Common Ground

2

September 28, 2022- One of my family members, and a high school friend, let us know they were safe and well, as Hurricane Ian made its slow move through southwest Florida, for several hours today. The sometimes contentious state and Federal governments are on speaking terms for this one, and there is no daylight between the arrival of the storm and that of Federal aid.

There are a few troublemakers trying to disrupt things- a bogus article claiming that President Biden has “abandoned” Puerto Rico, with the theme that “a whole week has gone by, and nothing has been done.” Sorry, but the Federal Emergency Management Agency has no drive-through window. It usually takes three weeks to a month before tangible results can be seen and felt. Just yesterday, funds to help Mora County and Taos, New Mexico recover from the wildfires of May and June, were approved by Congress-meaning that those who felt abandoned by FEMA will shortly begin to get actual relief.

The larger picture is that when disasters like those mentioned above, or in Alaska, or further afield in Pakistan or the eastern Caribbean, happen, we feel a genuine desire to help. I am somewhat indisposed to physically go to Florida right now, owing to a commitment to be available for two Social Action prep courses, between now and the end of December. These are Friday morning classes, online, so work of any form would be disruptive. I trust that there will be a multitude of people going to help-with the Florida Emergency Management director telling people to go through official channels, when volunteering, and not to just self-deploy.

The big picture, though, is in seeing that we all are standing on the same common ground-and in times like these, no one gains from throwing stones at others, including government workers.

Resilience

2

September 25, 2022- The image stays in my mind, of the effervescent couple, greeting everyone cheerfully at their lakeside restaurant, in the village of Bras d’Or, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. Then, there were the hardworking Miqmaq people, across the lake, in Eskasoni, their workshops and tool sheds, so vital a part of their community life. Across the strait, in the southwest corner of Newfoundland, the people of Channel-Port aux Basques greet hundreds of visitors each day, during the summer months and send off equally as many, who are at the end of their visits. Nearby, in the village of Doyles, are the cabins along the Codroy River, providing quality accommodations, in a supremely rustic setting. At the northwestern tip of the island, the communities around L’Anse aux Meadows hold their own, in a climate that is already severe, nine months of the year. On the Burin Peninsula, in southeast Newfoundland, a well-kept series of gardens form the centerpiece of an exquisite Bed and Breakfast establishment, honouring its late founder.

These communities, as well as Prince Edward Island and much of New Brunswick, mainland Nova Scotia and eastern Quebec, suffered immense damage from Hurricane Fiona, the same storm that blasted Puerto Rico and several other Caribbean islands, earlier this month. I spoke with the proprietor of a motel, in an area that was spared damage this weekend. She said that much of Cape Breton and the Chignecto/Bay of Fundy region to the west of the island will be in extended recovery mode, for quite some months to come. The area has winter to keep in mind as well.

Many of us are used to thinking of tropical islands and forested lands of the north, in terms of vacations and scenery. Now, we are, more and more, coming to see the entirety of life in those communities. Every location that provides others with rest and relaxation, has its own human communities, whose members have needs, aspirations and dreams of their own. Let us stay in contact with those friends in the affected areas, and encourage their resilience as best we can.

I know that the Caribbean, Alaska and Atlantic Canada, like all places affected by disaster, will rise again.

If

10

November 14, 2017, Prescott-

If I am chosen to serve as a co-ordinator for international students,

I would work to make their time here a cornerstone of the rest of their lives.

If my son safely completes his time in service,

I know he will make a huge mark in the world,

in the time afterward.

If it be God’s Will, I shall not be moved aside

from generous acts of service,

both here and far afield.

If there be a clear sense of reality,

the good people of the world

will find a way,

to end imbalance,

for Puerto Rico,

Kurdistan,

Rakhine Province,

Sri Lanka,

Syria,

South Sudan,

Rockport- Port Aransas,

central Appalachia,

the Navajo Nation,

Uyuni,

Haiti,

Chicago.

If  justice prevails,

those being marginalized

will see solutions,

that honour their

creativity,

their intelligence,

their dignity.

Colombo

4

October 9, 2017, Prescott-

Synchronicity leads to triage.  A meeting that I cannot miss, tomorrow night, has delayed my brief jaunt over to Gila Cliff Dwellings, until Wednesday morning.  This will be just fine, though it takes me away from other meetings, Wednesday and Thursday nights.  As long as I’m back, to take care of a key task on Friday, it’s all good.  Besides, driving down and over to Superior on Tuesday night, after the gathering, will be easy enough.

Now then:  Today is celebrated by those of  Italian descent, across the United States, as Columbus Day..  Others among our countrymen point out that Columbus’ track record, with regard to the Indigenous people of the Caribbean Basin and Rim, was hardly deserving of special honours.

A contemporary of Columbus, Bartolomeo de las Casas, himself a defender of indigenous peoples’ rights, says of the Admiral :  He was “more than middling tall; face long and giving an air of authority; aquiline nose, blue eyes, complexion light and tending to bright red, beard and hair red when young but very soon turned gray from his labors; he was affable and cheerful in speaking […] A forgiver of injuries, [he] wished nothing more than that those who offended against him should recognize their errors, and that the delinquents be reconciled with him.”

Columbus did concur with slaughtering cannibals, among the Caribs of Dominica, after seeing graphic evidence of their torture of both Taino and Spaniard.  He reported, but did not practice, the sexual enslavement of young Taino girls.  For this last, and other “crimes against the Spanish”, his opponents, Bobadilla and Roldan, sought Columbus’ removal. Although Roldan later reconciled with Columbus, Bobadilla persisted, and eventually saw to the Admiral’s removal and imprisonment.  Much of the present-day condemnation of Christopher Columbus comes from “evidence” cited  by Bobadilla, who was himself a severe persecutor of indigenous people, though his own rule over Santo Domingo proved ineffective and was, therefore, very brief.

Having said this, I am not sure what merit Columbus has, for the honours heaped upon him, as “discoverer of America”.  He never set foot on American soil, other than Puerto Rico, which has its own history and sovereignty, separate from that of the United States of America.  He was, by his own admission, not the first European to set foot in North America (having visited Iceland and heard the descriptions of “Vinland”, from that country’s residents).

Like many of our holidays, Columbus Day has become about us. In this case, it has become about proud Italian-Americans  marching in parades and honouring their rich heritage.  That heritage includes, among other things, the fact that our hemisphere’s two continents are named for one of Columbus’s contemporaries:  Amerigo Vespucci, a cartographer.  Columbus himself is honoured, decently enough, by places being named for him, from the capitals and largest cities of Ohio and South Carolina, to Canada’s westernmost province (albeit by way of Lewis and Clark having named the Columbia River after him).

People change at a glacial pace, so I expect Columbus Day, and the parades, will be around for some years yet.  It doesn’t much matter, here in Arizona, save for the banks and post offices being closed.  We tend to pay more mind to those important to this area’s heritage.  So, by and large, the sensibilities of Native Americans loom larger, and Columbus is more a figure of curiosity and of academic study.