Saturday, October 12, 2019


President’s Views
This is not an easy time to be a member of the U.S. Foreign Service. Nor an easy time to be involved in efforts to advance our country’s interests and the primary objectives of our profession: ensuring America’s security and prosperity and promoting peaceful resolution of disputes and the negotiated settlement of conflicts.
Our new governing board at AFSA is determined to support our members in the face of what is probably the most significant set of challenges our Service and our institution have ever faced.
Let me start out with an appeal to all Foreign Service members: Please stay. A significant percentage of our Service is eligible for immediate retirement. Others may be debating whether they are able to stay under current circumstances. My earnest request is that you stay if you can. The Foreign Service needs you. Your country needs you.
Just as the United States needs experienced professional air traffic controllers, food inspectors, forest rangers and FBI agents, it needs experienced career diplomats. That means us. America’s role in the world remains pivotal. Without U.S. leadership, almost everything will be worse. I believe that, sincerely. I hope you do as well.

We serve under difficult circumstances and take our families to tough places. At times we risk our lives. What do we ask in return? We ask to be treated with respect and to be recognized and valued for our dedication to our country and for the sacrifices that we and our family members have made.
Unfortunately, some of our colleagues have not experienced that respect in recent months. The clear politicization of the Bureau of International Organization Affairs, as documented by the State Department Inspector General, is one glaring example. To date, there have been no consequences for those responsible.
The lack of senior Foreign Service jobs is not just an issue for the Foreign Service; it is an issue for American diplomacy. We currently have no active-duty Foreign Service officers serving in any assistant secretary of State positions. This is an unprecedented situation with no equivalent since the Second World War.

And the number of career officers serving as ambassador is at one of the lowest points since records have been kept. This is not just about jobs for our colleagues. It is about ensuring that our country has experienced career professionals serving in critical positions around the world.
A word about AFSA. We have nearly 100 years of experience representing the Foreign Service, and we do so with passion and commitment. But we can only do this with your help. We welcome and we need ideas and contributions from our members. Please share your suggestions and thoughts with us on our social media pages and, if you wish, through direct email communication to our board members. All of us can be reached via the links on the AFSA website.
While we certainly recognize the seriousness of current challenges, we are pressing ahead with efforts to get more positions established—or reestablished— overseas; to ensure adequate funding for our agencies and operations; and to support recruitment of a diverse, representative workforce. Let’s all keep working together to advance these objectives.
A special request to our colleagues from the other foreign affairs agencies: please keep in touch with AFSA, and share your suggestions and input.

I look forward to hearing from you and working with you, and I thank you for your commitment and dedication to serving our country and the ideals that it represents. Tough times require even stronger commitment and engagement. At this very difficult time, let’s demonstrate who we are and what we can do. That is the meaning of the oath to the Constitution that we all have taken.
Ambassador Eric Rubin is the president of the American Foreign Service Association.

{Note:  I simply wanted to share with you the thinking of our Foreign Service Officers representing you and our country during these troubling times.  Many are leaving because they cannot explain to a foreign audience what is happening to our country when they don’t understand either. They have no one in the Department of State who is working with them.These career officers are sorely needed. Please keep them in prayer.
Charlene C. Duline}

Thursday, June 27, 2019

"Drinking From the Saucer" by Father Gordon J. MacRae. (August 12, 2009)

                                                   DRINKING FROM THE SAUCER

 You may not know it, but if you are reading These Stone Walls, you owe a debt of thanks, in part — or blame, as the case may be — to Charlene C. Duline.

Seven years into a comfortable retirement after an unprecedented career as a diplomat in foreign service for the U.S. State Department, Charlene waded into the midst of the U.S. Catholic sex abuse scandal.

When the loudest “reform” groups were assuming the rhetoric of lynch mobs against priests who were accused, Charlene called for another kind of reform: a courageous and faithful application of the Gospel of mercy and truth to the wound that had been laid bare in our Church.

In 2008, Charlene Duline, a convert to Catholicism, published her memoir, Drinking from the Saucer.

Her’s has been a life of many courageous stands.  Before the Civil Rights movement became part of our national consciousness in 1962, Charlene became the first African-American woman from Indiana to be accepted in the nascent Peace Corps.

After a two-year posting in Peru, Charlene took on successively senior diplomatic posts representing the United States in Haiti, Liberia, Tanzania, Swaziland, Panama, and the United Nations Headquarters in New York, and finally Washington, DC.

A graduate of the University of Indiana, Charlene holds a Masters degree in International Studies from Johns Hopkins University.

One would think she had done enough.  Toward the end of Drinking from the Saucer, Charlene described her concern for imprisoned  and discarded priests:

      "After one priest had been killed in prison, I wondered how others were faring.  I searched the
       internet to find out where some were incarcerated . . . I demanded to know why our Church
       officials have never asked for prayers and forgiveness for them."

