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Statement to the Defendant
mug shot, Peg
March 19, 2012
Sentencing Statement to Roody Fleuraguste
Margaret Hawthorn, mother of the deceased

To the court:

United States Judge and judicial philosopher Learned Hand wrote of an exchange he once had with Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. As they parted company Hand said, ‘Well, sir, goodbye. Do justice!’ According to Hand, Holmes replied, ‘That is not my job. My job is to play the game according to the rules.’”

Although I do not agree with this plea bargain decision, I would like to thank the prosecution for their efforts to do justice. I was grateful for an early arrest. A childhood friend of Molly’s who is now a lawyer in Colorado wrote to me, “There are no winners, only losers, in criminal cases.” That is how just how it feels. The game may have been played shrewdly and according to the rules, but I am not convinced justice is being served.

I am distressed over lack of truth telling. My daughter’s vicious death has been labeled second-degree when it was clearly a pre-meditated first-degree murder. The minimizing of a violent crime against a woman – any woman – troubles me. Second degree here, second degree there, and crimes against women seem less disturbing. It becomes easier to propagate a belief that women bring these things on themselves, and ultimately that they somehow deserve it.

To Roody Fleuraguste:

This may be what you, Mr. Fleuraguste, thought as you invaded Molly and Dan’s home. Today I will say very little about the person of Molly, the daughter who graced my life. I will not belabor my grief, either. These are not your business. I am not willing to feed any perverse desire you may have to hear about the pain you have caused.

Human minds and hearts are not adequate to the task of determining justice in the face of what you have done. Molly’s husband Dan Paul wrote that he didn’t think it is possible to put an equal sign between Molly’s death and any charge or punishment you might face. He is correct. There is no way to say Molly’s death can equal a measured amount of time behind bars. I heard the numbers 50, 40, 45, 42.5 bantered about in this bargaining process. It sounded like a real estate negotiation.

It has been clear to me since the day Molly was murdered that a very damaged person had committed this crime. At first I guessed you were a hotheaded young man who felt humiliated when your offensive advances were declined. I saw the murder as a horrific, but impulsive act. As more sinister pieces filtered in, I came to perceive you as a person with little respect for life – especially the lives of women.

Two things in particular chill me. The first is a note in your handwriting found in the little cabin in the woods that Dan and Molly built and lived in for a few years. The note said, “Zen Pete. God will be my judge.” I am told Zen Pete is a gang expression for “There will be serious trouble,” indicating someone is going to get badly hurt. You thought things through enough to go up to the cabin and write that note sometime before you invaded Dan and Molly’s home.

The second is testimony from your cellmate in jail, to the effect that you told him you had intended to rape my daughter at gunpoint. If she resisted, you would shoot her. You said you had done this before in Haiti, leaving the question open whether Molly is the only woman you have murdered.

As these things were revealed, I have had to let go of my picture of you as impulsive and hotheaded. I continue to see you as very damaged, but far more malevolent. Molly’s death was a calculated, cold-blooded first-degree murder.

Judge Smuckler painstakingly determined you do not have schizophrenia. To me it is conceivable you might have one of a number of other types of mental illness that affect your thoughts to render you dangerous and essentially untreatable. Damaged or mentally ill – I search for words and meaning to explain how you could commit an act so far beyond the pale.

I believe you are too broken, and pose too great a threat to the safety of women, to ever return to the street, here or in Haiti. However, I hold firmly to my commitment not to turn to hatred. I am not interested in seeing you suffer. I would like you to be permanently contained, but in a setting that – if you were accepting of treatment – would support and encourage you to redeem what you can of your life.

I agree with you that God will be your judge. You speak of the Devil having been in you since you were a small child. Broken as you are, I see you the way I try to see all human beings, as a child of God. I am certain God’s heart breaks for you as much as for anyone else in this situation.

I believe in a divine justice that supersedes anything my petty mind can imagine. This is probably what has spared me from the desire for revenge. Since the day you killed Molly, I have been graced with an unusual blessing – the miraculous freedom from a desire to retaliate. I don’t wish suffering on you. To do so would keep me trapped in sickness with you. My interest is in being able to trust that Molly is your last victim.

You are the most tragic person in this room. It is a sad truth that the country you came from has endured centuries of neglect and abuse from the rest of the world. I am not surprised that a person as broken as you might emerge from such a situation. But I am inspired by how many Haitians have come to this country to lead productive lives. You, who came and wreaked havoc, cannot undo the positive contributions of others.

Like anyone else in the circle of people around Molly, you might have become a recipient of her light and love. But it could never have been forced. It had to come honestly, straight from her heart, and it had to be the right kind of love. It would have been the kind of love that every person who is here today on her behalf knew. It would have been her kindness, her friendly smile, and her laughter. It would have been the generosity in her personality that inspired her to invite you, a newcomer to the farm, a young man isolated in a foreign land with little grasp of the language, to go fishing with her. It would have been the kind of love that invited you to share in her zest for life.

I wonder if you have ever known that kind of love. Perhaps sex at gunpoint is the closest you have come to intimacy. If so, that is a tragedy. Those of us who knew Molly loved and lost, but we have the blessing and memory of her love. You showed only a sick obsession that led you to destroy what you were unable to appreciate. Now you will spend a large portion of your life isolated in a foreign land.

What a tragedy you could not embrace the good fortune that befell you – that of entering the sphere of the Paul family. Dan Senior had planned to take you canoeing on April 30. The Pauls are a big-hearted family. They work hard and they play hard. One reason Molly fit so well into their lives, and they into hers, was a shared passion for drawing people into their adventures.

Now you will never know what it is to canoe or swim in a New Hampshire river in the summer. Instead of hiking in the New Hampshire woods in the fall, skiing in New Hampshire snow in the winter, or collecting sap from New Hampshire’s maple trees in the spring, you will spend at least thirty years and maybe the rest of your life in a New Hampshire prison.

You met your match in Molly. The Light in Molly stood its ground against the Devil in you. Molly risked her life every day she went to work. She believed passionately in her work – providing quality healthcare for women. She and her coworkers knew bravery. Maybe that is why she didn’t recognize the full threat you posed. Her response to your intrusion indicates she saw you as an adolescent nuisance, more a pest than a danger. Up against her ferocious courage, you killed her. My daughter could not know her courage would be your undoing. In standing her ground she lost her life, but she stopped you in your murderous track.

I don’t know how the next thirty or more years will pass for you. For me the thirty-one years of Molly’s life went by in a flash. I saw our three daughters grow up and go out to make their way in the world. I spent a beautiful weekend on the coast of Maine celebrating Molly and Dan’s storybook wedding. I have become a grandmother.

