Code Pink Journals CodePINK Journals

Work 4 Peace,Hold All Life Sacred,Eliminate Violence! I am on my mobile version of the door-to-door, going town-to-town holding readings/gatherings/discussions of my book "But What Can I Do?" This is my often neglected blog mostly about my travels since 9/11 as I engage in dialogue and actions. It is froth with my opinions, insights, analyses toward that end of holding all life sacred, dismantling the empire and eliminating violence while creating the society we want all to thrive in

Monday, April 29, 2019

My new book intro: But What In the USofA Were We Thinking: 9/11 to 11/9


But What In the u.s.ofa. Were We Thinking: 9/11 to 11/9

To Begin With
           
When 9/11 happened, I was living in my two bedroom apartment in Berkeley CA, sharing it with my ex-lover. We had broken up after five years of trying to make it work and now, because neither one of us could afford to live separately, we were trying to reconfigure our lover relationship into one of roommates.
            She both got up earlier than I did in order to go to the union hall waiting for a job, plus she watched more tv than I did so I was more annoyed with the early wake up than concerned when she came into my room before 6a.m. with the unbelievable news that a plane had crashed in NYC into the twin towers.
            Even after she told me ‘terrorist attack’ never crossed my mind but visions of how small NYC really is and how close the airports are to the city were what flashed through my head as I tried to go back to sleep.
            When she came in a few minutes later to tell me another plane crashed into the towers I chalked it up to her wild imagination. When she insisted that the crashes were intentional, I still just mentally went through the catalogue of times she had gotten facts mixed up and told her she was probably misinterpreting what happened.
            She reached across me and flicked on my tv as she hastily beat a retreat, both out of my bedroom and the apartment to rush off to work.
            I shut the damn thing off as rapidly as she’d turned it on. Then, wanting to be the one to get the facts strate, I sighed, went to the bathroom, brushed my teeth, and then returned to turn on the tv just in time to see the buildings collapsing.
            I was in a state of shock, watching the same footage of the planes, the towers, the people, the smoke. My mind catalogues chosen family, biological family, and friends living or working near the twin towers. I know no one working in the twin towers at that moment. I try to call my grandmother first, wondering if this 99 year old womon would be awake yet let alone up. Her line is forever busy, as is everyone else’s that I know.
            I stay home, glued to the tv all day, while they’re looking for the president of the u.s., speculating about who could have done this, was it intentional, were we being invaded.
            The second I heard bush talk about ‘terrorism’ and ‘acts of terror’, then later talk about how ‘they’ were jealous of our ‘freedom’ and that we should all just go shopping, I unplugged my tv and took it to the street, leaving it on the curb for anyone else to take. Even before bush, the playing and replaying and playing again the same footage over and over and over was so sickening.
            No one was talking about what was really happening and why. No one was talking about anything but rounding up muslims and arabs and rah rah rah u.s.ofa.
            Less than 48 hours after the first plane hit, I had painted the back of my truck “Thou shall NOT kill” in giant letters. Under that I painted five words in black inside of red circles with diagonal line slashes them: retribution, retaliation, offense, defense, revenge.
            Thou shall not kill – period.
Three days later, I closed my antique shop for a few weeks and started driving around the country seeking out especially womyn to ask, “do you really want our country to go to war” because I KNEW our “just go shopping” president was going to direct us to war IF we didn’t act promptly and fiercely.
And we did swiftly invaded Afghanistan, even before I returned to California and then moved quickly on to threatening invasion of Iraq even though by this time we all knew not one man on those planes was from Iraq. We also knew that no nation had invaded us, but a handful of disparate and desperate men had attacked the manifestation of our blatant opulence and domination, as well as the tools by which we conquer and enforce our wealth and domination.
The other thing that deeply hurt me was our nation’s inability to turn this horrific experience of male violence into compassion for all the countries and peoples we were and have bombed and attacked, the very people who were experiencing daily this kind of violence at our hands. Instead, our leaders used our shock and righteous indignation to foment extreme nationalism – so extreme my grandmother, a survivor of the WWII holocaust called me almost daily, ordering me, cajoling me, begging me to “take the babies and leave the country”. She warned me vehemently about the hatred and rabid fever she was witnessing, identical to what she witnessed in Germany.
Within a few weeks, I was able to head across the country again, keeping the “Thou Shalt NOT Kill” words on my truck but this time painting over & replacing the circles with: “Unless wanting 60 percent of the world’s resources for 4 percent of the world’s people”
On the left side of my truck – the side that people passing me on the highway would have to read – I painted a strident anti-war message: “Womyn Say ENOUGH! BASTA! NO WAR!” “Impeach Bush and Asscroft!” “Vote for war: send YOUR sons, not ours!” When I had done all of this, I was ready to hit the road again.
Since 9/11 I have clocked over 400,000 miles – protest miles – on my truck with missives updated on all sides to reflect the current ‘state’ of our country’s wars: internal and world-wide. I have engaged in dialogue and actions with the choir, the other, and everyone in between. I’ve been regaled, harassed, nearly run off the road (by trucks bigger than mine) and invited to rest and recharge at the homes of many strangers. My tires have been slashed, my windshield broken, my messages defiled with hate graffiti. $50, $100, $20 dollar bills have been left under my windshield wipers or handed to me; my café and grocery bills paid for; gifts left for me on my front seat.
I’ve kept a blog although not very faithfully since 2003. These are the stories of my interactions detailing but what in the u.s.ofa. were we thinking: 9/11 to 11/9.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Male violence...

