Friday, December 19, 2008

Ingrid Betancourt and Alan Johnston Swap Chilling Kidnapping Stories on BBC

Alan Johnston, Photo posted on Flickr by Robin Hamman, Creative Commons license

I heard Alan Johnston interview Ingrid Betancourt on PRI's, The World today. It was such a fascinating interview I stayed in my car until it was over, even though I had arrived at my destination.

Alan Johnston is the BBC journalist who was kidnapped in Gaza in March of 2007. He was released four months later on July 4th. Johnston had reported from Gaza for some 2-3 years before he was kidnapped. Ms. Betancourt was held captive for seven years in the jungles of Colombia. She was running for president when she was captured.

I could hear their compassion for each other over the airwaves in my car. I thought Johnston was going to break down at one point. Also Ingrid had to take some time answering questions to get her composure. I am posting the link to the BBC interview below. And below that I am pasting a post I made right after Ms. Betancourt's release.

I spend a lot of time complaining about my country, but at least we do not have to worry about being kidnapped. Not yet anyway.

If you are really interested in all of this, please comment and I will explain the complex situation that led to both their kidnappings. I am more familiar with Ms. Betancourt's kidnapping as I spent 5 years researching the history of Colombia for my doc film.

I did study ME history my one semester at UC Berkeley and on my own most my adult life, particularly the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. I have been curious about Palestine since the age of 13 when the Palestinians kidnapped the Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics in Munich. That event caught the world's attention and mine as well.

There is a great documentary about the Munich Olympics; One Day in September, narrated by Michael Douglas. Toward the end of this doc, there is a shot of one of the surviving Palestinians at the trial. He looks directly at the camera and says to the best of my recollection:

Before this, no one knew anything about Palestine. Now they do.

Chilling, absolutely chilling.

Put that doc in your on line rental queue. It is fascinating.

The interview is about 23 minutes.

Poster on building in Paris, Photo by Francois Lafite (Flickr)

I watched Ingrid Betancourt interviewed on Larry King Live from her hotel in Paris. She was held captive by the FARC for nearly 7 years in the jungles of Colombia. The interview was heartbreaking.

Larry King was actually very respectful to her. He did ask the question I am sure some producer forced him to about whether she was sexually abused, but I could tell he did not want to ask it. Of course she would not answer that question and said, "some things that happened in the jungle will stay in the jungle." Larry quickly said, "yes of course" and moved on. I think he was ashamed for asking it. And it goes without asking that she was of course abused.

Anyway, the vacant stare on her face I saw in so many parents of my students and friends when they talked about such horrors. It was chilling then, and it was chilling to see it again in the face of Ingrid Betancourt.

My point in bringing this up is that she said in her interview that one thing that was so unbelievable to her was how human beings could be so cruel to other human beings. The look on her face when she said this spoke volumes about the human condition.

She has plans to help the others still held in captivity (700 or so) obtain their freedom. And my point here is that she endured countless humiliations, a loss of her dignity, her freedom of movement, and on and on. Yet she plans to do something positive from her experience.

I do believe she is suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome and is depressed. You could see it in her face...and I heard some French rags are saying that she has admitted to this. It will be a long road to recovery for her... yet she is already making moves to make a difference in this world.

So our little problems and worries mean fuck all in comparison. So when stuck in traffic, worried about the bills and your 401k, think about Ingrid and how fragile life is and how everything can change in a second. Guess I am saying we should all be thankful for what we've got.
Peace on Earth


sas said...

I remember when Alan Johnstone was freed. So moving.

Peace on earth indeed.

Mary Cuevas said...

hi sas,
yes i remember when he was released. alan was respected in the gaza for his reporting on what was going on there. so i was so shocked when they did this. he was the only journalist living and reporting from gaza at the time.

anyway, sas, i could go on and on. i almost took a job teaching at an international school in the gaza 3 years ago. i was in s. korea teaching and not sure i was ready to head home. anyway, the director of the school sent me an email saying that he wasn't sure if they would be able to keep the school open because the israelis were flying low flying missions over gaza which were bursting the ear drums of the kids and blowing out windows. i have saved that email....maybe i'll post it one day.:) funny how our press did not report on this.

it is a complex situation. and please know i know there are two sides to every story.

thanks for commenting. and lastly, i am in love with alan johnston.:) i have so much respect for him.