Sunday, December 14, 2008

Becoming a godparent


Dear friends,


My friends Alba and Eulices asked me to be the godfather for their son Kuss Bryan, who was baptized on December 8 (photo below). It was a joy and an honor to become part of their family that day.


Alba is an amazingly strong and resilient person. Her left shoulder was shattered in the bombing of Santo Domingo in December 1998 when she was 16 years old, her father was killed by FARC guerrillas in March 2006, and her spouse Eulices was imprisoned during the mass arrest in Fortul in August 2006.


Residents of Santo Domingo were holding a bazaar on December 13, 1998 to raise funds for their community. Planes and helicopters began circling overhead and the people gathered on the highway that runs through town, waving white cloths to indicate that they were civilians. Two cluster bombs were dropped alongside the highway – killing 17 people (including seven children) and wounding 25 others. Yesterday was the commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the bombing.


Shrapnel from the bombs tore into Alba’s shoulder and into the right leg of her sister, Xiomara. As we sat in their kitchen after the baptism, they began talking about that day. “We’re lucky to be alive” said Alba. Xiomara then showed me the large scar on her upper leg.


Wilson Garcia, their father, was the community president. “There wasn’t a phone in Santo Domingo,” said Alba, “so he went to Betoyes (when the planes began flying overhead) to call the Red Cross. He saw us as he was coming back and we were leaving on the truck with the wounded. He didn’t know which one of us he should attend to first.”


The cluster bombs were manufactured in the U.S. and the coordinates for the bombing were given by U.S. crew members operating a surveillance plane for AirScan. Occidental Petroleum (based in Los Angeles) contracted AirScan (based in Florida) to provide security for the pipeline that transports oil from Occidental’s Cano Limon oilfield in the state of Arauca to the Caribbean coast. I found myself thinking about those connections as I looked at the scar on Xiomara’s leg.


I met Wilson my first day here in Saravena in June 2004. I was impressed by his soft-spoken manner and deep commitment to his community. He told me what had happened to Alba and Xiomara, and it was obvious that he loved them both very much. Two years later, on March 22, 2006, Wilson was killed by the FARC. As Alba and Xiomara talked to me about their father, tears welled up in their eyes.


Alba gave birth to her first child, Kuss, on December 1, 2005. Eight months later, Eulices was arrested along with 15 other people in Fortul. I met Eulices in Arauca City when I traveled there with a human rights lawyer, two days after the arrests, to visit the prisoners. I met Alba two weeks later when she came to the Joel Sierra Human Rights Foundation office in Saravena to discuss his case.


Eulices was charged with rebellion and terrorism, and the prosecutor’s office alleged that he was an ELN militia member and recruiting for the FARC – not a very plausible accusation given the fight between those two guerrilla groups in Arauca. He was in prison on Kuss’ first birthday and he was finally released on June 9, 2007.


After Kuss was baptized, Eulices turned to me and called me “Compadre” (the godfather of my child). During the reception in their home, Alba also started calling me Compadre. I expressed my appreciation to them for inviting me to be Kuss’ godfather and Alba responded, “We couldn’t think of a better person.”


In love and solidarity,


Scott

50 comments:

Anonymous said...

Your cousin, Brady, has enjoyed the status of godparent...while Bill and I keep having our presence requested.
By the way, Alba, looks very modest and discreet...unlike some of the other photos of women you enjoy publishing. Regards, Cousin Alexis

Anonymous said...

Sometimes, after I take the time to leave a comment on this blog spot, I reflect on the almost torturous difficulty that I have providing some kind of authentic response to pictures of people who have been harmed in some way by United States militarism...psychologically, I have never been able to absorb the horror we are reeking with our militarism. Who can? Perhaps no one should. Once, I remember reading about an American businessman whose son immolated himself in the yard of their home out of desperation with regard to our national pursuit of war...and that type of self destructive behavior, it seems to me, is a danger of looking to carefully into the dark side of life... a dark side which has afflicted all types of governments and each one of us it seems. If my comments, at times, come off as seeming like "pot shots" I apologize. I take action when I can, but sometimes it seems that I attempt to ward off despair in ways that are not entirely supportive. I appreciate those who are aware that you are in Colombia, Scott, and who take action to assist and support you. Regards again, Cousin Alexis

Anonymous said...