Yet again, two womyn are sitting at a small round table in the outdoor area of a bar, their heads almost touching, deep in a conversation that is obviously intimate. It is Womyn's Weekend here at Rehoboth Beach, which I don't think is a secret, so there are LOTS of dykes around.

A scruffy white man, tall, bearded and tattooed swings around from the bar, spots the womyn and starts cat-calling and yelling across a few tables, puckering his thin chapped lips, making kissie noises. When they ignore him while his buddies hoot, he is compelled to leave the bar and walk around to the front railing where they are perched behind.

He leans over, putting his elbows on the table with the widest grin and informs the womyn that he wants to see them make-out. He says it loud enough so his friends at the bar can hear but barely above their hysterical laughter.

The womyn smile and lean back, examine their check and rise to leave - must to the man's deeply expressed chagrin he won't see them making out.

I'm livid. I think about men who dress as what society says women should dress, who get 'insulted' when someone calls them 'sir' - and yet lesbians have to deal with this hatred and disrespect without one person in that bar standing up to this violence and for these womyn and all womyn.

Sexism alive and well

I am at a Rehoboth Beach conference center, walking down the hall towards the door when a tall white man approaches me and asks me where the bathroom is....HON.... Really? Hon? A man hasn't dared to call me that in I don't know how many decades. When I responded with "down the hall, dear" he abruptly stopped, turned red in the face and then continued in the direction I indicated.

A couple hours later, 6 womyn and myself were sitting at a table outside a restaurant, sharing a meal and lots of conversation and laughter when yet another white man strolls over, places his hands on the fence barrier and stretches his body as far as he can to get right into the middle of our table. He starts talking loudly, commenting on our vivacious 'chatter' and I raise my voice to tell him he's interrupting.

He laughs and insists on joining in the merry time, continuing to talk as if we will be so happy to include him. NOT. The womon next to me leans almost into his face, points her finger and tells him quite loudly we're talking about overthrowing male domination and patriarchy now. This kinda silences him as he hesitates, maybe waiting for a punch line but we've ignored him and are continuing with our conversation.

Really men, get a fuckin life.

I know her life...

A bunch of us rowdy womxxn are in a noisy restaurant, high on smelling ourselves and just being together. In order to use the bathroom, I have to pass an older white strate couple, the male half of which is staring at me and then my chest where he is reading with great obvious distaste "Smash Fuckin Patriarchy".

I inwardly smile as I continue along my path. Returning from the bathroom, they both swivel around from the counter on their high stools to look slightly down at me as the female of the couple reaches out to me to ask what is written on my t-shirt.

I don't think she is practiced confronting people but I think they have 'agreed' she would be the designated confrontor. Of course, he also leans forward and mutters something that we both ignore - me holding her eyes and her unable to glance away.

I tell her. She looks dubious and begins to do the male protection gatekeeping thing. I stop her and ask her if she doesn't think male violence has to be smashed.

She flushes slightly then turns extremely pale and I know her life just like that. She stutters some womyn are violent also. We stare at each other for a few beats before I start rattling off statistics of violence against womyn.

She eases back into her chair, her husband totally neglected, nodding slowly.

I ease forward and tell her we womyn HAVE to take over. There's been enough destruction of human life and Mother Earth. A hint of a smile fills her eyes as she nods with more confidence and utters some of my favorite words: "I think you might be right!"


Sunday, January 27, 2019

I want your BODY!

I do not intend to be rude, nor do I intend to reject or hurt the feelings of friends, family, acquaintances who want to thank me for my work.

It's not that I don't appreciate knowing I and my work is appreciated: I do. But I don't need to be thanked, and even don't want to be thanked.

Thanking me makes me feel so very uncomfortable: not just because I know there are tons of womxxn who are doing soooooo much more than I've ever even thought of doing. But also because I know I could not do the work I'm doing without the support and love of the very people who are thanking me and others they might not even know.

And also, I don't want to let us off the hook that easily: I feel like when we give thanks, some might feel it is an end to the need to be active. As in "I expressed my thanks, now I can move on to finishing the dishes or my commute or this book."

So PULEEEEEZE don't thank me

Really what I want is YOUR BODY! Your body on the line next to mine!

Saturday, January 26, 2019

No More Deaths/No Mas Muertes

If you don't know about this amazing organization with incredible humans providing humanitarian aid for desperate refugees fleeing violence, poverty, u.s. intervention and attempting to cross one of the most harsh, unforgiving desert environment in our country.