As I juxtapose, today, Charlene’s decision to reach out to convicted and incarcerated priests, with the more vindictive voices of the self-described “faithful,” I can’t help but consider the well known Gospel Parable of the Good Samaritan. [Luke: 25-37]

A man is left beaten by robbers [yes, from my perspective, the analogy holds.]  A priest and Levite pass by in fear that helping the wounded man will leave them ritually impure under the law.  The Samaritan becomes the only person free to obey the higher law, to be a neighbor to the discarded and stranded.

In his profound book, Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict XVI wrote of this same parable:

The Samaritan . . . shows me that I have to learn to be a neighbor deep within, and that I already have the answer in myself.  I have to become someone in love, somone whose heart is open to being shaken up by another’s need.  Then I find my neighbor, or better that I am found by him. (Jesus of Nazareth, p. 197)

Charlene has learned something about the Gospel of Mercy.  The lesson did not come cheap, as her memoir describes.  Only such a wounded healer could call upon the Church’s shepherds with the force of having lived the Gospel of mercy, to refine the voices they are listening to in all this.  “What kind of shepherds,” she wrote. “abandon their sheep when they make a misstep.”

Charlene’s birthday is August 13th, the day before Saint Maximilian Kolbe’s feast day — the date of his execution in prison.  Her memoir concludes, not about herself, but about us, the discarded:

     "May they feel His Presence today, and every day."



Kathleen Riney says

August 14, 2016 at 6:09 PM
Thank you Charlene! Your acts of Mercy gave Fr. G. a Freedom Few priests in the USA, have.
(Am sure Germany & the EU, are not any better.) You’re a living example of the Grace of God at work, through the intercession of prayers of the Faithful, the Body of Christ.
It’s difficult for some of us, who have been activists in the past 45+ yrs., to Retire to a “Prayerful Intercession”. The trace of Jansenism, that came with many of my Irish Immigrant Great-Grandparents, still nags us to “DO” something!  🙂
Think of the size of Fr. G.’s Parish!! Lowest Operating Cost in the World! Highest # of Converts…. Highest # of Prayer Warriors…….Spiritual Direction for Thousands, from Priests who are “Altar Christi’s”. Wounded Healers themselves! Global Internet Connections volunteered. Life experiences, are freely shared across Boarders of ethnicity, & an Acceptance that transcends “tolerance”, extends even to those who persecute the People of God. ( Although, the latter may take some time for a few of us!)
Thank you Charlene!  🙂

Susan McNair says

July 28, 2010 at 10:46 PM
Dear Father Gordon,

I have read about you Father and I know in my heart you have been falsely accused. It seems that the Church today is so eager to appease the media and the many accusers it is throwing the “baby out with the bath water”.

The Church is not taking the time to see if an accusations are true or not just pay them off and make it go away. What ever happened to justice? Our Savior, St. Paul and St. John the Baptist could answer better than any of us. You are in good company Father but I am sure you know that.

My prayers are with you. I pray for you every night and all those priests who have been unjustly incarcerated for false accusations; I also pray for those fallen angels who rightly belong there for it is the sin I hate not the sinner.

I pray for all our priests and clergy for it is a rough time for all of Gods foot soldiers.
May the blessings of our Blessed Mother keep you safe and your Guardian Angel watch over you and protect you.

Agape Love

Fr. Peter Lechner, s.P. says

October 3, 2009 at 2:00 AM
Being as I am also involved in an apostolate of help to priests — one that Fr. MacRae was also engaged in with me for several years – with many priests being helped by him before he was sentenced to what for all intensive purposes appears to be life imprisonment —

I appreciate the analogy of the Good Samaritan and the man who was robbed and beaten. Many years ago Pope John XXIII used the same analogy to speak of the Paraclete ministry to priests in need of someone to assist them because of being “wounded.”

Interestingly enough the Pope compared the Samaritan to Christ Himself, who has gone to an infinite extent to be with those whom He has sent out on His mission, wherever they may be. The innkeeper(s) are those who provide help until the Lord returns – and for which they will be “paid” for all that has been expended on their behalf.

My own understanding of this part of the parable is that this applies to all who like Charlene are reaching out -often in unpopular circumstances – to be part of ministering to abandoned souls, including abandoned shepherds.

Regina says

August 27, 2009 at 9:10 PM
Oh, how I am grateful to you, Charlene, and your outright courage in defense of innocent priests falsely accused. I plan to order your book and then pass it on to others so that everyone can know what’s happening…
God bless you.

Rev Anthony Tran Van Kiem says

August 25, 2009 at 4:35 PM
Dear Charlene,

During the first six months of my ordeal (from Feb to June, 2009, I sat idle most of the time, trusting my Bishop and his Chancellor in particular to protect me, and save my honor. Fortunately the parishioners of Our Lady of Victory where I once served told me to wake up from my torpor and fend for my life.