Your years will not contain the same things, but they will pass. Time is a rare commodity for those of us on the outside. We rush here and there in a busy world, thinking we would like to be less busy. You will have time in such abundance it will likely weigh heavily on you. But it can also be a valuable gift. You will have time to reflect, to think about who you have been and what you have done in your first twenty-four years. You can also think about who you want to be for the rest of your life. You have done enormous harm to many people, but you have an opportunity to turn yourself around, starting today.

I have volunteered in prisons in New Hampshire and other states. I am not one to complain about the cushy life of prisoners. I believe life expectancy among male inmates serving life sentences in New Hampshire prisons is about sixty-two years – roughly the age you will be when it is time to seek parole. I know the life you face in the intervening years will be lonely and hard.

I also know there will be resources. Avail yourself of them. Align yourself with inmates who are enough older and wiser to have found some inner peace, and learn from them. Sign up for programs to help you deal with your inner violence (what you call the Devil in you). Sign up for every program available that will help you turn your life around. Don’t be a thug - that path has already failed you. You have some street smarts. Turn those into intelligence and wisdom. This you must do for Molly and for the loved ones she has left behind.

I do not want to hear an apology from you today. It is too early, and apologies come cheaply. They do not carry nearly the weight of a sincere attempt to amend one’s ways. Should a time come when you have made a significant positive change in your life, there are safe, structured ways for you let me know. Such a change would constitute a more welcome apology than words shamefacedly uttered in this courtroom.

I have wondered in all these months whether there will be a specific time and action that indicates I've forgiven you. Richard Foster, a Quaker author, talks about four common myths on forgiveness. He writes:
o We tend to confuse forgiveness with indifference, to pretend what happened isn’t that big a deal.
o We believe that to forgive is to cease from hurting.
o We equate forgiving with forgetting.
o We believe that to forgive means the relationship can be just the same as it was before the offense.

I will never minimize Molly’s death. It left a gaping hole in my life and shattered some of my trust in people. I am forced to grapple harder than ever with a basic Judeo-Christian tenet that the world is good place.

I can’t imagine that in this lifetime I will cease to hurt over our loss of Molly. I did realize, some months after her death, that the joy of having had her in my life surpassed even the grief of losing her. But the pain is always there.

My work is not to try to forget about Molly, or to forget what happened to her. Mine is to remember and still try to live lovingly in a world where innocents die for no fathomable reason.

My direct relationship with you began the day after you killed Molly, the day I heard your name for the first time, as the sole suspect in this case. I have no face-to-face relationship with you. I don’t really know who you are, what makes you tick. What I do know of you is appalling. Yet you and I will be in relationship for the rest of our lives, whether or not we ever see one another again. You will never stop being the man who killed my daughter. I will never stop being the mother of a young woman you murdered. Each of our lives would be very different had you not done that.

Recently it occurred to me that I probably forgave the day it happened before I knew Roody Fleuraguste existed, or the day after, when I said I would not yield to hatred. I understand hatred as a consuming desire for revenge, something I haven’t experienced towards you. But do not confuse hatred with anger. I am unspeakably angry at what you have done; I just do not hate you.

Nor is this to say I am above pettiness. Although I still have the capacity to jump to anger over other things, I don’t have the heart to wish ill on anyone, even you. My point is, when the unthinkable happened God blessed me with a miracle. In other situations I have had to pray hard to be released from a desire to get even. This time I have been granted freedom from vengeance, right from the start. After an experience of this scope, I no longer burn with a desire to see people get what I think they deserve. I’m more willing to let God be the judge.

I will think and wonder about you, and will pray that you may receive peace in your heart. You would have much painful work for that to happen, but I hope you get there. The world can only benefit from another peaceful heart in its midst.

I have been a member of the Religious Society of Friends (also known as Quakers) for most of my life. It is our tradition to minute certain pivotal events like births, marriages, and deaths. I invite all who are here to witness their love for Molly, and who choose to affirm a witness to nonviolence, to sign a minute approved by Monadnock Quaker Meeting, my home meeting in Jaffrey. The minute reads:

"On March 19, 2012, people gathered at the Merrimack Superior Courthouse in Concord, NH to honor the life of Molly Bronwyn Hawthorn MacDougall. We witnessed the sentencing of Roody Fleuraguste, the man who pled guilty to murdering her. Recognizing that no human system of justice is equal to the task of addressing what has happened, and that ultimately we can only look to a Divine justice to right what cannot be made right in this life, we signed this certificate to give thanks for Molly's life, and to commit to pray for Roody Fleuraguste, that he may receive peace in his heart."

Mark Twain is quoted as saying, “Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” I encourage you to stay in shape, stay limber so that every now and then over the next decades you can bend down and smell your heel. Maybe one day you will be ready to detect the delicate scent of a violet.

Day in Court
mug shot, Peg
Our day in court was bittersweet, as might be expected. I did not want the plea bargain, and don't believe justice was served. The state and I have different understandings of justice, so we weren't likely to agree on this.

I still don't like it that a plea bargain happened. The more I read about plea bargains, the more I see how they are eroding any system of justice that might ever have existed. Something like 90 - 95 percent of cases never come to trial now. They are settled by plea bargain, which, like going to a bazaar, seems to be a matter of dickering for the best deal. Depending on who gets the upper hand, either defense or prosecution stands to be bullied.

As the plea bargain moved forward, I complained bitterly to a friend who is a retired defense lawyer that the state was saving money by denying Molly full justice. She said, “Margaret, this is not about justice for Molly. This is about the State of New Hampshire responding to the murder of one of its citizens. There is a difference. You will have to find solace in other places.”

Excruciating words, but instructive. Sometimes a dose of reality is needed to come to grips. The State did what it thought best, and I am working on acceptance of what is.

The hearing left me with tentative scabs ripped off. I am back to the beginning, full of disbelief and wishful thinking. I don't anticipate closure. The removal of a scab exposes fragile new skin around the edges; I trust the wound will seal up. But closure?

The proceedings were delayed an hour. We thought perhaps the defendant was changing his mind, which would have been okay with me. Once the hearing finally started, thing went along without a hitch. The prosecutor gave a brief summary of evidence. Then family members spoke. Then the defendant stood to read an apology. Last, the judge spoke.

He explained that the delay was his doing. Copies of our statements that he read just before the hearing had given him serious second thoughts. He spent an hour deliberating whether to deny the plea bargain after all and force the case to go to trial. In the end, influenced by our family having said we would defer to Molly’s husband Dan (who favored a plea bargain), the judge decided to go through with it.

[I respect Dan’s preference for a plea bargain. It spared all of us the anguish of a trial in which the defense might have tried to cast aspersions on Molly. Although the prosecution believed they had a tight case, trials are unpredictable. If there had been no first-degree conviction, the sentence could have been less than the forty-two years negotiated with the plea. Or, despite the defendant’s confession, fingerprints, a note he left, and incriminating comments to a cellmate, there might still have been no conviction. With a conviction, appeals would be inevitable, while the plea bargain left no chance for appeal.]

