One Pound Capitalism, a Pinch of Democracy, and Leonard Peltier’s Thanksgiving Statement

(Includes a meal brought to you by Discomfort Foods)

I’ve been living on Custer Street in Salina, Kansas since the day I moved to the United States from India in 2000. At that time I had no idea who General George Armstrong Custer was and what he had stood for. Now I do.

On Thanksgiving Day I was in my kitchen here on Custer Street, and I received an email from Prison Radio that included Leonard Peltier’s “Thanksgiving 2019 Statement” read by Mumia Abu Jamal. So I listened to it as I was cooking our Thanksgiving dinner.

Typically, the type and quantity of each ingredient I might use in the presentation of a Discomfort Foods recipe is determined by choosing key statistics and points that are embedded in the story being conveyed and converting that to a measurement or meal design. But listening to the statement inspired me to turn the dinner I was already preparing—with our usual turkey, dressing, gravy, cranberry relish, mashed potatoes and green beans—into a Discomfort Foods design. This time the discomfort element is to be experienced not through our taste buds, or the wonderful smells of the turkey cooking in the oven, or whatever. It comes from the words of Peltier in the voice of Abu Jamal—two people who are paying the heaviest of prices at the hands of white-freedom. That’s what makes any Thanksgiving meal hard to swallow. And should.

We associate Thanksgiving with the beginning of holidays and good eatin’—things we take for granted. Discomfort Foods challenges that. It isn’t just counter-comfort, It’s also counter-association, trying to replace grandiose associations—of our bloody history, of the present and of the future—with ones that are fact-based and justice-based.

Peltier’s statement:

The year of 2019 is coming to a close, and with it comes the day most Americans set aside as a day for Thanksgiving. As I let my mind wander beyond the steel bars and concrete walls, I try to imagine what the people who live outside the prison gates are doing, and what they are thinking. Do they ever think of the Indigenous people who were forced from their homelands? Do they understand that with every step they take, no matter the direction, that they are walking on stolen land? Can they imagine, even for one minute, what it was like to watch the suffering of the women, the children and babies and, yes, the sick and elderly, as they were made to keep pushing West in freezing temperatures, with little or no food? These were my people, and this was our land. There was a time when we enjoyed freedom and were able to hunt buffalo and gather the foods and sacred medicines. We were able to fish, and we enjoyed the clean clear water! My people were generous, we shared everything we had, including the knowledge of how to survive the long harsh winters or the hot humid summers. We were appreciative of the gifts from our Creator and remembered to give thanks on a daily basis. We had ceremonies and special dances that were a celebration of life.

With the coming of foreigners to our shores, life — as we knew it — would change drastically. Individual ownership was foreign to my people. Fences?? Unheard of, back then. We were a communal people, and we took care of each other. Our grandparents weren’t isolated from us! They were the wisdom keepers and story tellers and were an important link in our families. The babies? They were and are our future! Look at the brilliant young people who put themselves at risk, fighting to keep our water and environment clean and safe for the generations yet to come. They are willing to confront the giant, multi-national corporations by educating the general public of the devastation being caused. I smile with hope when I think of them. They are fearless and ready to speak the truth to all who are willing to listen. We also remember our brothers and sisters of Bolivia, who are rioting, in support of the first Indigenous President, Evo Morales. His commitment to the people, the land, their resources and protection against corruption is commendable. We recognize and identify with that struggle so well.

So today, I thank all of the people who are willing to have an open mind, those who are willing to accept the responsibility of planning for seven generations ahead, those who remember the sacrifices made by our ancestors so we can continue to speak our own language, practice our own way of thankfulness in our own skin, and that we always acknowledge and respect the Indigenous linage that we carry.

For those of you who are thankful that you have enough food to feed your families, please give to those who aren’t as fortunate. If you are warm and have a comfortable shelter to live in, please give to those who are cold and homeless, if you see someone hurting and in need of a kind word or two, be that person who steps forward and lends a hand. And, especially, when you see injustice anywhere, please be brave enough to speak up to confront it.

I want to thank all who are kind enough to remember me and my family in your thoughts and prayers. Thank you for continuing to support and believe in me. There isn’t a minute in any day that passes without me hoping that this will be the day I will be granted freedom. I long for the day when I can smell clean fresh air, when I can feel a gentle breeze in my hair, witness the clouds as their movement hides the sun and when the moon shines the light on the path to the sacred Inipi. That would truly be a day I could call a day of Thanksgiving.

Thank you for listening to whomever is voicing my words. My Spirit is there with you.

Doksha, In the Spirit of Crazy Horse, Leonard Peltier Star.

One Pound Capitalism, a Pinch of Democracy, and an Impeachment

(includes a recipe brought to you by Discomfort Foods)

In February 2018 on Fox News, Laura Ingraham ended her interview with former CIA director James Woolsey by asking him if the United States continues to “mess around in other people’s elections.” To which Woolsey, as though tasting the tasty lie in his mouth, replied:

“Welllllllll aummmm yum yum yum yum yum… only for a very good cause, in the interest of democracy.”

The United States has been interfering in foreign elections since World War II. And our government’s foreign policy has always been about sabotaging other people’s lives and their environment in furtherance of its geopolitical interests. Policy has not been aimed at furthering a “good cause,” and it certainly has not been “in the interest of democracy.” 

For example, in the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections, the Bush Administration and the EU pumped millions of dollars into Fatah’s campaign to ensure its victory. Fatah lost that election and Hamas won. And before the dust had settled on that defeat of US meddling, the Bush administration had already started making plans to overthrow the democratically elected Hamas government.

In a 2008 investigative article, Vanity Fair reported that it had “obtained confidential documents, since corroborated by sources in the U.S. and Palestine, which lay bare a covert initiative, approved by Bush and implemented by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams, to provoke a Palestinian civil war. The plan was for forces led by Dahlan [a Fatah strongman], and armed with new weapons supplied at America’s behest, to give Fatah the muscle it needed to remove the democratically elected Hamas-led government from power.”

The assault on Gaza has not waned. While we here in the U.S. were glued to our screens watching the first day of impeachment hearings looking into Trumpian extortion aimed at manipulating the 2020 election, news was coming in from Gaza of Israeli forces killing dozens including 7-year-old Amir Rafat Mohammad Ayad.  

Im-Peach-Mint Quid Pro Quobbler 

(This is an updated version of an old-fashioned recipe for peach cobbler) 

Quobbler filling ingredients:

1.687 cups warm water

4 teaspoons imli (tamarind)

1 teaspoon red chilli powder

4.375 cups, peeled and sliced peaches

1 teaspoon salt

Quobbler batter ingredients:

6 tablespoons butter

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup milk

Served with:

fresh mint leaves

vanilla ice cream or whipped cream

(cooking directions at the end of article)

Why I chose these ingredients in their respective measurements for the recipe design:

1.687 cups water equals 81 teaspoons, which conveys the findings of the Assistant Professor of International Relations at the Department of Politics and Public Administration at the University of Hong Kong, Dov Levin, who revealed that between 1946 and 2000 the United States participated in 81 “partisan electoral interventions” around the world. This of course does not include the country’s numerous coups and invasions.

