Lebanon Part 1

Lebanon

To this day, I am not sure what I expected to see the first time I flew into Lebanon. My Mother always said

“Lebanon, my Lebanon. The Mediterranean waters are blue, blue (with an emphasis on a long drawn out blu-u-ue). The countryside beautiful; the city of Beirut, like something from a dream.” It always gave me the image of a Disney production, and at the very least, I expected to see Tinkerbell flying around the city waving her magic wand. But that is not what happened, nor is it what I saw,

My mother saw it as a magical, fairy kingdom. She left there when she was fifteen, after she was married to my father. She remembers Lebanon this way because it was where she was the happiest. She told me wonderful stories of how, as a child, she roamed the hills behind her house, She would ride a donkey through the orchards filled with lemon, and tangerine trees. From her hillside, she could see the Mediterranean, and she would sit there for long hours staring. When I visited her home, I went up the hill behind her family home. Yes, there was an old Roman ruin there. When I sat upon it, I could see the Mediterranean off in the distance, and it was a beautiful blue.

When I arrived in Beirut it was not the beauty I expected. The first place my guide took me was to the Green Line in the center of town. This is where different factions fought with each other. One side was on one side of the road, the other, on the other side and, they shot at each other. This was during the civil war in Lebanon that took place from 1975 to 1990. I visited in 1995. Very little had been done to repair the damage. The Green Line road was criss-crossed with electrical wires, like a giant, ill formed spider’s web made by a very drunk spider. Everyone had electricity but no one paid for it.

The buildings were largely bombed out shells. People lived in them. Two or three stories of buildings with gaping holes, and minimal plumbing were seen. What must it have been like for these people who had lived together in peace for so many years. Lebanon was a land where Moslems, Orthodox, and Eastern Rite Catholics lived in peace for many years. Together, with the help of the French, a land rich in heritage and architecture was built. But beneath the surface simmered tribal hatreds breaking out in 1975 in a civil war basically destroying the country.

Lebanon is a land approximately 120 miles long and 60 miles wide. It is known for its beautiful mountains and incredible location on the Mediterranean. At the height of the Civil War, there were approximately 47 different factions. My mother did not think it amusing when I said, this would give each faction less than a square mile to control. Hyperbole, yes, but pretty much true.

Brother turned against brother. My cousin had her house bombed by another cousin, who had joined another faction. My friend tells the story of a man who had two sons. Each night they left the family home, and went to fight – each for a different party. One night the father took a gun, and killed them both. He could not endure the thought they might meet in battle and one forced to kill the other. It was a gruesome and bloody time, and here I was staring at the remains.

I was raised to be very proud of my heritage. In many ways, I considered myself more Lebanese than American. I was soon to find out this was not reciprocated.

Lebanon, my dear Lebanon. Land of my mother, and my father. I had heard so many stories growing up, it sometimes felt that is where I lived, in Lebanon. I was raised bi-culturally. We had one culture at home, and one outside the house. At home my parents spoke Arabic to each other and English to us. When my sister was small, the school would not allow her to stay because she could not speak English, and the teacher could not understand her. She could not return to school until she was able to speak English. Not wanting the same thing to happen to me, I was raised able to really understand Arabic but speaking was limited. I never felt part of the culture at school. My friends were limited. I was not accepted. I was often asked why I looked “different.” “You don’t look like the rest of us.” What was that supposed to mean. Once I was told, by a boy I had “bedroom eyes.” I had no clue what he was talking about. Now, I wonder if he knew. We were in the seventh grade, at the time.

All this to say I was really looking forward to being in Lebanon. At last, I had come home. This is the land where I belonged.

I looked around at bombed out buildings with people still living in them. I saw children playing in the middle of the streets, and in between buildings in dirty, muddy water. I wondered about their sanitation system, or lack of it. My friend’s fiancé was driving me, and he took a perverse pleasure in showing me all of the damage done during the civil war. Whenever I asked questions, or was surprised by what I saw, he responded by saying, “What can you expect after seventeen years of civil war?” This was the excuse for everything. There were no garbage pickups, and there had not been for many years. As far as the eye could see until the line on the horizon, was garbage. When I took pictures, I had to raise my camera in order to obtain a picture without garbage.

As we left the city, and started the ride up the mountain to the village where my mother was raised, we suddenly were engulfed with overwhelming traffic. The three lane highway suddenly accommodated five lanes of cars – all beeping and hollering at each other. Khaled, my friend’s fiancé, rolled down the window, and started screaming at another driver across the way. Unfortunately, I understood what he said. It always amazes me the first thing we learn in a foreign language is how to swear. I could not speak Arabic fluently, but I could swear like a trooper. I understood it all, and it was embarrassing.

