Tuesday, December 23, 2014

How does it feel, Crimea?

Crimea then, a mixture of cultures and beauty, and the sea. 
Human Rights Watch investigation.

Crimea today, occupied, going downhill
under Russification campaign and Stalinist terror tactics.
NYT "Property grab in Crimea.".
The Russians stole Crimea from Ukraine in a stealth nationalistic and militaristic campaign orchestrated by Putin, which accompanied a covert and overt brutal intervention. Brutal.  The Russian invaders claimed that over 90% of Crimeans voted to join Russia in what is considered by most countries as a fraudulent illegal election.  Rigged to the teeth.   I've always doubted that "over 90%" hogwash. More Putin propaganda.  But if that's what the majority of Crimeans wanted, those Russian-speaking,revved-up hyper-hysterics, that's what they got.

The Russians have infiltrated and are destroying Crimea's economy, politics and culture.  It's a Russification campaign that is sickening to witness and worse to hear about from friends whose lives are in danger.  What used to be an autonomous republic under Ukraine, with relatively peaceful relations among its citizens, and freedom of speech and assembly, is now like a Soviet socialist republic ruled with an iron fist, a Stalinist regime installed and ruled by Russia.  It's illegal, and so far Putin is getting away with it. There is no justification for his invasion of another country's lawfully acknowledged territorial integrity and boundaries.  None.  

According to Human Rights Watch, human rights abuses in Crimea are now rampant, against Tatars, journalists, professionals, anyone who voices any criticism or anyone who is not becoming a Russian citizen.  "Under various pretexts, such as combating extremism, the authorities have been persecuting people who dare to openly voice criticism of Russia's actions on the pennisula."   Persecuting, kidnapping, murdering. The Russian puppets have set a deadline of January 2015 for people to become either Russian citizens or be designated "foreigners" with no rights at all.. Lines for passports run for days and days; frustration mounts. Nothing works. Hospitals, banks, shops. Even worse, heavily armed thugs, mercenaries, and extra-legal gangs rule with abandon.  No effort to restrain them. This is a civilized society in the 21st century?  The quality of life has become unbearable and will get worse as the Russian economy tanks.

The Russification campaign includes land grabs on a large scale.  An AP investigation found many instances of "legal owners strong-armed off their premises; buildings, farms and other prime real estate seized on dubious pretenses, or with no legal justification at all; non-payment of the compensation mandated by the Russian constitution; and targeting of assets belonging to or used by the Crimean Tatar ethnic minority and the pro-Kiev branch of the Orthodox Church."   What happened to the Yalta Film Studio, set in the mountains overlooking the Black Sea, has been replicated over and over: 
"One day in October, a dozen armed men in masks drove up to the gates of Yalta Film Studios.  They weren’t actors, and this was no make-believe. It was a hostile takeover....'They forced all  the employees onto the ground, sealed off the premises and halted the work of the studio,' said  owner Sergei Arshinov...." 

Ukraine's justice ministry has said that about 4,000 enterprises, organizations and agencies have had their property expropriated.  "Some holdings, from shipyards to health resorts, were publicly earmarked for repossession by Crimea's regional government, now part of the Russian Federation. Others were simply seized by armed men, sometimes carrying official decrees that were never published or no documentation at all." ( http://news.yahoo.com/change-leadership-crimea-means-property-grab-202020014.html).  
Welcome to the new Crimea.  This once-harmonious pennisula, homeland of Tatars, a tourist mecca for world travelers, a feast of historic sites like Bachysaray,Yalta and Yevpatoria, is now submerged into a Stalinist state and going into the abyss with the Russian economy.  My heart goes out to Crimeans who wonder, to those like the Tatars who are persecuted, again, to those once-Ukrainian loyalists who are now prisoners of a Stalinist state.  .   .  

