Tag Archives: English

LSS: Tales of a Governor

Edwards was convicted back in 2001. I moved here about that time. Therefore, I never lived in Edwardian Louisiana.

However, I’ve talked to enough people to be convinced that, aside from his extended encounter on the wrong side of the law, the four-term governor definitely has some magic attached to him.

Edwards stories have long fascinated me—the Free Edwards movement. George W. Bush’s refusal to pardon him. The love and affection many die-hard Republicans still feel toward him, regardless of the circumstances. And now, that he has served his state and his time—the throngs of people flocking to be his friend on facebook is another indication of the support he continues to enjoy.

By Thursday night, in about a week’s time, Edwin Washington Edwards had accumulated 2,631 friends. In facebook speak, that’s impressive.

Born way back in 1927, Edwards will celebrate his 84th birthday in August. Judging by the speed he confirms facebook friends and answers messages, he’s a very computer-savvy

83-year-old fellow.

Here’s what he wrote about himself on his profile page:

“I have had a long and interesting life. I went from a sharecropper’s farm in the depressions days of the ’30s to the halls of congress and the governor’s mansion in Louisiana. I have been to the depths and risen to the heights as the only 4-term governor of our state. I am now retired and will be traveling the state during the coming months for scheduled book signing events; to meet and greet old friends and make new ones. In spite of my age I have no disabilities and I am in reasonably good health for which I am very thankful.”

Plenty of people on the page are urging him to run again, displaying “Edwards for Governor” buttons and much enthusiasm for the state’s prodigal son returned home.

Frankly, I find the whole exchange fascinating and so very Louisiana on so many levels.

Interestingly enough, two years ago, another “Edwin Washington Edwards” send me a facebook friend request. At first, I presumed it was a prank of some sort. Then I noticed some of the people friending this Edwards seemed to have legitimate ties to the former governor. So, I sent him a

message.

At the time, I was teaching in a local high school. I was confused as to how someone serving time in a federal prison could have access to Facebook when I couldn’t get it at the high school where I was teaching. So, I asked the person on the other end of the screen that question.

The reply: Silly. There’s MUCH more freedom in prisons (with the sole exception of having the choice to leave) than in schools.

Even though that and the other replies seemed quite reasonable, I wasn’t convinced the former governor was on the other end of the connection at the Federal Correctional Institution in Oakdale.

Shortly after our exchange in February 2009, the Edwin Washington Edwards Facebook page was gone.

For the sake of curiosity, I hung onto our exchange. I thought it to be good fodder—regardless of who wrote it.

This week when Edwin Washington Edwards and I became Facebook friends again, I decided to ask him about it.

His reply: Two years ago, I was in prison and had no access to the Internet so it was not me.

I sent him the exchange and he again assured me he had not created a Facebook page while serving in federal prison. For some reason, I found this news comforting.

Additionally, he was curious to find out who had done it.

I decided to ask for his advice on staying in good health.

Here is his reply verbatim: “I’ve heard You’re only as young as the woman you feel … if that’s true I’m only 32. That’s the only advice I have to give you on staying young! *smiling*”

He also mentioned he’d be stopping in Lafayette at some point soon to sign copies of his book.

Godspeed, Edwin Edwards.

Only in Louisiana.

LSS: Join the Senbazuru

Senbazuru.

I didn’t know such a word existed when I had the idea for a project that would consume much of my week and weekend.

Like people around the world, I’ve been haunted by the aftermath of horror in Japan this week. Watching the deteriorating conditions was exhausting. I kept wishing there was something physical to do to help.

Fresh out of solutions to prevent multiple nuclear meltdowns and armed with the knowledge that thoughts and prayers sent skyward are probably the best things most of us can do at this point, I still felt the need to do something.

Then, I thought about 1,000 cranes — something tangible to offer to the Japanese in their time of need.

The ancient legend of senbazuru, the folding and stringing of 1,000 paper cranes, represents hope and promises recovery for people in Japan—something we could all use right about now.

To be clear, the idea of folding 1,000 cranes and the act of folding 1,000 origami cranes are two very different things.

Anyone who has ever tried their hand at origami will attest that it’s an art of precision and grace—two traits that aren’t necessarily innate to my character. Fortunately, that’s where friends come in. Friends have volunteered to help, and we’re making some headway. Slowly the caliber of our cranes is improving.

I have no illusions of our cranes reaching the Japanese level of execution, but I want the small works of art to be nice. After all, we’re sending them to experts.

