Sisters of Mercy

The voice on the other end of a telephone always sets the tone of the conversation to be had.

Ms. Bubbico resides here in the main office, with a recent important transplant from the admissions office… Sister Janice.

Sister Janice, a Sister of Mercy, let my family feel comfortable and secure when she invited my other half, my sister Rita, to attend Lauralton Hall.

It was late in the year; it did not matter.

We had no money– she would arrange everything.

It was very dark; my father had just died a few weeks before in Nicaragua.

She showed us light.

She gave my family our first taste of Mercy Spirit.

She alone set the tone of the conversations that I’ll be having for the rest of my life.
April 2006

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Bipolar Confession

“And with the strength of a thousand men,
Both before you and within,
You came clean.
You did everything but shout it from rooftops for years.
But, alas, that was never enough.
“This is me, in all my unforgiving ‘crazy’ glory.”
And now you are free
to love yourself.
And now you are free
to begin healing.”

The above was written to commend a former professor of art who recently announced that he has suffered from bipolar disorder for years. He let everyone know that he recently hit his “all-time low.” I’ve seen people suffer from this illness up-close and personal, and they have always been the kindest and most sincere souls, despite their aggressive day-to-day battles. I want to honor this man for the strength and courage it took, and will continue to take, on the long and winding road of recovery.

I can’t help but notice that all of the people I have met with this illness have all been great artists. I equate the often erratic behavior they experience to an emotional scale that surpasses what most people feel day to day. The hard and fast emotional roller coaster can take someone to their highest point, immediately followed by their lowest. But I’ve known many other people who never really get to experience either end of that spectrum, because it takes extreme emotional availability that is often unstable and frowned upon in society.

But look at the capacity for love these people have, so often juxtaposed with their prominent self-loathing and painful realizations that they are different from the “norm”. I believe this emotionality doesn’t always need to be their downfall. I believe that successful
recovery can bring people who suffer from this illness to the top once more, in a more even-timed dance with life, because they have seen hell and risen beyond it. Not above it, no, because those times still remain within them always. But with proper care and love, and at times with hospitals and medications, the people who used to suffer uncontrollably are able to love wholeheartedly and teach the world to do the same.
3.19.13

Hotel Rwanda Ethics Film Review

moviesAn examination and cultural analysis of the life circumstances of Paul Rusesabagina, as depicted in the film “Hotel Rwanda,” proves that varying a person’s responsibility can result in life changing consequences. The tools used in this analysis include: role assessment, ethical dilemma analysis, teleological outlook, and threshold tests. Rusesabagina’s finite hotel and family life responsibilities warp into a huge ethical dilemma that impacts his family, his community, and his personal integrity. His rather simple responsibilities evolve into great responsibilities and trigger a metamorphosis. The first tool used “assesses roles using Role Diagnosis” (Lewis 314).

In role diagnosis, “begin by assessing the roles you play and the seriousness of competing ethical claims” (314). The top priorities in Baird’s cone pyramid are personal, family, and community. The second tier is professional and work ID. The model descends with five tiers to encompass what individuals reach for including agency and job, jurisdiction and citizen, and lastly humanity, sustainability, and legacy. “The responsibilities tend to be broad, even diffuse; obligations, if only for enforcement purposes, tend to be narrow and clearly defined” (31). In assessing the role Rusesabagina plays, there are very serious ethical claims. When he chooses to harbor his neighbors, he chose to risk his job that was life sustaining and most likely not ever going to be available to him again. The Baird figure says priority goes to personal, family and community with a small reach, but for Rusesabagina the community reach extends. The involvement of genocide in Paul’s immediate community changed his responsibility. There were very serious ethical claims in this instance.

At the onset of the film, Rusesabagina is introduced and his role defined. He is a hotel employee in a poor country. He is very loyal and seems indoctrinated to respect his hotel company above all else. He influences his wealthy hotel guests and community law enforcement agents with bribes; this is standard procedure in Rwanda. His ability to provide people with coveted things, such as Cuban cigars, separates him from others because rich people who cannot be influenced by money are influenced by hard to obtain things (Movie). Rusesabagina’s ego appears intact as he continues to believe he can influence others and he has faith that his wealthy employer will continue to provide a safe haven for he and his people. In participating in the typical corrupt atmosphere, even on this rather simplistic level, his personal integrity is compromised. As the political atmosphere deteriorates, he transforms from a relatively benign worker, with an average commitment to his family’s well being, to a person of hero status.