But for those who joined the thugs' protests and "voted" to join mother Russia, for those hyper-hysterics, you are getting what you deserve. You let yourselves be sucked in by false propaganda, false promises, ramped up BS ad nauseum,  You supported the stealth violence and stealth takeovers, taking down Ukrainian flags, putting up Russian flags in public mass hysteria gatherings organized by Russian mercenaries, directed by Putin. You invited dear mother Russia to run rampant over your government, your people's halls, and public organizations. You allowed Russian mercenaries and thugs to destroyUkrainian armed forces, and in thousands of humiliating ways. Humiliating.  How could you do this? You allowed Russians to take over your education system and your economy. There are no NGOs.  The once-thriving tourism trade on which you depended?  It no longer exists.740 hotels? almst empty. You are Ukraine's traitors in what is now Putin's Jerusalem.   You are suffering the consequences of your "majority" vote to join the motherland. Hysterical nostalgia got you nowhere.
How does it feel, Crimea? 

Articles: 
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/22/world/europe/under-russia-life-in-crimea-grows-chaotic.html?

http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/11/17/crimea-human-rights-decline

http://www.theweek.co.uk/russia/60273/crimea-how-daily-life-has-changed-under-russian-rule

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/lithuanias-military-alert-russian-activities-190100709.html

http://therearenosunglasses.wordpress.com/2014/12/17/russia-we-have-the-right-to-put-nuclear-weapons-in-crimea/





Thursday, December 18, 2014

My Rumi Circle

Rumi, wikimedia image
Rumi quotes:
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

"Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I'll meet you there."

"When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.” 

"The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”

My Rumi Circle, as I call it, is small.  No one knows about it.  Those few people who are in this circle don’t even know they are in it. It’s not like having facebook friends. It’s a little group of people I think of as soulmates, friends who float through the real world grounded, purposeful, and looking for the lightness of being.  Not in the Milan Kundera sense, but in the sense of seeking light while wandering through a forest.  A dark forest with many paths.

Probably they would like the Rumi quotes above, or we would talk about them with zeal.  I think of these friends as critical (in the broad sense of the word) and tolerant, wide-ranging in their interests, knowledgable, travelled, compassionate, open and searching. They are imperfect and know it but they stretch.   They are flawed, and they deal with it.  They reach out with open arms, sometimes not knowing who or what they might embrace.  They welcome the marginal and the lost.  

My brother Loren is in my Rumi circle, beloved, and Andy, Doris and people who understand some of my blogs, facebook comments and rants.  I feel safe ranting with them because they know I’ll get back to the center somehow, somewhere, and they know it as the process is unfolding.  We all go off like this.  But we know where we are heading ultimately, the general direction, often circuitous, which is to that field Rumi talks about. 

My Rumi circle just instinctively understands this.  We don't have to say anything.  It's not a matter of discussion. We just know in our gut that there's a reason for rising indignation and there will be a reason for adjusting it.  There's some compelling impetus behind the indignation and urge to rant, and the same compelling impetus in defusing it.  Things just settle where they are supposed to in time. 

The people in my Rumi Circle live far apart, some here on earth and others only the goddess knows where.  They do not know each other. Sometimes we don’t communicate for ages, years even, that is not in words or on facebook or skype even, but for me they are always there, always present. It's an unbreakable connection.

“The smallest coffin is the heaviest,” said a mourner today at a burial of the children killed by Taliban terrorists at a Peshawar, Pakistan school.  

It’s a sadness that led me to think about this Rumi circle in the first place. I believe these friends understand how the smallest is the heaviest. In lots of ways. On so many levels.  “Too horrific for words,” said reporter Nic Robinson of CNN. Yes, and through the disbelief and the outrage rises the compelling indignation, and the need to rant.  The souls in my Rumi Circle can walk in and through contradictions and foolishness, and even outrageousness, and find that we are still behind one another. This circle of unusual friends.  

We understand what others might consider “weird” things.  Like Rumi saying that “The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” 

We know these wounds. They are wounds we carry from childhood, from mistakes we have made, the shame we bear, the rejection we have experienced, the pain and loneliness brought on by ourselves or sometimes others.  We also know the inexpressible joy that emerges in time from these same wounds, self-inflicted or other-inflicted.  It’s like Mary Oliver says in her poem Wild Geese: 
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

In the Rumi circle, we share our wounds, and our imaginations; we help each other heal and expand, to take our part “in the family of things.”  Hard as it is, and as far as we fall from grace, we reach for the transcendent and universal, that spirit, that field, that light that Rumi and Mary Oliver talk about. 

