A positive Mexican-American reflection on American Thanksgiving

Turkey tamales are one innovation Mexican-Americans have added to American Thanksgiving meals which represent a time of bringing families together

As a Mexican-American child growing up in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas I remember celebrating the American holiday, Thanksgiving, as a day which seeked to convey a utopian image of the founding of America between native peoples and foreign immigrants. This remembrance has come under controversy with the emergence of a bitter feud between advocates that it should be a day of shame of European conquest and defenders who note it was and is a symbol of the ideal of what America is striving to be. That although not yet perfect America has made considerable progress to that promised by its inception.

Just before Thanksgiving a year ago I was a part of Mekelle University medical faculty teaching medical students, providing healthcare, and promoting research to improve the lives of Tigrayans as well as their fellow Ethiopians. Unfortunately today I find myself displaced by a horrible war that has killed, starved, deprived, and rendered hopeless tens of thousands of people in Ethiopia. Everyday of the war reminds me they have not yet reached the state of progress we have struggled for in America. We versus they thinking has poisoned their society. They need to be exterminated mentality has ruined a country.

I am currently reading Thaddeus William’s Confronting Injustice without Compromising Truth: 12 Questions Christians Should Ask About Social Justice which has helped me to come to terms with how I view Thanksgiving.

First we have to recognize that all men are created by God in his image. All of us are potential sinners and potentially repentant members of the human family. Neither the native American society nor the Europeans were without sin yet they judged each other as “they” not “we”. Today this lack of seeing others like ourselves deteriorates into volatility and then violence. This has been sin of man since history has been recorded.

As a Mexican-American we honor our native and European roots. They are our mother and father. To hate one and love the other only recognizes half of our whole. The American expansion to the southwestern continental region of North American engulfed our traditional lands which beforehand had been taken from our native ancestors by Europeans.

Today we are a part of a great country, the United States of America, to which we have contributed much including building its infrastructure, harvesting its food, blending into and adding to its culture,  as well as defending its liberty from foreign threats. We cannot change history but we can learn from it. Our identity now is we are an essential part of the American dream and it is an integral part of our culture. Today I can celebrate Thanksgiving because although there was a flawed past there is a  future with  promise. I thank God for his creation of us all.

A day in the life of a neurosurgeon in Tigray before the war

A brain tumor in a young farmer from the countryside of Tigray treated in 2018. Today someone like him has no chance for treatment due to the Ethiopian blockade
The following is a story of a single patient written in 2018 before the Ethiopia Tigray conflict. It was a time of hope. That we could bring something new to Tigray and help the farmers. I pray these days will come again
 
As the family said goodbye to him he left the ICU for the operating room. He had been intubated and resuscitated in the emergency room where he presented with coma. A young uneducated farmer from a remote primitive area who had been deteriorating for a year and half. Tumors in this part of the world are large and angry because they present so late. The MRI of the brain showed a 10 centimeter tumor in the fourth ventricle which was highly vascularized. This is the type of case neurosurgeons dream of, a mix of danger and hope.
 
The residents and fellows do the initial opening until the back of the brain is exposed which takes the first hour of surgery. I can see the tumor erupting to surface with very swollen blood vessels around it. Instead of the ependymoma (an easier tumor to remove) this was going to be hard. I begin working a millimeter at a time. Gently dissecting tumor from brain, isolating and separating scar bands and blood vessels. Using directed light and magnification for the next 8 hours I cannot take even a 5 minute break. Removing the tumor means there is constant blood loss. The brain receives more blood than any other organ. Tumors cause extra blood vessels to grow into them. As you control one bleeder another 2 start.
 
By the fourth hour into surgery he has lost 5 liters of blood and his blood pressure is fragile. By the sixth hours there is still about 20% of the tumor left which is covering the cerebral aqueduct. This must be removed to allow flow of cerebrospinal fluid. We are millimeters away from vital areas that cannot be damaged.
 
Another 2 hours goes by and there are times when the blood loss starts again and pressure gets low even with another 2 units. After 8 hours from the beginning of my part of the surgery the tumor is completely removed. The patients blood pressure is holding thanks to high dose epinephrine (a drug to raise blood pressure in critical patient). Now comes the hardest time. Will the patient wake up? He goes to the intensive care unit and we wait. After a few hours he begins to move in a way that suggest he will emerge from coma. This is the life of neurosurgeon. Fighting to stay on the brink of life for hours at a time.
 