The original recipe called for 3/4 cup granulated sugar. I substituted that with 4 teaspoons imli (tamarind) to convey the fact that this is the fourth impeachment hearing in the country’s history. I chose imli because the first two letters ‘im’ conveniently prefix peach; as a Hindi word, it symbolizes the United States’ own meddling in foreign elections past, present and future; and the imli fruit has a very sour taste, communicating the tart irony of today’s politics: that in the crimes under examination in the impeachment hearings, America finds itself a victim at home of the same kinds of crimes it has committed abroad.

4.375 cups of peaches equals about 70 tablespoons, which in the recipe conveys the roughly 70 years that the U.S. has spent interfering in other people’s elections.

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The sweet quobbler batter making up the base remains true to the classic cobbler recipe, except I substituted granulated sugar with brown sugar to emphasize how almost always it’s the non-white people of this world who pay the price for our government’s intrigues. While baking in the oven, you can see the base slowly enveloping the im-peach filling, much like the predicament of our own ill-gotten and directly threatened democracy that is being artificially held together by a fake sense of sweet freedom.  

What started off as Russiagate has quickly evolved into Ukrainegate, so I added a teaspoon each of chili powder and salt and a few sprigs of fresh green mint leaves to add a few more articles of tongue-twisting tastes to challenge the status quobbler.

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We had some friends over for dinner yesterday and I served them the quobbler for dessert as we played some gin rummy. And here are some reactions I got:

“It challenges the senses. Pushes you into unchartered territory. It doesn’t coincide with any expectations. Unfamiliar.” 

“The heat (from the chilly powder) creeps up on you. Metaphorically speaking, we keep going through this impeachment thing and it keeps getting hotter and hotter in your throat.”

Cooking directions: 

Soak the imli in the warm water for about 1/2 hour. Using your fingers or the back of a spoon, squeeze as much of the pulp as possible out into the water. Pour the imli water along with the chili powder into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to medium low and cook (about 40 minutes), stirring occasionally till the sauce thickens and measures 1/4 cup.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Put the imli sauce, sliced peaches and salt in a saucepan and cook on medium-high heat for about two minutes, stirring. 

Cut the butter into small pieces and add to a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Place the dish in the oven till the butter melts. Remove from oven.

In a bowl combine the flour, baking powder and sugar. Stir in the milk till just combined. Pour this mixture into the baking dish over the butter and spread it evenly to cover the bottom of the dish.

Spoon the peaches over the batter and bake for 35-40 minutes. Decorate with mint leaves and serve warm with a scoop of ice cream or whipped cream. 

Enjoy during the remainder of the Im-Peach-Mint hearings with friends and family.

bon appétit!

Patterns of Occupied Palestine: Part 3 of Uncountable

Two things in America create “bipartisanship”: support for Israel’s apartheid regime and support for endless US war and intervention around the world.  — Ali Abunimah, October 16.

It’s September-October and I’m sitting at my Sidewalk Museum of Congress (SMoC) studio outside Kansas’ 1st District Rep. Roger Marshall’s office embroidering portraits of the Palestinian al-Farra family, most of whom were killed by “Operation Protective Edge,” the 2014 Israeli assault that began on July 7 and lasted 51 days. 

Directly behind the spot where I’m sitting is Roger’s oh-so-patriotic-and-festive red, white, and blue window display that includes the word ‘FAMILY’ in all caps, Trump-style, positioned prominently in the center. What’s subliminal in the display is a preceding word, WHITE. 

 

IMG_5630The al-Farra family. An-embroidery-in-progress outside Roger Marshall’s office.

 

Our government policies past and present have done nothing to address and hold accountable the uncountable atrocities that have been carried out by Israeli Occupation Forces and Israeli settlers on the Palestinian people on a daily basis. It in fact continues to support the occupation politically, diplomatically, financially and through podium-words like these by Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren, with which she claims that a two-state solution has been the “official policy of the government of Israel.”

It doesn’t matter whether my Representative is a Republican or a Democrat when it comes to policies of war, intervention and occupation. In that regard they are in fact one family, one party.

For me, this is a moment where you really have to say enough is enough. And where you have to search for the right words to convince those who have the power to stop this. — Jan Eliasson, U.N. deputy secretary general, Gaza crisis: UN & US announce ceasefire, the Guardian, July 31, 2014.

Not long after a ceasefire had been announced, the sound of an explosion and broken glass woke the sleeping al-Farra family at around 3:00 AM on August 1, 2014. They were one of six families who lived in a three-story house in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip. According to a UN Human Rights Council report, “As neighbors alerted them that their roof had been hit and was on fire, the children were rushed downstairs and told by their parents to run out of the house in fear that a second strike may hit the house. In their pajamas and bare feet, the children and four adults ran down a narrow road in front of their house.” Members of the al-Farra family were barely 30 feet away from the house when another missile landed at their feet, killing nine of them and injuring two other family members including a 4-month-old baby who was wounded badly in the abdomen.

 

25 BasemI stayed inside to wake one of the children up. When I went out I found all my family either injured or dead… These criminals will never been brought to justice. All countries stand with Israel. They give us food and give Israel weapons to kill us. — Basem Abdel Malik al-Farra, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights.

 

26 LayanBasem al-Farra and his 6-year-old daughter Layan survived the attack. Basem says, “at the ‎beginning Layan was reluctant to go to school and still suffers psychologically.‎”

 

27 Abdel MalikThose killed included Abdel Malik Salam al-Farra, Basem’s 60-year-old father;

 

28 OsamaAbdel Malik’s 34-year-old son Osama Abdel Malik al-Farra;

 

29 AwatefBasem’s 31-year-old pregnant wife, Awatef al-Farra (The embroidery includes the bicycle of Abdel, Basem and Awatef’s son, in the rubble of his room);

 

30 Abdel RahmanBasem’s 8-year-old son Abdel Rahman Basem al-Farra…

 

31 Lujain… and Lujain Basem al-Farra, Basem’s 4-year-old daughter;

 

32 Nadeen16-year-old Nadeen Mahmoud al-Farra, Abdel Malik’s niece;

 

33 Mohammed12-year-old Mohammed Mahmoud al-Farra, Nadeen’s brother;

 

34 Yara8-year-old Yara Mahmoud al-Farra, Nadeen’s sister;

 

35 EmadAnd 28-year-old Emad al- Farra.

 

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, “The commission received information indicating that one of the male family members killed in the attack worked for Hamas, but it is unclear what his functions were. He lived on the top floor of the house, which was completely destroyed, but had not stayed there regularly after the start of the conflict. He was among the group of people who were killed in the street by the second strike.”

When I’m out there at SMoC working on Patterns of Occupied Palestine, I display printouts of various Roger Marshall quotes next to me, like this one:

Hamas fires rockets from Gaza to kill innocent men, women, and children. In return, Israel hits terrorist leaders and operatives with precision strikes. No other nation on Earth would tolerate these hateful attacks. We must continue to support Israel’s right of self-defense. — Toadie-in-chief-for-Trump Roger Marshall, May 8.

Apparently, the killing of most of the al-Farra family was in Roger’s view a “precision strike.” I juxtaposed his comments with a counter-quote by a Palestinian victim of Israeli occupation like this one:

My heart broke every day my daughter was away… Why does Israel treat us like this? We are not affiliated to any political faction, we are just normal people. — Muna, The Electronic Intifada, June 5.

About three weeks after Marshall’s May 8 tweet I was embroidering a portrait of Muna’s 5-year-old daughter Aisha Lulu who was diagnosed with brain cancer in April. The Israeli military denied her family permits to accompany her to the hospital. She died on May 17.

