Amnesty International Leaders Held in Turkey

Amnesty International Leaders Detained without Cause

Reaction by Mary E. Latela, 7/17/2017

“Through our detailed research and determined campaigning, we help fight abuses of human rights worldwide. We bring torturers to justice. Change oppressive laws. And free people jailed just for voicing their opinion.” This is the mission of Amnesty International, Inc.

“Amnesty Turkey Director İdil Eser was among 10 human rights defenders detained while attending a human rights workshop on 5 July. For over 24 hours the authorities refused to reveal their whereabouts and they were denied the right to call their loved ones.

“Their detention follows the arrest of Amnesty Turkey Chair Taner Kiliç, who has been imprisoned since 6 June. They all face criminal investigations on the absurd suspicion of being members of an ‘armed terrorist organization’. The Turkish government is abusing its power, deliberately making the country a dangerous place for people who speak out for human rights.

“These brave activists have been detained for no reason except for their belief in human rights. While they are behind bars, we will march for them. While they are gagged, we will speak out for them.”

I’ve been a member for many years.  When I was at Yale Divinity School, Professor Leander Keck was teaching us New Testament theology. In the middle of the class a young man in jeans, a dark t-shirt, and a bandanna on his head, strode in, and shouted, “You are not allowed to teach anymore!” Prof. Keck said, “Who are you?” and the young guy said, “You are under arrest.” Keck said nothing and walked out of the room with the thug.

We sat there a moment wondering what caused this? Was it really an attack? Where should we go?  After a few very uncomfortable minutes, an administrator enteres and stood at the podium. He said,” We are cooperating with Amnesty International today, and Prof. Keck is the “prisoner” You can free him by joining the write=in at the cafeteria.”

Well, the dining room was well organized, with piles of postcards, pictures of imprisoned people around the world. We sat or stood and wrote, copying from a template and adding our own thoughts to the notes. After the first 150, Prof. Keck was let out of his “cell” a dining room serving cart with wheels. The other “big men” were there. They said this reminded them of their freedom rider days.

And that is what we can do now. Write a letter, email it, or write a postcard and put in into the mail. Go to https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/campaigns/2017/07/free-rights-defenders-in-turkey/ to address this current breach of faith, taking leaders of an organization driven by conflict resolution, peace-making, and protection of wrongfully detaining them.

6 July 2017, 02:32 UTC

Responding to the news that Idil Eser, Director of Amnesty International Turkey, was detained on Wednesday along with seven other human rights defenders and two trainers during a digital security and information management workshop in Büyükada, Istanbul, Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, said:
“We are profoundly disturbed and outraged that some of Turkey’s leading human rights defenders, including the Director of Amnesty International Turkey should have been detained so blatantly without cause.”

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Liu Xiaobo has Died

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photo of Liu Xiaobo and Doll (European Press Photo Agency)

Reflection by Mary E. Latela, 7/15/2017

He is pictured with a doll designed and crafted by his beloved wife, Liu Xia.

Liu was a scholar, a writer, whose inspiration forced him to call out human rights violations in China. Nick Kristof of the New York Times notes: “The Mandela of our age is dead, and Liu Xiaobo will at least now find peace after decades of suffering outrageous mistreatment by the Chinese authorities.” He met and married the artist, Liu Xia, whose dolls, like suffering babies, cry out for justice.

He left Columbia University in NYC to support the young people’s revolt in Tiananmen Square. He remained in China to try to plant the seeds of democracy; thus began his series of arrests and times in prison.

He developed liver cancer, which might have been treated in another setting, but the government said “No”,  so Liu Xiaobo died slowly and in great pain, as his wife comforted him. He wrote poetry to her: “Your love is the sunlight that leaps over high walls and penetrates the iron bars of my prison window, stroking every inch of my skin, warming every cell of my body … and filling every minute of my time in prison with meaning.”

Chinese officials have the notion that if the people have no grave site, they can erase the memories of men who tried to instill basic human rights.  Liu was stripped of his own rights. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, and an empty chair was placed where he would have sat, where the message of praise from the Novel committee would have been read.

Liu’s ashes were brought by his widow, his brothers, her brothers, and only a few others, by boat to a place by the sea where colorful blossoms were set upon the sea then his ashes were poured in. It was a nasty way to keep Liu Xia from having a grave to visit. Tourists will not have a grave to visit.