He left the hospital fully functional and returned to his farm. I pray he has survived the war.

Abiy Ahmed and Prosperity Party revoked all their promises of hope and unity for Ethiopia

The growing paradox between what Abiy Ahmed promised and what reality has emerged under his leadership

The glow of hope was replaced by the tarnish of despair in just three years after Abiy Ahmed came to power in April 2018 as the Prime Minister of Ethiopia. The world watched initially with awe as the new leader freed political prisoners, took up the plight of Oromo interests being ignored in the growth of Addis Ababa, promised democratic elections, and a dialogue with all of Ethiopia’s varied and many ethnic groups. But this new wave of democracy would not last.

A major part of his rise in political popularity was the civil actions of the Qeerro demonstrators and support of Oromo activists including Jawar Mohammed who accompanied the new Prime Minister on his tour meeting diaspora in the United States. Today Jawar Mohammed and others sit in jail without a real due process. The Oromo whose cause was once championed by the Prime Minister suffer extrajudicial killings without restriction.

Early in his new role, Abiy Ahmed complimented the Tigray as an example of a good regional government in discussing with the Ethiopian parliament what should be expected of elected officials.

Now Ethiopia is involved in a civil war with an ever growing number of participants from almost all regions of Ethiopia joining the Tigray and Oromo fighters who clearly see that the Prime Minister has violated his supreme duty to follow the Ethiopian constitution and act in the best interests of Ethiopia.

The Tigray regional state had only 9000 armed forces in its service in November 2020 not the 250,000 claimed. Build ups in Eritrea and Amhara as well as severe cutting of budgets normally allotted by population and most importantly the characterization of the Tigray leadership as “terrorists” even after they had left power peacefully created an intolerable environment. It is literally a miracle that they were able to survive the initial onslaught of the combined forces of Ethiopia and Tigray estimated to be over 150,000. No doubt that a part of this revival was due to the will to overcome the intentional and massive genocide being acted upon the innocent Tigray population.

As someone who has lived and worked in Tigray for the past 7 years until I was forced to evacuate I have spent time in many regions talking to farmers, city dwellers, and thousands of patients and their families. The representation that the Tigray were subjugated to an unpopular despotic regional government is nonsense. What ever differences existed have been dismissed as the vast majority of Tigrayans, the Tegaru, are united in the purpose of avoiding an intended complete genocide. No doubt this is why Abiy Ahmed and his followers have such a fear of children, the elderly, and mothers of the Tigray that they want to arrest all of them immediately.

Today, Ethiopia is a failed state due to the chameleon nature of the Prime Minister and his followers which have now revoked all their promises. Many of his former supporters are now in prison. There is no free speech, no free press, no growing economy, and now Ethiopia is becoming identified most closely with outlaw nations like North Korea, Iran, and yes especially Eritrea. Ethiopia has allied itself with the enemies of all the values it once promised to hold most dear.

 

Abiy Ahmed and Isaias Afwerki continuous hatred toward Christians

Still from Amnesty International’s Crisis Evidence Lab geolocated a video showing people carrying a dead man on a stretcher in Da’Ero Ela Plaza (14.129918, 38.717113), towards Arba’etu Ensessa church.

Esaias Afwerki and Abiy Ahmed despite his claim of Christianity seemed joined together in their hatred for Christians during the Ethiopia Tigray conflict.

About 40,000 Irob (sometimes spelled Erob) people live on the northern Tigray Eritrean border. They speak a different language Saho then the Tigray and high percentage of them are Roman Catholics due in part to schools and support services placed in the community by the Catholic Church since the 19th century. Traditionally they have been allies with the Tigray in opposing Eritrea and the Derg. 

Many Irob who have lived in the areas recognized as Eritrean since Eritrean independence have suffered extrajudicial killings, imprisonment, displacement, and general deprivation for years. It was not unusual to hear that Eritrean authorities would come to dismantle Irob homes to use the lumbar for government projects. Authorities blocked church functions, funerals, and public gatherings to discuss local issues which were customary to Irob cultural tradition.

Since the Ethiopia Eritrean invasion of Tigray the situation only got worse. Investigation by the European Center for Law & Justice as well as the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights reports numerous murders of priests, Catholic lay, destruction of worship facilities, and also of social supportive buildings for the Irob. Many families report many if not all the men in their family were executed by Eritrean forces. This barbarism against is not only for Catholics but also Tigray Orthodox believers where more than 80 priests and lay worshipers were murdered in Axum .