So when Marshall tweets about Hamas killing “innocent men, women and children” and Israel hitting “terrorist leaders and operatives with precision strikes” he ignores these details: of the 2,251 Palestinians killed by occupation forces in the 2014 attacks, 551 were children and 299 were women; 142 Palestinian families, including the al-Farra family, had three or more members killed in the same incident; and Israeli deaths totaled six civilians and 67 soldiers.

Whether it’s the May attacks of this year, in which 30 Palestinians were killed, or the 2014 attacks, the victims are disproportionately Palestinian and the political rhetoric is always the same: Hamas is blamed for everything.   

Israeli strategy is collective punishment for the Palestinians and exceptionalism for itself. There are no citizen-winners here — not the Palestinians, nor the Israeli population, nor us Americans.

 

The al-Farra family

 

Jan Eliasson’s words convey the powerlessness of words when those in power choose never to be moved by them. In fact, they have very successfully exploited this resource like every other resource on the planet to their advantage and have created their own thesaurus. For example, 

terrorist: Hamas, resistance factions, protesters, refugees, innocent civilians

terrorism: Islam

Remember the words Benjamin Netanyahu spat out soon after the September 11 attacks? “It’s very good,” then correcting himself said, “Well, not very good, but it will generate immediate sympathy,” meaning for Israel.

There are no “right words to convince those who have the power to stop” whatever the “this” is in the context of war, intervention and occupation—not as long as we allow the language of our public servants to occupy our political dictionary.

 

Embroidered portraits so far. Please go here and here to see part 1 & 2 of Patterns of Occupied Palestine.

Part 4 follows…

 

SMoC: Who Says Kansas Is Flat?

See also on LA Progressive

IMG_5556The Sidewalk Museum of Congress (SMoC) located outside 1st District Rep. Roger Marshall’s office at 200 E. Iron Ave., Salina, KS, 67401 is an anti-status-quo palette of dissent against the status quo of establishment politics and its allied mainstream media, and of elite museum spaces. This resistance space has every color and no logo. SMoC is the palette, the media, the planter, and the engaging (or not) audience harvester.

 

IMG_7800SMoC communicates through everything that enters its space — through chalk, through grains, music, signs, spoken-word, the homeless pedestrians’ footsteps, embroidery floss, poetry, @RogerMarshallMD’s office window display, car horns, the finger, the hand-wave, the passing freight train, empty glasses, the smells of the nearby flour mill, American Pie, climate, shadows, silence…

 

IMG_5539 copySMoC plants justice in opposition to arrogant white exceptionalism…

 

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IMG_5547 copy… and to the hypocrisy of ag-man Roger Marshall when it comes to the rights of meat packing plants and the market vs the rights of the meat packers who work in them, and other farmworkers.

 

IMG_8589 copyIt plants justice to the Representative’s vomit-inducing tweets such as “Another victory for the @realDonaldTrump administration and our increasing border security!”

 

IMG_4648 2It plants food justice through “discomfort food” and Crystal’s recipe design for American Pie inspired by her question “But what is America?” (recipe drawing by Crystal).

 

IMG_7751America is the land layered with European settler-annihilators that built slave farms on the mainland, whose children built plantations in fertile Central America, whose children built military bases on national parks in Arizona, built them on indigenous territories.

 

IMG_5608SMoC plants justice for the victims of U.S. domestic and foreign policies via songs like “Livin’ in the Wasteland of the Free” by Iris DeMent, as played by Alex and Isaiah…

 

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IMG_5607… and via Angela’s chalked-pink words “NO PEOPLE IN CAGES,” reinforced in blue a few days later by Abbi.

 

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IMG_5574It plants justice for the American citizens of Puerto Rico who still haven’t recovered from superpower neglect after Hurricane Maria…

 

IMG_7848 copy… and for the thousands of Hondurans, Guatemalans, Salvadorans and Nicaraguans who are fleeing to the U.S. from the ravages of decades of U.S. coups, intervention, CIA-backed death squads, economic policies, all of which have rendered their countries unlivable.

 

IMG_5606It plants the names of refugees like 21-year-old Alejandro Gomez Vasquez and 34-year-old Edyn Castro whose remains were found in Pima, Arizona. They are just two of thousands who have died in the deadly Sonoran Desert while trying to seek asylum in the U.S.

 

IMG_5594It plants justice for disoriented families, running, scattering from the roar and shadows of helicopters that are part of the U.S. border patrol’s inhumane Prevention Through Deterrence tactics; running in the night from rattlesnakes, from jumping chollas; running, holding non-reflecting black water bottles.

 

image1It plants justice for asylum-seekers through Piyush’s hand-written words and his “discomfort drink” Toppled Water Glasses.

 

IMG_5603It plants justice for the people of Flint, Michigan. Still. Through John’s spoken-word:

Dirty Water…

—by John E. Epic

Flowing from my tap

Dirty water

Quite toxic

It’s a tragedy, but no mishap

And I’m not drinking it.

Spraying from my shower

Dirty water

While politicians fill their pockets

Soon will be the hour

When we no longer take it.

Children drinking from the faucet

Dirty water

Lead blood droplets

Making ‘em sick and nauseous

and they shouldn’t be drinking it.

Underground pipes under my feet

Dirty water

Carried to impoverished streets

Purposely concealed ignorance

Ignored with apathy

This is what the next generation inherits

And I’m not drinking it.

Neglected planet getting hotter

Dirty water

Natured slaughtered

Dirty water

Future of fire

For our sons and daughters

Dirty water

Old white men behind false altars

Dirty water

Progress slowed by lobbyists and crooked lawyers

Dirty water

Subsided farming drains the well

Dirty water

Anger and hate begin to swell

Dirty water

Who is to blame

Dirty water

All of us should feel ashamed

Dirty water

For the guilt is owned by people with a  common name

Dirty water

Human beings are at fault

Dirty water

Our will has been sold and bought

Dirty water

And now we’re caught

Ashamed

Pointing fingers to blame

Rendering nothing taught

And soon

Half the world will be in flames

And flowing from my tap

Dirty water

Quite toxic

Not a tragedy or mishap

And I’m not drinking it

I’m not going to sit here

And take it

It is time

To right our wrongs

Heal our past crimes

To no longer prolong or continue to permit

The deconstruction of our planet

Dirty water

I’m not drinking it…

 

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Unfinished Portrait: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan

In these fourteen years since I first began work on this project, only Sheila Chandra’s words have stayed consistent: Is waqt hum jazbaat ke sagar mein hain aur sahilon ka kahin patta nahin. Is waqt hum… (At this moment we are in a sea of sentiment, and there is no shore in site. At this moment…)

SMoC

A work that brings us face-to-face with some of those who have died in the US-led invasions and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Unfinished Portrait, acrylic gouache, 2008 (continuing.)

The work so far has seventy-eight 12 x 12 x 3/8 inch panels painted in desert-camouflage colors to represent the first 344,926 people who have died in these wars.

Below is one of thirty-eight panels that is painted with 8,836 small dots representing faces of Iraqi, Afghan and Pakistani children (the tiniest dots you see), women, and men who have died in these wars. Together, these panels represent 335,768 faces.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAccording to the ‘Costs of War’ project based at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, at least 370,000 people have been killed by violence in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. This does not include the many hundreds of thousands more who have died as a result of the destruction of hospitals and infrastructure, and because of environmental…

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Was it a Thumbs Up Sign or a Finger Gun Pointing at Us?