Recently nine volunteers were arrested by Border Patrol and four have been tried and convicted in the court that said 1) it's okay to allow human beings to die in the desert; and 2) it's okay to criminalize those providing water for humans.

We cannot allow this to continue. This is directly tied into tRump's increasing repression of immigrants and now of humanitarians.

The trials of the next five are going to happen this month - and the sentencing for the first four should happen before the end of February.

We cannot allow all our energy and/or focus be towards supporting these incredible volunteers - we need to keep focused on those who are dying in the desert and providing humanitarian aide - but we should also try to call the judge and No More Deaths to find out how to best support both their work and the arrestees!

nomoredeaths.org


Leaving water for humans lost in the desert is political???? to be continued

Today I'm going door-to-door - the real door-to-door, on foot, knocking - not my mobile version. And I'm going door-to-door trying to get residents to agree to put yard signs up.

You might not know that nine humanitarian aid workers have been arrested for leaving bottles of water in the desert.

Not just anywhere in any desert but in a harsh, unforgiving desert where over 300 bodies have been found in the past few years and many more suspected deaths unfound bodies. And along paths that aide workers suspect refugees might be traveling.

No More Deaths - No Mas Muertes - has been working for years setting up humanitarian aid stations around this desert, seeking both live and dead bodies, as well as providing legal and medical aide to human beings.

The nine people who were arrested were volunteers with No More Deaths. Four of them have been prosecuted and found guilty under tRump's amping up immigration policy to negatively impact volunteers as well as refugees.






So most people - if they were home at all - took a sign or had me put one up in their yard.

One white womon expressed her horror, eyes wide, shaking her head vigorously, when I told her No More Deaths volunteers had been arrested and convicted of leaving water in the desert and now face jail time and fines.


But when I asked her if she'd like to put up a sign in her yard, she shook her head just as emphatically, smiled and stated she doesn't want a "political" sign in her yard. I said in jaded surprise "this is not political, it is humanitarian."

"I'm not political" she claims broadening her smile.

"Well" I say, "I guess that's amerikkkan then." without a smile. "In my opinon" I add hastily as she closes her front door.

The only other negative interaction I had was with jehova witnesses, of all people. Maybe they felt threatened or thought I was competition.

I asked one of the womxxn if she wanted a yard sign to take for her home. She smiled politely, shaking her head and said "no thank you".

The other womon abruptly stomped towards me and







Friday, January 04, 2019

Homeland security means "do not help those children"...

To understand what is happening at the border, we must understand that people are attempting to cross the border legally: it is the universal right of ALL people to seek asylum across borders.

Our immigration machine that controls border control AND the mexican immigration machine is forbidding all but a handful of asylum-seekers to cross the border 'legally'.

Literally ZERO to maybe 50 or at the most 80 people a day since the mass caravan arrived are being processed (which means being arrested and placed first in the 'ice box' a freezing cold cement floor and wire fenced cages with only one layer of clothing allowed - REALLY, fuckin REALLY????, then moved into a 'detention center' which is also a prison or deported).

The importance of being able to step onto u.s.ofa. soil is that once a refugee is on u.s.ofa. soil, she or he cannot be turned away but HAS to be processed (which might eventually mean being deported) but at least has the potential of providing the safety these human beings are seeking.

This leaves the thousands of refugees, stopped by border control from stepping onto u.s. soil, in limbo and truly struggling to survive (as opposed to those of us in this country struggling for our life-styles to survive).

THIS is how refugees seeking asylum were treated:
 
https://medium.com/@lagente2081/comunique-ii-e3a6fe5cc989?fbclid=IwAR1LQJK3ewoZSp7rlu7aoCwW_qJwXuz5iye_wCjpkBQ43M7xesa_8YJMGx8

Comunique II

The week between Christmas and New Years is supposed to be a time of joy, a time to spend with your family, a small break from capitalism and the necessity of work-force education and work-force obligations. We from Moringa, Maiz, y Nopal hope that you enjoyed it and were able to spend time with the people you love.

For us, it was a week of getting to develop a small understanding of the current processes and encampments available for asylum seekers here in Tijuana and across the border in San Diego. On the south side, there are kitchens, there is food, clothes, tents, and blankets. Most basic needs are covered except for a need for battery/solar lights, backpacks, and self expression. There is no work available for asylum seekers, they remain self reliant in many ways, but of course have no real or consistent access to funding or the capitalistic system.

Today is January 2nd; “list managers” help assist their relatives in making it through the illegal numbering system “la lista” by calling out 0–10 numbers each day. Every number is representative of ten people; if you are not there when your name is called, good luck, they say. The system is managed by a composition notebook, and it is corrupted by a group (the Mexican equivalent to ICE) called Grupos Betas. Numbers can, thanks to their illegal infiltration and perpetuation of such a system as la lista, be bought or sold. There are organizations on the ground working to empower people throughout this illegal process and provide information about “las hielerias” or ice boxes, the asylum seeking process in general, and help available on the other side.