Suddenly I became superheated and kicked hard left and right. I relaxed only when my accuser retracted his charge (Sorry! A case of mistaken identification!), and my Bishop returned my priestly duties to me on August 15th 2009, the Feast of Assumption.

At the good news my body melted unexpectedly into a jelly and I slept for hours. When I woke up disoriented, feeling no interest in food… Fortunately my daze lasted only a few days. My spirits ( the Holy Spirit?) told me: Move your lazy bones! I did as instructed, I rummaged thru my computer and FOUND YOU! Dear Charlene . You have helped me to find my new vocation!

From now on I will spend the rest of my days comforting PRIESTS ACCUSED falsely or otherwise. They are most pathetic victims of INDIFFERENCE.

Charlene C. Duline says

August 12, 2009 at 10:58 PM
I am terribly grateful to Fr. Gordon for allowing me the opportunity to work with him, and I thank him for his kind words about me and about my book. Fr. Gordon is foremost and forever a priest, and inside those stone walls he lifts up those sorrowing and inspires those despairing despite his own broken life and abandonment by his Diocese and all but a few priest friends.

He manages to retain the powerful faith that has made him the priest he has always been. He relates to the broken and discarded because of his own life experience. We are told that grace transforms our crosses into instruments and fine tunes them. Fr. Gordon is a perfect example of that. He would never present himself in a glow of holiness, but I would.

Fr. Gordon does not deserve what has happened to him, and no one except an innocent man and one of strong faith would continue to fight for freedom for fifteen years. I am honored to help this saintly man continue his fight against all odds. I ask everyone to storm heaven and beg our Lord for justice for Fr. Gordon MacRae.

 Mary says

August 12, 2009 at 9:25 PM
Thank you for telling us about this remarkable woman.
Charlene ‘s witness to God’s compassion and mercy is inspiring.
It is a strange thing but the prayer many of us learn early and say often is not fully lived by many of us
“forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”

Yet this is what we must do but our hearts sometimes struggle with this particularly if we have been hurt.

I have found when you find your heart hardening contemplation of Christ’s passion can help soften it because He who was totally innocent suffered so much for us out of pure love and if He could forgive me for my numerous betrayals and hurts who am I to withold forgiveness from a fellow sinner?

In some ways prison is like Calvary -an innocent person in prison is like Christ on Calvary. Christ was innocent but flanked by guilty men. There was a total contrast in their response to Christ- one humble and contrite the other mocking and unrepentant.

May Jesus continue to imbue you heart with His sustaining love Father
God Bless


Tuesday, April 9, 2019

The Grinch Meets a Guardian Angel

by Charlene C. Duline

For the past nine months I have often felt that if it was not for bad luck, I would have had no luck! The Grinch was me and any effort to get rid of him only irritated him more and made him cling to me even more!

Remember in July I was in the hospital and then rehab? I remember it very well.  And I refuse to let my guardian angel forget it! Where was he when I fell? How did he let that happen? I was nearly a paraplegic.  But after several months, I bounced back. Well, bounce is not the right word. Let’s just say that life plodded on.  My dear sister, Dolores, was in and out of the hospital and then hospice, and we lost her on December 5. We knew that her death was inevitable, but it still was a blow to the heart. 

Dee’s nephew charged two of us with giving away her furniture, clothing, food items, etc. A woman who works with the homeless had a field day with clothing, backpacks, bedding, etc.  It was quite a chore, especially with people calling at all hours when they were able to obtain the use of a truck, but we did it out of love. Several friends pitched in and spent days helping us clear the cottage.   Christmas was dreary but we got thorough it. 

For many, many months I have suffered from a painful hammertoe along with a bad bunion. I finally made arrangements to have surgery on February 15, 2019.  It was in and out surgery, but oh the aftermath!!! I was to put no weight on the foot! How the … I get to the kitchen, to the bathroom, to where ever I have to go?! The podiatrist said I would manage! And I did, thanks to Mama Gladys who spent many nights with me and during the day was kept busy putting ice on my foot every 20 minutes and off for 30 minutes.  I couldn’t wait to go to bed at night.  Gone were the nights when I read my murder mysteries until 3 a.m. I went to bed at 9 p.m. One week later the foot doctor said my foot was healing nicely, but to stay off of it!

One night I decided to order for delivery two bowls of chili.  I ate one bowl and it was delish as always.  And then I got sick and sicker! The next day I notified the business and said they could test my second bowl to see what caused my illness. They declined, but refunded my money.  Great, except I was still ill!!

