By Janet Phelan
At certain times, our thoughts veer northwards, flying like the eagle gods of this nearly destroyed culture of the country we now inhabit. Certain holidays, a birthday, a yahrzeit of an unaccountable death, and we drift through the clouds towards the land we fled, the land we forsook after it forsook its promise. In the minds’ eye, we can see the expanse and the breadth of the promise—from sea to shining sea—now littered with prisons, locked psychiatric facilities, drone fields and a shattered vision.
Memorial Day is one of those holidays, for me. The day to commemorate the war dead might be celebrated somewhat differently, now, as America reels from over a decade of Middle Eastern wars. For this Memorial Day, can we also remember the exiles?
Robert Finnegan, the former editor of the Jakarta Post, now runs an alternative website, http://www.the5thestate.asia/. Finnegan has been in Asia for many years now and by his own testimony will not return to the US. Finnegan, who is a former Marine, has a disturbing story to impart as to his jailing in the US on muddled charges. Finnegan, who is diabetic, states that he was denied medical care during his incarceration, never brought up on charges and nearly died due to lack of attention to his diabetes. He recalls his jailers sneering at him, asking him, “How is the reporter doing now?”
Catherine Oloughlin, MD, sits on the board of ITHACA, a human rights NGO, which has submitted a number of reports into the United Nations concerning human rights violations by the US. Catherine, who is living in Europe, states she fears to return to the US. Catherine was hit with hundreds of thousands of dollars in sanctions when she tried to protect her mother and the estate from a brutal guardianship. Catherine has wondered if her failure to pay these sanctions would result in her imprisonment if she returned to California. She has decided not to find out.
Ray Fernandez also left the US due to a guardianship battle. Ray was lucky enough to get his mother free from the court’s sticky fingers and took her to the Dominican Republic, for her own safety. From the DR, Ray now hosts a Facebook page, We Love a Good War! where he posts articles and news about what he terms “The Great Shitstorm of our Time.”
Katherine Hine is a retired attorney and host of radio shows (http://www.wljaradio.net/) focusing on legal corruption. She does so from Uruguay. The behaviors that impelled her to leave the US were slightly more subtle but hardly less threatening. Writes Hine “….what I miss is a different America – possibly one that never existed except in my mind.” She goes on to say that “I think about torture a lot because I know and love people who are currently being tortured up there. I’m merely tortured by having to watch my son’s torture at the hands of the Ohio government’s state psychiatric system, backed up by the demons in black robes who also prey on him. I once seriously considered leaving here so that I could represent him myself—get it done right—but was told that my return would make things worse, that charges would be trumped up against me, that my own likely incarceration would only divert attention and resources from my son’s cause.”
Russell Honicker showed up recently in Mexico trying to shake off the trauma of being jailed, following his speaking out about who was truly involved in his wife’s demise. Honicker had been an environmental activist and also a photographer for a number of publications. After being held for weeks in a jail in upstate New York, he was inexplicably released without being formally charged. He recalls taking off and “bouncing” from coast to coast then making the decision to leave the US.
And while we are honoring the exiles, let’s not forget Edward Snowden. In his exile in Russia, he now faces a potential relinquishment of his person by Putin to President Trump, as a “gesture of good will.” The tendency by the powerful to treat human beings as parcels and commodities could not be clearer.
I am sure there are others. Somewhere in America, today, someone has gotten a newly issued passport. Someone is wondering if it would be safer to flee. Someone has stepped on some toes, possibly inadvertently, and sees the future diminishing before her very eyes.
This person believed in America, in the promise of freedom and justice for all. This person, through her projected flight, affirms this promise, clasps it to her breast as she boards the airplane. She intends to live free. She intends to carry on her efforts from a hopefully safer location. She may not believe she has other options left; yet, through her decision, she is manifesting the history of her land, her people—that of the pilgrim,the pioneer, the trailblazer. And for her, and for all the unknown exiles, this Memorial Day is dedicated to you.
Janet Phelan is an investigative journalist whose articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The San Bernardino County Sentinel, The Santa Monica Daily Press, The Long Beach Press Telegram, Oui Magazine and other regional and national publications. Janet specializes in issues pertaining to legal corruption and addresses the heated subject of adult conservatorship, revealing shocking information about the relationships between courts and shady financial consultants. She also covers issues relating to international bioweapons treaties. Her poetry has been published in Gambit, Libera, Applezaba Review, Nausea One and other magazines. Her first book, The Hitler Poems, was published in 2005. She is also the author of a tell-all book EXILE, (also available as an ebook). She currently resides abroad.