The local buffoon of the week is Warren Tribune Community Columnist Martha Yoder. Ms. Yoder wrote a column entitled, “Tyranny both at home and afar.” Yoder sees tyranny as the passage of the “Affordable Care Act” (Obamacare) and safety and environmental laws. Yoder feels it is tyranny to have healthcare that people can afford and a hindrance on business to ask them not to pollute our air and water. Yoder claims to fight the tyranny of President Obama and even local politicians we must be better informed to start with. Yoder thinks she is part of the solution as she is here to inform us in her column. The problem is her “facts” are always skewed as her sources are always biased right-wing outfits like Job Creators Network and the Heritage Foundation. Ms. Yoder says we must take to our communities and public squares and fight the tyranny. I’m betting Yoder wasn’t bothered when under GW. Bush we had the Patriot Act, a lie to go to war, torture and people held at Gitmo for years without trial. Ms. Yoder mentions Reagan saying he warned us tyranny was around the corner and that we have to fight for freedom. I guess she forgot Reagan sold weapons to our enemies and ran an illegal war that unlike Obamacare no one voted for. Reagan defended the racist apartheid government in South Africa. As for tyranny Reagan backed brutal dictators all across Latin America (an example in Guatemala) supporting and training these dictators death squads. Between 200,000-300,000 Latin American nuns, priests, union organizers, environmentalists and freedom fighters were killed with Reagan’s blessing. Those were people fighting against tyranny Martha not a bunch of Teabaggers who have medical insurance and don’t want other having the same. Martha Yoder concludes saying we must “roust ourselves from complacency and ignorance and reclaim our inheritance of freedom.” Martha you need to rescue yourself from your own ignorance for that is the tyranny that has stolen your freedom.
I have said many times my goal is a better world for my children. It saddens me that in other countries that might mean a parent lets their child go off to work in a sweatshop instead of going to school. Even worse is when I see countries that have rebel armies made up of children soldiers. They like using children because the young feel invincible and are easily manipulated. I just saw a documentary about how young Muslim children are manipulated to be suicide bombers. Some of these kids are lied to and told the bomb will blow outwards and not harm them. Many Arabs spoke out and said that the Quran is a book of peace and condemns such actions. In the U.S. I kept hearing people ask where are the Muslims speaking out against what happened on 9/11. I guess they were so busy assuming no Muslims spoke out to actually do any fact checking. Since the attacks on September 11, hundreds of Muslim leaders and scholars made statements condemning the attacks and expressing support for the United States and sympathy for the victims. The conservative media like FOX kept saying no Muslims have condemned 9/11 and the rest of the media did a poor job of publishing 100’s of Muslims condemned the terror of 9/11. The lies led to vandalism and burning of Mosques all around this nation. Here is a map pointing out how many incidents happened at Mosques in the U.S.
All around the world we have hatred and misunderstanding. We have warring tribes in Africa, Jews and Palestinians at war; we have North Ireland Catholics and Protestants hating one another and different sects of Muslims hating one another. These hatreds go back many years and those injured in these conflicts are still pained and don’t see peace as a way to heal. Those who lost loved ones don’t want them to have died in vain. Won’t staying angry at that lost and not seeking peace just cost another generation of loved ones? Hate and war are a terminal cancer that grows and spreads if not treated. The treatment is to start with small injections of coming together to air grievances and to dialogue. It is easy to hate an enemy you’ve never met yards away in a trench. It is much harder to hate someone you know has suffered just like you in the conflict you are both caught up in. The ultimate cure for the cancer of hatred and war is understanding and peace. History has shown us this ultimate cure can be rather rare.
After 27 years in prison Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as the first black South Africa president in 1994. As President, he established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to investigate past human rights abuses by the oppressive, racist former white controlled government. The TRC was a court based of restorative justice ( (a method of dealing with convicted criminals in which they are urged to accept responsibility for their offenses through meeting victims, making amends to victims or the community, etc). The TRC had 19 public hearings each having many victims of gross human rights testify about their experiences. Perpetrators of the violence could also give testimony and request amnesty. Former white president F.W. de Klerk appeared before the TRC and apologized for the suffering to blacks caused by apartheid. Mandela felt these hearing of grievances and facing the accusers would be a healing. Most people in South Africa considered this a good way to start a new government. Of course such an unusual course for a peaceful solution is a bitter pill to swallow for mankind that is vengeful by nature. Many people felt that the TRC favored the perpetrators of abuse because justice should have been a prerequisite for reconciliation rather than an alternative to it.
Steps towards reconciliation in Northern Ireland could be a peace model for the rest of the world. When you really take time and look at the horrors of hatred and war your heart and soul can be moved to speak out for not justice but peace. Twenty five years ago two English soldiers were killed in Belfast by Catholic mourners in a funeral procession of a man killed by Protestant paramilitary. The soldiers though armed chose not to fire on the civilian mob and were beaten to death. A Catholic woman who goes by the alias, Nuala Cassidy (whose father was killed in the conflict between Catholics and Protestants) was told about the soldiers being killed by her mother who was there. The woman horrified-and moved by her mother’s account named her first child after the two slaughtered soldiers. She told writer Richard Pendlebury this about the two soldiers “As an Irish Catholic, I am so very proud of them. They taught me the meaning of true Englishmen. They were strong, brave, honorable men who gave their lives for those who killed them.” She has since written to the parents of the soldiers to praise them and say “A Catholic boy from Belfast is named after your son.” Nuala shares with the parents of the slain soldiers the loss of a son. She conveyed that to the soldier’s parents “When he was still small I gave my son up for adoption. Our life in Belfast had become too much. I felt I had no way out. I wanted more for him, which I could not give. The past cannot be altered. We all bear the scars. Our sons, who have the same names, bear them too.”
