Monthly Archives: March 2013

Every Month is Women’s History Month, by Andrea W. Doray

 Every Month is Women’s History Month

by Andrea W. Doray

Andrea Doray, Writing for Peace Board MemberWhen I was little, yet old enough to start questioning the order of things, I asked my parents why we had a Mother’s Day and a Father’s Day, but no Kid’s Day. The answer, of course, was that every day is Kid’s Day.

March was Women’s History Month in the U.S. So with this same spirit of questioning, I ask why we have a Women’s History Month, and not a Men’s History Month. The answer, of course, is that every month is Men’s History Month.

Please…hear me out.

The goals of Women’s History Month are admirable: to promote awareness of women’s contributions to society. However, doesn’t such a celebration also demean the very citizens it aims to honor by emphasizing that these contributions are so unusual they need such a celebration?

Women in America have been always been asking: Hear me. And, originally, that’s why March—as initiated by the U.S. Congress in 1987 and by presidential proclamation since 1995—is Women’s History Month, so designated to pay tribute to the nation’s women.

Few people would argue that the history of the United States belongs to everyone…the full history, that is. The contributions of the country’s women should be seamlessly integrated into the history books and not treated as “special.”

Special, no.

Extraordinary, yes…as extraordinary as any person’s deeds are in the chronicles of the United States.

It’s easy to point to momentous activities by American women because there seem to be so few of them. The women’s voting rights movement is one just one example, and commemorations of the March 3 suffragists’ march on Washington, DC, 100 years ago abound during this year’s Women’s History Month.

As they should.

To most of us today, the concept of barring about one half of the country’s population from voting for the direction of its future (and arresting those who try) is perplexing, if not downright bizarre.

Suffrage alone deserves its tribute, yet an examination of the reasons why American women even needed this century-long campaign shouldn’t be confined to Women’s History Month.

Justifiably then, the actions of America’s heroic women such as Dolley Madison, Harriett Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Clara Barton, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Abigail Adams—who in 1776 asked her husband, John, at work on the Declaration of Independence, to “remember the ladies”—should also all be credited.

That didn’t happen, and the Declaration’s wording to this day still specifies that all men are created equal. In fact, the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which would eliminate bias on the basis of gender, first introduced in 1923, has never been ratified.

Yet, where would the United States be without Rosa Parks, without Gloria Steinem, without Sandra Day O’Connor, without women like my mother who served in World War II or those who kept the nation functioning at home during that time?

If you are saying here that I’ve left out thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of important and even infamous women from my list, you are exactly right.

That’s why women’s history is way too big to be cuddled into one month a year. Women of all ages and all ethnicities have made and are making history now, right alongside our men, whose achievements, by the way, I respect equally with those of women.

Please…hear me: Every month is Women’s History Month, and we shouldn’t need a calendar to remind us.

 

About Andrea W. Doray, Writing for Peace Board Member

Andrea W. Doray is an award-winning author, essayist, poet, and humanist living in Arvada, CO. Learn more about Andrea here.

Writing for Peace News:

In Our Blog~

This spring, Writing for Peace will look at gun violence and women’s equality, two important issues that are often intertwined. We’ll take a step back from the inflammatory gun control debate by exploring the subject through poetry, essays and fiction. Links to previous posts on these topics can be found below:

Silent Day, by Richard Krawiec

What Happens When We Lose Our Innocence? by Andrea W. Doray

Where Peace Begins, by Cara Lopez Lee

Opportunity, and Public Encouragement, by Richard Krawiec

A Stranger in Trouble, Part One, by Vicki Lindner

A Stranger in Trouble, Part Two, by Vicki Lindner

Exit Wound, by Melissa Hassard

Circle Jerk, by Pd Lietz

 

Young Writers Contest

Our 2013 Young Writers Contest closed on March 1st with 106 entries from 21 different countries! Announcements will be made on May 1st, 2013. Congratulations to every young writer who participated!  The 2014 Young Writers Contest Guidelines will be posted on June 1st, 2013.

DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts

The  “Occupied” 2013 issue of DoveTales has gone to press! The release date is slated for March 30th, but you will begin seeing some exciting changes on the website before then. Stay tuned, and thank you for your support!

Equity for Women Writers

Writing for Peace encourages all young people to write and to believe their writing can make a difference, but is that equally true for boys and girls? Sadly, the latest VIDA Count indicates that we have a long way to go to achieve gender equality in the literary world. Please help us reverse this trend by reading works written be women and promoting your favorite women authors. Ask your children who they are reading in school, supplement their reading list with books by women authors, and talk to their teachers, librarians, and principals about adding women authors to their curriculum. Take note of the authors reviewed in your local papers and advocate for women authors. Head to your library or book store with a list of the twelve amazing women on our Advisory Panel. And please make a statement in support of women writers here. Thank you!

 

Copyright © 2013 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

Circle Jerk, by Paula Dawn Lietz

Circle Jerk, by Pd Lietz

Circle Jerk

by Paula Dawn Lietz

I had no reason to not believe
but when I questioned your integrity
you bore me down slamming pieces
of me like raw meat on the barbs of the fence
creating a collage of sorts of what I mistakenly
thought we were
peers you called us in this collaboration
when and where did this mirage take
on a physical presence

you called me the trash of yesterdays sins
I could not tell who screamed, was it you
or I, the rush of denial too strong in my ears
cruelly and oh so well you taunted me on
by a blindsided squall that took any sense
of my ability to reason let alone my will to breathe
you said I had no right to call my art….art
you said I was only good for circle jerk
on a barbwire fence

my ignorance was ashamed when I had to
ask what you meant by that, an image
I fear I will not forget

my eyes rolled to the back of my head
I felt frozen in time, betrayed I stayed hiding
within myself begging for a seizure
it was not to be I was to remember everything
being left in limbo, neither here nor there
but in dark place where all things grow
the strength of your cRAzy barbs slicing
sadistic jagged lines upon my mind
changing the energy within me
the tetanus coursing through my veins
nothing compared to the poison you fed me

 

Circle Jerk was previously published in The Schwibly.

 

Pd Lietz, Writing for Peace Artist-in-ResidenceAbout Paula Dawn Lietz, Artist-in-Residence

Paula Dawn Lietz is a widely published writer, photographer and artist who lives in rural Manitoba Canada. Ms. Lietz was awarded first prize in the United Kingdom Frost Photography International Competition 2011. Her writing, art, and photography have appeared in many publications, and she was responsible for the cover art of many of these. Learn more about Paula Dawn Lietz here.

 

Writing for Peace News:

In Our Blog~

This spring, Writing for Peace will look at gun violence and women’s equality, two important issues that are often intertwined. We’ll take a step back from the inflammatory gun control debate by exploring the subject through poetry, essays and fiction. Links to previous posts on these topics can be found below:

Silent Day, by Richard Krawiec

What Happens When We Lose Our Innocence? by Andrea W. Doray

Where Peace Begins, by Cara Lopez Lee

Opportunity, and Public Encouragement, by Richard Krawiec

A Stranger in Trouble, Part One, by Vicki Lindner

A Stranger in Trouble, Part Two, by Vicki Lindner

Exit Wound, by Melissa Hassard

 

Young Writers Contest

Our 2013 Young Writers Contest closed on March 1st with 106 entries from 21 different countries! Announcements will be made on May 1st, 2013. Congratulations to every young writer who participated!  The 2014 Young Writers Contest Guidelines will be posted on June 1st, 2013.

DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts

The  “Occupied” 2013 issue of DoveTales has gone to press! The release date is slated for March 30th, but you will begin seeing some exciting changes on the website before then. Stay tuned, and thank you for your support!

Equity for Women Writers

Writing for Peace encourages all young people to write and to believe their writing can make a difference, but is that equally true for boys and girls? Sadly, the latest VIDA Count indicates that we have a long way to go to achieve gender equality in the literary world. Please help us reverse this trend by reading works written be women and promoting your favorite women authors. Ask your children who they are reading in school, supplement their reading list with books by women authors, and talk to their teachers, librarians, and principals about adding women authors to their curriculum. Take note of the authors reviewed in your local papers and advocate for women authors. Head to your library or book store with a list of the twelve amazing women on our Advisory Panel. And please make a statement in support of women writers here. Thank you!

 

Copyright © 2013 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

Exit Wound, by Melissa Hassard

Exit Wound

by Melissa Hassard

Melissa Hassard, Writing for Peace Guest Writerexit wound:

Forensic pathology:  The “goodbye” lesion that a bullet or other projectile causes when leaving the body;  EWs are often larger than the entrance wound, due to tumbling and deformation of the bullet.

From The Medical Dictionary

Growing up in the south, everyone’s father had a gun — weapons were always around but generally took the form of mysterious closets we kids weren’t allowed in. In college, I dated a hunter and his family took very seriously their responsibility for life and safety, and I think of them often when discussing responsible gun legislation proposed by President Obama and Senate leaders with friends and strangers, and their influence on me is probably the basis for the respectful tone I keep when disagreeing.  But violence and the potential for gun-related violence or accidents have followed me throughout my life.

 ***

When I was nine or ten, my best friend’s stepdad awoke in the middle of the night to hear an intruder moving about the house.  In the dark, he reached for his handgun and took aim toward the noise in the hallway.  His wife appeared then, in front of him, a glass of water in her hand — terrified to come face to face with her husband pointing a gun at her.  Luckily, he had the presence of mind to relax his grip and put the gun down.  All of us kids talked about it the next day.  By breakfast, the mother had moved beyond upset and scared, and was furious with her husband.

