Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Chain of Love

On Mother's Day Weekend, I'm thinking that Life's greatest gift must be to have a good Mom. Being born beautiful or "privileged" or talented is hardly equivalent to being born to someone to whom you matter more than life itself.

I had a Mother like that. She made me feel special when I wasn't, safe from half a continent away, secure in her never-ending support. Her confidence in me encouraged me not to fear criticism or failure, for I would never be without at least one "fan." At age five, I spent an afternoon preparing a surprise for her. Her bridge club was coming to our home that night, so, helpful child that I was, I colored on all her best napkins... flowers and hearts, heavy crayon all over the linen. I presented them proudly, at the last minute, as she began to set her table. She never lost her smile, as together we set them at each place. When her friends arrived, she "showed off" my handiwork, and I went off to bed so pleased to have enhanced her table decor. I'm sure none of her friends left with crayola smears, but I never knew a switch took place. Years later, as a Mother and an often harried "hostess" myself, I admired beyond words her compassion and her composure.

Mother had two great remedies for whatever Life threw at you: a pot of tea and Vicks VapoRub. Crying in my pillow late at night over some lost love, she'd make us tea (very strong tea...5 teabags brewed for 5 minutes) and assure me, "This will help you sleep."

It did. My mother's love was, in those days, more powerful than caffeine.

My Mother also believed in the medicinal properties of Vicks. My husband attributes my non-complaining attitude toward illness to this day... to my fear of being coated in Vicks as I was as a child. My Mother raised no hypochondriacs, that is certain.

First and foremost, I'm thinking of her today.

But we've "met" some other great Moms in this last year. Indeed, it was the one saving grace in this whole Nifong-Mangum Hoax ordeal, that these boys came from such strong and loving families. So I was not surprised really to read the news article this week that spoke of Mary Ellen Finnerty's compassion for Maggie Anthony, another Mother in distress, in sorrow.

I once read a definition of great sorrow that I've never forgotten. The pain, the author wrote, was like a color: indescribable, except, of course, to others who've had the similar misfortune to be consumed in that same hue. "Outsiders" can imagine. They can empathize. But without that special lens of similar suffering, they just cannot "see." They are color-blind to the tones and tints of that particular suffering... that can almost envelop the seer-initiate in its intensive wash.

So, we've seen in recent years, in our various towns and cities, unique and definitive support groups spring up..."color-coded" to specific sorrows. They enable us to share our stories with others that know, first hand, the shades and intensity of the "color" of our pain. Parents of Murdered Children, Gold Star Moms, and many others...all encourage us to open up and find comfort in bonding with others in similar situations. The Duke lacrosse team families found themselves in a unique position: they were, indeed, fortunate to have had the support of an already organized group of dedicated and loyal team families. Many of us marveled from afar at the bond between all of them and the continual effort to sustain and support each other. It was truly inspiring to watch. Honestly, I doubt they otherwise would have found the niche group they needed. Has the charter chapter of The Parents of the Prosecutorially Imperilled been formed yet?. The more I read, the more I believe the number of eligible members out there might be very significant.

So, as we approached Mother's Day weekend this year, it was again inspiring to read that Mary Ellen Finnerty, whose own son is now exonerated, whose circle of support is still fully intact, made the personal effort to reach out to another Mom, alone right now with the "color" of her pain,... Maggie Anthony. Ms. Anthony is the mother of Eric Volz, another young man whose life is imperilled by an abuse of power and legally authorized lies. His ordeal is taking place in Nicaragua, a country just as foreign, strange, and seemingly mob-ruled as Durham, North Carolina. We can only imagine how fear is amplified when reason and rule of law are abrogated, and your child is in the crosshairs of corrupt authority. We can only imagine...but we can't know.

But Mary Ellen Finnerty knows. And she's extended that gift of understanding to a stranger in great need.

Mary Ellen Finnerty knows the "color" of Maggie Anthony's pain. She saw that color daily for over thirteen months. She knows the frustration of seeing truth trumped by ambition, agenda, acquiescence, and all of the above. Friday's "report" from "Generals" Baker and Chalmers proves that the lack of respect for the rule of law is not limited to third world countries far away. The Banana Republic of Durham is a kingdom, apparently, unto itself, right here in North Carolina. Even the city's largest employer, Duke University, fumbles wordless in fear, afraid to confront the corruption. Indeed, the Brodhead administration is like some fat American oil company, comfortably situated in some corrupt little foreign dictatorship, willing to overlook any abuse in order to keep its place, and profit, and the goodwill of the "locals."