Organizations of Catholic and Protestants who’ve lost family members have been getting together for a number of years and sharing their grief. The same thing is happening with families of Israelis and Palestinians. The growing number of Israeli refuseniks is also a good sign towards a peaceful solution in Gaza and the West Bank. An example of a refusenik is 18-year-old Israeli Noam Gur who last year publicly announced her intention to refuse mandatory service in the Israeli army. Set to be drafted Gur stated in an open letter: “I refuse to take part in the Israeli army because I refuse to join an army that has, since it was established, been engaged in dominating another nation, in plundering and terrorizing a civilian population that is under its control” Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP) is a U.S. organization seeking “an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem” and opposes Israel Defense Forces operations in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and supports the refuseniks. Here is a list of organizations and projects to promote peace and understanding among Arabs and Israelis. With so many groups trying for peace in that part of the world maybe we will get there in my lifetime.
In Rwanda there was a genocide in 1994, Hutus killed about 700 hundred thousand Tutsis. The killings were done by the army, by militias, and by neighbors. In some mixed families relatives killed Tutsis; sometimes parents killed their own children. About 50,000 Hutus were also killed because they were regarded as unwilling to go along with the genocide. At the Kigali Genocide museum the exhibits include one on rescuers, Hutus who endangered themselves to save Tutsis. In 1999 the government established a National Unity and Reconciliation Commission (NURC). The NURC held public meetings around the country where people could say what they believed was necessary for reconciliation and what they needed to be able to reconcile. For example, some women said: “I lost everything, including my husband, I need to feed my family and be able to send my children to school.” At that time this cost money at all grade levels. One positive act of the government was to make education free up to high school. Another positive step was to eliminate official discrimination, in admitting students to schools and universities, as well as in employment.
Back in their communities, former perpetrators and former victims now live side by side, with many emotional challenges in this situation. Some films that have been made of their interactions show painful steps as they move toward forgiveness and reconciliation, suggesting reasonable success. Others show deep continuing fear and pain underlying coexistence in everyday life. Many try to maintain and promote changing attitudes by the parties toward each other. The challenge for them is to create the conditions that will lead people in Rwanda to identify themselves as primarily Rwandans not Tutsis and Hutus. Rwanda’s history shows that white colonization from Belgium led to the hatred between Tutsis and Hutus. The Belgians used divide and conquer by favoring the Tutsi which led to them being hated by the Hutus. Alice Mukarinda a Tutsi was confronted and asked for forgiveness by Emannuel a Hutu man who hacked her hand off and left her for dead. Here is the heart-breaking story.
A Gacaca is the name of the local court held outside on the grass in every community in Rwanda where survivors and the victims’ families can confront the accused about the Rwanda genocide. It is a method of transitional justice, designed to promote healing and helping to give closure to the genocide. The story about Alice and Emannuel says “The surprising thing about Gacaca is that when people like Emmanuel tell the truth, the survivors come to love them, while the Hutu who worked with them during the genocide start hating them.”
To bring this story of reconciliation and forgiveness to a local level let me tell you about Chuck. Chuck was a successful business owner in Akron. Chuck owned some apartments; a nice house had a pretty wife and a great life. He’d had a complaint about an abandoned junk car at the apartment building he owned. Chuck had the car towed away and then had the car owner who was one of Chuck’s tenants show up. The tenant was angry and hit Chuck who fell backwards hitting his head. Chuck ended up in the hospital for months in a coma. Chuck lost his business, his apartments, his good life and all but his pretty wife. Chuck came out of the coma and has some brain damage and speech problems. Chuck works daily on different physical therapy to better his situation. For mental therapy Chuck who is also a pastor decided to learn more about his attacker. The assailant is an alcoholic but loves his family and has always strived to care for his children. Chuck got to know the man’s wife and children and found himself at trial speaking up for this man who had so severely injured him. Chuck has helped the assailant’s wife and children in many ways. The children don’t know why their dad is in jail or that Chuck was injured by their dad. The man has written to Chuck thanking him and now they regularly correspond. Chuck’s wife and Alice’s Rwandan husband don’t quite understand the reconciliation and forgiveness their spouses have come to accept. In telling Chuck’s story I can’t possibly do it justice. I can tell you when he tells it there isn’t a dry eye in the place. Even with his speech impediment he will fill your heart with admiration for the heights of spirituality which a human being is capable of.
Reconciliation seems hard to comprehend in our vengeful U.S. society. Are there enough Chucks, Alices, Nuala Cassidys, Noam Gurs, and Nelson Mandelas in the world to show us that understanding, forgiveness, peace and love can end hatred and war? I hope so for my children and the world’s sake. For anyone of these people not forgiving would mean that evil has won and none of them could live with that. Peace~ The Elecpencil
As We Forgive: The Story of Rwandas Redemption.
Local Band: The Huckin Fillbillys
“The practice of forgiveness is our most important contribution to the healing of the world.”
― Marianne Williamson