***

A few years later when I was a teenager, my father decided he wanted a divorce. When my mother couldn’t imagine a life without him and was uncooperative, he reached for his gun, and over the course of a weekend held her captive.  He did all sorts of unspeakable things to her, keeping a gun to her head the entire time, until he finally, on the third day, fell asleep.  She escaped to a friend’s house, and on Monday found an apartment and filed a police report.

***

My uncle, a well-loved and talented musician and music teacher, would drive home late at night across Raleigh from restaurant and club gigs he played with his band.  He would often stop at a convenient store late for something to eat.  One summer night in the 80′s, he unknowingly entered a store during an armed robbery.  The thief had managed to come around behind my uncle and was about to make his escape when he called from behind, with a hand on the door, “Don’t turn around.”  Reflexively, Jerry turned to see who had spoken to him.  He was shot and killed immediately.  He left behind a beautiful wife and daughter who still miss him terribly to this day.

 ***

“Before I tell you how the NRA and our members are going to Stand And Fight politically and in the courts, let’s acknowledge that all over this country, tens of millions of Americans are already preparing to Stand And Fight to protect their families and homes. These good Americans are prudently getting ready to protect themselves.”

Wayne LaPierre, Stand and Fight

From the day of the shooting until today, this is the first detailed account of Newtown that I have found at a time and place I was able to bring myself to read:

Lanza shot his way into the school through the glass windows at the front entrance and turned left toward the first-grade classrooms. He almost immediately encountered Principal Dawn Hochsprung and school psychologist Mary Scherlach, who ran into the hallway from a meeting room, which would have been on Lanza’s right. He shot them both to death immediately.

Sources said that the two teachers who were injured were hit by ricochet bullets from that initial burst of gunfire.   [ … ]

Lanza first skipped Victoria Soto’s room and entered the classroom taught by substitute teacher Lauren Rousseau.

Lanza killed all but one student in Rousseau’s class, where the children were massed together in a back corner of the room trying to get into a bathroom. One girl escaped because she played dead and ran out of the room after Lanza left.

Lanza then backtracked to Soto’s room.

 —  As reported at courant.com

What do our children think of all of this?  The terrible event itself, the impassioned mothers making phone calls, the neighbors arguing when they never have before, and far away in Washington, on the floor of a large room, someone else decides.

The day has arrived in America when it is all too easy to obtain a weapon of mass destruction, as easy to pick up as a dozen eggs and gallon of milk, not quite as difficult as Sudafed —

“It’s not a very practical thing to do and you’ll have a lot of inconvenience to law-abiding citizens at the same time you’re not going to keep many weapons out of the hands of people who are misusing them,” said Bob Goodlatte, House Judiciary Chair, on requiring background checks for all gun sales.

 … and pro-gun interest groups have twitchy trigger fingers.  In the days before the Senate began its debate, the rhetoric was ratcheting up to a level of extreme irresponsibility.  And from the top of the NRA and all the way down.

“It’s going to be a very rough and very ugly battle.  Fortunately, our enemy doesn’t have any guns and they don’t know how to use them,” said NRA President David Keene, on new federal and state gun regulations.
 

Sources said that Lanza’s shooting spree lasted less than five minutes and that he fired 152 bullets while making his way through two classrooms in the elementary school. — courant.com

“We have so much to be proud of as gun owners, shooters and freedom lovers. That pride, especially when it’s not hidden in the closet, is itself a form of protection for the Second Amendment.

“We will not surrender. We will not appease. We will buy more guns than ever. We will use them for sport and lawful self-defense more than ever. We will grow the NRA more than ever. And we will be prouder than ever to be freedom-loving NRA patriots. And with your help, we will ensure that the Second Amendment remains America’s First Freedom. “

— Wayne LaPierre, Stand and Fight

 

 “vince, March 3, 2013 at 9:56 pm

“See that is exactly the point Eugene, the right to bear arms is a god given right OUR govt has neither the right nor the authority to deny us that right. They have already infringed upon our god given to bear arms. A Thompson sub machine gun is a fire arm and i should be allowed to own it without the BATF’s permission. So is an F-16, and Abrams tank, if i should be inclined and able to afford it i should be able to own any weapon the United States Military operates!! Predator drones, B-52′s whatever. I should be able to arm myself with any weapon i want!!”

— Comment on a pro-gun board from this article

“With gun safety measures headed to the Senate floor, members of the House and Senate appropriations committees have quietly made permanent four formerly temporary gun-rights provisions largely favored by Republicans. Those provisions are part of a spending bill that would keep the government running through Sept. 30.”  

— The New York Times, March 13, 2013 

None of this is acceptable.  There is no God-given right to own a gun or threaten another human life.  There is a Constitutional-given right in the form of the 2nd Amendment and it gets warped and twisted badly, mostly by those who stand to profit greatly from more gun sales and loosened restrictions, and repeated often in slogans and talking points by those whose fear of some unknown, and primarily fictional “bad guy,” who was created in the minds of men much like the fairy tales we were all raised on.

I know from my own history that often it is a good guy with a gun that later becomes an impassioned, irrational, frustrated, angry bad guy with a gun.

I will protect anyone’s right to own a weapon, but in fact no one needs the weapons of mass destruction that too many times now have found their way into the hands of troubled youth.  Until we do a better job of taking care of our mentally ill, we must make it harder to obtain these weapons.  (Owning a weapon should be regarded as a serious responsibility again. I actually watched an NRA YouTube video interview with N.H. gun store owner Keith Cox refer to them as “toys for adults” here.)  I support the assault weapons ban, universal background checks, stricter penalties for illegal gun sales, mandatory liability insurance for gun owners, and increased spending for our mentally ill.

Though I haven’t seen any photographs, I cannot shake the image — indeed, my mind can see it more clearly than if you’d shown me a photograph — the story of the child with his hand and jaw blown off.  The hand presumably raised to protect himself.  To protect himself.  He had seen, and he knew.

For a six-year-old to possess that horrible knowledge, even for an instant, was and is a lot to bear. There are small moments of victory and many moments of discouraging or frightening news.  But as Martin Luther King, Jr. said — there comes a point when even silence becomes permission.

Newtown was the point of entry.  The exit wound — the goodbye lesion — was left on the nation.  Goodbye to silent witness.

I am a good American, too, Mr. LaPierre.

 

About Melissa Hassard, Writing for Peace Guest Writer

Melissa Hassard is an online content writer and editor, poet, essayist, and mother.  Her studies in public relations, communication, world religions, and writing led her into careers in travel, executive leadership, social media strategy and advertising.  She has a keen love of language and writes creatively about those moments closest to her heart.  When not writing or editing, she may possibly be found on a bike or on a stage somewhere in North Carolina where she currently resides, raising her children, her business, and her writers’ group. Melissa pours herself into her passions, which include nurturing and encouraging the passions of others.  Learn more about Melissa’s work at her website: melissahassard.com.

Writing for Peace News:

In Our Blog~

This spring, Writing for Peace will look at gun violence and women’s equality, two important issues that are often intertwined. We’ll take a step back from the inflammatory gun control debate by exploring the subject through poetry, essays and fiction. Links to previous posts on the topic of gun violence can be found below:

Silent Day, by Richard Krawiec

What Happens When We Lose Our Innocence? by Andrea W. Doray

Where Peace Begins, by Cara Lopez Lee

Opportunity, and Public Encouragement, by Richard Krawiec

A Stranger in Trouble, Part One, by Vicki Lindner

A Stranger in Trouble, Part Two, by Vicki Lindner

 

Young Writers Contest

Our 2013 Young Writers Contest closed on March 1st with 106 entries from 21 different countries! Announcements will be made on May 1st, 2013. Congratulations to every young writer who participated!  The 2014 Young Writers Contest Guidelines will be posted on June 1st, 2013.

DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts

The  “Occupied” 2013 issue of DoveTales has gone to press! The release date is slated for March 30th, but you will begin seeing some exciting changes on the website before then. Stay tuned, and thank you for your support!

Equity for Women Writers

Writing for Peace encourages all young people to write and to believe their writing can make a difference, but is that equally true for boys and girls? Sadly, the latest VIDA Count indicates that we have a long way to go to achieve gender equality in the literary world. Please help us reverse this trend by reading works written be women and promoting your favorite women authors. Ask your children who they are reading in school, supplement their reading list with books by women authors, and talk to their teachers, librarians, and principals about adding women authors to their curriculum. Take note of the authors reviewed in your local papers and advocate for women authors. Head to your library or book store with a list of the twelve amazing women on our Advisory Panel. And please make a statement in support of women writers here. Thank you!

Copyright © 2013 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

 

A Stranger in Trouble (Part II), by Vicki Lindner

A Stranger in Trouble

(Part Two)

by Vicki Lindner

Vicki Lindner, Writing for Peace Advisor

March 18

Endless visitors last night. First came Farayela, the night mama, my favorite. Her face is warm, and she has a talent for a graceful sympathy, different from pity. She brought her sister and her sister’s baby. Then the night nurse, Lila, and her friend, the hospital receptionist, Anwar, came in.  Anwar means “light.”  “Very beautiful!” she glowed about me, although she couldn’t have been talking about my face. All were escorted by Achmed, grinning with sparse teeth, shouting, “These are my brothers!” and “Vicki—good! Vicki—beautiful!” Sister Vittoria also visited  (“God Bless! God Bless!”) and we discussed my case. She said she is not afraid to die, but she couldn’t stand to be violated. I said I knew everything that happened in that hotel room would eventually become irrelevant if I could stay alive. Yet, when I was sure he would kill me, I felt calm, able to accept my fate.

