EXODUS

EXODUS

“We are a nation made strong by people like you: people who traveled long distances,overcame great obstacles and made tremendous sacrifices,all to provide a better life for themselves and their families.” ( Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Supreme Court Justice, daughter and grandaughter of immigrants. Address to new citizens, December,2018)

“Your enemy is not the refugee. Your enemy is the one who made him a refugee”.  (Tariq Ramadan)

“Children do not immigrate. They flee.” (Fernando Stein M.D. Past President, American Academy of Pediatrics).

While it has always been the nature of humans to migrate, the painfully chaotic situation unfolding along our U.S. southern border is also the latest iteration of a long- standing fractal of exclusion, isplacement, violence and oppression. Migrants now seeking asylum from Central America, are survivors from a region which has long carried many layers of unresolved collective trauma. Beginning in Pre-Colombian times, various populations endured multiple tribal wars, slavery, human-sacrifice, famine, epidemics and natural disasters. The arrival of the Spanish conquistadores was an emormous shock to existing social orders. Soon to follow were European missionaries and their insistence on radically different values, languages, and Catholic Christianity. These colonial newcomers also forceably imposed their Gregorian calendar, which presented an entirely different time frame for secular and religious life. All of these Central American countries; Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama, which have experienced overwhelming interventions and exploitations of theocractic colonial rule, have multiple residual collective traumas which have, in turn, led to more wars, revolutions and economic and other kinds of exploitation. (ASJ, Trauma y Condicion Humana en America Latina, 2017)

Current tensions with our southern neighbors  are nothing new and date at least as far back as 1904, when imperialist President Theodore Roosevelt, as a corallary to the Monroe Doctrine, declared the “right” for the USA to  intervene with police power within any Latin American nation that engaged in “chronic wrong-doing”. This rubric included large debts and civil unrest. (Seeking Empires, ushistory.org). As a result, our imperialist interventions and predatory foreign policies in Central America, along with generations of military and corprorate-sponsored political interventions, have unleashed economic deprivations, crime, corruption, political instability, and gender-based violence. Volumes could be written about our enabling the illegal drug trade and the United Fruit Company and other Agro-businesses to enslave local populations. The current situation is now such that years of state and drug related gang violence, together with extreme and grinding poverty, has forced hundred of thousands to flee from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua to join a 4,000 km journey that began in the northern Honduran city of  San Pedro Sula,  of the deadliest crime regions on Earth. With no one person in charge, men women and their children were desparate enough to undertake a long perilious journey north through Guatemala into Mexico. Along the way, there were challenges and deprivations including shortages of food, clean water, sanitation and safety. Temperatures often reached 35C (95F). Women and children were especially vulnerable to kidnapping, rape, human trafficking and other predations. Anyone who has followed the kleptocratic history of our involvement in Latin America knows that current migratory crisises from this  region are our problem.

Migrants experienced mixed receptions along their way. As British journalist, Bryan Mealer traveling with them observed, these brave souls set out across mountains, rivers and forests, afternoon rains soaked meager belongings as they came to be seen as both menace and symbol of hope. A caravan of 4,000 people doesn’t simply visit a town, it swallows it whole, figuratively, if not physically, and  takes the entire place hostage with their energy and chaos. Stewing in the heat, migrants slowly moved through  streets, stalling traffic. Their threadbare bedrolls occupied every open porch and sliver of shade as insects bit the weary in need of rest. Along streets residents peered out through closed shutters and many businesses closed. Mealer challenges American media’s claim that the majority of migrants are young males in contrast to his own experience, as a fellow traveller, stating categorically, these are families with many elderly, women and children and more than a few with special needs.

As Mealer journeyed along he reflected upon all who came before, now as ghosts walking along his side: migrants from El Salvador, Cuba, Russia and Germany; from the killing fields of Sudan, Iraq and Syria. Cotton pickers from Texas and sodbusters from Oklahoma. Hebrews wandering the desert, a woman from Nazareth wth her newborn son, fleeing a tyrant. (ukguardian.com, November 26, 2018).  Mealer’s reflections gave rise to thoughts of my own ancestors; French Hugenots fleeing life-threatening Catholic persecution, as well as  destitute Cornish miners, who migrated to Australia and South Africa in search of work. Their descendants, who eventually made it to America, myself included, still bear some epigenetic, heartfelt longing to finally be able to return “home”.

Through sheer determination and minimal resistance, the migrants made it through immigration checkpoints and border fences from Guatemala into Mexico. Eventually, they reached the small Oaxacan town of Santiago Niltepec, which had recently experienced an  8.2 earthquake, devastating their town and killing many residents. Niltepec’s mayor had received advanced notice of the migrant’s approach, and she organized a welcome with food and clean water along with  a statement: “We know about suffering in this town and we don’t want these people going through the same.” (Jonathan Blitzer, newyorker.com, October 30, 2018).     As this ongoing caravan continued to wind its way north, through Mexico’s poorest regions, locals headed toward their main route with offerings of food, fresh water and any spare clothing. Meanwhile, more affluent Mexicans complained about this influx of foreigners from less affluent countries. This, in turn, raised uncomfortable questions about Mexico’s own relationship with migration. As Ibero-American University’s Professor Javier Urbano explained, “For us, an immigrant is someone coming from a rich country. A migrant is someone coming from a poor country…. Its a class issue”. (David Agren, ukguardian , November 9, 2018).

Those who made it all the way up to Tijuana and the San Ysidro port of entry, met a hostile reception. Asylum seekers, including women and children, were sprayed with toxic clouds of tear gas by American border agents while they were still on Mexican soil. This atrocity was cynically defended by Ronald Colburn, President of the Border Patrol Foundation claiming that tear gas was a natural substance, “so safe you could put it on your nachos to eat.” Never mind that tear gas (2-chlorobenzyalmalononitrile ) is classified as a chemcial weapon, banned in international conflicts since 1997. This chemical causes a number of unpleasant effects including inflammation of all mucous membranes and should never be used against children. More than a few of our citizens, including President Donald Trump, expressed the view that these “illegal people” got what they deserved, “because they were there “. (Amy Goodman, democracynow.org, November 28, 2018).

Blaming victims is nothing new, and some historical facts may offer some perspective for those concerned with “illegals”. There was a time when slavery was legal and hiding runnaway slaves illegal. In this country, segregation was legal and protesting racism criminalized up until  the Civil Rights movement of the nineteen sixties. The Holocaust was also legal and hiding Jews or other “undesirables” was  a crime, sometimes punishable by death. One wonders if the rising tide of opposition to asylum seekers is related to a desparate need to deny that our foreign policies have any repsonsiblity for creating  situations from which so many need to flee?