What the “officials” lack is sensitivity to the human spirit, people who hold onto the memory of their loved ones, always. Oppression does not end with another harsh gesture; in fact, when even one person knows, oppression loses.

The question that keeps me up at night is this… What ever happened to the USA’s commitment to fight and put an end to human rights violations? No one mentioned Liu’s name at the recent Presidential visit to China, and that is simply another reinforcement of the belief that a man who is gone is forgotten. Instead of calling to task the Chinese government for beating and imprisoning its people, the world is pleased to buy cheap goods made in oppressive factories where children and adults work countless hours for almost nothing.

I know that we were once instilled by a zeal for freeing people who are oppressed, for individuals and communities, victims of cruelty, simply for existing. Can we embolden our hearts once more to reach out to these “innocent victims” who are truly our brothers and sisters?

 

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Liu Xiaobo has Died

Liu Xiaobo has Died

Reflection by Mary E. Latela, 7/15/2017

Liu was a scholar, a writer, whose inspiration forced him to call out human right decimation in China. Nick Kristof of the New York Times notes: “The Mandela of our age is dead, and Liu Xiaobo will at least now find peace after decades of suffering outrageous mistreatment by the Chinese authorities.” He met and married the artist, Liu Xia, whose dolls, like suffering babies, cry out for justice.

He left Columbia University in NYC to support the young people’s revolt in Tiananmen Square. He remained to try to plant the seeds of democracy and thus began his year in prison. In addition, his liver cancer, which night have been treated in another setting was prevented, so he died slowly and in great pain, as his wife comforted him.

“Your love is the sunlight that leaps over high walls and penetrates the iron bars of my prison window, stroking every inch of my skin, warming every cell of my body … and filling every minute of my time in prison with meaning.

Chinese officials have the notion that if the people have no grave site, they can erase the memories of men who tried to instill basic human rights, while he himself was stripped of his own rights. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, and an empty chair was placed where he would have sat, where the message of praise from the Novel committee would have been read.

Liu’s ashes were brought by his widow, his brothers, her brothers, and only a few others, by boat to a place by the sea where unctuous blossoms were set upon the sea then his ashes were poured in. It is a nasty way to keep Liu Xia from having a grave to visit. Tourists will not have a grave to visit.

What the “officials” lack is sensitivity to the human spirit, people who hold onto the memory of their loved ones, always. Oppression does not end with another harsh gesture; in fact, when even one person knows, oppression loses.

The question that keeps me up at night is this… What ever happened to the USA’s commitment to fight and put an end to human rights violations? No one mentioned Liu’s name at the recent Presidential visit to China, and that is simply another reinforcement of the belief that a man who is gone is forgotten. Instead of calling to task the Chinese government for beating and imprisoning its people, the world is pleased to buy cheap goods made in oppressive factories where children and adults work countless hours for almost nothing.

I know we once had a zeal for the hard work of freeing people who are oppressed, for individuals and communities which are victims of cruelty, simply for existing. Can we embolden our hearts to reach out to these “innocent victims” who are truly our brothers and sisters?

 

 

 

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A Writer? Who, Me?

Reprinted 7/9/2017

Seven Steps on the Writing Ladder

  1. Having the Tools

Mom was very busy with the four of us, but she had a brilliant idea which made it possible for any of us to explore. There was a card table in the corner of the kitchen, and piled upon it were crayons, pencils, construction paper, and the marble pattern notebooks which I still buy to use for journals and for ideas, drafts, etc.

(She also played music much of the day – from classic to contemporary and though she was not a scientist, she couldn’t help but notice the calming effect of that.So, I wrote little stories, made greeting cards, and all. The diagram below is the result of many hours of doodling before I made my career choices.

My first success in writing was winning the annual Clean Up Week song contest in Grade Two. Another student and I were rewarded with a book. I felt good for at least a day!

  1. Getting my very own library card, my most precious ID, was my key to the universe.

Getting my library card was like Christmas.  Visiting that brick schoolhouse became a regular trip. A bunch of friends would walk the mile to the public library to return and take out books. The librarian made suggestions.

We used pencil and newspaper print to write the registration numbers of books we wanted. There were no computers, so if we were looking up information for a report, we had to copy by hand, remembering to write the title, author, date published. Pluto was still a planet back then.

