Thursday, December 06, 2018

Truth under Siege

With the current iteration of the Presidency of the United States, we have witnessed the apparent death of the truth. The blatant use of outrageous falsehoods promulgated nearly everyday by the President and his cohorts has clearly not been challenged by Republican-led Congress. Furthermore, this behavior has been implicitly condoned by the leadership as long as the political agenda of the party, that is clearly not supported by the majority of the citizenry, is not threatened.

In the past, when politicians were caught in a deception, they immediately attempted to minimize their culpability. Now, it seems, that even in the face of exposure, lies are repeated regardless of their authenticity. This is an exceedingly dangerous precedent; for, it is corrosive to any political system based and dependent upon the rule of law; without truth, law can become ineffective, irrelevant and destined to waste away.

Without relying upon the truth as a genuine reflection of reality, it will wither away from disuse. Without truth as representative of the gauge by which the successful resolution of problematic issues can be measured, disharmony and imbalance will only worsen. Without truth as the guiding principle of action, there is no motivation to remedy grievances. Without truth, justice itself becomes irrelevant. True civilization cannot prosper or endure without truth as the centerpiece of any moral compass. The meteoric rise and sudden and deadly collapse of Fascism is a historic testimonial to this reality.

If we, as a people, want to avoid such a kind of calamity, we must make it clear that the abuse of the truth and the legitimization of falsehood is not acceptable. We need to demand this of our leadership. By remaining silent, we inadvertently allow for the ascendancy of what is patently wrong and dangerous.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

A Fervent Desire

The results of the midterm elections are welcomed in that they remind us of the dynamic power and potential of the democratic process. However, the results also demonstrate the degree to which our country has become polarized and has seriously handicapped our collective ability to move forward as a people.

For this reason, I put forth the following -

Humanity remains beset by seemingly intractable problems including war, disease, famine and the unconscionable living conditions endured by hundreds of millions of individuals throughout the world. The wondrous wealth of natural resources that exist on this very fragile planet continues to be ruthlessly exploited and the growing reality of the enormity of climate change is becoming ever more apparent.

In spite of these daunting realities, there is no visible concerted effort on the part of the community of nations to correct these frightful wrongs. The nagging and haunting question remains as to why so many human beings continue to endure such extreme and needless suffering while the remedies to their plight are so readily available. There are many possible explanations for why so many live under such terrible conditions in both the undeveloped and developed nations. These reasons include the following –
• The continued unabated growth of the human population that exerts a significant strain on natural resources
• The pursuit of national self-interest by so many nation states in a way that exacerbates international tensions and often leads to conflict
• The dramatically inequitable distribution of economic wealth and resources that results in a rather small population of haves in comparison to the have-nots who represent the overwhelming majority of humans on the planet
• The enormous gap that exists between the advances made by science especially in regard to climate change and the effective application of this knowledge to prevent the ultimate catastrophe for humanity that looms on the horizon.

These considerations contribute to the overall understanding of the current state of humanity; however, I believe that the fundamental and underlying reason is that individuals have not yet evolved sufficiently to accept the essential reality that all members of the human race are rightful members of the human family and worthy of the same respect, compassion, care and concern that we gladly extend to our own immediate families.

Humanity has not yet encompassed the necessity to find non-violent and equitable solutions to conflict. Humans are, in many ways, mired in essentially tribal relationships and have inherited a culturally accepted and narrowly-focused mentality. This kind of highly constrained and constricted outlook may have proved efficacious when human populations were much smaller, more isolated and independent; this worldview is no longer viable in the modern era. The widespread issues of poverty, hunger, disease, political turmoil, conflict and the ineluctable degradation of the natural environment - that sustains all of life - require reasoned cooperation and collective action on the part of all nations.