Nevertheless, xenophobic class wars and racism run deep within American culture and  I doubt that history or other facts matter much to those “zero tolerance” hard-liners opposed to imigration, especially of people of color and are all too willing to have them characterized as criminals and potential terrorists infiltrating the journey, all the way over from the Middle East. As we have seen, this administration and their minions, employ and enjoy cruelty as a deterrent. While many may be reflecting upon our values in relation to this crisis at the border, as journalist Chris Hedges points out, Americans, in general, have a vision of themselves that bears little resemblance to reality. Our nation was founded on genocide and slavery. Our democratic republic is, in fact, a global “might is right” empire, ravaging our globe with endless wars for profit and resource-control, which enriches oligarchic elites at the expense of citizenry. America empowers militarized police to murder unarmed citizens and lock away a quarter of the world’s prison population, while wallowing in the supposed superiority of white supremacy. (Chris Hedges, opednews.com, December 17, 2018).

The growing proportions of the humanitarian crisis along our southern border, now reflects the dying promise of Lady Liberty’s America as a land of refuge from injustice and suffering. Our nation is currently led by a lying, racist, bullying, willfully ignorant real estate hustler who seeks to manufacture an “invasion crisis” based on xenophobic fear-mongering rhetoric. In response to these politics of fear, British comedian John Oliver offers a measured perspective. “There was only one time in American history when fear of refugees wiping everyone out, did actually come true. We celebrate this as our national holiday of Thanksgiving”. (Last Week Tonight, November 24, 2015).

 

 

 

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Chenobyl Rave: Dancing in the Fields of Wormwood

 Chenobyl Rave: Dancing in the Fields of Wormwood

“The third angel sounded his trumpet and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water – the name of the star was Wormwood. A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter. (Revelations 8:10 -11)

“I am not afraid of God. I’m afraid of man.” (Svetlana Alexievich: Voices From Chernobyl)

“No dose of radiation is safe,exposure is cummulative and adds to an individual’s risk of developing cancer.” (Helen Caldicott M.D., U.S. National Academy of Sciences BEIR VII Report)

‘That thing killed my grandmother and now its a disco!”  (Annonymous observer)

Given that biological researcher Rupert Sheldrake believes that all things in Nature, including places, have fields of collective memory, which he refers to as “morphic resonance”, what are we to make of recent events that have taken place in northern Ukraine at the disastrous Chernobyl nuclear reactor site? From a systemic perspective, and “history of place”, this site chosen for construction of the country’s first nuclear power facility  already had a lengthy history of fiery death and destruction. Prior to the 20th century, this Chernobyl region was inhabited by Ukrainian and Polish peasants as well as a relatively large population of Jews.TheJewish population suffered greatly from fiery pogroms in 1905 and again from 1919-1920. Entire villages were torched, inhabitants beaten, raped, kidnapped and slaughtered . This region also suffered from Stalin’s ruthless collectivization campaign’s mass murders; as well as the horrendous famine that followed. In 1936, Stalin’s frontier clearance mandated a forced migration  of the Polish community to Kazakhstan which many did not survive.The Chernobyl region was also the site of Nazi atrocities in1941 through1943, when it was occupied by the German army, which systematically murdered the entire Jewish population. (Norman Davies, Europe: A History,1996).

When Ukraine was still part of the former USSR,  their first nuclear power plant was named for the nearby town of Chernobyl, which dates onward from the 12th century which was, in turn, named for another kind of plant; Artemesia absinthium, a herbaceous perennial abundant in the region. In folklore it was said to have sprung from the Devil’s path as he left the Garden of Eden. This bitter herb with medicinal properties, used to flavor absinthe, is also known as wormwood. Absinthe is an alcoholic beverage, now banned in many countries, made from wormwood oil mixed with dried herbs also known as the “Green Fairy”; said to possess psycho-active qualities. The active ingredient is thujone, a potentially poisonous chemical found in wormwood, which excites the central nervous system. (Richard Mabey, Weed: The Story of Outlaw Plants, 2010).

The Vladimir Ilyich Lenin Nuclear Power Station, better known as Chernobyl, was constructed as one of the largest in the world, during the 1970s and 1980s, in a peaceful wooded locale, 110 km north of Kiev, and 20km south of the border with Belarus, which runs along the Pripyat river. This rural facility was origially conceived as one part of a vast power-generating complex consisting of 12 blocks. As the world now knows, despite efforts of coverups by the former USSR, on April 25th,1986, at 1:23 AM  a steam explosion, graphite fire and nuclear meltdown event in the Chernobyl nuclear reactor’s unit four, expelled a volcanic release of highly radioactive particles into our planetrary atmosphere with levels of radiation 300 times greater than our bombing of Hiroshima. Given the Soviet regime’s mania for secrecy and need to save face, the reactor core burned for 3 days before it was detected by sensors in Sweden and the secret was out. Reactor blocks five and six remain unfinished. (ASJ, Trauma: Time, Space and Fractals, 2012).

In the weeks following this disaster, trees in the surrounding pine forests turned red, withered and died. This “red forest” had weird deviations, double centers, with pine needles that grew backwards. (Kim Willsheer, ukguardian.com, April 24, 2016). Although organizations arose to bulldoze the “red forest”, dead branches could be seen in places rising red and skeletal above new ground. (the bohemianlog.com, September 2014). Over the course of the following summer, and again in 1992, 2002, 2008, and 2015, an unusually intense series of forest fires in the immediate region served to further spread highly radioactive isotopes throughout our Northern Hemisphere

At the time, much about this catastrophe was new and unexpected since there had not yet been a radiological disaster of this magnitude. Unfortunately, this magnitude has been superceded by Japan’s March 2011, Fukushima Daiichi disaster, also known as “Chernobyl on steroids”; with four damaged nuclear reactors, three in meltdown. While the Chernobyl reactor fire burned for only 10 days, Fukushima’s radioactive emissions  into our atmosphere, and into the Pacific Ocean, remain ongoing with no end in sight. (Yoichi Shimatsu, “The Fukushima Disaster”, globalresearch.ca, October 12, 2011).

During the immediate aftermath of the Chernobyl reactor’s explosion, tens of thousands of citizens of the nearby, entirely new Soviet model town of Pripyat, built for plant workers and their families less than 3 km from the reactor; were abruptly uprooted from their homes on April 27th.  In those days there were neither emails nor telephone options and given less than 3 hours notice, these evacuees were unaware that they would never be able to return to their lives, within what became known as a 50km (31.mile) exclusion zone; which scientists say will remain unsafe for 24,000 years. Many experienced a metallic taste, uncontrollable coughing and vomiting. Today this uninabitable area serves as a kind of post-apocalyptic nature preserve, inhabited by mutated creatures such as giant catfish with flower-like fins and long serpentine tails, a six legged fawn and dysmorphic vegetation. (For the effect of radiation on humans, especially children see: Cory Charlton, “Living With the Fallout of Chernobyl 30 Years Later”, dailymail.co.uk, April 13, 2016).