I didn’t feel well the following days and I stopped eating.  I drank a lot of water, but I was afraid to eat because my tummy did not feel right.  Mama Gladys fretted because I refused to eat for three days.  On the fourth day I woke up with the room spinning around and I began barfing.  I yelled for Mama Gladys who did not hear me for several minutes. I needed towels to absorb the clear liquid rushing from my stomach. The dizziness came in waves and when it did, I would close my eyes and try to grab something to hang onto.  Mama G called Bernie to come over.  She didn’t know what to do with me. She talked about taking me to the hospital but I vetoed that.  At one point I came out of the bathroom and the two of them were helping me, but I just wanted to lie down on the floor.  I could not make it to the bedroom.  I laid on the floor and wondered what the hell was wrong with me. I asked for a pillow for my head and finally I told them to call an ambulance.  

 I was not taken to St. Vincent’s hospital because they were full. We went to Methodist but Mama G and Bernie had gone to St. Vincent’s looking for me where they waited for almost three hours before finally learning that I was not there. The hospital determined that I was dehydrated, had the flu and pneumonia, and I was dizzy and had a foot that I could not walk on!  I was a wreck!  

Meanwhile Father Gordon MacRae and my godson, Pornchai Moontri thought I had died in my cottage, and asked the police to check. Robin Run would only tell them that I had been taken to an emergency room.  Finally, Father Gordon had someone call my pastor, Father Todd Goodson who had no idea where I was.  But he soon found out and shared the information with Father Gordon.

I kept asking the doctors and nurses to put warm water in my ear to get out the wax. I had that done the last time I was dizzy and it solved the problem. Finally, a nurse removed the wax, but the dizziness persisted! After six days in the hospital, I was released to a rehab center.  I was there for two weeks mainly because of the continued 

An Indian therapist said she knew maneuvers to get rid of the dizziness. I was reluctant to let her try because I knew I was not going to like the maneuver.   Finally, I reluctantly let her try and it involved jerking my head from side to side. She was delighted to show off her skills, but I just prayed that it would stop. It helped a bit. I came home the next day and I was still dizzy.  My primary care doctor arranged an appointment for me with an ENT specialist, but it was two weeks off! People said I was lucky.  Well, I guess! Plus, the appointment was not even with the specialist, but with his nurse practitioner                   
Once at home I thought about how fortunate I was to have friends who looked after me, brought me flowers, cards, items for St. Patrick’s Day, cans of 7-UP and candy, candy, candy! I was so pleased that I had lost about 15 pounds in a month of not eating, and I only ate half or less of the food at the rehab facility. But the Snicker bars in my bedside drawer yelled my name and I could hear them loud and clear.  Friends called and people I barely knew sent cards! I had to thank my guardian angel, but I warned him that if anything else bad happened to me that we were done!

So that’s my story and I guess I will have to stick with it. So, dear ones, that is why you have not heard from me for awhile. To my priests in prison, please forgive the weeks we have not been in touch. You were in my prayers. 
Hugs to all!

Sunday, January 13, 2019

"Common Sense is Not So Common"

                                 “Common Sense is Not So Common.”

I am a black woman.  I am a weary black woman.  I am a scared black woman.  Why?  Because whites are calling the police on us for everything.  It is as if we should not be breathing the same air.  As of we have not lived next door to them for the past  55 years.  With President Trump leading our nation, racism is back and very much alive.  We are losing the battle we fought so long and so hard for:  the right to vote. That right is being taken away day by day, right for right. Not so long ago our youth and our elder bled and died for the right to vote and now sneaky though it may be, those voting rights are being yanked away for fear that blacks will vote in favor of those who will fight with us to bring back that major right.

Look at the state of Georgia, a state that many of us thought was the shining example of a of a southern state that had “hate for blacks” as its middle name.  We thought those wrongs finally had been made right, that Georgia was the new South.  The real Georgia was revealed during the last voting season when Democrats became the majority in the House of Representatives. Yes, voter   suppression reared its ugly head once again, especially in Georgia.  Recently a non-partisan group rented a bus to take senior citizens in Jefferson County to a voting booth. After the mostly black seniors were on the bus someone called the commissioner’s office who ordered them off the bus stating the bus had been hired by a group that had a Democrat in its ranks. And that constituted “political activity.”  Shame on Georgia.

The Georgia Secretary of State, Republican Brian Kemp, and Republican candidate for governor, was instrumental in the suppression of voting rights.  Some 53,000 voters’ registrations are being held hostage because they are not “exact matches.”  In other words, there might be an extra space or a misplaced comma, or period on the form and that disqualifies the voter from casting a vote.  A judge ruled several days before voting that that way of disallowing someone to vote was illegal. It has not been lost on white supremacists that these days politics not protests are the way to get into the mainstream. Their kindred souls are in office and in power.