After we left the city limits and started into the villages, we were confronted with road blocks. I was told not to speak, not to let them know I was American. This happened about every five kilometers. There were conversations, and I, fortunately, was hardly noticed in the back.

Letting Go

I am downsizing or, as I prefer to think of it, releasing my possessions for someone else to love. Although I am influenced by the need to provide financial support for myself to allow me to write, that is not the primary reason. Neale Donald Walsch wrote a book “When everything Changes, Change Everything.” For me, everything is changing, and it is a feeling of needing to catalyze this change.

This process has often been a part of my life. As a child I never owned much; no one did. As I grew, I accumulated things, and then I would either lose them, or give them away. Prior to going overseas in 1993, I sold everything I owned. When I moved to a different country, I often gave things away, and on a few occasions sold items. But now, I have twenty years of accumulation, as like in 1993, I feel a need to make room for changes in my life. To make room for new things; new experiences to take place, is my soul’s need. Through the years as I traveled, I purchased many wonderful rugs, paintings, jewelry, and all manner of things. I had many wonderful items given to me. Each carries a story, and I will share the story of my treasures when the time comes.

Part of me wants to keep everything. No, my mind yells, we cannot sell that. It is special. Don’t you remember sitting in Khaled’s store and speaking of this treasure with him, and sharing tea together with him, and Ron. Both have left for new worlds; new experiences; new dimensions. No, my mind yells, how can you sell that rug? Don’t you remember sitting in Hussein’s store listening to the stories he spoke of the rugs. He wove magical tales with the magical pictures in the rugs. We sat upon piles and piles of rugs. The area felt snug, and truly cozy with the remembrances of centuries. But we must, my soul responds, as it is time to recall these stories in writing, and to relay the lessons of a life well lived. We will have pictures, and as I stare at the pictures, I will dream of past experiences. I will weave my stories like Scherazade in A Thousand and One Nights. She wove her stories to stave off death. She left each story unfinished, and the Shah – hungry for more – would allow her to live another day. Until after a thousand and one nights, he realized he loved her. Her stories were his redemption. What do I stave off with my stories? What do I accomplish with my stories? Will I redeem myself? Will my stories leave you, my reader, hungry for more?

For as I am releasing my goods, I am releasing my mind and its accumulation of lessons learned in this life. It does not matter if no one reads these or cares about them. I do it because my Soul cares, and my Soul needs to experience the rest that comes with resolution. My Soul is releasing much, so it can truly unite with who I am, and truly release the Being within who is struggling to shine through

Remembering Gratitude

Sometimes it is so easy to whinge and whine about my life. When I lived in Rwanda a young teacher related this story to me. I thought I would relate it to you as a way of remembering each moment in gratitude. Jean has now come to the United States to live. He graduated form a premier University in Rwanda where he attended on a full government scholarship. These go to very few students. Always at the tope of his class, he is now seeking to attend one of our premier schools and to further advance his career in engineering and technology.
I had recently asked him to tell me this story again and this is what he reported:
The carrying rocks story is from 2004 when I was a senior 4 biochemistry major on summer break. Our daily livelihood depended on the crops we grew. My village faced a long period of drought dating from late 2000’s. We cultivated beans, sorghum, cassava and sweet potatoes yet there was no successful harvest. A friend of mine got me a job at a construction site as a construction worker aid where we had to carry bags of cement, load /unload delivery lorries, do all the mixing, and rebar all with our bare hands. After that, my whole family, including my two sisters 12 and 14 years old at that time, also worked. I was 16. My mother also obtained a job at another school construction site so she could buy a kilo of corn flour to eat at each meal. The most saddest part of this work experience is that we even had to strike in order to get paid because they did not want to pay as after all. We were borrowing food from local stores hoping to pay when we receive our wages.

Iraq after Saddam

IRAQ (right after Saddam)

The year was 2003, and I was living in Kuwait. To say we were excited would be an understatement. Saddam Hussein had been found in an underground tunnel, and for the first time, in forty years, it was almost possible to visit Iraq. I say almost, because it was still not possible to obtain a visa. Visiting Iraq was a dream for the Director of the school, where I was the Asst. Director. He and I often spoke of how amazing it would be to go there. The news then came through; he was invited to come, look, and to advise about setting up a school there. His fiancé, and I were invited to go along. We were beside ourselves with excitement.

We were headed to Diwaniya. And yes, we were illegal. No one in Kuwait knew we were going. And most definitely, our friends at the U.S. Embassy did not know. And, as I learned later, had they known we were going, our passports would have been confiscated. When I returned, I was treated to many lectures about the folly of our actions. Looking contrite was not easy, as I was exceptionally happy to have the chance to take this trip. It was not possible to get a VISA to visit, and that was disappointing, as it would have been wonderful fun to have a stamp from Iraq. Going through customs is an experience when you have stamps from Pakistan, Syria, and Lebanon in your passport. Having one from Iraq would add an additional dimension of deep explanation.

