Chapter 23 – The roots of terrorism, part 1.
“I am from East Timor…” ‘A’ continued her story… “or Timor Leste as we say in Portuguese, a free nation since May of 2002, saved from 27 years of relentless slaughter of US backed armed forces from Indonesia.
“And yet today we have become something we never were before… a troubled and divided people. And why? Because of politics? Religion? Ethnic background?
“No. Because of this, Mr. and Mrs. O’Brien.”
And ‘A’ pulled more dollar bills from her vest pocket and lifted slightly the hoods of Henry and Mieko, and placed them against their lips.
“Open your mouths.” she said. “Now bite down. Thank you.”
“This is the taste of money – an irresistible taste, wouldn’t you say? And make no mistake about it, it’s the taste of the US dollar, today, the formal currency of East Timor, our free nation.” ‘A’-san spat at the knees of Henry and Mieko.
She removed the bills from their mouths, and grabbed a rifle from ‘B’ holding now one in each hand. And lifted up the rifles and placed them on the lips of the half hooded couple.
“Open your mouths.” she said. “And this is the taste of a gun barrel.
Now let’s do a little survey, shall we?
Which one, given the choice – the gun barrel or the money – would you rather consume right now?
I’m awaiting your answers, please!” ‘A’ demanded.
“The money.” Henry and Mieko said, mouths dry and voices cracked and shaking.
“Very good. Then you understand completely the two weapons used insidiously against our people for almost three decades in a strategic and well known imperial strategy called please-let-me-help-you, but ultimately translates do-what-I-say, take-lots-of-money, just-be-quiet.
“Many of our villages took the money. But more than many did not. The ones that took the money took up arms for Indonesia as militia. The ones that didn’t were either killed in genocide, or somehow stayed alive. Yes I am using the word genocide. But I’m getting ahead of myself a bit.
“The survivors secretly organized. Even after sixteen years, any hint of public criticism of the militia or the Indonesian regime meant instant death.
“And it was indeed after sixteen years of this vicious domination, in the year 1991, that our old Imperial landlords, the Dutch, announced with the United Nations a delegation to be sent to our land to investigate the possibility of infractions of human rights.
“We the people of East Timor, the resistance, got word of this visit, and secretly, out of a hope that could not be slaughtered, began making banners to announce to this delegation our nightmare for an entire generation.
“At the last minute, the delegation canceled their trip. And our hopes were trampled upon. There was no one in this world who would ever notice us, or the agony we endure.
“A few hundred of these organizers, boys and young men mostly, were found out, and chased by secret police and Indonesian military and local militia into a Catholic church. Oh… I didn’t mention? I am, like most of my people, and like you, Mr. O’Brien, a Roman Catholic.
“But this was not the sanctuary they thought it would be. The Indonesian forces entered the church and after much chaos and many beatings of these boys, brought forth two young men. One, the informer – the plant – who identified our youth. Two, Sebastião Gomes, the leader of these young men.
“Both were executed right there, inside the church, with gun shots to their bellies. A rather painful way to die, wouldn’t you say, Mrs. O’Brien – your own courageous samurai would commit suicide by stabbing themselves in the gut, but usually accompanied by ‘a second’ standing over them with a sword for quickly decapitating and ending the unimaginable pain of such a slow and deadly wound. No such mercy was granted in this case.
“There was a funeral mass held for Sebastião , with burial in Santa Cruz cemetery. I was there with my constant companion, my one-year-old infant daughter. Two weeks later, a traditional mourning was held for Sebastião. It began with a small number in the center of town, but, gradually grew. This was a traditional mourning, not a public gathering, not a protest. But it gradually became one. Office workers, day laborers, old people and students began joining the procession in this beautiful sharing of the pain and suffering we had all endured for so many years. The procession was peaceful and cleansing, and there was a healing sadness and joy among us. Some of the students brought forth the banners made for the canceled UN-Portuguese delegation announcing the unthinkable abuses put upon us.
“And I stood with my baby girl wrapped snug on my back with hundreds of people at the cemetery wall outside the gates, waiting to enter. We hadn’t realized until it was too late that hundreds of Indonesian soldiers, each carrying an American made automatic rifle, were marching in slow and deliberate progress, behind us, along the route we had just walked.