During the invasion of Mekelle, I witnessed the artillery barrage destroying much of the building housing Catholic Charities. Eritrean forces then came and removed all files and communication equipment. While meeting with lay representatives of the church to discuss how we could help offer medical help, I was accosted by Eritrean soldiers and my cell phone erased by them.

Esaias Afwerki’s prosecution of Christians in Eritrea is rated by Open Doors as the 6th worst in world. He has closed Catholic schools and hospitals throwing sick patients into the street. Even though Abiy Ahmed claims to be a Christian and member of the Mulu Wongel (Full Gospel Believers Church) in Addis Ababa his partner in the war, Esaias has expelled, tortured, and killed many members of this same church in Eritrea.

Vatican News reports that Ethiopian authorities have raided a center in Addis Ababa arresting many priests, Salesian missionaries, volunteers, and employees. Many of the Salesians have lived in Addis since 1975 with strong pacifist sentiments.

The World Council of Churches representing 50 million Christians from 349 churches in 110 countries sent letters to both Abiy Ahmed and Ethiopian Christian churches in February 2021 condemning violence, lamenting displacement, and widespread hunger in Tigray.

George Orwell’s dystopian 1984 country is becoming reality in Ethiopia

A year after winning the Nobel Peace Prize thousands of Ethiopians were arrested, dead, and silenced

Abiy Ahmed is bringing the fantasy of George Orwells 1984 into reality in Ethiopia. He once promised a new era of free speech, free press, and exchange of ideas among different ethnicities but now his metamorphosis to one described by Jeffrey Felts as one “whose behavior no person of conscience can accept” has brought Ethiopia to the brink of ruin if not complete destruction.

Anyone with any previous tie to Tigray without current evidence of intention to act against Ethiopia can have their possessions taken, their livelihood destroyed, and imprisoned without due process. News organizations must register and promise to only publish news that is approved to strictly follow government’s dictations. Ordinary citizens who voice any opinion in opposition to government in person, on the street, or in social media are to be considered terrorists.

In the case of Big Brother in George Orwell’s classic tale of a completely dominating dystopian state,  1984, his name was unknown but in the case of Ethiopia which now seems to be following the same theme we know the protagonist is Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed. Unfortunately this is not fiction but a growing epic catastrophe causing millions of people to suffer and die. There is no morality above that which serves the state. All actions to preserve the stability of the state are allowable.

In 1984 Big Brother constantly watches every citizen all the time. Not only what they do and say but even analyzing what they think to insure that everything is being done for the benefit of state stability and security. History, education, and media are strictly controlled and manipulated to further the state’s goals while truth has no relevance. There is only one official nationalism and all others are forcefully quashed. The citizens live in poverty and deprivation to keep them in a state of continual dependence on government assistance tied to perfect individual support of the state. Failure to fully cooperate results in severe penalty.

Leadership and humanity to foe has determined the victor in Ethiopia

The leadership of the Tigray and Ethiopian Federal Government

Whatever you might believe about the Tigray, the Oromo, or the Amhara the current situation has basically been about two armies and especially their leadership. The Ethiopian federal government under Abiy Ahmed had all the cards in his favor or so he thought. He professed that his intent with the invasion of Tigray was to do “enforcement”. His goal was to capture the rebel leaders to “liberate” the Tigray who like to be called the Tegaru.

I have never met Mr. Ahmed but I have had the pleasure many times to share airplane trips with Mr. Debretsion who is a quiet contemplative man who has an enormous intellect but at the same time understands the common man of Tigray. We always talked about what we were doing at the University and the hospital for the farmers.

The Tigray Defense Force has captured Dessie and now seems unstoppable while the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed, says today from Bahir Dar that Ethiopia cannot win militarily over the Tigray.  Rather than thousands dying in weeks of battle, the humanity of the Tigray Defense Force avoided extensive civilian causalities and offered humanitarian care of prisoners which encouraged the Ethiopian defense forces to surrender rather then die for nothing in Dessie. There is no doubt that what has happened in Tigray and northern Ethiopia is a human tragedy. Those who mostly suffered have been poor farmers whose lives are tied to a constant struggle to just survive even in times of peace. Years from now historians and political analysts will try to cast light on what lead to this catastrophe.  

