Nevertheless, She Persisted

malalaPersist_zpss3lpdzjzSometimes our language fails us in both words and concepts. My wife had a term she applied to some people she admired for their persistence and tenacity: “stick-to-it-ive-ness”. Not exactly the most elegant of terms but it conveys the concept, in her mind, better than anything else. I was, on a couple occasions, the recipient of that honor but perhaps fell short more than a few times. She certainly had that quality about her and outlasted my puny capacity quite often.

Men seem to value the sprint while women go for distance. There is something that seems almost as a biological and intellectual capacity in women to move on, ever forward, in an undaunted manner. Our species would have slithered into oblivion without that quality.

Down through the ages. with few exceptions, men have held the power. Men wrote the Bible and the Koran and other religious texts. Women made the ink. Men told the history of nations and sang songs of losers and winners. Women made the beer and carried the water. Men heaped praise and glory on their heroes. Women saw them all before they had their morning coffee. Men pranced off to war in fancy uniforms. Women bound up their wounds and cared for their orphans.

Only in the last decades of the 19th century did women begin to extricate themselves from constant servitude. Women were legally oppressed under English common law and the concept of coverture. Once married, a women essentially became part of her husband and ceased to exist as an individual. If unmarried, she could own property and conduct business and enter into contracts but not as a married woman. That power and authority resided in the husband. If you think back to the decades around 1800, it is largely single, unmarried women who stand out as writers and artists.

KEN7Men, for the most part, were perfectly content with the old customs and didn’t see a problem. Everything was fine…a well oiled machine. Why change? Some men still don’t get it. Surprisingly, some women don’t get it. But, nevertheless, they persisted. Women have made progress and have come to claim, inch by inch, equality with men in many fields. There have been setbacks and ongoing battles. There have been grave sacrifices.  Nevertheless, they persist. My daughter enjoys rights and freedoms that her great-grandmother never dreamed of. We are talking of a span of about 100 years of slow and persistent progress. Women still have a way to go even in what we would consider our enlightened western culture.

In other parts of the world the struggle is just starting or is taking a slightly different path. Progress won’t look the same everywhere. I don’t advocate for many non-profit organizations or projects but I do stand behind the ideas and efforts of The Girl Effect. There has to be a starting place…if doors won’t open, use a window.

 

 

 

 

 

Tumulus

Today is Star Wars Day and tomorrow is Cinco de Mayo and sandwiched in between, from sunset to sunset, is Holocaust Remembrance Day. We are an odd bunch. We commemorate those who sacrificed their lives in war and, as if that isn’t enough, we invent make-believe wars and then commemorate them as well. And then we do it all over again — It must all be a genetic trait.

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Ireland 3000 BC

We really don’t need to make up war stories or invent enemies or heros. We have plenty to go around. There is very little of our scarred and sodden planet that is not sprinkled with blood.

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Sarajevo

We have always been fond of building earth and stone monuments to our dead heros or the fallen martyrs. War and battlefields bring out the builder in us. That helps us remember what we were — or what “they” were.

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Vietnam Memorial

What happens when we run out of stone to build memorials? Will we put an end to the warfare? We have accepted the industrialization of killing as part of our being. That’s what we do even though we say “Never Again”.

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Holocaust – Berlin

We are nothing if not a resourceful kind of being. Look how far we’ve come. We used to throw rocks and sticks. We have come so far — now we can incinerate cities or surgically remove unwanted foes anonymously. Two million here, six million there….the shear numbers render it all impersonal and anonymous. No one person can be responsible. But then we go back to the earth and stone and build a memorial.

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Cambodia

Sometimes we build war memorials and then tip-toe around them while we fight more wars generations later in the same place.  It doesn’t seem to matter. Why do we even bother? We turn a blind eye to the past and stumble forward and do it all again.  People blame this on religion or ideology or racism but it has to be some sort of genetic flaw.

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Battle of Waterloo

Survivors

I don’t just sit around and think about horrible or depressing topics all the time, but it seems that way sometimes. I’ve been battling a persistent version of the common cold (gosh — I hope that’s all it is) and my thoughts have turned to health matters. We seem to be going from one health scare to another. It was Ebola just a while back and we get occasional bulletins that another case has turned up here or there, usually in one of the coastal nations of West Africa. The AIDs and HIV virus epidemic was (is still) scary and I was an administrator planner in a prison system when the first news spread like wildfire. We knew we were in for it once AIDs made it into prisons. As it turned out, almost nothing happened. Now we have the Zika virus being spread quite rapidly by tropical mosquitos. It apparently spreads in other ways as well. The original affliction noted from the virus was a micro cephalic birth defect but the list of complications in otherwise healthy people is growing. There are already thousands of micro cephalic infants born in Brazil and other places and there will be many more before this virus gets under control…as we assume it will. Vaccines are being developed. How do we…the world at large…care for thousands of these afflicted children? It is more than just a local isolated problem. The moms and dads will be overwhelmed. The task of defeating the virus will be long and costly but we will eventually find a way.

iron lung wardI remember the pictures of the hospital wards full of iron lungs back in the 1950s. Each one had a little kid’s head sticking out; kids my age. During that period we went through all sorts of scary stuff including Atom bomb drills but the thought of being put into one of those iron lung contraptions was – for me – the most horrific thing that could happen. Polio was everywhere. When you are seven or eight you have sort of a concept of “just desserts” — the idea that bad things happen to bad people but you knew that those kids were innocent of any major wrongdoing. How could this have happened…how was it allowed to happen? In later years – after the vaccine doses were given out in the school cafeteria — we had a few new classmates with an arm or leg that was shorter or smaller than the other. Being kids we would ask about it and the answer was almost always “Polio”. We knew what that meant and there was no teasing or ill treatment. These kids were viewed as survivors.