  • Chernobyl Daisy

Despite a deep sense of deception and betrayal that lingers to this day, Ukranian artist Valery Korshunov felt that this zone of isolation and death was an appropriate setting for his November 2018 Artefact installation which was, in essence, a sound and light dance party; designed to draw attention to an event that citizens remain reluctant to speak about. According to Korshunov, “Almost every Ukranian has acquaintences or relatives…having health issues related to Chernobyl. The consequences for the health of the nation will be felt for many more generations.”  As a result, he reasoned, it would be a positive intervention to fill this alienation-zone with new meanings. Never mind that signs everywhere warn of contamination and visitors are cautioned to remain on authorized paths that have been supposedly “cleaned” and the overall site is punctuated throughout with various “hot spots”. (Tom Seymour, “Grab Your Geiger Counter: a trip to Chernobyl’s first rave”, ukguardian,co.uk ,November 28,2018).

This Artefact rave installation was set up in Pripyat’s center square, now a kind of time capsule, a Pompeii-like ghost town, once home to 50,000 residents with tree lined streets, which had schools, hospitals, a theater, a swimming pool and sports halls. Residents were promised a radiant future. At the center, there stood an abandoned  Luna Park fairground of crashed bumper cars, derelict carnival ferris wheel, motionless with steadily encroaching vegetation. A nearby carousel also lit from below, evokes images from some ghoulish zombie-film dystopia and is reportedly a remaining  radioactive “hotspot”. Amidst this field of ongoing tragedy, Korshunov welcomed the crowd as his Artefact launched an electro-infused kinesthetic melding of light, sound and color; and dancers were invited out to revel in the cold. Strobe-lights bounced across the featureless concrete surfaces of grim, crumbling Soviet-style apartment blocks, haunted by domestically disturbing interiors of beds still made and clothes carefully hanging in wardrobes, lending a somatic snapshot of shock, broken continuity, and existential doom. (ukguardian.co.uk, November 28,2018).

     Despite the artist’s good intentions, this surreal, dance-macrabre scene, drew a sharp frisson, together with memories of Edgar Allan Poe’s: “The Masque of the Red Death” (1842). In this classic tale, careless, self-absorbed revelers continue to party, frantically oblivious to the fatal, invisible energies of a Red Pestilence devastating the countryside. As you may remember, the lavish entertainment of music, vibrant colors  and their extravagant host, cannot protect them from the inevitable, uninvited guest. Perhaps my Red Death vision is too dark and this Chernobyl spectacle merely represents a recent iteration of medieval dancing manias, where thousands would gather to relieve the stress and poverty of their daily lives.

Whatever my feelings about the Chernobyl multi-media rave, given that I can hardly think of that place without dread, it is a fact that netherworld disasters have long attracted people who gravitate toward the dangerous and unusual or what might be termed, a morbid and voyeuristic pull towards death; especially popular with artists and photographers. Cynics have now claimed that Pripyipat has morphed into a kind of radioactive nightmare, disaster-porn Disneyland for photo-ops. And yet, this so called “Dark Tourism” may also be understood as a basically human curious need to see something extraordinary, a thirst for information or a craving for some sense of authenticity, deeper and even beyond the inevitable media spin. (wisegeek.com).

While some may argue that allowing such disaster tourism opens a way for the  clueless and disconnected to prance about with their selfies; in a more practical sense, Chernobyl tourism is a great economic benefit to the deeply troubled land of Ukraine.

Well into my seventh decade now, I doubt that I will visit Ukraine. Still, my visits to Russia, working with war trauma colleagues there during  the fall of the former USSR and the following decade, in the aftermath of Chernobyl; provided an invaluble   opportunity to gain some understanding of the past, present and ongoing collective trauma, for which I will always remain grateful. (ASJ, Relative Balance in an Unstable  World, 2006)

Chernobyl Angel

 

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PKD

“When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.” (Sinclair Lewis, 1935)

“Fascism is a worldwide disease. Fascism’s greatest threat to the United States will come after the war and will manifest within the United States itself.” (Vice President Henry Wallace, 1944)

“…all science fiction occurs in alternate futures and universes,so it can actually happen someday”. (Philip K. Dick)

 

The “Man in the High Castle”, now Amazon’s most streamed alternative history TV series, has been adapted from the novel of the same name written by Philip K. Dick (1928-1982) set in 1962, the year that it was written. The author, who lived most of his life in Califronia, wrote at least 45 novels and 121 short stories and to date eleven of his works have been adapted for film, including Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report and The Adjustment Bureau. Dick’s theme of what happens to a free people when confronted by tyranny continues throughout Man in the High Castle, as well as a concern with what makes us human and the dangers of centralized power. For many of us, concerned with the current rise of trans-national corporate and billionaire-funded fascist ideology, following this dystopian series has been an unnerving experience.

The dark tone of the story-line unfolds with an air of quiet desperation; 85 years after America and the Allies lost World War II. Division of occupied America between competing superpowers is proving to be an unstable arrangement with German Nazis controlling the Eastern states, the Japanese ruling the Western Pacific states, with a buffer zone of neutrality running along the Rocky Mountain regions. We soon learn of mysterious illegal film reels that depict alternate realities, one of which shows what actually happened and exactly how the Allies won the war. As agents of the Resistance attempt to smuggle these films to other operatives and potential sympathsizers, while avoiding their totalitarian controllers, it also becomes clear that some of the characters are also “travelers” who can move between timelines. With a normalization of tyranny, moral ambiguity abounds, and it becomes terrifyingly clear how good people can do bad things in “good conscience” through blind loyal nationalism and partisan loyalties.

While it may seem to some that any comparison of our current administration with Germany’s Third Reich is unwarranted, others see the “handwriting on the wall” or more graphically, Nazi swaztikas now metastasizing as popular tatoos; on flags at right wing white supremacist rallies as well as our corrupt mainstream media howling along with the wolves in power. Deportations, detention camps and voter suppression is on the rise. Citizens are encouraged to report suspicious “others” to the authorities. To be clear, according to the American Heritage Dictionary: “Fascism is a system of government that exercises dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through a merging of state and business leadership with belligerent nationalism”. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines fascism as “a political philosophy or regime that exhalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized, autocractic government headed by a dictatorial leader and forcible
suppression of opposition “.

Just recently a timely “1933:Path to Dictatorship” exhibition opened in Berlin along with a reminder that Hitler promised “to make Germany great again”. Consider, if you will, that the by now familiar seeds of nascent totalitariasm and cult of personality were already evident as soon as this now iconic leader was elected to power: denigration and condemnation of opposition parties, disintegration and corruption of the courts, attacks on organized labor, dismissal of public servants not loyal to the leader, written smears and violence against the press, murder of journalists, as well as of any and all opponents. Soon after the party’s massive and theatrical rallies, there appeared their infamous detention and deportation facilities, initially thought to be only a few labor camps for dissidents and others deemed unsuitable due to their race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or political affiliation. A heinous variety of massive and genocidal creulties and torture were seen as a necessary means to an end, which in the long run did not end well. (Michael Winship, “Doubt It Can Happen Here? Tell It To Berlin”, commondreams.org, 10/17, 2018)

While many high level and other Nazis died, escaped or were brought to trial in Nuremburg, others found a warm welcome in here in America. During the chaos following World War II and the collapse of the Third Reich, our American military was in urgent competition with the Soviets for capture of the best of Germany’s scientific minds. Under the code-name “Operation Paperclip“, it was decided that Nazi crimes against humanity should be overlooked in view of their potential value to our military and space-exploration program. As a result, we acquired hundreds of experts in aerodynmics, chemistry, medicine, and rocketry, the most famous being Dr.Werner von Braun who designed a Saturn V rocket that carried our astronauts to the Moon. (Annie Jacobsen, Operation Paperclip: The Secret Intelligence Program That Brought Nazi Scientists To America, 2014).