In spite of these disheartening realities, there has, nonetheless, been considerable progress made in quite the opposite direction. There is, in reality, a significant movement by many within diverse organizations that seek to shatter the restrictive boundaries between people that retard real human progress. Any hope for a more equitable and sustainable future for all of humanity is not yet moribund. It is up to us and our collective endeavor to use that hope to inspire concerted action in order to mold this dream into a tangible reality.This is my fervent desire.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Thought Dream

With the mid-term elections so close and this nation so deeply polarized as it is, I offer up the following -

A Thought Dream

There is so much needless suffering in this pathetic world that humans have created for themselves. There is a great and wondrous wealth of imagination, ingenuity, intelligence, generosity and potential that is bound up in the lives of billions of humans whose lives are unnecessarily cut short or diminished by poverty, disease, conflict, war and scarcity – all of which that are wholly preventable. In response to this madness, this is my wish list -

If that cumulative potential were only released; if war was only made obsolete; if the untold wealth diverted to weapons and instruments of death was only redirected to human progress, what a different world we would have. If we who have been taught to look elsewhere for salvation would only look around ourselves for answers, what a different world we would have. If only all of us would find peace within ourselves and reflect on the well spring of our own behavior, what a different world we would have. If only humanity would speak the word love and truly mean it and accept the implications of this kind of surrender, what a different world we would have. If only we could more fully comprehend the emptiness of greed, prejudice and mindless acquisition, what a different world we would have. If only we could remove the blinders that obstruct our minds and see the beauty inherent in diversity, the universality and interdependence of all of life, what a different world we would have. If only, we could bridge our differences by really listening and have a meaningful dialog for the purpose of finding common ground, what a different and far more peaceful and saner future could we engender. This is my fondest desire.

The Path We Are On

The nation is apparently in an accelerated rate of decline. This condition is not due to the state of the economy, or real and palpable threats from our adversaries, or an imminent natural disaster that is not within our control.

The cause for the current atmosphere of fear, mistrust, uncertainty and tendency towards violent and provocative behavior lies much deeper and is embedded within the very social fabric of our culture. This condition has been festering for decades and much like a malignancy has erupted periodically over the entire course of the nation’s history. It began with insidious use of the forced abduction and enslavement of an entire people from their homeland in order to bolster the agrarian economy of the Southern United States - a practice that was prevalent at the very beginnings of the republic. It began with the territorial expansion of the country into the very heartland of the Native American peoples that resulted in the decimation of their numbers and the near genocide of an entire race. Currently, in this the year 2018, Native Americans and African Americans remain subjected to the fierce and apparently indelible hallmark of hate and prejudice as can be readily witnessed by the harsh economic conditions present within the Native American nations and the extraordinarily high representation of peoples of color in our nation’s prisons. It began with the long and torturous history of the treatment of non-white and Hispanic immigrants to our shores over the hundreds of years of our national “development.” It began with the growth of what President Eisenhower described as the “military-industrial complex.” This prodigious war machine currently consumes a huge portion of the nation’s budget and has been involved in numerous wars not fought to protect the safety of the nation’s people but rather to insure an economic hegemony over much of the human world. It began with the steady and inexorable rise of the corporate class to its current position of prominence, wealth and power. There was a brief respite from the collective cold and brutal logic of the ruling class, apparently devoid of any moral compass, during the era of the New Deal and in a few decades of the post-World War II era.

Apparently, the election of an African American to the office of the Presidency unleashed a fierce backlash that managed to rekindle this movement backwards toa cold and brutal past finally culminating in the election of an “idiot” leader – in the person of Donald Trump - who is a megalomaniac and deranged individual and an unadulterated spokesperson for white supremacy. This is a person who finds scapegoats everywhere – especially in the independent and free press and more than one-half of the national population who describe themselves as Democrats. Here is a personality that befriends cold and authoritarian world leaders like himself regardless of their political persuasions. Here is a personality that has raised the unabashed use of the lie to new heights in order to provoke fear and hatred among his constituents. Here is a personality that shows not the barest hint of compassion or caring for the lives and destinies of the American people. Here is a personality that has specifically chosen members of the corporate class to advise him and run the government all of whom share an explicit lack of concern for the human condition.