Achmed, who was there, told a story translated by Sister V: A French girl, wandering through The Valley of Kings, plunged into a deep hole. Her parents searched for a year before they found her body. As she succumbed to thirst she wrote a note stating, “Nobody pushed me. I fell down here myself,” and instructed her family what to do with her things. “She accepted death,” commented Sister Vittoria approvingly, then added, “Never go alone. Alone is dangerous!”

The fervent call of the mosque marks another hour.

A while ago the police interrogated me again. A domestic presented Dr. Zein with my knapsack and belongings. Although they initially said I had not been robbed, only the receipts for my Barclay’s travelers’ checks were in my yellow money belt, now minus its strings. The $100 in cash I’d changed into pounds on the black market and American Express card are also gone. Since there is no branch of Barclay’s in Aswan, I can’t apply for a refund until I return to Cairo. Fortunately, I’d left my passport at the hotel desk, or he would have stolen that, too. The police passed it around, scrutinizing the photograph of my real face, and recorded the numbers of the missing checks. All this took a long time. Finally, the young man, manager of a travel agency, serving as interpreter, said, “Forget we are police and speak to us as friends. We want to know if you think all Egyptians are like this man. No, I will not say man, because he is an animal. You are a writer—what will you write about us?” Then the police apologized for “all of Aswan, although this man is not from Aswan,” and “for all of Egypt,” and Achmed lead me back to my room.

Sister Vittoria just came in (thanking God in Arabic) to assure me that they would soon catch “Sash.” His real name is Ascherif, she said. He used his Egyptian identification card to sign into the hotel, and the Cairo police have forwarded his record and photograph. “They know his mother. They know his father. They know where he lives. The police say he is married!” she added incredulously. “Perhaps he tried to make like this with his wife, and she ran back to her family.”

March 20

Yesterday Dr. Hassan fixed my broken nose, supposedly a “minor procedure.” But when I saw two old-fashioned metal gas tanks and an anesthesiologist, I knew I was in for it. Sister Carmen held my hand as he gave me the needle. “I will be here and I will pray,” she said. I woke up, thirsty, with wads of stuffing up each nostril, a soggy bandage smothering my nose. All night people screamed a frantic prayer in the hospital garden, accompanied by drums and the muezzin, blaring through the mosque’s megaphone. Sister Vittoria says this is a strange prayer for mercy: “They pray until someone faints.” This morning my throat hurts. Sister Carmen told me they put a large tube down it—larger than they use in Europe—and I’d lost a lot of blood.

Sister Hildegarde brought me lunch and tucked in my sheets, while Achmed, hovering about, brushed invisible crumbs off the cabinet, straightened my blanket, and looked at me with pained eyes. I began to cry because these strangers were offering me such deeply felt attention. They didn’t understand. When my tears began, Achmed put his hand over his own face and rushed out of the room, and Sister H. trilled Italian consolations.

Farayela flew by the door on her way to an errand, her black head scarf streaming behind her, and shouted in her new English words: “I love you.”

The entire hospital has been to visit me. “They are upset,” interpreted Sister Vittoria, “because they heard you were crying.” The nice doctor with very dark skin said, “All the people of Aswan feel shame and say, ‘If we catch him, we’ll kill him.’” Before leaving for Egypt, I made an impassioned speech opposing capital punishment on a TV talk show. I’m glad to say I’m still on the same side. I tried to kill “Sash” with his own gun when I thought he was going to kill me, but I wouldn’t want to see him executed in the name of my revenge.

March 21

I’m starting to feel restless and wander through the hospital corridors. Many of the patients are afflicted with eye diseases and bilharzia. There is a fever ward downstairs, as well as a separate wing for TB patients. I am in the post-operative ward, where few of the patients seem ill; (in the U.S. they would have been released a week ago, and I would have been sent home with a large bill after an exam in the emergency room.)  They sit on the wooden benches, drinking tea, or lie, sometimes two or three to a bed. Family members hover over the patients, nursing and feeding them. An entire family of sisters and their children have checked in down the hall because one of the little girls, Fateh, had an operation to separate the fingers of her deformed hand. The mothers are young—teenagers—and wear gold on their necks and ears. All day they sit in the “lounge,” or gaze out the window, holding their children, who don’t have toys and play no games. All of them eat the free government food and follow the hospital routine, although only one little girl is a patient.

At visiting hour legions of relatives swarm noisily through the corridors. Entire towns seem to be camping in some patients’ rooms, eating and drinking, throwing fruit peels on the floor, or huddling in bed with the sick one. They laugh and talk, creating a loud, cheerful clamor. Sister Hildegarde says that my sink is broken because the visitors sat on it.

All the patients and their visitors are friendly, curious about me. They beckon me into their rooms and motion me to sit on their beds. They bring me flowers, fruit, and a sweet pastry called basboussa. Yesterday someone gave me a bunch of roses, fragile red petals darkening in Nile heat. A fat businessman with gold teeth, Hassan, always hanging out in the lounge, waves to me and shouts, “Vicki! Com-a. Drink-a tea!” Najud, the prettiest sister, insisted on doing my laundry in the bathroom this morning, and I let her, although I wanted to do something for myself. My favorite is a teenaged boy, Wassim, who has been here for two months because he first fractured, then burned his left arm; the skin grafts, done by a foreign specialist, didn’t take. He swiftly parades the corridors, as if he has a secret mission to accomplish. Sister Vittoria says that Wassim likes the hospital: “Why not? He eats very well for no money and goes about all the day.” I give him the chocolate wafers and hard candy that the sisters give me; today I gave him a pen. He pockets these presents, winks mischievous eyes, then sails off down the hall with the satisfied air of a stockbroker who made a killing. Today he delivered a dozen oranges, his part of our unspoken “deal.”

Zeinab, the skinny mama, kissed the bread before she gave it to me.

March 22

I thought I was recovering my equilibrium, but last night, my dreams transported me back to the Hotel Abu Simbel again. Finally I gave up trying to sleep and went to the nurse’s station for a sedative. The nurse, doing needlework, didn’t have one. Farayela came in, and I told her, via gestures, that when I closed my eyes my heart beat wildly and I felt afraid. She understood immediately, and placed her own hand on my heart, as if to calm it. She rapidly translated what I had indicated into shrill, intense Arabic for the benefit of the nurse and the patients who were hanging out in the station. She and I understand each other although we don’t speak the same language. Before this, I met no Egyptian women on my trip. In the streets they hurried toward an errand, their heads and bodies shrouded. Sometimes they smiled, or beckoned me to a more comfortable seat on the bus, but none tried to communicate. All of my conversations were with men. If I had not ended up in the hospital, I might have passed through without getting to know any women, or experiencing the tenderness they’re offering me.

This morning, in fractured Italian, I told Sister Hildegarde that I can’t stop thinking about what happened to me. “No Pensare” she advised. Or, “Don’t think.”

My left eye has opened, revealing a familiar green pupil, swimming in a bloodshot white. Immediately I started reading William Faulkner’s  Absalom! Absalom!, the only novel I brought with me.

Because I am eager to leave the hospital, the sisters suggested I do more walking. This afternoon Sister Carmen took me up to the roof of the hospital, where the nuns, the Mons Camboni, have their quarters. This order was founded to help black people, she said, and works mostly in Africa. Egypt is a training ground for the sisters who will travel to the hotter, less healthy climate of the Sudan. She showed me where they sleep, two to a room, and their garden of basil and tomatoes. Sister Carmen is the youngest, new to the order. She told me that she is finding it difficult to adjust to the hospital culture. “They do things so differently here,” she said. “If a patient is on the verge of death, the nurses say, ‘God’s will,’ and after that they do not give medicine or water.” She has seen patients die who might have been saved if it was not for “God’s will.” “Night duty was terribly hard for me in Europe,” she continued. “It was almost impossible to stay awake. It is no problem for the nurses here. They simply fall asleep at 11:30, and if the patients want something, they wait until morning.” In Egypt, she continued, the hospital is like a free resort; relatives visit the patient lucky enough to be admitted, bringing money and food. Once installed in a coveted hospital bed, patients expect intravenous feeding, and plenty of injections and pills. Otherwise they think nothing is being done for them.

We drank tea from flowered china cups. I felt surprisingly weak, and asked to return to my room.

Now, lying in bed, I’m thinking about these gentle, but vigorous sisters, who work astonishingly hard. They have no day off, and rarely leave the hospital, except to visit a sick relative, or attend a religious retreat. They perform their duties with a jovial concern, not to please the patient, the doctors, for money, or for themselves; they are working for God, infusing what they do with an abstract, almost mechanical quality that must be devotion. Everything I’ve done, I did for employers, friends, or my own satisfaction. I always expected a reward– credit, pleasure, a paycheck, a line on my resume… Even in the Zen center in Jemez Springs, I sat zazen in the freezing cold at four a.m. to gain enlightenment for myself.

