and see what skin color owns the majority of these pages.  Consider our prison and court system as a vehicle for the New Jim Crow.   I teach in black neighborhoods and a lot of my friends live there.  I feel the pain, the injustice, the weariness. I think the world is a dystopia for blacks. Certainly, I don’t suggest all African-Americans are poor and live in troubled neighborhoods.  But what I do suggest is unaware racism and institutionalized racism has cut a swath of vituperative hatred across our nation.  Yet, we whites sit in our houses, with diversity magazines on smooth glass-topped coffee tables, feeling uncomfortable but safe.  A lot of us are overwhelmed.

What helps for me is the vision and promises within the Baha’i writings.  I need to always remain aware, and learn more every day.  Until I draw my last breath, this is my call.  I want to recommend a book, “The Last War, Racism, Spirituality and the Future of Civilization, by M.I., Perry, George Ronald, Publisher, Oxford, www.grbooks.com, ISBN 0-85398-491-3.

 Why do I insert academic references to this vast and horribly sad topic of being white in America?  Because it means, I do know some things.  I’ve removed a lot of ignorance and illusion in my life.  I will never be done. I would give my very life to have this dreaded blight removed from our society.  It’s going to take time.  But the time is now.  That’s what white means to me.  Never stop.  Always stretch to be aware.  Be conscious of inherent white superiority in myself.  Be action oriented.  Be humble.

Finally, I would say the whites in our world should run to this subject.  We need to get to the marrow of other people’s suffering.  We need to eradicate our ignorance.  Some politicians seem reptilian in nature regarding race.  What we have done to our President will not go unnoticed in the pages of history, and I think our deeds, our very thoughts will be recorded on that Chrysolite tablet where our spiritual doings or lack thereof are imprinted.

Almost 50 years later I look back and realize I had to learn about being white.  I must be conscious as to how I use my whiteness.  “Esther gets it,” a black friend said.  Another said, “Honey, you are black inside.”  We all know I am not.   Maybe I have some awareness, but racism and its impact can run on microscopic moments.   I am humbled by my African-American friends’ trust in me, but that doesn’t let me rest and not be part of solutions for justice in a world where institutionalized racism is rank, pernicious, and palpably evil.

 

 

 

 

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9780804136631
ISBN 978-0-8041-3663-1

Thanks to Blogging for Books, I just finished, A Spy Among Friends – Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal.

Certainly a good read, one which incredulity spikes about every other page. Kim Philby was known as one of the greatest spies in the 20th Century. Ben Macintyre has written a suspenseful novel, and he has based tremendous psychological insight into personal papers and never-before-seen intelligence files.

I normally am not a reader of spies or World War II. Anyone who wants an intricate view of the range of events and plans and depth of intrigue occurring during World War II will not be disappointed.

It is a prodigious book, clear to follow, except for this reader who at times was boggled by the duplicity of so many spies, and who trusted whom. Basically, Kim Philby was a product of good schooling, elite circles, exclusive clubs. Sprinkle long night of drink and carousing and the cavorting wiles of spies, albeit, against or for, whatever country, and the book becomes a page turner.

Kim Philby was unknown to anyone close to him and duplicitous to all. Many were fooled by his being a double spy for England and the USSSR.

This reader lived in Russia, really Ukraine and Belarus for a 3 year period with some trips back to the states. We were there really with the concept of peace and promotion of a different concept of the oneness of humanity. We were ordinary citizens meeting the rank and file in the society, a society encased in shame. The people were grief stricken that they had been so deluded. Communist changed into business suits, the mafia kept on keeping on, and yet the society opened up.

The intricacies of the spy trade command a horrific attention. So much intrigue; so much mathematical callousness as far as ordinary people were concerned. Philby caused 100s to die, but he remained very British, very club oriented, very alcoholic. None of his wives really knew him. They thought they did. His children adored him. How would they know? He does come across in this view as a father who cared, but what a price he pays.

I ended my horrified reading wondering was it total power, just being ahead of the game, any game, and why not two competing powerful nations. How could he be so deluded by Communism, and Stalin? The egos and delusions of spy networks and the crumbling times we all live in.

At any rate, it was a compelling read, but shocking. My questions remain. Was Philby a sociopath? What compelled him? Such blind allegiance. What really motivated him?

As an aside, I’ve been watching Manhattan on PBS and the same power hungry intrigues are revealed as the story of the atom bomb unfolds. Obsession, ego and power – oh dear.

Once again, thanks Blogging for Books! great way to spread the word about good reads!

A Life Apart – L. Y. Marlow 9780307719393

A Life Apart

L. Y. Mar

This is a historical novel dealing with race, World War II, specifically Pearl Harbor, relationships of the black and white kind, and a love story. The title A Life Apart implies to the reader more than one meaning. The author is indeed a , and as she takes us deeper and deeper into the novel, complexities of other families, life of African-Americans, how they differ, and a coming to love. It’s gentle, and it’s a story about love, about skin color privilege and hatred, and human beings caught on the corners or jagged edges of history’s transitions. I’m from Boston, and went to secretarial school in Roxbury. I was born a little before World War II, and grew up in the suburbs of Boston. I was oblivious to racial prejudice until I came to California in 1992, discovered the Baha’i Faith and the concept of the oneness of humankind.This book is important. There are no strident notes or harsh retaliations to the way whites treated our fellow African-Americans (grievously, beyond measure), and the author writes about these times, which are exceedingly important. If we are to know and love each other, and realize skin color is an illusion, we have to know of our insides, our hurts, our triumphs, frailties and joys. A Life Apart is a compelling story, and it works on many levels. I definitely recommend it. I read this book because I signed up for Blogging for Books, a worthy adventure in itself. Otherwise I might have missed A Life Apart. My life is enriched because of reading this. I think readers will hear more from L. Y. Marlow. She is also author of Color Me Butterfly, which I intend to track down as soon as I finish this review. Kudos to this writer! Thanks again Blogging for Books!

<a href=”https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17324149-my-mother-s-voice&#8221; style=”float: left; padding-right: 20px”><img alt=”My Mother’s Voice” border=”0″ src=”https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1359982576m/17324149.jpg&#8221; /></a><a href=”https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17324149-my-mother-s-voice”>My Mother’s Voice</a> by <a href=”https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/614105.Kay_Mouradian”>Kay Mouradian</a><br/>
My rating: <a href=”https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/886920404″>5 of 5 stars</a><br /><br />
<br>I met Kay Mouradian at a very crowded Author’s Day in Pasadena.  Their first such event.  We all had assigned spots at tables and then were free to wander to meet fellow writers.<br><br>My Mother’s Voice is a profound book and a must read.  Of course, it was a gripper, but perhaps that word shows a paucity of feeling;so many people go through such terrors, abuse, genocide, and in the western World, some of us can become numb to these conditions or simply are unable to read about any kind of suffering.<br><br>Nobility and anonymity are huge themes in my life, and I read about these people, always giving me a higher and higher standard to attain.  Then, become mine.  We have a history laden with heroes and heroines amidst the chaos of a world destined to come of age.<br><br>This is one such book.  My Mother’s Voice.  I haven’t checked amazon, Alibris for it, but its ISBN 978-1-4525-6169-1, Balboa Press, a Division of Hay house. This has received Honorable mention as a documentary and considered Best Documentary at a film festival in Toronto.<br><br>
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<a href=”https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/2785181-esther-bradley-detally”>View all my reviews</a>

in-the-shadow-of-angkor-new-writing-from-cambodia-and-cambodian-america

Did you know there’s a type of bug or spider that runs along in the Iraqi desert along side the figure running, and this spider is vicious and has teeth and will give a deadly bite, but it hides in the shadows. I read a biography of a doctor’s time in Iraq, a time where her husband, a Marine also, stayed home with the twins (toddlers) and her mom and dad came in to do heavy duty grandparent duty. I can’t remember the title of the book, and given the multiplicity of books now emerging, can’t remember. Today, as never before, a plethora of memoir on the war; did I say war, I meant “wars” emerges, and I think all valid. It is time to give voice to a day, a moment, an hour, and those who do will cause me to think and feel, and say, “I’ll not forget.”

The pages are still blank as far as our future history goes. Did we go down that random vortex of unimaginable horror, like living In the Shadow of Angkor, written and edited by a friend Sharon May, and also Frank Stewart, and is a University of Hawaii Press publication?

Today as never before, did I say that? Today as never before, the forces of light and darkness duke it out, and how can one forget moments. Yes, my world is still as small as a canary-yellow and-white-cough-drop-colored paper bag, and a picture of a very fat, curly tailed pug, with stocky front legs resting on a small child’s red chair, but over these images lays a heaviness of what is happening out there; out beyond the insulation of our culture and those who romp and play on a Fantasy Island, like Pinocchio, and mercifully, there is always beauty in the world, and prose of horrors overcome, as in Angkor.

I am reminded of a weekend course on the foundation of education building a world society, and realizing we are in a paradigm shift, and it is uncomfortable, but current educational practices are based on getting all of us through a system as the Industrial Revolution, and that won’t work.

Now is the time for us to enable capacity and connection and authentic perceptions, and spiritual insight. We are children of a half light emerging into a global civilization which must consider that we are coming of age spiritually, and it’s time to throw down all shibboleths (is that a word) of difference and pulsate on hoping our tattered world will win the battle of old egos as in old dinosaurs.

But I am dangerously near preaching or lecturing, and the heart, anyone’s heart will go into heels dug into the ground, don’t push me into a way of thinking, but to end with a remembrance of a day I’ll not forget is to remember 9/11 after the airplanes’ destructive paths, before politicians’ games of power, a blank space, like the action potential of the cell before it hits the synapses, and a blank time where we were cylindrical in our unity and our caring for the other; we seemed to be enwrapped in columns of blue misty caring, and we were one – giving new meaning to prayer as a state of being.

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I sit here on the anniversary of my marriage to my husband who is now 78, and I say to my 74-year-old self, “Self, did you think 27 years ago you’d be sitting here contemplating verbs and old age and giving out sage advice, sage being not only a spice?

I vividly remember our wedding, my dusty pink Laise Adser dress with pastel green nubby cloak with hood, like Meryl Streep wore in the French Lieutenant’s Woman. Bill and I fit like Bogie & Bacall, like bookends of similar but different backgrounds. We remember radio. We were Catholic. We were from the right-hand side of the United States, and we both love pug dogs. Is this the basis of a spiritual relationship? It is.

There’s more this story – how I met him after he had been a Baha’i for two weeks; how I had to go back to being a legal secretary, having left my cubicle four years earlier to return to college; how we had income which was good in the beginning, and how I just before I met him I made the insane decision to buy a radio for my car. We met, we laughed, we matched, and in a dream one night our DNA code swirled around us in figure 8’s. That’s what I call, “It’s a sign.” Yeah, we did a lot of that too.
I made a list of qualities wanted in my unseen mate, and this list fell out of a book a year after we were married. Everything on this long narrow list, “Sensitive, spiritual, humor,” was there – I turned to him waiving the list of scribbled hopes, and said, “I forgot to put tall,” but if so, I wouldn’t have married my husband who is about an inch shorter than I.
It’s been an action packed life. We moved seventeen different times. I had health issues which I’ll speak of at 80 or so. We traveled across Russia, visited Siberia, and lived in Ukraine and Belarus, before, during and after the breakup of the Soviet Union. We also lived with my second mother-in-law who told me one day, “You carry the heavy stuff for him,” and now it is the day of our 27th anniversary.

I sit here with a hiatal hernia, and a suspiciously ingrown toe. I am in my red and black PJs – contemplating words used for aging. Baby Boomers take note. “Use strong verbs – might I suggest “lurch” and “cope.”

My marriage, and a plethora of other happenings, healed me, and now we both face the final frontier. I finally have self-acceptance and self-appreciation, except for an occasional Thursday of black condemning thoughts. It is a time of great inner wisdom and also a time when my body becomes like an old truck spending more time in repair. An ashtray falls out, gets fixed and doors fall off. The unknown is with us every night when our sliding door shuts. Allergies descend upon my husband at every weather change, and it feels like the English Channel roars through my ears, until I turn and rub his back to his snuff, snuff, cough, cough away. I am like someone spraying the end of the contents of the Raid Can.

Again it is also surviving a twin’s passing first if you want to know, and it’s being grateful for skin that looks young thanks to a friend’s gift of Clarins. It’s having a pool house with very low rent and landlord kindness. It was having heart and gall bladder surgery within days of each other and surgeons writing off their fees, but not telling me. It’s standing up to my last breath for the oneness of humankind, and always helping someone every day. It’s living beyond the fringe and not having 401K’s and not giving a rat’s ass, but rather living in a quirky world where status is a blind removed from my mind knowing wealth follows poverty and poverty follows wealth , and I think of the quote, “ O Children of Dust – Tell the rich of the midnight sighing of the poor …” and even when my cash flow is minimal, I listen.

It’s having lingering fears in a dark hour at night, when I get up to pee and hope when I am very old, I will not be a burden, and I don’t want my family to take care of me, because I’ve lived with two mother-in-laws. It doesn’t work very well.

It’s every day having something slow me down, feeling crappola, but then again getting up, like a Russian Matroishka doll who bops up repeatedly after falling, and like a Russian Woman who is strong, and other women also, it’s seeing the beauty in so many faces, and loving the nobility among the anonymous. It’s having two themes fascinate me – man’s humanity to man and man’s inhumanity to man. I don’t mind dying, it’s the getting there, and I want to have integrity and nobility. So far I’ve managed to have dignity in the extreme times of my life, but one never knows his or her ending. It’s also having great kids, family, grandchildren and friends.

It’s living with more soul than body, and not ganging up on myself for having a peanut butter sandwich every morning for breakfast, and drinking lemonade, a good kidney stone prevention. It’s always turned towards something greater, a Divine Presence, and yet being willing to throw my whole being over a cliff for the wellbeing of the world.. It’s always learning, always seeing the wisdom in all things, no longer have shoulders tense up about every issue on earth.

Moderation to some degree has come to me. Trust, like surfing the opaque waves, is there also, but I have to guard this feeling until my last breath, and maybe one silent no breath. It is a life of purpose and humility with a whispered hope that I’ve left the world a little brighter.

Funny.  From the blog Embracing Homelessness – this person is an incredible writer, and I am privileged to know her.

eloquent, nonpartisan, well-considered response to corruption!

l  a n g u a g e  a f t e r  t h e  1 0 0  y e a r  w a r

 

The Nouns were in control in the neighborhood of Verbiage.

Adjectives were forced to end their 100 Year War.

This war was known as the Great War of Planet Earth in the Days of Rhetoric Only.

Verbiage, like a fireplace bellows of yesteryear,

had simply exhausted its wheeze and could no longer

control the Nation.

Politicians would no longer be described adjectively.

Thus, our President could be described by the Press as, “A   

man whose eyes narrowed when a syllabic word entered the

toy store of his mind; a man whose Rubber Ducky drowned

when his bath water became higher than what is necessary for

the average leader; or, a man who could bob eternally on the

Ocean of Platitude.”

This leader called up his country’s Reserve Marines again.