Our Paperclip Nazis settled in well here, and history is clear that the pernicious white supremacist and fascist mind set is not foreign to American culture; given the genocidal polices against our Native American residents, and slave-driven culture and Confederate values of our Old South. Nowadays it is increasingly common to see rebel Confederate flags together with Nazi symbols at most of the massive Trump “Make America Great Again” rallies. White supremacist KuKlux Klan members embolded by an increasing tolerance of hate speech have been showing up in disturbingly increasing numbers.

Yale Professor Jason Stanley, author of ” How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them, 2018), thinks we should be very worried given our long history of racial divisiveness which has expanded to include immigrant groups as well as dividing citizens into the “enemy” versus the leader’s supporters. (Cody Ferwick, alternet.org,10/22/2108). In light of recent events, it seems clear that our question is no longer whether or not fascism can happen here but what can we do now to ensure that these life-negative elements, already present, do not take root.

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Time Capsule

Time Capsule

Gobekli Tepe changes eveything.” (Ian Hodder, Stanford Universty Archeologist)

Before we knew how to farm, before we lived in a village, before we even knew how to make pots, we built a star temple on a hill.” (Klaus Schmidt)

The desire to build a temple begins with faith. The oldest known man made structure for prehistoric worship was discovered in 1994 by German archeologist, Professor Klaus Schmidt and portions of the excavation are now open to the public. In 1963, Gobekli Tepe or Pot Belly Hill was initially dismissed as a relatively recent medieval cemetery, but Professor Schmidt had a hunch that this soft round mound, 300 meters in diameter, was an artificial, man-made hill on top of a huge limestone ridge, and would be worth excavating. The result was likely the most important discovery of all time, of a gigantic megalithic complex. In “The Birth of Religion”, Charles C. Mann said that “Gobekli Tepe was like finding that someone had built a 747 in a basement with an X-Acto knife”. (National Geographic Magazine, June 2011). Built 6000 or more years earlier and fifty times larger than Stonehenge and even older than the pyramids at Giza, this astounding find is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Gobekli Tepe is located in the southeastern Anatolian region of Turkey, within the upper arc of the Fertile Crescent. There are forested mountains to the north, and the biblical plain of Harran to the east, extending on toward the historically rich lands of Mesopotamia. Gobekli Tepe is only 12 km from Urfa, now Sanlurfa, the legendary birthplace of the biblical patriarch Abraham; and also believed to be the site of the sufferings of Job. On a clear day you can see Syria from the summit, which also makes this a dangerous place to visit. (worldhertitagesite.org)

Initial excavations by Professor Schmidt and others from the German Archeological Institute, revealed open air, semi-subterranean circular enclosures, with an astronomical north/south alignment, thick interior walls with twelve T shaped, finely polished pillars evenly set into a substance similar to concrete; giving the appearance of a stone circle .The number twelve, along with snake, bull, and scorpion imagery, may or may not have zodiacal associations.This is expectedly controversial and more research is clearly indicated. Many of these giant pillars, quarried from nearby crystalline limestone and believed to be somewhat humanoid, are gracefully carved in low and vivid three dimensional high-relief, with wild animals, insects and abstract symbols. Some pillars have highly stylized long thin arms, crooked at the elbow, finely carved human hands with long fingers which come together on the abdominal area, a distinctive belt and animal pelt loin cloth. In the center of this circle, two of the largest pillars about 20 feet high and weighing 20 to 30 tons each, stand facing one another. (Klaus Schmidt, TEDx, Prague, July 8, 2014)

With ground penetrating radar geological surveys, it now appears that the entire site may be as large as 30 hectares, with 18 circles still buried, and only five percent having been uncovered. For enigmatic reasons, these massive circular enclosures were deliberately buried in 8000 BC, effectively creating a time capsule into life 12,000 years ago; a time of the late Upper Paleolithic (Old Stone Age) hunters and gatherers; undisturbed by later cultures. Until the discovery of this entombed complex, it was believed that these early groups did not possess the skill or social organization to be able to construct anything like a star temple aligned with several constellations in the sky. (Andrew Collins, Gobekli Tepe: Genesis of the Gods, 2014)

Professor Schmidt and others hypothesize that Gobekli Tepe was built by hunters who met to build a complex religious community and that the site was a kind of “Pre-historic Rome”,

where people came from near and as far as 160 km in order to worship. While many stone and flint tools have been found, there is neither a local water source nor evidence of domestic animals, pottery or ongoing habitation. At this point, it seems likley that this site was a hunter’s sanctuary and spiritual center, given the large number of wild animal bones buried nearby. The T shaped pillars hum when struck with an open palm and one could imagine an amphitheatrical effect of chanting and dancing under the starry firmament, with firelight casting shadows of animal totems and perhaps an aroma of roasting game. A preponderance of vulture imagery suggests that this site may also have had an excarnationary function, a post-mortem practice across Central Asia which survives today in Tibet’s sky burials. In such earlier cultures it was believed that these high flying carrion birds transport the flesh of the dead up to the heavens. Gordon White, Star Ships: A Pre-History of the Spirits, 2016)

While the temple was apparently built by Stone Age hunters and gatherers, Graham Hancock, author of Magicians of the Gods, (2017), has suggested that there might have been a techological transfer offered by survivors of a more advanced culture fleeing a global cataclysm. He bases this speculation on the fact that Gobekli Tepe arose at exactly the same time that Plato placed the destruction of Atlantis. While this does seem plausible, and if this is true, I am puzzled by a lack of any evidence of writing. Then again, since only five percent of these vast temple complexes have been uncovered, there may well be many more surprises in store.

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Richat Anomaly: Atlantis?

Richat Anomaly: Atlantis?

“Through every rift of discovery some seeming anomaly drops out of the darkness, as a golden link into the great chain of order”. (Edwin Hubbel Chapin)

“The past is not yet settled”. (Graham Hancock)

For thousands of years now, the mystery of the legendary lost city of Atlantis has captured imaginations and inspired many world-wide searches for sunken remants of a once great civilization. Skeptics would do well to remember that the search for Homer’s fabled city of Troy was actually found by 19th century archeologists in northwestern Anatolia, in modern- day Turkey, at a site known as Hisarlik.

