Wednesday, October 26, 2005


Hope in His Heart Posted by Picasa

Hope In His Heart

I got the picture posted quite a while ago but am not sure what it's all about. In a Yahoo! Group, mostly Kenyans, a member sent out an email explaining that he'd just heard that some realtives were coming to visit. He explained that he had a very small place and asked if anyone would be willing to put them up for a short time. He said he'd attached a picture of them and their luggage so "you'll recognise them when they come."

I'm still reading Ayittey's book, Africa in Chaos, but it's heavy so I picked up Peter Moore's Swahili For The Broken-Hearted. Moore is Australian and his travel books are popular in his home country and in Britain and Europe as well. As far as I can tell only his book No Shitting in the Toilet is available in an US editon. The pages of his Web site devoted to that book are really worth a look. Moore is a keen and truthful observer and very funny.

I like travel writing, because as president Bush would say about travel: "It's hard work." Something essential is learned in traveling and not just about the places we visit. Moore tells grand tales because he never takes his pretentions too seriously. Swahili For The Broken-Hearted chronicles his six-month overland journey from Cape Town to Cairo.

A couple of articles recently, tales of escape and refuge in the USA, surprised me.

In the Current Newsweek Alephonsion Deng from southern Sudan takes his turn at commentary: I Have Had to Learn To Live With Peace: How do you make a new life for yourself when you're consumed with the pain of your past? Deng writes about how his life is not only marked by physical journey but an emotional one as well. He writes:
"Still, I know it is possbible to move on. For all those years Ilived with revenge on my mind. Now I'm a man with the seeds of love, dignity and hope in his heart."

What surprised me was after outlining his own traumatic experiences and the way those shaped him when after many long years found himself in America, he expressed his empathy and concern for returning American soldiers and their families. His concerns were detatched from political commitments. I hope that most Americans share in his concern.

When I was in college, one summer I went to Indiantown Gap where Vietnamese refugees were being held until sponsors could be found. To my everliving shame I sponsored a couple of young men, my age. The result was we were all young and without resources. I lost touch with them a few months after they arrived to live with me. I hope they've done alright. I mention that because I remember how hard it was for them to make contact with other Vietnamese refugees as well as loved-ones at home. The Internet helps in that accord as in this Web site owned by a couple of men from southern Sudan living in Pittsburgh.

The second article was in Sunday's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in advance of a new book published in Chinese by Huang Xiang the poet/artist who has covered his home in the Mexican War Streets with poetry. The link to the Post-Gazette article is worthwhile because there are links to other sites of interest about Huang Xiang. But most especially for four short observational pieces about Pittsburgh from the book which the paper arranged to be translated into English.

Huang had been beaten in the face during his incarcerations in China and his injuries, left untreated, healed improperly. As a result his mouth requires reconstruction. A local oral surgeon is providing Huang and his wife with free medical treatment, and one of the pieces is Dentist Owen. Huang writes:
" I benefited from the check-up; he did not. He had to spend time and energy and even lost money to do it. We often want everybody to know that we did something for others, we always want to get something when we provide something; it is anything but pure kindness that drives us to do something for others. Americans have some quality that Chinese lack."

It's sometimes surprising to hear someone talk about American genrosity, but there is something to it. Perhaps a part of it stems from the fact that so many of us here have memories of escape and asylum.

There are many cross-currents in the American political scene. Anti-immigrant sentiment probably corresponds neatly with support for our occupying army in Iraq, but those comittments create cognitive dissonance for so many.

Fear may be what motivates our policies now, we're told and many do believe: "Everything has changed since 9/11." But most Americans hope for a better future, indeed without hope something essential to our national character is missing. It may well be as we are told and so many do believe: "Retreat is not an option." But without "the seeds of love, dignity and hope in our hearts" Americans will be adrift.

1 comment:

Mark Knobil said...

Hey, John

Just got back from a gig dragging a cold along. I snuggled in to catch up on e-mail and followed your invitation to Bazungu Bucks. Well, there went the morning. What a pleasure to spend the morning learning in the presence of your clear, fun mind.

You are asking us to look at some horrible things. I am greatful that you have the courage not only to look yourself, but have the additional energy and comassion to give us a loving nudge for us to look as well.

I look forward to strolling down the many links that pop up along the way.

What a great thing.

=mark=
Mark Knobil
Pittsburgh? Pittsburgh!