Category Archives: Heroes

Never An Easy Road

Truth-telling has never been “the easy way.”

In all of history, mankind has too often concluded that truth tends to hurt us.  Whether in refusing to face a reality which we don’t wish to acknowledge or bending a reality to serve some other purpose, we are masters of deceit.  The continuing deaths of 130 Yemeni  children per day is a truth better left unknown.  Thousands of immigrants approaching the southern U.S. border are more easily dismissed when seen as criminals.  We even bend the truth to our own detriment, as when misrepresenting to our physicians how much we exercise, how much we drink, what we eat.  (Really?)

One of the great ironies is that speaking the truth- which is said to set us free- is one of the most difficult tasks of our lives.  Which is why we stand in such awed respect of those who summon the will to say the truth, regardless of the cost.  One such individual is profiled in the “Nica Update” section of this website.  Our most recent entry there presents the testimony of Ligia Gomez, former Manager for Economic Research for the Central Bank in Nicaragua, and Political Secretary of the Sandinista Leadership Council in that State institution.  Read her story, an increasingly rare profile in courage and truth-telling.  She has given up much in speaking her truth.

In our complex and results-driven existence, we tend to value what we can possibly get done, and think less about how the thing has been done.  The current U.S. president likes to heap praise upon himself for the current strength of the U.S. economy.  What he will never talk about is the cost of this economy- in terms of debt, environmental degradation and  the threat to our very planet- to be born by future generations.  In other words, the truth we are unwilling to tell our children is that we are creating future burden for them for our own comforts today.  That truth is a painful one; it’s much nicer to contemplate living in excess and comfort today:  have you seen the numbers?  Simply fantastic!

Of course, truth is rarely an absolute.  It is shaped by our life experiences, our feelings of compassion, and ultimately just how willing we may be to live with the discomfort that truth creates.  No one owns the market on truth.  Maybe the best we can do is to be truthful with ourselves before demanding the truth from others. Self-truth gives us the opportunity to be truthful with others and better qualified in calling out deceit when we hear it….

 

Words of Eloquence and Meaning

For the past several weeks I have struggled to come up with the right means of expression to describe how I feel about circumstances in Nicaragua.  In the shadow of killings and abductions and fear, Nicaragua would seem to be quite unlike the country in which Winds of Peace has worked over the past 35 years.  Pictures of massive protests in the places I know, photos of masked shooters in the neighborhoods where I’ve been, blood in the streets where I’ve walked: these are surreal images that choke the words I should say.  I have not traveled to Nicaragua since February, and I feel as though I’ve been away even longer.

The development continues, nonetheless.  Loans are being made:  last week, two women’s cooperatives received small, initial funding for local agriculture.  Grants are being given: despite the vastly reduced attendance in schools over recent months, elementary-age reading initiatives are being redirected through community sites and churches  Repayments are being made: even where full repayment might be delayed, partners are reworking payment plans to honor their obligations as best they can.  There may be few causes of great joy within the current turmoil of Nicaragua, but there are hopeful moments.

Of course, what matters in this crisis time is not the impact upon a small U.S. foundation; Winds of Peace is just fine.  Of importance is the real-life upheaval being lived out daily by Nicaraguans who struggled for daily survival long before the first protests were launched, and who now find themselves threatened with even greater hardships than before.  Most North Americans would have a difficult time fully comprehending Nicaraguan poverty prior to April 18 of this year.  We have even less likelihood of  understanding their realities given the way things are today.  And my words are simply insufficient to the cause.

So I invite readers to shift their attentions to the “Nica Update” entries at this site.  They are frequent updates on the status of the confrontation and the contain the observations and experiences of men and women caught up in current struggle.  They are words of passion.  They are expressions of the most deeply-held beliefs of Nicaraguan people yearning once again for peace and equity.  They are the fluent articulations of a people’s soul, in a time of deep distress.

Over the din of bullets and bulldozers, emerge words of eloquence and meaning….

 

Olympic Mistrials

Here they come again.  It’s those television advertisements hyping the 2018 Olympic Games in South Korea.  I’m a minor fan of both the winter and summer games, but not so much a fan of the nationalistic lead-up to the competition.  Sure, I like to see the U.S. win medals and realize dreams in competition.  but not so much the “heroism” storylines that accompany our introduction to the athletes, nor the presumption of U.S. preeminence.

One of these over-the-top promotional pieces features some of the USA athletes reciting words to “America, the Beautiful,” intoning deeply serious recitations against a backdrop of dramatic, athletic scenes.  The combination of somber voice, a stirring verse of “America, the Beautiful” and scenes of personal sport triumph are designed to capture us and convey an sense of ultimate importance for the upcoming games.  I know what they’re after, but for me it accomplishes the opposite.

“O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife,”

I suppose that sports excellence has always conveyed a heroism upon the performer; we hold our athletes in the highest esteem, even when they exhibit behaviors which would be unacceptable when demonstrated by anyone else.  But sports competition is hardly strife.

Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!

The idea of Olympic athletes competing more from loving country than self would be a difficult notion for me to accept, given the fame, the surroundings, the money and accolades conferred upon them.  Indeed, I would be very surprised to learn that an Olympic athlete had grudgingly taken up a sport and sacrificed  a career in medicine or law or social work essentially for the good of his/her country.  And I certainly can’t equate commitment to an Olympic sport with showing mercy upon others or giving up one’s life.

America! America!
May God thy gold refine,
Till all success be nobleness,
And every gain divine!”

The interventions of a divine presence in winning a gold medal will best be left to someone else’s analysis; Olympics aren’t likely the domain of heavenly hosts, and in any case, for every prayer uttered by a U.S. athlete there are potentially 2,872 additional prayers from the other athletes.  (This is the total number of athletes participating in the last Winter Games.)

It matters little whether the U.S. wins the medal count or the National Anthem is played more often than those of others nations.  Success in the Olympics does not define a nation or a people, their character or their compassion.  The Olympics is not a surrogate for battlefields of conquest or measures of character.  But what we can watch closely is the capacity of human endeavor.

The Olympic Games, like their summer counterpart, have always been about the athletes.  They provide a showcase of human physical and psychological accomplishment, a stage for imagining, and seeing, the limits of human capabilities.  That’s the draw and the drama of Olympic sports.  The attempt to make the competitions something more than they are does a disservice to the notions of sport,  competition and the hope that is kindled during this brief unification of mankind.

Yes, the Olympics will provide a world stage for exciting competitions.  But during those 16 days, there will be far more people in the world who cannot or will not be watching.  For them, real heroes are the ones rescuing injured children following a bomb strike or hurricane.  The strife being fought by these competitors is not against a clock, but against oppression or disaster or disease.  These are the ones about whom it may truly be said that they put mercy and compassion ahead of their own lives, that the future of their people holds greater importance than themselves.  Many of these will neither note nor care about the Olympics and the stories behind the athletes there.  For them, there exists an even greater Herculean effort at hand, and one of far greater importance: giving of themselves to others.

So I will watch portions of the XXIII Winter Olympic Games next month.  I’ll vicariously enjoy the breathtaking accomplishments of well-conditioned athletes in their prime.  I’ll cheer for individuals and teams I like- for whatever the reason- and enjoy the hopefulness in seeing even a North Korean team present.  But I’m not likely to mistake either the importance or the heroism embodied by the event.  For that, I’ll look for the anonymous servants who tend to the also-rans….