See also on PINK TANK

I have to say it doesn’t take very long for Kansas’ 1st district Rep. Roger Marshall and his staff to feel like as though they are the victims of their constituents’ concerns and not the other way around.

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This time it started on Sunday, August 4 with some singing and chalking on Rep. Marshall’s sidewalk. The chalking included images as well as text such as

“Providing water to refugees is not a crime”

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“More mass shootings than days in 2019: 250 and counting”

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“‘I think the country is safer today than it was three years ago’ — Roger Marshall” (This was chalked the weekend of the El Paso and Dayton shootings.)

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A car drove by with people hanging their heads out and shouting obscenities and something about how “gun control won’t fix it.” And I thought to myself, they’re right. It’s not enough. The problem is much deeper and needs a cultural shift away from social, political and economic injustice as a whole.

 

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The next day, I went as usual to SMoC, my “Sidewalk Museum of Congress” studio, and just as I was getting ready to lay down my work mat, out of the corner of my eye I see a figure inside Marshall’s office come toward the door. For a second I thought the staff person was coming to talk to me, but nothing happened. Did she come to lock the door? Maybe she was intimidated by our chalking from the previous day, and when she saw me coming, was further intimidated and quickly locked the door. But I’m not sure.

Five minutes later my fellow-artist friend Rena joined me, and as she was laying her stuff out, I told her what I thought just happened. After a few minutes we decided to go in and submit a few questions we had hammering at our brains for Marshall about the recent mass shootings.

Marshall’s office has two doors, one of which is behind where I usually sit. It has an old curled up paper sign on it telling visitors to use the other door, around the corner. That’s the door that Marshall used to make a quick getaway, a year ago August 8, when we were protesting some of the same stuff we are today and demanding to meet him.

We haven’t seen him since. (Well, he did have a townhall meeting in Salina on April 20, but the local community access TV posted on Facebook saying “This is Easter weekend, so the crowd wasn’t large due to a lot of family activities around town this weekend.”)

Here Rena and I were again, our questions ready, my phone video on, and as we knocked on the door, Marshall’s staff person opened it and, seeing my phone, told me to please stop recording. I turned the phone off and we tried to voice our two questions for Marshall to a very defensive staff person as she typed them into her computer. Then we went outside to continue working.

Marshall's today

 

I am a native of India, and you know it’s a small world in which government policies affect minimum wage workers, day laborers, farmers, peasants and their families halfway across the globe when your own Kansas member of Congress makes it into one of your native country’s newspapers. The Hindu reported on August 6, “US Congressman Roger Marshall said once again, Trump is doing exactly what he said he would do with China, now in regard to their currency. ‘US producers, workers and consumers have waited long enough for an administration who would stand up to China. I’m thankful it’s finally happening,’ he said.”

Recent severe weather and market uncertainty have impacted Kansas farmers. So on the day that the Hindu reported Marshall’s thankfulness for the tariffs, we decided to write an all-caps message at SMoC using some Kansas crops —soybean, wheat, corn and sorghum. Rena came up with a good one: TRUMP HARMS FARMS.

As we started to fill our palms with the grains to plant them on the concrete, I thought I saw someone nearby taking our picture. Then he walked by us and disappeared around the corner only to appear a little later with Marshall’s staff person, who was smiling and shaking his hand. The scene happened very fast, and only I saw it; Rena’s back was to them. Then the guy got into his car (oddly, with Florida plates) and drove off. Almost immediately, Rena got an email from Marshall’s office regarding our questions (see below.)

We sat back down to continue with what we were doing, and a few minutes later a pedestrian wearing sunglasses just walked right into me, stepping on our “TRUMP HARMS FARMS” slogan-in-the-making and saying, “I’m sorry, I’m hard of seeing.”

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Screen Shot 2019-08-09 at 10.02.51 AM

 

Seconds earlier, another guy in a passing car had blown his horn; Rena looked up at him and her eyes went dark. My back was to the street, so I was sitting there wondering what she’d seen when the guy in sunglasses crashed into me. (Here you see her watching, unsettled, as the car goes by.)

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As we tried once again to finish the work we’d come there to do, Rena told me about the driver who blew the horn. Gesturing with her hand, she said that she couldn’t be sure if it was a thumbs-up sign he’d given her or a “finger gun”.

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Fortunately, we had perched my phone on a little tree on the sidewalk to record the making of our grain slogan in time lapse. Rena patted the tree gently and exclaimed “Thank you tree.” (We had not been thankful for our phone experience inside Marshall’s office the previous day.) You can see for yourself part of the strange sequence of events that interrupted our SMoC studio work that day. Coincidence? Paranoia? What just happened?

One of my questions for Marshall the previous day was whether he still believed himself when he’d said, “I think the country is safer today than it was three years ago,” and whether he was ready to take that statement back.

This is the response we got back from his office while we were planting TRUMP HARMS FARMS on Marshall’s sidewalk:

“Thank you for stopping by Congressman Roger Marshall’s District Office in Salina, Kansas yesterday. This email is to advise that your opinion was filed with Congressman Marshall and our legislative team in Washington, D.C.”

My “opinion?” It was a question. Once again Roger the Dodger is living up to his reputation and ignoring his constituents’ concerns.

I shouldn’t have to go into my Congressman’s office with my video camera in hand to begin with. But let’s face it, I’m paranoid that in the shadow of whatever is left of our democracy, artists like Rena and me are an exposed sidewalk target.

Wouldn’t you be?

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SMoC diary to be continued…

Please go here to see a SMoC experience from October, 2018. By the way, the Republican campaign headquarters that featured in that incident is now a CBD shop lol!

 

Patterns of Occupied Palestine: Part 2 of Uncountable

What do Shahed Amer al-Bayoumi, Abdel-Raouf Salha, Arafat Jaradat, Ayoub Asaleya, Mohammed Suleiman, Sawsan Ali Dawud Mansour, Mohammad H., Isma’il Muslem Hamad Abu Bteihan, Ala Ziad Abu ‘Aasi, Fadi al-Darbi, Atef al-Maqousi, Jaber Ibrahim Abu Hweige, Fadiyah Jaber Abu Hweige and Muhammad Jaber Abu Hweige have in common? They are Palestinians between the ages of 9 and 69 who have been severely injured, imprisoned, or killed by Israeli occupation forces since 1992

The first segment of this series, Patterns of Occupied Palestine: Part 1 of Uncountable, included a portrait of 18-month-old Malak Shaker Abu Shouqa. She was one of 13 people who were killed on July 31, 2014 when an Israeli F-16 warplane struck their homes. Four of the people killed that day included members of the al-Bayoumi family.

13 Shahed Amer al-BayoumBorder pattern includes a toy found in the rubble after the incident

This segment, Part 2, includes 9-year-old, Shahed Amer al-Bayoumi, who survived that attack but was badly injured. According to the multimedia web documentary Obliterated Families, “She now shivers all the time. She was in a coma for 38 days… initially she could not recognize her family. She cannot hold a pen to write, so sometimes her cousin sits with her at the school to help her write.” Shahed lost her cousin Hassan, and her three sisters Abeer, Aseel, and Hadil in the attack.

