SLICE OF LIFE – COURAGE AND STRENGTH

Every Tuesday Two Writing Teachers provide an opportunity  to share your writing.
Every Tuesday Two Writing Teachers provide an opportunity to share your writing.

cour·age
the ability to do something that frightens one,
strength in the face of pain or grief.

Courage is the word that seems to have woven itself into my week.

On Sunday I had delightful visit to Storybook Land with Dom and our grandchildren.  Storybook Land is a park with rides based on Mother Goose Tales.  We came upon Mary’s Little Lamb and my granddaughter, Maya, wanted to feed the lamb but was terrified.  We stood quite some time showing her and encouraging her but every time the lamb got close to her hand she dropped the food.  Well, soon Lucas, our grandson, tired of this, and off we went to explore more things to do in the park.

Toward the end of the visit Maya requested one more visit with the lamb.  We went back and purchased more food and it was a completely different Maya.  This little girl very bravely put her hand out and fed the lamb.  Oh, such raucous laughter erupted from her when the lamb’s tongue hit her palm.  You could see the visible difference the feeling of pride in overcoming her fear had made in her demeanor.  She stood somehow straighter and had a bounce in her step.  And, of course being a three year old girl, proceeded to instruct everyone else in the etiquette of feeding the lamb.

I wish my second story was so happy.  My dear friend that I wrote about is not doing well.  As I am writing this she is fighting for her life.  There is not much anyone can do for her husband and children at a time like this.  When it is your turn to walk the path of tragedy, your friends can only stand on the side and offer words of encouraging love, but they cannot walk the path for you.

I have been standing on the side of the path and trying to find the words to help my friend’s daughter stay courageous in the face of this unfathomable tragedy.  I so much pray that the meager wisdom I have to offer her is somehow helping, because not only does my heart break for her, but this may be the last thing I can do for my well loved friend while she is alive.

brave woman

WISHING US ALL THE COURAGE TO STEER OUR HEARTS AND SOULS TO SAFE GROUND.

FEMINIST FRIDAY – THE COURAGE OF THE WOMEN FROM CHERAN, MEXICO

FREEDOM IS JUST ANOTHER WORD FOR NOTHING LEFT TO LOSE.”  JANICE JOPLIN.

THE FOLLOWING IS FROM AN ARTICLE PUBLISHED IN THE NEW YORK TIMES ABOUT THE AMAZING COURAGE AND STRENGTH OF THE WOMAN FROM CHERAN, MEXICO.

Reclaiming the Forests and the Right to Feel Safe
By KARLA ZABLUDOVSKYAUG. 2, 2012

mexico
CHERÁN, Mexico — The woman’s exhausted eyes reflected the flames dancing in front of her. A 38-year-old grandmother, she is also a leader of the civilian insurgency that has taken over this mountain town in the state of Michoacán, 310 miles west of Mexico City. Sixteen months of cold and sleepless nights at Bonfire No. 17, one of a number of permanent burning barricades set up here, have taken their toll.

But like the rest of the residents, she cannot afford to let her guard down.

On the morning of April 15, 2011, using rocks and fireworks, a group of women attacked a busload of AK-47-armed illegal loggers as they drove through Cherán, residents said. The loggers, who local residents say are protected by one of Mexico’s most powerful criminal organizations and given a virtual free pass by the country’s authorities, had terrorized the community at will for years.
Cherán’s residents said they had been subjected to multiple episodes of rape, kidnapping, extortion and murder by the paramilitary loggers, who have devastated an estimated 70 percent of the surrounding oak forests that sustained the town’s economy and indigenous culture for centuries.

The forest that had helped sustain the town is now estimated to be 70 percent destroyed.
What happened next was extraordinary, especially in a country where the rule of law is often absent and isolated communities are frequently forced to accept the status quo. Organized criminal syndicates, like the drug cartel La Familia, created in Michoacán, act like a state within a state, making their own rules and meting out grisly punishments to those who do not obey.

But here in Cherán, a group of townspeople took loggers hostage, expelled the town’s entire police force and representatives of established political parties, and forcibly closed the roads.

The Mexican government authorities had previously ignored their repeated pleas for help, the residents said, so the people of Cherán simply took the law into their own hands.

“I felt my knees shake like castanets,” said the woman standing vigil at Bonfire No. 17, Rocio, who, like others here, withheld her last name for fear of reprisals by the criminal networks they are resisting. She recalled her overwhelming fear during those first days of revolt, when residents gathered around as many as 200 bonfires set up at every intersection in town to prevent the loggers from retaliating.

In the months since then, Cherán’s townspeople have established a simple but effective internal protection system. There are fewer bonfires today, but several remain active and a security patrol of residents, or “ronda,” keeps watch at all times. Armed townspeople — from middle-age men to teenage girls — guard the barricades blocking all entrances into town. Their weapons are AR15 assault rifles, seized from the police when they expelled them.

Inside the town, they say, crime is now down almost to zero and most residents seem to feel safe. In recent days, however, people from nearby communities have taken several federal police officers captive, demanding that the newly instated forest patrols be canceled so that they can continue their logging activities. (The officers have since been released.) It is unclear if the hostage-takers were illegal loggers, but tensions are flaring in Cherán as the rest of the country looks on with concern.
Last November, in a court appeal, Cherán acquired a degree of autonomy from the Mexican government; the town still receives federal and state money, and its people must pay taxes, but they are allowed to govern themselves under a legal framework called “uses and customs” that has been granted to some indigenous communities.

Legal experts and academics say that Cherán is the first community to be granted this right as a result of a conflict over natural resources with one of the country’s increasingly powerful criminal syndicates.

The residents’ actions have ignited a regional spark of do-it-yourself justice. In nearby Opopeo, residents have organized community patrols and created an alert system using church bells. In Santa Clara del Cobre, disgruntled townspeople kidnapped their police force for several days last February, suspecting it of having abducted and “disappeared” a local man accused of rape.

I think you will agree that the women of Cheran exemplify courage at it best.

Stock photograph of the famous World War II poster "We Can Do It!" showing Rosie the Riveter wearing a red bandana and flexing her muscles against a yellow background, created by J. Howard Miller. The woman that modeled for this image was actually named Geraldine Doyle and was a real riveter in the 1940s.

 

 

THOUGHTS ON THURSDAY – COURAGE

With the anniversary of 9/11 looming ahead, I have been doing a lot of thinking about courage.  In particular, I have been thinking about women’s courage and the women heroes of that day.  I will be writing about one of those courageous women on Friday.

EDELWEISS IS A FLOWER THAT SYMBOLIZES COURAGE.
EDELWEISS IS A FLOWER THAT SYMBOLIZES COURAGE.