From the time we arrived at the border in Iraq, we were instructed to wear flack jackets, built to handle at least ten rounds from an automatic weapon. We were guarded by Blackwater troops, considered the best in the business. Blackwater troops at that time were considered the elite guards. They were an interesting group of men. From the first time they guarded us until we were delivered home, we were never left alone. Often these men surrounded us and, when we moved, they moved. It was as though they anticipated our every move.

They all looked like Rambo. and I mean this seriously, right down to the dark glasses. We were there as guests of the Governor in the Diwaniya area. One man was an amateur ornithologist, and was tracking the migration of birds back into the Diwaniya area after the war. The camp where we stayed had a small pond behind it with a large number of mosquitoes, and these mosquitoes brought birds. The military wanted to drain it, and James was strongly opposed. When he was on guard duty on the top of the buildings, he was also tracking birds as well as the human predators. No way could he allow them to drain his swamp.

The vehicles, we rode in, were bullet proof, but beyond that two of us sat in the back with a guard, and there were two guards in front. Being a curious sort, I asked our guard about the weaponry he carried. There was an automatic weapon in his hand, a gun in the back of his belt, and an automatic weapon in the pocket of the seat in front of us. If all of this failed, he had a small gun attached to his calf above his boot.

The drive from the border of Kuwait and Iraq was one of the most boring rides, as far as scenery goes I have ever traveled. There was nothing to see. It was flat with very little vegetation or people. This was an area of Iraq where the people had displeased Saddam, so there was no updated infrastructure – only a road through endless stretches of dirt and sand. This was the land that had seen the boots of hundreds of thousands of soldiers. These soldiers had kicked up enough dust to create one of the most intense sandstorms I had ever experienced. During the second bombing of Iraq, I was in Kuwait. I could not see out the window of my apartment for days, as the sand was so thick. The sand was very fine, tending to come in through any cracks around the windows. It would form little piles on the inside of the windows, and accumulate on the furniture, requiring frequent vacuuming. We were unable to leave out homes because of the thickness of the sand. The sand loosened by the boots of the troops marching across the desert, was carried by strong winds into Kuwait. I could not see the edge of the balcony, about five feet from the door of my apartment.

The camp, we arrived at, was specifically for mercenaries from several countries. Black Water were hired on a daily basis to protect the appointed Governor of Diwaniya, an American diplomat. The camp was composed of trailers surrounded by concrete walls. At least when we were inside the camp, we did not have to wear the flack jackets. The Governor arranged for us to visit Babylon. Here we were, the first “tourists” in 40 years…………and what an amazing place to visit.

As I stood in the middle of this relic, I realized I was at the site of the Tower of Babel. I stood in the courtyard where Alexander the Great spent his last days. I saw the walls where once had been the hanging gardens. I saw the remnants of mosaics and statues and I saw incredible destruction. The place had been savaged during the second world war when all of the statuary and anything that could be carried was removed by the Germans and placed in museums. But even so, as I stood there I could feel the thousands of years of history. This was old – so old, and we were so very young. If you listened you could hear the chariots, the crowds, and the lions. As I stood there quietly, I began to “hear” the crowds, the roar of lions, and the noise of a major city center. Saddam envied Nebuchadnezzar, feeling that he, Saddam was greater than this ruler of old. He decided to restore parts of Babylon, to reflect his own glory. He started with creating stones with Arabic writing on them, stating the Arabic equivalent of “Saddam was here.”

Saddam’s palace was grand. He built it overlooking the court of Alexander the Great, so that it would be known he was greater than this ruler of old. The palace was on a hill. Saddam, and his sons built their palaces within view of each other. The legend says they did not trust each other, and always wanted to know what each was up to. The sons, and their father, continually plotted to kill each other. The people did not know these palaces existed. In an amazing display of human manipulation, they believed Saddam lived in poor houses like his people. They never looked up. To do so, to look up, and to see his place was punishable by death and so, they never did. He had fifty palaces, and each was grand.

The one we visited was not finished, and had been stripped of all its finery before we arrived. And yet, it was still amazing. The rooms were huge, the ceilings grand, and the bathrooms amazing. In each corner of each room was a ladder. It was a straight ladder rising up through the floors from the basement floor to the roof. At all times, he (Saddam) wanted easy access for escape, and so each room had multiple exits.

We arrived in Iraq at the time of the celebration of Ashoura. For the first time in forty years the people were allowed to celebrate this festival. Saddam forbade any celebration that singled out one group of people to the exclusion of others. He forced unity. We saw miles and miles of pilgrims all headed for Fallujah, where a holy shrine was located. Miles and miles of people on foot, carrying flags, and walking with no provisions — just the clothes they had on. No food, no shelter.