As I write, Moustafa, the orderly, is removing the mattresses from the extra beds in my room so that the nurses on night duty can get their rest. Sister Vittoria says that she trained Moustafa herself when he was young, dissolute, and smoked hashish, but now, God Bless, he is married.

March 23

This morning I woke up obsessed with getting out of the hospital. When I look at the curling green wall, I can only think about the reason I’m here, and I want to get on with it, start to forget. When I realized I’d lost my money, I was still too much in shock to care; now, I’m beginning to worry. How long will it take to get the refund I need to fly to Barcelona to meet Jimmy and Joan?  How will I deal with my life? With men, already a problem? I lie in bed and read Absalom! Absalom! through persistent tears. Sister Vittoria came to comfort me. She said that Dr. Zein has heard they caught “Sash” and he never repeats rumors. I ate two cookies, two custards, drank a Coke and some sugary tea. My spirits lifted.

March 24

Dr. Zein himself paid me a visit this morning, holding his dignity overhead like a large umbrella. “Carry on with your breakfast,” he ordered sternly. ( It’s hard to slurp cold pea soup and talk to this important person at the same time.) He had heard I was crying and asked to leave. “Point one:” he began. “It is our duty to care for you. Point two: We are not annoyed by your presence here. You must not be annoyed with us.” Sister Vittoria interrupted. “She is not annoyed. She is upset.” They think I am crying because I am angry with them; I feel ashamed of my tantrum; my emotional outburst now seems ungrateful to me….

One a.m. Awake again.  It gets harder, not easier to sleep as my body recovers. Afraid of the dark, I got up and wandered into the lounge. One of the patients was playing a tape deck, and Wassim was dancing, gracefully dangling his bandaged arm, to a haunting melody. He wriggled his eyebrows at me. They don’t understand why I want to leave the hospital. “Stay one more week; stay a month!” Hassan encourages.

Farayela says she wants to go back to New York with me. She zooms her hand like an airplane and laughs. “What about your husband?” asks Sister Vittoria, and answers, “He will cry one day, then marry someone else.”

The night plainclothesman has offered to marry me, via Hassan, but inquired whether I am a “woman” or a “girl”—i.e. a virgin.

March 25

This morning I woke up more anxious than ever to leave the hospital. Outside I heard a continuous, high-pitched wail. I ran to the window. A chorus of black-shrouded Nubian women were flailing their arms in precise motions of abandon, jumping up and down, and emitting the same loud, single-pitched cry. Hassan motioned me away, (“Vicki, Come-a! Drink-a tea!”), but I was riveted. I assumed someone had died, but Sister Vittoria said no, a girl had burned herself; girls from rural villages throw themselves into the fire when they are betrothed by their families to a man they don’t love. “They cry before death here,” Sister V. commented. The patient lies in our ward under a blanket tent. From her room issue thinner versions of the shrieks outside. Now the villagers are performing what looks like a ritualized remonstration—arguing in artificial voices, pulling at each others’ clothes.

I went back into my room, agitated. My horror for myself, amplified by what has happened to this girl, burst in my chest. I told Sister Vittoria that I am afraid I am doomed; I was meant to die.  I told her about my dream, how I invoked the gun by writing that novel. She said positively, “No, it is over. You will live, and die when you are old. You will write better now. You will understand terror, cruelty, and pain.”

The village women have squatted down on the hospital grounds and around the ugly, concrete apartment complex across the road, like inert, black feathered crows. The midday sun burns. The girl’s brother is weeping in the lounge, his head on his knees.

A few minutes ago the resident doctor, wearing a vivid turquoise shirt with aqua trousers, staunch Sister Clelia, the Minister of Tourism, the Publicity Director for the Government of Aswan, and the Governor’s personal representative filed into my room after a single knock to present me with a “purse” of twenty-five pounds to defray my expenses in Cairo. I dredged my body out of the covers, tried to look happy, and accepted their apologies for “all of Egypt.”

Later, Sister Hildegarde asked me if I wanted to visit the burned girl. Perhaps she thought that seeing another victim would take my mind off myself. We went into the darkened room: the sister lifted the blankets. About seventy percent of the girl’s body is hideously charred, the brown skin shredding away from raw, red patches. “No Vivire,” said Sister H; she will not live. The girl did not try to kill herself, said the sister, she is retarded, and, by accident, set a gasoline can on fire. That is why her people are so sad. The entire ward is also depressed. After lunch everyone, including Hassan and the peripatetic Wassim, went back to bed and lay on their backs quietly. No one talked. A little boy, hit by a car, has also been brought in. Sister Hildegarde says he won’t live either.

At five the hospital admitted the Nubian villagers to the ward. I sat on the bench outside my room, watching the crows fly through, wailing, chanting, some crying, or emitting a theatrical high shriek, pulling at each other, all black-shrouded with blue-stained lips and tattooed chins—a horde of furies, repudiating centuries of celebrated Egyptian dying and eternal life.  I felt my heart beating in my throat; I could barely breathe.

Sister Vittoria came to rescue me. She spoke to Achmed in fluent Arabic. He was upset. “Nubians—bad!” he said. “Why are they crying? What happens is God’s will. What is the point to cry?”

My namesake saw I needed to get away. She took me for a walk through the housing project across from the hospital, telling me stories about her patients, their unhappy marriages, the nurse who was beaten by her husband. I asked if she feels sad when a patient dies. She said, oh yes, but in the beginning she was distraught, cried constantly. She thought, “How will I be a nurse?” As we walked, people from the apartment complex ran up to greet her, and invite us in. She told me that she no longer visits, because her former patients try to give her everything they have, are insulted if she refuses. The Nile wind whipped the desert dust into a granular sunset; shouting boys played a lively soccer game. I felt stronger, less terrified, glad to be alive again. On the way back, we met the young nurse who walks with a limp. Sister V. told me that her leg is attached to the middle of her foot instead of joining it at the ankle. A good orthopedic surgeon offered to operate, but she declined. “God made me this way,” she said. “Why should I change?”

Now I am back in my room. The burn case is near death, a poisonous vapor in the hospital atmosphere.  Zeinab, the skinny mama, has curled up on the foot of my bed so I won’t be alone.

Sister Vittoria claims that there are bureaucratic problems preventing my release. The hospital administrator below Dr. Zein refuses to take responsibility, unless Dr. Zein personally approves; he is touring the villages and can’t be reached by phone. Also, the police must support my release “more strongly,” and my passport must have a special stamp. “This is why the sisters leave Egypt with liver trouble,” said Sister V. “But don’t worry; I am pushing them.” She told me that they have not caught “Sash”—it was only a rumor.

Zeinab came back in, dressed in her black street clothes, and kissed me three times before going home.

March 27

Just as I resigned myself to a long stay, Sister Clelia told me that I may leave tomorrow night. She is going to the station to buy me a train ticket to Cairo—a gift from the nuns.

The burned girl died today. The noise level was normal in the ward, and everyone seemed in a good mood as usual. The little boy who was hit by a car is “quite better” Sister Vittoria said.

My last night. Farayela walked me past the dead girl’s room to the window at the end of the corridor. She undid the bolts and threw it open. The dogs barked amorously at lights glinting in this most everlasting of skies. “Vicki… …Aswan,” she said with deep pride. This is the only tourist sight I will see in this ancient market city—a glittering nightscape from the hospital window.

 March 29

Finally I’m in the cheap Tulip Hotel, facing my weak, frightened self amidst honking traffic and Cairo’s disorienting crowds. The sisters and Achmed put me on the train this morning. Sister Clelia demonstrated how to double lock the cabinette door. Achmed warned me not to speak to a soul, and Sister Vittoria whispered that I must avoid a suspicious character who turned out to be the conductor. Achmed had to hurry away before the train pulled out of the station, because he was scheduled to have a small operation, maybe his reward for guarding me so well. Sister Vittoria slipped me an envelope, saying, “To read someday.” In it was a postcard with a picture of Christ, punctured arms outstretched, pale face bleeding profusely beneath the crown of thorns. On the back she had written, “Aswan, March 28, 1981. God is love.”

Epilogue: The scars on my wrists and ankles faded quickly, and my post-traumatic stress symptoms did, too. Sister Vittoria had suggested I see a psychiatrist (“It will be worse six months from now than it is now”) and I did work with a therapist, unraveling the reasons why I’d opened my  door to a  drunk with a gun  when I wanted to double lock it instead.  After that, I became more self-protective. Ultimately, though, I attributed my recovery to my experience in the Government Public Hospital in Aswan. After reading up on trauma therapy, I realized that the Egyptians provided excellent care. The hospital, although far from modern, treated me, free of charge,  for almost two weeks, managed my physical symptoms, sedated me, assuaged my terror by stationing guards, fixed my broken nose, and gently but firmly provided me with physical and psychological coping strategies before allowing me to continue my journey in a very strange world. The nuns, the doctors, the visitors, the “mamas” had offered me their consolation and honest outrage. More important, they had spiritualized my emotional survival with their blend of passionate faiths, and what felt like global, unconditional love. I initially believed, like most egocentric Americans, that my personal qualities—my intelligent interest in the foreign culture? My accepting attitude?  I was a writer, taking notes?—inspired the healing empathy I got. For years I did correspond with the nuns and Dr. Zein, who, like the police, wondered what I would write about Egypt, and asked to read whatever I wrote. From a translation of the newspaper clipping the hospital administrator sent, I learned that “Sash,” a former tour guide, was captured in the act of assaulting a French woman and was sentenced to seven years of hard labor. Decades later, my eyes are still drawn, like magnets, to the line drawing illustrating the psychotic criminal; the dark moustache framing a sour frown, the cleft chin, remain startlingly familiar, intimate, like the face of a long lost lover in perverted reverse….