I feel the stings and rocks thrown at us by the President of the U.S. and others of his ilk.  It is frightening to know that the former chief of our Justice Department, Jeff Sessions, was doing all that he could to remove many, many blacks and other minorities from the voting polls.  When white supremacist groups show up at various rallies and trouble ensues, none of the Republicans in office utter a word against them.  They all kowtow to the President even when they know he is wrong.
America is (or was) the home of democracy.  We have never had a president in office who is as boldly racist as Trump. He has insulted most black reporters who have White House passes; there are no blacks or other minorities working at the White House; Trump lies almost every time he opens his mouth, and we have come to realize that those who work for him do the same, especially Sarah Huckabee Sanders.  Americans have never been in such a predicament as we are now.  We have few friends around the world.  They have come to see that President Trump is not a man of his word and changes his opinion as often as he changes. . . well, fill in the dots.

The only black female lawmaker in Vermont resigned last month after four years of constant harassment, insults, break-ins at her home, death threats and more from the many white supremacist groups in 95% white Vermont.  It was in Vermont that I was called a “nigger” for the first time in my life. My group of Peace Corps Volunteers spent two months in Vermont at the Institute for International Living due to a coup in Peru.  I was walking down the street with several other female volunteers and some young boys on the other side of the street yelled that word at me. We ignored them and continued on our way.  I was hurt and angry, and thereafter  I limited my walks to country roads where I talked to the cows I encountered.

Also, while we were in Vermont, one of our Peace Corps friends invited me and another black volunteer to her home in New Hampshire for the weekend. Her parents were very welcoming.  At dinner that evening my friend asked about a friend of hers.  Her mother, who was very animated, said without a thought, “Oh, he works at (some place) and comes home black as a nigger every night.” I looked across the table at Pat, the other black woman, and she was looking at me.  We continued eating and not one word was ever mentioned about what the mother had said.
Meanwhile in Maine, Governor Le Paige has not missed a chance to spout racist rhetoric as he does frequently.  He accuses blacks and “people of color” of being drug dealers and suggests that they should be shot.  A Democrat in the state legislature called LePage a “racist” and LePage was so outraged that he wished they could have a duel so he could shoot his opponent!  And this man governs the state of Maine? What does that say about the people of Maine who elected him?

Trump came into office with a chip on his shoulder and it remains. He began by telling us how intelligent he is.  Then he aligned with white nationalists. He could not bring himself to call them what they are – avowed racists.  With the president as their protector, they along with other racists came out of the shadows and suddenly everyone who ever had a grudge against any person of color felt free to call the police to remove any black person from any place the white person felt blacks had no business being, and for speaking out about what they thought of blacks and other people of color. It has become very unsettling and upsetting.

Whites are calling the police to arrest blacks for:
Gardening while black –  two white women saw a black man in Detroit gardening on an empty plot and called the police because he didn’t “belong in the neighborhood.”

Baby-sitting while black – a white woman followed a black man who was baby-sitting two white children . She called the police who contacted the parents who were shocked that the black man was suspected of kidnapping the children.  They said the man often babysat their children.

Visiting voters while black – a black lawmaker was visiting neighborhoods in her district and knocking on doors for votes when one of the neighbors called police because she  thought the lawmaker was checking to see who was at home before robbing a house.

Existing while black – A restaurant in Alabama refused to allow a Kappa Alpha Psi alumni chapter to host its dinner there claiming, “problems with your kind.” The men were in their 50 - 60 years of age.

Being a doctor while black  -  Delta Airlines has refused on two occasions to allow two black female doctors to attend to people who became ill while flying. In both cases the attendants asked for their doctors’ licenses and even after being shown the doctors’ licenses, they still questioned the two doctors.

Waiting for AAA help while black – two black women were waiting in a parking lot for AAA help to arrive to service their car when a drunk white woman began yelling at them that she was white, and were they waiting for their “baby daddy to arrive,” and other insulting comments were hurled at the women who fearing for their safety called police.

Swimming while black – there have been several instances where blacks were challenged when attempting to use hotel swimming pools. The challengers were not affiliated with the hotel, but wanted to know if the blacks had showered before getting into the pool, etc. The black people were guests at the hotels.

Entering your home while black – there are more and more instances of whites challenging blacks attempting to enter their condos or apartments where they live. The whites insist that the blacks do not live there.  The blacks have keys to their homes and when police are called the whites look like idiots. They can’t know every person who lives in the building and for them to challenge a tenant is outrageous.

Driving while black – all blacks have to be careful while driving.  The police have a habit of stopping cars driven by blacks who the police think cannot afford such cars or just want to make an example of them.  The blacks must be very careful. One black woman was stopped in a city she was moving to in order to begin her job as a professor at a university. She was stopped for no reason and she said so.  She also cursed the officer who arrested her.  The next day the woman was found dead in her cell. The police said it was suicide; her family and other blacks know better.

Lawmaking while black - the second black woman to serve in the Vermont Legislature resigned last month after 4 years of harassment.  Her home was burglarized; death threats, and constant harassment led to her resignation. Her husband had recent heart surgery and she feared for their lives and the life of her son. Vermont is 95% white.

