I would have hoped that "Reflections on Tragedy andWar: Year One" would have been enough, but, alas, the tragedies and wars continue. As we commemorated the first anniversary of September 11, President George W. Bush used that opportunity to push his new war, a war on Iraq. I start this series of journals before the defenseless people of that already beleagured country have seen their night skies again lit up with the blasts of American bombs, but it seems unlikely that reason or restraint will stop the U.S. Commander-In-Chief from carrying out his heartfelt desire to oust Saddam Hussein from power. And so begins Reflections onTragedy and War: Year Two.
*The easiest way to
navigate going back and forth between photo links and journal
text is to click on your "back" button at the left of
your tool bar.
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 11,
I cannot sleep on this night-growing-into-the-morning-of-September 11th. It reminds me of a night one year and one day ago when sleep eluded me as well. For many in my country, this date will be remembered in a pre-packaged way, with television and newspapers telling them what to think and feel. That is not true for me. Since September 11, 2001 I have spent very little of my time with either television or newspapers. What I feel and think come from sources deep within myself, almost on a cellular level.
I remember the iridescent eyes of a fox lit up by my car headlights at 11 PM that painful Tuesday night. I remember the sobbing relief that overtook me in our garage five minutes later when Ed told me our niece Carolyn was not dead in New York as we'd feared. I recall days and nights of alternating rage and sorrow, rage at this country and its leaders whose violently arrogant choices had bred such a hatred among Arab people that something like 9-11 was bound to happen sooner or later, and sorrow that it actually had happened and that so many innocents had suffered and died unnecessarily. My rage and sorrow was tinged with fear, not fear of terrorists but fear of my own government and what horrible means they would use to punish the world for this tragedy finally coming to our supposedly inviolate soil.
So many memories.
And now. What I feel now is horror at what has happened during this past year and despair over what is to come. It is not that I am ready to give up, it is just that I am sick and tired of always having to fight. Fight for what we imagined was ours--rights and freedoms, privacy and a sense of liberty. Illusions, as it's turned out. Ask Rabih Haddad and Sulaima Al-Rushaid about liberty, rights and freedom. Ask university professors, politicians and other public figures who have dared to question the government's decisions and actions this past year and see if they think we still have freedom of speech.
As they say, things changed forever on September 11.
Yes, change has come but is all of it bad? When I am with like-minded sisters and brothers in gatherings like last Sunday's "O Beautiful Gaia" CD project circle, or when I am writing my brother Rabih or marching with his family and friends in front of a jail or a court building, when I receive and send emails offering alternative views, when I read of the groundswell of global disgust with the US government's actions and policies, when I see the creative fire of young activists, when I hear from readers of my journal thanking me for saying what they are hearing no place else but are feeling deep within their own hearts, then I know that as bad as the change has looked from the top down, that is how good it has actually been from the bottom up. This is a movement that will not die; it will never give in to so-called "public pressure." We are here to stay and our numbers are growing. This is the change that I hold close to my heart on this sleepless night.
Life goes on and we do what we can to help it take paths toward new life not more destruction, at least the people I count as my sisters and brothers do such things. Being human was never easy but it is all that we can aspire to be. Human in the truest sense of the word. Human meaning living lives that benefit not only ourselves but all that share this wondrous spinning planet we call home. Our work is never done, but neither is our joy. And even in the midst of the darkest struggle, we can find joy. Pockets of blazing, glorious, dancing joy.
I will not give up the struggle to become more human and in becoming more human to help bring a sense of humanity to all around me. I will speak, sing, write, dance, cry, rage, shout, laugh, whisper and stand tall in my scooter or with my walker. I will not give in to the despair that wants to shut me down. No, I will remember the gleaming eyes of a fox, the healing rush of tears, the tender song of the cricket, the majesty of a midwestern summer storm, the comfort of friends, the arms of my Ed, and the daring-do that is my legacy.
September 11ths will come
and go. We will never forget what happened on this day in 2001
but we will not stop there. We will move on into a future that
can be brighter and more sparkling than we can imagine. We will
continue to be voices of truth wherever we go, and we will make
it. Yes, we will make it into the new reality we know is possible.
It may seem small at first but don't be surprised when all these
bonfires catch the winds of freedom and blaze up into a raging
forest fire that spreads across the globe bringing new consciousness
and life in its wake. It will surely entail suffering but what
of value doesn't? We may not see the flower that grows from the
seeds we plant but what seed ever does? Just keep doing what you
do and all shall be well, as a twelfth century mystic used to
say. All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of
thing shall be well.
My email inbox is filled with heartfelt messages of appreciation and solidarity today. Before finally going to sleep at 5 AM, I put up the journal entry that had kept me awake and sent a group email with the same message to my listservs and friends. I have received two poems in response that I would like to share.
The first is from a wonderful friend and singer/songwriter, Harmony Grisman, whose words and music always cut to the core of our communal truth and shared humanity. She prefaced the poem with these words: "Thanks for sharing your thoughts and feelings on this deeply troubling day. We need to hear from our collective wise ones in whatever way we can...to counter balance the media world that has become our culture. Here is the poem that called to me on this day for you and all of us."
Yours is the light that
breaks from the dark
The good that springs from divided hearts
The heart that opens out on the world
The love that calls from the battlefield.
Your gift is a gain in
the midst of loss
The life that flows through the caverns of death
Yours is the heaven that lies in the dust
And when you are there for me
You are there for all of us.
The second poem was sent by the poet himself--a man from whom I have never heard before--who is obviously my brother.
Faceless with sweptback
wings you slice into the flesh of my dreaming
The fierce fireball of our joining is your personal warning
To the random recruits, deadly personal.
But they are collateral damage
Your message was for the composite me only.
The gossiping world watches with electronic eyes as I choose my executioner,
Free fall sudden pavement
death rather than slow burning fire.
Belching a storm cloud of glass, bones, blood and stone's dust
Confettied with forms in triplicate and overdue notices
The hated symbol of my dominion descends sickeningly to the canyon floor,
Searing in your master's heart terror and fear forever more.
Your anger is hot, pure
A sufficient fuel for your own funeral bier and mine.
A colossal twisted wreck,
Moldering tomb for the most recent recruits to the hall of injustice
Sits burka-like on the distorted visage of my city
Shocked by your violence and the foul smell of my dying.
I clamor over the rubble searching for the faces of fallen friends in vain.
No breath...nothing whole remains.
On this vacant, hopeless
land a name settles
Like the dust from a voiceless volcano,
It claims nothing, gives nothing, solves nothing.
It merely hides what lies below.
Zero land, ground zero.
I weep and wonder, "Why do you hate me so!"
Yes, I know I have
ignored you over the horizon, faceless.
Always wishing you well, vaguely,
As you wander in the heat of sand dune nations
Amid the precious black flowers
That seep up under your feet and burst
Into flames that my merchant adores.
Greedily I feast on the
fruit of your dusty dunes
As I ply my asphalt shores;
In chariots drawn by unseen steeds
Drunk on hardly anything per gallon
Gulping down the amber elixir in a failure of frugality.
Truthfully, my merchant
sold me your sweet sweat,
Gathered the dark dew neath your sweltering plains
And sent it to me in great ships water tight
That tossed upon a careless sea beyond my sight.
Nothing personal you understand.
It was business.
You were a profit center, a resource for my energy lust.
You understand I trust.
Markets have no scruples.
I did not want to see
With your family about you,
I did not want to have to care
Whose black blood I had transfused.
You were faceless, best
keep it like that.
I shaded my eyes I looked away
Your Princes had all been properly paid
For all your collateral suffering.
I stuck my hose deep into
And took what I wanted...
Again and again I paid my merchant
To lie in your sweltering bed.
You were so exotic so vulnerable
With pungent dark black flowers in you hair upon your head
And sweet dark oil upon your lips
I did not care the price
was not fair
And of course my CIA intentions were dishonorable
While you were IM force malleable.
The State Department will disavow any knowledge...
This poem will self-destruct in 5 seconds Mr. Phelps.
My daring duplicity was entertaining to me only.
Now that your ancient
anger has pierced my world
My fragile freedoms wither under the freshly fallen fear.
Oh that terror that you lived with all those years
Has piled up everywhere.
Now every heart is a ground
Now every car burns blood.
No one is innocent and
None are safe
From red, from fire from 'fuelish'.
A flag is drawn across your face and mine.
Now my merchant makes
and sells a wish
From red, from fire from foolish
The richest bombs fall on the poorest
And we are no more safe,
But we are yet more dangerous.
The world teeters on the
From red, from fire from foolish
It's getting very hard to think
Senators say my choices are all ghoulish.
And yet I believe if I
saw your face
And you saw my heart so cluttered
That we might together find a place
Where plans for Peace might be uttered.
Let fall the flags that
hide the face
Of our humanity from each other.
Let ground zero be the place
Where we build tomorrow together.
Let us find the courage
to see each other's faces.
Let us dare to share our heaped up hearts,
Let us strive to lift all children from the dust of hatred
And heal their nightmare fears
That they've lived with all theses years.
A colossal twisted wreck,
Sits burka-like on the fallen face of our cities
Shocked by our violence and the foul smell of our dying.
We clamor over the rubble searching
For all fallen faces in pain.
A deep and tender wound remains.
On these vacant, hopeless lands a name will settle
Like the dust from all the roads we will travel in its pursuit.
It will not hide what lies below,
But will cherish those who perished
In the West and in the East.
The name that can settle on grounds zero
Could be Peace.
Or we could fall prey
From red, from fire from foolish.
The turning point is near
The path to Peace is clear
I can hear the clarion
The road to war lies waiting
For more faceless recruits to fall
On more zero grounds
Not just for yourself
But for the faceless future pray
Whose children inherit the wealth
And the poverty
Of our spirits on this day.
- By Lawrence LaVerdure
© - 8/13/2002
For widest distribution possible, no commercial use please.
I am now in Ann Arbor
getting ready for a September 11 Candlelight Vigil for Remembrance,
Reconciliation and Peace co-sponsored by the Ann Arbor Ad Hoc
Committee for Peace and the Muslim Community Association of Ann
Arbor. It feels right to be with my sisters and brothers with
whom I have demonstrated and vigiled for the nine months that
our brother Rabih Haddad has been unjustly held in jail. We will
be meeting at 8 PM at the corner of State and Liberty (appropriately
named!) to receive candles and signs. How fortunate I feel to
I was in exactly the right place tonight, among the people I needed to be with, commemorating this tragic day in a way that resonated with everything I believe in and work toward. And over 500 of my sisters and brothers--Muslim and non-Muslim, youth and elders--were at my side. I even "happened" to stand beside a group of women with whom I sang during the whole vigil. They are called Women With Wings West, and are an offshoot of Kay Gardner's singing circle in Maine! How could anything have been more perfect?
When I got to the corner of State and Liberty at 7:45 PM, there was already quite a crowd forming to receive signs and candles. There were folks passing out leaflets to passers-by, leaflets that quoted the One Year Later statement put out by the September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, a group of individuals who had lost a loved one in the tragic events of September 11, 2001. This vigil was about remembering in sorrow all of those who had perished in the twin Towers, the Pentagon and in the mountains of Pennsylvania. It was also a plea that there be no more innocent victims anywhere, whether Afghani, American or Iraqi. It was a plea for peace not war. Our signs--that vigilers pinned on their shirts--said such things as "No more victims anywhere", "Our grief is not a cry for war", "Remembrance, Reflection, Peace", and the trued-and-true peace sign. Later in the night I discovered what radical statements these might be to some "patriotic" Americans.
I saw many familiar faces including Phillis Engelbert, the indefatigable Ad Hoc Committee for Peace staff member, my Muslim sisters Miriam and Leena, Rabih Haddad's son Sami, my drumming friend Lori Fithian, and lots of people with whom I've demonstrated and vigiled on Rabih's behalf during these nine long months of his imprisonment. I met new friends like the singing women, a boy named Daniel, a gentle-spirited "street man" named Lester, and Cynthia who recognized me from my group emails to the Women In Black. By the way, my singing friends from Women With Wings West have invited me to join them to sing in Ypsilanti the last Thursday of every month. I plan to be there.
After pinning on our signs, we received white candles in protective paper cups. The children seemed particularly enthalled with the idea of being able to be "fire-holders." When our candles had been lit, we were asked to form a line down Liberty Street. It was a stunning to scoot down this line taking pictures and seeing our wonderful diversity in age and national origin. By 9 PM we reached almost to Main Street, five long blocks away.
While we stood there, some folks were silent, others drummed and my sisters and I sang. A moment I will not forget was when Lester came upon us as he walked down Liberty Street. I sang and smiled warmly at him and received a kiss on my cheek and the joy of having him stay to sing with us. After timeless time, the line began to move down Liberty Street toward Main. We stopped at the Federal Building where we gathered together for a brief rally. We heard from a number of individuals including Nazih Hassan of the Muslim Community Association and Phillis from the Ad Hoc Committee for Peace. In closing, the Women With Wings West led us in song. Another moment I will hold close to my heart was when all 500 of us lifted our candles high as we sang of keeping our light of peace shining throughout the world. That moment came strongly to mind later in the evening.
After we'd completed our vigil, I scooted over to the Diag to join the official University of Michigan 9-11 Remembrance Ceremony. Beside me in the crush of thousands of people were Rodolfo and Melissa who had also come from the Liberty Street vigil. I was in time to see the flag lowered to the sound of a bugle blowing taps. Rodolfo and Melissa and I got to talking and decided to walk/scoot closer to the center of the now-emptying Diag. We were still wearing our signs and figured we might be a presence of a more peaceful way of looking at things.
Once at the center we saw candles blazing in the shape of a heart on top of the Big M. Within a heartbeat, an older man who was wearing a stars-and-stripes vest, came up to me and asked in a southern drawl, "And just what do you think we should do with those terrorists? Just let them kill us?" What followed was my first face-to-face encounter with the patriotic zealots you read about. Rodolfo and I tried to have a peaceful dialogue with Jim, but he was having none of it. It quickly became evident that this was not the time nor the place for any reasoned discussion, so I clasped his hand and said, "Jim, I think we see things very differently. Maybe this is not a good time for us to try to talk." He agreed and went on his way with the parting remark, "All you should care about are Americans. I don't give a damn about those foreigners." Whew.
September 11 obviously
triggered a lot of different responses in people and was therefore
remembered in different ways across this country and across the
world. I just feel grateful that I was able to remember it with
people who shared both my sorrow and my ever-deepening commitment
to peace and justice.
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2002
This wonderfully long day began for me on the corner of Warren and Woodward near Wayne State University and Detroit's Cultural Center. Our peace community gathered 200 strong to protest the proposed war on Iraq. We were men and women, young and old, of European and African heritage, Arab and Asian. We were veteran protesters and those for whom it was our first time out on the streets. We came from the suburbs, apartments and houses in the city, university campuses and co-op housing. Our signs raised a multitude of issues but our voices were united (mostly) in calling for an end to war. When I say "mostly", I'm referring to one young man who came to our corner with alcohol on his breath and a propensity to yell negative remarks. But, according to an email I received from a sister protester, even his voice changed. Let me allow Nancy to tell the story in her own words. Just so you can see who is speaking, here's a picture I took of Nancy with her daughter Susannah.
"I wanted to share something with you that you may not have noticed on Saturday, because it happened while many people were clustered in another direction. Remember the poor drunk man who was so annoyed by our protest, yet curious? A photographer was taking pictures of my 15-year-old Susannah with her sign, and this young gentleman came around, yelling, "What about me? Are you going to take my picture?"
"The photographer replied, 'You don't have a sign! I'm taking pictures of people with signs!'
"It was clear then that our noisy friend was looking for leadership, because he began to glance around for a stray placard. Without missing a beat, Susannah, at her first peace rally ever, handed him her sign that she'd worked on so hard that morning, the blue one with the big multi-colored peace symbol and the words, 'Peace, Please.' The man was delighted, accepted it gratefully, and began to pose 'for all the girls on Woodward' as the photographer, part of this little miracle, began clicking away.
"Then our friend returned Susannah's sign to her, thanked her several times and added, 'God bless you!' Now, he was on the team. He stopped yelling at people. I didn't notice if he stayed or if he left, but he did quiet down.
"I am sure other people were nice to him as well... it seems that was all he was looking for, in the end... but I did witness my daughter's kindness, and I was exceedingly proud and moved by it. What a great demonstration of peace. She downplayed her involvement: 'Mom, he just wanted to have his picture taken, too."
No, I had not witnessed this tiny miracle but am deeply touched by it, as I was touched by the radiant spirit of Susannah on Saturday.
The demonstration started at noon and when I arrived about 12:20 PM, most folks had already taken off walking with their signs toward the more populated Detroit Festival of the Arts three blocks away. I stayed put with a few others. But we were soon joined by more and more people so we eventually looked like a true anti-war demonstration. For me it was like old home week. I saw lots of friends, among them John, Pauline and Doris (with Kim, Pat K.'s friend). When the marchers returned, our numbers swelled and so did our enthusiasm. We even had some drumming and a little chanting. Toward the end of the demo, I joined friends from Peace Action and the Detroit Peace Community for a time of sharing around the Peace Pole.
As always, I took many pictures of our signs. Here are some of them:
War Is Terror...carried by two different
Pre-emption = Terrorism & No War for Oil
A Single Standard for Human Rights
War Does Not End Terror; War Is Terror
No More War
No Blood for Big Oil& Hands Off Iraq
End the U.S.-Backed Occupation of Palestine
Negotiate for Peace
End U. S. Aid to Israel Now
Each Month U.S. Sanctions Kill 7000 Iraqi Children
$$ for Jobs, Education & Health Care, Not War
And the sign that said it all:
It Doesn't Have To Be Like This
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 16, 2002
To understand is not to excuse, but without understanding, our differences degenerate into unthinking criticism and negative judgements of one another. It has been too easy to look at the current President of the United States, George W. Bush, and see him as weak, unintelligent, a tool of his advisors. We liberals, especially, have mocked, made fun of and derided everything he has said and done. We call him "shrub", "junior", and "daddy's boy." Few of us have taken the time to look deeper and try to understand what things might look like through George W. Bush's eyes. Few of us has seen him as a fellow human being who deserves respectful understanding. We have demonized him as we complain he has demonized others.