It seems logical that the search for a highly sophisticated society that chartered the globe from their capital city on the Island of Atlantis, would be found underwater. Until recently, no one thought to look for traces of Atlantis in the desert. This began to change after 1965 when astronauts flying over West Africa’s Sahara Desert in their Gemini IV mission, photgraphed a mysterious circular geologic anomaly in a remote, rarely visited area of west central Mauritania.

Viewed from from space, this Richat Structure appears as a circular feature with a blue tinged bullseye formation also known as the “Blue Eye of Africa” or “Giant Eye of the Sahara”, within an otherwise featureless expanse of desert. Intially thought to be the site of an asteroid impact, it is now considered by some to be a severely eroded, collapsed salt dome, formed by an ancient volcanic eruption. More interesting, to me at least, is that researchers seeking evidence of the fabled Atlantis have found a remarkable similarity between the Richat analomy and Plato’s description of the lost city.

For some, the story of Atlantis and its cataclysmic fate comes to us from the Greek philosopher Plato (b.428 BC), as a mere allegory and cautionary tale of political corruption. Atlantis had ceased to wear its prosperity with moderation and undertook a failed pursuit of wealth and power as a cruel and avaricious culture obsessed by a desire to conquer and consume. Nevertheless, Plato repeatedly stated that this was a true story and therefore others remain convinced that this highly advanced, global civilization actually existed and that its location will eventually be found. In two of his Socratic dialogues, Critias and Timmaeus, Plato writes the story of Atlantis as recounted by his ancestor Solon (c.638-558 BC), an Athenian statesman, lawmaker and poet, thought to have laid the foundations for Athenian democracy. In his later years, Solon journeyed to Egypt in 600 BC to find out more about the history of civilization and culture. In those times, the Nile kingdoms had the largest historical documents available. According to those records and the priests at the Temple of Sais, located in the Delta, Egypt had once been a colony of the seafaring Atlantean civilization. Material from these hieroglyphic records, written on the temple walls, was published six generations later by his descendant. (A. Andrews, Greek Society,1967, p.197)

According to Plato, the Atlantean Empire was comprised of 10 kingdoms and its Island capital city, and was arranged in concentric, alternating rings of land and water; two of land and three of water, encircling one another; and a channel opening toward the south that led toward the sea. The size and dimensions of this description are remarkablely similar to the Richat formation. The diameter of the city’s outer ring measured 127 stadia, in today’s terms 23.49 km and the diameter of the outer circle of the Richat formation measures 23.50 km. There was said to be a spring of fresh water in the city’s center and a spring has also been located at the center of the Richat rings. The anomaly is also located southwest of the Pillars of Hercules (Straits of Gibraltar) mentioned in Plato’s description, below the Atlas mountain range in a vast central oblong shaped plane to the south.

While the Ricart formation is inland, it is also possible, even likely, that this portion of the Sahara might have laid under the ocean, since much of this desert is comprised of sand from the Atlantic. Plato also wrote that, “in a single day and night of misfortune, Atlantis disappeared into the depths of the sea”. After the catastophe, Atlantis was no longer accessible by ship.

When sunk by a cataclysm, there also came an impossible barrier of mud; suggesting that the city became landlocked. (visiting atlantis.com)

In reference to this catastrophe, in Timaeus, Plato reports that an Egyptian priest from whom he had received the story, spoke of a celestial cataclysm. This priest continued to offer that there have been, and will be, many calamities which can destroy mankind; the greatest of them by fire and water, as there is at long intervals, variations in heavenly bodies, with consequent widespread destruction, which some have suggested may refer to a comet or asteroid impact. Plato’s texts place the destruction of Atlantis in 11,600 B.C.which coincides with the Younger Dryas theory that suggests that fragments from a giant comet is said to have hit the Earth around that time, which caused an Ice Age and other climatic upheavals, resulting in earthquakes, wildfires, tsunamis of epic proportions. In regard to that date, it is also interesting to note that a huge collection of artifacts have been found in and around the Richat structure dating to about 12,000 B.C.; along with remains of elephants which Plato said were numerous in Atlantis. (Graham Hancock, Magicians of the Gods: The Forgotten Wisdom of Earth’s Lost Civilizations).

As a historian, it does not seem all that farfetched to speculate that Atlantis was as real as Homer’s city of Troy, nor does it make sense to assume that we have a total and complete knowledge of every human civilization that has existed on our planet; or that such information is no longer relevant to our current situation. Even if Atlantis is nothing more than a cautionary tale of moral decay and political corruption, Plato’s description of that antediluvian empire could well apply to 21st century America. As new discoveries continue to appear, such as the re-dating of the Great Sphinx of Giza, the uncovering of Gobekli Tepe, which dates circa 10,000-14000 BC and even earlier, some 7,000 or more years earlier than Stonehenge; the “past” keeps changing here in the present and will continue to do so well into our future.

With these oncoming revelations, as psychonaut Terence McKenna foresaw, “history then becomes a white knuckle ride”.

 

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Pastafarianism

Pastafarianism

“We are not anti-religion. We are anti-crazy nonsense done in the name of religion. If there is a God and He is intelligent, would guess that He has a sense of humor. ” (Bobby Henderson, Founder of the Church of The Flying Spaghetti Monster)

“Science is uncertain. Theories are subject to revision; observations are open to a variety of interpetations and scientists quarrel amongst themselves…. There is something comforting about a view that allows for no deviation and that spares you the painful neccessity to think. (Isaac Asimov)

History repeats itself, the first as tragedy, the second as farce.” (Karl Marx)

 

In case you haven’t heard, Pastafarianism is a social movement that promotes a light-hearted view of religious dogma and opposes the teaching of Christian Creationism and Intelligent Design in public schools. Their Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster was founded in 2005 by 24 year old Bobby Henderson, unemployed physics graduate from the University of Oregon, and self-described hobo and hammock enthusiast. Henderson claims that the FSM was revealed to him in a divine vision induced by lack of sleep and mounting disgust over the ongoing Intelligent Design versus evolution debates going on in public education. Intelligent Design is the latest offspring of Creationist terminology for their Bible-based belief, popular with the religious right, in an effort to use a term with more scientific sounding gloss; to conceal their fundamentalist agenda. In flawless deadpan, Henderson wrote an open letter to a Kansas School Board, demanding that his belief that the Universe was created by the Flying Spaghetti Monster, after a night of heavy drinking, be given equal time along with Intelligent Design and evolution.

Henderson reasoned that if the School Board was willing to allow one faith-based theory, why not two? As his, now famous, letter continued,” I think we can all look forward to a time when these theories are given equal time in our science classrooms across the country and eventually the world. One third for Intelligent Design, one third time for Flying Spaghetti Monsterism and one third time for logical conjecture based upon overwhelming observable evidence”. He then threatened legal action to support his demands. This open letter, also posted on the internet, soon went viral and offers of free legal counsel quickly followed.