Reference books did not leave the library, so we did a lot of hand-copying. The pre-teen books, then teen classics were full of adventures we didn’t even dream about.

We all walked home. We did know that causing any trouble was a recipe for disaster, so we only acted up at home. I love reading and I still read many books, expanding my list to areas which I never dreamed of.

3. Making writing a priority

Periodically our teachers would send our best work into scholastic writing center contests and we’d proudly bring home a certificate.Writing was a major chunk of our school days, and as we plowed through “the classics, there was in-class reading out loud, questions to answer in writing, and a few tests. I thought it would be cool to write for a living. I knew from a couple of artists and musicians in the family to keep my day until I was sure.

Shakespeare in grade nine? It’s true, but I don’t think it makes sense. I said yes.

4 Learning to Write – I used to have to write in secret, After I was married, my EX-Hubby said it was a waste of time and how much could you make on writing anyway? Even though I was afraid of my shadow, I was not afraid to write.I knew there was something in   my Mind or in my heart that hurt a little, something that wanted to come out and become literature. I don’t feel guilty about having a perfect cup of coffee on my table. I wish I had a maid just to keep the coffee coming. Sometimes I feel guilty just because it is a beautiful day outside and I am inside.. Ten minutes on the back porch heals that discomfort, especially on snow days.

I don’t feel guilty about having a perfect cup of coffee on my table. I wish I had a maid just to keep the coffee coming. Sometimes I feel guilty just because it is a beautiful day outside and I am inside.. Ten minutes on the back porch heals that discomfort, especially on snow days.

For me, the turning point was a moment in which I found myself deeply wounded because my family and some of the least favorite friends didn’t care about my writing, This afternoon, it hit me: why should they take it seriously even though I DO? For quite some time, writing has been my number one priority – not counting the days I gave birth to the children, moving across the country again, and periodic major “sorting days” to keep organized. I write in the morning to midafternoon, every day. With few meaningful exceptions, writing is first—come rain, shine, holidays, or illness.

Make this commitment and from that moment on, you are a writer.

  1. Maybe Writing Really Isn’t Worth It and I Should Quit

Hey, just because you’re now a writer doesn’t mean this gig is suddenly easy! Some of us will face this conundrum many times in our writing journeys. I have to admit that several times, I did not have the stamina to write. There were two causes – first, I have a chronic illness which is rather painful sucking away energy for a while each day, and second, I didn’t have a source of positive reinforcement. I had no batteries. Well, I am also legally blind and cannot drive. But oh well, everybody has something!

Several times I considered quitting, and this is an important question for every artist. I sit calmly, enter into my deep soulful self, and sort through the stuff in me, bringing the really good stuff into the light of day and onto the keyboard.  I agree that If I’m going to continue this, then I really should renew my commitment every so often, thinking about and embracing the nature of who I am and who I have become over the years.

Like KM, I spend part of my time in the dark night of my soul. And it is not scary. I am able to feel real feelings, to intuit unusual sadness, to read what others are thinking, to look at a person I know very well, and practically finish her sentences.

  1. Will Reading Other Writers Make me a Copycat? No way! I don’t live with the Bronte sisters or in the back room at Edgar Allan Poe’s place. I don’t use strong spirits to blot out my bad memories; I have a mental condition for that. I have read books that take me into new places, into old, nearly dead places, where I can sprinkle a little stardust which I keep in my right shirt pocket.
  1. I am obsessive about spelling, grammar, usage. AND I have a good time crafting cool sentences and paragraphs. Should I worry about becoming an old woman with glasses who likes to chat with the postal delivery guy?? My dear daughter could attest to this is who I am NOW. Kids!

As K.M. says: The art of writing is uniquely suited to make us feel unworthy. Not only are we baring our souls on the page for everyone to gawk at, we are also working in a field in which monetary compensation is decidedly the primary yardstick for “success.” Perfect copy is required.

My motto is a set of reminders: Keep walking! Keep writing! Keep breathing! Call my brother once a week! Don’t lose my crochet hook! And try not to talk ALL the time!

About Mary E. Latela: She has published 15 creative non-fiction books, is working on a memoir, was a teacher for a hundred fifty years, is an ordained minister, and now lives in the Midwest (again!) @LatelaMary mlatela@outlook.com

Many thanks to my writing friend. She is quite young: I am not. Otherwise we are very alike. Enjoy!

