Two in one!

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I got two bylines in the local paper today: my regular weekly column and a feature article on Frank R. Hayde, a friend of mine who recently published his first solo work, The Mafia and the Machine: A Story of the Kansas City Mob. (He co-authored a book about Zion National Park a few years ago. It’s available for sale at all U.S. National Park bookstores as part of the Story Behind the Scenery series.) Frank’s currently a park ranger at Colorado National Monument but had somehow managed to find time to research and write a history of the Kansas City Mafia and its ties to local politics.

And I complain about not having enough time to do everything.

Had a fantastic conversation with Tom Acker, a professor of Spanish at Mesa State College and a well-known immigration activist. KEXO, the only local station that broadcasts Spanish-language programming, is threatening to pull all of that if they can’t bring their advertising revenues for the programs to $15,000/month. They’re asking for a monthly “sponsorship” of $500 from at least 20 businesses in order to keep the lights on for Alex Martinez and Esmeralda Martinez, the two DJ’s who run the shows. Acker is a fantastic resource for just about anything you want to know about immigration and the local Hispanic community; I’m feeling a little overwhelmed by the magnitude of the issue, the fact that — according to Tom — 20% (!!) of the local population is Hispanic (when I thought we were talking single-digits here) and that they’re so invisible, despite their purported numbers.

I hope to learn more as Tom introduces me to others in the community familiar with the issues at stake. I have a feeling there’s a huge amount of information about minority issues in our region that remains hidden — deliberately or not — from the rest of us.

Film: The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo

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I studied the comfort women of World War II as part of my graduate studies at the University of South Carolina. Two years of reading books and journal articles and watching films — all about the rape of women in war — burned indelible images into my brain that I found hard to shake for years. I ended up not finishing my thesis, burned out from man’s brutality and the horrific stories that poured out of archives and documentaries.

Still, you never get inured from any of it. It stays with you, and you often feel helpless and angry at the same time, a volatile combination that often results in, well, nothing. Which only feeds the cycle and allows it to continue.

There’s a moving and ultimately shocking (to say the least) documentary making the rounds of both film festivals and Capitol Hill of late called The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo. Filmmaker Lisa F. Jackson interviewed not just the women themselves who were swept up in the brutal war that’s been raging in the Congo for at least a decade, but also some of their rapists. It’s debuting on television tonight on HBO, but even if you don’t have premium cable you can get a glimpse of its story through this Washington Post article. You will have to register — if you don’t already have an account with them — but it’s easy to do so. (I faked all the info, but you can try BugMeNot, an awesome site that allows you to pick from a number of “fake” usernames and passwords to the most popular online databases.)

There’s also a great article in this English-language Czech paper about the film’s screening in that country. I’m not sure I agree entirely with the title; I’m uncomfortable conflating a woman’s sexual integrity with that of a nation as it sets up the idea of ownership. Why can’t one just say that raping a woman is a crime of violence that needs to be persecuted rather than bringing in all kinds of issues about patriotism and nationalism? Still, the journalist was obviously moved by the film, and rightfully so.

One of the things that frustrates many regarding this issue is the overwhelming nature of it all. Millions of women are raped around the world. How can one even begin to address it? Where does one go for answers, resources that one can use to end this epidemic of violence? Jackson doesn’t give much answers herself — in the Post article, she says that she’s done her part by making a film. Now it’s our turn to decide for ourselves how we can help with the cause. I’m not entirely satisfied with her answer, but she does provide some great links on her Web site to organizations that are tackling the problem head-on. One that I’ve heard tons of good things about is Women for Women International. Most of their work is in Africa, where so much suffering has been shouldered by the continent’s women. Check out the site to learn more about how you can help.