Author: angiem, 12 07th, 2009

Once upon a time my mom had an amazingly brilliant brother.  Not only was he a mathematician, he was the most articulate speaker, and people would come from miles (kilometers) around to hear what he had to say.  While at University in the 1950’s, he participated in a rally against the communist government and was imprisoned for years.  No one knew where he was or whether he was still alive, and as a parent I can just imagine the worry and the fear.

For hours each day the guards would place him in a stand up coffin with a hole drilled at the top, and trickle water drop by drop onto his shaved head.  The space was so tight that he could not even lift his hand to wipe away the water.  When they released him from that confined space, they would whip the soles of his feet with a rubber hose before allowing him back to his cell.

They broke him, before I had a chance to see his brilliance.  Only after just the shell of what he had been remained, was he released.  All I remember of him was his silliness and his drinking.  He would chase the chickens around the yard, or awkwardly ruffle my hair in passing, and although I knew he was harmless, I couldn’t help but be scared when he’d come to grandma’s house where he had his own private apartment, drunkenly singing at the top of his lungs.

I was thinking about him today.  And about all the freedoms we have that we take for granted.  And also, about all those people with the ideals to fight and suffer for our freedom, whom we dispose of so easily after they have served their purpose.  We pass by their broken bodies and minds and pretend we don’t see them.  Yet we know where they come from and where they’ve been.  And although we only imagine, we cannot fathom the hell they’ve seen while we’ve been cocooned in our cozy homes, far away from the cruel realities of life.

So, be it a dollar, a meal, or a job, let’s continue to support them and bless them.


29 Responses to “breaking”

  1. Sophia Says:

    Great post - it is remarkable to think about what people once were and how circumstances can change them. I think few could really come back from such drawn-out torture.

  2. Jessica Says:

    That’s horrible. :-( Thank you for the reminder. I probably would’ve been scared as a kid too.

  3. Dawn Says:

    This is an amazing post. That is so terrible about your uncle. I always look at the homeless or the people begging on the street corners and wonder what their story is. What had happened to put them there, where there family is. Is there anyone left who loves them? I think about my own children.

    A few years back, my dad who had stopped at a light reached out and gave a man who was begging at an intersection some money. And get this…my dad was then pulled over by a cop for encouraging that kind of behavior. He tries to help, then gets pulled over. And in a small city near here, the cops pick up the occasional homeless person or wanderer and instead of taking them to a shelter, they drive them out of their district and drop them off. Nice.

    Your post is a good reminder. We can’t avert our eyes forever.

  4. audrey Says:

    Angie when i was in university, i had a course on ethics and justice and we studied ’stories’ of diverse people’s. i remember asking the professor, as there are many injustices in the world how do we stay ‘informed’ about them. he said we must also wake up in the morning and think and ask ourselves ‘who have i forgotten?’

    Angie your courageous and intelligent writings remind me of what i don’t know.

    thank you!

  5. Susan R. Mills Says:

    Wow! What an amazing story. I have goosebumps.

  6. deb @ talk at the table Says:

    I continue to be amazed when I visit here.
    This slayed me, and there are no easy answers, except compassion .
    What horrible things people do to each other is beyond comprehension, but if we transfer some understanding to all of us living with our own demons, would the empathy make enough difference? We can only hope.
    love to you
    and your brother, and parents. I can’t begin to imagine.

  7. corine Says:

    In which country did this torture take place?

    I have the utmost compassion for people who end up living in the streets and drugging or drinking themselves to death. God knows the wounds they have suffered to end up with that life. Your uncle’s story is a reminder that we should not judge.

  8. Kary Gonyer Says:

    Angie… I am going to read this story this afternoon…but I just had to stop by to thank you for the well wishes for Buddy… I really appreciate your kind words that you took the time to leave……

    Kary and Buddy

  9. Renee Khan Says:

    Boy Angie that was a hard read. It physically hurts to hear of things like this being done to anyone, let alone your uncle.

    I am sorry he was treated this way.

    How people do these things, I will never know. And yet it continues today.

    Dear friend, I hope that you and the kids are doing well.

    Love Renee xoxoxo

  10. Bebe Says:

    Angie- Wow! I am speechless. How tragic! Everyone has a story…. isn’t that something?

  11. Phoenix Says:

    This is simply beautiful, Angie. So well-written and incredibly honest.

    And thank you for all your kind comments on my blog and for checking out my guest blog! You rock, and I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving as well :)

  12. Make Do Style Says:

    That’s a very good reminder even if the example is awful. That is why democracy is so important even if ti is imperfect.