This morning I started my "bear time" of reflection by reading in a favorite book by Jamie Sams, The 13 Original Clan Mothers (Harper San Francisco: 1993). I found myself drawn to read the chapter on the clan mother of the third moon, Who Weighs the Truth. After reading the story associated with this clan mother, George W. Bush came to mind, not as a misguided President but as a man who carries wounds from childhood. Many of us are saying that his proposed war on Iraq is simply an attempt to finish his father's unfinished business. That may be true but do we stop to look deeper than that? Do we consider what life has probably been like for this elder son of a powerful man? Do we stop to feel in our hearts the pain and striving George W. must have experienced when he was unable to keep up intellectually or educationally with the high expectations of his father who had likely struggled to live up to his own powerful father's unreasonable expectations? Do we see that George W.'s probable-dyslexia must have hindered him every step of the way? Is it any wonder he became, as they say, his mother's boy? I imagine his father was home very little and when he was, I can see little George W. trying in every way possible to gain his father's approval...and failing miserably.
So now he is in a position of power himself, a place where he finally has the capacity to do something significant that will please his father. From what I've read, George Bush Sr.'s one regret as former President is that he didn't "take Saddam Hussein out" when he had the chance. I understand he blames General Colin Powell for recommending restraint. Why are we surprised that his son, George W. Bush, now wants to do what his father failed to do? How good it must feel to be in a position to give his father this gift. And there may be a bit more to it than that. I'd imagine there would be deep satisfaction in going beyond what his father managed to do, to "one up" him, so to speak.
I am not saying that these are our President's conscious motives. No, I trust that he sincerely believes that Saddam Hussein is Evil Incarnate, has the potential for blowing the world to Kingdom Come, and Must Be Stopped. The oil issues are certainly there, but I do not believe George W. Bush puts them at the top of his To Do list. No, I feel we are seeing the actions of a deeply wounded child of a probably wounded father. I feel sad for him. It must be horrible never to feel that you are good enough, smart enough, powerful enough. No wonder finally having such power has pushed him beyond his ability to think clearly and act with restraint. Even as he wants to lead a war that will bring death and destruction to defenseless, already-suffering people, a war that will surely destabilize a region of the world that is already at great risk of blowing sky high, even with all of this, I feel deep compassion for George W. Bush, the undervalued son of a man who has already done grave damage to these same people. When folks say "like father like son", these are not empty words. They deserve to be lamented, not shouted in blame.
But understanding does not bring approval. I can never approve of decisions that bring war, death and destruction to any people or place on this planet. Even as I feel compassion toward my President, I will fight his wish to attack Iraq with every ounce of my strength. It's just that I will no longer see him as bad, stupid, evil or worthless. George W. Bush is my wounded brother and I will do all I can to help him heal.
It's so easy to look at
government leaders as persons who determine policies and guide
their countries according to information that is too high security
for us normal citizens to know. We can imagine reasoned discussions,
intelligence briefings and high-level meetings where things are
hashed out and all sides heard. I have come to see that those
who have power make decisions based on their own personal issues,
just as we all do. How mature we become and how reasoned our thoughts
and actions depends on how diligently we have grappled with our
own hidden agendas, often leftover from childhood. It's hard to
see that a war that can so devastate untold numbers of people
and do irreparable damage to our earth could start because one
small boy did not feel loved or appreciated by his father, but
there it is. If George W. Bush insists on the United States attacking
Iraq, family dynamics are as much to blame as anything. Let us
stop adding to his feelings of inadequacy; it is death to do so.
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 17, 2002
Even as I do my best to show President George W. Bush human compassion, I must stand up and say, "No!" to his latest attempts to steamroll over Saddam Hussein's unconditional acceptance of U.N. weapons inspectors back on Iraqi soil. After attempting to justify this proposed war on the grounds that Saddam Hussein "might be" developing weapons of mass destruction, the Adminstration must now backpedal mightily and say, "Well, that's not really the issue." If that isn't the issue, what is? And what's all this about, "Well, you can't believe them. It's just another of Saddam's games."? Why not try it and see if he's for real? But, of course, that would mean losing the momentum that our President and his advisors depended on, momentum that his speech to the U.N. last Thursday set in motion. After having only Tony Blair and the unwilling British people on his war wagon, now Saudi Arabia has jumped on with offers to let their country again be a military staging area, as it was in 1991. AlterNet.org sent an email to its readers today saying that the Adminstration is riding a roller coaster toward war. So how do you stop a roller coaster? Derail it?
Thank goodness there is at least one world leader who is having none of it. Today I received this article by email (what would I do without the internet in times like these?):
Mandela slams U.S. scepticism over Iraq offer
JOHANNESBURG, Sept 17 (Reuters) - Former South African president Nelson Mandela slammed the United States on Tuesday for its sceptical response to Baghdad's announcement that it will allow U.N. arms inspectors back into the country.
"What right has he (U.S. President George W. Bush) to come in to say that offer is not genuine? We must condemn that very strongly," Mandela told reporters at his home in Johannesburg.
"That is why I criticise most...leaders all over the world of keeping quiet when one country wants to bully the whole world," the revered African statesman said.
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, under intense world diplomatic pressure backed by the U.S. threat of military action, agreed on Monday to allow U.N. weapons inspectors back without conditions after an absence of nearly four years.
He is accused of developing weapons of mass destruction.
The United States, whose declared policy is Saddam's removal, treated the move with disdain, saying the Iraqi leader could not be trusted and vowed to work for a tough new U.N resolution on Iraq.
Mandela, who has condemned what are seen as U.S. attempts to act unilaterally on Iraq, said those who had benefitted from U.S. support in the past should not let that stop them from speaking out against its actions.
"I have got assistance from the United States...I am grateful for that...but I'm not going to allow what they have done for me to shut my mouth. I will speak when they're wrong," Mandela said.
09/17/02 05:48 ET
Copyright 2002 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.
Well, you can be sure that Nelson Mandela and South Africa will not be on the receiving end of U.S. aid for at least two more years, but that only makes his willingness to speak up strongly and say what needs to be said all the more impressive. The U.S. is not a good country to get on the wrong side of these days, but leaders of conscience must risk this superpower's displeasure or lose their sense of integrity and self-respect. A man like Nelson Mandela has paid his dues. Twenty-eight years in prison teaches one what is important and what is not. He obviously feels this is important or he wouldn't speak out so forcefully as the lone voice of reason among world leaders.
By the way, when I wrote yesterday of George W. Bush the wounded child, I was not referring to his advisors. I believe it is these men who present things to our President in language that they know will stir him to action. You can be sure my assessment of his needs and wounds are well known to those who have his ear. That is the danger. Unhealed leaders are not dangerous in and of themselves, it is how their woundedness can be used by others that puts us all at risk.
I just think it's important
that we keep our eyes and ears and minds open during these next
weeks especially. This is a good time to exercise our powers of
critical analysis. Even if the government goes ahead and attacks
Iraq, let us not buy into the propaganda and warspeak that fans
the flames of our fears and insecurities. See things for what
they are, speak out loud what you are seeing, and stand firm in
your convictions. If it happens, this war will not just be against
Iraq, it will be against the integrity of the American people.
Don't become a war casualty.
MONDAY, OCTOBER 7, 2002
Later on, when the Bush Adminstration and the press and media try to make us believe that the American people are behind the war on Iraq, I want to remember today so I can say with conviction, "No way!" This afternoon I was part of the largest, most vocal, most energetic demonstration I've ever seen here in Detroit. Folks said it reminded them of the old anti-Vietnam War days in the '60s. I'd guess we had 1000 people out on the streets, most with their own homemade signs. And the signs said it all:
Buddhists Against War and The Witless Man Is Tormented
By His Own Deeds
Peace Cannot Be Kept By Force...Albert Einstein
Stop Bush and Hatred Is Never Appeased by Hatred and Bush-Cheney--Weapons of Mass Destruction and No Blood for Oil and No War
Attack Iraq? Not In My Name
Congress: Listen To the People
Life...for U.S., for Iraq, for All. No War
We Need a Regime Change in Washington and Not In Our Name
Money For Jobs Not War and Trust God Not War
War Is Not Healthy for Children and Other Living Things
Peace Not War
Why War Now? Elections and Peace Is Patriotic
America Never Strikes First and Violence Begets Violence and Regime Change USA
Don't Invade Iraq
Attack the Economy, Unemployed, Soft Money, Corporate Welfare...Not Iraq and No Blood for Oil and Attack Iraq? NO!
Stop the Stampede To War
Why Now? and Let's Not Be "Evil-doers"
Terrorism, n., The unlawful use of violence to frighten people or to accomplish political goals and No War For Oil
War Is Crude
No War Against Iraq! Help Our Economy! Feed the People of Iraq, Buy Medicines for the People of Iraq, Help the People of Iraq Re-Build Schools, Hospitals, Transportation...And End Terrorism!
We also had an Earth To Bush: Don't Attack Iraq banner and three pigs, the biggest of whom represented the Pentagon budget, and the other two little piglets were the Education budget and the budget for World Hunger and Poverty.
For many people it was their first time out on the streets protesting war. I know because some of them were my singing sisters from Saturday's "O Beautiful Gaia" workshop with Carolyn McDade. Under the direction of Nancy Nordlie, we seven started a peace sing-along as we waited for the march to begin. We felt right at home later in the afternoon when Julie Beutel, a woman I've known at other singing gatherings, led songs for the crowds of people assembled at the rally in front of the Federal Building.
This was the best organized peace demonstration I've ever attended. I was especially pleased when we were instructed to place ourselves in groups of three for the march. It felt wonderful to feel the support of my dear friends Nancy and Julia at my side. With their hands resting on my shoulders, I felt we could do anything. For Julia and me, it brought back memories of our time together during the Windsor, Ontario protest demos at the June 2000 meeting of the Organization of American States.
Once we had marched the five blocks down Michigan Avenue to the Federal Building, we circled in front of the plaza in silence. Whether walking or riding, the energy stayed high. Soon there was a rally with speakers like Detroit Representative John Conyers, who is always a strong anti-war voice in Congress, Maryann Mahaffey, our peace-and-justice-supporting President of the Detroit City Council, and John Zettner who was one of The Fourteen who intended to perform civil disobedience.
What they did was to have a "Die In" where the participants lay down in front of the doors to the Federal Building. And although there were some police and federal marshals in attendance, no arrests were made. One of my greatest heroines, Sr. Elizabeth LaForest--who at 87 has been arrested more times than I can count, even spending significant stretches in jail--told me later that she was most disappointed. As she said, "I now have the time to do it!" I later asked one of our peace marshals to take a picture of Sr. Elizabeth and me, and then I got a picture of a young man healing her with his didgeridoo.
I actually knew eight of The Fourteen, one of whom was an old Pax Christi friend, Ron Dale. I ended up staying on in support of these folks who, since they weren't arrested, were planning to keep vigil throughout the night. Actually, they intend to keep the vigil going until Congress votes on Bush's war resolution. To stay warm--it was clear but pretty chilly after the sun went down--I kept circling in front of the building, singing every peace song I could think of. A couple of folks joined me at different times. Actually, I now remember that it was Dan and his snare drum that first drew me onto that sidewalk after most of the protesters had left.
About 6:30 PM, one of the peace marshals came to get my order for dinner. A local restaurant, the Anchor Bar, was donating food to the community. That toasted peanut butter sandwich and french fries tasted as good as any food I've ever had. When I left at 7:45 PM, the folks were settling in for what would surely be a long cold night.
So when Bush or Cheney
or Rumsfeld or Dan Rather or Peter Jennings or anyone tells
you that the war on Iraq has the support of the American people,
just send them to this journal entry and tell them to "Listen,
listen to the voices that beg to differ from the rest." (text
by Mary Margaret Parent, music by Carolyn McDade)
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 9, 2002
This day had a little of everything. It started with Ed and I celebrating our anniversary by having lunch with friends in Ann Arbor. Ed's friend Frank, whom he first met at Ann Arbor's Angell School in 1938, joined us at the Brown Jug on South University, as did my goddess daughter Emily. We had a wonderful time and Frank even managed to get a good picture of Ed and me. We were also tickled to see Emily wearing the ring and bracelet that Ed and I had given her for a birthday one year and for high school graduation last June. You never know if such gifts are going to feel right, especially to a style-conscious young woman like Emily. We were pleased when she said she wears them all the time.
Part of my pleasure in Ann Arbor was connecting with the folks at the Ad Hoc Committee for Peace's vigil against the U.S. war on Iraq. That's the group I've gotten to know through Rabih and Sulaima. And another peace vigil was to be the next stop for me once we got back to Detroit.
When I arrived at the Federal Building at 3 PM, there was a small group of faithful vigilers still standing strong. The vigil had been maintained through two cold nights and two sunny days; it was scheduled to end at 4 PM today. My singing friends from Monday, Kim and Steve, were there and we picked up where we'd left off. "We Shall Overcome", "Ain't Gonna Study War No More" and the "Circle Chant" were our favorites. We made up our own verses and even got into a little harmony.
By the way I'd gotten the following email message from my friend Nancy on Tuesday: " I knew you had stayed quite awhile [on Monday] after my friends & I left, because I was home eating my dinner at about 6:50 pm, watching the news coverage live from downtown, and as the reporter ( I think it was Glen Zimmerman from Channel 7?) summed up his broadcast, the cameraman followed a lone protester scooting around in front of the 'die ins' on the other side of the street. Of course, it was you, you beautiful soul, singing out your support for their coming night long vigil. I knew you were scooting for me and all of us, as well as for the fourteen."
Yep, it was me, but I wasn't alone. Kim, Steve and Gillian were marching and singing with me. And then Kim and Steve, two of The Fourteen, spent a long cold night on the cement sidewalk while I slept cozy in my bed. How I admire them.
Today as I sang and later marched with Kim and Steve, more folks started arriving with signs and smiles. Mary and Bill Carey, longtime Detroit peace activists, were among them. As we walk/scooted in circles in front of the Federal Building I saw creative evidence of this ongoing vigil. The concrete barricades beside the street were decorated with colored chalk messages like "Peace is good; war is bad", "Make love not war", and "War is not healthy for children, puppies and other living things."
I want to commend the police who guard the Federal Building. I understand they were very gracious to the vigilers, even inviting them inside to use the bathrooms. There were also untold numbers of restaurants, groups and individuals who kept our sisters and brothers fed and warm during their long hours. And today I met Michael, one of the "men of the street" who spends a lot of time on this corner. He said, "Thank you, sister. What you're doing is wonderful!"
At 4 PM the community gathered to mark the end of the vigil...for now anyway. The evening that the Senate votes on Bush's war resolution, we will reconvene for a candlelight vigil. Al Fishman spoke first and then Grace Lee Boggs. Grace, at 87, is one of Detroit's most faithful and respected community activists. Today she was passionate about our finding new ways to connect with our sisters and brothers of color. As diverse as we'd been in age on Monday, we'd been predominantly white. Grace said if we were serious about forming true coalitions, we'd need to stop simply inviting persons of color to join us; we'd need to start going where they are. Like at Louis Farrakhan's excellent anti-war talk in Detroit last night. She said the line outside the church where he was speaking was four abreast and went around the block; 3,000 people attended according to reports. We need to be there.
We then formed a circle, holding hands. Anyone who wanted to say something was invited to do so. I offered the following song by Linda Hirschhorn that I sang with my friends:
Circle round for freedom
Circle round for peace
For all of us imprisoned
Circle for release.
Circle for the planet
Circle for each soul
For the children of our children
Keep the circle whole.
It was easy to sing the last part while looking at the littlest one among us. And it was even easy to say goodbye for now. All I need to do is hold this image of peace people in my heart to get the strength I need to keep on keepin' on. And that's all that any of us is asked to do.
This perfectly balanced
day ended with my swimming my usual 680 meters of the crawl at
our local middle school. It felt fantastic.
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 10, 2002
I wrote the following journal entry late this afternoon. It was written before the United States House of Representatives voted 296-133 to sign over their Constitutionally mandated responsibility to be a check and balance on the Executive Branch of government. This is a dark day in United States history, not to mention a time of utter terror for the people of Iraq. Who will save them--and us--now?
Today I took another day off. In the morning I started reading David Suzuki and Holly Dressel's book Good News for a Change. My women's book group has chosen it to be this autumn's book and I am so glad. In the midst of the madness swirling around the country in which I live, it sure is good to hear hopeful reports of individuals, groups, organizations, businesses and governments that are making choices for sustainability rather than destruction of our planet. It felt like a welcome rain on the parched soil of my hope after months of drought.
Mid-afternoon, Eddie returned from work to find me rocking like Whistler's mother in his great-grandmother's rocker. He insisted on taking this picture because he said, "That chair is perfect for you." I've always loved this chair, that's why I have it in my space upstairs.
Early this morning as I was preparing to close down my computer and go to bed, I read one last email. It was from a woman I know from the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival. The subject was "How does peace work?" It was obvious from the text of the letter that she really wanted to hear my views on peace and war. I sensed that she was grappling with conflicting thoughts and feelings in relation to today's rush to war--that part of her feels it is justified and part of her resists the violence of war.
I reflected on her question throughout the night and much of today: How does peace work? I had no defined answers when I started to write her this afternoon, but this is what came:
"I so appreciate your writing. Your question is a good one: How does peace work?
"I, like you, always have to take things down to the most basic level to understand and/or explain them. Almost like that book, "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten."
"If a kid comes up and hits me on the playground, I have four choices: 1) Hit her/him back; 2) Walk away; 3) Tell a teacher; 4) Ask him/her why s/he hit me. I might use one or a combination of these responses.