Time heals misconceptions as well as rope burns.  As the years went by, I wondered whether undefined factors—having little to do with me– inspired the treatment that had successfully restored me to myself.  (Dr. Zein’s words, “It is our duty to care for you,” echoed anew.) Jimmy, the wise poet I visited in Spain, told me that Muslims regard a foreign tourist as a wealthy infidel, ripe for petty harassment, until misfortune strikes; at that point, he said, the outsider becomes “family,” and the real journey begins. Perhaps there was something to that: I remembered the Egyptians on the Cairo-bound train, poor people, who collected a pound in coins for me, despite my embarrassed protests. And I recalled others, who approached in the crowded labyrinth of the capital’s streets, expressing horror over my bruised eye, begging me to reassure them that “one of us did not do this.”  Then, 19 years later, fate opened another door…

In 2000, a year before the world I believed in fell apart, a Jordanian university student appeared in my office; she wanted to write the story of her fraught escape from a cruel father, and a culture with few opportunities for educated women.  Could I help?  In one of our conferences, I told her a bit about my stay in the Egyptian hospital. “Is there a custom that might explain the care and kindness I got?” I asked.

“Oh yes,” she replied.  “There is a saying…I  will bring it to you.” She printed the proverb on a copy of an Arabic folktale: “A Stranger in Trouble is a Gift of God. “

“A Stranger in Trouble” was published in American Literary Review in Fall, 2006 and nominated by the magazine for a Pushcart Prize. An earlier version, “Aswan Diary,” was published in the British  journal, Margin, in 1989.

 

About Writing for Peace Adviser, Vicki Lindner

Vicki Lindner is a fiction writer, essayist, and journalist who has published a novel, Outlaw Games, and many short stories, essays, magazine and newspaper articles. She has written about a wide variety of subjects: cooking, bird watching, loneliness, dinosaurs, sculpture, not having children, travel, and medical malpractice. Her work has appeared in journals and anthologies, including The Paris Review, Kenyon Review, Ploughshares, Fiction, Chick-Lit; Post Feminist Fiction, Witness, the Best of Terrain, Del Sol, The American Literary Review, Gastronomica, New York Stories, In Short: An Anthology of Short Creative Non-Fiction, American Nature Writing, Northern Lights, and The Seneca Review. Her short story about karate, “Barefoot to the Bridge in Winter,” was the Fiction Premiere for New York Woman. Most recently, Lindner’s essays were published in Shadowbox and Western Humanities Review. Learn more about Vicki Lindner here.

 

Writing for Peace News:

In Our Blog~

This spring, Writing for Peace will look at gun violence and women’s equality, two important issues that are often intertwined. We’ll take a step back from the inflammatory gun control debate by exploring the subject through poetry, essays and fiction. Links to previous posts on the topic of gun violence can be found below:

Silent Day, by Richard Krawiec

What Happens When We Lose Our Innocence? by Andrea W. Doray

Where Peace Begins, by Cara Lopez Lee

Opportunity, and Public Encouragement, by Richard Krawiec

Young Writers Contest

Our 2013 Young Writers Contest closed on March 1st with 106 entries from 21 different countries! Announcements will be made on May 1st, 2013. Congratulations to every young writer who participated!  The 2014 Young Writers Contest Guidelines will be posted on June 1st, 2013.

DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts

The  “Occupied” 2013 issue of DoveTales has gone to press! The release date is slated for March 30th, but you will begin seeing some exciting changes on the website before then. Stay tuned, and thank you for your support!

Equity for Women Writers

Writing for Peace encourages all young people to write and to believe their writing can make a difference, but is that equally true for boys and girls? Sadly, the latest VIDA Count indicates that we have a long way to go to achieve gender equality in the literary world. Please help us reverse this trend by reading works written be women and promoting your favorite women authors. Ask your children who they are reading in school, supplement their reading list with books by women authors, and talk to their teachers, librarians, and principals about adding women authors to their curriculum. Take note of the authors reviewed in your local papers and advocate for women authors. Head to your library or book store with a list of the twelve amazing women on our Advisory Panel. And please make a statement in support of women writers here. Thank you!

Copyright © 2013 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.


A Stranger in Trouble (Part I), by Vicki Lindner

A Stranger in Trouble

by Vicki Lindner

Vicki Lindner, Writing for Peace AdvisorBefore I left for Cairo, I fell asleep reading The Egyptian Book of the Dead.  I dreamed a two-headed mummy hid in the hall of my apartment building, waiting to kill me. I woke up, afraid. Warnings foreshadowed my solitary journey –my first to a Muslim land.  Avigail, an Israeli, then a Nigerian who did social work in North African villages, advised me not to go there alone. “Why not?” I asked.  I hated tours, and none of my friends wanted to join me…. Egypt had been a tourist destination since Herodotus’s time… I’d meet plenty of travelers… Besides, I needed an inspirational trip—a reward to myself for finishing a novel—and for me inspiration was synonymous with risk.  In 1981 I rejected the idea that a woman couldn’t move freely. I thought fear was old-fashioned, in itself, restricting.  I believed—correctly, as it turned out—that the world would take care of me.

A month later, on a second class train from Luxor to Aswan, I met, but didn’t recognize, the specter from my gloomy nightmare. Now I see there had been other bad omens: in crowded buses and dark corridors unseen hands felt and pinched me; a spicy kebab from a street stall produced acute food poisoning. In Luxor, an unctuous character named “Magic Man” followed me everywhere, insisted on carrying my bag to the train station.

Still, most Egyptians were enthusiastically friendly. In 1979, our President had reduced Egyptian-Israeli hostilities by negotiating the remarkable Camp David Accord; although the 1980 peace settlement was already unraveling, some shouted “Jimmy Carter” in delighted voices when they identified me as American.  In Groppi’s, a smoky café on the Midan Talaat Harb, I’d met a handsome, brooding doctor, who’d taken me to view the moonlit Sphinx; in two weeks, after my tour of the South, I hoped to get together with him.

That morning, though, on route to the ancient desert city, my come-what-may mood had changed; I felt tired, lethargic; my stomach churned with ominous liquid growls again. I decided to skip the Temple of Edfu; suddenly, I was bored with faded friezes and tombs, populated more by pushy trinket salesmen than the spirits of gilt pharaohs and their eagle-crowned gods. A ragged boy ran through the orange peel-strewn car, beating a cringing puppy with a stalk of sugar cane.

A man boarded the train and sat down beside me, as if our meeting had been pre-arranged. (I now think “Magic Man,” my persistent shadow, had marked me for him.) In perfect English he said he was an Egyptian-born Jew, living in Israel. Soon he confided that he worked with the military on “intelligence” and showed me the handgun in his shoulder bag. He told me he was delivering a document to Egyptian authorities. To a traveler in a dramatically foreign land, this unlikely revelation didn’t seem strange. “A spy!” I thought, a gullible writer, recognizing a character from her novel, starring, as it happened, an ex-con toting a symbolic Beretta. This pleasant, mild-mannered man—he introduced himself as “Sash”– helped me find a hotel room in the tourist-glutted town, took me to dinner, then stowing his pistol in my wardrobe, read my future with tarot cards. He swigged rum from the bottle, not taboo for tourists, but vaguely alarming. Predicting I would meet with accident, he departed, intoxicated, and promised to return the next morning to guide me through Aswan. Having had more than enough of this man, I wondered how I’d get rid of him.  A few minutes later he knocked again; he had to speak to me about something important—a problem with the hotel management. Succumbing to fate, to me, indistinguishable from fiction, I reluctantly opened the door.

To abbreviate a painful story, difficult to tell, “Sash” was a psychopath, and, I later learned, a dangerous criminal, wanted by the Cairo police for crimes against other tourists. As he vented his illness on me at gun point, he raved about his mother: Why was she a prostitute? His father was a good man! In the morning a bellboy heard my muffled groan, and found me, tied by the neck, hands, and feet to the bathroom pipes, severely beaten, bleeding from the nose and mouth. After torturing me for hours, Sash had forced me to swallow twelve tranquilizers, robbed me, and escaped. Somehow, I’d emerged from my drug-induced coma, worked the gag loose, and mumbled for help. I remember struggling to focus my blurred eyes on the aghast Egyptian faces and feeling joyful elation before I sunk back into sleep; by a mysterious reprieve, I was alive. When I regained consciousness again, I asked for my journal and continued writing about my trip….

March 15

I don’t know what day of the week it is. I seem to be in a large, old hospital. Last night, as soon as I came to, a nun and a blue-gowned lady led me to a sink and washed my hair with cold water. “Why are you washing my hair?” I asked. They said because it was covered with blood. They X-rayed my face on a large, old-fashioned machine. I can’t see out of my left eye, but they don’t think anything is wrong with it. Then they took me to an office downstairs, where a number of well-dressed men, supposedly police, were waiting. One of the sisters held my hand. “Don’t be afraid,” she said. They asked if I remembered what happened and I said, “Yes. Everything.” I thought I spoke loudly and answered their questions with perfect clarity.  Now I don’t remember the questions or the answers. I guess I grew incoherent, because the man in charge, the hospital director, said to the police, “The patient is tired. She must return to bed.