Given that I have worked very hard to keep students from being mislabeled and stigmatized and am now approaching a major life change myself, the faces of all of the students and professional colleagues with whom I have worked is coming to mind...and curriculum. For the children there was a poem:
This is the house that crack built...this is the mother high on cocaine who gave birth to the child with the shattered brain...who starved her dog...who butchered her cat...this is the house that crack built. Alvaro Uribe, Rafael Correa...left or right they allegedly have relatives implicated in drug trafficking...and there really has been an illustrated poem for North Americans in a book called This is the House that Crack Built. And a variety of school nurses who told me more than I wanted to know about the effects of maternal drug abuse on fetal development, not to mention the faces of the severely disabled which populate my mind..how many students whose pictures will never appear on a blog spot will be remembered??? Let those without sin
cast the first stone...or provide a diagnosis, or label another human being and disregard the humanity which is there...or decide that those who suffer in front of a camera tell an entire story...or abandon their relatives or themselves. In this democracy which we share, let them, let us who do those things...let us all cast the first stone here...also let all of us who have ever been called "Activists" whether or not we sought the label look into ourselves. I am simply not as young as I once was...and Mario neither are you...I was sorry to find out for the first time when you and I saw each other recently that Berniece had died...she and I gave a presentation together at one time...she brought back the stories of those in Russia who had opposed nuclear testing in their own country. Epidemiology has been an interest of mine over the years. Which memory should we dissect in our analysis? A variety of clinicians both in an out of the
Quaker meeting would like to know while they falsely assure me of confidentiality and take copious notes...I think it is time for my poem about the one-eyed child born
in the American dessert in the southwest who could have been born in any of the nuclear armed countries while war raged in the Middle East. So far no
Central American or South American country has nuclear weapons, as I understand it... simply the families of politicians who traffic in cocaine and related products such as "crack cocaine"...try to explain it all to the child of the mother in the house that crack built. Che Bob would counsel that all be ignored...ignore all but the true revolutionaries, Che would say.

Anonymous said...

Over the years I have been exhorted by many to do more writing. I have never found a suitable medium...including this one.Possibly, though, the people who read these blogs may find some of what I write useful and illuminating. Certainly they will empathize with Scott, my cousin,...someone I have seen in person only twice in my life. I write in haste, though, because today I have a measure of lucidity which is not always available. I was born three years after the United States began atmospheric nuclear testing... scientific thinkers knowing that those tests would compromise the health of millions of children. If you live in Montana, you are probably somewhat aware of the research related to Montana and the effect of nuclear fallout there which persists today. When I think and write about these things, grief can take over my mind, so I will end here, but not without saying that the psychiatric labels we so liberally hand out in this country do little to assuage the suffering of sensitive souls. To be educated in North America requires that we be propagandized to our bone marrow...and I am. I have been taught to site my sources of information...but my own experiences and those of the children, and the many individuals whom I have tried to help over the years are my sources and they cannot all be sited, named, or photographed.

Anonymous said...

Words are paltry...nevertheless they define us as human. Animals don't have our lexicon...but nevertheless we humans cause even the animals excruciating pain. During nuclear weapons testing, the birds ignite in flight, but white phosphorous, I am sure can be effective as well. Will all of the blogs of the peace activists everywhere ultimately be used against the good of all? Today Barak Obama will become president.Alexis

Anonymous said...

We have a new commander in chief...I am crying. Alexis

Anonymous said...

What if Adolf Hitler had successfully tested and used a nuclear weapon, or Stalin? I have heard that Che advocated using one on the United States...New York specifically. What part is propaganda? Martin Sandoval knows why he is on a hunger strike...but sometimes I can't eat...what a luxury to have a specific reason...to be able to publicize it and have something done about it.

Anonymous said...

One of the reasons I have supported the American Friends Service Committee when I have had some chance is because one of the slogans they used for awhile was along the lines of "for the good of the nameless from the nameless". I don't want to "make a name for myself" doing activist, human rights work...what I have wanted to do is the work itself...but I reveal my identity because Scott is my cousin. Alexis

Anonymous said...

Just the other day I responded to a witness for peace mailing about an extra judicial killing in Colombia...which I would not have done without input from Scott. I also felt guilt knowing that all of us here in human form are tied to violence through our governments and our presence on this earth. Someone like me might even be able to attribute guilt to Alba, even though in this beautiful, achingly pure picture I see no reason for it... but to be as expendable as we civilians are in this world sometimes seems to be cause for finding some reason for collective guilt, perhaps it is the groups with which we associate which cause us to deserve to die..and I wonder further about the hubris of those who decided that forfeiting the future of life on this planet is worth the risks that have been taken to secure the hegemony of any country with nuclear weapons...risks I have only too carefully studied as an individual. To continue in science studies can require a second language...frequently German. The Hibakasha in Japan, the down winders and other civilians among the uncounted who are collateral damage of human hubris are the world's pariah. Are there really any innocent victims? I would submit that there are...but not in a world where the international economy seems normed for the pursuance of war as this one apparently is now. Alexis

Anonymous said...