"There will be probable consequences for each choice: 1) If I hit her/him back, the fight will continue and probably escalate. Most likely we will be enemies from here on out. 2) If I just walk away, the person who hit me might think I'm a wimp and tyrannize me from then on. 3) If I tell the teacher, the other kid will probably get in trouble and hate me from then on. 4) If I ask her/him why s/he hit me, we might be able to work something out. Actually I might discover I've done something to hurt him/her that I didn't know about. Even if we don't become buddies, at least we'll have a chance at building a relationship built on mutual respect.
"That, in a nutshell, is my philosphy of peace.
"There's one more piece that might apply to what's going on right now between the U.S. and Iraq. What happens if I just think somebody might come up and hit me, but s/he hasn't actually done so yet? If I go up and hit them first, what happens next? The most likely scenario is that the person I hit will want to hit me back with whatever s/he has on hand. S/he will become very defensive and likely come up fighting. If I am stronger than him/her, then I'll beat the crap out of him/her, yes, but that person will hate me with a vengeance for life. I will then surely be under threat of attack whenever s/he can muster enough strength and/or buddies to do it.
"So what do I think peace looks like? It does not look like wimping out. It does not lack conflict or differences of opinion. It is not sweetly sentimental. Peace is tough, hard to maintain, and full of harsh realities. It means sitting down at a table--hopefully with unbiased arbitrators on hand--and asking questions and listening, truly listening, to one another's answers. It means using restraint when you'd rather just go in there with fists raised. It means having the humility and gumption to admit you've made mistakes. It means hammering out compromises right and left. It means never giving up. It means being strong and not using that strength to hurt others. It means living with former enemies, not necessarily as friends but as respected sharers of this one home, the earth. It means being creative and original, coming up with ideas that have never been seen before. It means saying "Yes, peace is possible" and then proving it to be so.
"When I think of peace, I think of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who was kicked, beaten bloody, jailed, spat upon and terrorized, but who never ever hit back. He also never backed down or gave in. And because of his undying commitment to nonviolence, change happened. His perseverance eventually wore down the opposition. People died in the struggle--even Dr. King--but they did not hit back. If someone won't hit you back when you hit them, how in the world are you going to prove you won the fight?
"I don't know if any of this helps you, dear friend, but it sure helps me. I needed to ask myself that particular question today and see what answer I might have. Thank you.
"At the end of this email, I'm including a speech given on the floor of the House yesterday. To me, it is so reasoned and well-researched that I'd be hard put to vote for Bush's war resolution after hearing it. I also recommend the web site
"for some interesting articles that give a different slant to the news that we regularly receive on TV and in mainstream newspapers.
"Again, thank you so much for asking your question. If you want to keep the dialogue open, I'd be honored to do so.
FLOOR REMARKS OF
CONGRESSMAN JOHN CONYERS, JR. ON IRAQ
"The Grand Diversion"
(October 9, 2002)
I rise in opposition to this resolution authorizing the President to commence war at a time and place of his choosing. It not only would set dangerous precedents and risk unnecessary bloodshed. It already has created a "grand diversion" of America's political focus as elections approach, and worse, it would create a "grand diversion" of our already depleted resources, so desperately needed for pressing problems at home.
The American people are not bloodthirsty. They never want to go to war, unless they have been convinced that it is absolutely necessary. That is true of all Americans, whether in Maine, West Virginia, Texas or Michigan - and whether they are black, brown or white; young or old, rich or poor. The mail and phone calls from my constituents are overwhelmingly opposed to a pre-emptive attack against Iraq.
Is war necessary now? We keep coming back to one stubborn fact: There is no imminent threat to our national security. The President has not made that case. Senators and Congressman have emerged from countless briefings with the same question: "Where's the beef?" There is no compelling evidence that Iraq's capability and intentions regarding weapons of mass destruction threaten the U.S. now. Nor has any member of the Bush Administration, the Congress or the intelligence community shown evidence linking the Al Qaeda attacks last year on New York City and the Pentagon with either Saddam Hussein or Iraqi terrorists. Indeed, if President Bush had such proof of Iraq's complicity, he would need no further authorization to retaliate. He could do so under the resolution we passed only three days after Al Qaeda's infamous attacks.
What is it that we do know about Iraq? We know Saddam is a ruthless ruler who will try to maintain power at all costs and who seeks to expand his weapons of destruction. We have known that for some time. We do know that Iraq has some biological and chemical weapons, but none with the range to reach the U.S. President Bush paints two scenarios:
1) The first is that Iraq
would launch biological or chemical weapons against Israel, our
Arab allies or our deployed forces. But during the Gulf
War, Saddam did not do so. Why not? Because he knew he would be
destroyed in retaliation, and we were not then threatening his
destruction, as President Bush is now doing. Thus, attacking Iraq
will actually increase rather than decrease the likelihood of
Saddam 's launching whatever weapons he does have.
2) Under the Administration's second scenario, Iraq would give weapons of destruction to Al Qeada, who might bring them to our shores. But that scenario, too, is not credible. Perhaps the most significant intelligence assessment we have is one revealed publicly only last night. The CIA states that Iraq is unlikely to initiate chemical or biological attack against the U.S., but goes on to warn that, and I quote:
"Should Saddam conclude that a U.S.-led attack could no longer be deterred, [Hussein might] decide that the extreme step of assisting Islamist terrorist in conducting a [weapons of mass destruction] attack against the United States would be his last chance to exact vengeance by taking a number of victims with him."
In other words, the CIA warns that an attack on Iraq could well provoke the very tragedy the President claims he is trying to forestall - Saddam's use of chemical or biological weapons.
Nevertheless, President Bush and his supporters cite some "evidence of contacts between Al Qaeda representatives and Baghdad." So what? We have had high level contracts with North Korea, Afghanistan when the Taliban ruled it, and other ruthless despots. That did not mean we were allies. The intelligence community has confirmed that Al Qeada and Saddam's secular Baathist regime fundamentally are enemies. As a religious fanatic, Bin Laden has been waging underground war against the secular governments of Iraq, Egypt, Syria and the military rulers of other Arabic countries. Saddam would be very unlikely to give such dangerous weapons to a group of radical terrorists who might see fit to turn them against Iraq.
We are fairly certain that Iraq currently has no nuclear weapons. Even with the best luck in obtaining enriched uranium or plutonium, however, the official intelligence estimate is that Iraq will not have them for some time. If Iraq must produce its own fissile material, it would take three to five years, according to those estimates. In a futile effort to mirror the prudent approach of President Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis, President Bush recently released satellite photographs of buildings, as evidence that Saddam has resumed a nuclear weapons development. This is hardly headline news. We knew that he had resumed them.
Another thing we know is that:
Iraq's vast oil reserves have been a major tool in the Administration's pressuring other countries to support our rush to war against their better judgment; and
Those oil reserves will be controlled and allocated by the U.S., should we install or bless a new regime in Baghdad.
These implications are explored in an excellent Washington Post article, which I ask unanimous consent to insert in the Record immediately following remarks. Let me read just two paragraphs here:
"A U.S.-led ouster of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein could open up a bonanza for American oil companies long banished from Iraq, scuttling oil deals between Bagdad and Russia, France and other countries, and reshuffling world petroleum markets, according to industry officials and leaders of the Iraqi opposition."
"Although senior Bush administration officials say that they have not begun to focus on the issues involving oil and Iraq, American and foreign oil companies have already begun maneuvering for a stake in the country's huge proven reserves of 112 billion barrels of crude oil, the largest in the world outside Saudi Arabia (emphasis added)."
Mr. Speaker, there has also been a discernable and disconcerting rhythm to the Administration's arguments. Every time one of their claims has been rebutted, they have reverted to the mantra that "after September 11, 2001, the whole world has changed." Indeed it has. But they cannot wave that new international landscape like a magic wand in order to transform Iraq into an imminent threat to America when it is not.
Moreover, discussing whether Iraq presents such a threat only deals with half of the equation before us. What are all the costs of war? While Iraq poses no imminent threat to us, unleashing war against Iraq would pose many terrible threats to America:
* It would dilute our fight against Al Qaeda terrorists. That is why families of the victims of "9/11" have angrily told me and some of you that they oppose a pre-emptive war precisely because it would undermine our war on terrorism. Administration assurances that war against Iraq would not dilute out war on terrorism are pleasing, but cannot change the facts. Space satellites, aircraft, ships and special forces simply cannot be in two places at the same time.
* America's attacking Iraq alone would ignite a firestorm of anti-American fervor in the Middle East and Muslim world and breed thousands of new potential terrorists.
* As we see in Afghanistan, there would be chaos and inter-ethnic conflict following Saddam's departure. A post-war agreement among them to cooperate peacefully in a new political structure would not be self-executing. Iraq would hardly become overnight a shining "model democracy" for the Middle East. We would need a U.S. peacekeeping force and nation-building efforts there for years. Our soldiers and aid workers could be targets for retribution and terrorism
* America has never been an aggressor nation. If we violate the U.N. Charter and unilaterally assault another country when it is not yet a matter of necessary self-defense, then we will set a dangerous precedent, paving the way for any other nation that chooses to do so, too, including those with nuclear weapons such as India and Pakistan and China.
* We will trigger an arms-race of nations accelerating and expanding their efforts to develop weapons of destruction, so that they can deter "pre-emptive" hostile action by the U.S. Do we really want to open this Pandora's box?
* Mr. Speaker, of all the consequences I fear, perhaps the most tragic is that the war, plus the need to rebuild Iraq, would cost billions of dollars badly needed at home. For millions of Americans, the biggest threat to their security in the lack of decent wage jobs, health insurance or affordable housing for their families. Senior citizens having to choose between buying enough food and buying prescription drugs is an imminent threat. Unemployment reaching 6 million people is an imminent threat to America's well-being. Forty-one million Americans without health insurance is an imminent threat.
* The huge costs of war and nation building, which will increase our deficit, along with the impact of the likely sharp rise in oil prices, will deal a double-barreled blow to our currently fragile economy.
What then should we do at this time? We should face the many clear and present dangers that threaten us here at home; we should seek peaceful resolution of our concerns about Iraq; and we should get much, much tougher on nations that are still providing assistance to Iraq's program for weapons of mass destruction. We should avoid the horrors of war unless war is really necessary.
That is the American way.
Rep. John Conyers, Jr.
October 9, 2002
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 11, 2002
Heartsick. It is not a word I'm accustomed to using. I'm not sure I've ever used it before, but today, after hearing of the Senate vote this morning, heartsick is what I felt, and heartsick is what I still feel hours later.
I'm so tired of hearing the "Democrats" did this or the "Republicans" did that. The decision that each individual made when they cast their vote on President Bush's war resolution last night or early this morning had nothing to do with politics, no matter how much they would like to believe it. These men and women made the decision either to bring death and destruction to a people and a part of our planet or not. Actually, they made the decision whether or not to allow one individual to make this decision for them. They may think the blood will be on his hands and not theirs, but they are wrong. Every human being who dies, every creature, every plant, every tree, every river that is polluted, every bit of land that is blown up, every endangered species that disappears forever, every breath of air that carries sickness and death, all of this is on the hands of 373 men and women--not to mention the President and his gang--who voted YES on Bush's war resolution. I am so proud of the 156 who stayed strong in the face of dirty tactics and slanderous insults and dared to vote NO. That number includes my two Michigan senators, Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin, and my House representative, Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick. After having called their Washington, DC offices almost every day this past week--not to mention my in-person visits to them in early September and all the other emails and phone calls over the last months--I just called each office to express my personal gratitude for their NO votes.
But what about the people of Iraq? How do you think they are feeling today? I doubt if the word "terror" is large enough to carry what must be going through their hearts and minds at this moment. How would I feel to hear that my country would be attacked within the next few weeks by a nation that produces and maintains the most sophisticated weapons in the world? I can't imagine. Is what happened on September 11 worse because it was a surprise attack? Would you rather know ahead of time that you, your people, your culture and your land were going to be destroyed, or would it be easier not to know until moments or even hours before it happened? I think I'd rather not know. The fear alone would be as bad as the death that would come.
And for what? Because someone says--with no proof--that someone else just might have weapons of mass destruction? I mean everyone knows that my country, the USA, has more weapons of mass destruction than any other nation on the planet. Why don't they make war on us? Because if they did, the country of my birth would use those weapons and probably blow us all sky high.
Oh well, in about an hour I'm going downtown to the Federal Building to be part of a candlelight vigil for peace. I will be with my sisters and brothers who are also heartsick, and that is good. This is not a time to be alone. I need community.
When I think of this day,
I will remember the pain of Congress caving in to Bush, yes, but
I will also recall a gathering of 200 peace activists with their
faces illuminated by the warm
glow of candles. I will remember an 84
year-old nun choosing to celebrate her birthday at a peace
vigil rather than at home with her religious community. I will
recall an 8 year-old boy named Morris proudly carrying the sign he
had made himself. I will see my sisters and brothers drumming,
of peace, and leading
those songs. I will recall a boy who was proud to be attending
first peace vigil with his grandmother and grandfather, and
girl and boy who were also attending their first such gathering
with their mother. I will think of a
father and his two children shyly smiling at me late on a
Friday night. I will remember a little one with gleaming eyes
and a smile stretched broadly across his face as he honked
the pink horn on my scooter La Lucha. I will recall signs
it all. I will remember the powerful presence of the next
generation of activists standing beside those who have been
in it for
the long haul. I will recall photographers
training TV cameras on vigilers who would have been more comfortable
staying behind the scenes. I will remember my feelings of pride
as I learned that ten of Michigan's sixteen elected members of
the House and the Senate voted
NO on President Bush's war resolution. I will recall looking
around this circle
of vigilers and being pleased to see so many familiar faces,
almost like looking through a living scrapbook of my activist
years in Detroit. I will remember feeling deeply grateful to be
part of this wonderful community.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 26, 2002
Just as I will never think of September 11 without remembering the horror of those unbelievable attacks, so I will never think of October 26 without remembering the wonder of being part of the reemergence of democracy in our nation's capitol. For this day 200,000 people gathered together in strength and oneness of heart and said "NO!" to George W. Bush's war on Iraq. Not only "no" to his militaristic regime with its bottom-line corporate interests, but a resounding "YES! to peace and unity and a shared determination never again to allow any politician to tell us what we think and what we will or will not do. This day, in my memory, will go down as the day that true democracy came back to life in America! And what a grace it was to be part of helping to make it happen. I am sure every single person who was there feels as I do. Hope no longer seems a "someday" thing; hope is our shared reality. How grateful I am to the International A.N.S.W.E.R. (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) coalition organizers, members and volunteers for creating the container to hold such an enduring reality. Today's rally and march in Washington, DC, coupled with those in San Francisco and across the globe, showed what non-violent resistance can look like on a grand scale.
The rally was scheduled to start at 11 AM at Constitution Gardens between the Vietnam War Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial with its reflecting pool. When I arrived at the Foggy Bottom-GWU Metro stop at 9:30 AM, it was already filled with folks carrying signs. I soon hooked up with a woman named Cynthia from Colorado, and a couple from Richmond, VA. We walk/scooted the six blocks together to Constitution Avenue. I was touched by their sensitivity when we encountered an ungraded curb that La Lucha my scooter couldn't handle; they walked behind me in the street so I wouldn't feel so vulnerable. On the way, Cynthia and I got to know one another a bit and I learned that she is an experienced symphony conductor and a concert violinist. She was visiting her parents in Triangle, VA, near where I used to go to Camp Fire Girl camp in the 1940-50s. Today was her first large demonstration. We decided to form our own affinity group and stick together for the day. What an excellent choice!
Once we reached Constitution Gardens, it was like we'd been dropped into a new world, one in which everyone shared our values and politics, at least in relation to the Bush Administration and its determined push to go to war against Iraq. There were welcome tables put up by International A.N.S.W.E.R., information tables boasting a variety of progressive literature, people handing out all kinds of flyers, a drumming circle, the Rochester, NY Raging Grannies singing their wonderfully irreverent ditties, an Uncle Sam stiltwalker who chose me as a companion for photo ops, several Bush look-likes--one an oil-guzzling babe in arms and another with strings manipulating his every move--university contingents from places like Yale, Dartmouth and the University of South Carolina, and people of every nationality (including this older couple from Pakistan), age, religion and ethnic background. I saw so many wonderful banners and signs that I almost ran into people trying to take pictures. Here are photos of a small number of the signs and banners I saw during this very full day:
Stop War, Cry Peace
Use Your Brains Not Your Arms and Don't Sell Out
Peace Is Right, Bush Has Left and Regime Change Begins At Home...VOTE
Hello Mother Earth
Hey Cowboy, Don't Rope Us Into Your War
See Our Hands (held by deaf students from Gallaudet University)
Professor of Literature Against War (group from New York City)
CIA Agents For Peace (friends of mine from Michigan)
a peace sign
RIP...How Many More? (with drummers)
The War On Freedom
Stop Ignoring Us (held by a sister in a scooter)
Talibans For Bush
It Takes A Village...Don't Raze It (dress worn by a Raging Grannie from NY)
Regime Change Begins At Home...VOTE (www.moveonpac.org banner)
Kill Not For Me (I unfortunately cut off the faces of Bush and his cronies)
Bu$h, Save Earth
No War Ever (little Maria's brother Jacob looked much more tired than she)
Just being among these crowds of people from all over the country was like a reality check. How I feel about a war on Iraq is not strange or unusual. For on this day, we were the majority. And deep down I know that, polls and media aside, that is the truth: we are the majority! The American people do not want this war.
Soon it was time for Cynthia and me to make our way up to the stage where the rally would be held. As is my habit, I used La Lucha my scooter to part the waters so we ended up in the front row right behind the media and press. The coolest part of it was that we were in the deaf area where there was to be sign language interpreting for a wonderful group of students from Gallaudet University. When I told them that both my grandparents had been deaf and my Great Uncle had gone to Gallaudet, they said that made me part of the family! Their enthusiasm, chanting and cheering helped me stay focused for what turned out to be a very long list of speakers. Not that I'm complaining, mind you. It's not every day you have the opportunity to hear such inspiring people as Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, former Attorney General Ramsey Clark, the Rev. Al Sharpton, attorney Lynne Stewart who has recently come under attack by Attorney General John Ashcroft for "violating" the Patriot Act in her defense of an Egyptian cleric who is currently being held in a U.S. prison, an Iraqi humanitarian, author Leslie Feinberg, an A.NS.W.E.R. youth organizer, Susan Sarandon, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the A.N.S.W.E.R. organizers, and the singer Patti Smith.