The last number called January 2 was 1511, on New Years Day, 0 numbers were called. The last number to be assigned was somewhere around 1900. That means 3,890 people are still waiting to be called for their turn to enter through the port of entry here in Tijuana.

On the night of December 31st, we had used some fundraising to fill in a gap of entertainment at one of the shelters here in town; we planned to show a movie with a projector and small chargeable speaker, hoping it would offer a momentary distraction from the reality of current circumstances, but electricity currents were too low at the shelter to power the DVD player and projector at the same time. We hope to return again with a charged battery that we can plug those devices into.
Every day here we drive home along the double walled, militarized border zone, enforced by razor wire on the north side that reaches up to 7 feet high.

*The only way to seek or request asylum in the US is to make it to the other side.*

Between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., from December 31, 2018, and into January 1, 2019, more than 100 asylum seekers including children gathered in an effort to beat the illegal list and become capable of claiming asylum on what is considered US soil.

On our way home that night as we drove across that same highway we saw people standing near a point on the border known as a spot for crossing. We saw children wrapped in emergency blankets, and after rounding a hill we saw plumes of tear gas with more people walking along the highway. This was around 10 p.m.

We went to get medical supplies and returned. We parked and went to see what was happening. We joined up with those gathered there. We communicated with the folx and they asked us to accompany them and assist, since they had seen the tear gas and wanted us to provide medical assistance (a couple of us are trained as street medics and brought treatment for tear gas).

The Central American folks seeking to cross and apply for asylum collectively decided that even with the risk, it was their best and only option. We want to stress that these folks were families, young men, women and elderly folks- just like us, just like you- everyone simply looking for a better life escaping the violence and poverty that made them flee their home, literally walking and catching rides over thousands of miles.

They decided that the children and families would be prioritized to cross over the fence and surrender themselves to border patrol and make a claim for asylum.
 
The hundred plus people present had to climb up a hill along the border wall and reach a point safe to cross with no razor wire. As we crept along the wall and were waiting for those at the point to cross, border patrol with the help of two overhead drones assessed what was happening.

These moments were tense and long. The minutes felt like hours. We had to be as silent as possible; mothers and fathers worked to keep their children quiet, la migra was just on the other side of the metal fence, we could hear their engines, they could hear the rocks move beneath our feet. We could all see the fear in all each other’s eyes, so many faces looked down the hill with doubt.

Border Patrol spotting the mass of us, without provocation or warning, they launched at least three tear gas canisters over the fence. The first one was maybe 2 yards in front of us. This forced all of us to flee into a clearing/construction site. We were in the light and it became apparent to border patrol how many of us there were. The people who ran from the gas needed treatment. We got those most affected afar from the gas and administered milk of magnesium. Another group stayed closer to the wall but in sight of border patrol. More border patrol agents arrived. The national guard arrived soon after.

The large group of us fled uphill to escape the smoke, but after that initial attack a dozen or more people returned to the wall determined to keep trying. More people steadily followed suit. The smoke cleared and people regathered to make their stand and demand the right to seek asylum. At first a few, but with numbers the people shook the initial shock off and regrouped at a hill point just up from the fence where no razor wire was laid.

The point on the fence where folks crossed was prepared and people encouraged the families and each other not to be afraid. People called out to each other “No tengas miedo!” “Don’t be afraid!”

The people yelled out to the soldiers and border patrol that they did not want violence, only harmony and jobs, they wanted peace for the new year. A few young men braved the flood lights and the leveled rifles aimed at their chests and jumped the fence and surrendered peacefully to Border Patrol. Families that had retreated from the gas came forward and the children and parents went to the fence to cross and surrender themselves. With hands raised, the national guardsmen aimed their rifles on them. We saw red lasers being aimed at them and those of us on the small hill behind the fence. As children were being lifted above the fence, the guardsman assuming command ordered his subordinates to not help the children. One guardsman closer to the fence was obviously conflicted as he saw that the children needed assistance dropping across. We heard one national guardsman repeatedly call out: “Do not help those children.”

Repeat that.

Do not help those children.

That is what homeland security means.

Do not help those children.

The people called out asking why they had their guns out leveled on all of us, leveled on unarmed children, why they tossed the gas, why they hated them so much.

Families and children made it across and this gave encouragement to the group and more families and individuals started to come down the hill towards the fence. Children were climbing to the point when the U.S launched a tear gas canister directly at them. It was completely unprovoked. Contrary to the Border patrol report the following day, there were no rocks thrown to provoke such an attack. Over the course of the next few minutes between 20 and 30 canisters were fired at all of us.

It was incredibly chaotic, the amount of gas in the air was overpowering- we all retreated helping each other, administering milk of magnesium to disinfect the tear gas, and make sure the families were together. What was terrifying was that where the families that had come down the hill, into basically a large ditch were completely drowned in gas and smoke. A mother who had sent her children down was crying out for them. She fainted, people were running blinded by the smoke, gagging and screaming- there was massive confusion not knowing whether or not the children had made it over without their parents, which would be horrible. We know what has been happening to children separated from their parents.