This is the path we are currently on as a people. We are seemingly a hopelessly divided and fearful people with no clear avenue towards reasoned discussion, serious dialog or compromise. This president is not the reason for our predicament. He is simply the conduit for all the dark aspects of the national character and the means through whom they find their ultimate expression. Without an atmosphere of harmony and cooperation emanating from the fact that so many of our people feel abandoned and disconnected’ there can be no real chance for human progress and development. Quite to the contrary, the flames of fear, hatred, uncertainty and suspicion are burning brightly. Currently, there is no apparent cure or remedy for this condition. We are in the midst of a radically new kind of civil war that has the capacity to consume us all quietly from within.

This the path we are on.

Saturday, October 06, 2018

The Nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court

The Nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court

In spite of the fact that Kavanaugh has shown himself to be remarkably unsuited for a life-time position on the Supreme Court, the push to have him confirmed by the right-wing conservative Republican Party will most likely succeed. This should be of no great surprise when considering the history of the Supreme Court in the United States.

The supposed role of the Court as established in the U.S. constitution (Article III) is to ensure that the constitution is upheld and, thereby, serve as a balance to both the executive and legislative branches.

The following is the full text of Article III as it appears in the constitution –


Article III


The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services, a Compensation, which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office.


The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority;--to all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls;--to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction;--to Controversies to which the United States shall be a Party;-- to Controversies between two or more States;--between a State and Citizens of another State;--between Citizens of different States;--between Citizens of the same State claiming Lands under Grants of different States, and between a State, or the Citizens thereof, and foreign States, Citizens or Subjects.

In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party, the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction. In all the other Cases before mentioned, the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.

The Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment; shall be by Jury; and such Trial shall be held in the State where the said Crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any State, the Trial shall be at such Place or Places as the Congress may by Law have directed.


Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.

Note: Section II as shown above was subsequently modified by the 11th amendment – “The judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by citizens of another state, or by citizens or subjects of any foreign state.”

In fact, many of the major decisions made by Court before the modern post-World War II era have sided with and protected the interests of the powerful – the ruling class - and the status quo. For example, two of those major decisions that have had far reaching implications in the nation’s history are shown below.

Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857), was a landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court that sanctioned the right of slave owners to take their slave to the Western territories.

Plessy v. Ferguson, (1896), was a decision of the U.S. Supreme Court that had far-reaching implications for the country. It validated the constitutionality of racial segregation laws for public facilities – Jim Crow - as long as the segregated facilities were supposedly equivalent - a doctrine that came to be known as "separate but equal." In fact, this proviso. was never adhered to.

In contrast, the Warren Court (1953-1969) made decisions that protected and affirmed the civil rights of the individual as well as the accused. Some of these are listed below.

Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954), was a profoundly important Supreme Court case in which the Court declared state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students to be unconstitutional.

Miranda v. Arizona, (1966), was a landmark decision of the United States Supreme Court. In a 5–4 majority, the Court held that any self-incriminating statements made by a defendant in a criminal case in response to police interrogation would only be admissible in a court of law provided that the prosecuting attorney could show that the suspect was told of his right to an attorney and his protection from self-incrimination prior to the questioning. This decision gave rise to the required reading of the so-called “Miranda rights” to a criminal suspect upon arrest. ...

Roe vs Wade - Roe v. Wade (1973), was a decision that struck down the constitutionality of laws that criminalized or restricted access to abortions.

This period of so-called liberal decisions made by the Supreme Court was short lived as the right-wing gained prominence in American politics. This is exemplified in the Supreme Court’s recent decisions in regards to:

· Gun Control - affirming gun ownership as a constitutional right as specified by the Second Amendment - McDonald v. Chicago (2010). This particular interpretation of the Second Amendment – “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed” - has been seriously questioned.
· Campaign Finance - eliminating federally-mandated restrictions on campaign contributions equating campaign contributions with the protection provided by freedom of speech guaranteed in the constitution - Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010). In effect, this decision insures that the powerful monied interests have unfettered access to legislators and ultimately to the crafting of legislation through the influence of lobbyists working on their behalf.
· The Voting Rights Act of 1965 – voiding that portion of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that required states with a proven history of voting rights abuses to provide evidence that no inequitable obstacles were created to restrict voting among minority populations - Shelby County v. Holder (2013). This decision gave license to states with a history of voting-rights abuses to impose a broad range of voter qualification requirements that were previously restricted in the Voting Rights Act.

