..by Mia Feroleto, on the road in South Dakota
[ Editor’s Note: Mia is a long time VT reader who sent in this delightful Easter piece with some surprises inside. After living in Vermont, next to where I grew up, she is on the road, and found herself in South Dakota.
I had not followed the Spring floods closely, and had assumed they were in the Mississippi River funnel, where such has happened so many times in the past. So she gives us an inside view of the native American suffering from the floods on top of their already limited economic situation.
But her efforts to raise aid funds for the Lakota Indians took her down the Yellow Brick Road to the old Anthony Quinn movie, the Shoes of the Fisherman, which I had a vague memory of having seen the trailer, but never the movie.
You have a multi-dimensional story below; the kind that you find by jumping in to see what is there. The memory trip to 1968 took me back to my first year at NC State, trying to work my way through a chemical engineering degree, which was derailed by a bad car wreck in my junior year.
I had little time for entertainment that first year, and missed the Quinn movie; so I was delighted to have Mia get it on my plate to see some of the clips. If anyone finds the full movie, please let us know in the comments.
Sometimes it is good to go backwards to find inspiration to go forward again. In a way, it seems like all of us are in a Deep State gulag that we are seeking a way out of, and are looking for a way to create a new dynamic, which Quinn’s character certainly did … Jim W. Dean ]
Easter Sunday, 2019
We celebrated Easter Sunday yesterday. The risen Christ. The triumph over darkness by the light. Easter followed a series of unforeseen events that include the burning of Notre Dame Cathedral, the arrest of Julian Assange, and on Easter itself, the bombings in Sri Lanka.
Some may feel these three events are unrelated. I beg to differ. They represent different aspects of the same instability we are all experiencing to some degree throughout our world.
Currently living temporarily in South Dakota, I had a quiet Sunday. A month ago,
the area where I am staying experienced extensive flooding caused by intense rain
following blizzard conditions. The melted snow had no where to go when the ground was already soaked with moisture and the nearby Pine Ridge Reservation was under water in some areas while others were covered in mud.
Either way, residents were stuck in their homes without food, clean water and medical supplies. It was a disaster of the first magnitude, one where you would expect the Federal government to jump into action on behalf of the Lakota people. One would expect.
The average person on the Pine Ridge Reservation lives on $3,500.00 a year. The
poverty, as well as the beauty of the people and the land, is profound. After the
flooding, I contacted friends and everyone I could think of who might be interested
in helping out in whatever way they could. One friend contacted is a member of the
Catholic clergy and has lived a life of exemplary service to those in need.
He told me he had been following the plight of the Lakota people in the aftermath of the flooding but that the mandate of his particular order was specific. He offered suggestions for me to follow-up on in my area. I did contact a convent here in South Dakota and was offered $100 while the small Congregational church I am connected to in Vermont held three collections specifically for the flood victims on the reservation.
My response to my friend who is a member of the Catholic clergy was that I believed that Pope Francis needed to wear the “shoes of the fisherman” as in the film, and be the pope who gives away the wealth of the Catholic Church to the poor. I did not get a response.
On Sunday afternoon, I was fortunate to be able to catch Anthony Quinn playing the Russian pope who chose to respond appropriately to the poverty in the world by pledging the wealth of the Church to be given to those in need while the Church itself would take a vow of poverty. I had not seen this film in many years and it moved me to tears.
You first see the Quinn character in Siberia where he has been imprisoned for the past twenty years because he would not renounce his faith.
Fate has stepped in the form of the Russian political leader who feared that he might need someone in the outside world who knew him well enough to be able to give a somewhat balanced representation of him and life in Russia and ensure that he was not seen as a monster. In other words, he was motivated by self-interest.
Reconnecting to the world after 20 years would be a challenge for anyone. Yet it was the pain and suffering that the Quinn character experienced year after year that inspired one cardinal in particular to stand up and endorse him as pope, breaking with tradition and not choosing an Italian vicar of Christ.
The humility of the Quinn character inspired the conclave to join in their support and it appeared in the film that he was elected unanimously. The name of the Anthony Quinn character is Kiril Lakota and the film “The Shoes of the Fisherman” was released in 1968.
1968 was a year like this year in so many ways. Our country was at war in Vietnam. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in April of that year. Bobby Kennedy’s death would follow in June. We are lacking individuals of their moral stature today, but the violence remains with new forms of technology for implementation. The military industrial complex continues to prevail and now, with the corporate takeover of our politics, we are on the verge of living in a global totalitarian state.
A film such as “The Shoes of the Fisherman” was able to be made in 1968 because the greater good of our society in 1968 understood that poverty must be erased in order to avoid war. We as a collective understood that connecting to our spiritual selves was available to us in ways that included equality and fairness for all. Today, dead bodies are simply seen as collateral damage.
In the film, the Russian political figure understood that if the people of China starved, there would be war with Russia. He used his relationship with the new pope to open a dialogue with the Chinese leader, who asked Kiril Lakota what it was that he was risking by saying he would help.
The Chinese leader said that if he went back to China empty-handed, he would be killed. The pope could simply go back to his life of luxury in the Vatican without consequence. The result of Pope Kiril’s soul searching was the gifting of the wealth of the Catholic Church to the world.
This imaginary pope donned the clothes of a lowly priest and wandered the streets of Rome to feel close to the people. Could that have happened without his spending all those years in Siberia? Probably not. Profound loss can be the path to profound understanding.
In 2019, we do not need figureheads who are living privileged lives to make decisions for the more than 7 billion people on this planet. There is not a reason in the world why every person on earth does not have what they need to live a good life.
Food, shelter, medical care and the opportunity for an education should be available to each and every one of us. Clearly our leaders are making the wrong decisions and putting self-interest first.
The groundswell of compassion and genuine love in the highest sense of the word should be fostered in our hearts as we recognize ourselves in each other. We are capable of true greatness. It is time for humanity to express that greatness in each and every one of us.
Our power comes from telling the truth and caring about each other. Share what you have. It will come back to you in countless ways. And please, do not overlook the name of the pope in this story, Kiril Lakota. He chose to keep his given name as pope. He gave away everything that he had to give after intense isolation and suffering, just like the Lakota people.