The children were found; a young Honduran man had gotten them out of the smoke. He was shot in the back with a canister as he was carrying them to safety. Those moments not knowing if the children had been separated, hearing the mother scream out for her two children- only toddlers, as tear gas stung though the air and the blades of a massive drone flew overhead with a blinding spotlight flashing over us all, is how the “New Year” greeted those seeking a better life. We all regrouped away from the smoke. People were dazed and in shock from the gas and the explosions of the canisters.

It needs to be stressed that the narrative that the Department of Homeland Security has issued via their official report IS FALSE, as with any media reports that describe a situation in which Border Patrol and National Guard were defending themselves against aggressors. This narrative must be stopped, it is a normalization and escalation of violence. The canisters that were launched were knowingly fired at unarmed families and children. We have video that directly contradicts this false narrative. If unchecked these men will undoubtedly escalate violence causing maiming and death.
As folks regrouped and recovered along the highway, a group of folks broke off to head to another point. We don’t know what happened to them. The majority stayed along the highway.

People were determined to make it across. Despite what occurred no one was ready to give up. But it was apparent that it was not going to happen, at least not here, not now.

We gave out what supplies we had, which was not much but all we had. We organized rides back to the shelters prioritizing the children and families that were still present.

It was 5 a.m. Still people had to walk what is usually a 40 min drive through the highways of Tijuana.
We began the New Years with ojos blancos, white eyes. The milk of magnesium, the disinfectant for tear gas leaves a white residue along your eyes. Our compañerxs, looked north to the U.S and instead of the land of the opportunity, the supposed “land of the free and home of the brave” they saw men with rifles leveled on their children, they felt the burning gas and smoke of hate.

We don’t know what the repercussions from that night will be, or where we go from here. What we do know is that this type of violence is unacceptable on any and every level. The United States must be held accountable and we must challenge the false narrative that portrays asylum seekers as combative invaders. We know the truth of what happened that night and we hope you share that truth widely so that these voices may be lifted up and heard by all of our hearts

The violence does not end once you get across the border either. We hear stories about the hieleras, we know that families and babies are being dropped off in the middle of empty concrete parking lots, dropped off at bus stations; escaping days or weeks in cold detention only to find themselves detained in another way, still struggling, still without a warm or safe place to rest their heads.

We were lucky to meet a woman who is helping tremendously on the other side, the north side of that long and violent wall. This week we ask you to direct any support to her, and the work that she is doing to help secure safe places to sleep, warm clothes, toys for children, and hygiene items for families and individuals.

A link to her GoFundMe: Bridge of Love Across Borders.

Thank you for reading and continuing to follow us. Please continue to discuss this with your friends, family and community. We have to be brave in discussing these things and not shy away from the discomfort of these tragic truths.

As always, feel free to email us at elcampocaballo@protonmail.com.
 

Friday, December 28, 2018

If she can do that, so can I?

This is more about thank yous!

I share with you what I'm doing not because I want you to thank me, but because I want you to say "Hey, I know that womon! If she can do that, so can I!!!"

I'm trying to point out that even myself who does work hard, I am as culpable as we all are for the state of our country and community. For the conditions of violence we're perpetuating around the world and on our soil.

Culpable not because we pull the trigger or fly the bomber - or even because we strive for the goods provided by war, or send our loved ones to be cannon fodder or pay our taxes, work in the factories, continue to seek more knowing so many have so much less etc.

But because we are part of the humans that make up this country that is destroying life, & the humans that make up this world that is being destroyed.

No matter how cleverly & thoroughly we've been directed else ways, we HAVE to be responsible for the conditions of humans & all life, especially for those against whom our powerful always have & continue 2 exploit & murder - including our Mother Earth. 

I know we're just the 'little people' but we MUST recognize our role in swallowing, continuing & perpetuating this amerikkkan nitemare. & our role in ending it.

We the 'little people' are the ONLY ones who can, who must stop it. All life on this planet depends on us.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Day 5: Out of Our Consciousness

I wrote about this after visiting Standing Rock. It is the same here.

We swept into Standing Rock, as we should have. Truck loads of donations trickled and then cascaded into the camps set up to block the pipeline - but not into the reservation where people also needed and need support and resources.

I wrote about how these people must feel, knowing how hard their families and ancestors have worked to merely survive and then suddenly for a few months, the rest of the nation sees them, or at least sees those who have become water protectors, and steps up to pitch in.

But the minute the camps are closed, out of our consciousness flees the people of Standing Rock.

Same thing is happening here in Mexico.

Tons of donations are being sent into Tijuana for refugees - as they should be.

Do NOT get me wrong: there are not enough donations and much more need, just among the recent influx of asylum-seekers, not even counting those that fled before October 2018.