However, Abiy Ahmed’s hidden agenda, which was to annihilate the Tigray people soon become obvious. Instead of trying to compassionately motivate the people of Tigray that they had their interest by securing food, power, internet, medicine, education, and personal security they unleashed barbarous savagery of rape, thief, deprivation, destruction and hate.

In his mind and in his pronouncement to his followers, Abiy Ahmed, belittled the Tigray to subhumans incapable of doing anything well. He seemed to forget their history of being capable of elite light infantry campaigns in guerrilla and conventional warfare. The Prime Minister put his faith in military leaders who had previously been defeated by the Tigray in the Derg war. Finally, his cruelty to the Tigray people motivated her population to sustain a war effort not for domination but for survival. Meanwhile much of Ethiopia outside of the main combatants realized that the war was an instrument of destruction not unity. The old story of Amhara expansion that characterized the 18th and 19th century domination of Abyssinia over the Cushitic and Southern peoples is over. Medemer was exposed as lie. Apparently Abiy Ahmed has sent his family to Switzerland. I hope a new era will emerge.

Ethiopian desire to obliterate Tigray existence becoming more public

Yohannes Buayalew, a top Amhara government official warned that one of the key factors to win a war was to foster and internalize hate of the enemy

Once claiming Tigray as fellow  mislead Ethiopians, Ethiopian leaders now proclaim absolute hate for them. Yohannes Buayalew, an Amhara government official now proclaims a key factor to win a war was to foster and internalize hate of the enemy. “Artists should help promote hate among the people against the enemy. Hate is power needed to defeat an enemy.  He called on Ethiopian artists and writers to make hate sink in the people. Previous denials by Ethiopian officials that their war against the Tigray was an intended genocide but was only a “law enforcement operation” are now changed to bold proclamations of the need to develop absolute hate of everything Tigray. Of course the reality is that this hatred has been present since Abiy Ahmed began planning his Tigray obliteration after his alliance with Ahmara expansionists.

Before Ethiopian, Amhara, and Eritrean forces even entered the Ethiopian Tigray war they were told by commanding officers and political leaders that this war was about permanently removing the Tigray people from not only existence but history. We now know that specific orders were given to kill all male children over the age 4 at least and if more the better. Tigray women were to raped to bear Amhara children or their wombs rendered sterile by mutilation.

Schools, hospitals, farms, electricity, water, internet, and banking were to be destroyed that no vestige of society remained. Even before the Ethiopian invasion the Ethiopian Federal government had already changed the budgets of universities and other facilities to zero. Factories built by foreign interest which were financed by the Ethiopian government were to be destroyed.

Almost no prisoners of war from Tigray and minimally from Oromo fighters have been taken. Most were just killed on the spot and left for the hyena.

There are even some reports of Amhara FANO removing limbs from both combatants and civilians leaving them disabled. I saw innocent mothers shot in the back running from enemy soldiers and then their babies semi-decapitated. 

The hatred of the Abiy Ahmed and his followers has been so intense that Ethiopian Air Force bombing along the A2 Highway was allowed to kill many Amhara civilians as they could be sacrificed for the goal of genocide of the Tigray.

The death of the Ethiopian economic dream of prosperity

The International Monetary Fund is so pessimistic about Ethiopian growth it refused to give a report

The conquest obsession of Abiy Abid is rapidly fading any future of economic growth and financial independence for Ethiopia. They seemed to have missed out on the first lesson in any college freshman economic class about the “guns vs butter” trade off.

This month the inflation rate for Ethiopia will reach a record 50% in one year the highest in the world. The consumer price index is expected within a short time to also reach a new high of 300 points above normal. The Central Statistical Agency which normally posts this finding has actually closed its normal reporting website.

The Ethiopian government probably has less the $400 million to run the country for the next 11 months which normally requires about $2 billion. The International Monetary Fund has decided that Ethiopia’s finances are in such disarray that it cannot issue a report on growth. Although the official government report is 6.6% growth this year most analysts are saying it will exceed -2% net loss. Fantasy will not feed the hungry nor create sustainable businesses to drive economic growth.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has spent all cash reserves and transferred most gold reserves out of the country. France and China are trying to broker a new repayment plan for debt that exceeds $40 billion requiring payments of at least $2 billion year alone in debt service. Meanwhile Abiy Ahmed promises to guarantee private loan deals between private companies in Ethiopia and foreign interests have been discovered adding another $25 billion in debt previously hidden. His armies have destroyed hundreds of billions of birr worth of businesses and industries in Tigray. The war damage blight to Tigray now extends to much of Amhara with Ethiopian and Eritrean blanket destruction adding billions of birr in economic production loss and human life. 