What stays with me is Ramsey Clark's urgent, passionate cry for peace, the mixture of pain and gratitude in the voices of the Iraqi speakers, Susan Sarandon's saying that dialogue is the opposite of war, Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry's reminding us that it would take $8 billion a year to feed all the hungry persons in the world while Bush has asked for $270 billion to wage his war on Iraq, and my disgust when Jesse Jackson described the Gulf War and other military misadventures as "necessary wars" while he said this upcoming war on Iraq was "unnecessary." I wonder to whom he thought he was speaking? Many of these same folks were out on the streets in 1991 protesting the Gulf War he described as "necessary." But his was the only sour note in four hours of speeches.
As the rally continued, the crowds grew larger. First they said we were almost 100,000, then 150,000 and finally 200,000. The numbers didn't matter; what mattered was the sense of solidarity and peace that permeated everything. Even the weather cooperated. After a misty morning, the sun appeared and it became a perfect autumn afternoon. Everyone started stripping off layers of clothing and my face even got a little sunburned. It was hard to remember my concern over cold and rain.
By 3 PM, the march began. Since Cynthia and I were in the front at the rally, we were near the end of the march, but even there, Constitution Avenue and 17th Street going toward the White House were totally packed from curb to curb with smiling, chanting, singing folks. I started some songs and got a terrific response from the people around me. We sounded pretty darn good if I do say so myself. But I'll tell you who really sounded good and that was a man with a clarinet whom I dubbed the Musician For Peace.
When you're at such a mammoth gathering of people I guess there is a good chance that you'll see someone you know. I was kind of blown away by how many times that happened to me today. I saw a group of activists from Michigan, some of whom I've seen at demonstrations at home in Detroit and Ann Arbor. Then there were at least four women who recognized me from the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, the most significant of whom was the bodypainter Jayne from NYC who was painting faces here as well. But my most unexpected meeting was with Maria West, a woman I used to know in Detroit but had not seen since she'd moved away about ten years ago. We just happened to be marching near one another. Maria was with a wonderful woman named Mio (not sure of the spelling) whom she'd met on the Metro coming in from Maryland. From the moment we connected, the four of us stayed together until the end of the march. And I have Mio to thank for many of the pictures, including these of some fabulous street theater performers. For much of the time, we were marching in the middle of a large group of people from Vermont who had wonderfully creative banners of different kinds and a lot of pride in their identity as Vermonters.
Throughout the day I saw and connected with a good number of sisters and brothers in scooters and wheelchairs. Liz Fleet from Long Beach, CA was beside Cynthia and me at the rally, and I met Joanne from Springfield, IL on the march. It was good that we could be part of the action.
For me, the culmination of the march came when we got to the Executive Office Building where my father used to work. As my regular journal readers know, my Dad held a high level position in the government that meant he was privy to the machinations of power during Truman's and Eisenhower's administrations. He was also an important member of the U.S. intelligence community. My activism comes from that deep place where heredity meets conscience. It is a non-negotiable part of my being.
It's hard to know how the mainstream media will characterize this rally and march, but we do know that Pacifica Radio and CSPAN broadcast the whole thing live. And tonight I read an email from Margaret, a tireless activist friend of mine in Windsor, Ontario, in which she wrote:
I am writing while watching live coverage on Indymedia's streaming video of the speeches at the BIG peace rally in D.C. I JUST SAW YOU!!! I was thinking they might zoom in on you and they did! Good for you, you are representing so many of us who can't be there!! Ramsay Clark's powerful speech, Cynthia McKinney's, the youth from Vieques....I heard them all. This is a glorious moment for the American people as the Free Palestine Alliance speaker said. You are the patriots!!
Yes, we are the patriots,
but we are patriots with a lot of work ahead of us. The next organized
action proposed by the International A.N.S.W.E.R. coalition is
to mount a campaign to get hundreds of thousands of signatures
on a People's Anti-War Referendum.
As we now realize, those persons whom we elected to represent
us have fallen down on the job and it is up to us to represent
ourselves. We will gather again for a Mass Demo and Grassroots
Peace Congress here in Washington, DC on the weekend of Martin
Luther King, Jr.'s birthday, January 18-19, 2003. In the meantime,
we must work together to stop this war before it begins.
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 11, 2002
"You gas us, we'll nuke you." That is the headline shown on my Americia Online browser screen today. As if they are discussing a video game.
What are they thinking of? I guess the question would be, are they thinking? Not just Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld and their war-loving crowd, but the media and press who report what comes out of their mouths. Does no one realize what is being said here? Does no one remember what it means to "nuke" someone? Are Hiroshima and Nagasaki forgotten chapters in this country's violent past? And as if it weren't bad enough then, can you imagine what the Atomic scientists have come up with in the last 57 years? My God, is everyone asleep here?
We should be streaming into the streets shouting NO!!! at the top of our lungs.
Am I the only one in this huge country who feels like she's been shot in the stomach? Please wake up. Please don't remain silent. Please do something, anything to stop this madness. It is not too late. The White House has said this to see if they can get away with it unchallenged. Call the White House. Call your Congresspersons and Senators. Write letters to the editors. DO SOMETHING!
So I took my own advice and sent a group email to the folks on my list, called the White House Comment Line (202/456-1111) and let them know how I felt about the U.S. using nuclear weapons against Iraq (or anyone!), called my senators and representative and asked them to do whatever they could to stop this madness, and sent the following letter to the editor of the Detroit Free Press:
Subject: Do we need a nuclear war?
In its relentless campaign to promote public support of a war on Iraq, the Bush White House has brought out every possible rationale and fear tactic it can manufacture. Of course, no one seems to mention the fact that Saddam Hussein has not attacked or even threatened any country since 1991, but such facts have little to do with President Bush's push for war. And now he brings out the heavy artillery.
Today (December 11), President Bush submitted to Congress a new defense strategy called the "National Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction." In this document Iraq and other "hostile nations" are warned that the United States is prepared to use "overwhelming force" - including nuclear weapons - in response to any chemical or biological attack.
Does no one understand what is being said here? The country to fear using weapons of mass destruction is not Iraq; it is the United States. If this country detonates atomic bombs in the Middle East, what do we think will happen? Israel, the United States' only real pal in the region, has nuclear weapons too. Do we really want to start a nuclear war? And for what? So that the US can control the oil reserves now controlled by Saddam Hussein? To get rid of a two-bit dictator that the US helped create?
What needs to happen is already happening: a UN weapons inspection team doing their work in Iraq. Does our world really need a nuclear war? Whatever became of peace?
My email pals, including Ed, have replied to my impassioned email message with alacrity. Here are a few of their responses:
From Kate in California: "I so appreciate your acting like the town crier, Patricia. I heard this on the radio last night and realized that alot of stuff is getting by us....we are like those frogs in the water, slowly agreeing to being boiled to death."
Ed wrote: "now don't get your knickers in a twist. stop. take a deep breath. there, that's better. now keep up your good work. try using reason like, we can overrun the iraq countryside with little difficulty and loss of life but, if deposing hussein is our goal as our government has stated, it means invading baghdad, a hundred and fifty square-mile city the size of detroit filled with millions of an ancient devout people who pray five times a day. it means the death of tens of thousands of our kids and perhaps triple that of the people, probably mostly women and children and very aged."
From Juli, a Michigan Womyn's Music Festival friend: "Thank you so much for keeping me 'involved'. I have become so hopeless with the state of our union that I am not even opening emails from all the action networks that I am signed on with. It is only your occasional email (which I can't bear to delete without reading!) that helps me stay alerted and action oriented to the whole damned situation. Everyday I feel a little worse about the 'president' and his mess of policies and politics. It is very hard to do anything but stomp my feet and yell at the CNN website. I just hope that our voices are being heard, somewhere, by someone. Wow, I didn't realize how bad I felt about all this until I started typing..."
Nancy wrote from her home in Ontario: "Patricia: I am also so worried about the world. I heard on CBC about an agreement that Canada has made with the US to allow US army personnel to enter Canada in the case of a "disaster" with no need for permission. It did not say what or who specifies the disaster. Candians are being allowed to help the US in the same case but under US military rule. It feels like we are all being sold down the river and it is damned scarey..."
From Dorothy in San Francisco: "Your letter to the editors of the DFP was great, and so was your letter to your friends. Yes, I will call tomorrow. You continue to be an inspiration to us all---a kind of modern Paul Revere, nudging the sleepers awake with an urgent wake-up call..."
And from Lolita of the
Detroit area Women in Black: "I was in the demonstration
yesterday on Jefferson Ave. Tons of folks honked in support of
our signs. You're quite right we need to make a noise, stay visible
and wake up this sleeping giant."
FRIDAY, JANUARY 17, 2003
On The Way To Washington,
Friday, January 17, 2003
Liquid tears frozen on
rocky ledges cut by the highway's
rusty blade. Do tears drip like
icicles from our eyes or have we lost
the ability to cry?
Do we stare dry-eyed into
face of war and say it can't be
stopped, it is inevitable?
Have we lost the capacity for
horror, to feel in our cells the
tragic cost of war?
Do we sit before our TV
numbed to what is being said,
what is being planned? Is it
too late to wake up our sleeping
sensibilities and cry tears,
hot and heavy tears that can
The questions raised in this poem that I wrote as we drove through the hills of northern Maryland on Friday afternoon were answered a few hours later as I "happened upon"--they say there are no accidents in the scheme of things--Starhawk leading a Spiral Dance in a small park on 17th Street not far from the White House. I scooted over to the circle of perhaps 100 young and old women and men and asked to join. I was invited into the center of the circle where Starhawk and a community of drummers were preparing to begin the ritual under the bright white full moon. I was greeted with welcoming smiles and given two rattles to shake. Then Starhawk began to invoke the Goddess and to introduce the meaning of tonight's Spiral Dance. Her voice was so soft and our numbers so large that every phrase was repeated in unison by those closest to her, so that our sisters and brothers on the outer edges of the circle could hear what was being said. This communal intonement only increased the power of her message and helped each of us recognize our place as co-creators of magic. As Starhawk described it, our dance was dedicated to weaving the web of peace with justice. She asked those in the center of the circle to hold up the "webs" that had been created using fabric strips wound around and stretched across plastic hula hoops. The intention was for these webs to catch the powerful energy being generated by the dance. I picked up a web and held it high. The chant we were all to sing as the dancers danced was:
We are a circle, within
With no beginning and never endingÖ
Breath by breath, thread
Conjure justice, weave our webÖ
Well. All I can say is
that as the dancers spiralled around me on this frosty moonlit
night, the drums, the chanting, the collective energy spiralled
deep within my being and actually made me believe that peace was
possible. I will never forget the faces--the love shining forth
from the faces--of those who danced as I sat in the center of
the circle with the web of justice held high. When Starhawk re-entered
the center of the circle--she had been leading the dancers--the
chant grew ever louder and faster until finally it became a tone
shared on different keys by all the participants. Eventually we
moved into the silence. When I opened my eyes, Starhawk was looking
at me. Our eyes met, we smiled and a connection was forged.
SATURDAY, JANUARY 18, 2003
How does one put words to experiences that touch the deepest part of your being? How do I steer clear of sentimentality when it was my heart that marched the streets of Washington, DC on this cold sunny day, a day when a half a million people (or 300,000 or 200,000 or whatever number they want to come up with) came together from all across this country to say in one voice, NO WAR ON IRAQ!
I had attended the A.N.S.W.E.R. anti-war rally and march in Washington, DC on October 26 and had not been able to imagine ever seeing anything that would top that...but this did. Partly because this was not a beautiful sunny autumn day but rather the coldest day in Washington, DC since the year 2000. We awoke to temperatures of +11º F and it never got warmer than +24º F. But there was a bright sun shining, blue skies and, most importantly, no wind. And we all knew enough to come prepared.
My travel sisters, Pat and Kim, had wisely brought hand and boot warmers to share. These miracle-workers are small plastic packages filled with a combination of iron and other heat-generating substances that you put under your toes between your socks and your boots, and between two layers of gloves or mittens. They keep you warm for six hours, and that is exactly how long they worked for me. Of course I had several more hours of scooting around outside before we finally returned to the motel at 8:30 PM, but I never got too uncomfortable.
On October 26, I had been in town to visit my mother during what turned out to be her final illness. She had perked up a lot after I'd arrived on Tuesday, so I'd felt comfortable going off on Saturday to attend the rally and march in DC. I remember being absolutely delighted that things had worked out so I could be there. I had wanted to go but my busy schedule at home had put me off. Then Mom got sick and I cancelled out of everything and went anyway. Early that Saturday morning, I'd gotten on the Metro (subway) at Shady Grove near Gaithersburg, MD. When I got off the train near the site of the rally, I happened to meet Cynthia from Colorado and we quickly formed our own two-person affinity group. It was wonderful to share the day with her. But today was different--today I felt like I was part of a big family of loving sisters. And it wasn't simply the feeling of community that made it special; it was having a shared purpose, having a unique contribution to make to the greater whole. It was as though every piece of activism I'd ever done had been leading up to this moment, that this truly reflected who I am at my core...a Raging Granny!
The Raging Grannies who had driven and those who had taken the overnight charter buses from Rochester, NY and Detroit, MI were to meet at Constitution and 1st NW at 9:30 AM. Well, Kim and I met up with Elaine, her husband Ron, and Josie from Rochester, NY soon after 9:30 AM, but the bus Grannies didn't make it until 11 AM. So the four of us stood--I sat in my scooter--on the corner welcoming folks as they made their way to Constitution and 3rd NW where the rally was to be held. Many wonderful signs passed by carried by groups of folks from all over the United States, including Minnesota and even Alaska. We met and talked with a woman named Peace Walker who has been on a solitary walk for peace since last April. We saw a woman with an apron full of peace buttons. When I saw her later in the day, her apron was almost bare. We had a long conversation with a DC Metro police officer named TJ who was assigned to protect our corner in his patrol car. This young man from Kentucky surprised me by stating in a forthright manner that he was totally opposed to Bush's proposed war on Iraq, and that he wasn't the only one. He said that many of the DC Metro police officers were veterans and knew what war was like; they didn't want anything to do with it. He also told us how much he had liked and admired Senator Paul Wellstone who used to work out with them at the police gym. TJ was one of the most transformative agents I encountered all weekend.
Although the Rochester, NY Grannies were reluctant to start singing--they have an agreement that they will only sing when eight Grannies are in attendance--I talked them into calling it "practice" so we could do what we had come there to do...sing. Did we ever get wonderful responses from folks as they gathered around with big grins on their faces and sometimes sang along with us! One young man with a baby on his back and a mandolin in his hands even accompanied us for a couple of songs.
Now, I have to tell you right up front that my being a Raging Granny has definitely gotten in the way of my former commitment to being a "photo-journalist." There is no way I can sing and take pictures at the same time. Especially today. It had taken Kim and me a full ten minutes to put on my fleece gloves and the hand warmers under my Gore-tex mittens and nothing was going to make me take them off! So any photos I wanted would have to be taken by hands other than my own. I have Granny Kim, Pat's friend Bernadette and her daughter Josie, Vincent who climbed a tree at the rally and took pictures with my camera, and innumerable women and men whose names I do not know to thank for the photos I will share here.
When we saw our Raging Grannies Without Borders coming towards us from across the street, we were four happy Grannies! And within ten minutes, the Rochester, NY gaggle showed up too. There had been so many buses coming into town--900 at last count--that everyone was delayed. Now we had a goodly gaggle with 13 Rochester Grannies and 7 from Detroit. When we sang it took two pictures to get us all in--#1 and #2!
After practicing a few songs at our meeting place, we started making our way over towards the rally; it was now 11:30 AM. We stopped to sing on a grassy field before we got to the Mall, and attracted a large, enthusiastic audience. It was there that a woman whom I'd met on the Metro last night and had encouraged to come to today's rally/march, came up and said, "I just wanted you to know--I made it!" Here are Charlotte, Vicki, Josie, Kathy and I while we were temporarly between songs. We then moved on to the Mall. Was it ever crowded! I had literally to run interference with my scooter while calling out, "Make way for the Grannies!" to get us into any kind of position so we could hear the speeches. But before we had positioned ourselves so we could hear anything, we sang another set of songs at the back of the crowd. It was then that Dorothy Russell, the daughter of my friend Julie in the Bay Area, came running up and gave me a hug. She goes to boarding school in Philadephia and had been down for the October 26 rally, but we'd missed seeing one another then. I also ran into Jayne, the wonderful bodypainter from the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival. She had come down on a bus from her home in New York City. It was amazing that we met again; we'd also seen one another on October 26. But this running into friends happened to me all day long. It got so the Grannies were laughing and saying, "Patricia knows everyone!"
I guess now is as good a time as any to talk about the many, many interviews we gave during the day, and the untold cameras--press, TV, documentary filmmakers' and personal--that were trained on us during this long day. The Raging Grannies are media magnets, it seems. We were interviewed and/or photographed by an Italian newspaper, NPR (National Public Radio), the Women's International News Service, the Buffalo News, the Washington Post, and many others. At one time I was surprised to see a microphone in front of my mouth as we marched along singing. But for me it wasn't the press or media attention that most delighted me; it was the smiles, laughter and cheers of our sister and brother peace marchers, especially the children and students. You could almost see their stories in their eyes, stories that so often include having parents or grandparents who do not understand or approve of their commitment to activism. It was as if seeing and hearing this group of gray-haired women who share their horror of war and are willing to get out on the streets and use hard-hitting song parodies to get their message across gave them the feeling of family understanding and approval they so richly deserve. Their faces are what will stay with me.
