Saturday, 27 October 2012

"Guard Your Hearts": the American Art of Self-Deception Over Ancient Dugups

"God is still in the business of working miracles" claims the "Prayers for Candi" Facebook page. Amen intone the small-town indoctrinates. Just two days ago they were asking:  
Today we are asking for continued prayer for Candi and Marc and a new prayer request. Please guard your hearts and minds and be careful what you say in reference to what you may read or hear about her situation.[...] Please remember this when gossip starts flowing and whispers are spoken. All we ask is that you pray that Candi is represented fairly and that God is honored through this trial. God Bless!
So, all those involved having carefully guarded hearts and buttoned lips, once Mrs Candi Dunlap was confirmed on her way back to the US, several people  wanted to know what all the fuss really had been about. They were among those unwilling to believe the simplistic explanation that Macedonia is the Den of Unamerican Corruption, the kingdom of Satan, where Lucifer himself is behind the jailing of the Good Christian Girl Who Only Went There to Help. So for example Janet Ferguson asks: 
Now that its over, what exactly happened

Reply? It was a "miracle":
Mary Pankey: "Only our Heavenly Father, who loves us regardless, could have worked this MIRACLE, in HIS timing......... PRAISING GOD... and Giving Thanks to HIM for your release........."
Somebody else has a go at starting a proper discussion with the chanting dogooders:
But she gets brushed-off with the stock phrases:
well, whether one "has a clue" or not, breaking the law is, surely breaking the law, no? Jane, however reads newspapers:
Jane Lazevski: "If you say so. Though I don't know how you can mistake [ ] about 260 antique coins for buttons".
She later adds the information:  
Angela, she was found guilty for trying to smuggle 260 coins, some dated II centuries BC and given 5 years probation as well as a 10 year ban to enter Macedonia. The other option was for her to spend 2 years in prison in Macedonia. The judge decided to let her go because she has a family and children that live outside the country. I'm not trying to antagonize her, she might have made an honest mistake but you have to be extremely naive to do that, if you ask me. My opinion, of course...
 Another Facebooker too sees a hole in the page's offered explanations:
Angela Hester: "Tilley I realize she is lucky to be out of jail there. but no one has said exactly what the verdict was and how much stuff she had on her worth How much.? Grapevine has it at thousands of dollars worth of rare antiquities. How could you not know there was something wrong with taking that from the people. I thought she had been on a mission before. Just asking.??"
But that question will not be answered, not in that milieu:
 Reid Garrett: "This is all just a HUGE misunderstanding no matter how you look at it. The fact of the matter is that Candi is FREE and our prayers have been answered!".
Mr Garrett seems unwilling or unable to actually justify the interpretation of this as merely a "misunderstanding" instigated by foreign Agents of Satan fought off by effective American prayer (and President Obama's State Department). Suzy Faulkner also is not interested in discussing what happened:
"Lets focus on the most important thing that she is finally with her husband and going home to her family. Thank you Jesus". 
Jesus sat with tax inspectors, so today perhaps he'd sit with the artefact smugglers?  Linda Burcham Chancellor warns:  
Again, unless you were there and know all the facts, do not judge. Some things that could be worthless may be made into something valuable in a corrupt situation [...]. 
Worthless for whom Linda, and by whose system of values? I really wonder why when the Macedonians were merely enforcing the law it is called corrupt" by the Meridians. Is it not a fact that in court Mr Dunlap admitted the coins were indeed in her bag as she tried to leave Macedonia? What is "corrupt" about a country trying to protect the cultural heritage from being smuggled onto foreign markets? Just because the USA makes virtually no effort at all to do this (largely because it has no cultural heritage of its own that is not mass-produced) does not mean to say that any other nation that attempts this is necessarily "corrupt".  I would rather say that the corruption lies with US dealers, museums and collectors who turn a blind eye to the fact that goods they handle have no documentation of licit and legal export - or worse (SLAM). Though I do not expect Americans expressing xenophobic ideas like Facebook's Linda Burcham Chancellor would be too bothered about any of that.

The underlying fact of this misunderstanding is that, whether you like it or not, the legal system of Macedonia makes it illegal for anyone to own, or gift, or be gifted dugup artefacts. I assume that - even if it incompletely briefs participants - no American mission is going to be anywhere without at least partial access to the Internet. It took me all of twelve seconds to find the Macedonian legislation  all nicely tabulated and set out in English on a snazzy webpage. Scrolling (not very far) down brings you to the 'Law on Protection of Cultural Heritage' and there, not very far down either is article 10(3). Should anyone want to check a second source, they can look in a number of other databases (such as the UNESCO one which also contains a goodly mass of documents suggesting to even those who do not read them, that exporting cultural property is by no means just a matter of wrapping them in paper and shoving them in the bottom of a bag).

So, yes, let us judge the case on the basis of the facts. "God" was not involved either in setting her free, neither was "justice" done or "God glorified". It was a sordid business, deals behind the scenes and a situation that would not have arisen if this traveller had given a moment's thought to where she was and what she was doing.

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