This has nothing to do with this article in particular, but I was not sure where else to post! First, I enjoyed reading your blog... very imformative. I am wondering who the artist of the picture is for the link to the enlace zapatistas website. Keep up the good work. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

This is a response to blob comment number ten from Scott's cousin, Alexis...to have your question answered about the illustrator of the image on the Zapatista link, you may need to connect with someone at Community Action for Justice in the Americas, the group who maintains this site. They have their base in Montana. Formerly, they posted an internet address where you could write for more information, but I haven't noticed one for awhile on their site, so this is the best I can do to answer your question. Thanks for your appreciation of the blog comments. Alexis

Anonymous said...

Sometimes strange things happen in our house. We live in a somewhat moderately high crime area in California where families settled escaping the war in Indochina...escaping to a country they did not understand. People come in through the windows here and take things despite precautions we have put in place. Books disappear...and under the Bush administration, for some reason, when I would order them through a bookstore to be replaced they would not arrive. One book was written by Carole Gallagher and it was a photographic documentation of testimonies and photos from the days of atmospheric nuclear testing in the United States. Given the circumstances in this country I feel the need to share this information. There is a piece of legislation known as the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act. I would suggest that members of Community Action for Justice in the Americas be aware of that legislation. Type the name into your search engine and you will find that legislation... it provides compensation for people who were made ill by atmospheric testing. One of my hopes as a human being is that I have at least done as much good in the world as I have done damage by paying taxes here in the United States of North America. I hope that wherever Scott is right now that he is safe and well. I don't generally make spelling errors, so I distrust the distortions I often see when I leave comments on blog spots or email messages. Alexis

Anonymous said...

In January of 1951, the United States of America...North America began atomoshperic nuclear testing. It is well documented that fallout reached across the country.Interestingly, in my travels,I have found that people saw strange distorted discolored clouds in areas that do not appear on any official fallout maps that I have seen published. Alexis

Anonymous said...

The Soviet Union also began testing. Nuclear fallout contains something like 150 by products of the explosions...only about three of these by products have been extensively monitored, followed and researched to obtain data on the effects on life on the planet.Despite international outcry, nuclear weapon proliferation continues. Alexis

Anonymous said...

In the former Soviet Union one scientics, Andre Sakharov became vocal in his opposition to testing these weapons. In the United States Oppenheimer opposed...both men had helped to develop them. Sakaharov was the victim of an assasination attempt. Oppenheimer lost his security clearance and was effectively silenced. Alexis

Anonymous said...

Look up Andre Sakharov in your search engine...what he had to say about Russian testing was also applicable to American testing. Alexis

Anonymous said...

Two of the most well researched of the fall-out contaminants are strontium 90 which mimics calcium and settles in bones and teeth, and iodine 131 which concentrates in milk. Both cause illness with cancer being the most commonly identified illness. This is frightening news,but one piece of good news is that nuclear explosions in the United States can no longer happen above ground. Those above ground tests, however, continued until 1963. They also happened above ground in other countries...the fallout products went into the jet stream and rained down in later years...levels were measured and every few years something will be printed in the newspapers about them. Everyone now alive inherits this legacy of contamination. In the United States, we do not strictly abide by precautionary principals which mandate complete and thorough testing of chemicals and effluents before they are released into the environment...as a result some argue that we are experiencing increasing numbers of children with disablities of one type or another...synergistic effects...no one contaminant can be teased out of this toxic mix to blame...but we all need to work on our own concerns...like the people in Colombia often do, many of whom have far less formal education than many of us have. Alexis

Anonymous said...

The National Cancer Institute, according to front page article printed in the main newspaper of California's capital city in 1997, stated that fallout from nuclear blasts at the Nevada test site in the 1950's exposed virtually everyone living in the United States, but 24 counties in Montana, Idaho, Colorado, and South Dakota received enough to be considered hot spots. An entire ten thousand page epidemiological report was released and posted on the internet at that time. This study had been mandated by congress. Thyroid checks were advised for people living in the affected areas. En Espanol "pruebas nuclearis", was my translation. Unfortunately, given the fear that school administrators have around broaching the topic of harms caused by our military, I have been unable to share this information frequently although I am highly credentialed as an educator. What I have done is to successfully procure grant money for various types of health and counseling services provided to at risk populations and I have advocated for a national system of health care which is not profit driven. Additionally, I am aware that, even in California, strange clouds were witnessed and medical people suspected cancer was the result of nuclear tests. Epidemiological studies about this continue to engender debate. Alexis

Anonymous said...