After all my internal wrestling with the plea bargain, working to understand pro’s and con’s, listening to the advantages described by the prosecution yet feeling repulsed by the labeling of this crime second-degree, and finally realizing I had to start living with the reality of the plea bargain, I was at a loss. Did I wish I had pushed harder for a trial? I wouldn’t have wanted to hurt Dan. Would I have been relieved had the judge called off the plea bargain at the eleventh hour? Hard to know.

The prosecutor used the words “first-degree murder” in her statement. Addressing everyone in the courtroom, the judge said he believed justice was being served. When he spoke to the defendant, he said he would have felt no qualms about sentencing the defendant to life had it come to trial and resulted in a first-degree conviction.

Remarkably, he expressed an interest in signing the minute (explained in my statement to the defendant), which he did after the proceedings ended. The prosecution also signed it, and the mother and father of the defendant, and most of the hundred or so people who had come to witness.

Afterwards we gathered for a few minutes for the prosecutor to wrap things up. We learned the defendant now transfers from jail to prison, where he will spend at least a month in twenty-three-hour lockdown every day. Dreariness flooded over me. So pointless, the crime, the punishment.

The legal process was bound to be a minefield. The trial had become a focus, even though in my head I knew all along not to rest my well-being on it. Yet I couldn’t shake the emptiness. One life gone. Another wasted. Had there been a trial and a first-degree conviction, I would still have been at loose ends.

The defense attorney passed me near the exit. The person I was with shook his hand and exchanged pleasantries, then introduced him to me. As the court appointed attorney, this man would have had to do everything he could to get his client off the hook in a trial. Maybe a plea bargain seemed the most ethical option to him.

When he walked away, my friend told me he is active in death penalty abolition in New Hampshire. Perhaps our paths will cross again.

Meanwhile, I am learning something about the meaning of time as healer. In the immediate wake of Molly's death everything shut down. Day one included only her death. Day two, the same. And so on. That summer I railed over the passage of time, each day further removing me from the last time I had seen her alive. Her death was a choke point, initially allowing nothing to pass through. As painful as it was, I wanted to keep it that way for fear of losing her even more. Regardless, the days pressed themselves on me - some gently and some forcefully. Today Molly’s death is a huge part of me, but it is tucked into a continual expansion of days being lived.

Concord Monitor, March 20, 2012
mug shot, Peg
From the Concord Monitor, a New Hampshire newspaper that has done the best reporting. My only objection is the reporter saying I had refused to yield to anger. Early on I said I refused to yield to hatred. Big difference between the two.

March 20, 2012
Molly Hawthorn-MacDougall's relatives yesterday poured out their grief, anger and, for some, forgiveness as a judge sentenced Roody Fleuraguste to 42_ years to life in prison for murdering the 31-year-old woman in her Henniker home two years ago.

"There are times when . . . the rage just wells up so, so white-hot in me, all I want to do is bust your shins with a bat," her father, Bruce MacDougall, told Fleuraguste, 23. "But I know I can't do that, and I know it wouldn't bring Molly back. So I go to the other side. I'm just buried, buried in sadness. And there'll never be an end to that sadness. It'll stop when I die."

Hawthorn-MacDougall, who grew up in Winchendon, Mass., was shot in the head April 29, 2010, two weeks before she would have graduated from NHTI with her nursing degree.

Fleuraguste came to the United States from Haiti after the January 2010 earthquake. His visa expired in February, 2010 but about a week before the shooting he moved to Henniker to stay with Hawthorn-MacDougall's in-laws. His half-brother lived there and worked for the family.
Fleuraguste was arrested and charged with first-degree murder, but pleaded guilty this month to second-degree murder, avoiding trial on the more serious charge that carries a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

His plea deal states that he cannot seek a reduction in his sentence of 42_ years to life until he has served at least 30 years. He was given credit for nearly two years served in jail since his arrest.

If Fleuraguste is ever granted parole, Senior Assistant Attorney General Susan Morrell said yesterday, he will then be turned over to federal authorities for deportation.
Morrell said the reason Fleuraguste killed Hawthorn may never be known for certain, but that Fleuraguste told a fellow prisoner at the Merrimack County jail that he went to Hawthorn-MacDougall's home to have sex with her and shot her when she refused.

Fleuraguste, who has relied on a Creole translator in court, read a statement yesterday in accented English, saying he feels shame and "a pain well deserved" for what he did.

"I know that nothing I do or say now can change what happened," Fleuraguste said. "I'm sorry with all my heart. I'm sorry."

"For what it's worth," he added, "my action has made me better understand the value in life, the value of life itself."

Hawthorn-MacDougall's family is "somewhat divided" over the plea deal offered to Fleuraguste, Morrell said. Both her mother and her sister said yesterday in court that they disagreed with it, in part saying that, by allowing Fleuraguste to plead guilty to second-degree murder, he avoids taking responsibility for a premeditated killing.

And Merrimack County Superior Court Judge Larry Smukler said he considered rejecting the deal because he feels the sentence may not be long enough to properly protect the public from Fleuraguste.

Smukler said he agreed to accept the deal because he believes, on balance, Hawthorn-MacDougall's family wants and needs the resolution it offers to the case.

Her widower, Daniel Paul VIII, didn't speak in court yesterday, but Morrell said he supports the deal.

"While it will never be possible for me to put an equals sign between the tragedy of my wife Molly's death and the punishment that is given to the person who caused it, it does bring some relief to know that this chapter of the legal process has reached a definitive end," Paul said in a written statement to the news media.

He added, "My family and I greatly appreciate the overwhelming support and many acts of kindness that we have received from our friends in Henniker and surrounding towns as we all continue to heal as individuals and as a community."

Range of reactions

More than 100 people packed the courtroom yesterday afternoon for Fleuraguste's sentencing, with every seat filled and many standing in the rear. Most were family or friends of Hawthorn-MacDougall's, while several were members of Fleuraguste's family.

Fleuraguste's mother, who didn't speak to reporters or during the hearing, sat weeping throughout the hour-long session.

Fleuraguste sat with his head bowed, listening to the translator, as a half-dozen of Hawthorn-MacDougall's loved ones spoke, often addressing him directly. Their statements ranged from expressions of grief and anger to loving tributes to hopes for Fleuraguste to find redemption.

