We are invited this morning to gather at a quaint, ritzy hotel that I’m sure costs a weeks wages for lots of us – or at least me – to spend the nite. We are being treated by the hotel owner to a plentiful breakfast spread – eggs & meats, fruits and breads, including bagels; teas, juice and coffee.
We are to make a plan for the rest of the day. We have a permit to march from the Iraqi Embassy to the White House.
Several of the women from Iraq are present. They speak once again about conditions in Iraq, as we fill our plates and cups.
We talk about what we can do to end war and occupation.
I talk about the need for a Lysistrata-type action – one that will grab our hearts & move us forcefully toward ending war, once and for all. I speak about Mother’s Day Month as maybe such an action – our plan to follow the voice of Julia Ward Howe and ascend upon D.C. to surround Congress beginning on May 14th, for a month and not let them, literally or figuratively, out until they vote no more war.
Ellie speaks about women drumming around the world for 24 hours; another woman speaks about putting up pictures that show people the real face of war, the graphic horrific pictures of war that were visible daily during Viet Nam; another woman mentions a candle-lighting ceremony with 120,000 candles for the dead in Iraq; yet someone else mentions demonstrating in front of Chevron; and someone else speaks playing of protest music for 24 hours.
Medea talks about her vision of Mother’s Day: 24 hour vigil. Other people talk about adopting sister cities in Iraq, as they’re talking about in Berkeley. And Medea talks again, about adopting hospitals or demonstrating in front of U.S. hospitals and raising funds.
Practically every American woman there thanks the Iraqi women for coming & several ask the Iraqi women what we can do to help them.
I am deeply ashamed – not just of our government, but this morning I am deeply ashamed of ourselves: the handful of American women who have shown up today to celebrate International Women’s Day and to hear what the women from Iraq have to say.
I am deeply ashamed that so many of us keep asking Iraqi women what can we do to help them. I know what we are really saying – what can we do without changing our lives, without risking anything like our jobs, our homes, our relationships; without inconvenience or cost to us.
What can we do to keep our lives going at the level we are enjoying and not feel guilty about what is happening in Iraq?
It is like we have thrown these women in jail cells (if they're lucky) and as we wander around outside the cell, keys in our hands, free and able to do what we want, we peer inside and ask the inmates ‘what can we do to help you all?’ as if we have not put them there and are not keeping them there by our refusal to stop our lives and end this war, this occupation.
One of the Iraq women, the same doctor who initially refused to speak because there were Jews in the room, stands up to speak. She calls our suggestions to end war “trivial” to her in light of the actions needed to end war. She talks about how destroyed her country is, every day; how dangerous it is for her and for all Iraqis – she mentions how dangerous it is for U.S. soldiers as well - as we talk about candle lights and 24 hour vigils.
She wants us to be braver, be stronger, be more determined. She doesn’t use those words – I do. She points out how beautiful our country is; and how beautiful her country used to be. How can we have such a beautiful country here as we destroy another beautiful country?
I am deeply ashamed. We all know our government, our corporations could not engage in this war without our compliance – even and especially the compliance of those who know and understand what is happening but will not do whatever is necessary to end war.
I am deeply ashamed.