Poem (The spirit likes to dress up...) by Mary Oliver
The spirit
likes to dress up like this:
ten fingers,
ten toes,

shoulders, and all the rest
at night
in the black branches,
in the morning

in the blue branches
of the world.
It could float, of course,
but would rather

plumb rough matter.
Airy and shapeless thing,
it needs
the metaphor of the body,

lime and appetite,
the oceanic fluids;
it needs the body's world,
instinct

and imagination
and the dark hug of time,
sweetness
and tangibility,

to be understood,
to be more than pure light
that burns
where no one is --

so it enters us --
in the morning
shines from brute comfort
like a stitch of lightning;

and at night
lights up the deep and wondrous
drownings of the body
like a star.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Next Nobel Prize Winner? Mustafa Dzhemilev,Crimean Tatar Human Rights Warrior

yahoo images, 2015
The Nobel Peace Prize is sometimes contested.  The 2015 winners, Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan, the brave young woman advocate for children's education, and Kailash Satyarthi of India, fighter against child slavery, seem notable and laudable.

But I have one great human rights warrior to add to the list for 2016: Mustafa Dzhemilev, the courageous and long-time nonviolent fighter for the rights of the Crimean Tatars. He has been imprisoned, tortured, spent years in gulags. He continues to fight. The Ghandi of his people.  His pain and struggle are etched on his face, but he remains unbowed.

I learned that he was nominated for the award in the past, which I hope won't exclude him from consideration in the future. The Tatars, an ethnic (Tatar) and religious (Muslim) minority on the Crimean peninsula, are forced once again to fight for their survival.  Literally.  Dzhemilev, at 73 years of age, continues to lead the struggle.

Exiled forcibly with his family (he was a young child) upon Stalin's deportation order in May 1944, along with some 250,000 other Tatars, he grew up in Uzbekistan to become a fighter for the rights of Tartars to return to their homeland.

I can't imagine being forced from home one dark night, suddenly, viciously, at the barrel of a gun, with nothing but the clothes on your back, and maybe a handicraft item grabbed while fleeing, hidden away to pass on to kids and grandkids.  A reminder of a homeland and a tortuous past.   One family told me this story when I visited them in Simferopol, and showed me a common but beloved household item that had been passed along in this way.

In 1989, Dzhemilev returned to Crimea, joined by thousands upon thousands of other Tatars. They began to rebuild homes, communities, and social and cultural institutions.  A fleeting moment of joy.  The Ismail Gasprinskiy Library, a UNESCO heritage site devoted to preserving Tatar culture, is one shining example.  The vibrant beauty of iconic Bachysaray, a main tourist attraction with the stunning palace and historic grounds of the Crimean Khan (15th to 18th centuries), surrounded by awesome cave dwellings, another.

I can't imagine returning to Crimea after living in exile somewhere in Central Asia for decades, your land confiscated, your heritage dimmed. I can't imagine trying to rebuild your life, step by step, stitch by stitch, brick by brick, and then being forced to live once again under a Russian occupation. What an unbearable shock.

That's what happened early this year, when Putin began his deadly stealth campaign on Ukrainian land, when he occupied, invaded and took over Crimea. He ramped up the propaganda, along with secret services operatives, mercenaries, and weapons, to a fever pitch.  A once peaceful and relatively prosperous part of Ukraine became a war zone.  Crimea "belonged" to Russia, Putin pronounced, again at the barrel of a gun and with brutal violence. I suppose like Alaska "belonged" to Russia at one time. But grounds for an invasion today? Grounds for breaking international treaties and humanitarian laws? Grounds for violating the territorial integrity of another country?

Today, the Crimean Tatar people are under an oppressive Russian rule on the land of their ancestors.  Putin has taken over part of modern Ukraine for his own delusional purposes. It's a heartbreaking tragedy, and an international crime.