March 16

Just forced myself to get out of bed and look at my face in the broken mirror– a dull purple flesh mass, a featureless, sexless, rain-soaked prune. My nose points to one side; my left eye is swollen shut, and both eyes are buried in puffed fuchsia rings. It could be worse; my teeth seem okay, and the nun told me my skull wasn’t fractured.

A plainclothes policeman, wearing a gellabaya and turban, sits outside my room during the day and is replaced by another plainclothesman at night. The day-guard comes into my room, escorting visitors, bringing me tea and fruit, and performs small nursing duties, staring at me with distraught compassion. He takes my hand and repeats the only English sentence he seems to know: “I am Achmed, your brother!”

The nurses are sisters from an Italian order of nuns. Sister Hildegarde, who speaks only Italian, says, “La Vita! Brutto e bello!” as she briskly tucks in my sheets. Sister Vittoria, my namesake, has taken me on as her personal charge. Tiny and vibrant, smiling with silver-capped teeth, and speaking in a loud, rasping voice, she bounds in and out like a creature with rubber feet, announcing her presence with “God Bless! God Bless!”  I told her at the moment I was sure I was going to die I recited Hail Mary’s to myself though I’m not a Catholic. “Who taught you that prayer to Our Lady?” she asked, surprised.  (I said “A friend,” but I don’t remember learning it.) She said she has never seen a case like mine in her twenty-five years as a nurse in Egypt. Things like this do not happen here. Women are beaten by their husbands, but not by strangers. If a strange man speaks to a woman on the street, she can have him arrested. She showed me my blood-soaked T-shirt and the yellow scarf he used to gag me, rolled in a newspaper in the cabinet beside my bed, along with the sandals with the broken thongs he used to tie me. “Don’t tell them I showed you this!” she whispered. “We will wash the clothes!” I want to throw them and my own body away.

Egyptian visitors file in to see me. They stare at the foreigner, not with the prurient curiosity I expect, but with sorrow and compassion. Some seem on the verge of tears. “Maleesh!” they say, wiping their eyes, “Maleesh!” Sister Vittoria told me that maleesh means “Never mind.” “They say that too much here,” she advised. Others ask, “Kwaiisa!” which means, “Are you all right?” and when I answer, “Yes,” they exclaim, “Ilhamdulallah!” in jubilant voices, or “Thank God!” Everyone says, “We are so sorry!” and takes my hand. The doctors come by, sometimes in brigades of four, and shake their heads sorrowfully. One boomed in basso profundo, “We will punish him, but God will punish him more!” The blue-gowned ladies, hospital domestics called “mamas,” stroke my forehead and bring me tea, half composed of sugar. According to Sister Vittoria, the Governor of Aswan rushed to my bedside when I was unconscious. Although the newspaper has not reported my case, the whole town is talking about it; such things do not happen here.

It is good for me to have so many distraught visitors. I have to sit up, pronounce my name, shake hands, and look cheerful for their sakes. When I am alone in my room, (they are keeping the other two beds empty), I stare at the curling fresco of leak-warped green paint on the wall and am immediately transported back to that hotel, where it all happens again. Cockroaches and ants inhabit the drawer next to my bed, and the sink is broken. The door to the room, missing its handle, is pulled open by a string. Outside the window I see a Bedouin village that specializes in smuggling contraband to and from the Sudan on camel back, according to Sister Vittoria. It is three o’clock and the mosques all over Aswan release their call to prayer, the closest one blaring the same sounds that the distant ones echo in thinner voices: “Wooooo-adddd Le Alllllahhhhhhh! El Allllahhhhh” There is no god but God. The desert air collects into a visible wave, quivers around this onslaught of devout exaltation.

March l7

Yesterday afternoon I was brought back to the police for a second interrogation. This time everyone was solemn. Sister Vittoria, Sister Carmen, and staunch Sister Clelia, the Mother Superior, sat beside me in their white uniforms with helmet-shaped head cloths, like a holy rear guard.  I was handed a glass of tea. They asked if I was Christian. “Not exactly,” I replied. I didn’t want to admit I am half-Jewish, usually atheist, so I placed my hand on the Bible and swore to tell the truth in the name of God.

This seemed to be a criminal trial, although the accused was absent. The police, dressed in starched pastel, made up the jury. At the desk, wearing a double-breasted European suit and lavender shirt, was a young, red-haired man they called “The Judge.” When he reached into his well-tailored pocket for a Cleopatra, the others competed to supply him with one of their cigarettes. Glasses of cold rose hip tea and tiny cups of Turkish coffee were brought in by the domestics. Everyone seemed ill-at-ease. Dr. Zein, the hospital director, who carries his weighty dignity like an awkward parcel, asked questions, then translated my answers into Arabic, written down by a scribe.

“Miss Vicki,” Dr. Zein asked, “who paid for the room in the Hotel Abu Simbel that you occupied? You or the man who assaulted you?”

“I did,” I replied.

“What was the number of this room?

“Miss Vicki, when you were found you were covered by a blood-stained, yellow blanket. How do you explain the presence of this blanket?”

“Miss Vicki, were you raped?” There was an uncomfortable silence. I hesitated. Rape was too benign a word for my experience. “Do not be afraid to tell us,” encouraged Dr. Zein. “To rape without force is not a serious crime in Egypt; to rape with force is extremely serious.”

I said, yes, Sash had raped me, but had been mainly interested in abnormal sex. I waited for lascivious questions. There were none. “Abnormal sex,” translated Dr. Zein. The tribunal of fashionable men nodded.

I put all my energies into recounting the story so they would understand, demonstrating on Sister Carmen’s soft arm the way “Sash” had twisted mine when he led me from the bed to the bathroom. When they asked how he forced me to take the pills, I pointed an imaginary pistol at her head. I described my escape attempt, how I grabbed his gun, which wouldn’t fire, how I cried for help, hit him beneath the nose, a blow I’d read would cause instant death, which he didn’t feel. I spoke in a voice that sounded histrionic, even to me; I waved my hands in dramatic gestures. More well-dressed men entered and took seats. But the harder I struggled to re-enact this play, the less real it seemed—a B movie. I imagined how I, an unmarried, thirty-seven- years- old foreign woman, who’d invited a drunk into her bedroom, must appear to them. I thought, “They’ll never think I’m telling the truth.”  I barely believed my story myself. I turned to Sister Carmen’s gentle face; “Do they believe me?” I asked.

“Yes,” she answered quietly, “they feel his guilt.”

Then the lights went out. (Aswan has frequent power failures, despite the famous High Dam.) The police lit candles and waited for a generator to kick the electricity back on. I looked at these elegant men, supposedly police, at the flickering, half-lit room through my one good eye. I envisioned my purple, swollen face, my hospital gown. How had I journeyed so rapidly from the familiar security of my New York apartment to this unlikely space?  I must be dreaming I’m in Egypt, I thought.

When the lights flickered to life, Dr. Zein asked the final question: “Miss Vicki, what are the injuries to your body?” With silent indignation the sisters pointed to my swollen hand, scarred by rope burns, the burns on my ankles, my bruised neck and face, my broken nose, and the welts on the back of my head.

“We are so sorry,” somebody said.

Sister Vittoria guided me back to bed and gave me two containers of zabadi, or yogurt. “They are hot!” she said of Egyptian men. “He drank liquor so he could do that to you!” Then she praised the police. “They are very good,” she said. “When they put their minds to something they do it right away. They will catch him, don’t worry about that.”  She believes the police are everywhere, disguised as peasants and laborers; wearing these costumes, they accompany the sisters when they travel.

A Stranger in Trouble, by Vicki Lindner, will continue on Wednesday (3/21).

“A Stranger in Trouble” was published in American Literary Review in Fall, 2006 and nominated by the magazine for a Pushcart Prize. An earlier version, “Aswan Diary,” was published in the British  journal, Margin, in 1989.

 

About Writing for Peace Adviser, Vicki Lindner

Vicki Lindner is a fiction writer, essayist, and journalist who has published a novel, Outlaw Games, and many short stories, essays, magazine and newspaper articles. She has written about a wide variety of subjects: cooking, bird watching, loneliness, dinosaurs, sculpture, not having children, travel, and medical malpractice. Her work has appeared in journals and anthologies, including The Paris Review, Kenyon Review, Ploughshares, Fiction, Chick-Lit; Post Feminist Fiction, Witness, the Best of Terrain, Del Sol, The American Literary Review, Gastronomica, New York Stories, In Short: An Anthology of Short Creative Non-Fiction, American Nature Writing, Northern Lights, and The Seneca Review. Her short story about karate, “Barefoot to the Bridge in Winter,” was the Fiction Premiere for New York Woman. Most recently, Lindner’s essays were published in Shadowbox and Western Humanities Review. Learn more about Vicki Lindner here.

Writing for Peace News:

In Our Blog~

This spring, Writing for Peace will look at gun violence and women’s equality, two important issues that are often intertwined. We’ll take a step back from the inflammatory gun control debate by exploring the subject through poetry, essays and fiction. Links to previous posts on the topic of gun violence can be found below:

Silent Day, by Richard Krawiec

What Happens When We Lose Our Innocence? by Andrea W. Doray

Where Peace Begins, by Cara Lopez Lee

Opportunity, and Public Encouragement, by Richard Krawiec

Young Writers Contest

Our 2013 Young Writers Contest closed on March 1st with 106 entries from 21 different countries! Announcements will be made on May 1st, 2013. Congratulations to every young writer who participated!  The 2014 Young Writers Contest Guidelines will be posted on June 1st, 2013.

DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts

The  “Occupied” 2013 issue of DoveTales has gone to press! The release date is slated for March 30th, but you will begin seeing some exciting changes on the website before then. Stay tuned, and thank you for your support!

Equity for Women Writers

Writing for Peace encourages all young people to write and to believe their writing can make a difference, but is that equally true for boys and girls? Sadly, the latest VIDA Count indicates that we have a long way to go to achieve gender equality in the literary world. Please help us reverse this trend by reading works written be women and promoting your favorite women authors. Ask your children who they are reading in school, supplement their reading list with books by women authors, and talk to their teachers, librarians, and principals about adding women authors to their curriculum. Take note of the authors reviewed in your local papers and advocate for women authors. Head to your library or book store with a list of the twelve amazing women on our Advisory Panel. And please make a statement in support of women writers here. Thank you!

Copyright © 2013 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

Writing for Peace Welcomes Paula Dawn Lietz, Artist-in-Residence

Pd Lietz, Writing for Peace Artist-in-Residence

Pd Lietz, Writing for Peace Artist-in-Residence

“I know not the words to express the deep honour I felt when asked to accept the position of Artist-in-Residence, joining the like-minded writers and artists in the folds of Writing for Peace. There’s an old English proverb that says, ‘When war begins, then hell opens.’  From a personal aspect I know this to be true, and there need not be a man-made hell.”

~Paula Dawn Lietz

As our first Artist-in-Residence, Paula Dawn Lietz is responsible for the cover art of DoveTales, adapted in the beautiful new headers of our website and Facebook page, as well as the bookmarks that will go out to young writers and their schools all over the world. Additionally, her art, photography and poetry can be found throughout the pages of DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts, “Occupied” 2013, as well as the 2014 “Contrast” edition of DoveTales.

Whether with words, camera, or canvas, Lietz’s work reflects a broad spectrum of awareness that can be stark and cutting, or  warm and expansive. Her work reveals a love of nature, of light and shadows, unique angles and perspectives. She pushes through artistic boundaries, demonstrating a multi-media approach to voice, point-of-view and empathy.

Lietz, Mother, what was war

About Paula Dawn Lietz

Paula Dawn Lietz is a widely published writer, photographer and artist who lives in rural Manitoba Canada. Ms. Lietz was awarded first prize in the United Kingdom Frost Photography International Competition 2011. Her writing, art, and photography have appeared in many publications, and she was responsible for the cover art of many of these.

Learn more about Paula Dawn Lietz here.

Writing for Peace News:

In Our Blog~

This spring, Writing for Peace will look at gun violence and women’s equality, two important issues that are often intertwined. We’ll take a step back from the inflammatory gun control debate by exploring the subject through poetry, essays and fiction.

Coming soon: Writing for Peace Adviser Vicki Lindner shares her powerful essay about being assaulted at gunpoint in Egypt, and the kindness that led to her recovery in an Egyptian hospital. Lindner’s essay will appear in two parts on Monday (3/18) and Wednesday (3/21).

Young Writers Contest

Our 2013 Young Writers Contest closed on March 1st with 106 entries from 21 different countries! Announcements will be made on May 1st, 2013. Congratulations to every young writer who participated!  The 2014 Young Writers Contest Guidelines will be posted on June 1st, 2013.

DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts

The  “Occupied” 2013 issue of DoveTales has gone to press! The release date is slated for March 30th, but you will begin seeing some exciting changes on the website before then. Stay tuned, and thank you for your support!

Equity for Women Writers

Writing for Peace encourages all young people to write and to believe their writing can make a difference, but is that equally true for boys and girls? Sadly, the latest VIDA Count indicates that we have a long way to go to achieve gender equality in the literary world. Please help us reverse this trend by reading works written be women and promoting your favorite women authors. Ask your children who they are reading in school, supplement their reading list with books by women authors, and talk to their teachers, librarians, and principals about adding women authors to their curriculum. Take note of the authors reviewed in your local papers and advocate for women authors. Head to your library or book store with a list of the twelve amazing women on our Advisory Panel. And please make a statement in support of women writers here. Thank you!

 

 

Copyright © 2013 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

A Glimpse, by Alexandra Kinias

A Glimpse

by Alexandra Kinias

The thermal blanket that covered the skies of Cairo had trapped the smog in the atmosphere and caused the temperature to soar. The woman who stood by the bus door was covered from head to toe in a black burque and black gloves, with only a slit for her eyes to see through. She was suffocated by the body heat of the sweaty passengers who crammed inside the bus like a can of sardines.  Her sticky sweat rolled under her armpits and between her thighs and intensified her feeling of heat. The bus maneuvered through the congested traffic and hobbled to the stop. She fought her way out and almost tripped when a passenger stepped on the tail of her long burque. Instantly, the street was flooded with the passengers who raced out from the belly of the bus. In another instant, and challenging the existing laws of physics, the bus was filled with double the number of passengers who showed high acrobatic skills in climbing it, scrambling inside, squeezing their way through and trampling over the passengers who were already on board.

The bus moved away from the station, emitting an enormous black cloud of burnt oil from its muffler. The woman coughed as she hurried away from inside the cloud. The traffic light turned red, but none of the cars stopped.  She looked right and left and then collected her courage and attempted to cross the street, in spite of the moving cars. A speedy car appeared in front of her and almost hit her. The car broke, its tires screeched and the driver yelled at her from inside the car. She jumped back on the sidewalk defeated by the congestion. She took a deep breath to relax her heart that raced in her chest. A police officer with a whistle in his mouth appeared from nowhere and was able to stop the cars, but the light had already turned green and the cars started to move again. The woman dodged the cars and weaved her way to the other side maneuvering between cabs, mini-buses, pedestrians, scooters, bikes and a donkey cart overloaded with baskets of fresh produce.

To celebrate her success in crossing the road, she dashed towards the sugar-cane juice store at the intersection and rested her body against the cold ceramic tiles, that covered the inside and outside of the store, to catch her breath. Inside the store, a guy behind the counter fed the rollers of the squeezer with the long stems of sugar cane. He turned the switch on and the rollers squeezed the juice into a container and the pulp fell off the rollers. A young boy picked the crushed pulp off the ground and dumped it next to where the woman stood. Flies buzzed over it.  The icy cold tall glasses of the golden sweet juice covered with white foam looked so inviting. She was already late, but she stepped inside the crowded store and stood in line waiting for her turn.  When she got in front of the counter, the guy behind it handed her a tall glass. She picked it up with her gloves and walked to the corner of the store. The curious eyes of the guy behind the counter followed her as she removed her face cover and gulped the cold juice. Their eyes locked for a moment and then she smiled and winked at him. Before he recovered from the surprise, the woman had already covered her face again, put the glass down on the counter in front of him and walked out of the store.

Alexandra Kinias’s short story, “A Glimpse,” was published earlier in Silenced Voices, Wasted Lives, and reprinted here with permission by the author.

Black Tulip, by Alexandra KiniasAbout Alexandra Kinias

Writing for Peace Adviser

Born and raised in Egypt, Alexandra Kinias graduated as a Mechanical Engineer in 1987. She pursued a career overseas with a multinational corporation that built power distribution plants on the Caribbean Island of Antigua and Barbuda.  She moved to America in 1995 and worked for a company that did business in the Middle East and Europe. In American, Alexandra began her career as a writer. She studied screenplay and creative writing. A screenplay writer, novelist and a photographer. Her passion for movies, books, art and extensive world traveling is translated in her writing and photography. She co-wrote the story of the movie Cairo Exit, censored in Egypt, yet received international recognition and won best non-European film in the European Independent Film festival.

She is an advocate for women’s rights. Her blog Silenced Voices, Wasted lives is dedicated to women’s issues in general and women in the Middle East in particular. Her published fiction novel Black Tulips takes place between Egypt and the USA. Black Tulips reveals the hardships that women living in male dominant societies are exposed to. Her articles are published in Kalimat magazine, a North American publication about the Arab region. Alexandra lives with her husband in Scottsdale, AZ and she is working on her non-fiction book Silenced Voices, a collage of her articles about women’s issues.

Writing for Peace News:

This spring, Writing for Peace will look at gun violence and women’s equality, two important issues that are often intertwined. We’ll take a step back from the inflammatory gun control debate by exploring the subject through poetry, essays and fiction.

Equity for Women Writers

Writing for Peace encourages all young people to write and to believe their writing can make a difference, but is that equally true for boys and girls? Sadly, the latest VIDA Count indicates that we have a long way to go to achieve gender equality in the literary world. Please help us reverse this trend by reading works written be women and promoting your favorite women authors. Ask your children who they are reading in school, supplement their reading list with books by women authors, and talk to their teachers, librarians, and principals about adding women authors to their curriculum. Take note of the authors reviewed in your local papers and advocate for women authors. Head to your library or book store with a list of the twelve amazing women on our Advisory Panel. And please make a statement in support of women writers here. Thank you!

Young Writers Contest

Our 2013 Young Writers Contest closed on March 1st with 106 entries from close to a dozen different countries! Announcements will be made on May 1st, 2013. Congratulations to every young writer who participated!  The 2014 Young Writers Contest Guidelines will be posted on June 1st, 2013.

DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts

The  “Occupied” 2013 issue of DoveTales has gone to press! The release date is slated for March 30th, but you will begin seeing some exciting changes on the website before then. Stay tuned, and thank you for your support!

Maija Rhee Devine, Writing for Peace AdviserIntroducing Maija Rhee Devine

Writing for Peace Adviser

Writing for Peace welcomes Maija Rhee Devine to our Advisory Panel! Maija’s powerful anti-war poem, My Brother’s Computer, appeared in both its original Korean and its English translation in PAW Post No. 24. Learn more about Maija’s work here, and watch for future blog posts from this exceptional writer.

 

Copyright © 2013 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Opportunity, and Public Encouragement, by Richard Krawiec

Richard Krawiec, Writing for Peace Adviserby Richard Krawiec

Writing for Peace Adviser

A teenaged boy recently told me that shooting an assault weapon in someone’s home shooting range was great fun.  “It was just fun, shooting it.  And it was such a thrill knowing you could turn around and shoot the person with you – BUT that you wouldn’t do it.  That you could, but wouldn’t.”

I lacked both the restraint and opportunity this teenager has when I was in high school.  Floating through my days drug-addled and troubled, I arranged to purchase an ounce of hash at a housing project.  The deal failed when the middle man, a guy named Mike, took my money and never returned.

Ronnie, a mid-20-s dropout who had set up the deal, acted incensed.  “Let’s get the tire irons from your truck and wail on these mother fuckers,” he said.  “We need to do some damage, show them we mean business.”

I shook my head.  The thought of entering a hostile project armed with tire irons seemed unwise at best.

“You got to do something man.  You can’t let them get away with it.”

As we settled in the car I thought about what I could do to get my money, or my pride, back.  I remembered Denny, a man who was dating my friend’s older sister.  He had shown me a small silver handgun at a party and said, “Let me know if you ever want one.”

I turned to Ronnie, who had settled in the passenger seat.  “I’m going to get a gun and shoot him.”

All that weekend I hung in the pool hall, waiting for Denny to show up.  I told everyone my plans, let it be known Mike was going to pay for robbing me.  To a person, they all thought I was crazy.  The slackers, the outcasts, the hardened criminals – everyone told me that thought I was being stupid.

When neither Denny, nor a gun, materialized by Sunday night, I was able to step back from my rage and think it through.  The lack of opportunity and encouragement allowed me to let my plan go.

It’s a different world today.  Anyone can walk into a gun show and, without an ID, purchase as many military assault weapons as they can load into their SUV.  As for encouragement – beginning with Sarah Palin’s public taunting that everyone should ‘lock and load’, ‘target’ their opponents, ‘get them in the ‘crosshairs’, ‘reload’, ‘take them out’, the airwaves have been full of vitriolic hatred that seems to encourage the notion that ‘taking out’ those you hold a grievance against is acceptable.

The NRA’s calculated paranoid rants about the need to protect yourself from imagined marauding gangs intent on stealing your goods, and/or a Communist dictator president determined to steal your tax money and constitutional rights, offers encouragement of a violent solution to perceived or imagined threats.

Boortz, Hannity, Limbaugh, Savage, Beck – all the white male right wing shock jocks have raged against their ‘enemies’ in a way that creates a violent emotional geography for one’s dissatisfaction or imagined grievances against liberals and non-whites.  And in many cases they have called outright for murder.

In 2011, Neil Boortz said flat out we should shoot people in the street. “We got too damn many urban thugs, yo, ruining the quality of life for everybody. And I’ll tell you what it’s gonna take. You people, you are – you need to have a gun. You need to have training. You need to know how to use that gun. You need to get a permit to carry that gun. And you do in fact need to carry that gun and we need to see some dead thugs littering the landscape in Atlanta.”

In 2007, Sean Hannity aired a video clip of Ted Nugent holding up what appeared to be two assault rifles and saying that then-Sen. Barack Obama should “suck on my machine gun,” and that then-Sen. Hillary Clinton “might want to ride one of these into the sunset.”  Hannity refused to disavow those comments, saying: “No, I like Ted Nugent. He’s a friend of mine.”

Glenn Beck once asked, “Why would you get a gun? To prepare for tough times, that’s why,” while pointing at a picture of President Obama.

Speaking about the 2009 military coup in Honduras that overthrew the democratically-elected president, Rush Limbaugh said “the coup was what many of you wish would happen here…If we had any good luck, Honduras would send some people here and help us get our government back.”

These jocks don’t just ‘target’ politicians, but anyone they disagree with. Rush is quoted as saying,  “I tell people don’t kill all the liberals. Leave enough so we can have two on every campus–living fossils–so we we’ll never forget what these people stood for.”

Ann Coulter agreed with Tim McVeigh’s bombing that killed 168 people, just not his target. “My only regret with Tim McVeigh is that he did not go to the New York Times building.”

Michael Savage: “I say round liberals up and hang em’ high. When I hear someone’s in the civil rights business, I oil up my AR-25.”

In many of the mass shootings in this country we have seen a direct connection between this rhetoric, the opportunity to own weapons, and the mayhem that ensued.  These examples are taken from the examiner.com:

 On July 27, 2008 Former U.S. Army private, Jim David Atkinsson, who hated Democrats, liberals, African Americans and homosexuals, murdered two people and injured seven others inside the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, TN.

 The day after Obama’s inauguration, white supremacist Keith Luke went on a killing spree in Brockton, Massachusetts. His goal was to kill as many Jews, blacks and Hispanics as possible. He had stockpiled hundreds of rounds of ammunition, proclaimed that he was fighting the extinction of the white race.

 In April of 2009, Richard Popalowski, a white supremacist in Pittsburgh, shot and killed three police officers following a domestic disturbance call. He feared the government would take his guns away.

Later that year a right-wing white supremacist and Holocaust denier walked into the National Holocaust Museum and killed an African-American security guard. Two weeks later, three Neo-Nazis were arrested for bombing a diversity office in Scottsdale, Arizona.

 On Aug. 5, 2012 Wade Michael Page, a 40-year old white supremacist and U.S. Army veteran murdered six people and wounded four others inside a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, WI with a Springfield XD(M) semi-automatic pistol.

 The ready availability of all kinds of weapons presents the opportunity for people to enact revenge fantasies. The hate rhetoric encourages unstable people to act out.  Adam Lanza’s mother was a far right wing ‘doomsday’ survivalist.  She purchased an assault weapon because she could.  Obviously, the vitriol of those on the airwaves gave her a rationale for why it was necessary. Nothing in her background would lead any reasonable person to believe she would have bought one illegally on a street corner. Just as nothing in Adam Lanza’s murderous enactment of his rage would lead one to conclude he would have taken hunting knives to school if he didn’t have an automatic weapon.  Whether he had a political agenda, we don’t know.  We do know he deliberately chose weapons that would create rapid carnage, and even adapted them so he could fire more quickly.  The knife-armed avenger was not the fantasy he wished to act out.

Opportunity, and public encouragement.  You don’t need decades of study to put those two together.

 

Richard Krawiec, Writing for Peace AdviserAbout Writing for Peace Adviser, Richard Krawiec

Richard Krawiec is the founder of Jacar Press, A Community active Press dedicated to paying writers and working in under-served communities and has worked extensively with people in homeless shelters, women’s shelters, prisons, literacy classes, and community sites, teaching writing. Richard’s second book of poems, She Hands me the Razor, (title poem nominated for a Pushcart Prize) was published by Press 53. It was one of 17 finalists for a SIBA Award.

To learn more about Richard Krawiec, check out his page here.

 

Writing for Peace News:

This spring, Writing for Peace will look at gun violence and women’s equality, two important issues that are often intertwined. We’ll take a step back from the inflammatory gun control debate by exploring the subject through poetry, essays and fiction.

Equity for Women Writers

Writing for Peace encourages all young people to write and to believe their writing can make a difference, but is that equally true for boys and girls? Sadly, the latest VIDA Count indicates that we have a long way to go to achieve gender equality in the literary world. Please help us reverse this trend by reading works written be women and promoting your favorite women authors. Ask your children who they are reading in school, supplement their reading list with books by women authors, and talk to their teachers, librarians, and principals about adding women authors to their curriculum. Take note of the authors reviewed in your local papers and advocate for women authors. Head to your library or book store with a list of the twelve amazing women on our Advisory Panel. And please make a statement in support of women writers here. Thank you!

Young Writers Contest

Our 2013 Young Writers Contest closed on March 1st with 106 entries from close to a dozen different countries! Announcements will be made on May 1st, 2013. Congratulations to every young writer who participated!  The 2014 Young Writers Contest Guidelines will be posted on June 1st, 2013.

DoveTales, an International Journal of the Arts

The  “Occupied” 2013 issue of DoveTales has gone to press! The release date is slated for March 30th, but you will begin seeing some exciting changes on the website before then. Stay tuned, and thank you for your support!

Maija Rhee Devine, Writing for Peace AdviserIntroducing Maija Rhee Devine, Writing for Peace Adviser

Writing for Peace welcomes Maija Rhee Devine to our Advisory Panel! Maija’s powerful anti-war poem, My Brother’s Computer, appeared in both its original Korean and its English translation in PAW Post No. 24. Learn more about Maija’s work here, and watch for future blog posts from this exceptional writer.

 

Copyright © 2013 Writing for Peace. All rights reserved.