The political leanings of the current Supreme Court especially within the environment of a right-wing government is in keeping with the traditional role of the Supreme Court as the guardian of the rights and protector of the privileged position of the powerful in American politics, government and civic life. I would argue that this is yet another symptom of the apparently inexorable decline of liberal democracy in the United States. Without the guaranteed protection of the basic rights of such a vibrant and diverse people that live in this immense country, the future remains in question. Under the aegis of those who hold immense power, daily life for ordinary citizens would become increasingly oppressive with ever-narrowing opportunity.

Apparently, it has become quite acceptable for a substantial portion of the American citizens to accept and embrace the leadership of a president who is a known liar with absolutely no respect for the truth, a supporter of white supremacy, a misogynist and who is busily deconstructing vital protections in regard to the natural environment in a time of growing concerns about climate change. In addition, he seems particularly drawn to dictators. Although his “reign” will end, a precedent has been set in regards to the quality of leadership we can expect in the future.

All of this does not bode well for the coming generations; unless, the next generation wakes up from its seeming torpor and becomes actively engaged in politics and community. It will be in their hands.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

A Plea for a Sane and Viable Future

The current administration under the aegis of a President, whose rantings describe an apparently emotionally juvenile and disturbed personality, has helped magnify the real politic of the US government.  Elected officials are supposed to be servants of all the people.  It has become abundantly clear that they serve the affluent and corporate class above all else.  How else does one explain the passage of a supposed tax reform bill that increases still further a massive transfer of public wealth to private hands.  How else would one explain the fact that the Supreme Court has codified the rampant and excessive ability of the wealthy to have unlimited access to politicians through campaign contributions and has effectively equated money with free speech.  How else would you explain a leadership that refuses to accept the expert advice from the scientific and professional communities that conflict with the entrenched fossil fuels industries that currently hold inordinate sway in determining national policy.  This underlying reality has naturally led to a corrupt government that responds primarily to the needs and interests of the powerful.  It has become acutely apparent that this is a disastrous way to “run a country” as diverse and necessarily complex and multi-faceted as our own.

Throughout human history, civilized society has always been susceptible to disruption and dissolution – it is a fragile state of existence.  Currently, the forces of repression seem to be on the ascendency.  The egalitarian and democratic principles upon which this nation has been built are definitely floundering.  The current holder of the office of the Presidency has definitively helped to accelerate movement towards a deeply divided nation in which cruelty, bigotry. blatant mendacity, intimidation and irrational behavior are apparently encouraged.  Science and scientists, journalism and journalists have been maligned and have on more than one occasion been described as “enemies of the people.”

The American people have been led to crossroads where a definitive choice is now available to us.  Either we listen to reason, pay attention to reality, i.e. real data, respect intelligence and balanced judgment, demand true equality and representation in government and make sound and informed choices at the polls; or, we continue on the current path to inevitable disaster.

We do not possess the commodity of unlimited time to be a country we can actually be proud of and that will apply its wondrous resources and human capital to fashion a nation that sets its sights towards the greater good for everyone – we are all part of the human family - rather than remain in the emotionally-charged region of the lower brain.  As sentient beings we can do better.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

America's Steady Decline

There is mounting evidence for the decline of the United States of America.  This evidence manifests itself in a number of particular ways.  The following examples provide ample evidence of this reality. 