'Dreams that were precious'

MacDougall, her father, asked the court to make sure Fleuraguste would never be released.
"I can't believe what this," he paused, "person did for sex, for wanting to have sex. His, whatever it was, that decision, that instant decision, destroyed dreams that were precious."
Sadie MacDougall, Hawthorn-MacDougall's sister, called Fleuraguste a coward and said she disagreed with the plea bargain because a second-degree murder conviction doesn't reflect the intent he displayed.

"You're not owning up to what you did," she said. "You're hiding behind the system, the same way that you hid behind the gun."

Several said Hawthorn-MacDougall's decision to stand up to Fleuraguste - he told investigators that, faced with the revolver, she ordered him to leave her home seconds before he shot her - gave them hope.

"Yours was a choice of total cowardice and weakness," Sadie MacDougall told Fleuraguste. "Look at Molly. You may have felt tough doing what you did, but really, Molly was the one with all the strength."

And several said they would try to forgive Fleuraguste and pray for him to redeem himself during his long prison sentence.

Elizabeth Hawthorn, Hawthorn-MacDougall's aunt, told Fleuraguste that he has evil in his heart.

"You murdered our beloved Molly," she said, her voice thick with emotion. "I will not share my grief with you for you to gnaw on. No. Instead, I forgive you.

"I weep for your family. I believe a seed for love exists in you, as in every human being. . . . If you choose to be brave, you may sweep up your stinking, putrid nest. You may water the tiny seed with tears and nurture it with remorse. Every day you will have that choice. I pray that you will take it.

"If you feel no sorrow," Hawthorn said, "who weeps for you?"

Refusing anger

And Margaret Hawthorn, Hawthorn-MacDougall's mother, delivered a measured, lengthy statement explaining her refusal to yield to anger and her belief that Fleuraguste is a broken person and a danger to women.

She brought to the courthouse a Quaker minute, a traditional document commemorating an important life event, and asked people to sign the document, giving thanks for Hawthorn-MacDougall's life and offering prayers for Fleuraguste. A long line of people queued up to sign the minute after the hearing, and Smukler said from the bench that he would be honored to sign it as well.

Hawthorn concluded by quoting the author Mark Twain, who said, "Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it."

To Fleuraguste, Hawthorn said: "I encourage you to stay in shape, stay limber, so that every now and then, over the next decades, you can bend down and smell your heel. Maybe one day you'll be ready to detect the delicate scent of a violet."

Fragrance of a Violet
mug shot, Peg
First Parish (UU), Northfield, MA
March 23, 2012

Talk on living into a commitment not to hate (there is some overlap between my statement to the defendant and this talk):

On April 29, 2010, my family was scattered around the world. My husband Bruce was in California on a well-deserved vacation. Our middle daughter Ruby had spent the year teaching and studying in China. However, a day earlier she flew across many time zones to Moscow to visit with a friend who was studying that year in Russia. Our youngest daughter Sadie was with her two young boys on their farm in New Hampshire, and hour from where Bruce and I live. As far as I knew, our oldest daughter Molly was at home in a little house where she and her husband Danny had settled on his family’s farm, also in New Hampshire, also an hour from us. She would be studying for final exams - in two weeks she was to graduate from nursing school.

That particular morning I spent a couple hours visiting with a friend from my Quaker meeting, talking about anger. A day earlier I had lost my temper at a person I worked with, and I didn’t feel good about it. My friend and I talked about how embracing a Quaker testimony of peace sometimes leaves us confused, unsure how to deal with the maddening aspects of everyday life.

The phone rang as I walked back in the door to our house. Molly’s close friend Rachel told me I needed to come to Molly’s home right away. Something was terribly wrong with Molly. I asked if Molly was conscious. Rachel said no. I didn’t ask the obvious next question – is she breathing? A little over an hour later, in the driveway outside her house, I learned Molly was dead. At thirty-one, my first-born child had been murdered while my friend and I talked about anger.

In the numbness of the following hours phone calls had to be made, and arrangements worked out to bring loved ones home from far away places. Bruce arrived first, in the middle of the night. Ruby’s friend in Russia flew back to the US with her so she would not travel alone. Sadie left the boys at home with their father and came to sleep in the house where all three daughters had grown up. Bruce, Ruby, Sadie and I sat together quietly the second night, taking in how it felt to be a family of four when we had been five. We were too small – how could four be enough to make a family when we had been five?

I knew that in our vulnerable state a craving for revenge could be strong and destructive for our family. The day after Molly died, in a brief conversation with a reporter, I said I would not yield to hatred. I was following a self-protective instinct, a wish to spare myself the additional suffering of a heart twisted and consumed by the desire to see further pain inflicted on anyone. The anguish of losing Molly was bad enough.

This was before an arrest took place. Over the next few days I would learn about a twenty-two-year-old man who had come to the farm where Molly and her husband lived. He made inappropriate advances towards Molly, and when she declined he took matters into his own hands. Within less than a week of his arrival at the farm, Molly was dead.

I couldn’t have guessed what reactions my words about not turning to revenge would provoke. Although most people seemed to respect and appreciate how we felt, a few responded viciously on the internet, especially when the young man arrested turned out to be a person of color. Among the comments: “If they won’t hate, we will hate for them.”

It is one thing to say I won’t make a place for hatred in my heart, but it is another to live into that commitment. In the time since Molly died, I have asked myself how it is possible that I don’t want to see the man who killed my daughter suffer. Damaged as he is, I see him the way I try to see all human beings, as a child of God. I am certain God weeps for him as much as for anyone in this situation.

Quaker practice is to sit in stillness and quiet, listening for the voice of God. Since I was a teenager that has felt like the right form of worship for me, but I often wondered if anything was happening in my interior. Now, confronted with the devastating impact of evil, I found the testimony of peace and nonviolence that Quakers hold dear to our hearts had indeed taken root in me over time. I must have been listening more closely to God than I knew.

I attended seminary between 2002 and 2008, not with an intent of becoming a pastor, but because I wanted to learn to articulate my faith better. In that concentrated time of reading, writing, thinking, and talking about possibilities of God I was unknowingly preparing for the biggest spiritual challenge of my life. I returned often to the question of God’s role in the face of evil.

Ultimately, I recognized I believe in a divine justice that supersedes my petty imaginings. I don’t know how our broken souls are restored or purified, but I trust it is intrinsic to the work of a loving God. These past two years could have been a time for me to feel separate from – and betrayed by – God. Instead, although I know sadness every day, I also sense God’s presence more strongly than ever.

This is not to say I am above pettiness. I still have the capacity to jump to anger, but I don’t have the heart to wish harm on anyone, even the man who murdered my daughter. My point is, when the unthinkable happened God blessed me with a miracle. At other times I have had to pray hard to be released from a desire to get even. This time I’ve been granted freedom from vengeance, right from the start. I took a leap of faith – I expressed an intent to do something impossible on my own, and received the Divine assistance necessary to do it.