We all know that when there are more needs than resources, people become more and more desperate. Poverty, violence, danger, exhaustion, despair abound - but so does kindness, cooperation, willingness to roll up the sleeves and help.

And people who have become more and more willing to embrace violence to 'protect' their wealth.

But I want to know, why are u.s.ofa. folks moved to share our immense wealth and possessions only at certain times when the mass media can no longer ignore activists or protectors of life and puts out their propaganda when they finally notice the people who are standing up and fighting, whether it's fighting the fossil extraction industry, the corporations that are destroying life, or our government's inhuman policies.

Huge amounts of people living on our borders have been very very poverty-struck for a long time. Many have been deported and are anxiously living on barren earth, under tarps if they're lucky, hovering near the wall, in case they can figure out how to recross the border that crossed them and separated them from their families and loved ones - or maybe only their job.

And yet, when I've stood behind a table laden with tons of food, holding a large spoon and placing small amounts of dinner on plates to hand to hungry people, very few say "dame mas por favor" (give me more please) but instead they smile shyly and say a deep "gracias".


Day 5: $20 a day...REALLY???

I've been asking - I think - in my poor Spanish, people who have been born and are living in Tijuana how they feel about the mass influx of refugees to Tijuana.

Many are angry the refugees are stuck here. Many are volunteering to help. Many blame the U.S. immigration police.

Most express relief and gratitude that the new president is going to help support and expedite asylum in the U.S. for the refugees.

In case you missed it, our immigration department - which, by the way, is not part of the federal court system therefore not required to uphold the laws of the land - was formed after 9/11 and includes the also newly formed ICE, 'Homeland Security' and border patrol, plus the immigration courts are under this department and not the federal court department.

Right now, U.S. immigration tells Mexican immigration what to do and not to do, how to 'confine' the refugees, how to keep everyone contained.

One young man told me that he is very grateful the refugees are here because he wouldn't have a job if it wasn't for this influx of people.

Another told me he had a wife and two young children: he approached one of the newly formed aide groups and asked for a job. He said an amerikkkan told him yes, he could work for them but they could only afford $20 a day. A DAY! He was extremely grateful for the influx and the job, although he expressed his disgust with border patrol and the ravaging of already "devastado" people.

I struggled hard to keep a neutral face when he described his 12 to 14 hour working day, 7 days a week.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Day 4 end: Barretal at last!

In case this is the first entry you've read, I'll explain about El Barretal again.

When the first mass caravan of refugees from Honduras arrived in Tijuana to legally cross the border in order to seek asylum in the u.s., they were turned away in mass numbers: illegally and immorally by border patrol under unconstitutional and anti-international law orders by tRump, enforced by immigration officials and in collusion with the mexican government (prior to Obrador taking power).

The refugees crowded into a sports complex called Benito Juarez, a few steps from the western pedestrian bridge to wait entrance into the u.s.

This complex has no roof nor asphalt but dirt ground. The last weeks of November rain turned the ground into mounds of mud and running water filled with debris and garbage. This two week rainfall was equivalent to the amount of rainfall Tijuana normally gets in a whole year!

Police then raided this camp and others, often at 3 o'clock in the morning, jostling humans from their tents, swiftly and forcefully marshaling people onto buses, often without their possessions let alone documents, to ship them far away.

Police smashed tents and destroyed the scant but precious personal property that refugees were not given a chance to gather together before being forced to vacate Benito Juarez - a police practice that has been honed in the u.s. and transported around the world.

So Barretal is very far from the border crossing: a location that refugees did NOT want to go to. But it is on asphalt. I have not been there yet but intend to go tonite to help serve after we finish cooking the evening meal.

The kitchen runs like one of a mother with 12 children: efficient, quick, with no waste or hesitation. Pots are big enough to wash a child in; aluminum containers enough to easily cover the entire first floor of a very large living room.

Finally we are ready to load the food and head out to Barretal.

Another of the beautiful and incredibly affirming side benefits of this work is the meeting of other committed and remarkable volunteers. Tonite, I share a vehicle with four extraordinary and diverse u.s.ofa. humans: a brown Latina elder, a white womon youth, a young Black man, and a 30-something Lebanese man.

After almost an hour of bumpy curvy driving thru crazy traffic, we arrive in the pitch dark at a huge solid rust-corroded metal wall illuminated only by our vehicle headlights. Our leader Cybele, jumps out and bangs on the wall, causing it to buckle a little revealing it is a gate. After many clangs, it finally squeaks slowly open, just enough to allow our vehicles inside.

Instantly, lean men materialize to help unload the trucks and Cybele has us immediately organized into teams. Within minutes, aprons and gloves are donned, tables are washed, simple white paper cloths spread over surfaces, utensils, napkins, empty plates are set out. Food trays organized.

We are ready to begin.

We are in the covered part of Barretal: it is the section where womxxn and children are given priority and are supposedly housed. We cannot see far into this complex but we can see rows of tents on two floors, as well as a large section of occupied sleeping bags with small bundles where pillows could be, lined up parallel on the ground without the benefit of tents.

