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Travel Advisory

 

 

We work to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth, and dignity are denied.    

      

              --Amnesty International's Mission Statement

 

 

Iain Levine was the Amnesty Representative to the United Nations when I met him nearly 20-years-ago now. It was his story about working as a nurse in the Sudan that got me started on "Another Day in Paradise; International Humanitarian Workers Tell Their Stories" with a foreword by the human rights activist, John Le Carré. In between his travels to war-torn countries, Iain had taken a one-day workshop at Gotham Writers Workshop and pulled together his journal notes from his months in Sudan. Iain is an avid reader and compelling talker. His finished narrative became one of the chapters in the book proposal, which we sold easily, and then the lead chapter in the book itself. It is still in print, more relevant today than ever before. It did well on four continents--North America, Australia and Europe--and recently was also published for a second time in China.

 

When I saw the Amnesty Travel Advisory about the United States this morning on Facebook, I decided to contact Iain to corroborate my intuition that this advisory, echoing the State Department's travel advisories for other countries, was unprecedented and real. Though he is in the UK for a family reunion, and has just resigned from his more recent position as the Deputy Director of Human Rights Watch to teach at Columbia, Iain wrote back to me right away. He confirmed that the advisory is unprecedented and it is real. As soon as Donald Trump was elected, Amnesty mobilized their 2.2 million activists in 150 countries to monitor the new president, and hold him accountable for his so-called policies and executive orders.

 

We may never know whether or not the president and his cohorts care about this censure from a highly respected international organization, but, at the very least, the story has now been told and broadcast : The United States of America is no longer a safe haven for refugees, asylees, immigrants, tourists, or ordinary citizens trapped in a new American nightmare.

 

 

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Children Never Forget Injustice

My blog title today is a quote from Virginia Woolf’s first novel, “The Voyage Out.” Had Ms. Woolf lived into the 21st century, she might have been on the stage in Washington D.C. as a spokeswoman for March For Our Lives. She anticipated this moment of struggle and pain, as have so many others. She lost loved ones in war, her psyche was hammered in The Blitz, she insisted on a room of her own to write, she would not be silenced by illness or skeptical readers, or the patriarchy of a conventional, class-ridden society.

Now a tragedy has shaped a new movement with charismatic leaders. What the so-called grown-ups can't do--get out to vote, govern humanely, regulate what harms us--the next generation will. Until the Gay Rights Movement began, nonviolent protest movements were mostly—not entirely, but mostly-- led by brave young men with women on the sidelines as help-mates and companions. Not so today. The gender equality on that stage in DC over the weekend was telling. We are in the midst of profound change, visible in every news cycle.

Enter Stormy Daniels, a registered Republican, last Sunday night. Her story is a culmination of weeks of discourse about sexual harassment in the work place, and though her “relationship,” if we can call it that, with “the President,” if we can call him that, was “consensual,” it became a threat and a travail to Ms. Cliffords’ family. Her decision to speak out is heroic. I am sure she now needs 24-hour protection, as do some of the organizers of March For Our Lives. I know what it means to need such protection. It is terrifying. To say that these young people are courageous is an understatement.

The producers of 60 minutes portrayed Ms. Cliffords with the dignity she deserves. The story was not in her big breasts, or choice of occupation, but in the intimidation, the hush money and the lies, and on the sometimes inadvertent revelations of a so-called president’s character.

The camera mostly focused on Ms. Clifford’s face, on the articulate woman with a story. And the choice of a non-abrasive, respectful interviewer—a gay man—was smart. Anderson Cooper has a quiet, reassuring presence. The pace of the questioning remained relaxed, as if to say: this is what happened, judge for yourself.

Every journalist struggles to find the armature of a story. The pressures of the marketplace often make this difficult—60 minutes has to compete with delayed sports every week—and when they landed Stormy Daniels, the marketing department was undoubtedly pleased. They could have pandered to the salaciousness of the sexual encounter, but they didn’t. Their presentation of a controversial woman remained tasteful. It was the perfect conclusion to an inspiring weekend.  Read More 
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