But on Mother's Day weekend, I'd rather not focus on folks like Brodhead and Burness and the 88, who, rather than speak truth to power, choose, instead, to sacrifice the powerless to their own expediency. Who, even today, are shamefully silent...preferring to uncomplainingly allow the Duke students in their care to continue to live surrounded by a corrupt police force operating under the aegis of a rogue prosecutor.

I might ask where's the "Listening Ad" that shows Brodhead, Burness, and the 88 were "listening" to the AG's report? Where's the ad objecting to the actual physical threats we heard against Reade Seligmann? Where's the ad objecting to hate groups creating an atmosphere where certain Duke students were forced by fear to flee their dorms and sleep in their cars? Do these students matter less to the sensitive, caring, 88 professors than others do? Or does the color of their skin and the content of their daddies' pockets exempt them from certain professorial compassion? It's not too late! Where's the ad showing you care about the 13 month ordeal of the lacrosse team?

I might ask where's the Brodhead response to the obvious corruption in surrounding Durham that affects the Duke campus this very day? Where's the call to have Nifong resign? Where's the demand to have the SBI investigate the framing of Duke students? Where's the outrage at the acknowledged targeting of Duke students by police? Where's the courage and concern for the students in your care? Where's the forceful presence of the largest employer in the area DEMANDING Durham remove its corrupt and possibly criminal agents...and reform those who are left?

I might ask, "Where's the outrage?"

I might ask, "Where's the leadership?"

I might ask, "Dickie, won't Wahneema let you?"

I might ask if the Mothers (and Fathers) of Duke students don't deserve much, much better for their children and their tuition money than what the Brodhead administration chooses to provide ?

I might ask all this, but it's Mothers Day and I'd rather think about the Moms.

One of our Moms, Mary Ellen Finnerty, provided us some much needed leadership and an excellent example this week. She "linked" us to Maggie Anthony and Eric Volz...another family in desperate need right now. She brought our attention to another case that could use the passion and skills Blog Hooligans brought to the Nifong-Mangum Hoax. Mary Ellen can offer Maggie the color-coded empathy only she can share, but Blog Hooligans can gift the Volz family with the raucous intensity and research that is their strong suit.

So on this Mothers Day, we can tell Maggie Anthony that she and her son are not alone. We're here. Mary Ellen Finnerty sent us.

The Finnerty-Anthony story also reminded me this week of that wonderful concept of "Pay it Forward"... wherein we keep the chain of human compassion and outreach ever extending, ever growing. A simple country tune called "Chain of Love" can compete with any of my poetic references in explaining it best:

You don't owe me a thing, I've been there too
Someone once helped me out,
Just the way I'm helping you
If you really want to pay me back,
Here's what you do
Don't let the chain of love end with you

Happy Mother's Day to all Moms everywhere, who daily, dutifully,and lovingly, set the example and extend "the chain."

Joan Foster


Anonymous said...

Happy Mother's Day to all of the Moms!

Hope you are wearing those ruby slippers today!


Anonymous said...

Carolyn says:

Joan, you had an awesome mother who taught you how to be one yourself. I wasn't blessed with one - which makes me so grateful Collin, Reade and Dave were, bless them. For all the hell those strong young men went through, I shudder to imagine how hideous it would have been for them to not have had loving parents behind them. I'm sure they would have survived, nonetheless, but it's not even pleasant to think how brutal the cost would have been.

Happy Mother's Day to all the loving mothers of the world. Your price IS above rubies!

Anonymous said...

Dear Readers,

While the pain of a Mother whose son is inprisoned for crimes they did not commit may be similiar, I cannot believe the "color" is the same when one man is in the American prison system (as corrupt as it may be) and the other is living in the horror that is a Nicaragua jail. Please do not forget that Eric's very life is on the line everyday that he remains in that jail, something we rarely fear for here in America.

kbp said...


Those sweet memories are forever!!

Durhamwatcher said...

10:00 I must remind you of the "visit" of the New Black Panthers (who supposedly even met with Nifong), the threats to Reade Seligmann "you're a dead man walking!" and of the organized racial gangs in American prison system.
The threat to these boys in our prison system was very real. Nifong knew that too. But he needed the extra pension money.

Anonymous said...

I have been trying to speak to the families of the LAX3. I also know their pain as my brother was murdered 2 years ago in Durham, and our family has been denied information, and any sort of justice.
My brother did not die in vain, his life touched many, and the loss is forever! His life may not be returned, but his murderer will not go free, and his memory will touch others in a plethora of ways, as he did in life!
I also have many posts under the same username on Court TV.

Please contact me, as I would love to continue my quest for true JUSTICE!

Rhonda Fleming
Cleveland, Ohio