Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The memorial service

I'm back from Washington, where I joined Maggi's friends and family for a memorial service on Sunday. It was such an important thing to do, and Maggi's friends came from California, New Mexico, El Salvador, New York to be there, if only for a moment, to grieve and to honor her life and her contribution.

I won't say more for now, but I'm preparing a new website, www.maggimemorial.org, which should be up in the next day or so, where you'll be able to share and read from her friends and family about her life.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Remembering Maggi

I thought I’d add something that was written recently and that, as Cathy Potler put it, “captured some of [Maggi's] finest characteristics.” Maggi’s friend Gene Palumbo, a journalist living in El Salvador, wrote it for a memorial service for Maggi’s father. Maggi decided not to read it at the service, explaining why in a note to Gene that reflected her characteristic modesty:
I was really touched by your overly generous words. I passed them along to my mother, but we had so many people who wanted to say things directly about my father and their relationship with him that it didn't seem right to include something that focused on me during the ceremony. This may sound strange, but it hadn't really occurred to me before that my somewhat skeptical tendencies in El Salvador might actually have come from listening to my father, who never accepted any dogma (he was expelled from the Young Communists at age 15 for criticizing the Hitler-Stalin pact).
Gretta Siebentritt said Maggi told her that she was pleased by what Gene had written. With that in mind, and with Gene’s permission, I’m reprinting it here:

I spoke only once with Maggi's father, so I can't say I knew him. But if it’s true that "by their fruits you shall know them," he must have been quite a person.

I wonder what kind of intellectual he was. If he was the kind his daughter is, he was the best kind. El Salvador is a place where, too often, and sadly, people take sides in a way that means they stop being self-critical and open. They become predictable. Maggi isn't like that, and wasn't like that when she was here. I wish you could know how helpful, how important that was to so many of us -- and how refreshing it was. If Maggi got some of that from him, he sure did a great job.

I wonder if he helped give her something else: the kind of courage you had to have to go to El Salvador when Maggi did -- right in the middle of the war -- and to go there to do what Maggi did: human rights work on behalf of those who were targeted. On a Sunday afternoon like this, during those war years, you knew where you'd find Maggi: at the prisons, visiting and interviewing people who'd been captured. Some were from the non-government human rights commission; other commission members had been murdered. To be identified with those people – as Maggi surely was by prison and government authorities – meant putting yourself at risk, but that didn't stop her. I’d guess her dad felt very proud of that.

Finally, how many people do you know who, right in the middle of a situation like that, would choose to start a family and raise a child? Richard Popkin's daughter did that. So if it's "like father, like daughter," he must have been quite a guy. I wish I could have known him.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Margaret "Maggi" Popkin


dear friend

loyal colleague

committed human rights lawyer

steadfast seeker of justice

devoted mother

will always be with us


There will be a memorial service for Maggi on Sunday, May 22, 3 pm, at the River Road Unitarian Universalist Church, 6301 River Road, Bethesda, MD. We invite all her friends and colleagues to join us

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

A time for prayer

A very dear friend, Maggi Popkin, ran into serious complications yesterday during surgery. We are all very worried and sad about this. Please say a prayer, light a candle, or whatever else you might believe in for her well-being.

UPDATE: I awoke this morning to emails notifiying me that Maggi passed away yesterday. Today is a supremely sad day.

Also worrisome: I hear that there's a state of alert in El Salvador and Honduras, as they await the tropical storm Adrian, the strongest one of the past many decades:
The U.S. National Hurricane Center predicted the storm would continue to strengthen before before its projected landfall on May 19. Adrian is moving at about 13 km (8 miles) per hour and has winds reaching 85 km (50 miles) per hour. The NHC projects rainfall amounts in the range of six to 10 inches with isolated accumulations of 20 inches in mountainous areas. This storm could cause flooding, landslides and transportation disruptions.
As usual, the poor and powerless, who scrape by with meager housing and belongings, will be most affected.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

UN: Ten Stories the World Needs to Know About

Compiled by the United Nations Department of Public Information
Somalia: Steps on a path to fragile peace in a shattered country
Tragic blind spot in health care for women
Northern Uganda: A humanitarian crisis that demands sustained focus
Sierra Leone: Building on a hard-won peace
Actors for change: The growth of human rights institutions
Cameroon: Farming in the Dark
Island after the hurricane: Grenada struggles to recover from devastation
Behind closed doors: Violence against women
A viable alternative: curbing illicit drugs through development
Environment and health: New insights into spread of infectious diseases

Monday, May 02, 2005

The Maass piece last Sunday

...was pretty good. It still feels like he doesn't necessarily have a good grasp of El Salvador, and mostly seems to follow up on the very good WSJ piece on pop-up militias last February. If he'd read a bit more about El Salvador (and I realize he reported from there, but that was a heck of a long time ago), he'd know that the old 55-adviser limit was a joke, and the military admits to that now.

I'm too tired and beat to say anything more, but you can check out praktike's and swopa's posts, and my comments, on the matter.

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