 

14 Abdel-Raouf SalhaBorder pattern includes a protest sign that says in Arabic “Until when will the siege last?”

13-year-old Abdel-Raouf Salha, was the first Palestinian child to be killed by occupation forces this year. Abdel was injured while participating in the Great March of Return protests on January 11 in the northern Gaza Strip when he was struck in the head by an Israeli-fired tear gas canister causing severe brain injury. He died two days later in a hospital in Gaza City.

According to Ayed Abu Eqtaish, the Accountability Program Director for Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCIP), “Crowd control weapons such as tear gas canisters can become lethal weapons when fired at children, especially if the point of impact is on a child’s head or torso.” DCIP also said that “a high proportion of the Gaza Strip fatalities, 45, were killed by Israeli forces since the start of Great March of Return protests on March 30, 2018, often in the context of protests or related activities.”

 

15 Arafat Jaradat

Suspected of throwing stones and a Molotov cocktail at occupation forces, 33-year-old Arafat Jaradat from the occupied West Bank was arrested on February 18, 2013 and locked up in Israel’s Megiddo prison, where he died five days later after being interrogated by the security agency Shin Bet. On February 24, the Palestinians rights group Al-Haq tweeted saying that the “autopsy of #ArafatJaradat confirmed that he didn’t die of heart attack. Body displayed multiple signs of beating.” He was tortured. According to The Electronic Intifada (EI), “Israel has failed to launch a single criminal investigation for torture despite more than 1,000 complaints by victims since 2001.”

Arafat had two children, Yara and Mohammad. His wife Dalal was expecting their third child at the time of his death. According to the prisoner solidarity network Samidoun, she gave birth to a boy on June 30 and named him Arafat, “after his martyred father.”

 

16 Ayoub Asaleya

12-year-old Ayoub Asaleya was playing with his cousins when he was killed in an Israeli airstrike in Jabalia refugee camp on March 11, 2012, as cross-border fighting between the Israeli military and Palestinian militants raged on for a third day. Adel Essi, 63, was killed by shrapnel from another missile as he was guarding an orchard. According to the New York Times, the attacks had begun “when Israeli air-to-ground missiles killed the leader of the Popular Resistance Committees, Zuhair al-Qissi, and his assistant in Gaza.” The prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu boasted, saying, “My instructions are to strike at anyone planning to harm us… The combination of offensive capabilities, defensive capabilities and civilian resilience is a winning combination, and we have it.”

 

17 Mohammed Suleiman

Mohammad Suleiman, was arrested on April 18, 2011. He is 34 years old and suffers from thalassemia and chronic anemia for which he requires daily medical care, including frequent blood transfusions. As a result of the transfusions his blood contains high levels of iron, causing a perpetual weakening of his heart muscle for which he has had to undergo a daily routine of intravenously injecting a medication called Desferal for 8 to 10 hours to cleanse his body of some of the excess iron. Since his arrest and subsequent medical neglect, his health has deteriorated rapidly; tests confirm that he has an enlarged heart and liver.

According to the prisoner support group Addameer, Mohammad is currently in administrative detention, “a procedure that allows the Israeli military to hold detainees indefinitely on secret evidence without charging them or allowing them to stand trial… The entire family, except for his 20-year-old sister, is currently forbidden from visiting Mohammed.” In early October of ’11 Mohammed’s wife gave birth to Suleiman, their first child.

 

18 Sawsan Ali Dawud Mansour.jpg

In a new wave of unrest that broke out between Occupation forces and Palestinians in October 2015, 28 Israelis and more than 200 Palestinians were killed, including the latest victim,19-year-old Sawsan Ali Dawud Mansour, who was gunned down near the Ras Biddu checkpoint north of Jerusalem on May 23, 2016. According to Ma’an News Agency (MNA), an Israeli spokesperson claimed that a “female terrorist” allegedly attempted to stab a soldier, when “another officer immediately fired gunshots at the Palestinian teen and ‘neutralized’ her.” No Israelis were reported injured in the incident.

 

19 Mohammad H

“I used to play soccer and ride my bike but now my life has completely changed… My message to Israel is that I was participating in a peaceful march and they shot me in the leg and now I don’t have a leg.” Those are the words of 13-year-old Mohammad H., who was severely injured on June 29, 2018. According to DCIP, Israeli forces shot him “at around 6:30 p.m., near Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip… He marched toward the fence with a group of other protesters. Mohammad was unarmed and making a ‘victory’ sign with his fingers. Israeli forces fired multiple rounds at the group and one bullet struck Mohammad’s leg.”

In 2018, DCIP “documented 18 cases of Palestinian children who suffered permanent disability as a result of injuries sustained in the context of Great March of Return protests.”

 

20 Isma’il Abu Bteihan

The patterns of Israeli atrocities and collective punishment carried out on the Palestinians, their families and neighbors, their homes and infrastructure can clearly be seen in the summer of 2014 and the 51-day onslaught of explosives that rained down on the Gaza Strip. The explosive force that killed more than 520 children, including Malak Abu Shouqa and Shahed al-Bayoumi’s three sisters and cousin and left her constantly shivering with fear was “roughly equivalent to that of the Hiroshima atomic bomb,” according to EI.

Just four days before the August 26 ceasefire agreement that ended the assault, Isma’il Muslem Hamad Abu Bteihan, a 69-year-old resident of a-Zawaydah, Deir al-Balah district was killed in a missile attack. According to B’Tselem, he was “killed while sitting under the shade of a tree opposite his home. Four hours later his home was bombarded and completely destroyed.”

 

21 Ala Ziad Abu ‘Aasi

In addition to Malak Shaker Abu Shouqa, Part 1 of Patterns of Occupied Palestine featured 16-year-old Naji Jamil Abu ‘Aasi, who was killed on the 17th of September, 2018 by an Israeli missile along with his cousin. According to Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, “At 12:50 am the next day… Palestinian Red Crescent Society medical teams found the bodies of two civilian-dressed persons. Both had shrapnel injuries on various parts of their bodies and one of them was torn to pieces. The two bodies were taken to Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, where they were identified as Naji Abu ‘Asi, 16, and Alaa’ Abu ‘Asi, 19 [featured here, in part 2]—both residents of Al-Zanna area in Bani Sohaila town in eastern Khan Younis.”

 

22 Fadi al-Darbi

A 30-year-old Palestinian resident of Jenin named Fadi al-Darbi died on October 14, 2015 after suffering “medical negligence by the Israeli Prison Service.” Fadi had been detained by Israeli forces back in 2006 and sentenced to 16 years in jail. The Palestinian Prisoner’s Society said in a statement “that he suffered bleeding in his abdomen two years ago, but was left in solitary confinement, without medical treatment.”

 

23 Atef al-Maqousi

37-year-old Atef al-Maqousi from Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza died on November 8, 2107, after living in a quadriplegic state for 25 years. According to the media center IMEMC, he was shot in the spine by Israeli soldiers in 1992 and as a result suffered ongoing infections and other complications that eventually lead to his death.

 

“At 11:27 am on 27 December 2008, Gaza was bombarded by Israeli warplanes. Instead of the anticipated school bell, the children heard the horrifying sound of bombs.” That’s when Operation Cast Lead began. According to the EI “Israel used its air force, navy, infantry and artillery against a population that already had a long experience of being under military occupation and, more recently, under siege.”

This following testimony is of Jaber Abu Abu Hweij, a resident of Gaza City:

“I lived with my parents and brothers and sisters in the Tufah neighborhood in Gaza City. Our house is between the police building and the al-Mahata mosque. On Saturday, 27.12. 08, while I was at work, one of my neighbors called me and told me to come home quickly.