Voting while black – These past weeks have seen more vitriol stemming from our mid-term elections. Two whites in Southern states who ran against blacks and were perhaps on the verge of losing their positions, struck back with a vengeance.  One was the Secretary of State who oversaw the election despite recommendations that he step down until the election was over.  He refused until a few days ago.  The man is suspect since he oversaw the election and at the same time he also ran for Governor of that state.   And in Prairie View, TX some 8000 students were denied the right to vote because election officials said Texas was not their home and they should vote at home. By the time that decision was overthrown, it was too late for most of the students to get to the polls which were not conveniently located nearby.

Existing while black -  some fear that it’s open season on blacks. A white man recently shot and killed two blacks at a Walmart store _ one man inside the store and the other one outside - recently.  As he passed another white man, the shooter said to him, “I’m not shooting any white people, only blacks.” That is chilling!

Meanwhile in the Virgin Islands a drunk, white American woman went around yelling
            that she loves Trump and “hates black people.” She was escorted off the island by police.

A man at a DC airport was told by the white woman behind him that he was in the wrong line and should move to let her through.  He showed her his first-class boarding pass. She then mumbled out loud that he must be military and he should still move because she had paid for her tickets.  The man then turned to her and said, “Nope, I’m too big for anybody’s military. I’m just a niggah with money!” The entire line applauded him and it went viral. Perhaps then the woman understood!

When I go out I try to keep an eye on my surroundings. I don’t want to be shot and killed for being black. I have no control over the color of my skin.  It was given to me by God and I shall die happily with it. In Church I worry that someone will burst in firing and I think of what to do in that event. Should I keep my cell phone in my hand during the services in case I need to call for help?

During grade school days I was bused to school because black children could not attend the school closest to our homes.  I was bused to a black school across town. My four years of high school at one of the most prestigious  public schools in the city, Shortridge, taught me a lot about life with white people.   Senator Richard Lugar graduated from Shortridge five years before I did.  I was on the Monday staff of our Daily Echo, our high school newspaper, held a press pass thanks to the Indianapolis Herald – a black weekly newspaper – which allowed me backstage to interview jazz greats and to write about it, and I excelled in my journalism classes.  The few black students were basically ignored by most of the white teachers and students alike. I cannot recall a single white student even looking at me, let alone saying “Hi.

And then in the '60s Dr. Martin Luther King came into the news.  People marveled at his civil disobedience and his message of non-violence.  Finally, blacks were organizing and demanding  an end to “whites only” at eating establishments; demanding the right to use the decent bathrooms rather than a stinky and dirty bathroom outside, and the right to drink from water fountains designated for “whites only.”  We no longer were content to sit at the back of a bus, or to get up to let a white man have our seat.  Were we not human? Hadn’t slavery ended? Our nation rose up and began demanding that blacks have the same rights as whites.  Slowly over the years – with much feet dragging – the majority of Americans obeyed the law.

Robert Kennedy, Attorney-General, under the guidance of his brother, President John F. Kennedy, sent Federal troops to the South to protect blacks trying to exercise their right to vote and to protect little black children who ran a gamut of angry, yelling whites while trying to enter schools.  It was a disgraceful display of anger of people who refused to share the benefits that both races were entitled to.  Watch a little black child protected by Federal troops walking through a raucous, rowdy crowd of whites threatening and yelling. How did they manage to learn or even to study given those circumstances? But they excelled and went on to white colleges and did the same.

I was a Peace Corps volunteer in the mountains of Cuzco, Peru when President Kennedy was assassinated.  My first prayer was that he had not been killed by a black person.  The same was true when Robert Kennedy was killed.  These men had helped black people and I certainly did not want their deaths on our hands. In 2018 alone, white men with guns have killed over 12,000 people. Is anyone alarmed at this?  President Trump is appalled when a few illegals have killed some innocent Americans, yet he is not sending troops to ban white men from anything. What would he ban them from – buying guns, working in the public square, from their homes, from breathing?

Following the assignation of President Kennedy, Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  That law allowed the withholding of federal funds from programs that had discriminatory practice; authorized the federal government to step in to safeguard the right of African Americans to register to vote and cast their ballots, and allowed access to public accommodations. Johnson signed the Economic Opportunity Act, to establish the Office of Economic Opportunity to oversee a number of educational, training, and employment programs. Johnson wanted more safeguards for civil and voting rights, money for education, programs for urban renewal, Medicare, crime prevention and consumer protection. One of  his most acclaimed accomplishments as president was ensuring the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Which authorized the federal government to step in to safeguard the right of blacks to register to vote and cast their ballots.