 

 

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Bright Red, Snowy White, and Sky Blue

Reflection by  Mary E. Latela, Independence Day, 2017

I was ready to enter a cave for the weekend, feeling rather down about how the current D.C. situation is trying to erode what makes America great.

People hold meetings; the Secy. of State blows up; someone in the room slips the story to a hungry writer, and I mark down yet another violation of privacy, and reneging of a sacred promise to serve this country, to keep confidences, to work for the greater (not personal) glory.

The Prez alleges voter fraud, so he wants to collect my personal/sacred heart data to look for what? This morning I feel that I would never vote again if this civil liberty were taken from me. No one has asked the people. The Republicans are speaking for their constituents, and the Democrats have been dismissed as “not really interested.”

Then Joy Reid came on and talked about what it means to live in a democracy -people coming here because they were starving, others brought here against their will and now free, etc. Democracy is alive. We cannot allow paranoia or power-mongering to interfere.

Isn’t that why our Founding Fathers came together to put all this together?

https://twitter.com/amjoyshow?lang=en; flag image: americanflag.com

 

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“Safety Nets” and “Keep Out” Signs

Reflection by Mary E. Latela, June 22, 2017

This morning, the U.S. Senate distributed copies of their new “Trumpcare Bill” with its cutting of the safety-net programs such as Medicaid and Medicare, and bigger tax benefits for wealthy people.

How annoying for Democrats to be excluded from the process! What must they tell their followers? “I was denied entrance.” How embarrassing for conscientious Republicans who really didn’t want to participate in a sleight-of-hand, stash the cash deal.

Before I could sort out my reactions, a TV spot showed hundreds of people in wheelchairs, protesting outside the office of the leader of the Senate. I had to catch my breath, because I was surprised by this display. We are, after all, permitted to protest peacefully. in this land.

Like Alice sliding through the rabbit hole, in the blink of an eye, I saw a scene from not-too-long-ago. It was about 1990, when the American with Disabilities Act was being considered. Skeptics called it the lazy man’s paycheck, and anyone who would accept money from the government must be lower than low, certainly lazy, even unethical. Some organizations still ignore the law.

The photo on this page comes from an unnamed paper, but it is very painful to view. I think this is true because with all our talk about “preferential option for the poor,” our hearts have not caught up.

 

 

 

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Introducing Myself to a New Friend

Remember 9/11. We walked around numb, but we kept on. Living within 100 miles of NYC, we heard about the first plane after I taught a class in World Religions at a local community college. We were all told to go home.( This was before cellphone were powerful.)  I tried to reach my sister Cathy in D.C., chief of staff for a Congressman there, and my daughter in college in SE Ohio (before we knew what happened to the last plane which courageous passengers pulled down). The drive home was a procession, everyone slowly driving by the Connecticut Capitol, down old Route 99, where I turned in.

I called Mom and Dad right away and they had not heard from the others, so we told them we’d do the calling. Finally, in mid-afternoon, I heard from Cathy, who said the phones were jammed, and please call Mom and Dad to say she was fine.

That evening, I drove down a back road to the edge of the Connecticut river and it shone like a huge moonbeam.  I watched the water covered over with fog, until you couldn’t see anything. I snapped awake as I turned the corner toward home and saw clusters of people holding candles. I stopped and asked some women if they had an extra candle, and we watched as the day was coming to an end. Cars drove by, bearing American flags, or simply waving.

How did we heal? … my friends and I recalled {and it had become a motto] that we could not change the world, but we could change our little corner of the world – how? By changing ourselves. By greeting a lonely neighbor, by stopping to listen to a friend who was frightened. By making coffee and calling over a neighbor. By extending a hug at our friend at church.  By attending Shabbat services with my youngest sister and her son and husband, a powerful reminder that we are very much ONE. Little gestures, from the heart, to others. Taking care of our precious self in order to do the work of becoming strong and vocal. And we have survived.

by @LatelaMary, Mary Ellen Latela, Especially for Iris Rose. 6.19.17

 

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The Handmaid’s Tale

Reflection on Margaret Atwood’s remarks in MSmagazine, summer 2017

Mary E. Latela, June 16, 2017

I recall feeling very shocked, yet alert, on first reading “The Handmaid’s Tale” some twenty years ago, in a lively book group led by a prof from UMaine. To find myself unable to see left to right, not to see the sky, the stars, the sun rising and setting, would only be bearable if I had never enjoyed these pleasures. But even a faint memory of beauty, of the pursuit of a large world view, of making decisions with absolute retribution understood, would add to my usual fear and skepticism.

