What Might Have Been . . .


“Dateline 5/23/2039 The New York Times

For the first time ever, six Nobel Prize winners are all Latin-Americans and all under the age of 40.

Five of the six, Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez (Medicine), Jakelin Caal Maquin (Peace), Felipe Gomez Alonzo (Physics), Juan de Leon Gutierrez (Mathematics), and an unnamed man who won for Environmental Science, emigrated to the United States as asylum seekers in 2018 and 2019 from Guatemala. The sixth winner, in Literature, is an unnamed woman who emigrated from El Salvador in 2018.


Jakelin Caal Maquin


Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez

Mr. Hernandez is credited with being the lead doctor to develop a cure for pancreatic cancer, which has rarely been treated successfully before now. Ms. Caal received her Nobel for bringing violent gangs and law enforcement together in her native country to hammer out a solution to lawlessness there. Mr. Alonzo’s Nobel was given for his research into slowing down the universe’s expansion, which has been an existential threat for decades. The Environmental Science prize was awarded for research that has successfully slowed climate change and ensured a sustainable future. The Nobel for Literature came on the heels of a ground-breaking book that exposed corruption at all levels of the Border Security apparatus from 2016 to 2020.”

No, this is not real. It is tragically unreal. All of these children died in the US and under control of ICE since September.

Since ICE is not required to provide this information to the public, there could be other children and adults who have died in US custody.

Who knows what talents, what dreams, what hopes, they may have brought with them and been allowed to fulfill had not a soulless, murderous regime helped put an end to their lives by basically throwing them away.

Since I’ve been alive, my country has been complicit in taking the lives of countless numbers of young people within the US and in every cranny of the world to which we have pursued war. Black lives, Asian lives, Middle Eastern lives, Latin American lives. All of them gone, a world of potentiality, just gone and the majority of them nameless and faceless. All of them within just a few years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki saw the unleashing of what was thought to be the greatest death weapon of all.

In sheer numbers, the US has killed many more people than died in the Holocaust, though we spread it out among more ethnic groups.

For all sad words of tongue and pen,
The saddest are these, ‘It might have been’.

John Greenleaf Whittier


The Wisdom of Strangers


I have been accused of being too friendly and too willing to talk to strangers.

Here’s the thing: I’ve met some amazing people this way and also learned from each of them, and I wouldn’t forego these experiences for anything.

After having to put my cat down last week and then cancel an event that I had my whole heart set on, I was feeling pretty aimless when I drove 1,100 miles to Georgia but decided to go anyway and see what happened.

What I had hoped would happen was fairly clear would not when I arrived in the city I came to. As Bono sang, “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.” To make matters worse, the place I was renting a “studio” apartment from for a couple of weeks was shoddy and not terribly clean; it certainly looking nothing like the pictures on the Internet.

Still, I thought, okay, maybe I’ll learn something new here.

I returned to my room today to find the staff electrician fixing the two-burner stove that wasn’t working. I was very hot and very tired after an eventful morning and lunchtime and just wanted to lie down and take a snooze.

The stove job turned out to be pretty complicated, and the man was in and out and in out of my room getting more supplies, turning the electricity on and off, and getting even more supplies. I sat down at the little table to check Facebook. Then I heard him humming and asked him whether he was a musician.

The man is probably in his late 30s, dark-skinned, and with what I thought as a Hispanic accent. For the next half hour we talked about our favorite classical composers, blues musicians, and Michael Buble’s CD of Sinatra music. He also told me about getting a French press for his mother and that he would be visiting her that night to teach her how to use it.

It was when I finally thought to say, “My name is Cynthia, by the way” that he told me his name in both Italian and Spanish. Was he both Italian and Spanish, I asked?

“My mother is Spanish and my father is Italian and Native American,” he answered.

Does he have any Cherokee blood? I asked.

“Ottawa,” he answered.

I explained that I had asked because the two times now I’ve driven to Georgia, I’ve been appalled by the way “Cherokee” is used for the names of stores and such that have no relationship to the Cherokee nation.

He smiled ruefully, and then told me that his mother being Spanish came from a heritage that was partly to blame for the ravaging of his father’s ancestors in the Americas.

