Saturday, May 14, 2005

On art, torture and trust

I just came from the Plow Creek common building where we are holding an art show and reception for one of our most senior members, Jim Harnish. Folks are wandering through the common room admiring a life time of pottery and ceramic pieces Jim created.

After the last Evergreen Leaders workshop a participant lent me a book he thought I'd like to read: The Blindfolds Eye: My journey from torture to truth by Sister Dianna Ortiz.
Sister Dianna was one of thousands of people who were tortured in Guatemala by the army in the 1970's and 1980's. Sister Dianna, a nun, was raped repeatedly and burned 111 times on her back during a 24-hour period at a police station before she escaped. Most of those who were tortured were killed.

Torture was used as a strategy to break trust in small groups on the left. They chose unknown people like Sister Dianna to torture in order to send shock waves through the small groups they were part of, according to the US ambassador to Guatemala at the time, Thomas Stroock. Now declassified documents clearly show that US officials were working with Guatemalan officials to cover up the torture that went on including the torturing of Sister Dianna, an American who was teaching children.

Plow Creek is a community built on trust. At the common building there are seven tables filled with a variety of ceramic and pottery pieces that Jim created over a life time. Jim is in his early 80's and in poor health but he was smiling and joking with his relatives and friends who came to the reception.

As Jim's health has deteriorated he has needed more and more help with the simple tasks of life.
This takes deep trust on his part and deep trust on the numerous Plow Creek people who each week lend a hand in caring for Jim and Donna. His wife, Donna, has been incommunicado and in need of 24-hour care since a stroke six years ago.

Torturers destroy trust and life. While too many governments were torturing people Jim Harnish was living a communal life at Plow Creek and creating art.

Artists and lovers like Jim build life and trust. I am delighted that we can honor one of our elders today, one who has given his life to building art and trust.

Now I am going to go back and rejoin the party.