His role changes, his responsibilities change, and he evolves and holds himself accountable to the public with a personal commitment beyond the law and reveals himself to be a person of respect because of the way he treats all people with dignity. He has responsible stewardship of materials necessary to provide for the basic needs of his hotel community. He is brave when confronted with the choice to abandon his people and save himself or continue his efforts to uphold people’s trust and their leader.

The question of the degree of helping work, family, and community all fall under an ethical dilemma. “Ethics is about decisive action that is rooted in moral values in terms of  moral principles, right results, or both” (313). Measuring the degree in which an individual helps his family and or his community includes looking at the outcome that results from a person’s participation. Some of the Paul Rusesabagina’s ethical dilemmas include “Should I take command, or give up?,” “Should I stay and defend, or hide?,” “Should I just fend for myself or should I take responsibility for my family and community?” His degree of helping goes from unremarkable helping to fearless bravery while standing up for what is just.

Rusesabagina had responsibilities as an employee of the Michelin Hotel. His staunch loyalty to this organization would be considered typical in a poor country where jobs are very scarce. According to The Ethics Challenge in Public Service, in ranking responsibilities there are four different ideas pertaining to difference between the obligation and the responsibility of helping. Rusesabagina did no harm, so he was not obligated to help anyone but himself and his family while performing his basic hotel duties. His responsibility to his community depends on the Lewis and Gilman’s Threshold Test. The Threshold Test asks about the vulnerability, proximity, capability, and dependency of the situation. In this case, the lives of the community were at stake and in immediate danger. Rusesabagina had the ability to bring people to his hotel with a minimum amount of risk. If he did not help them, they surely would lose their lives. He was responsible to help the people of his community according to the Threshold Test.

Rusesabagina’s responsibility increases from that of a father of a small family and hotel employee to neighborhood leader, hotel manager, and hero. His community responsibility trumps his work responsibility. Using the teleological outlook, Rusesabagina’s responsibility is examined. The ethical worth of his decision is determined by the impact of what he did. The way he decided his actions was by looking at the consequence of his action. He did not have the luxury of time before deciding how to proceed with the situation at hand. All he knew was that the consequence of not helping meant that people would be massacred.

Using commonsense helps guide action and decision-making as most individuals attest. “We make most of our ethical choices this way: in the pit of our stomach, automatically, reflexively, intuitively in the popular sense, by common sense” (122). The clean-cut commonsense choice for Rusesabagina was to harbor the orphans, continue to coerce the police into guarding the hotel, and send his wife and children away even if he needed to stay behind to lead the remaining people. Denying his wife a say in her own fate was controversial. Other people may consider many “commonsense” ethical decisions not so clean-cut. Something that might influence a person’s view concerning what is reasonable depends on their perspective that may be based on their upbringing, moral training, religious beliefs, or cultural influences. Euthanasia, Abortion, capitol punishment may be viewed dramatically differently depending on what some may call “commonsense.” This guide to decision-making is a weak guide, unlike the more sophisticated tools available to individuals and public figures. Rusesabagina’s increase in responsibility resulted in him having to make commonsense decisions. The prospect of genocide is so dramatic, who among people would have disagreed with his choices?

The Threshold Test is another tool that is designed for “dealing with problems others cause” (317). The questions asked include is there “vulnerability; potential injury, risk to the affected party?” (317). In Rosesabagina’s situation, the answer is a definite principled yes. Is the requirement of “proximity” met? The perpetration of the crimes were “known” to him, he had “access” to the hotel in order to protect the people. As manager, he had the authority to house the people and do things such as remove room numbers, erase billing information, and provide free services to people. He was “competent” and the span of his control, although stretched to the limit, allowed him “access” to safety deposit boxed with money and valuables used to promote his cause. He had “access” to the owner of the hotel who contacted the Belgium government and ultimately bought some additional time for the people. He also had “access” to the local leaders of the United Nations and he learned a great deal about the position Rwanda held on the world scene and the lack of importance it held. Rosesabagina’s “span of control“ was limited to his small group, not the world stage. The Threshold Test also questions capability. He is able capable and the risks, dangers, and liability resulting from doing nothing outweigh the “risk, danger, and liability”(317) from harboring the people in attempt to save them from genocide. He is the most capable and influential person on the scene at the moment when people need help. He can use trickery to get his way with the local policemen even if it means lying to him about satellite surveillance. He is capable of getting food because he knows how to bribe the local food vendors, he is capable of seeing the prejudice, hatred, and injustice in all these matters. The Dependency of the people is very great; they have “no place else to turn” (317). This criteria is met simply because the people literally had no place else to turn but to the Hotel. The orphans were delivers to the hotel when the United Nations were scheduled to evacuate them, but ended up being rejected because they were African while the Europeans were allowed to leave. They were dependent on Rosesabagina’s staff when the orphanage staff, mostly white workers, were evacuated. “The weak or needy with few options or advocates” (317) were certainly the orphans in addition to the neighborhood people. There was a “low probability or alternative remedies or services” (317) in this case as each organization refused to help. The dramatic evacuation of the European and American communities, without a promise for even later intervention for Rwanda, was shocking. The United Nation’s leader’s words with Rosesabagina in reference to Rwanda’s land of position on the world scene was sickening. “all the West… all the super powers think you are dirt… you are not even a _____, you are African” (movie) proved there would not be any help forthcoming. Each of the four criteria for the Threshold Test have been met and surpassed.