He spoke softly and succinctly. “I did research on all the countries that were responsible for that for my master’s thesis.”

“What was your degree in?”


I kicked myself even as I asked, “What are you doing working here?”

“A lot of people ask me that.”

“I take it back, I take it back! I’m not trying to demean your job. God knows, not just anyone could do what you’re doing. I was just thinking that you have so much knowledge and wisdom to share; you would make a wonderful teacher.”

He spoke ruefully again, and slowly. “I do think of myself as a teacher. I do try to engage people and show them how that history repeats itself.”

“And is repeating itself right now.”

“Yes.” We agreed that corporations were enslaving people all over again.

Then he told me about a 16th century monk who had seen what went on in the “new world” and had tried to get the ear of Isabella and Ferdinand to stop the plundering and depredations.

“You have a calling,” I said. “It’s almost a ministry.”

He nodded.

He was done by now fixing the stove and putting all the supplies back on his cart.

“Thank you for all I’ve learned from you today,” I told him.

“It was my pleasure.”

And he rolled the cart away.

For the curious, here is what Wikipedia has to say about the monk he told me about, Bartolomé de las Casas:

Bartolome de las casasBartolomé de las Casas (Spanish: [baɾtoloˈme ðe las ˈkasas] ( listen); c. 1484[1] – 18 July 1566) was a 16th-century Spanish colonist who acted as a historian and social reformer before becoming a Dominican friar. He was appointed as the first resident Bishop of Chiapas, and the first officially appointed “Protector of the Indians“. His extensive writings, the most famous being A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies and Historia de Las Indias, chronicle the first decades of colonization of the West Indies. He described the atrocities committed by the colonizers against the indigenous peoples.[2]

Crimes Against Humanity


Do you believe the regime when it says that it has reunited all “eligible” children with their parents?

I don’t, but when I saw that volunteer civilians were involved in the work of reuniting families, I felt much better about it. Knowing that neither the ACLU, nor the judge overseeing the lawsuit against the regime, is letting go until every last child is with its parent(s) helps as well.

What bothers me more is the term “eligible.” What a useful term for the government to use. “Eligible,” as if each child had ticked off the right boxes or come up with the right number or fulfilled some other benign requirement.

What “eligible” really means is that the government can’t return hundreds of “ineligible” children because it deported the parents and doesn’t have the will or the care to find them.

Then there’s the children who’ve been sexually abused while in detention and the ICE agents who have told them things such as, “Your mother doesn’t want you anymore.” That’s because they deported Mom and made her sign a complicated form that says she would give up her child without telling her that she had a right to legal counsel to determine whether she would leave her child with relatives in the US and go back to face the horrors of her own country alone.

Of all the scenes of hell that our national nightmare has introduced us to in the past year and a half, surely this one is the most “eligible” to be called a crime against humanity. Since it involves more than one country, I say this crime should be prosecuted in the Hague. Stephen Miller, from whose Satanic mind it was birthed, and Kiersjten Nielsen, who oversaw the program, should be the first defendants.

The attorney general belongs in the dock for avowing that this was a “law” that needs to be upheld. No, it wasn’t a law; it was a policy change that never saw the light of day in Congress and never saw any repudiation by the GOP. So perhaps international lawyers should be questioning Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell as well.

And when they all cry “I was just following orders!”, time for the head of the regime to take his turn in the dock.


Cruz Bruises Trump Ego


I don’t think it’s unfair to say that the GOP, and especially the current White House regime, hates women.

These privileged men especially hate women who stand up for themselves.

These white privileged men especially and truly hate women of color who stand up for themselves.

Enter Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz of San Juan, who not only stood up for herself but also for the entire American citizenry of Puerto Rico.

She went high when they went low, so low as to ignore for many days the disastrous aftermath of a hurricane on American soil.

I hope that FEMA director Brock Long has nightmares about her. He ought to; his agency has miserably failed Puerto Rico despite his official bio on the FEMA website that credits him with years of “robust” (I think that word needs to be retired; way overused in the past three years).

And oh, right, the FEMA website that took down anything to do with how FEMA continues to fail Puerto Rico.

They have retained a timeline of the supposed federal response to Puerto Rico beginning on September 17 that cannot possibly be true, according to reports from Mayor Cruz and other eyewitnesses including anyone who’s been watching video coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

Somebody’s lying. I know who I think is telling the truth.