For me, the best possible outcome would be to hear the defendant has turned his life around. Through a recent plea bargain agreement he has been sentenced to forty-two years to life. He will have a lot of time to reflect on who he has been and what he has done so far.

I have volunteered in prisons in New Hampshire and other states - I am not one to complain about the cushy life of prisoners. Given the difficult circumstances in which he will live, I nonetheless hope to one day hear he is putting his life to the best use he can, learning to cope with the violence in himself and perhaps mentoring others. I also know he may never change, and my healing can't depend on it.

I am active now on working to end the death penalty in New Hampshire. I have met and been comforted by others who have lost loved ones to murder, who also believe the death penalty is wrong. At the time Molly was murdered, the case did not meet the criteria for a capital offense in the state. A year later, New Hampshire lawmakers changed that. I can’t describe my relief that a possible death sentence has not been a factor for us. The justice process was distressing as it was. Another death would only have traumatized my family further. Although abolition work on capital punishment does not give meaning or purpose to Molly’s death, it does help give meaning and purpose to my life in the wake of her death.

I have wondered in all these months whether there will be a specific time and action that indicates I've forgiven the defendant. Recently I realized I probably forgave the day I said I would not yield to hatred, since I think of forgiveness as letting go of the desire for revenge. I will think about him, and will pray that he may receive peace in his heart. He would have to do difficult work for that to happen, but I hope he gets there. The world can only benefit from another peaceful heart in its midst.

Richard Foster, a Quaker author, talks about four common myths on forgiveness. He writes:
o We tend to confuse forgiveness with indifference, to pretend what happened isn’t that big a deal.
o We believe that to forgive is to cease from hurting.
o We equate forgiving with forgetting.
o We believe that to forgive means the relationship can be just the same as it was before the offense.

Confusing forgiveness with indifference: This one is a no-brainer. I can’t minimize Molly’s death. It left a gaping hole in my life and shattered some of my trust in people. I am forced to grapple with a basic Judeo-Christian tenet that the world is good place.

Ceasing to hurt: I can’t imagine that in this lifetime I will cease to hurt over losing Molly. I did realize, some months after her death, that the joy of having had her in my life surpassed even the grief of losing her. But the ache is always there.

Equating forgiving with forgetting: My work is not to try to forget about Molly, or to forget what happened to her. Mine is to remember, and still try to live lovingly in a world where innocents die for no fathomable reason.

Believing the relationship can be the same: In one sense, my direct relationship with the defendant began the day after he killed Molly, the day I heard his name for the first time, as the sole suspect in this case. As I said to him in my statement at the sentencing, “I have no face-to-face relationship with you. I don’t really know who you are, or what makes you tick. What I do know of you is appalling. Yet you and I will be in relationship for the rest of our lives, whether or not we ever see one another again. You will never stop being the man who killed my daughter. I will never stop being the mother of a young woman you murdered. Each of our lives would be very different had you not done that.”

In a larger sense, I have been in relationship with this young man all his life because he grew up in Haiti. All Americans are inevitably in relationship with people from his homeland, as all citizens of rich and powerful nations are in relationship with people whose lives those nations exploit. We cannot turn our backs on what we have done to produce a man with so little respect for human life. It is a sad truth that the country he came from has endured centuries of neglect and abuse from the rest of the world. We cannot be surprised that a person so broken might emerge from such a situation. Rather, we can be inspired how many Haitians have come to the U.S. to lead productive lives.

So the relationship cannot go on as it was before. My attention had been on other hot spots in the world. Now I have a heightened awareness of Haiti, which calls for a renewed effort to seek social and economic justice for all.

Quaker have a tradition of minuting certain pivotal events like births, marriages, and deaths. When I spoke at the hearing sentence, I invited everyone present to witness their love for Molly, and to affirm a witness to nonviolence, by signing a minute approved by my home meeting in Jaffrey, New Hampshire. I want to share with you what the minute said:

On March 19, 2012, people gathered at the Merrimack Superior Courthouse in Concord, NH to honor the life of Molly Bronwyn Hawthorn MacDougall. We witnessed the sentencing of Roody Fleuraguste, the man who pled guilty to murdering her. Recognizing that no human system of justice is equal to the task of addressing what has happened, and that ultimately we can only look to a Divine justice to right what cannot be made right in this life, we signed this certificate to give thanks for Molly's life, and to commit to pray for Roody Fleuraguste, that he may receive peace in his heart.

Over a hundred friends and family members signed the minute. In a remarkable end to a painful day, the presiding judge, the prosecutors, and the defendant’s mother and father also added their names.

Laughter is back in our lives now. Many people have held us tenderly. Staying open to the richness of life, embracing the new, the strange, and the different – we honor Molly’s memory by continuing to risk love.

Mark Twain is quoted as saying, “Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” I ended my statement to the defendant by encouraging him to stay in shape, to stay limber so that every now and then over the next decades he can bend down and smell his heel. I pray one day he will be ready to detect the delicate scent of a violet.

Testimony against New Hampshire HB1706 - expansion of death penalty
mug shot, Peg
January 31, 2012

On January 4 of this year the NH House tabled HB162, which proposed a stunning expansion of the state’s parameters for the death penalty. That day, as house members filed out for lunch, a partner and I handed a paper to each member detailing our concerns about the bill. Most members accepted the papers graciously, taking them along with all the other fliers they were being handed. They would look them over later, and no doubt throw away what they didn’t agree with. The air was congenial, non-committal.

However, one house member brushed by us with the comment, “As far as I’m concerned, you can’t hang ‘em high enough.”

A few minutes later another member said, “I LOVE the death penalty.”

My partner asked, “Did you say you LOVE the death penalty?”

“I LOVE the death penalty,” he replied. Both of these representatives grinned as they made their remarks.

Whatever your position on the death penalty, smart aleck comments have no place in the discussion. State-sponsored taking of a human life is a serious matter. It’s time to step back and acknowledge we’re talking about collectively committing homicide. This is an action to approach with fear and trembling, not snarkiness.

I introduced myself to the second rep as a person who at one time drove his children to school. Our oldest daughter Molly had been one of the children in that carpool. Molly grew into a lovely young woman and settled in Henniker. She was murdered in a home invasion there almost two years ago. I told him that as devastating as the loss is, I would not want anyone executed for the crime. Another death would only traumatize my family further. Also, the desire for revenge and the desire for justice are not the same thing. The desire for revenge is a poison that can destroy the possibility of our finding any peace in the face of our loss.

HB1706 is the third bill within a year that attempts to expand the parameters of New Hampshire’s death penalty. A year ago it was HB147, which added murder committed during a home invasion to the state’s short list of eligible crimes. At that time concerns were raised about going down a slippery slope. Add one class of crime this year, another a year later, and after a while New Hampshire could claim the broadest parameters for the death penalty in the nation, a distinction many residents would find repugnant. HB147 passed in the House and Senate, and was ultimately signed into law by Governor Lynch.