Even though we arrived at the rally pretty late, we still heard several speeches--among them, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Jessica Lange, Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-Detroit, MI), and former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney. We were so far away that even when Vincent took this picture from up in the tree, you still can't see the stage. But the sound equipment was excellent because we could hear the speeches quite well. Actually, it surprised me that even though we were so far back, everyone around us was totally focused on what was being said and often cheered and chanted with the rest of the crowd. Don't forget, it was very cold, so standing for hours of speeches was not the easiest or most comfortable thing to do. But even though we couldn't see the stage, there was always plenty to look at with the incredible variety of signs around us. By the way, almost everyone carried a sign or a banner, many of them homemade.
I understand the march started at 1:30 PM, with the first group arriving at the Navy Yard, its destination, an hour later. We probably didn't start marching until sometime after 3 PM, and it was 5 PM before we completed the march, but lots happened during those two hours. First of all, there was a bottleneck at a place where there were no curb cuts for my scooter to navigate. The Grannies stayed with me and eventually we called on "our grandsons" around us to physically lift me and the scooter--230 lbs. total--over two curbs. Then one of our Grannies came to the end of her walking abilities and had to stop. A man happened to be pushing a cart with cardboard boxes piled high, and when our Grannies asked him, he graciously let Magi climb up on the boxes and get a ride! Magi, Kathy and one of the Rochester, NY Grannies had their own adventures after that, but all turned out well as far as I understand. When Magi had to stop, we all stopped. And while they were working out her transportation, the rest of us stood by the side of the road and sang. Lots of people stopped to listen. The warmth of their response was brighter than the sun. And even when we sang while walking--which we did a lot--the response from those around us was amazing. Everyone loves the Grannies!
Eventually we were the very last ones to be marching. The police on motorcycles were right behind us, red lights flashing. Occasionally they'd call out "Grannies, get up the sidewalk!", but we figured we had as much right to stay on the streets as everyone else, so we just kept on walking.
By the time we arrived at the Navy Yard, it was close to time for our Detroit, MI and Rochester, NY Grannies to meet their buses for the return trip home. Now there was a scene I wish I'd photographed! Along New Jersey Avenue all the way up to the Capitol a mile away was bus after bus after bus. And on the sidewalks were crowds of folks waiting to board their buses. Of course, the problem was that, with the crush of buses, most were unable to go to the exact location where they'd arranged to pick up their passengers, so folks were scurrying hither and yon trying to find their buses. But that didn't keep the young activists from turning it into a party with their drums and dancing. I do love these kids!
Kim and I walk/scooted in the street because there was no room on the crowded sidewalks. We really had to keep our eyes open to keep from being run over by the buses as they crawled past. Maybe that's why I didn't think to ask Kim to take a picture! After about a mile, we came to a Mexican restaurant--actually the same Mexican restaurant at which I'd had lunch in September when I did my solitary No War On Iraq vigil in front of the Senate Office Buildings--so we went in to get some dinner. By then it was 6 PM and we hadn't eaten since breakfast. There was still a half hour wait, so I went--gratefully, I might add--to the bathroom, called Ed on my cell phone, and watched some of the nightly news on the TV in the bar. When they showed pictures of the rally/march, folks started cheering. We didn't see it but one of the fellows later told us the Raging Grannies had showed up briefly. You see, everyone in the restaurant recognized us as Grannies because of our hats and shawls. It was fun to be called "Granny" all day; it felt like we were all part of one family.
I guess that's what I'll
remember when I think of this landmark January 18 Rally and March
for peace. For on this day, we were all members of one loving
family. No one was left out, not even George Bush. If he had chosen
to come speak to us--more importantly, to come listen to
us--he would have been welcome. I don't think many of us wants
an adversarial relationship with anyone, not Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld
or Ashcroft. We just want peace...peace grounded in true
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 6, 2003
I have had a profoundly life-altering day. I'd like to share with you its fruit in the form of an email I just sent to President George W. Bush.
Let there be peace and let it begin with me.
Date: February 6, 2003
Subject: An opportunity for greatness
Dear President Bush
I have been talking with you all day...in my head, that is. I would like to share with you what the conversation looked like. And I ask that you not be offended if I call you by your first name; it is done with respect and a depth of caring, rather like a grandmother talking to her grandson.
George, there's still time. You can still turn this thing around. It's not too late no matter what anyone says. All it takes is two words from you: "No war." And there will not be a war. You are the only person in the world who has this power now, George. You can do it. I know you can.
Oh, it won't be easy. I know Dick and Donald and Paul and Karl and a bunch of other people you admire and believe in will say you can't do it. They'll say it's too late. They'll say we've got all those troops and weapons and aircraft carriers and warships and bomber planes massed out there in the Gulf and in the desert and you can't just leave them to rot. They'll say you HAVE to use them now. But, you know what, George, that's not true. It's simply not true. There have been many, many instances in the course of history when a leader has had a change of heart at the last minute and not used the troops he had assembled. You can keep some of them there if you feel you need to, but you can bring a lot of them home. Do you think those young men and women will mind? I doubt it. They'll feel like they've been given their lives back; they'll feel like they've been given a reprieve. They will thank you for the rest of their natural lives. Because what you will be giving them back IS their natural lives. You will be saving them from what happened to their compatriots, those men and women who fought in the Gulf War and have never been the same since. Those former soldiers and pilots who took their lives rather than try to live with the after-effects of war...the pain, the disease, the depression, the broken-down immune system, the guilt. The unending guilt and visions of what they had seen and smelled and done. Oh yes, this group of women and men will be eternally grateful to you for saving them from such misery, from the possibility of horrible deaths themselves or bringing horrible deaths to others.
Speaking of deaths, George, I want you to remember the children you visited at that elementary school in Southfield, Michigan last May. Remember, George? The children, most of them from Iraq? Can you see their smiles, hear their voices and their laughter? Can you remember how they sang for you, danced for you, read to you? How proud they were to have the President of the United States visit their school? George, it is THESE children who will suffer and die in another war on Iraq. These children with their liquid brown eyes and fancy dresses and spiffy haircuts who will be killed or maimed or sentenced to a lingering death from the depleted uranium bombs your troops will drop on their homes, their schools, their mosques, their hospitals, their playgrounds. Please, George, see their faces, remember their life and innocence. At school today in East Dearborn, Michigan, one of these little girls told me she had written you a letter this week. In her letter she said, "Please, President Bush, don't start a war. It will kill the children." It was this same little girl who told me last week that she cried every night when she saw the news on TV. She said to me then, "What about the children?" George, please don't forget the children.
Isn't there a story of a man in your Bible, a man who was on his way to wreak death and destruction on those people who professed belief in that religious revolutionary, Jesus, who was hung on a cross? Wasn't his name Saul and wasn't he on his way to Damascus and didn't he experience a radical turn-of-heart one night, a conversion so profound that he became one of the most celebrated members of the religion that became known as Christianity? You, dear George, can be a man just like Saul. You can change so dramatically that you will be remembered as one of the greatest leaders of all time. It can happen in an instant, George, just like it did with Saul.
If you decide to stop this war on Iraq before it starts, you will be the most admired man in the world, George. And this will be just the beginning. You have the power to make decisions that will affect every part of life on this planet. What an amazing thing, that one individual can have such power.
Oh, I know, your advisers, those older men your Dad put around you to help you handle this huge responsibility, they will not be happy if you change, if you go against their wishes. But just stop for a minute and think about it. Are these men thinking of you or of themselves? Do they advise you in ways that will benefit the world or themselves? That's the question, George. And if the answer is that they are thinking mainly of themselves, then you've got to look at that and ask yourself, "Is this how I want to be remembered? As a President who made decisions that just benefited the people around me? Or do I want to be remembered as the President who made decisions that would benefit the earth and its people, ALL of its people?"
As I say, George, it's not too late. I know you can do this. Today. You can do it today. And if you do, George, I promise you that I will support you. I will do everything in my power to help you stand strong and continue making good decision after good decision. I promise you that. And I'm not the only one. If you dare to change in this radical way, George, you will find the most amazing allies and companions at your side. You will be given everything you need to follow this new path, the path that leads toward life not death. No, it won't be easy, George, but what of value is? At least you will be able to live with yourself and know that you did everything you could to save this precious planet from disaster.
Ah, George. I know that you can do it.
In pursuit of peace and trust in greatness,
TUESDAY, MARCH 11, 2003
A reply I sent to a friend's email in which she despaired of Bush's relentless push to attack Iraq no matter how strong the protests worldwide:
You ask "I just wonder what you think about how to bring an abrupt halt to this." I wish I had The Answer to that profound question. All I can say is how I manage to keep putting one foot in front of the other (metaphorically speaking) for peace.
I try not to focus on how others will choose to act or not act upon my suggestions/words/songs/protests, but rather keep my eyes on the step itself. Is it my step I'm taking or someone else's? If it is mine, do I do it because I think I should or because I must? Do I gauge its success by how someone else responds to it, or is success measured by how I feel within myself as I do or say or write or sing it? Is the step I am taking congruent with the outcome I desire, the vision I hold? Even if those in "power" ignore what I do, can I say to myself that my action serves to benefit the earth and its people/species/water/air/land? Am I doing all I can at this time...all I can and stay healthy and full of life? Or is my activism eating at my innards. Is it engendering hatred, despair and bitterness in me? If it is, what can I do to change the energy so I am not becoming toxic to myself and others?
I have just experienced toxicity within myself and so I am going out of town for four days starting this Thursday. I will not take my laptop and will try my best to think about things other than Bush's war. When I return home on Monday I trust my inner system will be cleansed and I will be ready again to put one foot in front of the other for peace.
Please know you are not alone.
Even activists have to take Time Out occasionally, especially after seemingly endless months of marches, meetings, organizing, emails, reading, writing, singing, and, in my case, RAGING. And so I will drive directly to Ann Arbor after school on Thursday. I have reserved a room at the Michigan League for four nights. As I wrote my friend, I will leave my laptop at home. I plan to stay as far away from news and the internet as I can during those precious four days. I see it as a retreat, a turning away from my usual diet of informational gluttony in an effort to clean my palate so I can again taste the simple joys of life. I might attend a noon anti-war rally at the Federal Building, but only if I feel like it and have the time. On Friday Ed's talking about coming to join me for lunch and a trip through the Art Museum. Then around 4 PM that afternoon, my friend Pat plans to meet me at the League. We'll have an early dinner and then go to her daughter--my goddess daughter--Emily's Javanese dance recital at Rackham Auditorium (just one block from the League!). Then Pat will spend the night with me and we'll go out to breakfast with Emily on Saturday morning. Well, probably more like Saturday noon. The weather forecast for Friday-Sunday is superb! Highs in the mid-50s and lows in the mid-40s. An early spring! I can't wait.
I want to share two things before I sign off tonight. The first is an amazing web site that has dozens of photos from anti-war rallies across the globe. It takes a good long time to download, but is worth every minute. Talk about life and energy, hope and committment! The URL is:
The second is the myth that Starhawk and the CodePink women created as the centerpiece for their March 8 Day of Solidarity and Peace in Washington, DC:
The River of Life
Once a people lived along the banks of the river of life
The river of life is a
river of sweet water,
that awakens the seeds of spring and nourishes all growing things
The river of life is a storm wind, blowing fresh across the earth..
The river of life is the deep molten fire that shakes the continents
And the people should
have had all they needed for happiness and joy,
But they were plagued by a terrible monster, the triple-headed monster of
Greed, Hate and War.
Greed sucked up all the
colors of life and wound them into threads locked
inside his fortress
Hate severed the threads of love and taught the people to fear each other
War threatened destruction to anyone who opposed the monster's rule
And the people were separate,
and afraid, and poor
The threads of connection were frayed
The fabric of care unravelled
And War took the young and marched them off to slaughter and die in places
Greed stole their future...
The river of life ran dry.
The women saw the springs
go barren, the new sprouts fail, the trees die,
and the hills turn brown
And they wept and mourned, and didn't know what to do.
The women, too, were divided,
for some had more and some had less.
Old wounds and present injustices kept them apart.
But as War shook his fist,
and threatened to unleash
weapons to destroy the earth.
The women heard the earth
"If you want to know where power lies,
Turn and look into your sisters' eyes"
They turned to each other,
One woman said to another,
"Let me bind your wounds,"
"Let me bring you water"
"Let me dry your tears.."
"We must amplify
love, and throw off dread,
Take back our power and spin a thread,
A life line, held in our strong hands,
A living web of shining strands."
And their hands remembered
how to spin.
They spun freedom rising like the wind,
They spun threads of life, the cords of fate,
Rivers of love, stronger than hate,
They spun Justice burning like a flaming star,
They spun the peace that overcomes war.
"So come mothers
Lovers and daughters,
Come spinners and weavers,
Tool makers, potters,
Dancers and dreamers,
Fixers and changers,
Singers and screamers,
Forget all the dangers,
Come ancestors, guardians, Goddesses too,
You who teach us, you who speak true,
You who plant, and you who reap,
You who soar and you who creep,
You who cook, and you who drum,
You who have been, and you yet to come,
You who fight with the sword,
You who fight with the pen,
Come harpies and banshees and gorgons and Witches,
Come sweet loving hearts and furious bitches!"
"Break the chains
that have kept us bound,
Weave a web to pull the monster down."
"We are sweet water,
we are the seed,
We are the storm wind to blow away greed.
We are the new world we bring to birth,
The river rising to reclaim the earth."
MONDAY, MARCH 17, 2003
My time away was more restorative than I could have hoped for. I truly did not read/hear any news, use a computer or think much about world events for four days and nights. Yes, I had a couple of conversations about war and peace with people I met, but until last night's candlelight vigil for peace, I did absolutely nothing relevant.
Instead, I ate a big bag of pecan/cashew caramel popcorn, read an engrossing novel (Three Junes by Julia Glass), ate the best sushi outside of San Francisco two nights in a row, saw my goddess daughter Emily dance with elegance and grace in a performance of Javanese music and dance, enjoyed an overnight visit with my friend Pat and an afternoon with my sweetie Ed, savored three days of warm spring temperatures, scooted through neighborhoods admiring Ann Arbor homes (#1, #2, #3), saw an exceptionally fine Andy Goldsworthy exhibit at the Art Museum, spend hours sitting at the Diag enjoying the unconscious indolence of youth, their music, their comings and goings, and the ubiquitous frisbee throwers . I spent some time looked for interesting camera shots in a muddy footprint, pine needles with snow, and in the crook of a tree. I saw evidence of the University of Michigan's history that I'd never noticed before, ate my first picnic lunches of the year, met interesting people like Ahira and Miki with whom I was privileged to sit at the Firefly Jazz Club on Saturday night, heard a superb jazz concert there by the youthful saxophone great David Sanchez and his quartet, had a rare, heart-opening visit with Emily yesterday afternoon, and joined 2800 women, men and children of different nationalities at a poignant candlelight vigil for peace last night.
Only by allowing myself to get away from it all--"it all" being Bush's war and everything that has led up to it--was I able to stand back and see what I now need to do to keep my balance and sanity in the face of what is to come. After I returned home this afternoon, I sent the following message to the folks on my group email list:
And now it looks like the people of Iraq will soon be suffering in ways we can only imagine. After having taken four days and nights away from the internet and news, I see things a bit differently. In particular, three things:
1) I do not have to focus any of my precious energy on George Bush & Co. unless I want to become (again) a toxic waste dump filled with hatred and impotent rage;
2) I can and will choose to be with the people of Iraq knowing that will take me to deep levels of sadness and grief;
3) I will focus on and join in demonstrations of peace-loving peoples the world over, believing in our power and responsibility to create change.
It is up to me what I allow into my mind and heart. I choose peace, a wildly exuberant and tenderly quiet peace. I will do what I can and not expect more. And I will stay moist and alive by insisting on taking time for beauty, nature, creativity and friendship.
love & peace
TUESDAY, MARCH 18, 2003
Do you find yourself wanting to call old friends just to hear the sound of their voices? Do you hunger for the comfort foods of youth--macaroni and cheese, hot chocolate, tomato soup with saltine crackers crumbled in it, rice pudding with cinnamon sprinkled on top? Are you reluctant to think beyond tomorrow?
These are hard times to be sure. Anyone with an ounce of sense feels foreboding when they imagine a formerly innocuous day like Thursday, March 20. Isn't it strange that such a small cadre of men and one woman have managed to bring such terror to the world? But at the same time, these men and one woman have sparked the most pervasive and powerful groundswell of stubborn resistance to war ever seen on our planet. Never in history have persons of different nationalities shared so much. Never before have small, poor countries had the courage to say NO to the biggest bully on the block, even when this decision will cost them dearly. Never have heads of state struck such unlikely alliances in an effort to avert war. Never have people the world over made their wishes known so emphatically by taking to the streets and, in some cases, putting themselves at risk of arrest, injury or death. I think of our most recent young martyr for peace, Rachel Corrie, who was intentionally bulldozed to death on Sunday by a member of the Israeli military. What a terrible price Rachel paid for her commitment to peace.
How can we keep our passion and fire for peace alive when everything we read, hear and see threatens to extinguish or at least dampen it? How to continue staying informed when the news, from whatever source we get it, promises to be unrelentingly awful? How do we keep taking to the streets when we know our presence cannot stop the massacre of innocents?
But we CANNOT stop now! We must not let that small band of men and one woman so easily destroy our will for peace. If we give up now, who will restrain their uncaring fury? We must go back to our communities, or form new ones if we've been acting alone, and let ourselves imagine what it is we want. When we are very clear about what we want, the ways to create it will come. They will come as unexpectedly as a crocus shoot popping out of the snow, as gloriously as the first day you can go outside without a coat, as powerfully as hearing the first crack of thunder on an evening in March. Do not let despair bring you down. Yes, grieve. Yes, weep. Yes, scream. Yes, pray. Yes, hurt. But do not give up or give in, for if you do who will bring to the struggle exactly that gift that is yours alone to bring? Who will sing your song, or dance your dance, or write your poem, or organize your action, or speak with your voice? We need every single one of us now, more than ever before.