The only one who was providing for them was Muktida Sidar. He had tents along the way giving the people food, and a place to rest. No wonder Muktida Sidar was so strongly supported by so many people. He fed them; he cared for them. He became the leader, one of the most influential religious and popular figures in Iraq. His popularity is largely due to his care for these people. There were so many people walking, walking, and all headed to Fallujah.

To say this part of Iraq was poor is a vast understatement. Although we were there to look at the concept of building a school for disabled children, we never saw children on crutches, or blind children. We came to understand these children were kept within their homes, as they were killed if seen in public. Saddam had a perfect society, and these children did not represent him. It was the same for all cripples, as they were known. Whoever could not care for himself disappeared, literally. Added to that, were the stories I heard of how beautiful women were kept indoors. Saddam’s sons would kidnap women who caught their fancy, and these women were forced to engage in gruesome acts. Many of the stories were horrifying. It is my preference not to repeat these stories, and to allow them to pass through without being retold.

Iraq was repressive. The people we saw were afraid. Their eyes told the story of an inability to stand up for what they believed. They learned to live by their wits, and knew voicing an opinion could end in their demise in some very unpleasant ways. Some of the stories I heard my first few years in Kuwait were horrifying. They were sickening, to say the least, not to mention what was broadcast on television. On my visit to Iraq many of these stories were retold. I tried to imagine what it would be like to live with this kind of fear. Never knowing when I left the house if I would return or end up kidnapped; never daring to lift my eyes for fear I would see something I should not; never daring to speak my opinion for fear I would be heard. It would be like being the living embodiment of the three monkeys – see, speak, hear no evil only in this case it would be for fear of evil. We who were raised in America do not have a clue what this means.

 

 

Have you ever done this??? or something similar…..

I arrived at Dulles Airport all ready to park the car in long term parking. Since I had never done this before, Wanted to make sure I did it correctly. I finally located a parking space as it was extremely crowded. I then carefully noted the aisle number and space number on my ticket, and then decided the safest spot for this ticket was carefully locked inside the car. This I did and quickly grabbed the next shuttle. After I arrived at the airport, and was carefully checked through security, it occurred to me that locking the ticket aside of the car with the numbers did not rank as one of my brightest ideas….. Not much I could do about it then, so off I went to a wonderful weekend with relatives in Texas.

After spending wonderful moments with nephews and nieces, and great nephews and nieces, and now great-great nephews,I came back to the Green Lot in long term parking. “This cannot be too hard,” I thought. “After all I saw the sign and ramp leading to the Purple Lot. It should be easy to find.” After walking up and down aisles, dragging my suitcase, I decided once again, this was not one of my brighter moments.

Stopping one of the shuttles, I asked the driver if I should return to the airport and hire a taxi to drive me around the lot until I found my car. “No need.” he said. “They will find it for you quickly.” He called the central office for parking and 45 minutes later, this angel in a tow truck arrived. Fortunately I remembered part of my license plate. I did not realize how much of the world were now driving a black Prius, and they were all parked in the Green Lot.

The security cameras found my car. After my car and I embraced, the separation caused us both anxiety. I got in, and joined the never-ending line of trucks on I 81 going south. So grateful to be home.  By the way, everyone, keep an ear out. I will soon be joining you on radio. I will let you know all about it.

Jay’s Poems

Jay has given me permission to publish some of his poems on my blog. I hope you enjoy these.

Identity

Jay Kendall

I am the jailer and the jailed:

I am the nailer and the nailed.

But beyond the box,

Is the paradox.

I am the righter of the wrong;

I write the lyrics of the song.

Perception

Jay Kendall

As melodies flow,

And harmonies enter,

Pleasing as you drift along,

It’s sweeter to know,

That you are the center,

Auditor, singer, and song.

Attuned

Jay Kendall

When he plucked a string and it started to sing,

He was pleased and amazed he could play;

Then his thought touched a chord,

And it brought such reward,

 

That it seemed to turn night into day.

Then he heard a melody calling his name,

And telling him seek and you’ll find,

But he danced for so long,

So entranced by the song,

It was measured in time out of mind.

 

At the back of his head he could hear all the horns,

As they tooted the tunes that he knew,

Blowing sounds without end,

Till he rounded the bend,

And became all the notes that they blew.

 

A Grandfather’s Answer

Jay Kendall

Elves? Elves! Of course there are elves!

That’s not just a name for our mischievous selves.

Why what makes the cuckoos on millions of shelves,

Call one note at noon as though counting by twelves?

The seeker will find the deeper he delves,

The answer to half the worlds mysteries is elves.