The slope got slipperier in a hurry earlier this January, when House members tabled the most expansive bill of all – HB162 – left over from 2011. HB162 seeks to make all "purposeful" murders death penalty eligible. House members have a full year to bring it back for a vote.

Now it’s HB1706, which seeks to expand the parameters in three areas. In contrast to the broad sweep of HB162, this new bill is a bit less radical. It continues down the slope at a slower pace. The problem is, there will always be another piece to add, and another, until HB162 essentially becomes law without ever being brought back to the table.

The bigger problem is that although all three of these bills attempt to make New Hampshire safer, and to offer victims’ families some justice, they can’t do it. Capital punishment has never been proven to be an effective deterrent. States that regularly put people to death are statistically no safer than states that don’t. Making examples of a few simply doesn’t work, and a few would be all New Hampshire could afford to take the whole costly route to execution.

Neither do these laws make the system more fair or equitable. In fact, they make justice increasingly fickle with each expansion of the code. There are a number of reasons for this. I’ll give a few.

1) Capital cases are expensive. Every state that uses the death penalty spends considerably more money on one execution than it does to incarcerate an inmate for life. However broad this legislature makes the parameters for the death penalty, New Hampshire will not be able to afford to prosecute every eligible case as capital.
2) The money spent on execution could be better put towards solving cold cases. New Hampshire currently has more than 100 unsolved homicide, suspicious death, and missing person cases on its books. Ninety-seven of those are unsolved homicides. (http://doj.nh.gov/criminal/cold-case/victim-list/index.htm). That makes potentially 100 or more killers roaming free in the state. New Hampshire would be safer if it focused on removing more dangerous felons from the general populace instead of killing a select few. Those few would be incarcerated for life anyway, since capital punishment is only applicable in first-degree murder cases, and in New Hampshire a first degree verdict carries a mandatory life sentence with no parole.
3) A blurb written by the sponsors of HB162 states, “This bill only gives the option of seeking a death penalty and is not mandatory.” That’s important to note. None of these bills make the death penalty mandatory. There goes fairness. The broader the state makes its parameters for use of the death penalty, the more arbitrary the process becomes. On what basis will the state decide which lost life rates application of the death penalty? On which case will it spend millions, and on which will it accept a plea bargain to cut costs? Ironically, in trying to establish equitability, these bills have the potential to pit against one another victims’ families who have all suffered heinous losses. If enacted, they stand to be terribly hurtful to the very families they are intended to help.

This leaves me wondering, what is the purpose of this latest bill, HB1706? Is it to make New Hampshire safer? It can’t do that. Is it to make justice more equitable? It can’t do that.

Is it to satiate a desire for revenge? Another part of the blurb reads, “The cost associated with a lengthy sentence of life in prison is not comparable to the expense of imposing a death sentence on an individual who chose to take the life another however, the cost of receiving justice in this circumstance is priceless!” As the mother of a young woman murdered in New Hampshire, I agree in part. The cost of receiving justice is priceless. Please don’t impede justice by squandering precious resources on the cost of revenge.

This weekend our grandson in Acworth flew down a slippery slope on his sled, crashed into a tree, and broke his leg. Our family has fresh, firsthand knowledge about slippery slopes. We know they can be fast, dangerous, and harder to get off than you might expect once you start down.

[On January 31, 2012 HB1706's sponsor Representative Ross Terrio gave a lackluster presentation of the bill before the NH House committee on criminal justice. He left the room, not listening to any subsequent testimony. For two hours people representing the clergy, medical community, victims' family members, and human rights organizations spoke - all in opposition to the bill. No one spoke in favor of it. The committee voted unanimously to recommend killing it when it comes to the floor. They used a fancier word than "killing," but I like the terminology when it comes to a bill rather than a human being.]

To Gov. Jack Markell, Delaware, re impending execution
mug shot, Peg
January 17, 2012

Dear Governor Markell,

I am writing to urge you commute the death sentence of Robert Gattis.

I am a member of Murder Victims' Families for Human Rights. My precious thirty-one-year-old daughter Molly MacDougall was murdered in a home invasion in New Hampshire in 2010. She was two weeks from graduating from nursing school, happily married, and a light in many lives. I can't begin to describe our pain.

Even as a child I believed the death penalty was wrong, although that was not the sentiment of my parents. I remember people asking me, "What if it were your loved one? How would you feel then?"

Now it is my loved one, and I am relieved that hers is not a capital case. (With last year's expansion of NH's parameters for its death penalty code the same crime could now be prosecuted as a capital offense.) The specter of another death would only serve to further traumatize my family.

I met Robert Gattis’ mother several months ago at a gathering of murder victims’ family members. Present at that gathering were family members of people who had been executed or were on death row. It was a profound experience for me to share meals and conversation with people who were on the flip side of the coin, but whose anguish was as deep as my own.

I don’t in any way condone Robert Gattis’ crime. It is chillingly close to what happened to my daughter, who was also shot in the head. Nonetheless, I am certain nothing positive will be accomplished by executing Mr. Gattis. It will only serve as a blood-letting that allows an angry public to distance itself from the man as a human being.

I'm sure you have heard a list of arguments against the death penalty many times, but I will state a few:

1. Capital punishment has never been proven to be a deterrent. People who kill either do so assuming they will not get caught, or do so without considering consequence in the moment.

2. Capital punishment is more costly than lifelong containment with no parole. The money used to carry out one execution could be better spent on crime prevention, solving cold cases to remove dangerous criminals from the streets, and meeting the emotional, psychological, and sometimes financial needs of surviving family members.

3. There is no way to administer capital punishment equitably. People with money to hire top grade lawyers have far better chances of escaping the death penalty than defendants with fewer resources. Death rows across the country are predominantly populated by poor people.

4. The state should not assume the role of God by taking a life, no matter heinous the crime. Absolutely, some people need to be contained, permanently. But no state should be in the business of killing.

Please, Governor Markell, do not allow this execution to take place. Commute Mr. Gattis' sentence to life with no parole. He should remain in prison for the rest of his natural life, but don't let this killing happen on your watch.

Thank you for your time and attention.

Margaret Hawthorn

[On January 18, Governor Markell commuted Robert Gattis' sentence to life with no parole.]

Sermon for Martin Luther King Day
mug shot, Peg
Ecumenical Service, Winchendon, MA
Jan 15, 2012
Margaret Hawthorn

“Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means.” (2 Corinthians 8:11)

Paul has been exhorting the Church of Corinth to pick up the pace on a fundraising project they’ve started for the Church in Jerusalem, whose constituency is in hard financial straights. Paul leans on the Corinthians, pointing out how generous the Macedonians, who are a less affluent group, have been.