“When they were so close, as you might say Mr. O’Brien, that we could see the whites of their eyes, they raised their rifles and began to fire upon us all. I was immediately hit in the left shoulder and my baby was on my back, and I twisted her around to my chest going to the ground to lie upon her, to protect her from being shot.
“But it was too late. The bullet that pierced my shoulder, pierced her little heart and I knew at once she was dead in my cradling body still trying to protect her.
“I was trampled by people trying to flee. But there was no where for anyone to go. I was then trampled by soldiers who picked off at point blank those who dared to raise their heads or even cry out loud. I played dead… and prayed I soon would be. This slaughter went on for an hour, the soldiers streaming through the cemetery gate, jumping the walls, taking cover behind tomb stones to pick off at random any man, woman or child that moved.
“Were it not for the presence of a couple courageous American reporters – who actually confronted the front line of this firing squad – and a cameraman inside the cemetery who got it all on tape – the world would have been, as in the prior sixteen years, oblivious to this carnage.
“You know what? I forgot to finish making tea. Would you pardon me a moment?”
Chapter 24 – The roots of terrorism, part 2.
“Ah. Good tea.” ‘A’ said. “Would you like a cup?”
Three nods came from Henry and Mieko and the hooded old man.
“ ‘B’, keep them in half hood, all three of them this time, and take off their hand cuffs, and make them tea, please.
“Now, shall we continue? Let’s go back in time seven years before the 1991 massacre of Santa Cruz I just described.”
‘A’ sat on the floor now. Back slouched. Legs crossed.
“In February 1984 my fourth child was born. Yet another son, making four. To my husband I met as a girl in our village, and he, a boy I grew up with. We married in 1974. Still children ourselves. And one year after the other, I bore three sons. And each was abducted in their toddler years and killed.
“And now I was bearing a fourth. But in the months of this pregnancy he was under suspicion by militia in a neighboring village and by the ever present secret police that went where ever and when ever they pleased.
“He was forced to hide in the hills. But when I delivered the baby, my husband decided to surrender. And he lived in our house for one month and then the ABRI, the Indonesian Armed Forces, made him a TBO (Tenaga Bantuan Operasi, Operational Assistant).
“On the day he reported for duty he was executed. Our new baby boy died at 14 months because of illness and we had no medicine.
“The ABRI then forced me to join a women’s night patrol to guard the village, Lalerek Mutin, from Falintil (the resistance) attack.
“Sending out women to patrol the night was only an excuse for raping us. An ABRI Kopassus (special forces) officer soon forced me to live with him as his wife. He showed me off in public and in private beat me mercilessly.
“I escaped to my home village and was confronted by the men in my family and community that for the sake of their lives I should return to the officer. ‘Better to sell your soul to save our necks. No one will blame you.’ they said.
“And for these men I did so. And I lived with the officer for one year until his tour of duty was completed.
“He left Timor Leste and I soon miscarried his child.
“Yet blame me they did. Doing what humans beings do finding fault with the victim as cover for their cowardice turned to shame.
“My father, Mrs. O’Brien, labored for assistants to the ruling Japanese commander of Timor Leste in 1942, Yuichi Tsuchihashi.
“He learned enough Japanese in two years to remember the phrase… how does that go in English, Mr. O’Brien? ‘if you see a stinking hole…?’ finish the phrase, please?”
“If you see a stinking hole, cover it.” he said.
“Thank you.” `A’ said.
“And what stinks more,” she went on, “and curtained with more tedious care by the best that man can build – in wall or monument or church or skyscraper – than the smoldering stink of shame. I digress.
“I became the scapegoat of my village, forced for many years to appease the violent enemy because I am a woman.
“So the village men urged me again to marry an Indonesian officer – a third time while the same men turned their backs and condemned me for association with the enemy. My new husband was a Hindu from Jakarta. His mother’s side came from a Christian village on the Indonesian island of Ambon and he had already experienced first hand, the treachery of Indonesian armed forces.
“His father’s side came from Hindus here in Kashmir, a family that over years made their way to Indonesia when the faith they lived became detrimental. And why? For religious purposes? No. Because the vast majority of the population, who had long been Muslim in Kashmir wanted self-determination, which, in this case, was their desire to be integrated with the new state of Pakistan.
“The self-determination of these Muslim people, of course, was negated by the guns of Hindus, and my husband’s family wisely decided not to get involved.