Mayor Cruz, 54, is one of those people who did not seek out greatness but has had greatness thrust upon her.

She earned a Bachelor of Arts Magna Cum Laude from Boston University in political science and a Master of Science from Carnegie Mellon University in public management. After working in the private sector in human resources on the mainland, she returned to Puerto Rico in 1992 and immediately began her career in public service, working as an advisor to various mayors.

Mayor Cruz was elected to the Puerto Rican House of Representatives on her second try, serving from 2009 to 2013, when she made the successful run for mayor of San Juan. She has been deeply involved in women’s issues as well as urban renewal of poor sections of the city. She has also forged an alliance with the city of Chicago with Illinois Representative (?) Luis Gutierrez, who has been outspoken about the shabby treatment of the devastated island by the Trump administration.

Mayor Cruz has become the face of all of Puerto Rico, not just San Juan, as she refused to stop crying out about the desperate situation there. She has refused to kowtow to the Disaster-in-Chief as the governor of Puerto Rico did, and she has called out Brock Long when he patronizingly told her to get with the program, when there was really not program to get with.

In so doing, she has joined Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Elizabeth Warren in the Nasty Women Club. She’s in great company. But such is the insane whirlwind of news that bombards us daily, it could be that many people forget her in the days to come. I hope that doesn’t happen. She’s got brains, she’s got compassion, and she’s got intelligence. The US needs her.

Lágrimas para Puerto Rico


Revelation 12:7-12

And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,

And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.

And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

10 And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.

11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.

12 Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.

I’ve been saying for a while now that the Trump reign seems Apocalyptic. When I read this morning’s assigned Scripture, I started in the shock of recognition, especially at verse 12.

We all know that POTUS goes into an irrational spasm the closer Robert Mueller’s team gets to him. One can be an atheist, an agnostic, a humanist and any other –ist and agree that Trump “knoweth that he hath but a short time.”

The shorter the better, and I pray that his non-response to the plight of Puerto Ricans also becomes the subject of an investigation one day. Such blisteringly cruel abandonment of US citizens is unimaginable. Except, of course, almost any cruelty is imaginable from this government, and that is the American tragedy.

When Dorothy Parker said, “What fresh hell is this?”, she was predicting the words of millions of Americans as they wake up every day to learn of some new outrage coming from the White House.

I’ve heard people saying in astonishment, “How could (Trump, Price, Pruitt, Jared, Ivanka, Pence, Zinke <fill in a name>) not be aware that what they were doing was wrong?”

I don’t believe for a second that any of these people were not aware that what they were doing was wrong, but that they didn’t care and thought they would get away with it. Their white hyper-privilege just makes them think they deserve to do whatever they want. This is the definition of “white-collar crime.”

In the case of these spawn of Satan, however, their crimes are causing death and destruction of innocent people who have done nothing to deserve what they’re getting.

It was known for days that Hurricane Maria was going to hit Puerto Rico head-on. From 8 pm on Tuesday, September 19, to early morning on Thursday, September 21, it ravaged every bit of the island. And yet, no plans for federal help were in place.

Thousands of shipping containers with desperately needed food, medicine, and survival supplies were allowed to sit at a harbor in the days since because there were no troops to unload and distribute them until the last several hours, eight days after Maria hit.

FEMA officials took over the San Juan Convention Center and then told mayors, even of the farthest and most rural districts, that they had to come to San Juan and ASK FOR HELP.

That says it all.

American Pieta


As we approach the commemoration of Jesus’ betrayal and crucifixion, I can’t help but think of all the people betrayed by the forces of evil in this country that do not believe in the either the Constitution or the words in the Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal. May the hope of resurrection and reunion bring some small measure of comfort to all the mothers, fathers, children, sisters, brothers and friends of the betrayed.







Strong Women, Strong Messages


Delores Jones-Brown and Jamie Williamson know of what they speak.

In effect, I spent the weekend with these women, 7 hours with Ms. Williamson at a Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination training on Saturday and a couple of hours with Dr. Jones-Brown Sunday at a Black Lives Matter lecture.

