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Sarah Palin is the “other” whom Yoda spoke about.

calendar   Wednesday - April 01, 2015

Memories of a lost land

Turtler’s comment got me thinking, and when I think near a keyboard anything can happen.

I found this at Keith Addison’s Journey To Forever website, which also has a great entry on natural mosquito repellents.

Kurt Vonnegut 1979 - Biafra, A People Betrayed

It was a nation with more citizens than Ireland and Norway combined. It proclaimed itself an independent republic on May 30, 1967. On January 17 of 1970, it surrendered unconditionally to Nigeria, the nation from which it had tried to secede. It had few friends in this world, and among its active enemies were Russia and Great Britain. Its enemies were pleased to call it a “tribe.”

Some tribe.

The Biafrans were mainly Christians and they spoke English melodiously, and their economy was this one: small-town free enterprise. The worthless Biafran currency was gravely honored to the end.

The tune of Biafra’s national anthem was Finlandia, by Jan Sibelius. The equatorial Biafrans admired the arctic Finns because the Finns won and kept their freedom in spite of ghastly odds.

Biafra lost its freedom, of course, and I was in the middle of it as all its fronts were collapsing. I flew in from Gabon on the night of January 3, with bags of corn, beans, and powdered milk, aboard a blacked out DC6 chartered by Caritas, the Roman Catholic relief organization. I flew out six nights later on an empty DC4 chartered by the French Red Cross. It was the last plane to leave Biafra that was not fired upon.

While in Biafra, I saw a play which expressed the spiritual condition of the Biafrans at the end. It was set in ancient times, in the home of a medicine man. The moon had not been seen for many months, and the crops had failed. There was nothing to eat anymore. A sacrifice was made to a goddess of fertility, and the sacrifice was refused. The goddess gave the reason: The people were not sufficiently unselfish and brave.

Before the drama began, the national anthem was played on an ancient marimba. It seems likely that similar marimbas were heard in the court of the Kingdom of Biafra. The black man who played the marimba was naked to the waist. He squatted on the stage. He was a composer. He also held a doctor’s degree from the London School of Economics.

Some tribe.


...

De mortuis nil nisi bonum. Say nothing but good of the dead.

I asked a Biafran how long his nation had existed so far, and he replied, “Three Christmases, and a little bit more.” He wasn’t a hungry baby. He was a hungry man. He was a living skeleton, but he walked like a man.

Miriam Reik and I picked up Vance Bouijaily in Paris, and we flew down to Gabon and then into Biafra. The only way to get into Biafra was at night by air. There were only eight passenger seats at the rear of the cabin. The rest of the cabin was heaped with bags of food. The food was from America.

We flew over water, there were Russian trawlers below. They were monitoring every plane that came into Biafra. The Russians were helpful in a lot of ways: They gave the Nigerians Ilyushin bombers and MIGs and heavy artillery. And the British gave the Nigerians artillery too and advisers, and tanks and armored cars, and machine guns and mortars and all that, and endless ammunition.

America was neutral.

When we got close to the one remaining Biafran airport, which was a stretch of highway, its lights came on. It was a secret. Its lights resembled two rows of glowworms. The moment our wheels touched the runway, the runway lights went out and our plane’s headlights came on. Our plane slowed down, pulled off the runway, killed its lights, and then everything was pitch black again. There were only two white faces in the crowd around our plane. One was a Holy Ghost Father. The other was a doctor from the French Red Cross. The doctor ran a hospital for the children who were suffering from kwashiorkor, the pitiful children who had no protein.

Father.

Doctor.

As I write, Nigeria has arrested all the Holy Ghost Fathers, who stayed to the end with their people in Biafra.

The priests were mostly Irishmen. They were beloved. Whenever they built a church, they also built a school. Children and simple men and women thought all white men were priests, so they would often beam at Vance or me and say, “Hello, Father.” The Fathers are now being deported forever. Their crime: compassion in time of war. We were taken to the Frenchman’s hospital the next morning, in a chauffeur-driven Peugeot. The name of the village itself sounded like the wail of a child: AwoOmama.

I said to an educated Biafran, “Americans may not know much about Biafra, but they know about the children.”’ We’re grateful,” he replied, “but I wish they knew more than that. They think we’re a dying nation. We aren’t. We’re an energetic, modern nation that is being born! We have doctors. We have hospitals. We have public-health programs. If we have so much sickness, it is because our enemies have designed every diplomatic and military move with one end in mind — that we starve to death.”

About kwashiorkor: It is a rare disease, caused by a lack of protein. Its cure has been easy, until the blockading of Biafra.

The worst sufferers there were the children of refugees, driven from their homes, then driven off the roads and into the bush by MIGs and armored columns. The Biafrans weren’t jungle people. They were village people—farmers and professionals and clerks and businessmen. They had no weapons to hunt with. Back in the bush, they fed their children whatever roots and fruit they were lucky enough to find. At the end, a very common diet was water and thin air. So the children came down with kwashiorkor, no longer a rare disease. The child’s hair turned red. His skin split like the skin of a ripe tomato. His rectum protruded. His arms and legs were like lollipop sticks.

Vance and Miriam and I waded through shoals of children like those at Awo-Omama. We discovered that if we let our hands dangle down among the children, a child would grasp each finger or thumb—five children to a hand. A finger from a stranger, miraculously, would allow a child to stop crying for a while.

A MIG came over, fired a few rounds, didn’t hit anything this time, though the hospital had been hit often before. Our guide guessed that the pilot was an Egyptian or an East German.

I asked a Biafran nurse what sort of supplies the hospital was most in need of.

Her answer: “Food.”


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Posted by Drew458   United States  on 04/01/2015 at 04:11 PM   
Filed Under: • Africa •  
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Oh, and here's some kind of visitor flag counter thingy. Hey, all the cool blogs have one, so I should too. The Visitors Online thingy up at the top doesn't count anything, but it looks neat. It had better, since I paid actual money for it.
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