24 Jaber, Fadiyah & Mohammad

I got home and was shocked by what I saw. The house had been hit by an explosion and was a pile of rubble. Where the house had been there was a big hole. There were dozens of people trying to get my family out of the ruins, but they only managed to get some of them out alive.

My father, Jaber Abu Hweij, 52, my sister, Fadia, 22, and my brother Muhammad, 18, were killed in the bombing. Many other family members were injured.

The neighbors told me the house had been hit three times, one right after the other. Some of my family was hurt in the first strike and while others tried to help them, the house was hit again and others were injured. It happened so quickly there was no time to flee.

I keep seeing my sister Fadia in my mind. She was the last one I saw that morning when I left for work. She is the one who woke me for morning prayers and to go to work. Her voice still echoes in my ears….

Our family has fallen apart. Some [have] been killed and others are hospitalized. We lost our home and all our possessions: all our mementos, our dreams, our stories, our furniture, everything is under the ruins. The important thing now is for me to take care of my family that is still alive. I am particularly taking care of my brother Ahmad, who is still in intensive care.”

I would like to thank Obliterated Families, DCIP, The EI, Samidoun, ADDAMEER, MNA, B’Tselem, Al Mezan, and IMEMC for providing valuable material for this project.

Please go here to see Patterns of Occupied Palestine: Part 1 of Uncountable. Part 3 will follow next month . . .

 

Patterns of Occupied Palestine: Part 1 of Uncountable

See also at PINK TANK

There is no one poster child who embodies the struggle of the Palestinian people living in the shadow of Israeli settlers and military occupation. Every Palestinian child, woman, and man will tell you intricate stories of what life and death is like under the perennial burden of occupation, and what that means for the land beneath their feet, their usurped rivers, their beloved farmers and the artisans, etc.

Aisha Lulu, Amal Mustafa al-Taramsi, Haitham Ismael Saada, Amin Mansour Abu Moammar, Ahmad Ghazal, Izzedin Bani Gharra, Malak Shaker Abu Shouqa, Qutayba Ziad Zahran, Naji Jamil Abu ‘Aasi, Iyad Ousamah Sha’th, Bushra al-Taweel and Yousef Abu Sbeikha al-Boheiri are just twelve of the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who have either been displaced, killed in cold blood by Israeli occupation forces, arrested, injured physically and psychologically, or have died indirectly by the regime’s sadistic design of collective punishment.

Each pattern of occupied Palestine tells its own story. As part of a lifelong project, I will be embroidering images of hundreds of Palestinians, deceased and living. Each of the embroidered portraits to come has a border inspired by Tatreez — a traditional Palestinian embroidery-style, and by the occupied territories’ natural, threatened landscape. Each bordered portrait is also a statement against the ugly and violent apartheid border wall.

Below are the first twelve portraits of occupation in this open-ended series:

1 Aisha LuluBorder pattern includes the hairy pink flax flower

“My heart broke every day my daughter was away… Why does Israel treat us like this? We are not affiliated to any political faction, we are just normal people,” says Muna, whose 5-year-old daughter Aisha Lulu of the Bureij Refugee Camp in the central Gaza Strip was one of the latest casualties of the Israeli occupation. Diagnosed with brain cancer in April, Aisha died on May 17 in a Gaza hospital. Prior to this, she spent a month alone in a hospital bed in Jerusalem, crying for her family, who were denied permits by the Israeli military to accompany her.

 

2 Amal al-Taramsi

The first Palestinian to be killed by Israeli occupation forces this year was a 44-year-old resident of the Shaikh Radwan neighborhood of north Gaza City, Amal Al-Taramsi, who was shot in the head during protests in the occupied Gaza Strip on Friday, January 11, 2019.

 

3 Haitham SaadaBorder pattern includes the endangered Palestinian mountain gazelle

“Haitham was not yet 15 when he died. His average grade in school this year was 87. In the memorial photos he wears a dark kaffiyeh on his head. He was the firstborn child and only son of his parents; there are three younger sisters. His father, Ismail, 43, a construction worker in Kiryat Gat, looks as though he has not yet absorbed what happened. A crooked smile occasionally crosses his lips as he recounts the events of his Black Friday.” Ismail’s son, 14-year-old Haitham Saada was hit by two Israeli bullets on February 5, 2016. The IDF accused him of getting ready to throw a Molotov cocktail at the soldiers, and so they fired and killed him.

 

4 Amin Mansour

On March 30, 2018, during the Land Day protests along the Gaza-Israel boundary, more than 1,400 Palestinians were wounded by live ammunition and rubber-coated steel bullets, and 16 were killed by Israeli occupation forces. One of the dead was 22-year-old Amin Mansour Abu Moammar from Rafah, in the southern Gaza strip.

 

5 Ahmad Ghazal

17-year-old Ahmad Ghazal from the Ras Al-’Ain neighborhood of northern occupied West Bank, was shot and killed after he stabbed and wounded two Israeli men in the Old City of Jerusalem on April 1, 2017. The Accountability Program Director for Defense for Children International – Palestine, Ayed Abu Eqtaish, said, “Israeli forces now appear to routinely resort to the use of intentional lethal force in situations not justified by International norms, which in some incidents amount to extrajudicial killings.”

 

6 Izzedin Bani

21-year-old Izzeddin Bani Gharra was one of almost 200 Palestinians killed by occupation forces in the occupied territories in 2015. He was shot and killed during an Israeli arrest raid on June 10, 2015. “I lost everything after Izz was killed, it was a shock, my son Izz loves life and he loves Palestine. Israel killed him in cold blood,” Bani Gharra’s mother told Ma’an News Agency.

 

7 Malak ShakerBorder pattern includes the Palestinian sunbird

Between July 7 and August 26, 2014 the besieged Gaza strip was bombarded by Israeli explosives, killing more than 2,130 Palestinians. 18-month-old Malak Shaker Abu Shouqa lived in the Al Nuseirat refugee camp, which is home to more than 80,000 refugees, and is located in the middle of the Gaza strip. On July 31, she, along with 12 other Palestinians were killed when an Israeli F-16 warplane struck their homes. Two of the others killed were her relatives.

 

8 Qutayba ZahranBorder pattern includes olives

The Israeli border police continued to fire into 17-year-old Qutayba Ziad Zahran’s body after he fell on the ground at the Zaatara military checkpoint in northern occupied West Bank. The Israeli authorities alleged that the teenager attempted to carry out a knife attack on Israeli forces, but in fact a soldier was hurt in a friendly fire incident. Hundreds attended Zahran’s funeral procession on September 9, 2017, 20 days after the incident. Zahran’s father learned of his son’s death through local news and Facebook. According to Ma’an News Agency “Israel often delays the delivery of slain Palestinian bodies to their families in the occupied Palestinian territory, and imposes strict conditions on funerals, alleging that funerals of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces leads to ‘incitement.’”

 

9 Naji Abu ‘Aasi

Twenty of the twenty-three Palestinians killed in the month of September, 2018, were from Gaza, including 16-year-old Naji Jamil Abu ‘Aasi, who was killed on the 17th by an Israeli missile, along with his cousin, 19-year-old Ala Ziad Abu ‘Aasi (portrait follows in part 2 of this series.) Both were from the Bani Sohaila town in eastern Khan Younis.

