|I signed up for the A through Z blogging challenge for the month of April and, of course, promptly forgot about it.
Fortunately, today, I received a friendly reminder. So I am a little bit behind schedule but I am used to being behind schedule (or battling with tight deadlines), so I am OK with it.
Before I go for the letters, I will briefly introduce myself. My name is Alice Gerard, and I am a freelance journalist, artist-wanna-be, and gardener. Currently, my gardening career is dormant but I have seen the tiniest green things attempting to burst from the cold, saturated ground.
Since I am behind already, I will do three letters today. Each letter will accompany a picture.
A. I’m starting with A underneath my painting of a waterfalls. A is for Art. Art is an important part of my life, but that wasn’t always so. When I was in high school, I abruptly decided that I was no good at art so I gave it up. Looking back upon that, with the advantage of years of living, I can see that the moment in which I decided to give up art was not one of my finer moments.
So how did I go back to art?
Well, I am fortunate to be blessed with friends. One of them is Ellen, who never made the foolish choice of giving up Art. She kept at it, in high school and after high school. One day, I went to visit her. Her oldest son was very little then, although he always denied being little. When Joseph was two, he said, “I am not little. I am big!” Indeed he was. He loved his food and he quickly became big and strong.
But, I digress. This one day, when I visited Ellen, she told me to sit at the dining room table. I did so and she placed a vase, filled with cosmos, and a piece of paper and a bunch of colored pencils in front of me.
I was totally mystified by this.
“Draw,” Ellen commanded. I think that she remembered that, when I went back to college, I had taken an art class for nonmajors, and I painted and drew. It was fun because I had no expectations of myself. I knew that I was a Bad Artist and I was only expecting to have fun and not to worry about how the paintings turned out.
Ellen commanded me to draw. So I drew a portrait of cosmos in a jar.
It was fun. The result was cute.
Ellen informed me that I had to draw regularly. In fact, all the time would be appropriate.
Later, I took the drawing to my mother. She told me that I had to draw and paint and take art classes.
Which I did.
And so, Art became part of my life again and was no longer Banished.
And speaking of Banished, that begins with the letter B so I’ll go to the next tale.
|B is for Blue, not Banished: I did mention the word “banished” in my “A” section, but, no. I don’t really want to write about banishment because that is kind of unpleasant. I don’t know if I’ve ever been Banished from anywhere. I guess that the time when I was in prison and was sent to the segregation unit for violating the rules might qualify as Banishment. I still think that I was justified in violating the rules. Anyway, that was eleven years ago! Hard to believe. I had written about that earlier in this Blog (another B word), so I’ll give a brief synopsis.
I went to federal prison camp for protesting against a military training school at Fort Benning, Georgia, that trained (and still trains) Latin American military and police. Some of the training is quite inappropriate. There are allegations that the students are being taught the finer points of torture and assassination. The school and the defense department have refused to agree to an independent investigation of the the instruction at this school, as well as the backgrounds of the students and instructors. There is very little transparency from the school. When information is requested under the freedom of information law, it is sent out, heavily redacted.
So I walked on the grounds of Fort Benning during a protest, which apparently was illegal. I did this three times. Each time, I felt a little mystified as to why the first amendment failed to kick in. As a result, I went to federal prison three times, for a total of fifteen months. The last time that I went to federal prison was eight years ago. After that, I decided that I was not going to single-handedly close the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (formerly known as the School of the Americas) by going to prison over and over and over again.
When you are in federal prison camp, you have to have a job. The first job that I had in federal prison camp was as a tutor in the education program. There was a teacher who was not very well behaved. He yelled at the students and some of the things that he said were extremely inappropriate. A day after one of the teacher’s tirades that could have been considered sexual harassment in a public school, I decided to go on strike. My goal was to get the teacher to do the Donald Trump thing and say, “You’re fired!”
Apparently, I miscalculated. I didn’t get fired. I got banished to the segregation unit, where I had the honor of living in a little cage and wearing an orange outfit that made me look like a large pumpkin (my head was the stem). Even my shoes were bright orange. Every time I left my cage, I was handcuffed, which seemed a bit excessive. I couldn’t have run away, even if I had the opportunity to do so in the “special housing unit” that reminded me of the Bastille. Hey. Bastille. That is a B word! My shoes were two sizes too small. They fit like sausage casings. Since my feet aren’t actually sausages, the sausage casing shoes did not encourage a lot of movement on my part.
After about 24 hours, I was out of segregation. It was decided that I shouldn’t be there. I was told that I couldn’t handle it, which was true but I didn’t have any desire to share with these folks the fact that I am extremely claustrophobic. In short, I was Banished from Banishment.