Folding tiny cranes has reinforced what we’ve watched on television this week. The Japanese are the masters of orderliness and patience. Watching so many people there face the definitive crisis with such stoicism gives insight to Japanese friends who have spoken to me about frustrations they’ve felt with their culture when they’ve wanted to express individualism.

In so many ways our cultures differ.

We know how to thrive on individualism. They seem to know so much more about succeeding together.

One of my Japanese friends lives and works in Tokyo. Since the tsunami, part of her family has been living in a camp in northern Japan. She assures me that she will use her strong network of friends to take an Acadiana-created senbazuru to one of the towns obliterated by the tsunami.

We have set an ambitious goal of mailing our senbazuru to Japan by the end of this week. By the time you read this, I believe we’ll be well on our way to 1,000 paper cranes. However, the fact of the matter is that we still need lots of help to accomplish this gesture to send to the other side of the world. We are encouraging every person who makes cranes to write a message of hope on at least one of the creations. I’m also taking photos of folks as they make cranes, which I plan to send along with the senbazuru.

Our gesture will do nothing to fix the horrible situation of northeastern Japan, but simple acts of kindness can change things by creating waves of good.

If you’d like to try your hand at making some, please do. It just takes a little practice. If you’d like to make cranes to be included in the senbazuru we’re sending to Japan, simply e-mail me.

In Japan, cranes are mystical creatures. A thousand of them represent hope, and Japan, along with the rest of us, could use a little hope about now.

LSS: A living saint?

Immaculée Ilibagiza may be a living saint.
Miraculously, she survived the Rwandan genocide that took the lives of her entire family and the vast majority of her fellow Tutsis in Rwanda during the horrors of 1994 — a reminder that no one should be lulled into complacency believing previous generations cornered the market on genocide.
Less than 20 years ago, the Hutu people of Rwanda killed up to 800,000 of their fellow countrymen, women and children.
Ilibagiza survived by hiding 91 days in a 3’ by 4’ bathroom with seven other women.
In case you don’t remember the Rwandan genocide or those terrors, Hutus killed Tutsis during the tribal genocide. Neighbors killed neighbors. Students killed teachers. Teachers killed students and on into the horrible on. Death was everywhere in Rwanda. Now many of the killers acknowledge that they had no beef with the people they murdered. They were just following orders. They thought the powers that ordered the killing might reward them with a banana plantation or something more or less valuable.
With wild abandon, the Hutus killed Tutsis. No gas chambers necessary. Just machetes and sticks and daily calls for killing on the radio. The leaders of this chilling call especially wanted Tutsi children dead. They wanted to kill the people off entirely. They almost succeeded.
Yet, a few are left to tell the story.
Ilibagiza is the only one of her family who survived — villagers killed her father, her brothers and her mother.
These days, the theme of the story Ilibagiza tells is not the one most of us would expect.
The story she tells is one of forgiveness.
“People do evil things and hurt themselves and others, but during that time I was in the bathroom, I was praying. When I got to the part, ‘forgive those who trespass against me,’ I realized I was lying to God,” she said.
So she prayed for her heart to be changed. She didn’t want to lie to God anymore.
And there in the bathroom, Ilibagiza says she went from a person in a rage who wanted to become a soldier and avenge her family to a person who realized that people had the capacity to choose good or evil — and that people could change.
She began to incorporate a new part in her prayers.
“Please let me live to tell my story,” she said.
And now, “I don’t hate anymore,” she said.
Instead she laughs. She dances — and she encourages others to do the same as she spreads a message of forgiveness.
“I can smile. I can live in peace — no matter all the hundreds of people I have lost in my life. It is a journey. If I can forgive, others can too,” she said.
Ilibagiza’s New York Times best-selling book, Left to Tell, which chronicles her experience hiding in the bathroom and surviving her country’s genocide, was released in 2006. She said she hopes her time in Lafayette will lead to more peace and love between neighbors and any people who don’t understand each other or believe they are different from others — much like the Hutus and Tutsis of Rwanda, who now live side-by-side again.
Ilibagiza will be in Lafayette April 15-16 to lead a retreat at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church. The cost is between $60 and $75. For details, go to www.immaculee.com or call 337-278-9257. Ilibagiza stresses that though she is Catholic and the retreat will take place in a Catholic church, that this retreat is open to people of all or no faith.
“We are all living the human experience,” she said.