 

10 Iyad Sha’thBorder pattern includes the Dead Sea which has been “shrinking rapidly due to Israel’s diversion of the head waters of the Jordan River.”

Israeli General Ariel Sharon’s September 28, 2000 walk through the Muslim holy site Haram Al-Sharif in occupied east Jerusalem, as he was accompanied by hundreds of Israeli police officers, triggered the second Palestinian Intifada. But the uprising had more to do with the failed peace process, continuing settlement expansion and the deteriorating lives of Palestinians living under occupation. According to Defense for Children International, more than 1,996 children have been killed since then, with 700 children killed between September 2000 and February 2005, including a 14-year-old resident of Khan Younis, Iyad Ousamah Sha’th, who was killed by live ammunition on October 24, 2000.

 

11 Bushra al-Taweel

The 26-year-old journalist and photographer Bushra al-Taweel has been arrested three times in her young life by occupation forces, with the latest arrest happening on November 01, 2017. According to the Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association ADDAMEER, “Human Rights Defender Bushra al-Taweel has been subjected to continuing adversity imposed by the occupation forces. She was first arrested at 18 years old and was released from her second arrest in May 2015 after serving almost a year in detention. Now, Bushra is imprisoned under administrative detention. She will, hopefully, be released in July 2018 after spending 8 months without having any charges brought against her and without having the opportunity to stand trial.” Bushra remains a detainee at the Hasharon (Telmond) Prison in Israel.

 

12 Yousef al-BoheiriBorder pattern includes olive trees. “Since 1967 some 800,000 olive trees have been uprooted by Israeli forces and settlers in the occupied West Bank alone.”

A 48-year-old farmer, Yousef Abu Sbeikha al-Boheiri from the al-Maghazi refugee camp in central Gaza, died on December 27, 2015 from gunshot wounds he had sustained the previous Friday while working in his farmland.

Part 2 follows…

I would like to thank The Electronic Intifada, Defense for Children International, Addameer, Israel-Palestine Timeline and B’tselem for providing valuable material for this project.

 

 

Message From Madeline to Donald: “You are Bullying the People”

See also at Common Dreams

This is an island surrounded by water, big water, ocean water — Donald Trump, INDEPENDENT, September 29, 2017.

This is a three-part photo essay accompanying an article by Stan and Paul Cox, titled ‘Vulnerable Americans Are Still Trapped in the Ruins Left by Hurricane Maria.’

Superpower Neglect: There’s Something About a Neighbor (part 3)

The United States government would rather have us remain silent about who we might meet with and talk to in Puerto Rico about Hurricane Maria, the destruction it caused, and how the mainland responded…

 

IMG_5171…such as always-smiling Fela Suren who says she’s “80-something.” She wasn’t in her house when Maria made landfall, but was staying with a friend. She said she started screaming “Ahhhhhhh!” when the hurricane struck, and she doesn’t wish to see anything like another Maria ever again. She laughs and adds that she wants to go to the United States…

 

IMG_5188…or remain silent about Fela’s undrinkable green tap water that she says she only bathes with…

 

 

 

…or the papaya and gandules trees that she planted in her yard…

 

Untitled 3…or this montage of her roofless, destroyed home that includes a makeshift bedroom in her kitchen with the boarded window…

 

IMG_5175…or the pods from her gandules trees that lie strewn about on the dirt and that she sweeps off with her pink broom and breaks into a broken white cup to cook with and eat…

 

IMG_5202…or, maybe while she sits, waiting for people from the church that “adopted” her to come and put new windows into her unfinished home…

 

IMG_5158…or this inside-out-home with a sign that says ‘No Toque’ (Do Not Touch), because of the mistaken belief that “FEMA is coming…”

 

IMG_5248…or this Maria-brush-picket-fence…

 

IMG_5060 (1)…or this photo of then-young, now-96-year-old Juana San Miguel with her mother Evarista Diaz and stepdad Alfonzo Cruz…

 

IMG_5057…or about our guide and translator Madeline Flores Tenazoa (left), Juana San Miguel (center), or Victoria Febás…

 

IMG_5061.jpg…and the fact that Juana, who will turn 97 this May and worked in a garment factory for 30 years, never missed a day’s work in her life; or that Victoria worked for the government as a nurse, and they both live on social security and are two of the elderly people who are the majority in Sierra Brava. “We have good neighbors here” says Juana. Both of them live by themselves, and neither of them drive or have a car. “Almost all old people here,” says Madeline. “Every time they [the neighbors] check if they need something” from the supermarket, or any other help…

 

IMG_5074…or that Victoria, who, framed by portraits of her family on the wall behind her, can be seen here, smiling, wearing her beloved chihuahua Lindita on her right wrist like an oversize bracelet, and with her left hand holding a photo of her son, Ramon, who, like Wilma’s son, Juan Carlos (see part 1), serves in the United States Army…

 

IMG_5070…or the sticker next to the rippling wall-paint showing signs of water seepage, that says ‘There’s something about a soldier.’ Madeline tells us that Victoria’s neighbor, who was living across the street, had to leave because he, like many, couldn’t find a job in Sierra Brava. She said that he did a lot for Victoria. If she needed anything from the supermarket, for instance, she only had to cross the street and ask him and he would bring whatever she needed. But now she has to wait for her daughter to come from San Juan to go to the supermarket. “There’s something about a soldier” works great in the U.S. mainland where cowards make the rules and young citizens like Ramon who fought in Afghanistan serve and die for them. But in the island territory of Puerto Rico, “There’s something about a neighbor” rings more true…

 

IMG_5229…or this piece of land where Madeline’s grandmother’s old house stood. “My grandmother [was] born here…When I came [to live here] I was only 11 days old, and my grandmother was living here with her mom. We had [two] big trees here,” says Madeline, and the day that Maria struck, they fell and “broke the house in two pieces.” Her cousin — who had bought the old house — was here during Maria. When the house was destroyed, Madeline says “my grandmother went crazy… she told everybody she needed to come to see [for herself] what happened, and she started crying! crying!… the house is not the same, now it’s a new house… she say I passed all my life there, and my dad died there, I saw mama die there…” (La Plena, Puerto Rico)

 

IMG_5098…or about Madeline’s grandmother, 78-year-old Milagros Colón, whose home in Sierra Brava was also destroyed by the hurricane. Madeline tells us that “the tree fell [through the roof] and the water came inside from the river and she lost everything. They [FEMA] came, but my grandmother she doesn’t speak English. How’s she gonna talk with him. How?” Later, “they send the letter [saying] you qualify only for $400, but what’re you going to pay [for all that was destroyed] with $400? Madeline says that the tree was on Milagros’ bedroom side of the house and when it fell, the bedroom window came crashing down on her grandmother’s bed. “Thank God she wasn’t here! [when it happened.] I was in the United States, but I called my grandmother [and told her] you please don’t stay in the house. My uncle lives in an apartment on the second floor.” She says Milagros wanted to stay but Madeline insisted “you can go [there], you need to go!… She says she feels the consequences [of the disaster] now,” a year and a half later…

 