A few verses later he adds, “…it is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need. I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of fair balance between your present abundance and their need.”

Fair balance. Paul doesn’t ask the Corinthians to give until they too suffer hardship, but to give out of their abundance to bring things into a more just distribution.

Martin Luther King day marks the birthday of a man who dedicated his life to the struggle to for legal, social, and economic justice – Paul’s fair balance between abundance and need. Paul uses the phrase “fair balance” three times in this passage, as if he is telling his audience, “Listen up, guys, this is important. I’m talking about justice.”

Much of Dr. King’s story is familiar. In 1955 he was a new, 26-year-old preacher at the Dexter Avenue Church in Montgomery, Alabama. He was drawn headlong into the civil rights movement when his church became a center of action for the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Most Americans know that over the next thirteen years until his death at age 39 he would become a major leader in the Civil Rights Movement. He would become one of the greatest orators the United States has every known, and he would be the youngest person up until that time to receive a Nobel Peace Prize.

Some of his legacy would include:

Being one of founders of Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which he led until his death. SCLC maintained a rigorous code of non-violence as it pressed for civil rights. Along with Mahatma Gandhi (whose life and work strongly influenced him), Dr. King continues to serve into the 21st century as a powerful model for people around the world who wish to practice non-violent resistance to oppression. All of his work, from early participation in the struggle for black civil rights to later opposition to the war in Viet Nam, would be deeply rooted in his understanding of the Gospels.

Dr. King would be among the organizers of the 1963 March on Washington, where he delivered his I Have a Dream speech. That march helped facilitate passage of the Civil Rights Bill of 1964, helped put Civil Rights front and center in US politics, and led to the Voting Rights act of 1965.

Much of this legacy is well known, taught to schoolchildren as “history.” I have to say that to the people I know who went to Washington in those years it doesn’t feel like history. The passion for justice is an ongoing theme in their lives – it didn’t end with Dr. King’s death. The King years and his dream remain part of their lives today.

Less familiar is the connection Dr. King began to draw in the 1960’s between war and oppression of the underclasses. Having worked to expose the problems of racial segregation, he shifted his attention to the Viet Nam war, pointing out that poor people across racial lines are sent in disproportionate numbers into wars that protect the interests of those who hold wealth and power.

As often happens with a visionary, Dr. King kept growing and his dream kept evolving – not always in ways that found favor with his associates. Political figures who had embraced his fight against segregation distanced themselves when he stood against the war in Viet Nam. Some black leaders also disapproved, believing he should dedicate his energy to civil rights for his own people. Others grew disenchanted with non-violence.

In the months before he died, Dr. King worked to organize the Poor People’s Campaign of 1968. The campaign was intended to unite poor people of every race through addressing their common needs and hardships. Tragically, Dr. King was assassinated in early April of that year. A month later demonstrators carried on the Poor People’s Campaign with a two-week protest in Washington. Jobs, income, and housing were the main goals of the campaign.

These have a familiar ring today. Jobs, income, and housing. There is work still to be done.

Finishing the work means continuing the struggle for the human rights of all people everywhere. It means giving out of our personal abundance, moving towards a fair balance. It means striving to build God’s community on earth, in which the needs of all are justly met.

Finishing the work means speaking truth to power, even when that involves taking an unpopular or – in Dr. King’s case – a life jeopardizing position.

Finishing the work means acknowledging that in subtler ways than in 1955, discrimination and racism are alive and well in the United States. Unwittingly or not, we are part of a system that is still set up to privilege whites.

Having heard it was a must-see, I recently watched the movie “The Help.” The movie may have been useful in raising awareness, but I saw it as an exercise in feeling bad in order to feel good, an opportunity to think “I’m so glad white people don’t act like that any more.”

However, here are just a few examples of ongoing discrimination against blacks in the United States:

o The median wealth of white households is 20 times that of black households, and 18 times that of Hispanic households.

o The criminal justice system seems especially skewed against people of color. More African-American men are in prison or jail, on probation or parole than were enslaved in 1850. Just as slavery once disrupted the family structure of African Americans, so does this high incarceration rate.

o The “war on drugs” primarily targets communities of color. Thus, even though multiple studies show whites use and sell illegal drugs at rates equal to or higher than blacks, far more men of color are imprisoned for drug offenses. As a result, in some inner city communities, statistics show four out of five black youths can expect to be incarcerated at least once in their lives. Crassly put (and admittedly a bit simplistic, but it makes the point), white youth anticipate going to college, black youth anticipate going to prison.

o Capital punishment has been used disproportionately on people of color, although that is changing. Nonetheless, today capital cases involving white victims are prosecuted far more vigorously than when the victim is black, regardless of the color of the defendant. White lives are more highly valued than black lives.

Finishing the work also means acknowledging and taking responsibility for our part in the impact of globalization. It means considering where the goods we buy were made, who made them under what conditions, and what natural resources have gone into them. It means asking whether the price we pay for them is in fair balance, and if not, what are we to do about it?

To honor Dr. King is to reflect on who he was, what he stood for, who we are, and what we stand for. It is to recognize the work he left unfinished, and to carry it forward. Martin Luther King Day is for all Americans – privileged, disenfranchised, or somewhere in between. Americans of every race, religion, gender orientation, physical ability – all Americans who take a stand for human rights – can proudly claim Dr. King as their own.

In October I was back in Washington DC after many years’ hiatus. I visited the newly opened Martin Luther King Jr memorial, which sits in a serene spot on a bank of the Potomac River. Twelve quotes carved into a wall behind a statue of Dr. King had a more profound impact on me than the thirty-foot statue. In those twelve quotes one can trace changes in the man as he broadens his focus from civil rights for one group to human rights for everyone. I won’t read them all, but I will end with one that gives all the reason we need to be part of finishing the work.

"We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice."

Cairo Police, Winter, 2009/10
mug shot, Peg
A few photos to give a sense of the omnipresence of the riot police. Except for their superiors, the police tended to be very young. From Egyptian activists we learned that - not unlike many people in our own military - they tend to be young men with few good job prospects.

Although there were incidents in which marchers were roughed up, several touching stories came out of marcher/police interactions. Many of the marchers made concerted efforts to befriend the police, or at least to acknowledge their humanness. One woman told of offering granola bars to the young men as they stood guarding the group for hours at a time. They would give cursory shakes of their heads, indicating they couldn't accept her gifts. She left them resting on the barricade and walked away. When she came back, the granola bars had disappeared and a few of the young men were smiling.