In September of 2004...just before I connected with Scott, a newspaper in Idaho, the Post Register, published an article stating that the National Academy of Sciences was preparing to hear testimony from those in Idaho who felt their health had been impacted by nuclear testing. Today I am trying on one of my wigs...not because I have yet lost my hair due to chemotherapy, but because I find it therapeutic to satirize this situation. Since I am now close to retirement, I may become a bit more flamboyant.
Although I continue to apply for jobs which desperately need to be done, our budget situation in California has mandated that many highly qualified people retire early. Alexis

Anonymous said...

In a way, being a public school educator has been like being an "activist". We are frequently accused and demon-ized.Responding to negative characterizations of ourselves and being physically attacked are just part of the job. Today, I write in solidarity with a former friend and union member who had a soccer ball slammed into the back of her head and developed a tumor at the base of her brain as a result...like I have now, she had earned her retirement. Alexis

Anonymous said...

I think it is a good move, CAJA, not to include these added comments in the information provided to those who have intentionally subscribed to the "Colombian Journey" portion of your efforts, as I have noticed is the case. I do hope, however, that my input will boost interest in Justice in the Americas and cause us to think about ways we can all improve the world within the scope of our abilities. I will close with a note of solidarity in commemoration of a friend who retired after having a youngster jump on her back. As is true elsewhere in our country, injured workers in school districts are provided with some respect, but then basically encouraged to fade away. After thirty years, I myself am now fading...but I hope that my efforts here on this blog spot will produce some positive and tangible outcomes even though they are not entirely on topic as far as Colombia is concerned. Alexis

Anonymous said...

I trust books over blogs...when will my words here disappear into oblivion? What is known is that nuclear fallout does not care about your ideology, your views, or why your country produced it. It is a great equalizer...it alters DNA. Nuclear fallout makes Armageddon possible, and the three monotheistic religions seem comfortable with that theologically... which is why we Christians are as dangerous as our Jewish and Islamic counterparts...nuclear fallout contaminates anything with DNA...even the "revolutionaries" that Che Bob likes to idolize. There is plenty of nuclear contaminant created by those who considered themselves "true revolutionaries"...and it is just as destructive to all of us. Alexis

Anonymous said...

Sometimes I feel quite sorry for Scott since I am as annoying as any cousin could ever be to him. I know that he is doing considerable good in the world, but no one person can approach the breadth of concern which is necessary to confront the horror of nuclear proliferation. While it is wonderful to go to Colombia as so many are doing, a broader vision seems necessary. I am wondering what CAJA is doing on nuclear issues. Alexis

Anonymous said...

I don't always find the light when I consider how modern warfare is known to involve large numbers of civilians...people as innocent as Alba and Eulices and their child. So I am tempted to stop speaking of it for fear of bringing my despair to others and of drowning in the darkness myself. But not speaking of it may be to acquiesce, a worse sin perhaps, so I will attempt to tell what I know...if I am allowed.

Anonymous said...

If the picture of Alba and Eulices were taken outside of the United States nuclear test site in Nevada in the 1950's, the child would possibly not have survived, and no apology from any official source ever offered...similarly if the picture had been of a couple in Khasakstan or Lop Nor...where Russians and Chinese tested. Books have published this information, and it should be verifiable.Anyone with an interest in this who wants to correct any errors or add to this might consider posting on this blog if CAJA agrees to it.

Richelle DeVoe said...

Scott,
I've been reading up on your blogs for a while now and they've moved me very much. I am also from missoula and have traveled and lived in Latin America. I'll be headed off to Buenos Aires in May to live for a few months, but before I make the move I'd like to get in touch with you or anyone else from the organization about volunteering or getting involved. I apologize that this is the only way I could figure out how to contact you. Is there someone in specific I should talk to or a place I should go to get ahold of someone?

I appreciate the help,
Richelle

Anonymous said...

It is good to see a new entry on this blog site having to do with Mexico...but my comment belongs here. Although I don't yet believe (and sometimes question whether I will ever believe)that my connection with the life of my cousin, Scott, has been as constructive for either of us as I have hoped, there has been good that has emerged from it. Ultimately, our lives are part of something much larger than ourselves. Although I sometimes sadly believe that, up to this point, I have been unable to support Scott or Scott's work in ways that I had hoped when I first connected with him, I find it fortunately apparent that the success of his efforts and the efforts of all who are moving our planet in the direction of justice, hope, and peace are being motivated by something far larger than my efforts alone. Alexis

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