Untitled 4…or about what many Puerto Rican’s felt about Donald Trump’s hurricane-response behavior. “If you see what happened when Trump came, and, he laugh, everybody laugh, with the paper towel. Ah, you can get this [paper towels], like… this?! You can clean your nose with this, but how I’m gonna to repair my house?… A lot of people were like ‘ha! ha! ha! oh, this is funny!’ It’s not funny. You are bullying the people.” Madeline alludes to Donald putting bully words in peoples’ mouths. Especially the children. “We need to repair everybody’s [houses]…he’s the first man [she laughs] and you do this with the people?…when the hurricane passed, a lot of kids’ parents [couldn’t] buy clothes again. They can’t buy backpacks, notebooks… and a lot of kids go like, ‘oh, your mom can’t buy you this? I have this!’…We need to stop. But it’s the same when you see in the news the government behaved the same with us! You try to tell the kids, ‘you need to stop [bullying]’, but they see the news, they see stuff in Facebook and they want to repeat…”

 

IMG_5250…or of this tough little tree in Central Aguirre that’s hanging on to precious life through the few roots that Maria spared it…

Madeline ends with, “A lot of people come from the United States and other places, want to see the water and they want to go to eat next to the water and they say oh! this is so beautiful, but when the hurricane passed? it wasn’t so good for the people.” And how — now that the 2017 Hurricane Maria doesn’t make the news anymore — she, and others, believe that people “over there” (in the mainland) “say ah! maybe the people they got everything again. No. No. No. They need… five years more to come up. If everything continue like this? maybe 10!”

Please click on links below for part 1 & 2:

Superpower Neglect: Casting Shadows, Still (part 1)

Superpower Neglect: A Theater of Injustice (part 2)

“Maria! Maria! Nos Destruyó Maria!”

See also on CounterPunch

Maria! Maria! nos destruyó Maria! (Maria! Maria! it was Maria that destroyed us!) — Socoro Rolon, Sierra Brava, Salinas, Puerto Rico, February 5.

This is a three-part photo essay accompanying an article by Stan and Paul Cox, titled ‘Vulnerable Americans Are Still Trapped in the Ruins Left by Hurricane Maria.’

Superpower Neglect: A Theater of Injustice (part 2)

Socorro is right. Maria did devastate Puerto Rico. But it was the U.S. government that spent more than a century rendering Puerto Rico vulnerable to such a disaster and then failed to mount an adequate recovery effort.

The detritus of superpower neglect is something to behold. But no matter how much we residents of the mainland are trying to ignore it, the stillness of that detritus is screaming at us…

 

IMG_5046…through the once-driven cars and lived-in houses that line Sierra Brava’s empty streets…

 

IMG_5051…and the brightly colored, destroyed hopes, and the half constructed grey hopes that lie side by side, waiting, waiting for FEMA…

 

IMG_4970…the teachers who lost jobs when nine area schools closed down, and the overwhelming desire of some of their students not to stay in Puerto Rico… (mural detail, Parque AA De Salinas, Puerto Rico)

 

IMG_5161…through an open door of one of these schools where a homeless person or family and their belongings appear to be taking shelter…

 

IMG_4971…the kids who saw all that rain start falling on September 20 and wanted to go out and play in it, not knowing what horrors would follow. One day… two days… one week… two weeks… one month… four months with no power, no water, and the sinking realization in their little hearts that something terrible has happened. And today, every time the power goes out they get hurricane flashbacks, and no school psychologists to talk with… (mural detail, Parque AA De Salinas, Puerto Rico)

 

IMG_5221…through a small used-to-be clinic in La Plena, where one doctor used to show up once a week, and which now looks like a clinic out of a Dr. Seuss book with cactuses growing on the roof, and comején (termites) on the outside wall eating up whatever is left of the little structure. Not a Seuss any child would like to read…

 

IMG_4972…through the words of 30-year-old Madeline, a mother of 2, and our short-term neighbor, guide & translator, who grew up in the neighborhood of Sierra Brava and knows everybody there: “The men go to work in the United States, but the women stay here with the kids. You see? The family suffered and we don’t know how [all] this is going to come up again. We’re trying but… Mommy stays with the kids, but where’s Dad? Oh, Daddy needs to go out, to the United States to work. And we got a lot of family here like that. It’s only Mom in the house. Daddy needs to work, Mama don’t find nothing here and… the parents separate… (mural detail, Parque AA De Salinas, Puerto Rico)

 

IMG_4939…and a mural chronicling Puerto Rico’s salseros, on the wall of the abandoned Teatro Coqui that includes an inscription in which a deity of the Santeria religion declares, “I, Elegua, order it: take out the drums!!… (mural painted by Salinas artist Osvaldo Dowell Colón)

 

IMG_5039 copy…on the blue plastic tarps draping roofless houses in incomprehensible capacities…

 

IMG_5089…through the larger-than-life figure of Orlando Guzman Vasqez who turned 74 last month, and the knee that he broke when he fell from his roof while trying to fix it (when he got tired of waiting for help with restoration): “I born over here. This is my grandfather’s house. I have the papers for the house. My father is still alive. He’s 98 years old. He lives in Connecticut… I worked in the United States for 40 years, in New York City, in construction… I lost everything in the house. The furniture, television, everything. They don’t pay me nothing for nothing inside.” But, he says, having a roof over his head is better than nothing. “I gonna try to finish this with the money I collect, It’s not enough money.” Asked if he might get fed up and go back to New York, he said no, because it’s too expensive to live there. He pointed to his mango tree. “It’s cold over there. Over here when I’m hungry I eat the mango and drink some water, and that’s it…”

 

IMG_5053…through Socorro’s house that she can’t live in. Socorro tells us that “everything was destroyed by the hurricane and just stayed the same way…”

 

IMG_5138…She told us, “You can’t live here, look at how it is, we are living up there. Total destruction… Look at the house, it is destroyed… everything got wet and that’s why it was destroyed, we used to sleep there in those old mattresses over there, and everything was wet… nothing could be saved…What can I do? Just keep going until God knows when, what else can I do?… We were helped by FEMA for the rent, but FEMA didn’t help with the interior and the other things. So, we signed up for a plan called Renace (Rebirth.) Renace came four times to check the house, and they said afterwards the house couldn’t be fixed. I have a letter they sent, and it said the house was in bad condition. The house is still like that… We have been paying what we’ve been able to, because FEMA doesn’t help anymore… My husband is sick…

 

IMG_5143and I have a sickness in my ears, and he had a stroke. I can’t do more than I’m currently doing. What am I supposed to do?… The hurricane, it destroyed, destroyed half the world over here. It took the street, and didn’t spare anyone… My husband and I went to the refuge. We were astonished because we couldn’t take anything with us. When we returned we found total destruction. We went back to the refuge, but since my husband had a stroke, I returned to the house, and we stayed though it was destroyed, we did what we could… I had to sleep on a table. It was a small bed, and everything was wet… So we have that house with a check that FEMA gave us, but they didn’t help anymore afterwards, and what we get from Social Security isn’t much…”

At this point, her neighbor Raul Garay stopped by. Seeing us, he told her, “It’s about time they showed up!” Maybe he thought we were FEMA. He told us in English, “Socorro means ‘Help me!’ That’s the translation… Socorro… HELP!”

As we left, Socorro said, “Maria… Maria it was Maria that destroyed us… Thank you for coming.”

 

IMG_4928And for that day, the curtain fell on the theatre of superpower injustice. (Teatro Coqui, Guayama, Puerto Rico) 

Please click on links below for part 1 & 3:

Superpower Neglect: Casting Shadows, Still (part 1)

Superpower Neglect: There’s Something About a Soldier (part 3)