The Good Ole Days

At a recent writing conference, I listened to an author relate why she felt motivated to write books about True Crime. As she spoke, I had flashbacks to a similar experience.

I was about 8 years of age, walking to school. My school was about five blocks from home, but I had walked by myself since I started school. All the kids did. Usually there were adults out doing errands, hanging wash, or otherwise engaged in outdoor activities. No one thought anything about allowing children the freedom to roam the neighborhood. I was headed home, and this time, I was alone.

As I was walking, a car pulled up beside me. “Hi,” he said. “Can you help me?” Being a good little child, wanting to help, I walked over to the car.

“I am lost. Can you tell me where is the Jaffa Mosque?”

I was standing a bit away from the car, and he called me over. “Could you come here? I want to show you something.”

I walked closer to the car and looked in. He was wearing a suit, a grey suit as I remember. Why that weird piece of information stuck in my 8-year-old head is beyond me. On his left leg, he had a white handkerchief, and on the handkerchief was something looking weird, and strange. It was spurting liquid as he stroked it.

“Can you get in the car, and take me to the Jaffa Mosque?” he said. As I looked at him, I backed away. I have no memory of what happened then. I suspect he rapidly drove off because someone approached. The author, at the conference, said she was saved because another car approached as the fellow was preparing to make a grab for her. She also backed away. However, unlike me, she was smart enough to memorize part of the license plate. Her report to the police resulted in the apprehension of her predator. He had killed six children previously, and she was to be his seventh. As for my predator, my guardian angel was working overtime.

Since I had never seen a penis, it did not occur to me this is what he showed me. It took many years of remembering to realize he was showing me a penis having an orgasm. I just remember weird fascination with this milky, whitish substance I saw.

Needless to say, the experience was memorable, as sixty years later I still recall it vividly.

This author, and I both agreed we hated receiving emails about the “good ole days.” You know the ones. The ones that tell you how innocent life was in the fifties. How innocent children were in the fifties. They tell you how mother stayed home with the children, and dad’s worked. Every home was a “Leave it to Beaver” paradise. And no one had to worry about children because molestation, and pedophiles did not exist.

I agree that I am very grateful I was raised when I was. I am grateful I had the freedom to roam the streets, and the woods. I had a private life no one, especially my parents, knew anything about. I left in the morning, and was gone until sunset. We played in the neighborhood, but we also roamed. I lived near a railroad yard, and we played inside of boxcars. We climbed boxcars. We hitchhiked on the trains driving between the Acme warehouse, and the meatpacking plant, where we watched them slaughtering cows. I collected eyeballs, and hearts for dissection in school. We climbed boxcars, walking across the tops of them. My friends had the courage to jump from one to the next. I could never manage to do so.

We climbed, and played in old abandoned warehouses across the street from where I lived. My mother came to the door one day, just in time to see me using a cable wire, we had found in side the building, as a repelling rope to come down the side of the building. Why she was so upset, I do not know. I was safe. I made it down. “You need to act like a lady?” she screamed at me later. “You need to stop playing with boys.” “huh???” I said to her. “Girls don’t do things like that.” “Oh!” I replied as I headed out the door to find my friends. “Girls are boring, and beside. I do not like to play with dolls.”

In many ways, this was an idyllic life. In many ways, it did fit those emails I receive, telling me how great the “good ole days” were. But there was a dark side. A dark side no one mentioned.

At twelve, one of my girlfriends was kidnapped, raped, and left behind the Acme warehouse wrapped in a sheet. The perpetrator was never caught. I am not even sure the police took it seriously. The gossip from the adults, I remember hearing blamed the child. “She probably did something to deserve it.”

I remember a case in the local courts, when I was about the same age. The woman had come to court to accuse a man of raping her. The prosecutor took a coke bottle, passing it back and forth in front of her. He asked her to stick her finger in the bottle. Of course, she could not do it. The prosecutor then said to the jury, “see no woman can be raped, unless she wants it.” Women are coke bottles; the woman must have lain still. She must have wanted it.” The man was found innocent of rape. The woman, probably permanently scarred for life.

At thirteen, my best friend was raped. The local minister from the church, across the street from her home, raped her. She was seeking a father, since she did know hers. Nancy would go to the church to talk to him. He was always warm, and welcoming to her, unlike her life at home. He made her feel loved, and cared for. She told me about him, and how she talked to him. She then told me what he did to her. She admitted she was afraid, as it had happened twice. I convinced her to talk with the people for whom she babysat, since she could not talk to her mother.

She did talk to them, and they tried to protect her. When they went to the police, they were told there were no witnesses, and they probably did not have a case. Nancy had told them about my being molested, so they came to my mother to convince her to let me testify. She refused. My parents were trying to protect me, in their own way. But I hated them for this, for years.