At this point the continued war and misery are no doubt going to leave what was formally the prosperous state of Ethiopia in tatters. Severe austerity measures will need to be imposed just to get any country to fund loan repayment and it is likely that natural resources will likely be the mechanism of repayment but not at any significant profit to Ethiopia. The dream of Ethiopia being a second world country that escaped poverty is gone. The previous decades of progress will be just a memory traded for the false promise of conquest and repression. Ethiopia has become another Eritrea. 

Severe Ethiopian crackdown on Oromo Irrecha Bishoftu celebration

Security forces have blockaded the highway from Addis Ababa to Bishoftu in fear of protest gatherings forming at Irrecha celebrations

Although an official police statement from Bishoftu says that visitors are welcome to today’s celebration of Irrecha, the Oromo national unity holiday, the truth is far different. Since yesterday the 39 kilometer expressway from Addis Ababa (known as Finfinne to Oromos before the Amhara conquest) to Bishoftu has been mostly blocked off. Many witnesses report that numerous Oromo youth from Addis Ababa and other areas have been arrested by police trying to enter Bishoftu.  Despite the roadblock the editor of Addis Standard in her twitter reports says that many are still choosing to walk the 39 kilometer distance by foot to attend the celebrations at lake Hora Arsedi. Many have been quoted as saying that Abiy Ahmed will not succeed in stopping Oromo protestation to wrongful imprisonment of Oromo leaders and other grievances including extrajudicial killings.

Oromo celebrants of Irrecha at Hora Arsedi in Bishoftu are not deterred by threats from Ethiopian security forces under orders from Abiy Ahmed to stop embarassing protests before instillation of the new government

The Ethiopian Federal government is so fearful that large formations of federal police and soldiers are now deployed in Bishoftu. A complete blackout of telephone, cell, electricity, and internet services has been done. Hospitals and clinics are under strict orders not to report any injuries in Bishoftu just as yesterday doctors and nurses in Addis were rebuked for reporting injuries at Irrecha celebrations in Addis Ababa. Additionally there are now reports that prominent human rights leaders from Addis Ababa including Tesfalem Waldyes, founder of Ethiopia Insight, have been arrested.

Finance Minister declares peace talks are the only way to economic survival of Ethiopia

Before the start of the Ethiopian Tigray conflict the Finance Minister was a rising star in bringing in investors to Ethiopia. Now he is desperately fighting avoid complete economic collapse

In a major break from Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed’s stance that no negotiations will be done with the “terrorist” Tigray National State government Ethiopia’s Finance Minister Eyob Tekalign this week announced that the guns should be silenced and peace negotiations begun to return to the path of prosperity. Mr. Tekalign and Ethiopia’s economy are in the midst of disaster after having paid more than a $ 1 billion USD as well as secretive Ethiopian gold transfers via Dubai  to Eritrea and hundreds of millions in weapons sales to Turkey, Iran, among other suppliers too. 

Ethiopia’s debt to foreign creditors now exceeds $30 billion USD requiring payment of nearly $2 billion USD annually for a country whose whole normal peacetime budget is $2 billion. Prior to Abiy Ahmed taking office Ethiopia had nearly 10% growth each year for the previous ten years but now the real growth for past year and half is -2%. Many analysts estimate that Ethiopia even if immediate peace was declared would require at least 10 years of solid growth exceeding 5% per annum to climb out of catastrophic debt.

Mr. Tekalign is meeting the representative countries from the International Monetary Fund to try to arrange newer financing and payment. The likely outcome is that in return for consideration in refinancing Ethiopia will likely have to make major and significant promises which will put its economic progress forward to be under rigorous scrutiny. In other words, Ethiopia’s foray into an unnecessary and unjust war will cost it significant freedom in future economic development until debts can be paid.

The Consumer Price Index has risen more than 250% over the past year along with inflation going over 40%. The Finance Ministry is trying to gain control by lifting taxes on basic food items and making banks increase deposit reserves with central banks. International bond raters now rate Ethiopian government bonds as Caa1 which is near worthless. Displacement of millions of farmers, locusts, changing rain patterns, and a complete absence of any near term stability for Ethiopia complicate any viable economic recovery. These failing economic indicators and the progressive success of the Tigray armed forces in dominating the Ethiopian and Eritrean forces are severely dampening any interest in foreign investment.