At the current point in time (circa 2018) the national economy seems to be thriving.  This propitious overview, however, is quite misleading.  In fact, there is a profound divide between the minority of the population that is doing exceedingly well and the majority of individuals and families that are in the margins and experience a day-to-day struggle with maintaining their precarious position within the economic strata.  In fact, many find themselves in an economically desperate situation requiring public and private assistance in the areas of health, nutrition and housing.

The ubiquitous presence of racism permeates the fabric of American society and culture.  The evidence of this abounds in spite of the strides that had been made in the latter part of the twentieth century especially as a result of the civil rights movement.  Many populations are at risk in the current climate including Blacks, Hispanics and American Muslims.  This reality is evidenced in many facets of society and has been exacerbated by the apparent racist policies established by the current federal administration formulated under the guise of national security.  The statistics are quite clear in this regard and can be seen in the overwhelming majority of Blacks and Hispanics that are currently incarcerated in the nation’s prisons; the disproportionate percentage of non-whites who have inadequate or non-existing health care; the disparate mortality rates when comparing whites and non-whites and the rate of poverty between these two population groups.

The current epidemic of mass school shootings resulting in the death of many innocent children and adolescents has become almost commonplace in America.  The toll this gruesome reality takes on not only the victims and their friends and families but the larger society is incalculable.  The apparent inability of a sizeable portion of the population to make reasonable and appropriate compromises in regards to gun ownership in the face of such unnecessary and disastrous gun violence is remarkably unsettling.

There is a seemingly prevalent view that science and scientific data is of no value especially when it relates to the real impact of human activity on climate change and the current state of the natural environment.  Public policy has been actively employed in suppressing both scientific inquiry and public access to scientific data that quantifies the extent of the damage being inflicted on both climate and nature by human activity.  This has been done for the primary benefit of profit and the powerful.

The relentless assault on truth and the unabashed use of lie and exaggeration to undermine confidence in public institutions on the part of the national government is having a deleterious impact on the very essence of democratic principles and the very future of democracy.

The examples cited above demonstrate the reality of this decline and if left unabated will undoubtedly accelerate the movement towards further decline.

I would like to conclude by attempting to define the underlying forces that are involved in this process.  In my mind, there are many factors that have converged over the nation’s history to produce this overall result. 
  • There has been an apparently ineluctable movement towards placing the individual above the common good.  The net result of this process has led to the gradual disintegration of the Commons.  As a result, we as a people can no longer can rely upon the accessibility of adequate housing, nutrition, health care for all.
  • The goal of making profit has come to supersede all else.  This has become abundantly clear in the movement towards privatizing what we have previously expected to come from the public sector such as the control and management of the nation’s prisons, the control and development of the country’s public spaces such as national parks and monuments and space exploration among others.  This is also the predominant reason for the state of the nation’s health care system – it is effectively in the hands of entities whose sole purpose is to generate profit.
  • Over the past decades, there has been a marked increase in the flow of the nation’s wealth from the many to a vanishingly small minority of the powerful.  Ironically, wealth is flowing to those who have the least need for it.  This is happening in the face of deep-seated problems that require human and economic resources to resolve including economic and social justice, the health of the earthly environment, climate change, health care, homelessness, adequate nutrition etc.  As an expected consequence of this unbalanced redistribution of wealth is the unbridled power and influence of the few and attendant corruption of government as witnessed in the financing of campaigns and the inordinate influence of lobbying groups whose main goal to maintain and expand the reach of the powerful.  The public and the public good has paid a terrible price for this influence.   
  • Since its very beginnings, this nation has been burdened by two apparently impervious factors that feed upon each other, namely racism and violence.  Racism has led to creating horrific conditions for racial minorities in this country and proved to be an important factor in wars of aggression fought in regions around the world.  Militarism has come to dominate the national economy and consume a vast portion of the national budget.  We as a people are so prepared for war, that it is quite inevitable that we wage them.

Obviously, there are also positive and progressive forces working in the greater culture.  This movement is directed and guided by thoughtful and intelligent individuals and groups that embrace real data and work toward the greater good for all.  However, these voices have ben unable to gain the ascendency.