We leap to 2016 and Donald Trump, the President of the United States, formerly the role model of a democracy where everyone’s rights are protected by the Federal government.  I say “formerly” because that is no longer the case.  Before Trump was elected, he often used the wink and nod to assure white racists that he was one of them.  He  refused to call racist the people who rioted in Charlottesville, VA in 2017. He dug in his heels to get his supporters to act upon the “fake media” and at his rallies, he often called for his people to show others how they felt about reporters and those in the crowd who did not agree with Trump.  We continue to see the results of that.
President Trump has been on a roll recently in insulting black women.  He began by calling April Ryan, a “loser.”  Ms. Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks has covered the White House for 24 years. When she stood to ask a question of the president, he ordered her to sit down and said she “doesn’t know what the hell she is doing.”  Black CNN reporter Abby Philips, was told by Trump that she “asks a lot of stupid questions.”  He went on to insult PBS NewsHour WH correspondent Yarniche Alcindor, a black female reporter. She asked if Trump was concerned that his rhetoric emboldens white nationalists. He replied, “that is such a racist question … is so insulting to me. It’s a very terrible thing you said.”  Trump then walked away. Was it noticed that her question was not answered?

This president had the nerve to say, “When you’re in the White House, this is a very sacred place to me, this is a very special place, you have to treat the White House with respect, you have to treat the presidency with respect.” Maybe when the president treats the presidency with respect - just maybe – others will do the same.  Apparently, he does not realize how disrespectful some of his retorhic has been, especially about women.  It is doubtful that he cares.


Tuesday, June 13, 2017


             Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me. . .

On Pentecost Sunday near the end of our Sunday Mass the pianist began playing “Let There Be Peace on Earth.”  No matter where I am when I hear that music I feel tears rising.  I blinked hard several times to discourage those tears from falling.

Let there be peace on earth, the peace that was meant to be,

This song brings back memories of the 25th Anniversary of the Peace Corps, September 26 – 28, 1986, a project that was very dear to my heart and it remains so. The goal of reaching out our hands to the poorest of the poor in other nations to let them know that the United States cared about them, was first and foremost in our two years in Cuzco, Peru. While I have fond memories of my village of Quiquijana, about two hours by train from the city of Cuzco, I must confess that I came to dislike the city of Cuzco intensely.

I was the darkest Peace Corps volunteer in the state of Cuzco, the laughing stock of most of the Quechua Indians, and scary as hell to others.  There was one other black volunteer in Cuzco, but her skin was very fair and probably few knew that she was a black American. It was as if they had never seen a black person. And maybe they hadn’t.  If I walked into a tienda (tiny store) to make a purchase, when I turned to go out an audience of Quechua Indians would have gathered in a matter of minutes and as I walked out some would reach out to touch me as if to see if the black rubbed off, others laughed hysterically and scooted away from me, while I tried to maintain a smile on my face. During our training we were constantly told that we were guests in Peru and we were never, but never, to do anything that might insult them.  I broke out in a rash, no doubt from what I perceived as hostility from the Peruvians.

With God as our Father, Brothers all are we.

It was discouraging to go to a school with my two roommates to introduce ourselves and I would be ignored or the principal or a teacher would ask me again and again where I was from. It was as if they did not believe that I could be American. I used to force myself to be on the streets when schools were dismissed. I hoped that eventually the students would become accustomed to me, and not scream and run or laugh when they saw me. I felt that I must have looked like a horrible monster. I had never experienced people screaming in fright, running away from me, touching me to see if the color came off, and while I said nothing to my fellow volunteers, my heart was bursting with sadness. I went there to help the poor, and while I realized that perhaps most had never seen a black woman before, I somehow felt that they were being hateful to me. Two black friends serving in Arequipa were experiencing the same unpleasantness.

                  Let me walk with my brother in perfect harmony.

I noticed when I visited other volunteers in their villages I never got the stares, or screams or attempts to rub off the black.  How odd, I thought. The villagers certainly had more common sense than the so-called “city people.”  Finally, one of the black women  in Arequipa had had enough.  She quit the Peace Corps and returned to the United States. That was a shock to the Peace Corps. We had been prepared and over prepared about Peru, but nothing was ever said about race relations. I wanted to make a difference in the world with my tiny contribution. We had been told that many of us would die from plane accidents.  Their national airline was known as “the death airline.” Yet, we persevered on, determined to represent our country. We were told about the water; we had to boil it for 20 minutes in order to make it safe to drink.  We were told to avoid milk, ice cream, etc.  Nothing deterred us.

Let peace begin with me . . .

Finally I could take the stares and laughter no more and I asked to be transferred to a small village.  Our country director, Frank Mankiewitz, hesitated. Our Peace Corps doctor felt the harassment would be worse in a village, but I persisted. Finally Frank agreed.  He sent me and a new volunteer to the village of Quiquijana to see what we thought of it.  We were welcomed by the school officials and the health official we would be working with. The village people we passed as we walked down the dusty streets were nothing except polite and welcoming! I was impressed! A small house awaited us on the school grounds.  We were excited.  Our own little village! When we returned a week later with our belongings our house had been painted pink! It was lovely.  The tiny house had two rooms and an inside/outside kitchen.  The kitchen was outside of the house in a tiny area without a door and a window without glass.  We almost clicked our heels! We were delighted.  The teachers and mothers of the village met us and it was love at first sight.