These Marines were sent to a land which resembled a cannon

to which they would become fodder. They would obey their

mission, climb into these cannons, and be shot out over the

land of buildings which no longer resembled buildings.

Naught would be seen but structures of rubble which resembled

cookies crumbled in the hand of a monster as tall as the

sky.

The Congress would not be allowed to use descriptions

which included the much abused adjective. This caused some

consternation, for our Congress knew of the paucity of adverbs

when running for election. The Congress member

would no longer be able to crawl into that vat of adjectives

filled with words guaranteed to portray an individual Congress

person righteously and puffily. These adjectives, I might

add, are thrown carelessly into this vat, like screen plays in

Los Angeles, like potato chips in a Lays truck which had escaped

from their Bag Containers.

The Nouns issued an edict: “Stick to the Facts, Jack.

Straight Facts for a Straight Land,” a land which had lived adjectivally

and splendiferously for too long, thereby wreaking

an ecological knowledge gap of a very long five years. Politicians

had appeared on the NewsHour program with Jim

Lehrer, and on what used to be Peter Jennings’s NewsHour,

and on Tim Russert, to reveal Sunday after Sunday (or was it

Monday after Monday?) narrow gamboling minds and nuances

of the political dance. These very same politicians verbally

trolled linguistically along to thinly expand titles such as

“Theatre of Operation,” “War Games” and, last but not least,

the most abused noun in the world, Democracy—Democracy

became a gutted, slutty word, misused and stretched like

hardened taffy in a candy machine after the summer crowd

had gone home.

A rape of the Nouns had occurred. What choice did the

Nouns have but to take over the Nation? They cried out,

“Aack, aack, aack! No more.”

And so as this tale is difficultly told, but blessed for its attempts,

all the while failing in adverbial splendor, time will tell how language

controlled its environment so that facts and integrity might emerge again

 children of the world forget that “Truthfulness is the foundation

of all human virtues” (Ruhi Book 1 – Reflections on the Life of the Spirit)

http://educationunderfire.com/the-vision/

Rainn Wilson did a college tour, not for the sake of comedy, but for that of human rights. Along with other panelists from Amnesty International, Education Under Fire, and the Bahá’í faith,Wilson spoke to a packed auditorium about a serious topic: the religious persecution of over 300,000 Iranian members of the Bahá’í faith.

The history of Bahá’í persecution dates back to the group’s inception. However recent government-sanctified systemic disenfranchisement (or as it’s called in polite circles, the passing of discriminating laws that bar Iranians identifying as Bahá’í from basic human rights like public services and education) has escalated to the point of attempts to shutter the underground university, Bahá’í Institute for Higher Education, and mass arrests of BIHE professors.

Many teachers are serving 4-5 year prison sentences from their arrest in May, 2011.

But why is the funnyman on a college campus for something so grave? “My family is Bahá’í. Had our family been living in Iran, my 7-year-old son would not be allowed go to school.”Wilsonhas appeared in Baha’i conferences before, but it was the events in May that helped organize these groups together. Amnesty International had been trackingIran’s human rights violations since the overthrow of the Shah during the 1970′s. Another group produced its namesake documentary, Education Under Fire, was born from the reactions of volunteers to keep the secret school operating and to spread the news of the persecution. The team spoke at several local Boston colleges like Boston University,Wheelock College, Harvard, and Tufts.

                       

Director Jeff Kaufman, actor Rainn Wilson, BIHL graduate Mojdeh Rohani , and Northeast Regional Director of Amnesty International Joshua Rubenstein .

The documentary screening and subsequent talk was intended to be a call to action.Wilsontold the audience, “Go and ask your schools to accept BIHE credits or help teach an online class.” Flyers given to attendees listed over a dozen ways potential activists could help their cause. But perhaps the best testimony came from a BIHE graduate, Mojdeh Rohani, now a graduate of BU’sSchoolofSocial Work.

“I still love my country. But when I’ve been asked to go and help them with disasters they find out I’m a Bahá’í, and I am rejected immediately. I have not been able to go back.”

The panel disbanded, and Wilson was whisked off towards the next stop of his tour, the airport.

To find out more about Education Under Fire, check out their website.

I hope people can respond to this! Thank you, Esther

A friend, Al, who is in advertising,  said to me one day over coffee at Peets in California, “You need to have a blog,” and so because of that casual remark and my faith in his techy wisdom.  I commenced walking over rocks and pebbles of techy knowledge, and a blog was born.

September 5, 2006, Sorry-Gnat enters hyperspace life letting those who are interested know that in the Baha’i Writings one can go on the path of transformation and be a sorry gnat and become a giant eagle.

“I’ve just had lunch at Tuohey’s Restaurant in Alhambra and had dinner there last night.  No I’m not trying to be giant like an eagle physically.  I’ve ruminated a good deal about stuff to put into this blog:  poetry?  pug dogs? notes about books?  human rights? racial justice: schlepping, Esther, don’t forget schlepping.  I have a lot to learn on this blog, and will consult with my techy friends as to how, what, why, when!  I’m reading The Earth is Flat, Thomas Friedman, excellent. Very good writer.  We just saw Jessica, our granddaughter, at an early soccer practice.  She’s almost 7-going into first grade, and all the little girls are not aggressive players at all, but very cute.

Today, April 5, 2012.

Well Jessica is 12 now, and has an equanimity about her and kindness to all that I adore.  My family was like a Rorschach test, and I used to wonder what it’s like if my kid had the soul of an accountant.  He didn’t, and that’s okay, but Jessica, my granddaughter’s mom, leans to that side:  stable, and a tremendous educator with regards to child rearing.

Okay, I do blogs, and  at times in my life the only themes seem to be pug dogs or spirituality, and for a while pug dogs were winning.  Of late, it’s books, and maybe a while or so about my adequacy level down by my ankle bones,  blogging wise-the techy side.  I’ve avoided Twitter.  Facebook?  Boys and girls, I’ve got FB down; I have friends all over the globe.  The good thing about moving 17 different times in 25 years is you meet a lot of people.

Sure I grieved over leaving some, but I tell you, I’ve met incredible people and to this day I never cease to wonder.  Today we had lunch at Farideh’s and we had Tadiq, golden crusted flat slabs of potato under Basmati rice.  Oink.  We had wild salmon, vegetables even turnip.  Then we had dessert served on creamy white china and looked like a vibrant water color:  blueberries,  peachy colored mango, and a scoop of vanilla soy ice cream.  I’m so slogged with fatigue and memories of good food, my brain turns to sludge.  Later I hooked up with Jean a new person in our Baha’i community.

She’s new to Pasadena, and hasn’t been in the States for 10 years.  She has lived in India, and I can’t remember the name of her city; small – 5 million, but she’s traveled all over. Did I mention she’s blind and gets around by cane.  We’ve hung out before.  She’s done everything; social worker, worked in radio stations, done voice over, teaches ESL, works via the computer.  No dust on her heels!  It gave me just another chance to marvel.

Tomorrow, I’m off at a little before noon to a Christian church up the Street on Lake, in Altadena/Pasadena area, where the Ecumenical Council is observing Good Friday.  I remember Good Friday when I was Catholic, sitting in the silence of the church, the religious figures draped in purple silk, and I remember a day before, called Holy Thursday, when Liz, my twin, and her best friend Jannie Cleary, walked and visited the 7 Catholic churches, a tradition we participated in only once.  When we got home that day my sister Meb (Mary Ellen Bradley) was hanging her head out of the bath room window on the second floor, showing a newly bleached blonde.

We were three sisters; close in many ways, and yet Meb would die of alcoholism, as my mother did.  They were terrific.  They both played classical music, and I can’t not stop when I hear Chopin’s polonaise in something Minor.  My mom died when we were 17, and my sister died when I was living in Dnepropetrovsk. She was the size of a twig, ravished by emphysema and years of alcoholism which I think she kicked towards the end.  She had once survived on the streets for five years.

So back to homeless women.  I’ve done two things in my life influenced by these two women so close to my heart.  My mom had Latvian Babushkas come to our little house on Wren Street, tuck into the small kitchen with the red checkered oilcloth table covering, and she’d teach them English for free.  They talked of their husbands, “lost behind the Iron Curtain,” and I’d visualize a large iron shower curtain stretched across a vast empty land.

Years later, in 1990, I traveled to Siberia with Bill, my husband.  I wrote a book Without A Net: A Sojourn in Russia, which tells about Meb, Russia,Ukraine, and all.  People like it.  I often thought  my mother’s selfless act of reaching out had reverberations into the future, when I, her daughter, very much her daughter, went into Slavic countries for service only.

That said, we’ve lived in Pasadena for 11 years, and it’s the longest we’ve ever lived anywhere.  Bill is 77 and I am 73, and first we house sat in a gorgeous condo for 3 years and then found this pool house, and we can afford the rent they charge which is not high.  I’ve survived open heart surgery, having the surgeons write the whole business off for free, and I’ve had a lot of trips to Cardiology at Kaiser, bleeding out, stuff like that, but now I thrive.  I’m like a Russian doll that tips over and bounces back.  Someone said to me the other day, “You have a strong life force,” and I do.  I feel life gets better and better for women as they age. I am no longer moth-holed by self-doubt and scalding inner words of rebuke.  I’m me now, and I sort of glow at times, at least when I’m teaching writing, meeting friends for coffee and always stretching to do more.

Poem by Chris Annick

poetry of women from women's room - fund raiser flyer

A few years ago I gave a goodly amount of writing workshops-method, process, and did so for free at the local library branch of La Pintoresca in Northwest Pasadena.  The Women’s Room a group formed and created by members who were connected to an Ecumenical Council realized women in Pasadena, either homeless or in transition, had nowhere to go.  This is a day refuge, but oh what a refuge. Showers, laundry, good food, make up suggestions now and then are available, and oh, my writing class.   Long story short, a room above the food pantry of Friends in Deed was created, like a small living room, dusty peach walls, art with symbols of 3 poppies, art on the wall, small kitchen and on Tuesdays 1-3 I teach writing.  Everyone is welcome, the volunteers and the guests (homeless/in transition) and it is truly solidified in love and community.  The bonds are strong.

We were asked to have something for tomorrow’s program at this Church.  I wrote a poem on forgiveness.  I’ll publish it later.  Then I had the women do a group poem, each writing 2 lines.

They’ve performed before; different women, different voices, and at first they were terrified.  But after they had the guts to get up behind a microphone and say their piece, their pieces, they were and are proud.  You can’t take that away from anyone.  Above is a poem written by Chris Annick which graced our first fundraiser flyer.

I always say to them before they read, “Own this.  Own your voice,” and by golly they do.  So with that, I didn’t expect this to be such a rattle on blog, but here you go, and that’s the facts Jack.

stunning, epid, riventing

"The Orphan Master's Son is a riveting portrait of a world heretofore hidden from view: a North Korea rife with hunger, corruption and casual cruelty..."

The Orphan Master’s Son is a major book; a major read. It is epic; almost an oratorio, notes of which float over incredible deprivation, struggle, and an exceedingly oppressive society. . I could not put it down. Someone once asked, “Why do you read such books as this? My answer for that day as “If we believe mankind is one, i.e., we are one people, one planet, and we know of peoples’ horrendous suffering,” then we cannot be silent.  I must speak about it even if only in a book review.

This novel pulls from the reader gasps of horror, Adam Johnson’s novel relentlessly pursues a systolic drive to the center of the North Korean world  whose outer shell is constructed of a rigid totalitarianism, and whose  inner core reveals an absolute and moribund corruption.  Its core is rotten. Yet, slivers of nobility, slivers of courage from different individuals emerge.

One critic said, “This is not the real North Korea.”   Perhaps not.  However, books are appearing on the landscape, one of which is the Aquariums of Pyongyang  verify an appalling state of society, and a nightmarish existence in North Korea’s prison camps,  and also in the general society.  We live on a planet where forces of light and darkness lick each others shadows. If we cannot speak for the silent ones, what can we do?

I feel an awe regarding Adam Johnson’s novel .  I believe this novel goes far beyond Pulitzer awards. It is through fiction such as this that truth shines.

Adam Johnson teaches creative writing at Stanford University.  His fiction has appeared in Esquire, The Paris Review, Harper’s, Tin House, Granta, and Playboy, as well as The Best american Short Stories.  His other works include Emporium, a short story collection, and the novel Parasites Like Us.

1. Please tell us about you the person and the author:

Glad that’s worded that way, because above all we are all persons first. In 1990 I started publishing personal and reflective essays in various journals. A writer friend from Israel had recommended me and many other yet to be published writers to write for a particular publication in Australia/New Zealand. This journal was globally distributed. When my friend suggested I submit some of my stuff, I thought, “Is that stuff under the bed collecting dust balls?” But in 1992 I was married to my wonderful husband Bill and we were living in Ukraine, in the City of Dnepropetrovsk, and this magazine published an essay about our lives in Ukraine.

I’m from Boston, born in Boston, and I remember blackout curtains from World War II on our windows and peeing in the dark. I remember the 50s and being a Catholic girl and going to a public high school. I had no writing inclination, but read voraciously from six years on. A huge influence was my mom who became a major alcoholic, but was a lover of books and also taught Latvian women to speak and read English when they came to our little brown rented house on Wren Street, and they spoke of the Iron Curtain, and their husbands lost behind this curtain. I remember thinking in images of a giant iron shower curtain spread across a vast land.

I grew up in a stratified society, where people drew lines about religious affiliations, class position, race, difference. I was a child in the 40s, a young girl in the 50s and was Catholic. In my twenties, I drove to California after the Cuban crisis, drove out by myself. My mother had died; my father remarried; my twin was somewhere; the family was dysfunctional and scattered. My older brother and sister weren’t around. I was a legal secretary and outwardly gutsy but inwardly a wimp.

I discovered the Baha’i Faith at 27, and felt as if I stepped out of a black and white photograph into the land of color. I stopped drinking, even though I hadn’t yet connected the dots of alcoholism sitting in my family’s history box for generations. I immediately became aware of the oneness of humanity, and my old stereotypical views fell off me like corrugated cardboard. Still, until I die, I must be aware of prejudice and how it is inhaled by a baby when born. My life is incredibly full –I teach writing to homeless women and others. I give a lot of free workshops. I guess you could say my husband and I are activists as we totally believe in service to the community at large. I used to be fearful but didn’t show it, and I faced life and have crawled over railroad tracks in Donetsk and been in Ukraine during the Russian coup and written a book about it. I’ve been to Siberia, and I have a son Nicholas who is married and a granddaughter. One last thing: I jump out of airplanes to say hello to Pug Dogs even if they are only dark little dots on the ground. That’s sounds very year-booky.

Mostly I totally believe in the splendor of the human condition, and am horrified by the meanness of our age, but have tremendous hopes for the future. I believe one becomes mystical by embracing the grit of one’s time and that we should be anxiously concerned about the needs of our age. I am the last of my siblings, my twin having died a few years ago. I’ve survived heart surgeries, blah, blah, blah, and walk an hour a day; sound like a gadabout and light up like a pinball machine when celebrating, reading, writing, a good book, justice, being a solace to someone else, being a source of light and laughter.