Do I sound like a cheerleader? Damn it, maybe I am! A cheerleader who cheers for all the sisters and brothers who have been at my side physically and virtually these long months of struggle. A cheerleader who says we have NOT failed because the worst is about to happen. A cheerleader who is willing to look and sound like a fool if that is what it takes to keep us going, to push us to our limits, to say, "Hey, we can do it!" Because the fact that bombs will soon be dropping on our sisters and brothers, our children and parents, our grandchildren and grandparents in Iraq is the reason that we MUST not let them down, we must not roll over and say, "Oh well, we lost; they won." We must not allow ourselves the luxury of self-pity or inertia born of despair. No, we must keep on keepin' on, as our ancestors of African descent who fought against slavery in America kept on. Do you think they didn't have times when all their efforts seemed in vain, when the dream of freedom seemed impossible?
Times like these have come before. We are not the first generation to experience horrors wrought by our so-called "leaders." Granted, it seems more dangerous now than ever before because of the weapons at hand and the particular ruthlessness of those in power. But we also have more resources at our disposal than ever before. The internet, for one. We are a force to be reckoned with. Don't forget that. As Dr. Robert Muller, former assistant secretary general of the United Nations, said "...there are two superpowers: the United States and the merging, surging voice of the people of the world."
May this merging, surging
voice of the world's people gain such strength and display such
courage that no matter how dark the nights ahead, our light will
shine with a brilliance born of the belief that peace is not only
possible but already embodied in us. We ARE the change we want.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 19, 2003
It is now 10:15 PM and I read online that a number of bombs have already been dropped on parts of Baghdad. The air raid sirens are screaming over the city as dawn breaks (it is now 6:15 AM in Baghdad). I am trying my best not to give into the rage I feel at these arrogant, ruthless men who are bringing death and destruction to so many for their own personal gain. It is a challenge but I refuse to let them drop bombs of hatred within my own home, the home of my heart. Instead I am focussing on the light shining brightly from my window and all that it symbolizes. The light of truth, of peace, of global community, of compassion, of hope. I will keep this light in the window for the duration. I will also wear black for the duration. Giving up my love of colorful clothes is the least I can do to stand in solidarity with my sisters in Iraq who are clothed in black today and every day.
Tomorrow I will be at school with the children of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Pakistan, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the United States. I cannot imagine the fear and horror that fills their homes tonight. It will be good just to be with them and do what I can to offer a presence of peace during this very UNpeaceful time in their young lives. It was in anticipation of times like this that I started helping at this school soon after September 11, 2001...to be with the community that is suffering the most from the United States' unending war on terrorism and any country they choose to designate as a "terrorist" country.
Then at 4 PM I will join the Raging Grannies and the anti-war community here in Detroit at a rally opposing this war. It will be held at the Brodhead Marine Reserve Center on East Jefferson just east of the Belle Isle Bridge. It is hard to know what songs we Grannies will feel like singing, but one I know we'll sing for sure: GranMotoko's "America We Weep For Thee."
I'll conclude by sharing an email I sent to my group list this evening. In it you will see where my hope comes from on this dark night.
I want to touch each of you now as 8 PM arrives with its promise of horrors to come. It is because of your faithfulness, your unrelenting commitment to peace, your questions and determination to ferret out the truth that we can say our efforts have not been in vain. We have not failed; we have succeeded.
Two mentors are very much with me today. One is an 85 year-old nun, Elizabeth LaForest, who has spent many months of her life in jail for acts of conscience. Yesterday she was part of a civil disobedience action here in Detroit and was disappointed that they would not arrest her. In an email she wrote: "It was wonderful yesterday to meet so many old friends and though the security officers refused to arrest me with them (I was in a wheelchair), I felt that I had done my best. Peter Dougherty always said that we don't struggle for success, but we try to remain faithful. I reminded the officers that I would continue to fight the war on the internet."
I have only met my other mentor through emails and a book, but she is also very much with me today. Her name is Jean McLaren and she is a founding member of the Victoria, BC Raging Grannies. At 75, Granny Jean is currently in Israel with the International Solidarity Movement, the organization with which Rachel Corrie was associated. Starhawk is also part of this group of women and men from around the world who are putting their lives on the line for our Palestinian sisters and brothers. This morning I read an email from Granny Jean that ended with her saying,
"As for all of you Get out on the street and say NO TO WAR That is so important. Go on strike do whatever you can. Love and hugs and blessings to you all. Jean"
After reading Granny Jean's words, I knew how I must spend this sad, sad day. I tied my sign on the front basket of my "ability" scooter--it has pen and ink drawings of an old Iraqi woman, a mother holding her baby, and two Iraqi children, with the words, "Who will suffer and die in a war on Iraq?"--and took off for my community's shopping district. As I live in one of the most conservative communities in the US, I suspected my standing vigil would not be regarded with cheers and smiling faces. I was both right and wrong.
In over four hours, I received 20 honks, nods, thumbs up and one "I like your sign", and only one yelled remark that I couldn't understand but was obviously not favorable. Of course, there were lots of tight lips and closed-down expressions as well. But for me, it felt right to be standing in solidarity with my sisters and brothers in Iraq and bringing their faces to the people here at home.
When I scooted over to the high school at dismissal time, one young man smiled as he saw me approach, turned his back and pointed to a big red peace sign he'd painted there. After sitting at the side entrance to the school for about ten minutes, I heard someone shout, "Hey, the demonstration is over at the flagpole." I scooted around the corner and, to my utter delight, came upon a group of at least 20 students holding what apparently is their weekly vigil for peace! One young woman remembered me from an October rally at the Federal Building downtown, and when I told the group that I was a Raging Granny, they acted like I was some sort of a rock star! If they hadn't actually heard the Grannies, they'd heard OF us. Well, one thing led to another and I asked if they felt like singing a Granny song. "YES!", they said, practically in unison. I taught them GranMotoko's "Are You Sleeping, Uncle Sam?" round to the tune of Frere Jacques. It was a kick to see every single one of these teenagers singing at the top of their lungs and LOVING it! They told me they're planning a teach-in, but since the school won't allow them to hold it there (for shame!) they are going to hold it at the local UU church. I said if they wanted us, the Raging Grannies would be happy to attend. You'd think I'd told them Madonna or whomever it is they idolize, had said she'd appear!
There are so many ways to be an activist, but they all involve getting out there in one way or another. May we each find new ways to keep saying NO TO WAR. And if they chide you and say, "But now we must support the troops", you tell them "Doggone right, we'll support the troops. Let's bring them home RIGHT NOW!"
in peace & gratitude
I feel as though someone
has kicked me in the stomach. But for me it is only a feeling.
What about for the people of Iraq? This is the darkest day in
the history of my country. But, dammit, I will not let these monsters
who wreak such havoc on the world and dare to say it is to "free
the people of Iraq" turn me into something I am not. I will
continue doing all that I do for peace. I will not give up or
give in. I will stay strong. I will keep the light of peace burning
within my heart. I will try to radiate that light into the darkness
that surrounds me. I will not isolate myself as I did during the
Gulf War. No, I will join with my sisters and brothers at every
opportunity. And I will weep. Yes, I will weep...
THURSDAY, MARCH 20, 2003
His going to war didn't change any minds. We found that out this afternoon. If anything it seems to have made people more set than ever in their opposition to bombing Iraq.
At our day-of-war rally here in Detroit, not only did we have beautiful weather, but our numbers stretched all the way from the Brodhead Marine Reserve Center to the Belle Isle Bridge, about two city blocks. We were old, young and everything in between. Some of the first to arrive were my high school activist friends from yesterday, the Flagpole Protestors. For me, this gathering was like a reunion of people from wonderfully diverse chapters of my life. As sad as we all felt, there was such a closeness of spirit and a family feeling that we soon began to perk up and notice what was going on around us. And what was happening was truly amazing.
For almost three solid hours the horns of cars, buses and trucks on busy East Jefferson Avenue never stopped honking. I'm not talking about a horn here and there, but an unending cacophony of horns layered on top of one another. At one time--as we crossed the street during our march--there must have been fifteen horns blaring at once! And it wasn't just horns. Hands forming peace signs stuck out of car windows and up through moon roofs, and there were smiles and yells and thumbs up and people practically bouncing out of their seats to express their solidarity with our opposition to Bush's war. None of us had ever seen anything like this before, not even the longtime activists. It transformed our sadness into joy. No one could stop smiling and that was something we had never expected today.
So what this said so clearly was that the people are still saying NO TO WAR even after it has begun. None of this, "Now that it's started, let's stand behind our commander-in-chief. NO SIR!!! The people were not fooled before and they're not fooled now. This is such encouraging news!
Throughout the rally, we Raging Grannies sang to the accompaniment of horns honking and drummers drumming. We were honored to have friends join us; everyone was welcome. Since things were pretty laid back, I even had the opportunity to take pictures of a few of the signs.
George W Bush, Osama Bin Laden
Both Want War...Both Unelected
Bush, Draft Your Own Daughters
We pray for all forced to fight & die, We do NOT support Mr. Bush or his war,
"This war is immoral"--Pope John Paul II, "This war is illegal"--Kofi Annan
Not In My Name--No War
War Criminal (with picture of George W Bush)
Bush & Blair Defile These Colors
A Preemptive Strike Against Democracy
As sad as I felt when I awoke this morning after a poor night's sleep, I was glad to be going to school. I knew this would be a particularly hard time for our children, and I was right. In almost every class, the youngsters at my table talked about the war. One expressed the fear that bombs might be dropped on her neighborhood, while others, especially the children from Iraq, had more complex reactions.
One fourth grade girl told me her Dad wanted the war because if they got rid of Saddam Hussein her family could go back home. But she said she wasn't so sure about it herself. The girl next to her said, "War's bad 'cause it kills the children, even babies." Then the first girl said, "I don't know who I should be for, Iraq or America." Fortunately I'd read a very helpful article on the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee web site that had discussed how to talk about the war with Arab-American children. They had mentioned this as a dilemma not uncommon to children whose families were from the Middle East. I did as the article had advised and mostly listened, occasionally asking simple questions to help clarify what the child was trying to say or what she or he felt. I didn't try to change anyone's mind on anything, except that I did let the fearful girl know that I didn't think bombs would be dropped on her neighborhood and I offered the little girl from Iraq another option besides just being for Iraq or America. I told her that she could be for peace instead of taking either side. I said that was where I was...on the side of peace. Then Susan told me that the superintendent of schools and the school principal had sent out letters to teachers asking them not to offer any opinions on the war in discussing it with the kids. I was more circumspect after that, but still let the kids talk about it if they wanted to.
Anyway, the war came up
in every class but one, with most of the children simply saying
it made them feel sad. It makes me feel sad too, and I'd bet that
feeling is shared with millions of people around the world. May
our global community succeed in stopping it SOON!
FRIDAY, MARCH 21, 2003
An email I wrote and sent this afternoon:
Today I write to thank so many of you for the outpouring of email messages, phone calls, letters and spoken words that you have sent to soothe my spirit during these past days. I know each of us is mourning, raging, praying, protesting, singing, organizing, weeping, struggling in whatever ways our unique hearts and spirits require. All I can say is, please be gentle with yourself and with all those around you as you respond to the nightmare unleashed as winter turned to spring.
We are tender shoots that can be easily crushed by too much anger, too much intensity, too much attention to the pain of the world. I especially invite you to avoid focussing too much of your precious energy on those persons who have perpetrated these horrors. That leads to high levels of toxicity which will pollute the streams of your inner peace. And without inner peace, there will be no peace between, among and with.
Everything we imagined and more will come to pass as a result of Bush's war on Iraq. It is hard to stay centered and strong in the face of this knowledge. All I can do is trust the groundswell of global commitment to peace to create an alternative reality, a reality that prizes people over power, community over control, activism over arrogance, growth over greed, and dedication over destruction. We have the vision, we have the will, let us find new ways to bring peace to our planet.
in sister solidarity
& an undying belief in peace
I just went online to www.commondreams.org. There I read that the "shock and awe" campaign has begun. I cannot stop crying. I listened to some BBC News footage and tried to read the most recent articles but when I saw the words,
"Pentagon officials said US forces planned to drop more than 1,500 bombs and missiles on Iraq in the first 24 hours of the "shock and awe" campaign that began at about 1700 GMT on Friday."
my teeth started chattering and I could read no further.
Are they human beings who plan such a massacre? Are these the US troops I am supposed to support? I support bringing them home. That is how I support the troops. I will never support the murders they are ordered to do. Never.
How I wish we could wake up from this nightmare.
SATURDAY, MARCH 22, 2003
There are times when it's just plain fun to be in community. Then there are times when you can't imagine how you would survive without it. That is how I feel now. For that reason I invited the Raging Grannies to gather here at my house simply to share what this past week had been like for each one of us. I only issued the invitation late yesterday so was not surprised when only two Grannies showed up at my door. But, you know, that ended up being the perfect number.
I'd created a peace altar in our living room and we started by lighting the beautiful candle Pat K. had made for me last Christmas. Today was the first time it had been lit. We sang John Lennon's "Imagine" after I had read a poem by Denise Levertof. I then invited us to close our eyes and spend some time together in silence. I was gratified at how both Kathy and Helen responded. Our silence lasted at least twenty minutes. What comfort. We sang "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" before going around the circle and sharing whatever we needed/wanted to say about the week we had just lived through. I asked that we simply receive the sharings in silence. We were given all the time we needed. A box of tissues was at hand.
As you can imagine, each of us used our time differently and yet there was a common thread thoughout--our pain over this war actually happening. What good listening ears and open hearts we offered to one another. It was equally healing to speak and to listen.
As a closing, we each chose a Sacred Stone from my basket with the awareness that its energy would be with us as an ally during the dark days ahead. I chose (with my eyes closed) the butterfly of change, Kathy chose the moon of intuition and Helen chose the winds of freedom. We sang "We Shall Overcome" and extinguished the candle. As its flame became a column of smoke, I thought of Baghdad. I committed myself anew to be a light of peace during the dark nights ahead.
Such a simple ritual and yet I feel lighter and brighter because of it, ready to flap my wings like the paper peace dove Kathy designed and brought to our circle.
MONDAY, MARCH 24, 2003
Even though I had work to do on the computer, I decided I needed badly to get outside and feel the sun on my face and smell the subtle scents of spring. So La Lucha the scooter and I took off to go meet Ed for lunch.
What a beautiful day! Birds singing, tree branches fat with buds, tender green shoots popping their heads through winter's mulch and only one iceberg still floating in the lake. It was just what I needed! And I also needed to spend some time with my sweetie. It had been too long since we'd had a quiet lunch together.
Soon after I returned home, it was time to leave for the peace rally organized by the Arab community in Dearborn. As I drove up to the city hall, I heard them before I saw them--Iraqi refugees on one side of the street chanting and shouting in support of Bush's war to "liberate" their people, and the rally I was going to on the other side of the street with the "other side" chanting against the war. Just like it had been back in October when Bush had visited Dearborn for a Republican candidate's fundraiser. I had learned then that this antagonistic position does not fit my commitment to peace, so when I got to the rally I stayed back and did not engage in the shouting matches. A number of people I have known from other demonstrations stayed back as well. I was touched to see a sign commemorating Rachel Corrie, the young peace activist who was bulldozed to death on the West Bank a little over a week ago. And, of course, our friends from the Blue Triangle were not only there, but had been part of the coalition that organized the rally.
It was so clear that our presence as non-Arabs meant a great deal to our Arab sisters and brothers. So many smiles, heads nodding, and for me, a number of hugs from people I've known at other events around the city. For instance, the head of security for the rally was a man I'd met and talked to at length at an all-day immigration court hearing for my brother Rabih Haddad back in the autumn.
Our Raging Grannies were well represented with Kathy, Granny Birdy, Helen and Charlotte in attendance. Although the organizers had said they might have time to invite us to sing our "O Immigrants" song, it didn't happen. I think the presence of the counter protestors made the police nervous, because after very few speakers--excellent speakers, I might add--the rally was declared over and we were strongly encouraged to leave. On our way to a local restaurant, we met the editor of the Arab News who was quite taken with the Grannies and wants to do a story on us.
I am always deeply grateful
to live close to such a large, vibrant Arab community. We need
more than ever to reach out and support our sisters and brothers
who are under threat of even greater loss of civil rights just
because of being Arab, and especially Muslim. These are scary
times for immigrants from the Middle East and South Asia. I admire
their courage in daring to demonstrate publicly against Bush's
war on Iraq.
TUESDAY, MARCH 25, 2003
I forgot today was my usual day to archive this month's journal entries. Even if I'd remembered, I don't know when I would have had time to do it. So, as with everything else these days, I guess it will get done when it gets done. Don't hold your breath, though. The next five days are packed full to the gills. I guess I could stay up late and do it tonight, but since I haven't been sleeping all that well, I need to put sleep at the top of my list of priorities. I especially need to be rested for tomorrow. It promises to be a big day with the Raging Grannies singing at an all-day program at Wayne State University called "Iraq: A Day of Reflection", and then I go swimming tomorrow night. I've GOT to swim. I missed Wednesday of last week and last night too. That's how I keep my balance...what balance I have these days.
I did make time today to write a message to my group email list. I write these messages more for myself than for anyone else. Sometimes I need to hear someone say what only I seem to be saying. Does that make any sense? This is what I wrote:
I'm sure you, like I, constantly hear, "Now that America is at war, we must support the troops." Some people add, "And our President, the Commander-In-Chief." For those of us who will oppose this war to our dying breath, this can put us in a real bind.
How do we protest the war while not protesting the troops? And how can we support the troops when the orders they receive are bringing death and destruction to the people of Iraq? Does it make us "un-American" to say no to a war that is already underway?
When I am asked to support the troops, I always say,"I am. I'm supporting them by insisting they come home NOW!" But, to be truthful, I am not supporting the "troops", I am supporting the life of every single human being caught in the middle of this tragic war. It does not matter to me what uniform they wear; each is a precious being who deserves to live not die, each has a family that will sorely grieve their loss.