I say boldly, NO! I would never allow my life to be limited by outside forces, by a malevolent perspective of history, of hangings for sins of some earlier age, stepping off the carefully laid paths decorated with somber warnings, even red – my favorite color – defiled by someone else’s twisted values.

“Ordinary … “is what you are used to. This may not seem ordinary to you now, but after a time it will. It will become ordinary.”

These days, I shiver at the evil that men and women do, that gangs of hatred delight in, that selfish, egocentric “leaders” use in their upside-down view of power and authority. May we never be silent.

 

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Review of The Great Spring

Natalie Goldberg weaves a mosaic of zen and writing, stories, and vivid side trips in a Must-Read Book. Review by Mary E. Latela, June 11, 2017

Natalie Goldberg exists between two rocky places – writing and zen, and she

manages to find opportunities to practice both. She writes, and writes, and writes,
as many of us do. And she is a daughter of zen, and meets all kinds of people in her
travels, some helpful, others annoying; She takes chances in her life because it’s
clear that she loves her teachers, her friends, and the land. I would love to be a
passenger on one of those pilgrimages where the directions are vague, the signposts
are rare, and instead of reaching a hilltop you dip – all of a sudden – into a deep
chasm, coming out of the other side with a lake before you. She went looking for
Bob Dylan, and met his teacher – a brilliant and lovable icon.
Like many of us who have reached age 60 or more, she encounters many losses, the
death of friends and neighbors, three or four at a time, and finds herself caught in
the land of the living, knowing that she too will die someday. I stay at home,
wondering if my mental wanderings are adequate, but Natalie Goldberg manages to
lift the everyday into golden petals from on high. The tender places where she
describes wonderful enlightenment moments are elegant, and most appreciated.
This is a treasure! I will read it again and again!

 

Posted in art, compassion, courage, death/dying, gift, grief, herstory, searching, storyteller, women | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Has Anything Changed Since 1989?

 

Has Anything Changed Since 1989?

Reflection by Mary E Latela, June 4, 2017

 

Thank you to @NickKristof of the NY Times who reminded us that this weekend marks the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

Mr. Kristof wrote: “As long as I live, I’ll never forget the rickshaw driver, tears streaming down his cheeks, rushing a gravely injured student to hospital — and away from the soldiers who had just gunned him down. That rickshaw driver was a brave man, a better man than I, and he taught me an indelible lesson. Go to: https://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/18/opinion/sunday/kristof-tears-of-a-rickshaw-driver.html

In the U.S.A., we are accustomed to students protesting what they perceive as injustice. The First Amendment of the Bill of Rights gives us the unalienable right to free speech, which includes peaceful protest, disagreement with the government, the Administration, rights of marginalized peoples. In China, there is no right to demonstrate. So, what caused those thousands of s students and sympathizers to march – silently, peacefully – through the main public square in Beijing?

I recently read The Barefoot Lawyer: A Blind Man’s Fight for Justice and Freedom in China, the harrowing account of Chen Guangcheng, the young lawyer who lived with his wife and mother-in-law in China. He was appalled at what he learned from afar, and within his own family.

China had adopted the “one child” policy to keep population down. The law meant that a couple who chose to have more than one child were subject to fines, harassment, and worse. When Chen discovered that pregnant women “disappeared” or were beaten to death in the town square, he felt that he must use his legal skills and his compassion to protest this rule and protect his own family.

His protests led to his own incarceration, which included torture, starvation, and no contact with his family. He was finally sent home to rigid house arrest. He and his wife agreed that he must escape his confinement.  This courageous man was able to find his way to the American embassy, which initially did not want to have this “embarrassing situation publicized because of concurrent “delicate” talks with the Chinese about trade. He eventually reached America.

Today, Chen Guangcheng lives in the U.S. History and this sad anniversary remind me of the wish we fostered in the 1980s that the plight of the Chinese people would improve. We have a stake in human rights for ALL. It is true that China is doing well financially, but stomping on human rights has not abated.

I was one of those people who wished, hoped, and prayed that China would change. I am still waiting. I hope that the witness of brave people will impact on someone here, since we have become – somehow – trade partners with China.

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