In April we have three dispatches and an Update. The dispatches go around the world: Stephen Voss comments on his experience of the McCain presidential campaign in the U.S.A.; Danish photographer Carsten Snejbjerg reports on the internally displaced persons in Georgia at the moment when President George Bush is traveling in the region to promote Georgia's membership in the 59-year-old NATO Pact; Rafael Ben-Ari, an Israeli photojournalist, returns with his coverage of the missile attacks from the Gaza Strip deeper into Israel. In our Update, John Gilhooley writes of more adventures within the music and culture of Los Angeles.
The dispatch from Stephen Voss begins like a romantic novel set in South Carolina: gliding egrets, Spanish moss and glimmering water but instead of a scantily clad heroine fleeing through the woods, we are introduced to Senator John McCain and his campaign apparatus. He describes a man of great endurance and a situation that does not promote the singular personal moments he hopes to photograph. The audience loves McCain and when Voss speaks of the energy and passion running through the crowd, one wishes to be part of it. He also answers that pressing question asked by Senator McCain in a light-hearted moment, "What is the difference between a catfish and a lawyer?"
The atmosphere in the country of Georgia is much heavier. Carsten Snejbjerg hooks up with a Danish NGO that promotes peace and understanding by working with children of different backgrounds in areas of conflict playing games and football. To an outsider the geographical and political divisions are mind-numbing. Essentially, as I understand it, the region of Abkhazia in Georgia is recognized by the state as autonomous. In the early '90s the ethnic minority of Abkhazians declared independence from the state. The conflict that ensued involved Georgian troops coming in. The result was that most of the majority Georgians who had numbered twice as many as the Abkhazians were driven away. After the cease-fire in 1994, the ratio had been inverted and thousands of Georgians were internally displaced. Russia has set up another government in the region and the competing politics are Byzantine.
The reality on the ground is that thousands of people are living as squatters in what were luxury hotels and spa buildings now abandoned and stripped of all useful fittings including running water. The Georgian family of 10 he focuses on eats one meal a day, has no work, no money and, apparently, no future.
Israel recently has experienced missile attacks that reach farther and farther into the country. This is terrifying to the population and cause for great anger against their own government for not addressing these attacks.
Far away from the scene, one can only imagine what it might be like if erratic, unfocused but deadly missiles began falling in the neighborhood. And, how pissed off one would be thinking that the government was not paying attention to the peril. On the other hand, it's also difficult to accept most or all routes into Gaza being blocked and ever more settlements encircling the Strip. Ben-Ari is a good photojournalist and he truthfully states the Israeli rage at having residential housing targeted.
And then there's the Update by John Gilhooley, who returns with more reports on the ever exotic culture of L.A.: a tough humanitarian, an Ultimate Fighter and two pole dancers.