And I support not just human life; I support the creatures and plants, the waters, the land, the air. All deserve to exist in a healthy state of balance with one another. I support the endangered species of Iraq: the Asiatic Lion, the Persian Fallow Deer, the Apollo Butterfly, the Sociable Lapwing. War brings destruction to all species, not just to humans.
Am I un-American? I can't really say, and I'm not sure that it matters. The older I get, the less such artificial boundaries as national borders--imaginary lines that engender an "us and them" attitude--mean to me. We all share this planet as equal members of one human family. If I am Pagan and you are Hindu, does it really matter? If I speak Spanish and you speak Swahili, does that make one of us better than the other? If I live in a country that has more weapons of mass destruction than any other, and you live in a country that uses spears to settle your disputes, does that give me the right to dominate you?
I offer my reflections on this subject because it has become more and more important to people, especially to people in the United States.
May we each allow ourselves to stand firm in our own Truth and not be swayed by public opinion. We know what we know and that is what makes each of us unique. Stay strong and trust your heart. In dark days like these, your heart is a better compass than your mind. Minds can be easily changed, but hearts beat in sync with the pulse of the planet. May my heart beat for peace.
I have been given another excellent web site that offers an eye into what is happening in Iraq. It is: http://electroniciraq.net/news/
"While you are alive, you might as well leave your mark. If you don't take any steps [for human rights], the person coming after you must take three." --Bernadette Devlin
This evening I was told of another priceless internet resource: a blog written by a young Iraqi man in Baghdad. His URL is: http://dear_raed.blogspot.com/
And now to bed.
THURSDAY, MARCH 27, 2003
Children are often wiser than their elders. Just read this story written by Ali H., one of our fourth graders, and see if you don't agree. Please take special note of its unique ending.
Dragon World in Pictures
by Ali H.
There once was a planet. The planet was one of the most peaceful planets that was ever made. Soon people came and fought war with the dragons that lived there. The fight took a long time, but it had an end. The war was called Balloon to an End. When the war ended, the people won. Soon another war came. This time the dragons won. They started to hate each other. They wrote a new rule that said, "Be Bad To Dragons." The words were wrote in big letters. They soon fought in a war that whoever wins will decide if they should get along or not. The war began. One brave and kind BOY won! He said, "Let's get along." So they did and everything was back to normal.
so you Can't die.
TUESDAY, APRIL 8, 2003
An email I sent to my group list today:
Somehow I knew. The minute I woke up this morning, I was covered by a heavy blanket of gloom. Of course this grey-skied, still snow-covered Michigan day didn't help; but it was more than that. In my gut I knew something horrible had happened. I suspected it was in Baghdad.
Well, yes, it WAS in Baghdad, but it was also in Denver. Not only are there children lying soaked in their own blood, thrashing their way to death, or worse, to life alone without their family all of whom were killed when the missile ripped off the 12 year old's arms and shot shrapnel into his sleeping body, but there are now three nuns who are looking at the possibility of spending the rest of their lives in prison. And for what? For acting against the very military machine that has destroyed the lives of these children in Iraq.
What have we come to.
If you have the stomach for the truth, I ask you to read Robert Fisk's latest article from Baghdad. It will be quite different from anything you will read or see presented by the journalists who have sold their souls to be "embedded" in the belly of the American/British troops who are acting upon orders to destroy a people and their land in order to benefit a few rich men who will never see who it is their arrogance and greed are maiming and killing.
Published on Tuesday, April 8, 2003 by the lndependent/UK
Amid Allied Jubilation, a Child Lies in Agony, Clothes Soaked in Blood
by Robert Fisk in Baghdad
And then go to the Denver Post and read about three women of conscience, Carol Gilbert, OP, Ardeth Platte, OP, and Jackie Hudson, OP. Read about their being found guilty of "obstructing national defense and damaging government property after they cut through fences and sprayed their own blood on a Minuteman III missile silo last year," charges that carry a recommended 30-year sentence in prison. For these women who are in their 50s and 60s, that would be for the rest of their lives.
Published on Tuesday, April 8, 2003 by the Denver Post
3 Nuns Guilty in Silo Protest
by Mike McPhee and Kieran Nicholson
And then I ask you, as I asked myself, to put these two stories together, to see their connection, to look at how one leads to the other in an unending cycle of violence. What can we do to break this cycle? What can EACH ONE of us do to support life not death and destruction? How can we, in our own lives, act in ways that will help protect these innocent children of Iraq rather than blow them to bits?
This is the time for action born of conscience, the time to stand up and say, "NO!!! No more war, no more killing, no more maiming!!! This is NOT being done in my name and I refuse to be silent any longer! Stop this massacre!!! Protect the children..."
in pained pursuit of
What a hard day. Lots of tears, sadness and anger. It is SO hard to stay open to what is being done in the killing fields, deserts, streets across the globe. When I close my eyes, I see the children. I hear their cries and the cries of those who love them. The fear. The panic. The pain.
And yet I must go there. I must allow them into my heart. I cannot close my eyes to their suffering. If I did, I would not be able to live with myself. This is what it means to be human, fully human. Without touching their sorrow, I cannot be part of their transformation. It is all of a piece.
Do you know who comforted me today? My dear Eddie, who sat with me as I wept, not trying to make it better but saying, "You know how to make your way through this. You have done it before." And Denise Levertov, the poet who died in 1997. In the O Beautiful Gaia project, we sing a song called "Beginners." It is based on a poem by Denise, with music by Norma Luccock. This is the poem that Denise Levertov wrote and dedicated to the memory of Karen Silkwood and Eliot Gralia:
"From too much
love of living,
Hope and desire set free,
Even the weariest river
Winds somewhere to the sea--"
But we have only begun
to love the earth.
We have only begun
to imagine the fullness of life.
How could we tire of hope?
--so much is in bud.
How can desire fail?
--we have only begun
to imagine justice and
only begun to envision
how it might be
to live as siblings with beast and flower,
not as oppressors.
Surely our river
cannot already be hastening
into the sea of nonbeing?
Surely it cannot
drag, in the silt,
all that is innocent?
Not yet, not yet--
there is too much broken
that must be mended,
too much hurt we have
done to each other
that cannot yet be forgiven.
We have only begun to
the power that is in us if we would join
our solitudes in the communion of struggle.
So much is unfolding that
complete its gesture,
so much is in bud.
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 9, 2003
Today I received a reply from a friend to yesterday's group email, "The cycle of violence", in which she gently took me to task for my signing it, "in pained pursuit of peace." She said that was an oxymoron and asked me to "rethink" my position. And so I did.
The more I thought about it, the more I saw that the use of "pained" and "peace" perfectly reflect the times, at least from my perspective. Now, if one sees peace as all sweetness and light, then yes, my phrase would be an oxymoron. But, for me, true peace often embraces pain as an essential part of its nature, just as hope embraces despair and joy embraces sorrow. I mean, how could I as a thinking, feeling person not feel pain during these dreadful days when innocent children, women, elders and now journalists are being killed by weapons that defy description in human terms? Yet, that pain does not stop me from working for peace; if anything it enflames my passion and commitment to a world where such violence no longer exists. So, my pursuit of peace is filled with pain. How could it be otherwise?
Tonight I will be writing Carol, Ardeth and Jackie, the nuns who were found guilty on Monday of damaging government property by pouring their blood and hammering on a Minuteman III missle silo in Colorado last October. We will not know how many years they will spend in federal prison until they are officially sentenced in July, but until then, they are confined to a county jail which is the hardest place to serve time. In county jail you spend at least 23 hours a day in a cramped cell, and you are never allowed to go outside. At least in federal prison, inmates are allowed to work and to get outside on a regular basis.
I invite you to write these wonderful women of courage and conscience. They are excellent correspondents and so appreciate hearing from friends, new and old. Their address is:
Carol Gilbert, OP
Ardeth Platte, OP
Jackie Hudson, OP
P.O. Box 518
Georgetown, Colorado 80444
THURSDAY, APRIL 10, 2003
When "reality" goes off the deep end, it is time to create a new reality. Some might call it fantasy; I call it dreaming truth into being. That's what the kids and I have been doing in our third and fourth grade art classes of late.
The assignment was to create your own planet with its own creatures (the kids like to call them aliens), their own language, pets, natural environment and culture. We started by sketching the shape of the planet in pencil, and then answering a list of questions about them. After sketching the inhabitants, we each chose a piece of construction paper in whatever color we liked. We drew our planets on this paper, cut them out and painted them with tempera paints. Next, we drew and colored the creatures (aliens), their pets and any life forms that grew there. We pasted our cut-out planets and all our other creations onto a larger piece of colored construction paper. Then it was time to write a story about our planet, either describing it or telling of something that had happened there.
We've been working on this project for weeks now, weeks that in the "real" world have been full of such horrors that creating a new reality has been profoundly healing, at least for me. My planet is called Ahummbay. Its name comes from the fact that the only way its inhabitants--ahummbats--communicate is through humming or singing. Their pets are ahummbogs, which are part snail and part dog. Even the ahummbogs sing instead of merely barking. The trees are musical notes with hearts at their base and polka-dot leaves growing out of their note-like branches. Ahummbats have large ears so they can listen to one another, and their mouths are always open to sing. A light bulb shines from the top of their heads. Their bodies are hearts because ahummbats are pure love. No wars or violence ever happen on the planet Ahummbay. How could you fight and sing at the same time?
The story of Ahummbay's origins goes back in time to a planet where there were endless wars. On this planet lived a species called humans and they just couldn't seem to get along. No matter what one human did, there was always another who didn't like it. And so it continued for many millennia. That is, until the time that it got so bad it looked like this planet might not be able to survive all the violence that existed there. As the wars and hatreds got worse, there grew up among the violent ones, humans with heart, humans who refused to fight, humans who chose to love. It was hard for these heart people because they often felt alone, but through one thing and another they began to find each other. Even though they spoke different languages, they seemed to understand an unspoken language that they all shared...the language of love. On a day when it appeared there was no hope anywhere, when it looked like this planet would explode in violence and hatred, each of these heart humans closed their eyes, opened their mouths and began to sing. As their voices rose on the winds, the sound encircled the globe and drowned out all the wars, quarrels and fights. And those who were still practicing violence stopped in their tracks to listen to this unearthly sound. As they listened, they closed their eyes, opened their mouths and began to join the song, one by one by one all around the planet. As they sang, the planet itself could finally sing its song of love. And everything changed. Not in an instant, not even in a year, a decade, a century or a millennium. But, slowly, slowly, slowly things changed. At first no one noticed, but in time the humans looked down to see that their bodies had become hearts, their ears had grown very large, the tops of their heads shone on the darkest nights, and their mouths were always open in song. This was catching. So much so that even their pets caught it. Even their trees caught it. Finally the day came when no one even remembered what this planet had been like before. In fact, they called it by a new name, Ahummbay. And instead of humans, they called themselves ahummbats. And their pets, which were part snail and part dog, became known as ahummbogs. But the most beautiful change of all was that singing and humming were their only ways to communicate. And no one even remembered the word "war" or the word "violence." All they knew was love.
Well, that was what happened in our art classes today. At the beginning of the day, the children were full of talk of war. "Did you hear the war's over? They killed Saddam Hussein, so it's all over now." "My Dad is hypnotized by the TV. I try to talk to him and he just shushes me." "There have been wars in my country for seventy years. I'm Palestinian."
And then Susan the teacher asked me if I knew the words to "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." I said I did and she asked me to sing it. After I'd sung it to her, she asked if I'd use her microphone/headgear and sing it to the class while they worked on their planets. I did and then Susan said, "Why don't you sing them some of the songs from your CD project." I did and then I taught them the songs I'd sung. I taught them "Circle Round For Freedom", "O Beautiful Gaia" , and "The River Is Flowing." Then they sang me a song they know from the fourth grade chorus, "A Candle in the Dark." (How I wish I could show you their faces!)
And do you know what happened? Even the "bad boys" stopped being bad and started singing. Even the youngster who has so much trouble concentrating was totally with us. Even the girls stopped whispering in each other's ears and sang. It was like Ahummbay had come to earth. We did this in two classes--the fourth and third grades--and our hearts were full of love. And there was no more talk of war because we forgot the word even existed. I think my ears grew at least an inch today.
MONDAY, APRIL 14, 2003
The Day the Museum Fell
Only poetry will serve
today. Words that fit together
in some semblance of order, because
order is gone. Antiquities from the cradle
of civilization lie smashed on the
floors of a museum left to
defend itself from angry
mobs let loose by war.
Is this what they mean
of war?" That everything in the
vanquished land is spoiled?
Death, blood, gore. All
this and more have been daily
companions of people under attack
for what? For having the misfortune to
live in an oil-rich nation with a dictator who
refused to bow to the unelected emperor
to the west. And now their (our)
history is gone, torn to shreds
by a force that says it is
liberating the country.
Liberation? This looks
destruction to me. The millennia-old
fabric of an ancient land and its people
is being torn from their bloody bodies, many
of them barely alive. Is this the face of democracy
or is it simply another in a long line of empire-
building excuses, another moment in
history when the strong beats up the
weak and takes their treasures?
Yet, this time, the treasures
are not antiquities but a stinking, black
viscous fluid that can power machines that
destroy the air we breathe and will eventually
make our home uninhabitable. Yes, a
treasure so precious it will destroy
us all. Welcome to democracy.
...written after reading Robert Fisk's article
"A Civilization Torn to Pieces"
TUESDAY, APRIL 15, 2003
In the midst of the horrors that Iraq is suffering at the hands of those cold-blooded "leaders" in the White House and Pentagon, and the threatened horrors awaiting Syria (How can they DO this?), life is also full of wonderful surprises. Like last night's program put on by the peace group here in my community.
After standing vigil with thirty peace people on Sunday night, I found myself surrounded by at least double that number last night. What a surprise! After all, I live in one of this country's most politically conservative communities, a place where the status quo has served them very well indeed and they are anxious to keep things pretty much as they are. Well, did I have a thing or two to learn about my long-held assumptions! There are folks out here who are every bit as radical as I, maybe even more so.
The talks were very good--representatives from the Cranbrook Peace Foundation and Women In Black--but what took my breath away were the comments/questions from the audience. It turns out that we have a woman living in our community who has just returned from Gaza, where she and her husband, a water treatment expert, lived for two and a half years. She mentioned, during the discussion period, her work with the Rebuilding Homes Campaign while she was in Gaza. Of course, I sought her out after the program to exchange email addresses and see if we could get together sometime and talk. And Casey wasn't the only one. I sat next to Rose whose brother had lived in El Salvador during the 1980s and who has been feeling very alone in her anti-war beliefs. After we'd talked awhile, she seemed to brighten up and come alive. How hard it must be to feel you are the only one who sees the truth of this massacre. I encouraged her to spend less time with the mainstream news and more time getting her news on the internet. Then there were four of the Flagpole Protesters from the local high school--Susanna, Tom, Mike and Paul--with whom I had a good conversation. Tom told me about a debate he'd had with a pro-war fellow student that was taped yesterday by the school's cable TV network. He felt he'd presented his case well. I'm sure he did; Tom is incredibly well-informed, articulate and committed to peace. Finally there were two couples, probably in their mid-30s, who had brought up interesting issues during the discussion, issues about such things as the need for global community, the holding of property communally, a break with the patriarchy and class systems that have not worked, and historical examples including Native American traditional ways of living in harmony with the earth. As you can imagine, we connected afterwards as well, and I've already exchanged emails with one of them, a woman of Palestinian descent named Andrea.
WOW!!! I never imagined such people were living in the houses I scoot by on my rides around town. So much for my notion of this community as being stuffy.
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 16, 2003
I'm getting tired of being such a voice of doom and gloom. It's getting to be like worrying a scab that has not yet healed, the way I focus on all that is wrong with the world today. So, yes, there is certainly a lot wrong. No one I know would argue that. It's just a question of where do I want to keep looking, to the horrors or the wonders of life? Both exist. The horrors are in your face, while the wonders take a little time and attention to see. It's kind of like having either macular degeneration, where you become blind to what is in the center of your vision, or glaucoma, where your peripheral sight goes dim. For me, the bad is smack in front of my eyes, while the wondrous is lingering just outside my focus. Either I've got to turn my head to see the light, or keep falling into the dark pit at the center of things.
So many friends have expressed concern about me of late. They keep encouraging me to "get my mind off things" by listening to good music, reading a lighthearted book, spending time in nature, pampering myself in some way or other. I keep saying that doesn't help. The people of Iraq are with me wherever I go, whatever I do. So now I say to myself, then find a way to carry the suffering even while you are entertaining delight. Stop thinking it's either/or. Life has always been and will always be both/and. It's up to me to accept the paradox and embrace it.
This afternoon I found myself drawn to Etty Hillesum's diaries from World War II Germany (An Interrupted Life, Pantheon Books: 1981). Etty was a young Jewish woman who kept a journal and wrote letters prior to her internment in Westerbork labour camp, during that internment and a brief respite she got because of illness, and right up until she and her parents and brother were shipped off to Auschwitz where she died six months later. It is amazing how filled with life and hope are her writings. She wrote such things as: "Those two months behind barbed wire have been the two richest and most intense months of my life, in which my highest values were so deeply confirmed. I have learned to love Westerbork." Yet it was also a place where people suffered and died, children starved, hunger and cold and fear permeated everything.
Yesterday I received mail from three modern-day Ettys: Sisters Carol Gilbert, Ardeth Platte and Jackie Hudson. They had written me on April 8, the day after they had been found guilty of "obstructing national defense and damaging government property after they cut through fences and sprayed their own blood on a Minuteman III missile silo last year." The recommended sentence is 30 years in federal prison, but the prosecutor assures them they will probably "only" be sentenced to 5-10 years. Yet what did they focus on in their notes? Their gratitude for my letters and my presence as "a witness" of peace. They enclosed copies of articles about their trial and Ardeth wrote simply, "Now we are continuing our prayer for spiritual strengthening for the very long haul." No doom and gloom there.