When their superiors weren't watching, some of them would flash peace signs and say "We love you." One evening the French gave a concert for the men assigned to patrol them at their embassy. Language barriers came and went. Marchers tried to converse with police, who sometimes knew a few words of English. A marcher made a point of introducing herself to every man in the line on a particular day, and asking their names. The young men made faces to indicate they would get in trouble if they spoke. But as she went down the line, she realized they were whispering their names to her.

An Egyptian citizen cautioned me. "They may seem very nice, but in the end they will do whatever their superiors order." Maybe that was true. Things got dicier for part of the New Years Day march. Still, one of the more potent examples of non-violence I witnessed during the week was the continued effort on the part of many marchers to establish human connections with the young men who kept us surrounded.

Police holding the line by holding hands at the UN Building in Cairo

Schmoozing with the riot police opposite the Israeli Embassy

Night time at the French Embassy

Settling in for the evening in front of French Embassy

Boston.Com blog (Boston Globe), January 11
mug shot, Peg

From Bay State to Cairo, for Gaza


Posted by James F. Smith January 11, 2010 10:37 AM


Margaret Hawthorn, a Quaker from Winchendon, Mass., was among the more than 1,300 activists who trekked to Cairo in the final days of December and early January to protest the continued isolation of Gaza by Israel and Egypt, one year after Israel's military incursion into Gaza.

On the Monadnock Quaker blog, Hawthorn provides a vivid personal account of her journey to the Egyptian capital, recounting the successes and frustrations she encountered along the way -- not least the effects of her own days of fasting in solidarity with the Gazans.

The Gaza Freedom March was organized by activist groups to draw attention to what they regard as Israel's siege of Gaza, virtually closing the border crossings with Israel and blocking the rebuilding of Gaza after the destruction of the three-week military action. The fighting left more than 1,300 people dead in Gaza, including hundreds of civilians (hence the number of protesters).

Israel has said it had to act militarily to halt persistent and indiscriminate rocket fire from miitants in Gaza against civilians in towns across the border in Israel. Thirteen Israelis were killed in the fighting. Israel says it will reopen the crossings when its security concerns are met.

More unusually, the Gaza march also focused not only on protesting Israel and US policy in the region but also on what the organizers view as Egypt's complicity with the Israeli crackdown on Gaza. Hawthorn's journal entries recount the cat-and-mouse tactics of the marchers as they tried to hold protests in Cairo, while Egyptian police sought to disrupt the gatherings and prevent any march toward the Gaza border.

In the end, nearly 100 of the activists were allowed to travel into Gaza with two busloads of humanitarian aid, thanks to the intervention of Suzanne Mubarak, wife of President Hosni Mubarak. But that compromise divided the protesters, as Hawthorn recounts in detail.

Hawthorn earned a Master's degree in divinity in 2008, and for her field project she spent three months teaching in the Palestinian West Bank in 2007 at Ramallah Friends School, a Quaker school founded in 1867. The attached photo shows her outside the Ramallah school.

She says she was inspired to join the fast because of the example of Hedy Epstein, the 85-year-old Holocaust survivor who was a key organizer of the protest and who initiated the hunger strike to press for the borders to be opened The fasting marchers declared on January 1: "We recognize that the Palestinians of Gaza continue to hunger for food, shelter, and most of all for freedom. We continue to hunger for justice for Gaza and all of Palestine. At this time we announce that we will feast when Gaza feasts. Until that time, each of us will choose the time to end her/his fast and again take food. Our pleasure in that food will always be mixed with the pain of Palestinians....”

[Worldly Boston is James F. Smith's report on people from our community who are making an impact in the world, and on people from abroad doing noteworthy things in Greater Boston. We live in the most global of communities. Worldly Boston helps share those stories.

Jim Smith came home to his native Boston in 2002 to become the Boston Globe's foreign editor after spending 22 years abroad. He was previously based in Buenos Aires and Mexico City for the LA Times, and in Johannesburg, Tokyo and The Hague for the AP. In 2007 he became the Globe's national political editor, coordinating presidential campaign coverage. He is a Yale graduate, and has an MBA.]

Jan 12 Post Cairo Blues (M. Hawthorn)
mug shot, Peg
I thought this might happen. Now that I’m home, a new level of disappointment sinks in. Yes, the Gaza Freedom March accomplished good things, and I’m thrilled to have been part of it. Events kept us busy and energized while we were there. But here at home letdown strikes. We didn’t go to Gaza.

In Cairo we cheered ourselves on with the excitement of not one but two articles in the New York Times. NPR carried a few brief clips. People blogged like crazy, and alternative news agencies carried lots of stories. The word was out!

Immersed in a world where everyone talked, planned, and dreamed non-stop about the liberation of Gaza, I assumed the rest of the planet waited with baited breath for the next news flash from Cairo. Surely the first thought of the day in the mind of every school child in the US was, I wonder how the Freedom Marchers are doing – I hope they get into Gaza today. Having been alerted to injustices sustained by current US policy, Hilary Clinton would be pondering the same question Tony Blair reportedly asked after he left office. Too late, he looked at a “facts on the ground” map showing the moth eaten remnants of Palestine and wanted to know, “Why haven’t I seen this before?”

There would be work to do when we got home, but we would return to a changed nation. Inspired by the Gaza Freedom March, fellow citizens would have read up on the region. Even before we arrived stateside, they were probably beginning to question the US's disproportionate amount of foreign aid to Egypt and Israel.* They were wondering how all this money for bombs and phosphorus to drop on a largely civilian population could really make their lives safer, healthier, or happier.

While I was away those close to me watched and listened, almost in vain, for mainstream press coverage. They relied on emails, blogs, and alternative press for information. From Cairo we preached to the choir. The choir listened and said amen. The rest of the congregation turned turtle, pulling in tail, legs, and head, as if Cairo never happened.

Because Cairo did happen, I feel estranged. I have been part of something I want to people to know and care about, but it’s not a story everyone wants to hear. All the groundwork laid in Cairo was done in the knowledge that we have ever so much more to do at home. When asked about the trip I begin with, “It was intense.”

What else can I say? “Great! You should definitely go next time. And don't miss the Pyramids while you're there.”

The only way to get through this is to pick up the work here. In Western Mass, the women who returned from the Gaza Freedom March last Friday hit the ground running. Yesterday (Monday) they staged a Guantanamo Solidarity March through snowy Northampton. March participants were encouraged to wear orange jumpsuits if they had them.

¡Brava, ladies! You lift my spirits. Mabrook!

*Israel and Egypt together (neither a developing nation) receive fully a third of all US foreign aid. Israel receives twice as much as Egypt; Egypt three times as much as next-in-line Columbia. The Israeli aid (nearing $3 billion annually) is used in a 10:1 ratio for military and civilian purposes. Egypt’s is a bit less at 3:1.