“But I learned to love this Hindu man and some time later bore our daughter, my first daughter after bearing four sons, the same baby girl I cuddled dead in my arms at the massacre of Santa Cruz. Excuse me, again please. I need a rest.”
And ‘A’ stretched her legs and spread her body on her back upon the floor and stared blankly at the ceiling for a few moments, then in a low voice, whined, and quickly sat up again.
“And before that… on December 7, 1975 there was the invasion of East Timor… Operation Lotus… from Indonesian military primarily trained on Bali, the only Hindu island in a vast Muslim land.
“One third of us, of our entire population, were slaughtered in the first several months. Over 200,000 people. A genocide unmatched in scale by the death of Russians during the Second World War, or according to western newspapers even by the devil himself, Pol Pot, doing his own work simultaneously.
“And two days before the invasion – with an irony so vast and hideous it continues to this day to mask itself in shame – on December 5, 1975 US President Gerald Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger were wrapping up meetings in Jakarta, Indonesia giving their blessings, their money, their weapons, and their military expertise for training their puppet Indonesian army for the quick and dirty deed of a secret genocide of the people of East Timor.
“If there is a lesson to this story it is, without a doubt, this: Of course neither Ford nor Kissinger are genocidal, nor was their blessing to invade ever described as such. But they knew from a wide range of their own intelligence, and in their secret hearts, that genocide would happen. And it mattered, compared to the expediency of capital markets, not even the droppings of a mouse.
“And before that for all of two or three weeks we had just begun to taste the freedom we had long prayed and thirsted for by democratically and peacefully gaining our independence from centuries of Portuguese colonial rule.
“Only days of freedom viciously taken away
from a kind and a deserving and a peace loving people. And why?
“For direct US control of strategic sea lanes for their ships and submarines, for direct or indirect US control of newly found oil fields, for the US to make nice with a monopolistic, capital-market dictator, Suharto, who had already committed genocide among his own countrymen ostensibly out of fear of Communism, in reality out of fear of losing the unspeakable wealth he had recently stolen from his very own people.
“And finally, not to forget the icing on the cake, the Ford-Kissinger team accomplished these objectives, by sending this muscle bound, American-armed Muslim crusade to slaughter a virtually unarmed Christian people. Each of us has a point, Mr. and Mrs. O’Brien, where we will draw a line in the sand, do we not?
“Here I draw the line. And your people call this terrorism? You asked me to tell my story. As you know, Mr. O’Brien, We Christians do not call holy our unending train of wars. We simply say they’re justifiable, validated by history and by the will of God, by virtue of the fruits of righteous nations and the rule of canon law.”
And here, ‘A’ stood up and left the room.
Chapter 25 – The roots of love.
“Uh oh,” said Susan.
The girls were walking into the gym after leaving their Uncle Kenji on the train.
“That’s about us.” Katie said.
Two men and two women, all in dark blue suits, were speaking with Godotnova-sensei who looked quickly at the girls and quickly away again.
The girls flung down their gym gear bags and sat with the little girls, some serious and stretching, some not so, swinging socks and towels now and giggling with Katie and Susan O’Brien.
The five adults stood over the girls and giggling stopped, and a twinge of panic gripped the throats of the sisters, and Godotnova-sensei said, “Susan-san, Katie-san, can you come with me for a moment, please?”
The seven walked in silence into an office down a hallway at the far end of the gym. Drapes covered from top to bottom the normally open glass office walls where coaches would sometimes meet or call a girl in for the most serious of reprimands.
And pausing for two or three seconds after closing shut the office door, the coach said, “Katie and Susan, these gentlemen are from the Japan Foreign Ministry, and these ladies are from Chofu-shi Child Services.”
One of the ladies said, “We are sorry for your situation, girls, and we understand how hard this all must be, with an important national qualifying competition coming up on Wednesday morning.”
One of the agents stepped out to take a call.
“So for at least the next few days you will be under the care of and living with your coach and the family she is home-staying with.”
“What about our Obá-chan,” the girls stuttered out together, their hands holding up their eyes and cheeks.
“Your grandmother is fine and is being asked to remain at home for her own protection.”
The agent who stepped out quietly came back into the room.
“Protection from what, from whom?” Susan said.
“We do not want you to meet any more with this man known as Kenji and Satchitananda-san.