2. When did you first know you wanted to be an author?

In 1980, when I got a chance to go back to college, I wanted to learn writing.

3. Did you take any classes or go to school to learn to write, or did it just come naturally

No. Writing letters came naturally, but I had no idea whether studying writing would ruin my fledgling writing or not. I went to UC Irvine and enrolled as a junior at 42 as a single mom, fresh from what felt like 100 years of work as a legal secretary. I majored in English as I read voraciously and thought that the most practical. I had no dreams of becoming an attorney. I took a summer class and wrote a story about a blue dye eviscerating the earth from a jeans factory and a dog named Lance I think. I didn’t have the knowhow or the courage to have dialogue. There was lance, the blue dye, the inhabitants of earth leaving the planet, and the owner of lance, a woman who died.
My first writing teacher said, “Take every writing course this school has to offer.”

I took expository writing in the second quarter and the TA said “Take every writing course this school has to offer,” because I wrote a piece about who I was after reading an excerpt of May Sarton’s Journal of a Solitude. Reader her talk about depression, writing and planting flowers caused me to think, I can do this. I remember feeling electrified, not hugely, but nevertheless animated.

I then took Beginning Fiction with Oakley Hall, and I was nervous. He has written a book on the novel; was co-head of the UCI Writing Program, and is well respected. He went to Iowa I think. I was nervous until I looked under the large square table where we all assembled, and I saw faded purple Rit died socks, and then looked up into his broad face, and kind eyes, and his hair looked like yarn. He taught how to show, how to be the camera eye, how to use strong verbs, and I flourished.

I then went on to take an advanced writing class with the other co-head who didn’t like older women, but thought I was a very good writer. He tried to discourage me, and I think he did so, because he didn’t make it in the way he expected. It was rough, but I hung in.

Then I took journalism with a very good Journalist who had been nationally known, and he said, “You are a good writer, but what the hell are you trying to say.” I also took courses after graduating as part of teacher training in teaching secondary writing, and Writing the Natural Way. I use those methods when I teach workshops.

I also took from the Pied Piper of Workshop Leaders, Jack Grapes in Los Angeles who is a method writing teacher, and I took his beginning workshop. Then I waited 10 years, took his advanced courses, and around 2003 I was bursting through sound barriers. . I have written 2 books: Without A Net: A Sojourn in Russia and You carry the Heavy Stuff, the most recent.

I took a UCLA class too and we were not allowed to praise or criticize anyone’s writings, no comments, but the instructor told me I was very good. So yes, I took classes and really learned method, and craft of showing, use strong verbs, and still read voraciously.

4. Please tell us about your book and how did you come up with the idea for it.

As I mentioned I had a previous book, and the 2nd edition has pictures. Without A Net: A Sojourn in Russia, about our 3 year period before, during and after the breakup of the Soviet Union. It is a personal view, a behind the scenes sideways type of thing – personal, funny, sad, hard, and spiritual.

I joined CHPercolator Coffeehouse for writers because my friend Steve kept encouraging me. We all give prompts to write about at periodic intervals and thus, writers from around the globe write or not write every day.

After 2 years, I looked at my previous writing and the CHPerc bundle, and thought “It’s time to do another book.” It’s called You Carry the Heavy Stuff and has a street sign that says, “It’s all grist for the Mill, been there, done that, what’s next,” with a pug’s back to the reader and a tall thin red-haired lady with an old leather type valise, inky papers sticking out of it, and she’s wearing red high top sneakers. That’s my persona. I have used “It’s all grist for the mill” so much; people will soon begin to scream.

I had a mother in law who was the size of a small tree trunk and didn’t take noth’in from no one and we lived with her after we came back from Russia because we didn’t think it was wise for her to live alone. When I first met her, Bill and I were packing up our bags to drive away, and she and I were loading stuff at an open trunk, when this low growly voice (hers) said to me, “You carry the heavy stuff for him.” So I wrote a piece about her.

Anna was her name, and Italian momma was her game. I both laughed inwardly and groaned. I wasn’t insulted. Had I been 20, I’d have run away. This book is a series of poetry and prose about who I was, am; life in an office cubicle; life in middle school and a world view taking shape, life after 9/11; essays on prejudice, which makes my African-American friends cry, and essays on spirituality and eating falafel at the Mercatz (shopping area top of Haifa hills) in Israel. I also talk lightly and deeply about social conditions, Baghdad, being a twin, having a twin die, and packing for the future. All of my pieces reflect varied writing styles.

A fellow writer wrote “You Carry the Heavy Stuff reveals an author who engages life with grit, honesty and good humor. Bradley-DeTally rests thoughtfully at a quiet stream to make serene observations, and then she’s up and away again to fight her good fight with a Tally HO! A refreshing read that combines a depth dimension with the tragicomedy that is life.”

I was going to call the book Writing on the Fly, and I had everything in it: fiction, surrealism, poetry, short stories, and then I trimmed it down and a friend said, “Writing on the Fly is overused.” So I had a brief contest where I promised a few select friends a Starbucks coffee card if they voted on a selection of about 5 titles. You Carry the Heavy Stuff carried the day.

I don’t outline. Let me repeat that I don’t outline. I free write and then I tweak, tweak, tweak. I am pretty spontaneous and word crazy some friends might add.

5. Which of your characters were your favorite and why?

My favorite characters are pugs and the people in Children of the Stolen Ones, a poem I hope which gives honor to my brothers and sisters of African heritage.

6. What traits and characteristics did you give some of your characters to make them memorable? Courage, nobility and the human condition is a sideways view.

7. Does your book have any important themes or lessons you wanted to convey?

Well, it’s memoir-ish so the traits would be pissy, funny, ballsy, outspoken, socially concerned, deeply spiritual, thrown in with the theme of global citizenship and the inhumanity of man and the humanity of man (generic man of course).

My themes speak of the wonders and need for oneness; the need to throw prejudice off the planet, the nobility of the anonymous and the suffering among us, the struggle and beauty of the dying cancer patients, the humanity of others, and the downright wonders of slinging around language like hash.

8. What was the road to publication like? Was it turbulent or fairly easy?

I am too old to look for an agent, and have a small following – think larger than a beer truck but smaller than the Coliseum in LA so my friend Steve said “Publish through Lulu.” He has done so with several witty books. Reader it was hell, pure unadulterated hell. Very Kafkaesque and tortuous until I finally gave in and bought a Lulu package, and then it was a miracle. Price wise it’s the best so far, but I’m not an enchanted devotee. One gets lost in Lulu like getting lost in the Hotel California, “It’s a lovely place….but you can’t get out …. Lost in the Hotel California.The biggest thing about a book is not thinking about writing one, not thinking about publishing, but marketing after it’s done. My advice is take it step my step and “follow the force” so to speak.

9. Please tell a reader what they should know about your book before the purchase them.

It’s creative non-fiction, spunky, funny, shows a variety of writing styles, almost a book of prompts plus points of view as an extra added package! It’s 14.96 (the extra penny is the hell part.) Also there’s a download – e book type of thing. (You Carry The Heavy Stuff) http://stores.lulu.com/sorrygnat and http://www.amazon.com/Carry-Heavy-Stuff
Esther-Bradley-DeTally. I recommend the Lulu site because you can read some of the pages. I also have some I can mail.

10. Words of wisdom for aspiring writers.

Read, read, read, read, write, journal, write, never give up; take courses, watch, listen learn, imitate, and trust the process.

estherbill@gmail.com http://sorrygnat. Word press. com blog

11. What current projects are you working on?

I am writing a book about someone with deleted memory; in interview process and at the beginning right now. I also teach the writing process, currently with homeless women, and their volunteers, and under the literacy umbrella of local libraries, plus give individual sessions and have writing groups.

11. What do you want your legacy to be- to have left the world showing worlds of unity, love and laughter, and to be a point of light in the dark dark nights of the soul, and to laugh and yuk about recipes, ham sandwiches and to promote the oneness of mankind, but to write, and know the power of words, the love of them, their ordinariness and majesty and not to worry about publishing, but think of the journey itself.

I wish for a world where everyone is a trust of the whole.

Esther’s ten favorites.

Favorite time of day?

First cup of coffee brought to me in bed by wonderful husband of 25 years.

Dessert: vanilla ice cream and dark, thick and creamy hot fudge sauce.

Teacher – Miss Halloran, in book; changed my world view from neighborhood to vast history and dimensions and the dangers of war within a 5 minute read of giant poster on her wall.

Social networking site; Facebook

Favorite city: Pasadena

Music – Rodrigo’s Concerto de Aranjuez

Color: the rainbow

Pastime: drinking coffee, and talking about real stuff with friends

Book: Oh my the over 600 on Goodreads, but if you don’t have time, Gleanings by Baha’u’llah, and An Interrupted Life, Etty Hillesum, and, and

‘Nothing save that which profiteth them shall ever befall my loved ones.’-Baha’u’llah

You Carry the Heavy Stuff

Nov 07, 2010 10:31am

http://educationunderfire.com/multimedia/

Image

A string of laughter is all the trees lining our long driveway, the bamboo, the eucalyptus, all laughing, small nasty chuckles, because once again, I am thatched headed, in pjs and not walking.  It was a choice, but then the lure of words, the Zen of quiet air pushing out of the fan under my laptop; which if you really must know, I found this fan at a garage sale for $1.00, mighty fan.

A string of laughter makes me think of kites flying over Afghanistan, that land of dust and caves, and cities, and brave women’s hearts, and children’s tears, and when the kites are allowed, they fly into the air, twisting, turning, colors.  What are the colors of kites in the Afghan air? And someone’s heart exults, and then of course, there’s the birds.  They were banned during the time of the Taliban, and now I hope they are back, and I will sit back, and stop clickety clacking across the a, ;.s;. k, dk’s and think in peace you can’t own the sky..  It’s been tried, but the sky is ours, and then a heavenly invisible low long drawn out chuckle, like God was a Westerner with a Cowboy Hat, and then a belly laugh which translates into winds over the mountains, cleansing air, and Scattering Angels of the Almighty seeking the hearts of righteous men (generic of course); women too, and then what do I think.

Hmmm, a string of laughter is a word sky, where the sun and the moon negotiate, because now there’s lots of new solar stuff out there, and it might be a night game of “Olly, olly oxen free… ready or not, here I come.” Or maybe lawn bowling will be the game of choice, except it would be sky lawn ball, and then there are balloons, another topic altogether. Some balloons laugh, go up on a string, and twist out of grasping hands of greed.

You can take a lot of things away from people:  money, a place to live, shoes, health, but laughter always springs from some invisible source, and laughter moves the ribs up and down and up and down, and you can’t take that away.

how to be a racial transformer

from Colorlines.com, Hatty Lee’s infographic, ARC toolbox, research, activism, media, Rinku Sen, ARC President – arc@arc.org.

This organization gets things done; they put “hope” back in the horizon! I hope it’s okay to publish this

CXXX: Be generous in prosperity, and thankful in …

1

Be generous in prosperity, and thankful in adversity. Be worthy of the trust of thy neighbor, and look upon him with a bright and friendly face. Be a treasure to the poor, an admonisher to the rich, an answerer of the cry of the needy, a preserver of the sanctity of thy pledge. Be fair in thy judgment, and guarded in thy speech. Be unjust to no man, and show all meekness to all men. Be as a lamp unto them that walk in darkness, a joy to the sorrowful, a sea for the thirsty, a haven for the distressed, an upholder and defender of the victim of oppression. Let integrity and uprightness distinguish all thine acts. Be a home for the stranger, a balm to the suffering, a tower of strength for the fugitive. Be eyes to the blind, and a guiding light unto the feet of the erring. Be an ornament to the countenance of truth, a crown to the brow of fidelity, a pillar of the temple of righteousness, a breath of life to the body of mankind, an ensign of the hosts of justice, a luminary above the horizon of virtue, a dew to the soil of the human heart, an ark on the ocean of knowledge, a sun in the heaven of bounty, a gem on the diadem of wisdom, a shining light in the firmament of thy generation, a fruit upon the tree of humility.

amazing dystopian thriller

It is just fantastic to see a new writer emerge. Mudbound was Pasadena’s One Author One Read book, and now first week of November I believe she’s going to speak, not at Vroman’s, too small but at Cal Tech. Kudos to Hillary Jordan!

Awakened to cup of coffee in bed; staggered to computer; am on Word Press this am with thatched head, but Persecution of a Christian Minister in alarm shot my body full of, “Post this on SorryGnat,” and lo and behold, good old Word Press offered a prompt: When you are most happy?

Dear WP Question Person,

I am most happy when I drive up my driveway and my husband comes out of our small pool house and is just there, but then of course there are days when I spot pug dogs through my inner radar and Kismet, by the end of the day, I am sprawled on a pavement, petting said beastie, even though my friends shake their heads at my constant devotion to Pugs, and still I am most happy when I see writers emerge from their cardboard boxes which were labeled “I don’t write, I can’t write,” and like last night, offer revisions of the Three Little Pigs, turn the story on its head by having the first pig (of straw, and lazy, darned lazy if you ask me), and find out this little pig had invested in derivatives, and now, only now, when red stiletto heel click along New York streets, in huff puff, click, click, hurry to my job, don’t know how long it will last,” all the while these red stiletto heels, which if you want to know, can have outer soles of turquoise and magenta print, if the person, wearette of said stiletto, is well heeled financially, and now on to more than feet, because this is about happiness, and I’m most happy when I think some day, despite the crocodile kingdom here on earth, and dripping juicy mouths in political power (not all) (there are nice cats and dogs in the mix in leadership in this country), but back to the question, my tummy and my heart, and my soul are in sinc (not sink) (another day, another tale) when I see on the horizon, signs, not of Humvees built as slug bugs for war and destruction, but hands, thin hands, old hands, wrinkled hands, long tapered fingernails, fingers bumpy and sludgy and chewed, tough hands covered, dark hands, covered with dust, Kardashian hands pampered and isolated, but all hands, get to the point, writer, reaching out around this Parker’s Pen Color of Blue Ink Planet hold one another, some grasping one another, and despite a world gone tilt, bonkers, and a world which may be screaming, “I miss my hormones,” is lurching towards maturity, even though the crocodiles, hereinafter called The Crocs, salivate and slide towards a fugue state of power, illusive and unattainable, because some day we will be one, and every baby born (visualize Kunte Kinte(sp) holding his richly brown velvet baby son to the sky, and someone in Idaho lifting a peaches and cream baby up to trees stretching as if hands up in praise to their unseen Divine Essence (Higher Power too Germanic in tone to put here), and that day when each baby will be perceived, cherished, regarded as a “Trust of the Whole,” and we will get about our planetary work, and that’s a good Tuesday morning reason for being happy, because happiness is not an outside thing in that it’s just about pleasure, but reader, if you have been patient enough to go through this all, would you consider that abiding joy, and release from oppression and We Are One is our divine right?