When I look up from completing my assigned tasks, serving spoon in hand, ready to dish out the recommended portion, I see that people crammed into layers of sweats and coats and sweaters and blankets have been silently lining up in front of the tables and out the door into the dark, cold night.

A couple of adorable little girls, their heads only visible over the table top when they step up on tip toes, hold hands and sway in front of the food. I ask them if they're hungry and offer them a plate but they ignore me and the plate.

Cybele greets everyone as we smile warmly, ready to serve, and firmly reiterates "womxxn and children first". The line shifts as womxxn step forward and men retreat a little. The tiny girls dance away somewhere into the crowd.

And the joy begins. There is little I love more than cooking and feeding especially to womxxn and children, but here tonite, also to these men. And these are mostly men. The universal appearance here is great fatigue yet eyes occasionally sparkle and smiles cross even the most serious of faces if but only for a moment.

Lucia takes plates of food deep into the dark area where some people have not emerged to join the line: maybe they are too sick, too scared, too hurt, or simply too tired. She returns several times to the food table to fill her arms up with plates and disappears again into the dimness. 

When the line starts dwindling, Cybele goes to negotiate with the police to allow men from the other side access to the food. Men who are not attached to a female partner are supposedly restricted from this area and the rumor is police are not good at restricting men except when it comes to access to food.

Way too soon, we have run out of food and completed our tasks of cleaning up and reloading the trucks with the empties.

Then we're off to return to Tijuana and the kitchen.







Day 4 continued: the credit of my wife

I am asked to do a speedy run to a meat store for the evening meal with are preparing. The chefs want to do a chicken and rice meal for tonight. I request that a spanish-speaking womon come with me, just to eliminate the possibility of being misunderstood. Really, I don't want to make others suffer thru my poor spanish...

Lazaro joins me. He seems to be a critical part of the team: I've seen him organize, explain and hand out tasks, tackle dishes and floors, direct menus and prep, as well as cook. And now he's accompanying me to the market.

Which is closed! We drive around what appears to be a warehouse district and do not see anyone open - only a couple of street vendors beginning to cook menudo and tamales!

He instructs me to make left hand turns on red arrows and to proceed forward on red lights where there is no cross traffic coming. Not likely!

We go to Costco - closed, even tho the internet says it will be open today. Then check out Smart and Final - closed. I'm desperately trying to take our World Kitchen money anywhere but walmart, which of course is open.

We have to go to walmart - all the organizers and volunteers are getting super anxious about not being able to provide meat for this meal.

At walmart, I'm trying to buy 200 pounds of chicken - they have less than 50 pounds and not at bulk prices. The middle aged soft spoken butcher, soft black eyes and glowing hickory skin, comes out behind the counter and we communicate (without Lazaro who is looking for more ham and cheese) between my spanish and his english our shared deep concern for feeding refugees and all the hungry people here in Tijuana.

We find out about another store very close by that does wholesale and is open today. I apologize to my butcher friend as he insists I leave my basket full of 50 pounds of chicken and waves me off to leave, assuring me he will take care of everything.

Lazaro and I find the next store and purchase over $800 worth of meat and veggies for tonite's meal and a little for tomorrow's lunch. I use a credit card from a womon at the kitchen and at first, it is accepted no question but when the supervisor comes to approve, she notices my driver's license doesn't match the credit card name.

I convince her the card belongs to my wife and I hear Lazaro say something about the u.s. and lesbians and discrimination. By now, there's a crowd of workers and curious shoppers around us. I'm not sure if the supervisor is more impacted by the amount of money we are spending or the fact that I'm a lesbian, but she ends up approving the sale and the crowd melts into strong arms hoisting heavy boxes of food onto the back of the truck - under my supervision of course!

I can text the kitchen to let them know we are on the way. The rain has stopped and the sun shines brightly through the formerly gray skies, shining brightly all the way back to the next set of strong arms that swiftly unload boxes into the waiting pots and onto the empty tables.

We are to prepare, cook, and package the meal by 4:30 so folks can eat before 6! Okay




Day 4 A xmas score

My sistah roommie activists and I arrive at the Tijuana headquarters of the fabulous World Central Kitchen minutes before the promised rain begins to drench the muddied streets. Once inside, we see the space is organized into two separate rooms with a smaller storage room all the way at the back: the room on the right is dedicated to cooking and cleaning, the room on the left is where all the food prep and packing takes place, as well as storage.

Immediately, the 20 or so volunteers who have showed up to prepare and serve meals today are assigned tasks and put to work.

Stacy and I begin making coffee, first on the list. Other volunteers begin to put together tables for work spaces, chopping veggies, cleaning and organizing. We have to make sandwiches for at least 800 people.

The 2 rows of tables stretch at least 20 feet each and are covered first in neat columns maybe 8 deep of bread, then each slice spread with a spicy mayo before generous slices of ham, then cheese are once again recovered with more mayo then the last bread.