We’ve just come to realize he has a cell phone,” said the agent who had briefly left the room,
“and, girls, we’ll have to take away your cell phones too.”
“But he’s our Unc…!” Susan started…
“He’s our unconditional friend!” Katie finished, stepping on Susan’s foot.
“Yes, he’s our friend. And Obá-chan trusts him.” Susan said with eyes that moved and stood still and moved and stood still again into the eyes of each of the five adults.
“We don’t understand,” said Katie, whose eyes were doing the same.
“We’re here to protect you,” one of the ladies said, “And your grandmother,” said the other lady.
“We need our Obá-chan!” the one said crying now.
“We need our mother and our father!” said the other crying too.
“You can stay with your coach, girls, and attend school tomorrow and Tuesday and train and compete on Wednesday morning, or you can come with us and live at the Foster Shelter. That’s the choice you have now.” the same lady said.
“Your coach and her home-stay family are guaranteeing your safety,” said the other lady, “As are these two gentleman from the Japan Foreign Ministry who will never be far away.”
The meeting quickly ended in appropriate courtesies, And the girls and their coach walked slowly together back to the gymnasium floor. “I am so sorry, Katie-san, Susan-san,” their coach stopped and grabbed the girls’ hands and crouched to one knee to speak. “This was my idea, and I am sorry, but they came here to take you away today, and it took us an hour on cell phones – them with their superiors, and me with my home-stay family – to allow you this alternative.”
And Katie and Susan O’Brien let tears flow once again and hugged their coach and each other for a long and needed embrace.
The coach stood up with her arms still around their shoulders, “You’ve brought your new music?” she said trying to smile.
“Thank you, Godotnova-sensei.” Katie said.
“Thank you very much,” said Susan, searching on her person for a bag that wasn’t there. “Oh,” she caught herself. “Yes, we have it on cd.”
“Good. Let’s hear it. But do your warm-ups first” said the coach, with pats on the backs of the girls.
? ? ? ? ?
In the belly of the Japan Foreign Ministry in the heart of Tokyo on the very same Sunday afternoon, not long after the girls arrived at the gym a pair of technicians seated at monitors motioned their superior over.
One of them began explaining: “We’ve been watching what’s been quietly handed down to watch, you know, the cell phones… of these executives… um, the Mori brothers, at Jifu Television Network. We just picked up this conversation between the oldest brother and a man called Kenji.”
“Well, let’s hear it,” the superior said.
? ? ? ? ?
Katie grabbed her favorite hoop and went first, and Susan stood by the coach who queued the music. “We combined these two melodies the way we first heard them played together,” said Susan, “we’re both going to use this.”
Katie stood at the center of the performing mat and the piano tones from their grandfather’s lullaby began, and Katie went from pose to flow with hoop and hands and feet that followed with Kenji’s theme blending in. And the coach and Susan sat down to behold an elegant vision of some new girl dancing to elegant counter points of songs.
And like a new girl dancing is exactly what Katie was feeling in a way familiar and in a way she had never felt before. The hoop, she could see, was not something other nor something attached to her somehow. The hoop, she could see, the hoop, she could feel, was not a “what” but a “who”, as much of her as her hands and feet as much of her, to her own quiet surprise, as her own dancing breath, her own dancing smile.
And touching the hoop or catching it, or seeing it fly away in throw, was not something she was doing nor something she achieved but something she watched bloom like a flower in the increasing difficulty of her routine. And finally at the end with the impossible toss and tumble run, flipping and turning and leaping, and gliding to a stand-still on her hands, Katie saw this flower opened in perfection: looking up at the hoop caught in her upside and pointed right foot spinning effortlessly and without care.
“Wow,” said Susan to her sister, “where’d the spin at the end come from… that an accident or real?”
“Your turn, Sis, and don’t ask me, the whole thing felt like a wonderful accident.”
Then Susan with mallets repeated the magic with a “wow” from Katie, and sitting mouth-opened, her head in wander in her hands came tears of joy from Inga Godotnova.
Teammates and parents had gathered to watch, now laughing and applauding, sharing in the glow of sisters who stood embraced.
“I’ve been doing this most of my life as an athlete and a coach, and I’ve never seen anything so…” the coach was saying and paused.
“So what?” responded the girls.
“Do you think you can do that on Wednesday morning?” said the coach.
“Do what?” smiled the girls.