This isn’t to say there are not a gazillion other reasons, like listening to a young doctorate in realization of astrophysics, skate across the sky and explain planetary dust in such a fascinating way as she reads in a basement in a store called fair trade, on Lake Avenue, in Pasadena, if you want to know, where a bunch of us writers laugh and cavort and toss bon mots of principles, concerns and an occasional jello recipe around – that makes me happy, and one other thing, because I’m on my way there – giving people voice; how on God’s Green Earth did I get so lucky to teach at the Women’s Room in Pasadena, said WR is an offshoot of Friends in Deed, an ecumenical group, and the WR is a day haven for women to take showers, do laundry, get decent food, most to commune with one another, and to participate, those who wish, in writing and slipping on their newly acquired writing voices to the cheers and huzzahs of the group, (we are way beyond Vogue and Marie Claire magazine), and I guess I can sum all of this “oh how we dance” piece in it’s about service, “walking the mystical path with practical feet” and helping one another and seeing everyone as a soul in progress or process and realizing we are just at the beginning of this journey. So those are my Tuesday morning reasons. (Quotes I’ve used come from Baha’i Writings or my own stuff reader, and if you know how to use spell check on this here Word Press, I’d be grateful till the end of the day.-E)

Baha’i International Community calls for release of Christian pastor facing death sentence

GENEVA, 4 October 2011 (BWNS) – The Baha’i International Community has joined the call for the release of Youcef Nadarkhani, a Christian pastor from Rasht, Iran.

Pastor Nadarkhani, who is the father of two young children, leads a network of house churches. He was found guilty of apostasy – “turning his back on Islam” – and “converting Muslims to Christianity,” and sentenced to death in September 2010.

Iran’s Supreme Court recently asked for a re-examination of the case to establish whether or not he had been a practising Muslim adult before he converted to Christianity. The court ruled he was not but, nevertheless, is still guilty of apostasy because he has Muslim ancestry.

The case has sparked strong condemnation from governments, organizations and religious leaders around the world.

Then on 1 October, following this global outcry, Iranian state media suddenly reported that Pastor Nadarkhani had in fact been sentenced for other reasons – including violent crimes, extortion, Zionism and being a traitor. These charges had never once been mentioned throughout the entire period when Pastor Nadarkhani was charged, tried, sentenced, up to and including the most recent court hearing.

Statement from the Baha’i International Community:

We join with the global chorus of condemnation protesting the sentencing of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, and calling for his release.

For a court of law to rule against someone from Muslim ancestry who has freely chosen to be a Christian is yet another instance of the brutality being meted out by the Iranian authorities on their own people.

The recent public proclamation reporting that the charges against Pastor Nadarkhani have been changed – as a result of the global outcry at his conviction – only further exposes the arbitrary nature of decisions made by the judiciary system of Iran and the transparent injustice of the situation.

The sentence he faces is not only reprehensible; it is a violation of every legal, moral, spiritual and humanitarian standard.

Which temporal government in the world can reasonably decide it has the power to curtail freedom of belief? Belief is not something that can be taken away or bartered; it is a matter of conviction, of the heart, the mind and the soul, beyond the realm of any government’s control.

The Baha’i community understands well the challenging circumstances facing minorities living in Iran today. And now it is evident that those minorities which are nominally recognized by the state are as equally subordinate to the majority as those who have no rights.

There is little need to rehearse here the endless list of executions, torture, imprisonments, privations and other afflictions that are being meted out on the sorely-tried people of Iran.

Everything that country’s representatives profess on the world stage is contradicted by their treatment of their own people at home. Yet, its officials travel freely to other nations where they are offered a platform from which to broadcast their untruths, denying the callous treatment of their own citizens while displaying pretensions of good will for the people of the world.

There is much to be done to alert the people of the world to the hypocrisy of a government which is widely and continually oppressing its people.

There is much to be done for humanity to be alerted to what is going on inside Iran and to be awakened to the appalling memory of what can occur when we fail to act against state-sponsored, campaigns of hatred.

“To All” – A message from Troy Anthony Davis.

Below is the text of a Huffington Post article, with links to further
information

The Trials of an Educator in Iran
Anthony Vance, Director of External Affairs, Baha’is of the United States

“If your tea is too sweet, you can stir it the other way.” This kind of
quip was typical of Mahmoud Badavam and of Persian humor in general. I saw him
frequently as a college student in the mid-1970s in Cambridge,
Massachusetts where he gained a reputation for a quick, wry sense of humor. At that
time, Iranians were few and far between in the U.S. So, it was an eye-opener
to be exposed to the exquisite courtesy, humor, and hospitality that can be
so prevalent in Iranian culture and that certainly was not lacking among
the handful of Iranian students studying in universities in the Boston area
at the time. None of us suspected then that revolution in Iran was just
around the corner. With the large number of political and religious refugees
it would bring in its wake, exposure to Iranian culture would soon become
common place. But, at the time, Mahmoud and a small handful of others were
novel and made a deep impression on me. I met Mahmoud in Baha’i meetings — a
religious faith we both shared. He returned home just before the
revolution and chose, despite the difficulties it created for Baha’is, to stay.

On May 21 of this year and the days that followed, during raids on over 30
Baha’i homes in four cities in Iran, Mahmoud was one of 18 people arrested
for teaching in or administering the Baha’i Institute for Higher
Education. In late July, after the release of some of those arrested, Mahmoud and 7
others were reportedly charged with “conspiracy against national security”
and “conspiracy against the Islamic Republic” by “establishing the illegal
Baha’i Institute for Higher Education”. The first of the trials is
reportedly set to start this Monday, September 12. For years, he had used his
Masters degree in engineering from M.I.T. and his earlier training in Iran to
provide classroom instruction to Baha’i youth who had been barred since the
revolution from Iran’s system of higher education. The arrest on May 22 was
not his first. He returned to Iran in 1978, married shortly thereafter, and
held a job as an engineer in the government. Soon after the Islamic
Revolution, he was fired, lived with relatives in different cities, was arrested
for being a Baha’i and imprisoned for about three years.

In revolutionary Iran, among the many forms of persecution directed at
their community, Baha’is were dismissed from university teaching positions and
students were dismissed from institutions of higher education. After
numerous failed appeals to the government to correct this injustice, in 1987 the
Baha’i community organized what came to be known as the Baha’i Institute
for Higher Education to provide university-level instruction to its youth.
In recent years, BIHE was a central part of Mahmoud’s life with regular
classes in his small apartment in Tehran and administrative and curriculum
review meetings held late into the night. He spent most evenings and weekends
correcting homework and preparing for his classes. If planning with others
to educate young people can in some contorted worldview equate with
conspiracy against national security, I suppose Mahmoud and anyone else who has
ever transferred skills in the arts or sciences to a student is guilty as
charged — and unabashedly so. Over the years, others in Iran and abroad
learned about this endeavor and volunteered to assist with it.

Similar raids and arrests on BIHE were recorded in 1998, 2001, and 2002.
The official government position was documented in a 2006 letter from Iran’s
Ministry of Science, Research and Technology addressed to 81 state run
universities and institutions of higher education and in a 1991 Memorandum
signed by Dr. Seyyed Mohammad Golpaygani, the secretary of the Supreme
Revolutionary Cultural Council, with a signature endorsement of the Supreme
Leader, Ali Khamenei. Each of these documents specifically mandates the expulsion
from Iran’s system of higher education of any student who is discovered to
be a Baha’i.

The banning of Baha’is from higher education is a violation of the
International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights to which Iran is a
State Party. I hope that such a grievous assault on an entire minority
group consisting of about 300,000 people will not go unprotested by the world
community. In the meantime, from the bleakness of Evin Prison, far from the
beautiful summer to fall change of seasons in Cambridge, Massachusetts,
Mahmoud Badavam can only pray that some day he will get back to correcting
homework, preparing for classes, and perhaps even coming up with a new
witticism about tea from time to time.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anthony-vance/the-trials-of-an-educator_b_9546
42.html

http://iran.bahai.us/

Subject: Total Moral Victory in the World’s Worst Prison Today (For Friends, the Public, as well as the Media)

Dearest Family and Friends:

The following is a vivid testimony to the ultimate moral, mental, and spiritual integrity, dignity, and destiny of the Baha’is and indeed of the entire human race:

Ever since the most unjust and undignified imprisonment some three years ago, without a single crime, of the most innocent, the pure, and the saintly Baha’i Leaders in Iran called Yaran, and their subsequent transfer from the Evin Prison to the most backward and unusually harsh prison of Rajaei Shahr where some 5000 topmost killers, drug dealers, and others are kept in clusters under sub-human conditions, despite the lack of food, toilet, sanitation, and basic subsistence conditions, despite the dirt, filth, and illness, in pitiful conditions themselves, the two saint Baha’i ladies Mahvash and Fariba, as with the other five in the men’s quarters, have by the power of their Faith managed to support and uplift the minds and hearts of their fellow pitiful prisoners by giving them their relentless and genuine loving support to the poorer, the more needy, and the more frail fellow prisoners, seeing no evil in any soul, finding and nurturing dignity even in such a man-forsaken hell, and by such genuine constant manifestations of loving kindness, tact, and wisdom, they have now won, as a testimony to human moral triumph, the hearts and minds and the respect of the entire company of these same so-called “criminal” fellow prisoners, despite the moribond conditions and with all forms of dangers to their own very lives!

Over the months, whenever by token of the only good modern-day miracle of cell phone in the prison yard it was made possible for me to hear several times from Fariba herself, and on the one and only occasion when I got the chance and was so blessed by Divine Destiny to visit the two most precious ladies from behind their prison cabins two months ago for one hour myself, as well as from other family members and even directly from prison guard, I heard myself how miraculously the dangerous killers and criminals had been overwhelmingly moved and transformed by the vivifying souls of these two saintly Ladies.

One can recall the moving poem by Mahvash which shook the world, who, amidst the extreme pains of her own, backed against the withered single pomegranate tree in the prison yard, contemplates how the entire burden of these soul-and-body tortured fellow prisoners and indeed all the down-trodden suffering women of the World are now on her shoulder.

I am still amazed how for the entire three years during the rare occasions she could talk on the phone at various times, I never heard Fariba’s voice even once tremble slightly except for joy, with full faith, complete optimism, and total jubilation, as if walking in the highest Paradise all these long suffering days and months and years.

I still recall the moving sharing lessons of Fariba relaying to me how she had found the single remaining hidden spot of beauty and purity in each and all of these worldly despised and abandoned souls. I remember when she described to me the miracle account of how the most feared gang leader of the prison mafia, despite the huge body, knife-cut and broken face and other fearsome features, shun by all other killers and criminals, had been so moved by our twin spiritual heronies over time that she had on one occasion when Fariba had to pass a toilet dirt mud which had become watery sludge after rain, with their prison-customary slippers, she saw Fariba from far and told her from the distance “Please wait, please wait, may your holy feet not be touched and smeared by these dirts”, then, throwing her own slippers bode and insisted Fariba to kindly step on her slippers and pass by the place lest she be mired. No such things happen in any deadly criminal prison anywhere in the world, specially not in any place similar to this Rajaei Shahar, where only for the mere sake of prolonging an already issued death sentence with formalities paperwork procedures, often the killer kills one more unfortunate and helpless person often at random in the prison, days prior to the execution.

I remember how once Fariba was so overjoyed to tell me how one of her friends, where a few had died mercilessly by swine flu and cast and treated like swines by prison authorities, had first completely given up strong drug addiction, only to replace it with super heavy cigarette addiction, then, by the loving care of our two Baha’i Ladies, day by day she had been reducing smooking to the last one cigarette per day. Fariba told me how that day, just a month ago, Fariba hugged that lady, and rather than insisting or requesting her to give up the final cigarette, only told here gently how much she loved her and was proud of her who despite her years of bad luck in life turning her into a despised criminal, she had obtained the positive hope, the will power, and the supreme determination to accomplish what so many others in the free world had failed to succeed despite all facilities, toos, and support. Fariba told me how the lady, now a close friend, immediately threw to the ground the last final cigarette, crushed it with her heels, and, cried and said: Today I finally give up this addiction for the sake of love of you, as I feel and know that some day I shall visit you in your home and tell you and show you the effect of the loving transformation you have affected and created in me and our many other fellow prison mates!

This is how a candle can shine like the torch, nay as the mid-day Sun, in the darkness of desolation, pessimism and hopelessness, and selfishness that has overshadowed the human society.

Now, I just spoke to Fariba few hours ago on the phone who called from the Rajaei Shahr Prison.

For your information, as the latest news, by tomorrow the two most precious angelic ladies, and the crowning pride of future human civilization will be transferred to the worst section of the Prison entitled “The Under-Ground Dungeon for the Worst of the Villains and Criminals”.

This latest panic move by a remorsely helpless oppressor signifies an entirely unparalled scenario in the World History ever, even up to the present date; that is, for the holy and saintly riligious prisoners of conscience to be once more exiled within the prison, one more tier down from the already terrible exiled Prison allocated for the worst of criminals, killers, and drug addicts to the lower degree underground dungeon for the most dangerous criminals amongst them, just becasue these two already grossly-wronged innocent Saint Lady Prisoners, while in the prison under sub-human conditions, have by their shear Faith and their most pure love and consistent un-conditional tireless and selfless caring actions have transformed the prison-hell into a moral and spiritual Paradise, by moving the souls, changing the hearts, educating the minds and rectifying the conducts of the worst criminals, killers, and drug addicts to such a degree as to empower on the one hand many to give up their severe drug addictions simply on their own free will and by natural encouragement they so lovingly received rather than by persuation and without the need to appeal to any medicine or doctors or tools, or force while against all odds in such deprived hell-prison, and on the other hand enable most others to repent and wash their hands and hearts away from all crimes, purely through the power of real love and by the intense natural free persuation of mind and transformation of heart solely affected via the dynamic power of example of the Twin Tahirih’s of the Time!

Fariba said today on the phone that despite the repeated public prison loudspeaker announcements and stern warnings for all prisoners to stay and shun away, and do not associate with the Baha’i prisoners, groups upon groups of prison ladies thronged and gathered around their cell these past three days, with tearful eyes and warm hugging arms and in a unified supreme array of moral support and expressions of reciprocal love and as spontaneous sign of total unified allegience by all prisoners to the Two Saint Ladies whom they have grown to know as Angels from Heaven stationed in this human hell of a notoriously fanatic and repressive unhumane and dark Regime. Even in the oppressors, the Baha’is see light and apply the transforming and healing power of Baha’ullah’s Revelation which is the Most Great Elixir to ultimately
apply the unifying panacea to the ailing body of the World of humanity and finally affect the evolutionary transformation by God’s Will to the entirety of humankind.

“God hath, likewise, as a bounty from His presence, abolished the concept of “uncleanness”, whereby divers things and peoples have been held to be impure. He, of a certainty, is the Ever-Forgiving, the Most Generous. Verily, all created things were immersed in the sea of purification when, on that first day of Ridván, We shed upon the whole of creation the splendours of Our most excellent Names and Our most exalted Attributes. This, verily, is a token of My loving providence, which hath encompassed all the worlds. Consort ye then with the followers of all religions, and proclaim ye the Cause of your Lord, the Most Compassionate; this is the very crown of deeds, if ye be of them who understand.” Baha’u’llah; Aqdas #75

Just hours ago, Fariba in most happy tone of voice told me that one of the miracles of the Supreme Manifestation of God, Baha’u’llah, is that to the degree He gives His loved ones sufferings for the sake of the mental and moral and spiritual education and upliftment of humanity in this dark age of the transition to the collective maturity of the entire human race, to a multiple degree of that He also bestows upon them true felicity, joy, and jubilation; and that how truly happy she is that she is going down to the underground dungeon, with no fear nor a bit concern for imminent interrogations and torture.