Putin got away with it.  Crimea is now ruled with an iron fist by a totalitarian regime enforcing Russification on every level.  The Tatars are being victimized beyond endurance.  Killed, disappeared, threatened daily, their neighborhoods and institutions taken over by Russians, some destroyed.  It's happening in eastern Ukraine, too, in Lugansk and Donetsk oblasts, in other cities: stealth, invasion, violence, convoys of Russian heavy weapons and soldiers, special ops; bombs here and there, violent brawls in parliaments, on the streets, in government offices; explosions in Khargiv, in Odessa, Mariupol.  The sounds of Putin's war, with no end in sight.

Putin is a war criminal strutting on the terrain of freedom like a mad dog.

So Mustafa Dzhemilev, this elegant, brilliant and nonviolent fighter for justice, was recently denied entry into the homeland for which he has fought all his life. How devastating beyond words.

He had been in Poland, receiving the first Leah Walesea peace prize. He was stopped at a border check point by Russian soldiers, as five thousand Tatars, who had come to welcome him, watched--helpless, infuriated, defiant. Their hero. Treated like a common criminal.  Forbidden to return to Crimea. Putin's victory.

A surreal rerun of a terrible tragic history.  Crimea.  So beautiful.  So haunting. So violated.

The world needs to recognize what has been lost.  The dreams that have been shattered by Russia's invasion. The tragedy of ethnic Ukrainians who dare not speak out.  The tragedy of the Crimean Tatars, a peaceful people, whose homeland has been repeatedly wrested from them. The hopes dashed. The fabric of a unique cultural heritage destroyed.  The struggle that Mustafa Dzhemilev symbolizes.


SOME SOURCES (copied and pasted but have to type in):
http://journal.georgetown.edu/islamic-justice-through-nonviolence-mustafa-dzhemilev-and-the-national-movement-of-crimean-tatars/

http://www.rferl.org/content/ukraine-crimea-dzhemilev-interview/25387012.html

http://www.jamestown.org/single/?tx_ttnews

http://www.mfa.gov.pl/en/news/solidarity_prize_for_mustafa_dzhemilev_of_ukraine

http://crimeantatarlibrary.blogspot.com/2012/03/international-mother-language-day-at.html. A blog by Peace Corps friend Barbara Wieser who served in Crimea.  She also recommends the International Committee for Crimea (ICC).

http://www.rferl.org/content/crimea-tatars/26595092.html. Tatar scholar attacked; historic library forced to close by Russians. Not sure of the status of the Gasprinskiy library now.

http://unpo.org/article/17764

http://news.yahoo.com/crimea-annexation-upends-lives-tatar-minority













Monday, December 1, 2014

Modern Physical Exam: The Medical Equivalent of 20 Questions

I just had a complete physical.  I was prepared for it, checked-in, the reception desk confirmed "getting the full deal today." Medicare requirement. No co-pay.

Randy Glasergen cartoon.
It turns out this complete physical had nothing to do with a physical exam as people my age define it and understand it.  It amounted to a game of 20 Questions, maybe a few more or less.  First the nurse, at her computer, not even looking at me, asks her 20 or so questions.  Then the doctor comes in, sits at her computer, and asks her 20-something questions. The questions (some of which overlap) have to do with diet (how many vegetables per day, do you eat fried foods,etc.), excercise, preventive shots, home safety, balance issues, and "mood" (have you felt sad the last few weeks, do you feel stressed, etc.).

The doctor nicely explained this was a Medicare Wellness Exam, which focuses on prevention.  Blood pressure, pulse, listening to heart and lungs, and 20-something questions. Wow. That's it.  I think my stress grew during this exam, because I couldn't believe it was the "full deal."

I left wondering how my health really was. Who knows?   Worsening arthritis? Stomach issues? Any other organs going?  Ears, nose and throat?  I didn't feel like asking. It was a done deal.  I had the medical equivalent of "20 questions." I had my "preventive" physical exam.

A last question: "Would you say you are in excellent, good...."  

"I'm in excellent health," I replied, as the doctor closed her computer and walked out the door, wishing me happy holidays.