Meanwhile, the minister went to Nancy’s mother to talk. Convincing her mother Nancy was telling lies, he further convinced her mother to have Nancy committed to the local state mental institution where she was diagnosed as a schizophrenic. I never saw her again. When she was released, she disappeared.

My parents remained convinced they had done the right thing, and besides, as they told me, it was my fault I was molested, and her fault she was raped. My mother called the preacher’s daughter over, after I had told them what happened to me. Mother spoke to his daughter, not to him, and in a very circumspect manner told her to tell her father to leave me alone. She was a very close friend of mine. We often hung out after school, at another friend’s house, watching American Bandstand, oohing and awing over the regulars, pretending we were there, as we danced. After this talk, with my mother, I never saw her again. The family moved not too long after, I understood, from his daughter, the family had been forced to move before because of the same reason. I lost another close friend.

When I was in junior high, and high school, I also walked back, and forth to school. Since I played in the orchestra, I had evening concerts to attend. I either took the bus, or I walked. My family did not own a car. Walking presented it’s own challenges. I Learned early how to be aware of my surroundings. We knew which houses were safe to run to, in case of being chased. We identified cars whenever they passed us, marking to see if the vehicle passed more than once. This let us know if we were being followed. Normally, when this happened, the driver would travel down the block for a bit, then stop, and get out to follow on foot. It was then time to run to the safety of a nearby house. Weird thing was, once it was felt the danger was passed, I was permitted to proceed on my own the rest of the way home.

Now one would think the school bus was a safe location. We rode the local buses often, and we became friendly with the bus drivers, always greeting them when we got on and off the bus. There was one driver named Charlie, who was particularly known for being a serious grouch. I always made a point of saying “Hello”, in the hopes of brightening his day. One day, as we reached the end of the line downtown, where I needed to change buses to go home, I started to get off the bus, and he had locked the bus doors.

Charlie started to come down the aisle towards me. I can still see him. His face was red and beefy, and he was salivating. He was breathing heavy, and his eyes looked weird. His body took up most of the aisles. Although I was a large girl, he outweighed me by at least 100 lbs., or so it looked. His face had morphed into pig like features with heavy jowls that shook. It also appeared to me he was salivating.

“Let me off the bus, “ I said, very emphatically.

“No, I am going to give you something to remember me by.”

“I want off this bus,” I stated again as he drew nearer. I was at the back of the bus, and by this time, he was about a third of the way towards me.

“If you do not let me off this bus, I will scream.” I drew a deep breath, filling my lungs and beginning to scream. Outside the bus were some people, and I hoped they would hear me.

“Alright, alright,” he yelled, “Just shut up, and I will let you off. “ He went back up front, and pulled the lever to open the doors.

When I arrived home, I did tell my mother about what happened. Looking at me, she said, “This is your fault, you are too friendly with men. Men are disgusting they only want one thing. It is your fault for talking to them. Stay away from them. Shame on you.” And we wonder why, it took years for me to work through these issues in therapy.

“The Good Ole Days” Eh?!?!?!? Before we refer to the fifties as the time of ideal living, let us remember there was much no one spoke about. Yes, police were friendly, as long as you were white, and not doing anything contrary. Police brutality was common, as were hangings and prejudice. My family, were immigrants to America. They came seeking a better life. They did find a good life for their children, but they also found prejudice.

I was raised during the McCarthy era in the USA. Teachers took loyalty oath to the United States. I had a teacher who explained to us one day in third grade, how anyone born in America was superior to anyone born in another country. Being the inquisitive child I was, I raised my hand.

“Teacher.” I said. “My parents were born in another country, and I was born here. Does this mean I am superior to my parents?”

She looked at me, and slowly said, “Yes, it does.” When I later told my mother she did not see it that way.

My sister was not allowed to join the Rainbow Girls, because her parents were both born abroad. The local chapter changed this ruling, due to the intervention of a high-ranking Mason. My sister then refused to join.

Prejudice, police brutality, racism and especially pedophiles were common but no one said anything. It was behind closed doors. Victim blaming was common. But today, with the advent of Internet and increased media, the public’s attention is immediately drawn to these events. I, for one, am grateful this has happened because it has eliminated, to some extent, the ability to “get away” with abusive behavior.

At the risk of being redundant, I repeat myself. I am grateful, I was raised during the fifties. Although difficult, I had one thing children do not have today, Freedom. We were able to roam, and we grew up independent. Although we ran into bad characters, we knew how to take care of ourselves. We were not coddled, and protected from reality. Every age has its difficulties, and this one seems to have brought significant fear. Maybe this is why we all want to look at the fifties as the “golden age,” the “good old days.” There were parts of it that were good but there were parts that were hell.” The golden beast had an underbelly of malice, and anger.