This, reminded me vividly of her hand-written letter to me some thirty years back, in 1982 or 1983, posted from Babolsar to Boston, when our dearly beloved martyrs had just ascended to the Abha Kingdom, how she wished to be like the example of the root of the Cause of God, that Divine Tree which is neither of the East nor of the West, whose roots are firm in the earth (dark, cold, wet, lowly soil of the earth as she described), so that its branches and fruits, us, the Baha’is and all the people of good will in the outside world, can overshadow and benefit the entire human kind. Surely that Divine Tree is growing to overshadow the entire human race, now that the roots are going deeprer inside the darkness of human soul in order to bring and apply the world-wide healing remedy of Baha’u’llah.

What a sublime drama in the human history!

Speechless in awe and admiration, I remain.

Ya Baha’u’l – Abha!
(Oh Thou The Most Glorious Glory!)

(name deleted for safety purposes)

To my beloved friends worldwide, please pray for these noble souls. Gratitude, immense gratitude. Love to All, Esther

Baha’i World News Service to me
show details 2:24 AM (6 hours ago)

Grave concern for safety of Iran’s imprisoned Baha’i leaders

NEW YORK, 15 February 2011 (BWNS) – Iran’s seven imprisoned Baha’i leaders have been transferred to more brutal sections of their prison complex.

In the case of the two Baha’i women, the circumstances of the move have raised concerns that it may have been orchestrated as a means of creating an insecure environment that threatens their lives.

The Baha’i International Community has learned that one of them – Fariba Kamalabadi – has already been physically threatened by inmates since being sent to the notorious Section 200 of Gohardasht Prison.

“Apparently, the atmosphere is highly charged in this section, and there is a great deal of tension and animosity among the inmates,” said Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations.

Mrs. Kamalabadi was transferred to Section 200 on Saturday 12 February, along with Mahvash Sabet.

“It is difficult to be certain about the reason for the move,” said Ms. Dugal. “However we believe that, since their arrival at Gohardasht, the Baha’i women – despite their own extremely challenging situation – have nonetheless been a constant source of comfort and hope to other inmates. The prison authorities apparently became alarmed that the two women began to receive signs of respect from a growing number of prisoners. As a justification for the increased harsh treatment, the authorities accused the two of teaching the Baha’i Faith.”

Throughout their entire imprisonment, added Ms. Dugal, the two women have conducted themselves in a spirit of service to others. In early 2009, for example, they shared a cell at Evin prison with Iranian-Japanese-American journalist Roxana Saberi, who later wrote that they had helped her through her ordeal.

Last week, a general announcement was made to all prisoners that they were not to have any contact with the two Baha’i women. Undeterred, however, fellow inmates continued to seek them out.

“After the women were transferred, a number of prisoners made their way downstairs to visit them in their new quarters, despite efforts by the guards to restrain them,” said Ms. Dugal.

Mrs. Kamalabadi and Mrs. Sabet were told that – prior to the move – the inmates in Section 200 had been “warned” about them, she said.

Harsh and unsanitary conditions

The seven Baha’i leaders were sent to Gohardasht prison, 20 kilometers west of Tehran, in August last year. Having previously been incarcerated in Tehran’s Evin prison without charge for 20 months, they were accused of espionage and the establishment of an illegal administration among other allegations. All the charges were denied. After a brief trial, they were sentenced to 10 years in prison.

While Gohardasht is infamous for its harsh and unsanitary conditions, the Baha’i prisoners were at first kept segregated from some of the more violent elements at the complex. They also had relatively frequent access to outdoor exercise areas.

But over the past few weeks, all seven of them have been moved from the quarters they originally occupied into sections where conditions are much worse.

The five men were transferred three weeks ago to a wing set aside for political prisoners, known as Section 4, which is more crowded and reportedly under close surveillance. They are now suffering severe physical deprivations.

“Three of them are together in one cell, with the other two sharing another cell,” said Ms. Dugal. “There are two beds in each cell, so one of them has to sleep on the floor.”

“The inmates in this part of the prison are able to go outside for fresh air only at designated times, whereas previously they could do so whenever they wished,” said Ms. Dugal.

Appeal to governments

“In our open letter of 7 December 2010 to the head of Iran’s judiciary, we stressed that such an odious and degrading environment is unworthy of even the most dangerous criminals,” said Ms. Dugal.

“We say to the Iranian government once again – does it believe the principles of Islamic compassion and justice to be consistent with the imposition of such conditions on innocent citizens?”

“We continue to call upon governments and people of good-will throughout the world to take whatever action they can to impress upon the Iranian government that its actions are being watched, and that it will be held responsible for the safety of these and the more than 50 other Baha’is who are imprisoned throughout Iran,” said Ms. Dugal.

Dear All Out There – this newsletter is from TC Paulinkonis, and I have been corresponding with TC for 8 or so years. We met through the International Women’s Organization of Writers. She’s spunky, has integrity and I thought this letter important enough to put on my blog. Love to all, esther

The T.C. & Mama ´P´ Newsletter – 1st QTR, 2011

Dear Family of Friends,
As we face the beginning of a new year and hopefully changes towards a better tomorrow, you will notice a change or two to the format of this newsletter. While I have had no problem making my voice heard in regards to prison politics and select injustices within the system, I thought that it may be interesting to add a few more voices to the true intents of this quarterly report. There are other prisoners who have more knowledge in certain areas, and I thought, „Why not bring them on board?“ So, I did.
In this issue you will be introduced to Liz Lozano, who at the age of 16 was sentenced to die in prison. I am appalled by the fact that our legal system is locking kids away with ridiculously lengthy adult sentences, including LWOP, which is Life Without the Possibility of Parole. Pretty much a detach sentence without the lethal injection. With new focus on legislation to provide those kids at least half a chance as a second chance, I wanted to dedicate attention on the subject. So, I invited Liz, who as both a writer and a jubenile offender sentenced as an adult, is the perfect candidate to take on this issue in each future issue, beginning with this one.
I have invited another prisoner to address healthcare service and the aging inmate population and their concerns. I hope to intoduce her in the next issue, as she was working on a piece about breast cancer when we had to go to press.
This newsletter is intented to address concerns, answer questions, and provide updates and relative knowledge. If you have any ideas to improve it, please feel free to share your thoughts. After all, it is for you, the reader.
May this be a good year, with a new governor, and opportunities for all of us on our paths.
Namasté
T.C. and Mama ´P´

Please Help Free Molly Kilgore
A couple of issues back, I requested support letters to be sent to Molly Kilgore‘s counselor to be shared with the Parole Board. Now, I need fo ryou to do something very simple. I‘m going to write a sample letter below that I‘m requesting each of you in turn write, copy, whatever … just get it mailed off to Governor Jerry Brown ASAP please. I‘ll let the letter speak for itself.

Dear Governor Brown,
I am wiritng on behalf of Molly Kilgore, W14177, currently incarcerated at C.C.W.F. in Chowchilla. Ms. Kilgore has served 32 years on a 7-years-to-life sentence. Like most young adults who received that sentence in the late 1970‘2, she was left with the impression that she‘d have been paroled long ago. It should be noted that not only did the courts recommend that she be released once already, but last year the BPH also found her suitable, only to have Governor Schwarzenegger reverse it. The BPH has once again found Ms. Kilgore suitable for parole at a January 12th hearing. I respectfully request that you support the panel‘s findings and grant the parole of Molly Kilgore.
Ms. Kilgore has a thick file of achievements, certificates, volunteerism, exceptional supervisor‘s reports, and extensive self-help participation in courses and groups alike. However, it is more imperative to point out that Ms. Kilgore has had 32 years to grow, change and gain personal insight into the full impact of her crime and victim, as well as the elements involved both directly and indirectly. She has been accepted by the crossroads re-entry program, and has made plans for a productive future that I hope you‘ll allow her to pursue. Please see relative decency in granting her parole in 2011.
Respectfully,
Your name & address
Send to: Governor Brown
State Capital Bldg.
Sacramento, CA 95814

A Second Chance
Where is a lifer to go if they have nowhere to parole to? That is a good question. I have an answer: Crossroads.
Crossroads is a long-term transitional housing program where newly released female parolees can learn how to readjust to life beyond prison walls. After a couple of decades in lock-up, one needs a re-entry program like this. It helps reduce culture shock and recidivism. They are taught substance abuse prevention and avoidance, education, life skills, and Crossroads also offers serious employment-related services. They even help you open a savings account to where you deposit at least ¾ of your paycheck to build up your own financial stability. At the end of yorur stay (about 6 months), you will be more suitable for once again becoming an independently responsible citizen.
Crossroads is ran by Sister Terry Dodge in Claremont, CA on October 26, 2010, she was one of five recipients of the Minerva Award, created by Maria Shriver in 2004. This award recognizes extraordinary legacies of service and contributions to California and the country. The other four recipients were Oprah, Sandra Day O‘ Connor, Carolyn Blaysek (who launched operation Gratitude to send personalized care packages to deployed soldiers), and Oral Lee Brown (who founded educational and financial support to at-risk school children). The Minerva Award winners receive $25k grants to further their work. First Lady Michelle Obama was amongst the many participants in The Women‘s Conference 2010, where the award was presented.
Mama ´P´has applied to Crossroads. This means that volunteers involved with the program will help write letters in support of her release to the Parole Board. They will tell the Board that not only do they have the perfect place for mom to parole to, but that they welcome her with open arms. It is next to impossible to line up a residence and employment plans from behind prison walls, but Crossroads is offering mom both at once. It is the perfect opportunity to help set her free.

Letters of Support Needed ASAP!
Mama ´P´and I are both soon to be scheduled on the calendar for a 2011 Parole Consideration Hearing. Mama in about November, myself in December. There is no way on God‘s green earth that the BPH will ever grant the both of us a release date in the same year, let alone one month apart. My #1 priority has always been that my mother be released first. She doesn‘t belong here. Therefore, while I‘m giving it serious consideration to waive my parole hearing again to take the spotlight off of myself, I‘m also advocating for her release. This is where you come in. I need your help.
If you can read this newsletter, then that means that you can write a letter. There are at least 60 people reading this. Every letter can make a difference. If everyone assumes that out of the other 59 people there will certainly be enough letters written, then we accomplish nothing. I want everyone to assume that NONE of the other 59 people are writing a letter, and start hitting the keyboard.
We aren‘t asking you for financial aid or housing to be promised in your letters. We are only asking that you point out mom‘s good record and clean C-file, and adamantly show support that the BPH allow her to parole to Crossroads. Your letter can include the following facts:
· How long you have known her
· The fact that she‘s been disciplinary-free her entire 21 years of incarceration, which is rare for a lifer
· Her volunteerism in the Sexual Abuse Awareness and prevention Workshops conducted within the prison‘s educational department (with emphasis on non-violent resolution)
· The fact that her dauther, Teresa, has gone on the record countless times accepting full responsibility for a crime that her mother neither committed, participated, or had any knowledge of until nine months after the fact, once they were arrested
· Include considering factors such as her age (she‘ll be 70 at time of hearing), deteriorating health, and the fact that it is costing California taxpayers over $80k a year to continue to imprison her
· You may want to include your personal feeling about what she has to offer society given her life experiences, and your thoughts on the injustice of a denial of parole
· Please include her current parole plans to go straight to Crossroads Re-entry Program directly from C.C.W.F.

There have been some of you who wanted to help in wirting a support letter, but just couldn‘t organize the words. I‘m about to help you with that be creating a sample letter. You can copy it, reword it, take parts of it to incoporate into your own letter, or simply use it as a guide. Whatever you do, please take this request seriously and write those letters and send to addresses below. Thank you!

Original to: Central California Women‘s Facility
Attn. CCI Burretta
P.O. Box 1501
Chowchilla, CA 93610

Copies to : Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati and Pauline (Barbara) Paulinkonis
Attn. Elisabeth Peterson W45120 514-16-4L
650 Page Mill Road P.O. Box 1508
Palo Alto, CA 9403 Chowchilla, CA 93610

Sample Letter To Support Parole Suitability
Dear Board of Parole Hearings,
Please allow me to address my concerns regarding the consideration of parole suitability for Pauline (Barbara) Paulinkonis, W45120, housed at C.C.W.F. 514-16-4L.
I have known Barbara for about (ten) years now, and given that her daughter, Teresa, has openly taken sole responsibility for the life crime (that Barbara only learned about after their arrest nine months later), it seems highly unjust to continue to keep her imprisoned for a crime she did not commit. She cannot be expected to make a false confession to seek her freedom.
While enrolled in the Sierra Vista Adult School, Barbara has completed two vocational training courses in Electronics and Graphic Arts. She was one unit shy of a completion in Upholstery when she was reassigned after an annual program review. She also completed courses in Parenting, Substance Abuse, Victim Impact Self-Awareness, and Breaking Barriers. Those courses provided insight into coping with anger management, cognitve awareness, communication, problem-solving, goal setting, victim impact and perception, healing & recovery, as well as resiliency and giving back to society. She added a second Parenting class to her resumé and has used her personal life experiences and traumas to volunteer in conducting dosens of workshops on sexual abuse and Domestic Violence Awareness/Prevention to promote healing options and non-violent resolution.
Barbara has remained disciplinary free her entire 21 years of incarceration. She would prove to be an asset to the many victims of abuse at vomen‘s shelters, where she hopes to commit to volunteer work. She has applied to Crossroads, a re-entry program that welcomes female lifers back into society with the structure to provide a second chance. I ask only that you too, give her that chance. Her prison record speaks for itself.
Respectfully,
Your name/address

Q & A With T.C.
Q: You often sign off letters & newsletter with Namasté. What does that mean?
A: NAMASTÉ is an ancient Sanskrit word that means this: The Divine light in me, greets and embraces the Devine light in you.
Q: What is a nexus in regards to parole suitability?
A: I‘ll use myself as an example. I have two disciplinary 115‘s for force and violence. The first was in 1993 against a bully classified as mutual combat. I couldn‘t just NOT stand up to her. The second was in 1998. That one was classified as a battery, a more serious charge. I didn‘t wait to get hit that time. I learned my lesson after receiving a concussion in the 1993 incident. In the latter, I knocked the other inmate‘s hand away from my face and shoved her backwards away from myself. I stepped away myself, not wanting to fight, however, by my knocking her hand away and her body away from me, I was found quilty of battery. This is where the Nexus comes in. Due to the fact that both 115‘s are directly related to violence (regardless of why), the BPH sees it as being the first place. That is the nexus. The connection. The legal grounds that the BPH will use to justify a denial of parole. They‘ll say the nexus proves that I still demonstrate a risk level of a threat to society.
Q: How does a lifer prepare for a Parole Hearing?
A: Technically, if you stay ready, you don‘t have to get ready. It helps to have all of your certificates, chronos for participation in groups and other commendable activities, Supervisor‘s reports, GED/Diploma, and letters of support all in a file and organized neatly. Many lifers go to their hearings unprepared. It takes months to prepare, not just the two weeks before the hearing.
Q: Are lifers required to relive their crime at the hearing?
A: No, not required. I‘ve done so at mine thus far. How will they know how I feel if I don‘t? Remorse is a vital key to true insight, and unless you can look at where you‘ve been and what you‘ve done, you can never truly do a personal inventory. However, at a certain point in hearing after hearing over the years, attorneys have stepped up and said to the panel, „we are not here to discuss the life crime itself, but the woman who committed that crime.“ In other words, your prison record, behaviorism, achievements, and personal growth. After all, that is the real reason behind the hearing: Your progress.
Q: What happens if the BPH denies parole based upon irrational nexus or other excuse not justifiable?
A: In the event you‘re denied, you can file a Writ of Habeas Corpus, especially if the panel did not make a justifiably rational nexus as to why you CURRENTLY pose a risk of danger to society. All of the certificates, chronos and support letters you gathered in support of a favorable finding for a parole grant, can be included as exhibits for the writ.
Q: Can you please tell me again, what can I send in to you?
A: You mean besides all of your well wishes and good lovin‘? Sure, I‘m often asked this question due to the list getting misplaced or memory fading. Here is the list:
· 40 plain or embossed envelopes; white only, no colored envelopes or security type with print on inside of envelope.
· 20 postcards – picture type or postal embossed.
· 40 postage stamps maximum per mailing regardless of face value.
· 10 greeting cards with envelopes (white envelopes only). No musical or 3-D type.
· 4 writing tablets; white or yellow paper only.
· Up to 500 sheets of stationary paper (fancy & cute allowed).
· Money orders made payable to our full name and W#, or by credit card directly to our account via JPAY.com or WESTERN UNION. We receive it within 24 hours.