       Let this be the moment now.

However, there was one wrinkle. As we walked through the village I spied a Burma Bridge, and I froze. It used to be a permanent bridge, but it had crumbled long ago and the current bridge consisted of ropes and boards over rushing water below. During our training we had to practice walking across such a bridge from ropes strung high in the trees.  I knew that no place on earth would one find such a bridge.  No way! No where! I remembered the way to maintain your balance was to push the ropes out from your body when all you wanted to do was to grab and pull them as close to your body as you could. I yelled down to the instructor that I was going to fall.  He yelled back, “You certainly are if you don’t push the ropes out!”  Damn! I thought!  If I fall, I’ll no doubt break something and that will be the end of my Peace Corps dream, so I’ll go ahead and walk this stupid thing and I’ll never have to see it or walk it again.  Little did I know!

With every step I take, let this be my solemn vow . . .  .

Within a week or so I had conquered that bridge and could walk across it while reading my mail.  The post office and train station were on the other side of the river. Soon one of the two dogs who adopted us began following me across the bridge. If you were alone on the bridge, it was fine.  But when one or two other people were on it, well, it was the bridge from hell because when you put a foot down, somebody else caused the bridge to rise, and I scurried across quickly.  

How I loved Quiquijana!  We were invited to dinner and to family parties.  For my 26th birthday the teachers surprised me at noon by singing Happy Birthday in English; we drank Pisco Sours (a potent and delicious alcoholic drink); the students dedicated a soccer match to me and there was no school in the afternoon.  Everybody, especially me, was more than ready for a siesta! I’ve never had such a birthday!  Only in Quiquijana! A Quechua mother invited us to dinner several times.  Each time she served a guinea pig on a platter.  There it lay in the middle of the table complete with head, teeth, and all four feet pointing upward. I wondered how he had been killed.  The first time we went for dinner I barely touched the meat.  The second time I lied and said my doctor said I could not eat meat for some medical reason.  My roommate was delighted because there was more for her to eat. I just could not eat that guinea pig.  All I could think of was the tiny, furry critters running around the house that I wanted only to pet.

To take each moment and live each moment in peace eternally . . .

At 25th Anniversary of the Peace Corps in 1986, I happened to be in the US and in Washington, DC where the celebration was held.   Let There be Peace on Earth became the Peace Corps anthem.   It was played in the huge white tent where we met in Southwest Washington, later at Arlington Cemetary, and again at the closing ceremony at the Kennedy Center.  I was with two former volunteers who were in my group. We marched from the Lincoln Monument, bearing the flags of our countries, and on to Arlington Cemetery where we paused at the John F. Kennedy site, our founder, and to the ceremony.  There were tears as we remembered the 199 volunteers we lost during the 25 years of Peace Corps existence. Their families were there and I wanted to hug each one and tell them what their sacrifice meant to me. There was Nina, Frank’s secretary in Lima, who had memorized our names and faces before we arrived. She was a wonder. We saw other volunteers who we had not seen since 1964 or earlier. Thunderous applause greeted President Corazon Aquino, of the Philippines, our main speaker. We must have applauded for 15 minutes. And then she saw her volunteers in their yellow tee shirts and we went crazy again as she greeted them. It was a magical weekend. It was fitting for us to meet in a tent and sit on the ground and push the chairs aside.  What a magical moment that was. We were the vanguard for those who came afterwards. We were the pioneers. There has never been another feeling like the 3 days that we met in that huge tent.  We were together. It was us against the world.

Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.

This was also the song played in a small Catholic Church in California when I visited a friend.  I had a terrible cold and was coughing like crazy. She had told the priest that I would speak to the congregation after Mass. I had done no such thing. In fact, I spent most of the time outside because I was coughing like crazy. At the end of Mass an usher came to the door and said they were asking for me. I was ready to kill somebody. I walked to the front of the Church and the priest took my hand and let me to the podium. My mind was blank. I had no idea of what to say. I prayed a quick prayer and then I thought of the weekend of July 4th and I told the parishioners of the countries I had served in, countries which had no independence as we did,  and of people trying to survive while under the thumb of a dictator. At the end the priest hugged me and suddenly the pianist began playing, Let There Be Peace on Earth. The tears began flowing as I fumbled my way back to where my friends sat.  A woman reached out and asked if she could give me a hug.  I nodded assent and she hugged me. Other members of the congregation stopped to chat with me. But it was that song that almost brought me to my knees. It was “our” song, the anthem of the Peace Corps, and it will always have a special meaning to me.

Let There Be Peace on Earth and let it begin with me. . .  .
(Sy Miller & Jill Jackson)