I write this to shine a light. We need this light to clean out the wrongs done to children. We need this light to clean out the wrongs done to us, as adults, when we were children. If we have a boil, we need to lance it, and then drain it, in order to heal. It looks worse before it finally heal. We are in a time when cruelty is coming to light. Many of us prefer to hide from, and to actively deny it ever happened. It will not go away. Change is at hand. If I am in a darkened room, and I hear what sounds like rattle snakes, shall I just turn my back in the hope they will simply slither away, or shall I shine a light so I know where they are, and therefore, protect myself from stepping on one accidentally. It is time for all of us to awaken, and to accept responsibility. As it is said, we cannot change the past, but we can learn its lessons to change our future, and to make a better world for our children.

I showed the above piece to a close friend of mine, and he wrote this response. Thank you Jay, for allowing me to share this with all of our readers.

An Insight About Insights

by Jay Kendall

It’s amazing how an experience can alter our perspective—how it can open our eyes and change the way we see the world. And by telling about it, writing about it, we help others become aware. We bring things to light. We are all teachers pointing out and saying, Look. Hoping they will see and understand.

But the fact that we can see and understand is in itself important, because that awareness changes the energy. Have you ever been with a group of people who are trying to solve a problem, and no one grasps or sees the merit in your idea? Then a few minutes later, someone else presents the same plan or idea, as though it’s an original thought, and that person is praised and credited with the solution.

And no one remembers that you had anything at all to say about the issue. If you try to take the credit, you’ll be seen as a pariah. But if we have the presence of mind to step away, we appreciate that the idea, the awareness, is what has importance, not us. We are the conduits, channels of energy—like lightning rods. The role of the teacher is to convey the thought—to provide the spark that will light the lamp.

Grateful for Angels

The day was hot and the roads in the market dusty. Casablanca was an interesting place for a visit, but the market inside the old city held the greatest attraction. The streets were narrow, but still the sun shone down hot and clear. It was a large maze of streets, winding for several kilometers. It presented unique people and even more unique experiences.

I was traveling with my companion from Kuwait. We had decided to investigate the market as often that is where the most interesting of items are found. It was a fascinating place. I stopped to take pictures of a bakery. It was built flush with the road. The walls were open so people passing could see directly into the ovens, and the young men working. The smells and vapors lured you over, demanding you sample the wares. The young men enjoyed hamming it up for my camera. They waved and talked with us, and tried to practice their English.

I turned to take pictures of street scenes, and as I did a man moved, blocking the view from my camera. I moved again, and again he moved blocking my view. I put my camera down, and he shook his head “NO!” He was making it very clear that all my efforts to take photographs of the streets were not going to happen. He would not allow me to accidentally photograph a woman. I gave up, and my friend, and I moved on down the street. We were the only foreigners in this market, as far as I could see. My companion was blond. Although I am of Arab descent, my skin is light and often people do not realize I speak, and understand Arabic. Here in Morocco, the language was a combination of French and Arabic, making it difficult to understand what was being said.

We peered intently down the street. The sun somewhat blinded our eyes and we had to squint.

”He’s beating a horse. “ My companion suddenly screamed. “He’s beating a horse. I can’t allow that” and she took off at a run.

“Stop” I cried. It is not a good idea for us to get involved. She refused to listen and ran ahead, with me right behind her. We moved quickly through the maze made of paths of cabbages, melons and various items of all types.

“I can’t allow it. I can’t see what he is hitting, but I have to stop it.”

My eyes focused ahead and I saw what had upset her. A man had two knives and was waving them over his head. He was chanting and screaming “Allah Akbar.” I knew enough to know that he meant. “God is Great” And while I could agree there was great truth in that statement, I was not sure I wanted to be involved. The knives flashed in the sun, and the way he was wielding them, gave me a fright.

He was not far head of us now, and as I watched, I realized he was standing over a large cart of fish, whole fish that had been brought in for sell. He was making sushi out of the fish. His knives were rising and falling, and was repeatedly cutting into the fish. He was totally involved with what he was doing. The poor woman who owned the cart of fish, looked on horrified.

I turned to my friend “This does not look good. We better get out of here.”

At that point he caught site of us, and started a renewed screaming as he looked at us. I began to catch phrases of “infidels, death” and again “Allah akbar.”

At this point I realized what phenomenal danger we were in. We started to back out, and looked around for an escape plan. The crowd had closed in around us, and there was no place to go. Our path was totally blocked by people crowding around to watch. Everywhere we turned to leave there mounds of fruit, and vegetables, and people.

I was beginning to have visions of becoming human sushi as I realized he was starting to come towards us. I could feel the panic rising in my throat.