A Few Statistics To Chew On
· The number of women in prison has increased 800% within last three decades.
· 42% of incarcerated women never completed high school or earned GED.
· Two-thirds of women in prison are mothers.
· More than 147.000 minors have mothers in prison.
· 24% of incarcerated women are diagnosed with a mental illness.
· Most incarcerated womenwith a psychiatric disorder do not receive treatment.

A Simple „Thank You“
Mama ´P´ wishes to thank whomever has continued to anonymously subscribe her weekly issues of TV Guide. She‘s received it for years now, unaware of the person‘s identity. Your gift has made her TV planning schedule much more convenient, and she thanks you.

Quaker‘s Cancelled Stamps Mission
Since Brad Hathaway began the cancelled stamps project well over a decade ago, the Quaker‘s Friends Meetings have collected stamps of all shapes, sizes, values and countries. The stamps are sold to collectors, with the profits going to worthy causes that include third world countries that don‘t have fresh water to drink, let alone any medical clinics. Through the stamp project it has been possible to build a clinic in Kenya and provide the daily necessities to the needy that we all too often have taken for granted ….. like shoes, or mosquito nets, or food. The project has successfully collected nearly $80k in aid for those in need. Please make a difference. Keep sending me your cancelled stamps off of your mail, careful not to cut or damage the stamp. This is a never ending project. You may not know who you helped, but you‘ll know that you did.

Who Sentences Kids To Life In Prison?
Back in the early 1990‘s in the state of California, there were teenagers being sentenced as adults, and hardly anyone thought twice about it. I was delivered to CCWF in July 1992 unaware of the wave of juvenile offenders that would face the same fate as myself. In may cases, they were dealt a bigger blow than I was. And for some ridiculous reason, it was legal.
An onslaught of liberal legislators wanted to turn their tough on crime focus onto youth offenders. They argued for the passage of AB136, saying that it would only affect a small percentage of youths. In the state of California, in 1994 there were 234 arrests of youngsters between the ages of 14 and 16 for homicide. During that time, there was a rise in gang affiliated violence, but not all violence was gang violence. However, leave it to the Republicans to make it appear so.
After the enactment of AB136, future legislative sessions brought forth even more bills to make it all the more easier to try and sentence teenagers as adults. The list of juvenile offenses expanded to include everything from the penal code that could result in an adult prosecution. Futhermore, the burden of proof switched from the prosecutor to the defense team to show just cause why a juvenile offender should not be transferred from Juvenile Court to Criminal Court. Now, I had a Public Defender, so I know what it is like to have an attorney not fight for you. Imagine being 16 years old and having your fate int he hands of an attorney who just doesn‘t dive a damn. I can tell you, I have friends here at CCWF that don‘t have to imagine it. They are the victims of bad laws.
In March 2000, voters were asked to approve a ballot measure called „The Gang Violence and Juvenile Crime prevention Act.“ In ballot terms, it was Proposition 21, which rewrote over 50 pages of law related to the California Juvenile Justice System. This includes the decision to try juveniles as adults at the sole discretion of prosecutors without any judical review or hearing.
Prop 21 mandated secure confinement and stronger panalites for a wide range of violations, including vandalism. However, and this is scary, it clarified that juvenile offenses would count under the existing adult Three Strikes Law.
While it was the California District Attorneys Association that advocated for years a law such as Prop 21, Pete Wilson, the governor during this reign of madness embraced it. He made it a big part of his political agenda. He had his sights set on the White House, and his path looked positive, so of course corporate supporters jumped on his bandwagon to help the „Yes on 21“ campaign. They hoped for political favor down the road. Corporations like ARCO, UNOCAL 76, Pacific Gas & Electric, and Hilton Hotels all made a healthy $50k contribution. Chevron contributed $25k. It is not that these corporations wanted tougher laws against youthful offenders; they simply wanted to be in Wilson‘s back pocket if he made it to the White House. Once they were confronted by the public opposition, many withdrew their moral support, but their money was not refundable.
Once Wilson left office, Gray Davis became the new governor and continued to push for the passage of Prop 21. He had a little help from the CCPOA, the prison guard‘s union. They plopped down another healthy contribution of over two million dollars. For them, it is job security. In the big house, the more inmates , the better. It didn‘t really matter if they were kids or adults, just fill the beds!
Most voters do not research the propositions that they vote on. Many go according to the TV ads and press coverage. They thougth that Prop 21 was asking them to endorse a measure to prevent uvenile violence and street gangs. If they knew what it really ws, it would‘ve had less support. Opponents could not raise the big corporate dollars that governors can, and Prop 21 was passed by a large majority of voters. Most, knew not what they had done.
Adolescents, with their frequent cynicism, arrogance, sarcasm, and tough minded approach, may seem to have the analytical and formal thinking skills of a young adult, but neuroscience has proven that the opposite is true. They can be naive, overy sensitive to criticism, and have a lack of understanding to their own egocentric demeanor. At about the age of 14 or 15, they are begin making conclusions using deductive and inductive reasoning. Piaget described analytic thinking as „requiring a certain level of intellectual maturity, brain capacity, motivation, and practice.“ They are still developing impulse control, capacity to plan and strategize, and that doesn‘t include coping skills. When it comes to weighing risks and consequences, things such as personality, culture, and the given sitation, should all be taken into account! Risk taking behavior increases from age 11-18. The younger the youth is, the more serious their consequences of risk taking. A year in prison is far more detrimental to a 16 year old than a 40 year old. Why am I telling you all of this? Because these are the very individuals that Proposition 21 and AB136 focused on. They could have been your son, or daughter, sister, or brother. Heck, they could‘ve been you.
There are prisoners here with me at CCWF that were arrested as teenagers and tried as adults with adult sentences. At the ages of 16 and 17 years old, with no prior criminal history, they received life sentences. There are quite a few with LWOP – Life Without the Possibility of Parole. Who gives a kid a sentence to die in prison and throws away the key? I once read that it is easier to help a kid than to repair an adult. What were those judges thinking? When you give a youth 25, 35, 45 and 50 years to life, I gotta ask, „How do you sleep at night?“
There are over 200 individuals serving LWOP sentences in California prisons, that were basically sentenced to die in prison for crimes committed as juveniles. They weren‘t considered old enough to vote and in some cases, to even drive a car, yet same idiot decided they were competent to be treated as an adult once the DA had them in custody. One of those kids was Liz Lozano. I‘ve asked her to make a quarterly contribution to this newsletter as the voice for youthful offenders sentenced as adults. By joining forces, maybe we can get the word out there and get you involved too. All I‘m asking is that you keep an open mind, listen to the facts, look at the inhumane laws, and hopefully you‘ll agree that to lock up a kid and not give them a second chance is deemed cruel and unusual punishment. One bad decision as a juvenile should not constitute locking them up and throwing away the key. Please, read on, get involved, and be a spoke in the wheel of change …..

Youth Offenders Sentenced As Adults by Elizabeth Lozano
My name is Elizabeth Lozano, I’ve been incarcerated for 16 years here at CCWF. I’m serving a life without parole (LWOP) sentence for a crime that happened when I was 16 years old. I’m sentenced under the murder felony rule, a person convicted under the murder felony rule is not the one who physically committed the murder. The law does not require the person to know that a murder will take place or even that another participant is armed.
Approximately 227 youth have been sentenced to die in California’s prisons. They have not been sentenced to death: the death penalty was found unconstitutioal for juveniles by the United States Supreme Court in 2005. Instead, we have been sentenced to prison for the rest of our lives, with no opportunity for parole and no chance for release. Our crimes were committed when we were teenagers, yet we will die in prison. Remarkably, many of the adults who were codefendants and took their part in their crimes received lower sentences and will one day be released from prison. Youth LWOP is an effective death sentence carried out by the state slowly over a long period of years. In fact, most of us juveniles serving life sentences without any hope of ever being released feel it’s worse than death.
Neuroscience has found that teens continue to develop in ways particularly relevant to assessing criminal behavior and an individual’s ability to be rehabilitated. The focus on this discovery has been on teenagers’ limited comprehension of risk and consequences, and the inability to act with adult free will. Societies make decisions about what to weigh when determing culpability. California’s law as it stands now fails to take into consideration a person’s legal status as a child at the time of the crime. Those who cannot buy cigarettes or alcohol, sign a rental agreement, or vote are nevertheless considered culpable to the same degree as an adult. Experts say that even at 16 and 17, when compared with adults, juveniles on averages are more impulsive, aggressive, emotionally volatile, likely to take risk, reactive to stress, vulnerable to peer pressure, prone to focus on and overestimate short-term payoffs and underplay long term consequences, and likely to overlook alternative courses of action.
So why is our country so quick to throw away their youth??? In fall 2010, California had the opportunity to give youth sentenced to LWOP a second chance at life; a glimpse of hope, by supporting and passing SB399, a bill that would have resentenced LWOP youth to 25-to-life. Instead, legislation shot the bill down by TWO VOTES!! This bill was not a get out jail free card, it would have only let us get our sentence reduced to another life sentence, and even then we would have had to meet certain criteria to prove we deserved it. Today Senator Yee and other Senators that believe in us youth offenders changing have indroduced a new bill the same like SB399; it’s SB9. It would only have our cases reviewed by a judge who would make the decision to reduce our sentence or leave us at LWOP. To support SB9 or for more information please go to the Human Rights Watch web page: http://www.fairsentencingforyouth.org

Elizabeth Lozano
W65013 515-3-3L
P.O. Box 1508
Chowchilla, Ca 93610-1508

From The Heart
There are many of you that have told me time and again that you don’t know how I do it … this life sentence. You are amazed at my spirit and how I haven’t let the reality of my situation become an unbearable burden. While you’re amazed at me, I’m amazed at some of the women around me …..
There’s Liz, whom I already introduced to you. Imagine if she were your daughter or sister. Wouldn’t you be disappointed in the system? Okay, so that’s putting it lightly, but feel free to use whatever word you want, you know what I’m saying. If you met her, you’d be amazed at her spirit as well.
There’s Molly Kilgore, who let me tell you, has not let Arnold’s decision to make her prove herself suitable for parole yet again, deflate her good nature. She’s quick to smile and greet me and if I ever witnessed faith in anyone other than Deborah Peagler, I see it in Molly’s eyes. You’d be amazed by her as well.
Then there’s L.R. who has done everything that the Parole Board has asked of her. She’s jumped through all of their hoops, and they finally granted her a release date, only to have Arnold reverse it. Still, she holds her head up, she continues to help those in need, and she fights her fight to return home to Michigan one day. You’d love her spirit!
Oh, let’s not forget all of those kids forced to grow up in Youth Authority and State Prison having been sentenced as adults. Their strength and preserverence leaves me amazed. If you heard some of their stories, you’d be appalled by their sentences, but amazed by their adaptability, spirit, and maturity from the experience. I was almost one of them, and I quess that is why I’m so moved by their raw deal.
So, I say from the heart to you, get involved. I know this issue of the newsletter asked for support for Molly, mom and juvenile offenders, but I wouldn’t ask if my heart wasn’t in it. I ask only that you put yours into it too.
NAMASTÉ
T.C.

T.C. Paulinkonis Barbara Paulinkonis
W45118 514-16-4U W45120 514-16-4L
P.O. Box 1508 P.O. Box 1508
Chowchilla, CA 93610 Chowchilla, CA 93610

http://media.causes.com/1005500

I humbly suggest if this concerns you, not to react with hate or anger towards anyone, but to find Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, and go to page 285, and Paragraph CXXX. “Be generous in prosperity, and thankful in adversity. Be worthy of the trust of thy neighbor, and look upon him with a bright and friendly face. Be a treasure to the poor, an admonisher to the rich, an answerer of the cry of the needy, a preserver of the sanctity of thy pledge. Be fair in thy judgment, and guarded in thy speech. Be unjust to no man, and show all meekness to all men. Be as a lamp unto them that walk in darkness, a joy to the sorrowful, a sea for the thirsty, a haven for the distressed, an upholder and defender of the victim of oppression. Let integrity and uprightness distinguish all thine acts. Be a home for the stranger, a balm to the suffering, a tower of strength for the fugitive. Be eyes to the blind, and a guiding light unto the feet of the erring. Be an ornament to the countenance of truth, a crown to the brow of fidelity, a pillar of the temple of righteousness, a breath of life to the body of mankind, an ensign of the hosts of justice, a luminary above the horizon of virtue, a dew to the soil of the human heart, an ark on the ocean of knowledge, a sun in the heaven of bounty, a gem on the diadem of wisdom, a shining light in the firmament of thy generaton, a fruit upon the tree of humility.”

thank you, esther

Well, I’ll be a yellah bellied chuckwagon. Here I sit; my first night in night class at a school which has big letters A, B, C and stuff like that on their building. It’s the first college dedicated to would be writers, and we get those sentences which we are supposed to respond to.

Is this a Rorschach test? Maybe an entry level Mensa. Are they spies?

Well, here goes. Dear Tester of Baby Writers; just call me Baby Lois after Lois Lane. Lord thank you for guiding me on this rainy night and leading me to the Bulwer Lytton School for Writers, but I notice, Lord, can I call you Lor?, precious few people have joined this class Why are there only four people tonight at the first writing class, Lor?

We each have a gray cloth cubicle, a number 2 pencil and a yellow lined paper, longer than the 8ish by 11ish ones you see at the 99 cent store to write on.