Given the stark nature of what has been outlined above, change remains dependent upon the cumulative choices and priorities of individuals.  The question I would like to pose in closing – ‘What kind of country and world do we envision for future generations and how do we contribute to help make the future a reality?

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Rose Mapendo

Rose Mapendo was born in Mulenge within the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in 1963.  She was a member of the Banyamulenge Tutsi tribe.  Mapendo grew up in a Christian household.  As is customary for women in her culture, she was married at the young age of sixteen years.  In 1994, she moved to the city of Mbuji-Mayi where her husband could successfully pursue his career as a butcher her children could go to school.

These plans, however, were severely disrupted with the outbreak of genocide against the Tutsi people that began in neighboring Rwanda.  On April 7, 1994 members of the Rwandan army murdered ten Belgian peacekeepers as part of strategy to eliminate the Tutsi people from Rwanda.  In three short months, the Hutu- led government of Rwanda, killed an estimated one-half to a million innocent civilian Tutsis.  This madness ultimately spread to the DRC.  Mapendo and her family attempted to hide from the invading troops but were eventually found and captured.  They were taken to a prison camp on the night of September 23, 1998.

She remained in that camp for sixteen months.  Her existence there is hard to imagine.  The government ordered the extra-judicial killing of all the men; Mapendo’s husband was among them.  The camp lacked sanitation, medical care and the food provided was woefully inadequate.  During this time, Mapendo was pregnant with twins.  In order to save her own life, she was coerced into giving her seventeen-year-old daughter to a soldier for sex.  Mapendo managed to give birth under abysmal conditions and tied and cut the umbilical chords with a piece of wood.  She wisely named her newborns after two of the camp’s commanders.  This strategy ultimately saved her life: for, when orders from the government came to have the prisoners executed, one of the commanders had her and her family were transferred to another prison facility in Kinshasa, capital of the DRC.  Within weeks they were delivered to a human rights center and ultimately to a Red Cross center in Cameroon through an American effort to resettle Tutsi refugees.
Finally, in 2000 Mapendo and her children received refugee status and settled in the United States.  In 2007, she received word that her eleven-year old, daughter was alive, and Nangabire ultimately rejoined her family in the U.S. 

Once securing the safety of herself and family, Mapendo could certainly have chosen to quietly pursue her new life.  However, this is not what she chose to do.  Instead, she chose the path of forgiveness and women’s empowerment.  She was compelled to tell her story.  As a result, a PBS documentary entitled, Pushing the Elephant was released that describes Mapendo’s mission and experiences culminating in the reunion with her daughter.