But back to the letter B. I chose to write about Blue because Blue is better than Banishment. It turns out, however, that Banishment is more entertaining that Blue.
By the way, my banishment is described in Orange is the New Black in a very dramatic way and a bit exaggerated. For one thing, I didn’t talk about the School of the Americas “ad nauseum.” It would be amazing if I did because I… oh look a Bird!!!… am too distractable to keep to one subject for that long! Apparently, that’s part of my Myers Briggs personality type (ESFP), which I will talk about when I get to the letter “P” (for “personality,” not for “pain in the butt”). Also, the concept of my being handcuffed ungently and dragged away by three Big goons is just pure fiction. The prison wouldn’t waste that much manpower on one nonthreatening little inmate. Not only that, the prison powers that be were not ready to provide me with that much entertainment. That would have been worthy of storytelling for years to come or the creation of a TV miniseries about me.
All I can say is… I wonder who would play me in a TV miniseries??
|Let’s see. The letter C. I was going to write about Church. At least, that’s the picture I intended to use.
The letter C. Church… chocolate… candy…
Oh. Candy. I gave it up for Lent.
Everywhere I go, I see candy. It looks tasty. Chocolate candies especially.
But it is now Good Friday.
Lent is coming to a close soon.
Then it will be Easter.
I can eat all the candy I could hope for.
Giving up candy didn’t cause me to lose any weight. Not one ounce. It’s been months since I’ve been able to go out for a really long walk. I have spent a lot of time inside. That’s kind of boring. On the other hand, my long-dormant journalism career came back to life. I’ve been writing weekly for the Island Dispatch. I wrote about the Lenten luncheon series, which was presented by the five churches that are part of the Grand Island Ministerium. The theme of the Lenten luncheons were the parables of Jesus Christ.
Each church prepared the luncheon, and attendees paid five dollars for lunch. Hey, where can you get a good lunch for five dollars, which includes coffee, tea, and dessert?
I learned that Jesus directed his parables at different audiences. The parable of the rich man and Lazarus was a warning for people who were too much in love with themselves and their possessions and too little in love with their fellow human beings. The rich man lived a great life and then passed away and went to Hell because he was self absorbed and ignored Lazarus, a homeless man who sat at the rich man’s gate, waiting for scraps of food that never came. The rich man in the underworld was very remorseful. Lazarus, on the other hand, passed away and was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham.
The rich man begged Lazarus for help but Lazarus could not bridge the gap between heaven and hell.
The message to the rich people? Help your fellow human. You can’t take your wealth with you.
The parable of the rich man, who interestingly enough was anonymous, even though he felt himself to be very important, and other parables were meant to teach a lesson.
Another parable, the parable of the wicked tenants, was aimed to the religious leadership. It was meant to serve as an indictment, not merely as instruction for them.
Jesus told the parable after he entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. The story was about a landowner who established a new vineyard. Then he went to a far country, leaving his vineyard in the hands of tenants. The tenants were to take care of the vineyard and pay the landowner with part of the crop.
When the landowner’s servant went to collect after the crop grew to maturity, the tenants attacked and killed the servant. The landowner sent another servant, who met with the same fate.
The landowner decided that he should send his only son to collect the crop, with the idea that the tenants would not kill this young man.
The tenants murdered the son of the landowner in the belief that, with the landowner out of the way, the vineyard would belong to them.
Jesus asked the religious leaders what should happen to the murderous tenants when the landowner returned and discovered that his only son had been brutally slain. The religious leaders answered that the evil tenants should be destroyed and the land leased to tenants who fulfill their responsibilities.
The religious leaders feared that Jesus was describing them in the story. They were the bad tenants, the landowner was God, and the landowner’s son was Jesus.
That was the point at which the religious leaders felt that their power was being threatened by a usurper. Jesus did not belong to the priestly clan.
The religious leaders had to get rid of the threat to their power.
They were determined to maintain their power at all costs.
That threat was Jesus.
They had Jesus killed.
The religious leaders believed that the threat to their power had been eliminated.
They were wrong.
For the powerful, getting rid of perceived threats seldom works.
In El Salvador, the powers-that-be saw Archbishop Oscar Romero as a threat when he spoke up on behalf of the poor during the civil war. The archbishop also begged the Salvadoran military not to kill their fellow citizens, their brothers.
The powers that be in El Salvador, which was then ruled by fourteen families, felt that the archbishop should die, rather than challenge their power any longer.
When the archbishop was celebrating mass at a cancer hospital in San Salvador, he was shot to death by a death squad.
He was no more.
The threat to power did not go away.
There is now a different government in El Salvador.
Archbishop Oscar Romero is well on his way to being Saint Oscar Romero.