I was glad to have something useful to do this weekend after the horrific news on Friday of the attacks in Paris. The more work there is going on for, as I believe, the good of humankind, the more evil will lose in the end.

Perhaps more pointedly, I do fear that when such attacks take place, the right wing in this country will take an even harder line against anybody they perceive as different. Amid praying for people whose loved ones are known to be dead and for people who are trying to find out whether their loved ones are dead, I see the evil ripple effects that an Isis attack anywhere will have on this country. So spending a weekend immersed in justice issues and reaffirming that, yes, black lives matter, was healing in its way.


Jamie R. Williamson

Ms. Williamson is chair of the MCAD. The training was an initial introduction to the work of doing intakes for the MCAD and learning many of the nuances behind what both complainants and responders say in order to determine whether probable cause exists. The full training can’t possibly happen in one day, but it was an excellent dip in the controversial waters of a discrimination complaint and all that has to happen before a determination can be made.

The chairwoman is one of the liveliest people I’ve ever met. She talks at about 80 miles an hour, interspersing her comments with amusing anecdotes or not-so-amusing tidbits about what it was like to grow up black in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

In 1995, Ms. Williamson became the first African-American to serve on the Pittsfield City Council and the first African-American to serve at-large. Yes, that’s right, a mere 20 years ago, no African-Americans had served on that city council until Ms. Williamson came along.

A graduate of Smith College, she was graduated from Smith College, she is the former executive director of the Massachusetts Fair Housing Center in Holyoke and since 2005 has served on the Access to Justice Commission, appointed by the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts.

Dr. Jones-Brown came to the Berkshires at the invitation of the Berkshire Human Rights Speaker Series, which this year chose Black Lives Matter as its theme. A former New Jersey prosecutor, she is a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York. The title of her talk was “The American Cop-Out: Police as the (Re)New(ed) Form of Social Inequality.

Delores Jones-Brown

Delores Jones-Brown

“We’re back in a place we thought we’d left behind,” she began, referring particularly toward police violence against black and brown males.

Dr. Jones-Brown teaches and works with many policemen and said that she knows some fine people in law enforcement. The issue of police violence, however, is tainting the good cops at the same time that young men of color are being singled out by the bad ones.

She spoke in detail about the two methods of policing adopted by New York City police commissioners: “Stop and Frisk” under Commission Kelly and Mayor Bloomberg and “Broken Windows” adopted by Commissioner Bratten and Mayor DiBlasio. S&F was an overtly racist method, whereupon NYC police were not only allowed but encouraged to stop anyone of color. That included children who lived in projects where the police had a presence.

Broken Windows is supposed to be based on the idea that if someone commits a small crime, they will likely one day commit a serious crime. However, the list of things for which someone can be stopped under this theory is laughable and has absolutely no connection with any statistics on who commits homicide: 1) riding a bicycle on the sidewalk; 2) carrying an open container; 3) urinating in public; 4) having marijuana in public view; 5) jaywalking.

How many of us could be stopped for at least three of these if not more?

Dr. Jones-Brown profiled the police departments in some cities that she things gets things right, including San Diego, Houston, Orlando and Detroit. With community-based programs, the police not only get to know the people in the areas they patrol, but they help them and are often helped by those people.

She gave a lot of statistics to support her point of view, about which she has written numerous articles, a book (Race, Crime and Punishment), and lectured on. One of the most impressive was through a study done by the New York State attorney general’s office. Of 2.5 million stops of pedestrians from 2009 to 2012, only 150,000 arrests were made. Of those arrests, half the cases were dismissed. Of the remaining cases, less than .10% were because of violent crime.

So 2,425,000 people (though possibly the same people were stopped multiple times) were harassed by the NYC police for no good reason. That is a powerful lot of psychological trauma being created.

The answers aren’t easy, but there are groups trying to turn the situation around, she said. Cure Violence (www.cureviolence.org) is one. She also suggested becoming familiar with New York’s Right to Know Act, through which a policeman actually has to introduce himself, and she gave www.policeandcommunity.org as a resource.

Both Ms. Williamson and Dr. Jones-Brown are younger than I am by a fair amount. It made me feel so hopeful knowing that strong women with strong messages are out there and have attained positions where they have influence and the authority to get their message out.