The following is an audio excerpts from that film (hosted by Michel Martin) –

“And now we meet a remarkable woman. Her name is Rose Mapendo. She was the 2009 United Nations Humanitarian of the Year. She is from the Democratic Republic of Congo. She is an advocate for global health and women's empowerment and a mother to 10 children. But those words don't really capture her story, which is both remarkable and all too common. That story is told in a new documentary called "Pushing the Elephant." It premiered this week as part of the PBS series "Independent Lens."
And, again, I have to say that this conversation does touch on the issue of sexual violence and thus might not be suitable for all listeners. With that being said, Rose Mapendo is with us from Tempe, Arizona. Welcome, thank you so much for joining us.
Ms. ROSE MAPENDO (2009 United Nations Humanitarian of the Year): Thank you, Michel.
MARTIN: The documentary tells your story of surviving the violence that your family encountered doing what many people call the African world war. Certainly, living through those events had to have been incredibly painful. I must tell you that watching the film is painful. But recounting those events time and again must also be painful. And I wanted to ask why you were willing to do it.
Ms. MAPENDO: First of all, it is to raise the awareness and to tell a story of the innocent people. And I truly believe I just survive for reason. It was a choice for me to be a voice even though I knew nobody will change my past. Because I think the people can learn from the past to fix the present.
MARTIN: Just to some of the things that you lived through, which are recounted in the documentary, at the time that your community was invaded, your husband was killed, you were captured with how many children at the time? Seven, at that time. Correct?
MARTIN: You were separated from one child. And while you were imprisoned in, really, what can only be called a death camp, women and children were really just kept there to die with terrible conditions. You found that you were pregnant with twins and this presented a terrible dilemma, not just because the conditions that you were suffering were so terrible, the children were very sick. There were no conditions.
But, also, that if you revealed that you were sick in any way, you would be taken away. And many people who were ill, understood to be ill, were taken away and never seen again and it was assumed that they were killed. You talk about how at times you did pray that you would not survive this, that you just could not take any more. And I did want to ask, how did you find the strength?
Ms. MAPENDO: The strength, I believe, is the strength from God, because first of all, I grew up in a Christian house, but I was rejected that, like, resentful, according for what I have been through, but it was a pregnancy situation. Because in my belly, it was - the skin was came off because sleep on the cement. The lice was everywhere.
And of course I still hungry. Like, when you feel hungry, when the baby's inside, you feel like baby is look like he want to jump - to pass through your mouth. And I became weak and my body changed to yellow. And when I stood and I would feel dizzy, and I fell sometimes, down. And I thought my life was really freezing, stopped, and I thought I cannot pass. And I said, no matter what, there is a God - creation.
I came from somewhere and that God always give people choice. I believe in a God who put them in that situation. God can use people. And I made a decision to forgive the people who thought I am their enemy. And when I changed that, when I made the decision to forgive them, I became free from angry.
MARTIN: You made the truly remarkable, what many people consider the truly remarkable decision, to name your newborn twins after two of the prison guards.
MARTIN: Why did you do that?
Ms. MAPENDO: When you name somebody mean you love the person. But the decision to name the commanders who killed my husband, it was the way I try to think I can save my children's' life. And that way to try to tell them I am not your enemy. I know nobody understood, but I do that because I forgive you no matter what. I am one of your people.
MARTIN: One of the most difficult things, I think, for any parent, though, is to see a child suffer. And your son, John, was beaten every day that you were in the camps. And your daughter, Amy, essentially saved his life. And what happened is that you made the decision to essentially give Amy to a soldier for a sex partner.
MARTIN: And I'd like to ask you if she has forgiven you.
Ms. MAPENDO: Yes. My daughter - I didn't - first of all, I love my daughter. I did - she knew I did not do because I hate her. She understood exactly the situation. And this is not - sometimes I think this is not our shame. It is not my shame either. It's not my daughter's either. It is the government's shame. I love my children. This is not my shame. And my daughter, I believe my daughter, she's forgiven. And we talked. I told my daughter before, I said, my mom, I will not left you behind, because even though my daughter, she survived, but she pay a lot price. And I believe one day she's going to tell her own story -it will be in the public.
MARTIN: Well, as I said, it is a remarkable story and we do appreciate you being willing to talk about these very difficult things. As we are speaking now, there are many parts of the world which are in conflict, as you know. In the Ivory Coast is in the midst of a terrible, you know, political conflict, which has already led to the loss of life. There are a number of places around the world which are in conflict. What do you feel - what do you think we can draw from your story?
Ms. MAPENDO: I believe it's everybody's responsibility to take the action to save these people's life. There is many thousands of people who are seeking for life, who need my help, who need my voice, who need your voice, who need the world's attention to save their life. If I forgive somebody, if I united by myself with somebody who kill my last husband, or somebody who tortured my life, somebody who kill my own people, you can try the best to unite with that person.
It's not to change the past, it's to change the future for your family, for your neighbor, for your friend. That's change your family. You know, be better, let our children pursue the happiness like everybody because the past is gone.”

It is stories like these that need to be told regardless of how uncomfortable it might make the reader feel.  Otherwise, to remain in ignorance, is to allow this colossal inhumanity to continue.  There is, in fact, a powerful women’s movement arising in all of Africa and it needs the world’s encouragement and support.