At that moment two small, elderly people merged out of the crowd, and came toward us. Neither came above my shoulder. Their faces were kind and appeared to have an inner light. I felt comforted the minute I saw them. With a smile, the man took my hand, and the woman took my friend’s. They calmly moved us through the crowd. The crowd moved around us and quietly let us through. As we were escorted to safety, I saw men had crowded around the man with the knives, and carried him away from the group.

The elderly couple moved away from us as softly and quietly as they had come. No words were ever exchanged. When I turned to thank them, both had disappeared. We were safe.

We saw the woman who owned the cart with the fish, pushing the cart through the market. The fish had been cut into random sized pieces. The man’s frenzy had almost made ground fish. She would not be able to sell any of it. We passed the mosque where the man was taken, and heard chanting, and smelled incense.

Later, back at the hotel, we relayed our story to the man at the reception desk. We were calmly told it must have been our imagination, because things like this did not happen in Morocco. Ah, yes….. that was one overactive imaginative day. Thank God for angels.

Vulnerable for Love

I was recently visiting my friends with small children. As children will, they were becoming difficult and, yes, obnoxious. I watched as the parents began the process of trying to correct their behavior. I was curious as it brought back memories of experiencing discipline from teachers, parents, and so one. Not only personal discipline but stories related to me by friends, clients, students, and so on.

The first technique did employ ignoring, and when that did not work trying verbal encouragement to change their ways. Eventually, when all else failed, they were put in time out. As these children were young, time-outs were brief. As soon as the child reached out to the parent, the parent responded with a hug, a very reassuring hug and a kiss. The child was left knowing it was her action that was not approved, not the child itself.

This is in contrast to what I, and so many others remember about being punished when we were children. My mother was the disciplinarian and her fuse was short. Her favorite implement was the wooden spoon, which by the way, hurt, stung and left marks. I was then left bruised and crying. I was told that if I continued to cry, I would be “given something to cry about.” I stopped crying, and was left in near hysterics not understanding what I could have done to make me such an awful, terrible person. There were no reassurances, not then, and not for a long time after.

Not too many of us remember much reassurance after being spanked, or more appropriately, beaten for a transgression. My situation was not unusual. Many of my friends, as children, faced the same. We were left after being punished to “think about what we had done.” It often was a long time before anyone spoke to us. We were left with the impression we were very bad children, very bad indeed. These times took their toll. The primary lesson we learned is the love of our parents was conditional. Love was only granted when we were good and only provided when we fulfilled the terms our parents set forth. Unconditional love was not a term ever used.

I often hear adults saying children today are undisciplined, and what they need is a good beating.

“It didn’t hurt me,” they say. “Look at me, I’m fine.” And yet, the question remains, are they really fine?

This type of upbringing is called authoritarian. It perpetuates the dominant/submissive roles, master/slave, right/wrong. It is a power struggle, with one winner, and one left feeling like a loser. My friends’ children were left knowing they were still loved. They were left with confidence and knowledge their internal self was good and whole. They could readily say, “I’m sorry” and achieve forgiveness.

I, as well as so many of my generation, were left with a strong need to please those in authority, to gain their approval. We do what we are told in the hopes, someone will love us and provide us with praise and tell us “good job.” We are afraid someone will find us out and recognize us for the failures we feel ourselves to be. We lack confidence, even if we have managed to rise to positions of power. We struggle to break free of these feelings, and spend our lives reaching for the confidence to be ourselves.

Many are not even aware they are trapped within their own programming to seek approval. They see their rise in authority as finally being able to achieve the power exercised over them when they were children. Positions of authority become mistaken for finally receiving approval from their parent. Finally, they are able to do to others, what was done to them. It does not come with compassion, but is born of fear, the fear of never being “good enough.”

My friend once said to me, “I tell my kids, I do the best I know how as a parent. I am better to them, than my father was to me. It is up to them, to raise their own children the way they wish they were raised.” Fortunately, some of us are breaking the cycle of abuse. And yes, raising a child the way I was raised is abuse. We do not like to call it this. I remember being looked at weirdly the first time and being criticized. I was told I could not say this. I carried this for many years before I could speak of it. I did not really see it as abuse because it was the way my friends were raised. Even after many years of therapy, it was not easy to speak of. Strangely enough, it was only after I developed compassion for my mother, and her own abusive history, that I could deal with my personal history the same way.

I am grateful so many are raising their children differently. It is finally realized children are not miniature adults. It is finally realized, they are children with feelings, and they are vulnerable. Children are most vulnerable to their parents, the people who raise them. Children love their parents unconditionally. They will try against all odds to gain their approval, even when it is hopeless. This is never really outgrown. If it is not given by a parent, it will be sought from an authority figure. This is what it makes it so dangerous. This is what allows cults, religious fundamentalism in all its forms, gangs, and so forth to flourish.