Before long, Henderson discovered that he had in fact created a monster; as his web site receives as many as two million hits a day. Anyone logging on to www.venganza.org can see his carb-heavy deity clearly portrayed as an airborne tangle of spaghetti with eye stalks on top and giant meatball orbs on either side. However, this deity is said to also be invisible and impossible to detect, thus making it also impossible to disprove its existence. Pastafarianism is now believed by some to be one the fastest growing world religions . While the exact number of followers is unknown, they may well number in the millions. As folunding prophet of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Henderson is delighted, as he says that he had always wanted a cult. (telegraph, u.k., September 11, 2005)

The serious message underlying the bizarre mythology of the FSM is the latest iteration of an ongoing unresolved fractal along the theme of fundamentalist Christian doctrine versus evolutionary theory concerning the orgin of our human species and a shared primate ancestry. This controversey also includes serious differences as to the meaning of separation of church and state. This conflict came to a spectacular head during the July 1925 “Scopes Monkey Trial”,  in the small town of Dayton, Tennessee; a test case sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union. John T. Scopes, a high-school biology teacher, was on trial for violating a Tennessee law that prohibited teaching of any account of divine creation, other than the Bible, in state funded schools. As a result, Darwin’s theory of evolution was also on trial.

Two of our nations most famous lawyers faced off, in this now legendary coutroom battle; famed defense attorney Clarence Darrow for science, and three time presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan as prosecutor for the creationists. The case was broadcast on radio transmissions throughout the United States, while trained chipanzees performed on the courthouse lawn. Scopes was found guilty and then the verdict was overturned on a technicality. The Rhea County Courthouse in Dayton is now a National Historical Landmark. (Edward J. Larson, Summer of The Gods: The Scopes Trial and America’s Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion, 2004)

In 1960, a fictionalized version of the Scopes trial appeared in Stanley Kramer’s film, Inherit the Wind about a coutroom battle between those who believe that the Bible is literally true and those who believe, as Spencer Tracy’s character states “, an idea is a greater monument than a cathedral”. This film was adapted from a 1955 play by the same name, written by Jerome Lawrence, as a searing indictment of anti-intellectual, religious fundamentalism. Lawrnce said,” It‘s not about science and religion it‘s about our right to think”. (“Inherit the Controversey “, The Capitol Journal, 2001-03-02).

Efforts to promote faith-based Intelligent Design creationist theories in public schools and ban evolutionary science, is again in the news with the ascension of Uber-Conservative, Fundamentalist-Christian, Betsy deVos; as President Trump’s pay-to- play appointee to serve as our Secretary of Education. Her stated agenda is simply to use public schools to “build God’s Kingdom”. History will likely show that this development is likely to further benefit the spread of Pastfarianism. However, the movement has not been without challenges as schisms have developed, including a rival faction based on SPAM (Spaghetti Pulsar Activating Meatballs). Bickering continues as to whether their Monster is made of spaghetti or linguini and whether or not he might be purple. Henderson could not be reached for comment other than a statement issued that “these people give me a headache”. As it is with most mysterious prophets, he has little contact with the outside world given that he has only a single telephone line to his home in a small town in Oregon.

In a recently published gospel from the Old Pastament, Loose-Cannon Section, we find the following among the Monster’s dictates:

“I’d rather you didn’t use my existence as a means to oppress, subjugate, punish, eviscerate and/or, you know, be mean to others.

In view of my Cornish ancestry, I am sympathetic to Monsterism’s premise that all humans are descended from pirates; yet the collander-inspired headgear doesn’t appeal, and my gluten free regime would likely disqualify me from most ritual festivites. Nevertheless, I wish them well and have sent an admittedly small donation to Prophet Henderson toward that yacht he has always wanted. (For further reading see: Henderson, Bobby, The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, 2006).

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Goodbye Columbus

Goodbye Columbus

“The current state of knowledge is a moment in history, changing just as rapidly as the state of knowledge in the past has changed and in many instances, more rapidly.” (Jean Piaget)

” What passes for identity in America is a series of myths about one’s heroic ancestors”. (James Baldwin)

“We are not maker’s of history. We are made by history.”
(Martin Luther King Jr.)

Christopher Columbus did not “discover” America, since the continent was already there and thriving with culture. At the time of his arrival, humans had been living there for at least 20,000 years and our Northern and Southern continents were populated by hundreds of small nations and regional empires. Nevertheless, Columbus Day is celebrated on the second Monday of October as a national holiday, with events and parades; and this patriotic lie is still enshrined in public school textbooks. My generation of elementary school pupils dutifully parroted the poem which began ” In nineteen hundred and forty two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue… and this nonsense apparently still conveyed to children today, is nothing more than propaganda. As James W. Loewen points out in Lies My Teacher’s Told Me: Everthing Your American History Books Got Wrong (2007), American History books ” are marred by an embarrassing combination of blind patriotism, sheer misinformation and outright lies. These books omit almost all the ambiguity, passion, conflict and drama from our past. ”

Never mind that Columbus’s expedition never set foot on the North Amercian landmass. They arrived at an island he named San Salvatore, somewhere in the Bahamas, that he thought was India, and didn’t hesitate taking the land, wealth and labor from the indigenous peoples. This led to the near extermination of local inhabitants while Columbus also initiated the reign of terror that became the transatlantic slave trade. Even more gruesome factors are readily available in primary source material provided by letters of his and other members of his crew. (thirdworldtravels.com )

While some enlightened communities prefer to celebrate our October holiday as Indigenous Peoples Day, the myth of benevolent discovery persists. Nevertheless, the truth is even more interesting. Harvard scholar Garikai Chengu, in challenging a Eurocentric view of history, maintains African Amercian history did not begin with slavery in the New World. He suggests that a growing body of evidence indicates that Africans had frequently sailed across the Atlantic to the Americas, thousand of years before Colombus and the Christian era. In his view, the strongest evidence for Africans in Ameirca comes from Columbus himself who wrote about “black skinned people who had come from the Southeast in boats, trading in gold tipped spears”. (globalresearch.ca, August 10,2018) African explorers could well have crossed the Atlantic in ancient boats, especially given the likelyhood that landmasses between the continents existed in previous times which are now under water.

During the ninteen-forties, archeologists discovered a civilization now known as the Olmecs of c.1500-400 BC, which predates any other advanced civilization in the Americas. There is reason to believe that this Olmec civilization, the Mother Culture of Mexico and Mesoamercia, was of African origin, and other races were involved, as well. The rise of the Olmec empire, whose heartland was located in the tropical lowlands of South Central Mexico, also coincided with the period that Black Egyptian culture ascended in Africa. Despite the ethnocentric academics eager to dismiss the African-Atlantic hypothesis, in The Ra Expeditions (1971) Thor Heydahl proved that Egyptian reed boats could make the passage along favorable currents from Africa to the Americas.