The first question is respond to this statement: “ A person who has stopped growing at both ends and is now growing in the middle. – Your thoughts.”

Well, I’ve heard young men and maybe women are too fat to go into the Army anymore, and powers that beeee (bzzzz) are belaboring this. There’s a lot of tskkkk, tskkking on the national scene, but I ask myself, Baby Lois, which would you rather do, die on the battlefield, crumpled up like a smashed in can, amidst smoke, bombs, while the fat cats that decided on this bullshit dance of fighting, sit at white linen tablecloths, with the two forks on the left and the knife and spoon on the right, like my mama told me to set a table properly, and they are discussing the war and the lack of eligible candidates from our nation? Or how about living to eat?

The nerve. Have you ever had a Twuohey’s Hot Fudge Sundae, a foot high? Its fudge sauce is dark and creamy and drips lasciviously over the two huge mounds of Vanilla ice cream. It’s so good I want to put my face in it and mush around.

Have you never eaten at Thai Restaurants and sopped up those crusted large like potato chip thingamajigs after you poured sweet sauce over them?

Have you ever received a Box of Sees Candy at Christmas, and had your finger tips feather touch the curves and squares and indentations and bumps on this candy as your mind has memorized which one is a chewy (chocolate over caramel) and which is nougat?

Have you ever driven into In n Out Burger, wait behind a line of 25 people, and keep your car running – to hell with the gas prices and finally, at 1.33 when your tongue is hanging out, your nostrils have abandoned your face in despair, your order comes through, and it’s with fries too. A hamburger, hot melting cheese like a pole dancer clinging to the sides of the burger, and the fries, cooked with no transfat, and you eat so much your tummy hurts, and you reek of beef?

Hi, I’m Esther, and I’ve done all of this.

Hi Esther, welcome.

Ooops wrong venue.

My point oh reader of this sensuous essay. Would you exchange losing a leg, an arm, or being stressed out for 100 years in a war we didn’t want versus having a large waist which grows, and nothing else does?

Can you be a person with no waist, no need for belts?

Can you put up with pullover sweaters and a slow walk?

The alternative is mud in training, being yelled at, having to be angry and kill, and worst of all doing something when the people of the planet want war cancelled. New definition: war is something people send other people to fight for and they lie about the reason they have to go to fight.

No, better to be a person who has stopped growing at both ends and is now growing in the
middle.

Remember, there’s always Weight Watchers.

MudboundMudbound by Hillary Jordan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I just reread it as I suggested our book group do so too. Also one librarian wants me to be part of a discussion (an honor); this is a fantastic book; the themes, the authenticity, her writing is fabulous and I was so deeply immersed in this book; wonderful; i wish Hillary Jordan tremendous sucess!

The best writing teacher you'll ever want to meet

Jack Grapes -fantastic writer, teacher of poetic souls, and lovely man

Help, I lost a few days. Last I knew it was the 11th and then this morning, I called out to Bill, “What day is it”? He replied, “the 13th.” I read from the most incredible daily reader of the Baha’is Writings, published in London and out of print, and it is heavenly and unique and the fragrances of same float around my heart. Baha’is are encouraged to read from the Writings in the morning and the evening, and of course, we say what prayers resonate with us. There is a requirement of an Obligatory Prayer, and there are 3 choices. The following is the noonday prayer:

I bear witness, O my God, that Thou hast created me to know Thee and to worship Thee. I testify, at this moment, to my powerlessness and to Thy might, to my poverty and to Thy wealth.

There is none other God but Thee, the help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting.
Baha’u’llah

I wake up in the morning, and the first thing that flies to my mind is “I have wakened in Thy shelter, O my God, and it becometh him that seeketh that shelter to abide within the Sanctuary of Thy protection and the Stronghold of Thy defense. Illumine my inner being, O my Lord, with the splendors of the Dayspring of Thy Revelation, even as Thou didst illumine my outer being with the morning light of thy favor.”. Baha’u’llah

You know this blog started out about losing a few days; all of which have been action packed, insightful, wonderful connection with people, but here I sit, it is 1.25, and I should walk. I haven’t even taken my morning meds. I may take a nap instead. Hard to be wise with my body.

Last night in Pasadena, at the Judges Nelson’s home, Navid Dheghani spoke. He’s a scientist and one of the people who work on the Mars is it Rover? the machine that lands on Mars, and all. Last night he gave a wonderful presentation of an overall view of the Baha’i Faith, and then in the question and answer times, talked about science a bit. A funny, modest, humble, and knowledgeable man. It was great.

I have several books to read: Mudbound. Read it once; it’s terrific and it’s Pasadena’s One City, One Book read; a friend wants me to participate in my favorite library, La Pintoresca, so I will re-read it, and our book club which has been meeting for at least five years is reading it for February. Then, we are reading The Long Walk, now made into a film; the author’s name is a Polish one, and I lent my copy of the book out.

Years ago, late 1960s I discovered this book, and it made such an impact upon me. I notice it’s been republished, and one of the blurbs on the front cover describe it aptly as “Homeric,” and I would say yes. The story of this man; his survival; the group he is with, their connection and unity with each other, remains nested within my memory bank; hopefully forever; and surely along with An Interrupted Life by Etty Hillesum and her Letters from Westerbork.

Why is it I am so drawn to memoir? I think I have always been fascinated with man’s inhumanity to man, and man’s humanity to man. My first pilgrimage, trip to Israel, visiting Christian and Jewish holy places and then to Haifa, to the Baha’i Shrines, I felt the themes of this ribboning through the country as I witnessed the Holocaust memorial.

The Baha’is believe in all the religions and consider religious truth to be like an unfolding scroll, relative to the day and age, but God, an unknowable Essence, is absolute. Spiritual truth is spiritual truth and is not obsolete. It is revealed with each Messenger in a different manner, much like if you looked around you and saw lights or lamps of different kinds, you would see the light source is the same, but the vehicle holding the light is different, and then the social teachings are changed to meet the needs of the day. All of the Messengers of God, Prophets, or what we in the Baha’i Faith call Manifestations occupy the same high, mystical, incredible level, an abstract level of unity really which we as puny souls can hardly imagine. We need these Divine Luminaries, these Educators of Mankind, these Divine Physicians of the Age.

At any rate i read voraciously and read a lot of books by Buddhists, Jewish, Islamic writers. And of course all memoir. I think we are in such an age of transition that people must speak out and record their truths. I often think of a kaleidescope as an image; are we not all chips of different colors – moving, shaping, but connected? I would like to think so.

Wow I can’t believe i’m going on like this, but so be it.

I had a writing workshop Monday evening, at Ten Thousand Villages, which is an awesome and aesthetically pleasing experience. They feature artifax, jewely, vases, cloth, you name it, from around the world, made by villagers who support themselves by their creations. I am st up in the basement, and it is a long white walled room, and somehow we did it: 2 tables, some folding chairs around, and I set up a whiteboard talking about showing versus telling in writing. I spoke about Oakley Hall and Jack Grapes, two of my writing heroes and teachers, and 17 people of all manner came, and we had a blast. We cooked as I like to say. then the next day i taught my usual writing workshop at the Women’s Room, a haven for homeless women, and women in transition, and they (the clients) and the volunteers can participate in writing. They have done soooo well, and we are family. What a group.

So now, I’m going to close after this unexpected tell it like it is, blog, and take a nap. Bill’s daughter, Tory, coming up for a vist. Did I mentioln, the day is utterly gorgeous, sun, breeze, temp of about 71 degrees by our little pool house.

One more thing; i liked President Obama’s talk; my heart twisted, particuarly gazing at the father’s face of the wonderful little 9 year old girl; I hope this even brings about more civility and unity. If we had children, would we let our kids squabble so divisively in a family?

High regards to all who read this.

A minister friend sent this to me; thank goodness people are writing about this.

To: sightings@lists.uchicago.edu
Subject: *Sightings* 1/6/2011 – Iran’s Baha’i Minority Suffers Increasing Persecution

Sightings 1/6/2011

Iran’s Baha’i Minority Suffers Increasing Persecution
– Elise Auerbach

Seven leaders of Iran’s Baha’i community were sentenced to twenty years in prison by a Revolutionary Court in Tehran last August, a sentence that was reduced to ten years in September. They were convicted on serious but baseless charges including “espionage for Israel,” “insulting religious sanctities” and “propaganda against the system.” They had also been charged with ifsad fil arz or “corruption on earth.” These charges could have resulted in death sentences. The seven leaders were convicted after a trial that failed to adhere to international standards for fair trials.
The Baha’i faith was founded in Iran about 150 years ago. An estimated 300,000 Baha’is still live in Iran; they are Iran’s largest non-Muslim religious minority. Although Baha’is had faced persecution in Iran since the founding of the religion, their treatment grew worse after the Iranian Revolution. Since the establishment of the Islamic Republic in Iran, the Baha’i community has faced systematic persecution and harassment. While other minority religions such as Judaism, Zoroastrianism and Christianity are officially recognized (adherents of those religions having been deemed “People of the Book”), the Baha’i religion is not recognized in Iran’s Constitution and Baha’is are denied equal rights to education, employment and advancement in their jobs. Furthermore, they are not allowed to meet or hold religious ceremonies.

Worse forms of persecution have been committed against Iran’s Baha’i: More than 200 Baha’is were killed after the Iranian Revolution in 1979, after which a large number of Baha’is left Iran. The National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Iran was disbanded in 1983 after the government outlawed all Baha’i administrative institutions. Since then the community’s needs have been met by the Yaran, or Friends, who are now responsible for the Baha’i community’s religious and administrative affairs.

Although persecution of the Baha’is abated in the 1990s, harassment has increased since President Ahmadinejad’s first election in 2005. According to the Baha’i International Community, there are currently 47 Baha’is in detention throughout Iran.

The Baha’i faith is considered heresy by hard-line clerics since it was founded in the mid-nineteenth century. Because it post-dates Islam, it is viewed as a repudiation of Islam. After the Iranian Revolution a “pure” form of Islamic government was established with the support of conservative clerics, which involved discrimination against adherents of more recently founded religions such as Baha’is. The clerics implemented punishments such as stoning and amputation. This theological “purity” is maintained by clerical hard-liners who are crucial allies of the current government.

The Baha’is are convenient scapegoats—the government points to the Baha’is as fomenting the post-election unrest. The Iranian authorities have also blamed the Baha’is, among other groups, for orchestrating much of the unrest that took place on the Shi’a religious observance of ‘Ashoura on 27 December 2009.

The religiously fraught charge of ifsad fil arz has been specifically used against the Baha’is, but another charge, moharebeh, or enmity against God, has been lodged at more and more people in the past year. It has been used to justify imposition of the death penalty for politically motivated “offenses.” Although it should only be used in cases where there is evidence of armed resistance against the government, the charge of moharebeh has been used against ethnic and linguistic minorities who advocate for greater cultural rights or who are otherwise politically active.

The persecution of Iran’s Baha’is—and specifically the harsh sentences imposed on the seven Yaran—has been roundly criticized by prominent figures the world over, including the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. His report of October 14, 2010 noted that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed deep concern over the absence of international observers and the lack of due process in the Baha’i leaders’ trial and that the criminal charges brought against the seven appeared to constitute a violation of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, in particular those of freedom of religion and belief and freedom of expression and association. Despite the international condemnation, the Iranian authorities remain obdurate. In February a high-level delegation, led by Mohammad Javad Larijani, the Secretary-General of Iran’s High Council for Human Rights, defended Iran’s human rights record before the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva. Mr. Larijani insisted that no Baha’i is persecuted because of his or her Baha’i faith, but rather because of their engagement in illegal activities—completely evading the issue that perfectly legitimate activities or beliefs are construed as “illegal,” that the evidence for such “illegal” activities is generally non-existent, and that the legal procedures that try and convict people on such charges are woefully inadequate.

Elise Auerbach is the Iran country specialist for Amnesty International USA. She received her Ph.D. from the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago.

———-

Sightings comes from the Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago Divinity School.

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<a href=”http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/5704912-held-in-the-light” style=”float: left; padding-right: 20px”><img alt=”Held in the Light: Norman Morrison’s Sacrifice for Peace and His Family’s Journey of Healing” border=”0″ src=”http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1267801442m/5704912.jpg” /></a><a href=”http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/5704912-held-in-the-light”>Held in the Light: Norman Morrison’s Sacrifice for Peace and His Family’s Journey of Healing</a> by <a href=”http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2549270.Anne_Morrison_Welsh”>Anne Morrison Welsh</a><br/>
My rating: <a href=”http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/124189757″>5 of 5 stars</a><br /><br />
A friend returned from her summer at Chautauqua.  She grew up there as a child, and has spent most summers, if not all, of her life at Chautauqua. She said over dinner, “You must read this,” and it was Held in the Ligh, Norman Morrison’s sacrifice for Peace and His Family’s Journey of Healing.  The book is profound.  Norman Morrison’s were startling, but left this reader wondering, “did he stop a nuclear war,” and the results of his actions reverberate through time.  His wife writes with courage and empathy, and deals with compassionate but clearly observed love. The meaning of this man’s death had an astrounding impact on the Vietnamese, and of course his beloved family.  One cannot judge the act, as it is impossible.  What the pages reveal is the dilemma of a soul on a war torn planet, and his torment of the rapaciousness of war and its attendant evils.  A must read.  I have reference for his wife, his family, and him.
<br/><br/>
<a href=”http://www.goodreads.com/review/list/2785181-esther-bradley-detally”>View all my reviews</a>

WAR PROFITEERING
2. VA, Prudential Made Secret Deal

Could this resonate as much as the Walter Reed scandal? Bloomberg
reports that since 1999, Prudential Financial Inc. has had a secret
agreement with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs that allows it to
withhold lump-sum payments of life-insurance benefits to the family of
fallen soldiers – so that Prudential can invest that money and keep
whatever money it makes for itself. The arrangement was completely
secret for 10 years until it was put into writing in 2009. “Every
veteran I’ve spoken with is appalled at the brazen war profiteering by
Prudential,” says the executive director of Veterans for Common Sense.
Survivors who request lump-sum payments are sent “checkbooks” –
essentially, IOUs that aren’t insured by the FDIC – instead of actual
checks. Prudential makes eight times as much through the investments as
what it pays in interest to beneficiaries.

Read it at Bloomberg:
http://e.thedailybeast.com/a/tBMj9SLB7SwhTB8Us9YCayQbnuB/dail2
*************************************************************************

 

 Okay, Regarding Those Buildings in New York and Everything Else Ishkabibbly

 Was there really a person called Ish-ka-bibble?

 Listen you dweet, in my neighborhood on Wren Street, we knew the name ishkabibble, ‘cept we pronounced it ishhhkahhbibbble.  You know what I mean?  Anyone who listened to radio shows in the 40s knew words like that.  What’s more, my linguistic heritage, you dweet, thank you for asking, was on stuff like Baby Snooks, when she was surprised, and Baby Robespierre wasn’t screaming enough “wah, wah, wahs.”