If Etty, Carol, Ardeth and Jackie can find joy in whatever life brings, I guess I'd better learn to follow their example. Truth and joy, suffering and hope. All of it mixed up together. And didn't my book group sisters help me practice my new way of being at our gathering tonight! We speak more truth, laugh harder, touch one another more deeply, and discuss everything from Bush's appalling war on Iraq to childhood poems we remember with fondness. A perfect both/and evening.
Yes, I can do this.
And now it is close to midnight and I have just been given a gift, a treasure really, from a woman I know only over the soundless waves of the internet. Jean McLaren, the Gabriola Island, BC Raging Granny I've written of before, the 75 year-old peace pilgrim who recently returned from companioning the Palestinian people in their struggle to keep their homes from being bulldozed and to live with dignity and freedom from fear. In response to a plea I made over our Raging Grannies listserve today, Granny Jean sent me the following message from Elias Amidon, a man who helped me with his Letters From the Road back before this nightmare began in earnest on March 20. And here he is tonight, coming to me with exactly the words I needed to hear. Whoever you are, dear Elias Amidon, please accept my loving gratitude for your healing spirit and wise words. You speak to my heart and help me know that my pain is shared.
I can stand most anything
if I know what it is. And now,thanks to Elias, I recognize my
raw feelings and loss of energy as signs of the grief I am carrying
after the terrible losses sustained since March 20. And grief
needs time to heal. Now that I realize that, I can proceed with
gentleness and respect for the process.
THURSDAY, APRIL 17, 2003
Elias Amidon has really helped me. It wasn't simply my finally recognizing that it is grief I've been feeling in response to the Iraqi massacre, but it was his suggestion that I hold in my soul the children, women and men who died such horrible deaths there, and in that way, attempt to help their unsettled spirits come to a place of peace. He made clear that this is not about religion, but about spirit.
I relate to that. I have no religion or concept of an "afterlife", but I do have lived experience of the difference between a person's dying in peace or in a state of disturbed agitation. When my 89 year-old mother died last November, she released her hold on life so gently that she left behind a radiance of peace. Whereas my friend Joels, who died of AIDS-related complications at age 35, struggled and resisted his passing until the moment he took his final breath. I could literally feel his disturbed presence for months afterwards. It is that same feeling of disturbance, of unresolved struggle, that I have been experiencing since this massacre began. I now believe it has been the soul-disturbance of the unpeaceful dead.
Last night, after reading Elias's wise words, I went to bed and consciously held the children, women and men--of all ages and nationalities, civilian and soldier--in a gentle, calm, comforting place within my soul. I experienced a depth of peace that I have not known since this nightmare began. As I woke and slept throughout the night, I continued to hold these dear ones close to my heart. And even as I drove to school this morning, I did the same. I'm discovering that as I give them peace, they return the same to me.
And this being Thursday, my life was made light not only by the dead but by the living--the school children whom I love. We sang in a number of classes again today, and the third grade girls delighted me by not only begging to sing, but by remembering all the words and tunes that I'd taught them last week, their favorite being "Circle Round For Freedom." So there we were with our arms around each other, swaying side to side, singing peace songs! A number of the boys joined in too. Susan the teacher took our picture, and even though I'm not allowed to show you the faces of these beautiful children, I've converted the photo to a crosshatch version that I think protects their identity. I just had to share this magical moment with you, my readers.
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 30, 2003
I drove the 580 miles from Detroit to Washington, DC by myself. This was my third such journey and I find being a solitary traveler suits me well. I make the drive in two days--five and a half hours each day--and enjoy times of silence interspersed with listening to music and singing.
[I was in DC to receive emergency computer help from my nephew John, the Mac whiz]
This opportunity to spend unhurried time with my nephew and his wife--even more than the amazing work John accomplished with my web site--is what I will remember as the grace of my trip.
And there was one more grace that will stay with me. It happened on Saturday when John and Kirsten had a Bar Mitzvah to attend, so I was free to go into DC and "do my thing." Any regular reader can probably guess what that "thing" was. Going to picket the White House, of course.
This time I didn't take a sign. It was drizzling and I just didn't feel like lugging it along. So I scooted to the Medical Center (red line) Metro station that was two blocks from my motel, and got into town at noon. When I arrived at the Peace Park across from the White House, there were so many people milling around that I thought there must be a peace demo going on. But as I got closer, I saw it was just hoards of tourists having their friends and familys take photos of them in front of the White House. It amazes me that people still want to be photographed in front of a building that houses the most dangerous president in America's history, but I guess that's why I'm out of step with the general public.
I greeted Conchita--one of this country's most faithful witnesses for peace--and was happily welcomed by her in return. We've become sisters over the years that I have chosen to mount solitary White House protests against the US propensity for war and global domination. If you recall, Conchita has lived in a tent in front of the White House for 22 years, standing firm against the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the US government's many wars and human rights abuses. Her mission is to educate tourists who come to this spot looking for reflected glory from the house-of-power across the street. These days she asks people to inform themselves on what this country's government and military are doing both domestically and globally, and then to meditate on all that they read/see/hear. Only then can they begin to think for themselves. It is an uphill battle. I felt privileged to join her in her work.
Sometimes you become invisible when you try to talk to people, other times you encounter folks who want to argue, but occasionally you discover a sister or brother in the struggle for peace. And so it was with Linda and Barclay, an older couple from Pasadena, California. When Linda said she usually wears a no-nukes pin, I knew we were kindred spirits. And my knowing only deepened the longer we talked. I offered her a choice of the pins I'd bought last weekend at the Drum 4 Peace demo in Ann Arbor, and she chose one that simply says "No War." She put it right on her coat. After perhaps a half hour, she leaned down and said softly, "I don't usually tell people this, but somehow I want you to know. My father was a Nobel Laureate." I asked his name and she answered, "Linus Pauling." LINUS PAULING!!! I wanted to shout. Imagine meeting the daughter of the man whose untiring efforts for nuclear disarmament had resulted in the 1963 Limited Test Ban treaty between the US, Great Britain and Russia...and meeting her as I demonstrated in solidarity with a longtime nuclear disarmament advocate like Conchita! What I'd call a harmonic convergence.
As we looked across the street to the White House, Linda told me a little of what it had been like to have a father like Linus Pauling. The thing she remembers most vividly about her Dad was his habit of always saying what he believed, no matter to whom he was speaking or what the circumstance. For instance, on the day he was to be honored as Nobel Laureate at a White House reception, Linus Pauling picketed in front of the White House carrying a sign that said, "Kennedy, Khrushchev--No More Nuclear Arms!" Later that evening he was introduced to Jackie Kennedy in the receiving line. She said, "Ah, Dr. Pauling, Caroline came up to me this afternoon and asked me if her Daddy had done something wrong again because someone was outside holding up a sign." When he shook President Kennedy's hand, Jack smiled and said, "Thank you for all you do."
Linda said that she wished her Dad were alive today: he'd have a lot to say!
She and Barclay were in Washington, DC this week for a national conference of scientists. Apparently Barclay is a geologist who specializes in glaciers in Anarctica. And yes, they are melting, which makes me so sad. Anyway, Linda and I exchanged email addresses and she had Barclay take a picture of us together. As I say, it was a truly graced moment.
I realized on the drive home that the deep sorrow I'd been feeling since March 19 had lifted. Not that I wasn't still experiencing pain over what is happening in Iraq, but it was no longer all that I could feel. Joy had eased its way back into my life, and for that I am grateful. I then realized that I had given George W Bush and his cruel pals too much power. After all, even those power-hungry men and woman could not stop winter from giving way to spring. Their "power" is all in the eyes of the beholders. If we don't give it to them, they don't have it. So I hereby announce that those who swagger through Washington's halls of power no longer hold my happiness or lack thereof in their grasping hands. I claim my right to my own sense of power. Let those who live by lies and threats fall like the empty houses of cards they have so uncaringly built.
FRIDAY, MAY 2, 2003
Today I wrote the following prose poem to honor Conchita, the extraordinary woman with whom I stood in front of the White House last Saturday. I want to introduce my O Beautiful Gaia sisters to this woman of courage at our monthly gathering tomorrow. I've been asked to be the "memory keeper" of a new song that Carolyn McDade brought to our circle when we were in the studio taping the rough cut CD at the end of March. It is called, "We Shall Be Moved", and is intended to companion the traditional song of struggle, "We Shall Not Be Moved", which we will also be singing. "We Shall Be Moved" celebrates what moves us to action, two of the verses being "women of courage" and "justice rising." I think you'll see why I want to bring Conchita into our circle tomorrow.
Doing Homage To a Woman of Courage
For twenty-two years Conchita
in a small plastic-covered tent on a city
sidewalk. Inside this tent is a wooden
platform on which she sleeps. She sleeps
sitting up because she's been told it is
against the law to sleep lying down in this
federal park that is her home.
For twenty-two years Conchita
her truth to tourists more interested in being
photographed in front of the halls of power than
in examining and thinking about what happens
For twenty-two years Conchita
read the Washington Post every day to see
what they are doing in the house across the
street. Every bit of information she takes in
is seen in the context of what has gone before.
She is a living textbook of American history.
For twenty-two years Conchita
has been less
concerned about snow, sleet, hail and thunder-
storms than about the military men who beat her,
who maced her and threatened her life. The helmet
she wears under a scarf-covered wig makes her look
odd but helps her feel safe, especially when she
For twenty-two years Conchita
has spent her days
printing leaflets and updating her photo-laden posters
that document the horrors of war. She rides a donated
bike to a local cafe to read the paper, check her emails,
keep up her web site and use their toilet. On dry days
she paints doves and the words "peace" and "justice"
on rocks that she gives away. She lives on donations of
food, money and time.
For twenty-two years Conchita
has been ridiculed,
ignored, laughed at, cursed, pitied and occasionally
listened to by those to whom she devotes her life.
For twenty-two years Conchita's
closest neighbor has
been the President of the United States but they
have never met.
For twenty-two years she
has stood as a presence of
peace, truth and justice in a place where these things
are often just words.
For twenty-two years Conchita
has transformed our planet.
by Patricia Lay-Dorsey
SUNDAY, MAY 18, 2003
In every period of history, we see certain individuals whose propensity to tell the truth, whose intelligent grasp of what is going on, and whose willingness to get out there and do whatever is necessary to be change-agents make their voices rise above the rest in ways that will never be forgotten. To my mind, Arundhati Roy, is just such a person of our time.
And the more perilous the times, the stronger the voice must be to cut through the fog that threatens to envelope all but the most alert and discerning. So when Ms. Roy speaks, I listen. Hard. Her words cut to the quick. They are not easy to take in, mainly because she says things that even the most progressive among us would prefer not to hear. But we must. For if we don't, the runaway train that is being conducted by the dangerous cadre of folks in power will surely take us all over the cliffs of sanity and crash us onto the rocks of anarchy. What they have done to Iraq shows us exactly what that looks like.
So when I received today's Truthout.org news articles, I went right to the one by Arundhati Roy. It is called "Instant-Mix Imperial Democracy (Buy One, Get One Free)" and was a speech she presented in New York City at The Riverside Church on Tuesday, May 13, 2003. The fact that she was speaking to those of us who live here in the US--the belly of the beast, so to speak--gives it even more power to dissenting Americans like myself (and most of her audience).
So here it is. Very long but worth taking all the time it requires to read it with a reflective mind and an open heart. Listen to her voice and see if what she says makes sense to you. It does to me.
in pursuit of truth
It's kind of surprising to me how I've taken to this new--for me--form of communicating in group emails that are political in nature. It kind of grew into itself without conscious planning on my part. I originally started writing them as ways of sharing articles that had meaning to me. For some reason I've never been fond of simply forwarding such articles. I always wanted to make it seem more personal than that, so I would copy/paste the article and write a brief introductory statement. As time went on, my introductory comments get longer and more reflective. During the heat of the attack of Iraq, I found myself sending out messages that were totally my own. Now that things have settled down a bit--will they ever be truly settled again?--I'm back to sharing other people's words. But I only send group emails when I feel absolutely compelled to do so. And let me tell you, as soon as I started to read Arundhati Roy's speech, I knew that had to go out!
WEDNESDAY, MAY 21, 2003
Later this afternoon I will be driving to Ann Arbor to attend a workshop that I desperately need. This is how it was presented in an email sent out by the Ann Arbor Committee for Peace:
WORKSHOP FOR PEACE ACTIVISTS (aka "How to talk effectively
to people who don't agree with you")
WEDNESDAY, MAY 21, 6:30-9:30 PM, QUAKER HOUSE, 1410 HILL ST. Free.
**Please attend if you have ever volunteered for our peace outreach efforts, or intend to do so, or are even thinking about it.
Ever get tongue-tied,
frustrated, red-in-the-face, or homicidal when discussing war
and peace issues with pro-war friends, relatives, acquaintances,
co-workers, spouses, or total strangers? Do you believe in your
heart that the
best way to grow the movement and create change is to reach out to that astonishingly large number of people who supported the war, but lack the patience or confidence to do it? Then this workshop is for you.
The American Friends
Service Committee will present their "Towards Understanding"
workshop for AAACP members on 5/21. Using discussion and role-plays,
they will teach us the LARA (listen, affirm, respond, and add)
method of speech as nonviolent action sure to make our difficult
discussions more productive and peaceful. Well worth the time
-- it could make a lifetime of difference!
Sure sounds like it has my name on it.
Well, it DID have my name on it! What a powerfully simple tool for communicating non-violently with those with whom you disagree. Developed by Bonnie Tinker of Oregon as a tool to dialogue with homophobic folks who would call into her talk radio show, the LARA technique can be applied to any topic or issue that stirs up passionate feelings. Tonight the facilitators of this American Friends Service Committee-sponsored workshop helped us peace activists apply it to discussions of peace and war, especially discussions with persons who hold diametrically opposite views from us. The workshop, which was called "Towards Understanding", involved presentations, discussion, role play in small groups, and a most helpful hand-out. I think everyone was surprised at the numbers of people who showed up. Tonight was for members of the Ann Arbor Committee for Peace and thirty women and men were in attendance.
It's late and I'm sleepy after 100 miles of driving plus the three hour workshop, but I want to give you a brief taste of the LARA method. Before I do that, though, let me list what they call "Five Key Elements in Using Speech as Nonviolent Action:"
1. Take away the threat;
create a safe space.
2. Underlying this message "I will not harm you," establish--to the extent that you are able--a profound respect for the other in your own heart.
3. Allow the other person some moral ground on which to stand.
4. Make connections, find common ground.
5. Most people don't want to hurt another person without justification and resistance.
And now the LARA technique in a nutshell:
LISTEN--Try to hear and understand the moral principle from which they are speaking.
AFFIRM--Express the connection that you found when you listened, whether it's a feeling, an experience, or a principle that you have in common with the other person.
RESPOND--Answer the question. Respond to the issue that the person raised. (Where most of us usually start!)
ADD INFORMATION--share additional information that you want to give the person.
As I say, it was excellent--worth every mile and every minute. Now I want to bring these folks to Detroit to give the same workshop to our peace communities here.
MONDAY, MAY 26, 2003
Memorial Day 2003
by Patricia Lay-Dorsey
It is Memorial Day 2003.
The roar of
war planes passing overhead thunders in
my ears, reminding me less of American
soldiers who died for their country than of
Iraqi children torn to bits by bombs dropped
perhaps by these very planes.
It is Memorial Day 2003.
Rachel Corrie who was bulldozed to death
while trying to protect the house of a
Palestinian family on the West Bank.
It is Memorial Day 2003.
Phil Berrigan who lost his fight with
cancer but never lost his willingness to
put his life on the line for peace.
It is Memorial Day 2003. I remember
the British student Tom Hurndall who
lies brain-dead from bullets fired into
his head by Israeli soldiers. His "crime"
was to place his body between the soldiers
and two Palestinian children playing
in the street.
It is Memorial Day 2003
are flying in lilac-scented air. I see
the blood of innocents pour down each
red stripe onto porches, flagpoles, SUVs
and front doors of Americans who equate
patriotism with unthinking support of
preemptive invasions abroad and the
loss of civil liberties at home.
It is Memorial Day 2003
and I join
my hands, heart, mind and voice with
sisters and brothers around the world
as we plant seeds of justice that we trust
will flower in peace.
After sending a copy of my poem to the Raging Grannies listserve, Granny Jean of British Columbia posted the following reply. If you recall, it was she who went to the West Bank with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) just a few months ago. Granny Jean is 75 years old.
Thank you Patricia
so much for that. I am grieving today. Yesterday I found out that
the homes of the two families I lived with in Nablus, Palestine,
were destroyed in the middle of the night. There lived 10 people
in the first house where Starhawk and I stayed, sleeping in the
beds of the two teenage daughters, after the mother tucked us
in and kissed us goodnight. Saturday night they were awakened
in the middle of the night and told to go outside immediately.
They were not allowed to remove their furniture and belongings
and the house was blown up. Can you imagine what it was like for
them. The father of the house is disabled and the mom worked so
hard. She was rolling up rice in grape leaves at 10 pm the night
we were there.
In the second house the Khelfi family lived downstairs, and I stayed with them. Hana and her two sons Mohammed and Rahin and daughter Rawind. Upstairs lived two families. There were four elderly adults and several sons and daughter and young children, at least 10 or 12 people, who were Hana's relatives. The crime of these people was that a son in each house was a suicide bomber. The families are grieving the loss of a son and now their house is gone. Will this keep on happening to them for the rest of their lives? How will they heal? While I don't condone suicide bombers, I can certainly understand the frustration of the young people. We all know the violence doesn't work. What galls me is that the Israelis are saying they want the peace process, why then do they continue this degradation of the families who have done no wrong.
Saturday night a well know rock/blues band from Nanaimo, BC, David Gogo and his band, are playing a benefit dance and the money is going to me to go back to Palestine in September. I hope I can find the families and see them again. Thanks again Patricia. It is so good to have the love and kindness of the Grannies around me. Love Jean
© 2002-2003 Patricia Lay-Dorsey. Please use with proper attribution.