The idea that the Olmecs were related to African civilization was first suggested by Jose’ Melgar in 1862 and later developed by Guyanese born Rutgers University Professor, Ivan van Sertima (1935-2009), in They Came Before Columbus (1997), which was subject to much derision by eurocentric academics. Nevertheless, many of the Olmec colossal heads, first discovered in 1858, (which date from c. 814 BC, can be up to 10 feet tall, and weigh up to 4 tons), display clearly defined Negroid features, as well as intricate African-style braids. These still mysterious, beautifully carved heads, who may have been warriors, priests, sports heros or rulers, all wear helmets possibly fashioned of leather or even gold. As the earliest known major civilization in their region, the Olmecs were the first pyramid builders and acomplished stone carvers who had a written language; as well as being accomplished farmers, astronomers and mathematicians.

While the exact origin of what is now known as the Mayan calendar is controversial, it is believed by many that thier system of time keeping originated with the Olmecs.This complex calendar is non-linear and measures varying lengths of time in three interlocking wheels of various sizes; the Tolkin sacred calendar of 260 days, the Haab solar calendar of 365 days and the Long Count of a much greater cycle. It also seems likely that this Long Count and the concept of zero may have been a major Olmec contribution to Mesoamerican civilization. Unfortunately, the Mayan calendar is often confused with the circular Aztec Sun Stone which is a sacrificial altar and not a calendar.

Additional evidence of an African presence in the Americas prior to Columbus, may rest with the discovery and dating of a skull nicknamed Luzia, discovered in1975. Her remains, which date from the Upper Paleolithic era are from a strata radiocarbon-dated to be 11,500 years old. Luzia was found in a cave likely occupied by a group of hunter/ gatherers who roamed the savannah of South Central Brazil; and who may have migrated from Africa. Various anthropologists have described her features as Negroid and forensic facial-reconstruction expert Richard Neave agrees that she is likely of African orgin.

This and other ongoing discoveries necessitate a serious reassessment of long established theories as to the settlment of the Americas. (Larry Rohter, “An Ancient Skull Challenges Long Held Theories”, NY Times, October 26, 1999).

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Arendt’s Paradox: The Right To Have Rights

Arendt’s Paradox: The Right To Have Rights

“Human rights are not worthy of the name if they do not protect the people we don’t like as well as the people we do.” (Trevor Phillips)

The greatest threat to our way of life is not migration. It is that we will swallow the lie that some human lives matter less than others.” (Laurie Penny)

As outrage over family separations along our southern border continues to mount, well- meaning citizens protest that, “this is not American”, and “this not who we are “. Unfortunately, history and the facts suggest otherwise. In truth, this is exactly who we are and have been; and family separations have been long carried out under American law. Denial of our historical and ongoing situation risks an abdication of our power to effectively respond to our world, exactly as it is, in order to see what we can and want to do. In reality, our current crisis along this border is yet another iteration of a very long, still replicating fractal of legal injustice. On this continent, one could speculate that such legal injustices date at least as far back as 1492 which gave rise to theft of a continent, genocide as well as a violation of bodies,souls and indentities which led to further destruction, conflict and enslavement. One could also speculate that our American history of separating and dehumanizing families has deep roots within the trans-Atlantic slave trade .

Prior to abolition, children of Black slaves could be sold at legal slave markets and also by owners at will. Under the laws of those times, Black men and women could not protect the integrity of their families.Those who ran away, alone or with family members, faced harsh punishment and even death, if captured by slave hunters. Then, as now, Bible passages were invoked to justify such polices: Romans 13, for example, which urges believers to “obey the laws of government because God ordained them for the purpose of order”. In her Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome (2005), Joy Degrury describes the impact of these draconian policies on Black familes and their relationships today. Recent developments in epigenetic research have confirmed that unresolved trauma can be transmitted down through many generations. My clinical experience with nearly 50 years of work with individual, family and collective trauma confirms the validity of this research and her clinical experience.

Our history of separating and dehumanizing families also continued on with mandatory government and church affililiated boarding schools for Native American children. Following the 1890 South Dakota massacre at Wounded Knee, which concluded many chapters of America’s Indian wars; authorities forced Native American families to send their children away to government and church affiliated boarding schools. Those who declined were kidnapped for purposes of painful and humiliating “white washing” indocrination and assimiliation away from forbidden language, traditional dress, and tribal customs. Records clearly show the degree to which these children were subjected to neglect, psychological abuse and severe corporal punishment. I know this to be true since some Native American survivors of this cruel system were patients of mine in a Family Practice Clinic in Colorado. It was not until 1978 that Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Law granting tribal authorities a strong voice in child custody cases and that attendance at these boarding schools was no longer mandatory. (Dee Brown, Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee, 1972)

During the Great Depression, an anti-Mexican hysteria resulted in authorities in California and Texas legally deporting Mexicans and Mexican Americans who were wrongly blamed for the country’s economic downturn. Familes were separated and many children never saw their parents again. (Russell Contreras, Chicago Tribune, July 8, 2018).

Official government policy also mandated the arrest of some 120,000 Japanese-Americans as an “enemy race”, who were ordered to evacuate, leave their places of employment, dispossessed of their properties, and confined within a series of internment camps around the country. At least 30,000 of these prisoners were children. Moreover, a case could be made that such coercive practices persist within our present- day detention centers for marginalized youths who are then targeted for school to prison for profit pipelines.

Our current Trump administration’s fiasco of “Zero Tolerance” immigration policies have fostered an ugly climate of anti-immigrant rhetoric by maintaining that there is an “us” who must be protected from “them”. These refugees who come to us out of fear for their lives, for asylum, security and opportunity, have been demonized by our President’s toxic, imflammatory rhetoric; demeaning them as “animals, “criminal aliens, pouring in to “infest and overun”, in order to defend his policies against the most vulnerable. Even more surreal is this administration’s invocation of Biblical verses about “God”s Law”, slave owner’s Romans’s 13 again, to justify tearing children from their parents, and putting them in steel and chain link cages. Some of these children who are as young as one year, are legally required to appear before immigration judges and without legal representation. Children have been forcibly separated from their familes with separate case numbers with no plan for keeping track of where either parents or children might wind up. The mind boggles in the face of such perfectly legal, senseless cruelty and, never mind that immigrant detention is a profitable corporate industry which has grown into a billion dollar enterprise. (Manny Fernandez and Katie Benner, NY Times.com, June 21, 2018.)

Adding to this collective trauma we have our militarized ICE raids, using Gestapo style tactics. These high profile operations are designed to humiliate, and terrorize communites where everyone is a suspect; if they dare to speak a language other than English in public, especially Spanish. Much of our Southwestern territories including parts of California, Arizona, Colorado, UItah, Wyoming and New Mexico used to be Mexico before our Mexican American War. (1846-1848 ) Many Mexicans have been here longer than many Americans and as a result many of these regions have been and still are bilingual and very fond of Mexican cuisine as evidenced by our ubitiquious Taco Bell concessions.