Notice the lack of fresh veggies - not a slice of tomato nor a leaf of lettuce. Perishables are harder to come by as most people donate non-perishables and not funds to buy fresh veggies.

When the ham and cheese is gone, the process starts again with peanut butter and then jelly until all the loaves of bread have also been turned into sandwiches.

Each have to be wrapped in saran wrap and stacked into stainless steel containers which are then put into slotted shelves of the bigger plastic containers on wheels to be wheeled outside and into the waiting trucks.

By 11a.m. lunch has been prepared, stacked into proper containers, and set off in a couple different trucks in a couple different directions.

There are hungry people to feed all over Tijuana, like all huge cities, and then there are the refugees. For so many today is a time of eating way too much and getting way too many things, and making gads of trash piles.

We have succeeded in both feeding lots of people and making lots of trash: not just all the plastic bags that held bread and cheese and ham or empty jars of peanut butter and jelly or aluminum serving trays and single use utensils, but the outer wrappings of cabbages and remains of squeezed limes, the bad spots cut out of potatoes and burnt rice, a few trays of leftovers that have spoiled in the heat or before they could be connected with the hungry.

We bag up our garbage in huge black trash bags and set them outside next to the overflowing dumpster. Then it is time for the rest of us who did not go to serve the food to begin preparing the evening meal.

Outside, two men, whose billowing trousers are tied on minuscule waists with straps of plastic, with frayed backpacks slung over their jutting shoulders and wire carts listing behind rickety bicycles have attacked the pile of garbage. One of the womxxn organizers rushes out to hand them a couple of fresh sandwiches, which they reach for and accept with gnarled hands, downcast eyes and and shy smiles.

She tries to convince them they will get sick if they eat from the food we threw away but they are not deterred from their swift, organized raking thru each bag and reorganizing mounds of scraps into piles they then shove into emptied plastic bags, stuffing them into their carts, their backs, around their necks.

Their xmas score.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Yikes! Backing into the police....

To say navigating around Tijuana is difficult is like saying tossing 6000 pounds over your head is difficult. Between reading the Spanish and then figuring out which right they want you to take, and then because much of the action is so close to the border, literally like feet, I find myself almost stuck in the streets heading back over the border only.

Today, after trying to figure out which left I was supposed to veer towards (which turned out to be the other left, a right!) I ended up stuck in traffic on the bridge to San Diego. A young man hurries over to me, asking me if I really want to be crossing into the u.s.ofa.

How he knew I was stricken to be in this line, I'll never know. He tells me he'll walk me back down the 4 lanes of traffic. When I tell him no thank you, I can back up myself, he tells me the police are going to give me a ticket if he doesn't accompany me.

He calls over another man, who comes running up to breathlessly talk to me to interpret for his friend. I tell him again I can back up by myself. As they are now both insisting, I ask if they're wanting money for assisting me. $20 u.s.ofa. dollars, sola!

I tell them no thanks and proceed to back up. Thankfully there is hardly any traffic and I can back up easily. When I get within maybe 20 feet from the place where I can dash over to the other left, there's a police car sitting at the intersection. He starts his car and pulls in behind me, forcing me to stop.

He approaches the truck after talking into something on his shoulder and tells me how dangerous my
maneuvering backwards down the road is... I agree and then speak to him only in english - I tell him the men up ahead told me I had to back up.  He asks for my license, studies it, and then tells me to hand over my papers.

I tell him I keep getting lost and pull out my cell phone, show him maps, drop the Marriott name and ask him as innocently as I can where should I go? He wants to know if I have anything illegal in the truck. Thank goodness I've totally unloaded so the back only has my clothes and veggie oil tanks. He peers in and is satisfied. When I accompany him around the side of my truck, I tell him this is my home. His eyebrows shoot up and he tells me I do not need to open the door.

Back at the driver's side door, he tells me he is going to write me a ticket and I will have to go to the police station. I stare dismayed at him and ask how much will that be? He answers me in Spanish a mil something. I ask in dollars and he says $50. "What?" I shriek. "That's sooooo much money." I'm externally upset (altho internally relieved - I can cover that!)

He seems to soften so once again I whip out my phone, hold it out to him and ask for the address, which he either doesn't know or won't say but tells me it is far and I have to follow him. Okay, I've been there before.

I put 'police station' into my maps and several options pop up. I ask him to point out which one I have to go to. He tells me nevermind, he doesn't want me to go to the police station, he's not going to write me a ticket.

Now this is tricky. Do I offer him money as he's letting me off or will that be bribing an officer? I figure I can only pretend to misunderstand if he challenges me. I pull out the two 5's and three one's that I have in u.s. money, telling him I don't have $50 but this is all the cash I have now. I think he's going to take it but instead he walks me to my driver's side door, tells me to be careful when backing up the rest of the way, and to take the fork in the road.

I think he's going to escort me but instead he gets into his vehicle and takes off.

Okay, I back across 4 lanes and then head forward on yet another exit that luckily doesn't send me over the border.