As Rosesabagina’s level of involvement and responsibility increased, his life changed. Basic access to the hotel was almost inevitable but what he did to coast the people of the world was stunning and remarkably influential. He asked his people to contact their friends and family around the world to “tell them what will happen—say goodbye… if they let go of your hand, you will die… we must shame them into helping us” (movie). Here is Rosesabagina’s most pronounced endeavors to lead. The evacuation of his people, who eventually got visas from the outside, was aborted and some of the people injured. The deed of motivating people to action enhanced Rosesabagina as a human being. He took “decisive action” and “publicly defended the cause” (313) of Rwanda.

Summer 2010

What are you afraid of?

actingSpeaking loudly, not speaking at all,
Repetitive sounds, or listening too hard.
Someone in a waiting room, someone in a class—
What makes an outsider?
The answer is you.

Everyone on this earth is so different.
We have all been taught different “norms”.
We all have different behaviors and reactions.
What holds you back from reaching out to someone? What makes you afraid?

What makes you think that you are so special, so precious, so “normal”?
It’s not you alone that has made you as wonderful as you are,
It was all of the help you received along the way.
It’s the everyday kindness you were gifted since birth.
Who gave you that gift? Who took it away?

Everyone has this strange tendency—protect your own but shun the other.
What makes the distinction in your heart? Fear of the unknown.
What will you say? How will I respond? What do I do if—

Just say hello. Just answer the question. Just smile instead of averting your eyes.
Simply encourage and foster kindness whenever you can.
You lose so much more when you keep it to yourself.
Take a second and consider a stranger as your own flesh and blood.
It’s appreciated.

February 10, 2013

Listen —

lots-o-peopleFostering a relationship is your choice but respect is mandatory.

Every relationship must be respected. With a friend or loved one, the task seems fairly simple. With strangers and enemies, it feels almost impossible to listen and understand thoughts and emotions so far from our own, and yet it’s pertinent to leading a life worth living.

Negativity spawns negativity and once it is started, it’s almost impossible to stop it. Always take the high road. By fostering kindness, you in turn foster growth.

Choose respect.

1-4-13

Booming

music1SCREAMING at the top of my lungs

“Please, please, let me be me.

Please, please, let me be free.”

The epitome of Freedom is the ability to fight for what you believe is right

And we’re fighting.

But so many souls have already been stolen

So many people have been broken,

How much fighting will make that okay?

When is all of that pain taken away?

Every single soul needs to be fought for,

(every soul in the past, present, and future)

And I’m fighting.

Every single soul deserves freedom,

And we’re fighting.

Let the hate fires cease

And let the peace burn bright.

Free me, free you

Free us.

Freedom.

March 2010

Similarities

fruit1You make me remember who I am.

Two completely different women in two completely different places,

Both physically and emotionally,

And yet there’s no judgment, no anxiety.

It’s the mutual understanding of pure kindness.

I’m fascinated by what fascinates you;

What doesn’t come easily to others, comes easily to you.

If I met you ten years ago or ten years from now, it would be the same.

We’re just cut from the same cloth.

1.26.13

Global citizenship

globe(yellow)I believe Americans often have the stereotype that relates back to being very self-centered people. When September 11th happened, it was believed to have happened to America. Since the class’s meeting at the café last week, I have been very intrigued by a question I had asked Federica. “How did September 11th affect you?” I have asked this question to three people; Federica, Serena (my Italian teacher), and a boy I met from England. September 11th affected me greatly, but mostly due to how it immediately impacted me. I am only an hour and a half away from New York City, so my middle school was locked down when the news was heard. My sister went to a private high school where a lot of girls came from all over the state, and many of the girls’ fathers worked in Manhattan everyday, some even in the World Trade Centers. My brother was living in Brooklyn, but taking classes in Lincoln center just a couple of blocks away from the twin towers. I was afraid for myself, my brother, and my country. When I asked Federica about it, she said that she was scared for the world. Serena said she was so unsure of everything. Ollie said that he just watched the news for hours and did not know what to think. I think these separate, but united ideas about the world are very interesting to piece together in order to really understand how the whole world had a united front against the terrorism that attacked not only America, but the world. The openness of the people I met was very nice for me to experience. The funny thing was that everyone I asked, no matter their age or their nationality, felt like September 11 th happened to them too. It was a very strong feeling for me to relate to because I do not remember ever looking at the situation from another country’s view. It was my country’s situation; it was my Manhattan that was broken completely in two.