The plight of millions of refugees existing in legal limbo is nothing new. In seeking a wider perspective upon our current border crisis I turn to the writings of Hannah Arendt , German born American political philosopher (1906-1975) who, in fleeing Nazi persecution and therefore stateless, was one of the very few lucky ones who managed to successfully immigrate to the United States in 1941. In 1943, she wrote, “We Refugees”, an essay expressing her outrage at the existential crisis such people faced and again in “Origins of Totalitarianism”, she continued to pursue the subject of refugee rights.

Without legally enforcable rights, Arendt maintained, refugees can be treated as less than human. Even if they were sheltered, fed and clothed by some public or private agency, this was a result of charity, not rights. While the USA and many other nations recognized the rights of the persecuted to seek asylum in another country, these same nations assert their right for sovereign control over nationationality, immigration and deportation . Arendt identified this conflict as a paradox central to the belief that human rights are inaliable. However, without legal residence, refugees lack those basic rights, intrinsic to being regarded as human. In theory, human rights were supposedly independent of gender, race, religion, citizenship or nationality. Yet, in regard to the right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, the stateless still remain in need to have rights. As a result of this painful and still ongoing paradox , Hannah Arendt wrote:

“The right to have rights, or the right of every individual to belong to humanity, should be guaranteed by humanity itself. It is by no means certain whether this is possible because of the present sphere of internationsl law… which still operates in terms of reciprocal agreements of treaties between sovereign states. As a result, individual nations retain the power to deny segments of humanity, and their “right to have rights” by asserting national sovereignity.”

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NIJMEGEN

NIJMEGEN

Photo by Karl-Heinz Rauscher

“I live in a crazy time”. (Anne Frank 1929-1945)

“Have you ever heard the expression: Walk a mile in my shoes, and then you judge me?” (Ann Rule)

In June of this year I was invited to the Netherlands, together with my German colleague Dr. Karl-Heinz Rauscher, to offer a workshop on the topic of Men, Women, War and Peace. Our event took place in the city of Nijmegen, located in the southeasten region of the country,along the Waal river, a few kilometers from the German border.Originally established as a Roman military camp,Nijmegen is the oldest city in the Netherlands and was the first Dutch municipality to come under German control during World War II. Given its antiquity, Nijmegen has a long and very rich history, however, given the nature of our topic, particpants were primarily concerned with unresolved traumatic events that occurred during the Nazi times which continue to reverberate into individual and family lives today.

In 1939 there were 140,000 Dutch Jews living in the Netherlands including some 25,000 who had fled Germany and Austria during the 1930s rise of the Third Reich and Nazi racial hygiene laws which included Jews among those deemed “unworthy of life”. With the German invasion in May 1940, the Netherlands was already the most densely populated country in Europe, without much open space or woodlands for people to hide. As a result, many who survived the Holocaust were hidden by other people. As is the case with countries under hostile occupation, citizens often respond by choosing to collaborate with the oppressers or become involved with the resistance. In many cases members of the same family made radically different choices.

During the Nazi occupation, the greater part of the Dutch administrative infra-structure and municipal police, together with Dutch railway staff, rounded up Jewish deportees. These unfortunates were then transported to a transit camp such as Westerbork, a forbidding wasteland in northeast Holland, and then sent by rail to Polish death camps such as Auschwitz and Sobibor, where very few survived. During this time, the Dutch underground managed, at risk of torture and death, to hide an estimated 25,000 to 30,000 Jews. In later times, the Dutch received a significant number of awards from Yad Vashem for saving Jewish lives. (yadvashem.org)

After the war ended in 1945, Jews who emerged from hiding or returned from concentration camps were faced with a disorganized society unprepared to re-integrate or offer compensation. Legal battles ensued as Holocuast victims struggled to regain possessions, life insurance and bank accounts. ( Michael Palomino, Encyclopedia Judaica, Vol.12, 2008).

Many citizens of that generation, perpetrators, victims and bystanders, chose to cope with their overwhelming collective trauma through denial, silence, secrets, and cover ups.

Given our topic involving war and peace, it was not surprising that the unresolved traumas of the Nazi-era presented through the issues of our workshop particpants. In sessions involving victims who were deported to almost certain death, their representatives in systemic constellation work, showed a curious fascination with shoes. Moreover, those who were representing their perpetrators, said they could only see the shoes of the victims. At the time, we were quite puzzled with their focus on shoes .

Later in the evening following this workshop, Karl-Heinz and I went out walking in the city and were amazed to find streets decorated with rows and rows of overhead wires hung with thousands of shoes; all manner of shoes; sandals, boots, wooden clogs, slippers, high heels, baby shoes and so on. Given the content of that day’s sessions, we began to speculate as to the possible relationship between these thousands of shoes and the deportations during the occupation. My mind flashed back to those tragic photographs of huge mounds of shoes still on display in Auschwitz, which had belonged to the murdered deportees. Karl-Heinz had the thought that through this outdoor art installation, perhaps the city was, unconscoiusly, bringing to light the fate of their deportees.

We soon learned that the stated purpose of the outdoor installation was to celebrate Nijmegen’s famed Four Mile March, held on the third Tuesday of each July, a tradition since 1909 to promote health and fitness. While initially envisioned as a way for Dutch youth to become fit for military service this tradition grew to include civilians and then women in 1913, and now people come from all over to participate in this city-wide walking festival. (walkthewalk.org). For most observers, rows of overhead shoes strung above those old streets are merely festival decoration, while given our work with collective trauma its not surprising, that Karl-Heinz and I were drawn to speculate about all those shoes in relation to unresolved issues of deportation and mass murder.

While it seems that much is still unresolved from the years of Nazi occupation, there is nevertheless a small memorial at the Kitty de Wijze Plaza. Just a few steps from the cathedral dedicated to St. Stephen, there is a statue (by Paulus de Swaarf,1938-2008) of Kitty de Wijze, who together with her family, was deported and murdered along with 400 other Jews from Nijmegen whose names appear on a bronze plaque on a nearby wall.

With mass migrations and deportations still ongoing, it is clear that humanity still has much to learn as to the consequences of such crimes against humanity. In the Netherlands, one brave young girl tried to warn us in her Diary of Anne Frank, published after her death in Bergen Belsen. Anne died of typhus together with her sister Margot and their mother was starved to death in Auschwitz. Only Anne’s father Otto Frank survived the Holocaust and subsequently published the diary she kept during the time their family was in hiding from the Nazis in Amsterdam.

While the Diary of Anne Frank is much loved by many American readers, we would do well to also be aware that the Frank family applied for visas to the USA as refugees and were denied entrance due to strict immigration policies designed to “protect National Security” and “influx of foreigners” during wartime. (Elahe Izadi, washingtonpost, November 24, 2015).

Such reasoning is with us again under the Trump admistrations’s policies of mass deportations of “illegal aliens” and refusal to offer asylum to refugees, especially Muslims and many Latin Americans gathered along our southern border.  As we have seen in the Netherlands and many other countries, the consequences of indifference and crimes against humanity will continue to reverberate through many generations, as these collective traumas will manifest in individuals, families and many other forms of relationship.

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TIME SPACE AND FRACTALS II

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