Monday, June 15, 2009

Guantanamo--and a pleasant day.

That definitely is mixing two disaparate subjects, but who ever would think that I would be so engrossed in a book on Guantanamo. I never would have picked up Justice at Guantanamo except that the author, Kristine Huskey, is Megan's good friend. They went to law school together, Kristine shared in some of our family gatherings (one notable Thanksgiving that still makes us all laugh over outrageous behavior although I'm not saying on whose part), and she lived in Megan and Brandon's guest house while teaching for two years at the University of Texas Law School (okay, Kristine, I didn't mind sleeping on an air mattress at seventy years of age as long as I could eat your salmon!). She's an impressive, wonderfully warm young woman and, I might add, a great cook. She was approached by a major publisher to write the story of her life, so with a co-author she did. As a young woman, she followed a UNICEF boyfriend to Angola, came back to wait tables, bartend, and model in New York. When she decided to make something of her life, she did it with a vengeance, graduating with honors from Columbia and then from UT Law School. Her increasing interest in international human rights led to a career with a prestigious Washington, D.C. law firm, where she traveled to GITMO many, many times representing the families of Kuwait men who were being held without charges. After eight years, she turned to teaching--a fellowship at American University, smaller stints at other law schools, and finally founding her own human rights center at UT.
What Kirstine reveals about Guantanamo makes real the things we've all heard vaguely--the physical mistreatment--aside from torture, prisoners were at first kept in out door cages with extreme high and low temperatures, a slop bucket, and bright lights 24 hours a day. More importantly, they were denied not only internationally agreed up human rights, but the rights guaranteed in the American constitution. The Kuwaiti men were not allowed to contact their families, never saw a religious counselor of their faith, and at first were not allowed the Koran, which was as badly abused as the prisoners. Basically, they were treated like animals, not individual humans. It's an appalling indictment of America, it's leaership--yes, the Bush administration--and the courts, which always seemed to side with the government. The victories for prisoners were hard won, few, and often overturned.
Kristine's voice rivets you to the book, as she interweaves her personal life--backpacking all over the world, including a rigorous trip in Peruvian mountians, marriage and divorce, a new love that didn't seem to be working out, and then a most happy marriage, her victories as a triathlete (I have one in my family so I now how hard that is!). Throughout she comments on how often she is the only woman in the room, on the case, etc., and how this needs to change. And she ends the book on a note of hope that America will recover its moral strength and position int he world.
Kristine is an amazing woman and she tells her story well. Even if you think reading about Guantanamo would be hard, this is worth it. And probaby should be on everyone's reading list.
As to my nice day, my balance was much better, I got a lot done in the office and am beginning to think about clearing our my personal belongings and cleaning out my desk and files--I already sent a batch of "memoir" files to the Southwest Writers Collection at Texas State University-San Marcos which has my papers--no one can understand how important I feel that a literary archive wants my papers. Wow! Me? I had lunch with a good friend, and a productive but low-key afternoon at home, with a good nap and delicious leftovers from last night for dinner.
Then Sue next door emailed me that her son, Hunter, liked what I said about him in my blog last night--after all, he ate squash and meatloaf with chicken livers in it (Jordan emailed this morning to ask, "Why would you put chicken livers in a meatloaf?"). Then Sue said she gave me a "shout out" (that's a term I don't know--Canadian or just a new trendy one?) on her blog tonight. I read it and was overwhelmed with her praise. At the risk of self-promotion, which I seem to do a lot of these days re the cookbook, check out "Replete Life." If you enter that on google, her blog is the first choice to come up.

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