It makes me wonder about how people reacted when Hurricane Katrina destroyed so many lives. I would think that people should be afraid of what happened because it was natural, because it could happen to anyone anywhere. It destroyed so much. Did the people of Italy feel the pain in for Louisiana like I did? I would not have assumed people felt so strongly about the terrorism in my country, so perhaps I am wrong in assuming people do not feel as strongly about the damage from Hurricane Katrina as I did. The scary part about that situation for me was that I felt so useless. I was watching videos on the news every day, every hour of a place in MY country that did not even resemble the America I knew.

Meeting new people with different ideas and points of view really changes my perception of the world. Without having this dialogue between people, it is impossible to know what someone else is feeling. The hardest part for me is that I find it difficult to believe in blanket statements. Even though I know the Hofstede Model is often accurate, I think that when people follow these types of generalizations blindly it leads to issues. Perhaps I feel this way because I am often in the minority of these generalizations, and so I would rather ask a question and find out first hand what is appropriate in the situation you find yourself in. This idea reminds me of “self-doubt” that we learned about in class. I think that allowing room for anything to be possible, allows for a more flexible person.

The thing I find most interesting about the global citizen skills is how closely knit they are. Flexibility helps emotion regulation; creativity helps critical thinking, and so on and so forth. Being in another culture… having a dire need to make discoveries about the people around you…. sensitivity is a big factor. While I am discovering the answers to my questions, I am discovering the culture of the person I am meeting. This has been the most rewarding thing I have discovered while I have been in Italy.

September 28, 2009

Rosa Parks Myth

politicsThe master narrative of Civil Rights is a very basic and sometimes misleading history of the quest for equality for African Americans. The Montgomery Bus Boycott is often portrayed as a stepping-stone towards the end of racism that was led almost single-handedly by Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr.. The assumption that America holds about the Montgomery Bus Boycott is surrounded by the idea of “Rosa Parks, the tired” instead of a more national feeling of “America, tired of racism.” Textbooks and teachers often put Rosa Parks in the front seat of the movement, but this dismisses the Montgomery Bus Boycott as a whole and causes the movement to lose a lot of the meaning that it holds.

Though Rosa Parks made a big difference, the real difference was made by all of the people who chose not to ride. There was segregation in a majority of the United States and it was more than simply “not being allowed to use the same public facilities such as restaurants or swimming pools.” Segregation was everywhere and was about everything. It was very emotionally damaging to everyone involved, especially young children.

People were trying to change the ways of segregation for a long time, but without proper support of major civil rights groups, the attempts floundered and were forgotten. Before Rosa Parks, girls like Claudette Colvin and Mary Louise Smith refused to go to the back of the bus or give up their seats for white people, but the NAACP did not support or plan their rebellions and so these acts were minimally publicized. Even the bus boycott itself was not the first of its kind; tt was preceded by the bus boycott in Baton Rouge. The Baton Rouge Bus Boycott only lasted one week but many ideas stemmed from it including tactics such as carpooling and handing out flyers to spread the word.

The idea that Rosa Parks was “tired and angry and stubborn” is not accurate. She planned her stand (or rather, her sit) as the secretary of the NAACP and it was far from impromptu. People are taught that Rosa Parks’ arrest was the reason for the boycott but that is wrong, she was really the spark for the fire that had been heating up for a very long time. “So they decided to refuse to ride the buses until everyone was allowed to ride together” is so light and fluffy—what they really wanted was equality and rights and they fought long and hard for them. They wanted to be citizens of this country just as much as any white man, and that is what they desperately fought for, for 13 months.

Another assumption that is often made is that Martin Luther King led the boycott, which is inaccurate. The people led the boycott. He was elected the president of the Montgomery Improvement Association and instilled power in the people, but ultimately the people are the ones who made the change and stayed off of the busses for freedom. Yes, Rosa Parks is a very brave person but so were all of the other people who fought for their rights.

February 22, 2010