Polio hit close to home in our family. My uncle, married to my dad’s youngest sister, caught it. I actually remember the day he got sick because we were all at a family outing and he was playing softball. By that evening he knew there was something wrong. It was life threatening for a while but he eventually plateaued and in the end he lost the use of his legs and was permanently confined to a wheelchair. He had the energy and youthful attitude and a strong family network to put up a good fight and he won, after a fashion. He worked at Emerson Electric and the company built him a special work station so he could continue to work. He made a good living. He was a very good bowler and would travel around the country to participate in wheelchair bowling tournaments…the house was full of trophies. He coached my brother’s little league team. Of course he could drive with the use of hand controls. We thought of him as pretty much a normal guy. He was already a dad when he got sick but I recall him driving up in front of our house on July 4th and leaning on the horn shouting “I got a little firecracker!!” when his son was born a couple years after getting sick. My uncle is the one who taught me how to drive…as odd as that might seem. He had more patience than my dad. The only thing he couldn’t manage was going up or down steps but there always seemed to be willing hands and strong backs to get him lifted – chair and all – up or down. We went to the same church and there would be a few men hanging around the door waiting for my uncle to arrive so they could carry him up the few steps to the church door. He was more than a survivor. He served as an example and inspiration to some and certainly to me.

There are still a handful of “kids” in iron lungs…now in their sixties. Technological advances and medical procedures got most of the survivors out of the iron lung wards. We seldom hear of any new polio cases but they happen in just a few third world countries. Of course we also have the families that refuse to take any vaccines so they are likely at risk. So far this year there have been only nine cases of polio worldwide. The disease was stopped in Nigeria last year and the last two remaining polio countries are Pakistan and Afghanistan. A new vaccine is being administered in Africa and Asia this month along with a major new inoculation effort that might totally eradicate the disease by the end of this year. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other funding groups are actively pushing this eradication effort.  I’m optimistic and guessing that a similar effort will eventually tackle the Zika virus…and the next new wild disease that comes along.

I just read Dan Brown’s book Inferno (2013) that offers a break-neck tour of Italy and Istanbul while the hero, good ol’ Professor Robert Langdon, struggles to decipher a string of clues related to an intentional viral pandemic. This evil plot is a form of population control…with a twist. Langdon seems to be the “Johnny-on-the Spot” whenever these diabolical world threatening plots surface. He’s practically Superman. The concept behind the book is that human population growth is now, or soon will be, beyond the Earth’s capacity to support it. Climate change will probably move populations even closer together and someday there might be rapidly spreading plague event, like in the middle ages, but we seem to be holding our own so far.

Globalquerque

Albuquerque is blessed to be the home of the National Hispanic Cultural Center. This seems to be the right place for such an institution as the Hispanic culture is very evident and generally embraced by this town. The native cuisine of Albuquerque and New Mexico, in general, is unique in its blend of Hispanic and American Indian and Anglo elements.  I’ve heard visitors complain that they can’t get real Mexican food here like they can back home at Taco Bell. That’s possibly true but they just need to look around the malls and Wal-Mart stores. The South Valley and the Barelas neighborhoods are ground zero for Hispanic culture but this is an old city, founded in 1706, and it has a long history of Spanish and Mexican rule before it became part of the United States. The Spanish were here before the Pilgrims and the Jametown colonists arrived on the east coast. You need to gain an understanding of Hispanic culture to understand much of Albuquerque and New Mexico.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe National Hispanic Cultural Center, located in the southern part of the city, is an amazing mix of museum, theater, training space, restaurant and outdoor performance space. Each year the center hosts Globalquerque…a celebration of international culture, music and crafts…especially music.  This event coincides with National Hispanic Heritage month.

The festivities last over a weekend and are accompanied by a longer film festival.  We went to the Thursday night movie: The Tasting Menu and then stopped in the restaurant for tapas, wine, gelato and coffee. The movie was in Spanish with English subtitles and had a clever plot.

On Saturday we went back for the global fiesta, a free event that took up most of the day. We saw another movie: The Green Revolution. This film offers a serious indictment of globalization and multinational agri-business in the destruction of local farming economies around the world. It sounds as though Monsanto and ADM are attempting to starve the peasant populations of developing countries into submission solely to make obscene profits. Genetically modified crops are being forced on third world nations  as a condition for economic aid.

The film was a little depressing but it was an eye opener. People in Haiti are reduced to eating sun-baked mud pies made of butter, honey and mud. The NAFTA trade agreement required a change to Mexico’s constitution to outlaw communal ownership of land which then favored corporate ownership. This is now driving farmers off their land and into cities or across borders.

The rest of the day was cheerier. We had some Indian and Thai curry for lunch. There were a number of performances and a vendor area where people sold hand-made crafts. I ended up buying a harp-like musical instrument made in Madagascar…I haven’t mastered it yet.

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The performances included musical groups from Angola and Congo, Indian Hoop Dancers, some Russian folk dancers and a group from Colombia called Cimarron.

Cimarron made a noble attempt to teach people how to dance the local Jaropo dance from the region of the Orinoco Plains. This is a fast moving, foot-stomping dance that you might have seen before in movies or on TV.

My attempt at dancing started off badly and improved only a little. This is quite a workout and could be used as an aerobic exercise…but it is not “low impact”.

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The Indian hoop dancers were very talented and also involved some volunteers from the spectators to join in. The hoops used in the dance represent different things, like the four compass directions (east, west, north, south) and the family unit. They take on that representation as they are incorporated into the dance.

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I enjoyed the day and came away knowing more than when I arrived. I tried to show off my dancing moves at home but it was a disaster.  I’ll go back next year and maybe learn a different dance…maybe easier.

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