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The Gearboat Chronicles

On a serious note

I went to a lecture last week by Charles Shields, biographer of Harper Lee who wrote To Kill A Mockingbird. I consider that book as likely the finest collection of words put next to one another I’ve ever come across, so I was keen to hear what this Shields had to say. And here’s one comment of his I’ve been turning over:

Shields put forward a theory as to why Mockingbird enjoys such popularity. The book asks a question, he figures. A moral one. As in, would you defend Tom Robinson, as Atticus does, when the town doesn’t want you to? Would you have the mojo to go against generations of ‘that’s just the way it is’ when that way isn’t right?

Dr. King has a lot of folks thinking that over this week. And as I started to write a newspaper column about a guy I know that works in Haiti, that question by Shields popped back up and I realized here is a person, Brian Concannon, who definitely answers yes, on a regular basis, and has been for years.

Brian and Marcy are friends of ours that live in Joseph. They lived and worked in Haiti before settling down here in the Wallowas. Brian was in Haiti as a human rights attorney and Marcy . . . I can’t remember now. I want to say community development. Health? I don’t know. And I’m not going to call and ask. Let’s just say she was doing good work, because I know that to be true. I emailed and called them when I was trying to write my column for the paper and just felt bad to be bothering them. They’re waiting for the phone to ring with news of Haitian friends and co-workers in the rubble. Brian’s busy, doing interviews and I can’t even guess what all, trying to make sense or sort out or fix tragedy and chaos from 3,200 miles away.

After the military coup in Haiti in 2004, Brian didn’t throw in the towel, he got all Atticus Finch and started up The Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, with offices in little ol’ Joseph, Oregon. And that’s the last I’m going to compliment the guy for now. It’s just not the time.

I’ll cut to the chase. I trust this guy and here’s a list of relief organizations he trusts, if you’re looking for a reputable outfit to make a contribution to:

Partners In Health.

Haiti Emergency Relief Fund.

The What If? Foundation.

And here are some links if you’d like to learn more about Haiti beyond the earthquake. This Brian Concannon guy has important things to say. They’re not always comfortable. That’s why they’re important.

The Institute for Democracy and Justice in Haiti website is: www.ijdh.org. Read that message at the top. It’s worth doing.

Working with the Haitian Government,” is a recent article in Counterpunch.

Change Haiti Can Believe In,” by Concannon and Paul Farmer, of Partners in Health, is sobering.

And here’s video of a panel discussion on the same topic.


I’ll get back to good times on the river next time around on these Gearboat Chronicles. But, you know, serious conversations are part of the good times on the river. I’ve had many interesting discussions with lots of interesting folks on my boat where we get into a subject – get interrupted by a raging rapid – then pick up where we left off once the water smooths out again. Sometimes the topic gets picked up again after dinner around the campfire. Sometimes it carries over into the next day on the raft. Sometimes I’m still thinking about it months later. These issues Brian Concannon writes about I’ll be thinking of months later.

Thanks for reading.