  13. Karen@SurvivingMotherhood Says:

    This is heartbreaking, Angie.
    Besides the fact that I am really freaky about not being able to move my legs, and the thought of being shut that tightly in a coffin takes my breath away- I cannot imagine the pain your uncle endured.
    Thank you for sharing this story and helping us to see a side we usually do not.

  14. Laura [What I Like] Says:

    I echo the comments above…fantastic post and so touchingly written. It is important to remember this point I think…I saw that movie Brothers early last week and the concept that the burdens and costs of freedom fall much more heavily on some than on others has been on my mind ever since.

  15. Gigi Says:

    I don’t have words adequate to express how moved I am by your post. Thank you for writing it, and for saying so beautifully what we need to remind ourselves and to act upon not just once, but throughout our lives.

    All best,

  16. French Fancy Says:

    omg this was such an awful thing to read and so necessary as well. We simply take our freedoms for granted - what country was he in when this happened to the poor poor man?

    Anyway, I know I don’t pop over as often as I should and to remedy the situation you are now clamped to my sidebar. I’ll be keeping my bloggy eye on you

  17. French Fancy Says:

    p.s. just been looking at the photos of your husband and children. You are such a beautiful family - really really attractive

  18. Deborah Says:

    Ah, yes, there is usually a story behind one who appears dysfunctional…it’s up to us to look deep enough to find the humanity in them.

  19. Lydia, Clueless Crafter Says:

    The pain, and moreover, the indignity. We go through our days believing that we deserve the right to express until we are imprisoned for it. The fact that he remained harmless, did not murder or harm for his injustice breaks me.

    I have art and as I’ve been going through the photos today, I feel blessed that that’s a place I can go.

  20. Autumn Says:

    This was an amazing post!!! I cannot even begin to imagine what that must have been like for him! It makes me so sad. You are so right too. We dismiss the people who have paved the way for alot of the freedoms that we have and it is not right! I think that it is so very easy to do when you are young just because the expiration date on youth is something that you view a little different from when you start to get older. Anyhow, I will try extra hard to remember because after all, at one time they were our age and one day if we live to see it we will be theirs. Again, lovely post! :)

  21. Mary-Laure Says:

    What a terrifying story!
    I’ve lived in many countries where freedom was merely a dream, including on communist China in the 1980’s, and I am thankful every day, every second, for the freedom I enjoy in the USA and in Europe.

  22. Holly L Says:

    That is a chilling story. I live in a world so far removed from that, that I need a reminder of those who have suffered for their beliefs and causes.


  23. Bridgette Says:

    You speak on behalf of so many, the forgotten, and those that forget.
    Thank you, for this wonderful reminder.

  24. manon doyle Says:

    Thanks for stopping by my blog earlier!!
    Love your post and your blog!

  25. rochambeau Says:

    Dear Angie,
    It is heartbreaking to read how your Uncle lived through hell, that people could and torture him. That ANYONE could torture another. He must have been a remarkable person to somehow make it through the best he could.

    You are right about not taking our freedoms for granted, for being thankful for all who have sacrificed on our behalf and for taking stock that we will be ever grateful for ALL of our many blessings.

    Thank you for writing this important post!


  26. Ruth Says:

    Thank you, I have not been told of his story. I tell myself everyone has a story. No matter the mistakes they made, the rules they did not follow, or simply the choices they made, we should not pass them over. They are here and are human like me and like you. And they deserve respect, kindness, love, and forgiveness. As tiny Tim says, God bless us all everyone.

  27. Ruth Says:

    I read Dawn’s comment, and was reminded of a story my dad told me, when we lived in Anaheim. He was on the freeway and saw a father and a couple kids walking. So not being in a rush, and wondering why a man with kids is walking on the freeway, he pulled over to give them a ride. The man said he was pulled over, and I don’t remember the reason (either his license expired or something), but the cop said he could not drive and ordered them out of the car. So they were walking to the next off ramp to find a bus stop. I found the story unbelievable. As young as I was, I could not understand why a cop would require that, and then not offer a ride to that person (with children no less).

  28. French Fancy Says:

    Thanks for the clarification about where this happened. I suppose I should have guessed. My maternal grandparents were Jews from Russia and my paternal grandparents were Jews from Romania- although both families got out in the early part of the 1900’s and settled in London - and escaped all the persecution and pogroms. Not so great for the rest of the family members who were left behind, none of whom survived.

    I have no time for religion of any sort and when I think about the terrible things done in its name, well I do not know how people can support it really. Having said that, each to their own etc etc. Goodness, I’ve gone all serious - something I usually try and avoid in the blogosphere.

    Anyway, Angie, I hope you are feeling a bit better today


  29. krista Says:

    i would love to hear more of his story. to think of who he was before he was tortured by other humans. the spirit that remained and what was lost.
    i’m so full of love for him. your words did that.

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