Those “wah, wah, wahs were loud enuf to hit our pointed roof and bounce off gas lit street lights shining dimly on top of old Buicks and Studebakers (now there’s a vehicle – great ashtrays).  Where wuzz  I? My skill lay in imitating Baby Snooks, “Well, I’ll be a yellow-belled chuck wagon.”  Later in the 50s I went on to memorize the Drop of the Hat dialogue, from a play that ran in London and then New York for years.  Now when people ask about balances and present treasurer’s reports, as we so oft do in my young life, I think to myself in large white cloud-like puffy letters, “Many a Mickle Macks a Muckle.”

 Today,  there’s more than one rumble going on.  And because of this question Ishkabibble, and fighting over buildings and rights to worship and mudslinging both ways, another phrase comes to mind, “Come what, come may, time and the hour pass through the roughest day,” and that was a phrase from Hamlet which graced our walls with indigo, green and traces of yellow and magenta  threads on old white linen, framed with a thin black frame.

 There are so many interesting phrases in the world.  Get your mind off buildings.  Guys are all alike.  Start with blocks and where are you?  Ranting and raving about blocks, except now it’s buildings. 

 But that isn’t to say life was so much better in the olden days, olden meaning the 40s, 50s, and perhaps the 60s, cuz brotha, may I call you brotha dweet, good for who or whom?  I’m beginning to think that phrase, you know about a butterfly flying, or flapping — maybe baby just one wing — has repercussions in the next century. I can’t figure it out mathematically because I’m still trying to figure out how Doris got to Harvard Square by bike with pears and mayonnaise, and Dennis is on his way to West Hollywood with kiwi and crackers, and the  time, mileage thing and fight the despair they’ll never meet, even though they are soul mates, except for the fact that Doris does not like kiwi.

 I think there’s a wing of a butterfly in history called point of view.  Everything depends on point of view an English prof once said. Whose point of view?  Now there’s a handy little four word phrase and a dandy question at that. 

 What if the 50s were a great era?  Yeah for white guys who went to the Diner and ate skinny French fries loaded with salt, and didn’t go home, but grunted dialogue between each other, all the while, the white girls, their counterparts, were worried about “will he like me,” and “please God let me get married.” Down the road apiece in starkly structured architectural lines, invisible walls went up.  Walls so invisible and solid, people like Whitey Bulgur and some of the FBI could load drugs into the Boston projects, and blacks couldn’t move an inch, and they had to get on the elevated at some Station after Green street.  That’s when women were worthless if they weren’t married, and they had to wear veils to Catholic Church, for “bless me Mary, I’m a woman, and I’m sorry.”

 I think a lot of things were done under Imperialism, which some call skin color privilege, but nothing’s that starkly simple.  Hatred is awful in any sector. 

 I think the power boys behind the scene, don’t give a rat’s ass about where buildings are.  I think the power boys and girls want what they want and feel entitled.  I think blessed is the heart that listens to the midnight sighing of the poor, and I ain’t just whistling Dixie, or spitting mud, and this all comes from someone who used to seriously believe in Chicken Little falling from the sky.

 Maybe the sky is falling after all. Dunno.  Many a mickle macks a muckle.  Who knows? The Shadow, that’s who.  The Shadow knows, and if a Jungian read these fast flowing words going to goodness knows where, he/she might say, “Ah, the shadow.  And what is your shadow telling you”?  Words, love em, hate em, can’t live without em.

washingtonpost.com
Opinions » Follow Opinions On:
In Iran, shackling the Bahai torchbearers

By Roxana Saberi
Saturday, August 28, 2010

For several weeks last year, I shared a cell in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison with Mahvash Sabet and Fariba Kamalabadi, two leaders of Iran’s minority Bahai faith. I came to see them as my sisters, women whose only crimes were to peacefully practice their religion and resist pressure from their captors to compromise their principles. For this, apparently, they and five male colleagues were sentenced this month to 20 years in prison.

I had heard about Mahvash and Fariba before I met them. Other prisoners spoke of the two middle-aged mothers whose high spirits lifted the morale of fellow inmates.

The Bahai faith, thought to be the largest non-Muslim minority religion in Iran, originated in 19th-century Persia. It is based on the belief that the world will one day attain peace and unity. Iranian authorities consider it a heretical offshoot of Islam.

After I was transferred to their cell, I learned that Mahvash had been incarcerated for one year and Fariba for eight months. Each had spent half her detention in solitary confinement, during which time they were allowed almost no contact with their families and only the Koran to read. Recently the two had been permitted to have a pen. Oh, how they cherished it! But they were allowed to use it only to do Sudoku and crossword puzzles in the conservative newspapers the prison guards occasionally gave them.

Mahvash, Fariba and their five colleagues faced accusations that included spying for Israel, insulting religious sanctities and, later, “spreading corruption on earth.” All three could have resulted in the death penalty.

The Bahais denied these charges. Far from posing a threat to the Islamic regime, Mahvash and Fariba told me, Iran’s estimated 300,000 Bahais are nonviolent and politically impartial.

Despite the gravity of the accusations against them, Mahvash and Fariba had not once been allowed to see attorneys. Yet my cellmates’ spirits would not be broken, and they boosted mine. They taught me to, as they put it, turn challenges into opportunities — to make the most of difficult situations and to grow from adversity. We kept a daily routine, reading the books we were eventually allowed and discussing them; exercising in our small cell; and praying — they in their way, I in mine. They asked me to teach them English and were eager to learn vocabulary for shopping, cooking and traveling. They would use the new words one day, they told me, when they journeyed abroad. But the two women also said they never wanted to live overseas. They felt it their duty to serve not only Bahais but all Iranians.

Later, when I went on a hunger strike, Mahvash and Fariba washed my clothes by hand after I lost my energy and told me stories to keep my mind off my stomach. Their kindness and love gave me sustenance.

It pained me to leave them behind when I was freed in May 2009. I later heard that Mahvash, Fariba and their colleagues refused to make false confessions, as many political prisoners in Iran are pressured to do.

It was January when the Bahais’ trial began. This month, the same Iranian judge who had sentenced me to eight years in prison on a false charge of spying for the United States sentenced the Bahais to 20 years. The charges they were convicted of have not yet been reported.

Human rights advocates have said the trial was riddled with irregularities. The defendants were eventually allowed to see attorneys but only briefly. The lawyers were given only a few hours to examine the thousands of pages in the prosecution’s files. Early in the trial, state-run TV crews were present at what were supposed to be closed hearings. After the Bahais’ attorneys objected, family members were allowed to attend the hearings, but foreign diplomats were barred, and the only journalists permitted were with state-run media. It appears that no evidence was presented against the defendants.

As their lawyers appeal, Mahvash and Fariba sit in Rajai Shahr prison outside Tehran. Even Evin prison, cellmates told me last year, is preferable to Rajai Shahr. The facility is known for torture, unsanitary conditions and inadequate medical care for inmates, who include murderers, drug addicts and thieves.

While Iranian authorities deny that the regime discriminates against citizens for religious beliefs, the Bahai faith is not recognized under the Iranian constitution. The known persecution of many Bahais includes being fired from jobs and denied access to higher education, as well as cemetery desecration. (The Bahais created their own unofficial university, which Mahvash used to direct; Fariba earned a degree in psychology there.) In addition to the seven leaders, 44 other Bahais are in prisons in Iran, the Baha’i International Community reports.

People of many nations and faiths have called for the release of the Bahai leaders. But many more must speak out — such as by signing letters of support through Web sites such as United4Iran.com. Protests of these harsh sentences can make clear to authorities in Iran and elsewhere that they will be held accountable when they trample on human rights. Mahvash and Fariba occasionally hear news of this support, and it gives them strength to carry on, just as the international outcry against my imprisonment empowered me.

I know that despite what they have been through and what lies ahead, these women feel no hatred in their hearts. When I struggled not to despise my interrogators and the judge, Mahvash and Fariba told me they do not hate anyone, not even their captors.

We believe in love and compassion for humanity, they said, even for those who wrong us. Roxana Saberi, a journalist detained in Iran last year, is the author of “Between Two Worlds: My Life and Captivity in Iran.”

I just read an article this week about hormones in Monsanto’s food and a friend just sent this:

IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 25th, 2010

Contact: Travis English, AGRA Watch
(206) 335-4405
Brenda Biddle, The Evergreen State College & AGRA Watch
(360) 878-7833
http://www.seattleglobaljustice.org/agra-watch

GATES FOUNDATION INVESTS IN MONSANTO
Both will profit at expense of small-scale African farmers

Seattle, WA – Farmers and civil society organizations around the world
are outraged by the recent discovery of further connections between the
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and agribusiness titan Monsanto. Last
week, a financial website published the Gates Foundation’s investment
portfolio, including 500,000 shares of Monsanto stock with an estimated
worth of $23.1 million purchased in the second quarter of 2010 (see the
filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission). This marks a
substantial increase from its previous holdings, valued at just over
$360,000 (see the Foundation’s 2008 990 Form).

“The Foundation’s direct investment in Monsanto is problematic on two
primary levels,” said Dr. Phil Bereano, University of Washington
Professor Emeritus and recognized expert on genetic engineering. “First,
Monsanto has a history of blatant disregard for the interests and well-
being of small farmers around the world, as well as an appalling
environmental track record. The strong connections to Monsanto cast
serious doubt on the Foundation’s heavy funding of agricultural
development in Africa and purported goal of alleviating poverty and
hunger among small-scale farmers. Second, this investment represents an
enormous conflict of interests.”

Monsanto has already negatively impacted agriculture in African
countries. For example, in South Africa in 2009, Monsanto’s genetically
modified maize failed to produce kernels and hundreds of farmers were
devastated. According to Mariam Mayet, environmental attorney and
director of the Africa Centre for Biosafety in Johannesburg, some
farmers suffered up to an 80% crop failure. While Monsanto compensated
the large-scale farmers to whom it directly sold the faulty product, it
gave nothing to the small-scale farmers to whom it had handed out free
sachets of seeds. “When the economic power of Gates is coupled with the
irresponsibility of Monsanto, the outlook for African smallholders is
not very promising,” said Mayet. Monsanto’s aggressive patenting
practices have also monopolized control over seed in ways that deny
farmers control over their own harvest, going so far as to sue–and
bankrupt–farmers for “patent infringement.”

News of the Foundation’s recent Monsanto investment has confirmed the
misgivings of many farmers and sustainable agriculture advocates in
Africa, among them the Kenya Biodiversity Coalition, who commented, “We
have long suspected that the founders of AGRA–the Bill and Melinda Gates
Foundation–had a long and more intimate affair with Monsanto.” Indeed,
according to Travis English, researcher with AGRA Watch, “The
Foundation’s ownership of Monsanto stock is emblematic of a deeper, more
long-standing involvement with the corporation, particularly in Africa.”
In 2008, AGRA Watch, a project of the Seattle-based organization
Community Alliance for Global Justice, uncovered many linkages between
the Foundation’s grantees and Monsanto. For example, some grantees (in
particular about 70% of grantees in Kenya) of the Alliance for a Green
Revolution in Africa (AGRA)–considered by the Foundation to be its
“African face”–work directly with Monsanto on agricultural development
projects. Other prominent links include high-level Foundation staff
members who were once senior officials for Monsanto, such as Rob Horsch,
formerly Monsanto Vice President of International Development
Partnerships and current Senior Program Officer of the Gates
Agricultural Development Program.

Transnational corporations like Monsanto have been key collaborators
with the Foundation and AGRA’s grantees in promoting the spread of
industrial agriculture on the continent. This model of production relies
on expensive inputs such as chemical fertilizers, genetically modified
seeds, and herbicides. Though this package represents enticing market
development opportunities for the private sector, many civil society
organizations contend it will lead to further displacement of farmers
from the land, an actual increase in hunger, and migration to already
swollen cities unable to provide employment opportunities. In the words
of a representative from the Kenya Biodiversity Coalition, “AGRA is
poison for our farming systems and livelihoods. Under the philanthropic
banner of greening agriculture, AGRA will eventually eat away what
little is left of sustainable small-scale farming in Africa.”

A 2008 report initiated by the World Bank and the UN, the International
Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for
Development (IAASTD), promotes alternative solutions to the problems of
hunger and poverty that emphasize their social and economic roots. The
IAASTD concluded that small-scale agroecological farming is more
suitable for the third world than the industrial agricultural model
favored by Gates and Monsanto. In a summary of the key findings of
IAASTD, the Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) emphasizes
the report’s warning that “continued reliance on simplistic
technological fixes–including transgenic crops–will not reduce
persistent hunger and poverty and could exacerbate environmental
problems and worsen social inequity.” Furthermore, PANNA explains, “The
Assessment’s 21 key findings suggest that small-scale agroecological
farming may offer one of the best means to feed the hungry while
protecting the planet.”

The Gates Foundation has been challenged in the past for its
questionable investments; in 2007, the L.A. Times exposed the Foundation
for investing in its own grantees and for its “holdings in many
companies that have failed tests of social responsibility because of
environmental lapses, employment discrimination, disregard for worker
rights, or unethical practices.” The Times chastised the Foundation for
what it called “blind-eye investing,” with at least 41% of its assets
invested in “companies that countered the foundation’s charitable goals
or socially-concerned philosophy.”

Although the Foundation announced it would reassess its practices, it
decided to retain them. As reported by the L.A. Times, chief executive
of the Foundation Patty Stonesifer defended their investments, stating,
“It would be naïve…to think that changing the foundation’s investment
policy could stop the human suffering blamed on the practices of
companies in which it invests billions of dollars.” This decision is in
direct contradiction to the Foundation’s official “Investment
Philosophy”, which, according to its website, “defined areas in which
the endowment will not invest, such as companies whose profit model is
centrally tied to corporate activity that [Bill and Melinda] find
egregious. This is why the endowment does not invest in tobacco stocks.”

More recently, the Foundation has come under fire in its own hometown.
This week, 250 Seattle residents sent postcards expressing their concern
that the Foundation’s approach to agricultural development, rather than
reducing hunger as pledged, would instead “increase farmer debt, enrich
agribusiness corporations like Monsanto and Syngenta, degrade the
environment, and dispossess small farmers.” In addition to demanding
that the Foundation instead fund “socially and ecologically appropriate
practices determined locally by African farmers and scientists” and
support African food sovereignty, they urged the Foundation to cut all
ties to Monsanto and the biotechnology industry.

AGRA Watch, a program of Seattle-based Community Alliance for Global
Justice, supports African initiatives and programs that foster farmers’
self-determination and food sovereignty. AGRA Watch also supports public
engagement in fighting genetic engineering and exploitative agricultural
policies, and demands transparency and accountability on the part of the
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and AGRA.


GENET-forum

providing background information for the
European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

contact:
Hartmut MEYER (Mr)

phone……. +49-531-5168746
fax……… +49-531-5168747
email……. hartmut.meyer(*)genet-info.org
skype……. hartmut_meyer
url……… http://www.genet-info.or

Ana Etchenique
Vicepresidenta
Confederación de Consumidores y Usuarios – CECU
Mayor 45, 2º
28013 Madrid
91 364 13 84
619 955 277
fax 91 366 90 00
ana.e@cecu.es
anaetchenique@yahoo.es
http://www.cecu.es

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