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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 steaming 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

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Action inside & out

We are finally inside & have located Anita and Charlene, who came in early to save our space, spread out our peace blanket, and blow up pink balloons. The balloons, with bold peace symbols they've drawn on each one, are piled inside items of clothing to keep them from drifting.

I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been for these two cp’ers to be in the midst of all this pro-war fever by themselves, etching giant peace symbols on balloons, to the cadence of Powell’s glorification of soldiers in Iraq – Haditha fresh in our minds. The rest of us were outside at entrances handing out the number.

I want to leave immediately. All around me, enthralled faces worship their version of ‘patriotism’ = support our president, support our war, support our troops by keeping them in Iraq until ‘the job is done’.

The talk of democracy & freedom – both bringing it to Iraqis and protecting it for North Americans – abounds. I study my blackberry while the other women talk of pinning letters to our backs, spelling peace, holding hands & walking around the crowd, weaving our way out the concert.

An actor reads an account by a soldier of a mortar that has hit his buddies inside an armored vehicle, killing each one of them. An actress reads a letter from a mother whose son is dead. We are all weeping. Even the people sitting around us are hushed and somber, traces of tears shimmering in the fake lights. It is not clear if they are using these deaths as fuel for more revenge or fuel for saying NO MORE & ending war.

We decide to walk out. At the gates, we take up position again, this time handing out the Reso #93 flyer. We ask people to help end this war. We tell them there is a bill right now in the Senate to end this war by 12/31/06.

So many people take the flyer, we run out long before the crowd has thinned. Few people have screamed “I support war”. I just ask them “You don’t want this war to end?”

Some snarl no! But most just turn heel in disgust - or is it shame? I call after them“how can you not want this war to be over?” in my deepest, most incredulous voice.

My son, my son

The action we’re doing this evening is brilliant! Dorothy & I are standing out in front of the security gates handing out our hot pink slips of paper with the stark number “2465” printed on the front & a safety pin. On the back we have typed one of the following messages with the source of the statistic in small print:

72% of U.S. soldiers in Iraq say troops should withdraw by 12/31/06
66% of Americans disapprove of Bush’s handling of the war in Iraq
8000 soldiers have deserted

The crowd appears to be at least 75% pro-war and with the huge soldier presence even closer to 90% “support our troops by not dissenting” crowd. As we have positioned ourselves so close to the entrance, about a third of the folks entering assume I’m standing here in an official capacity.

As I reach out to hand them the number, I ask them if they would like to wear the number of U.S. soldiers who have died in Iraq so far in memory of those soldiers tonite? Some are shocked when they look at the number & ask incredulously this many soldiers have died? I say, no, only this many U.S. soldiers have died. If they tarry, I point to my other number that is pinned on the right side of my t-shirt – 1,249,683 – with the last 6 numbers jumbled with numbers overlaying each other as we are not counting the Iraqi dead – mentioning the dead Iraqis; sometimes I also get to slip in 18,000 to 30,000 injured U.S. soldiers, too many of them severely injured.

Others ask me “oh are we supposed to wear this?” Yes I reply firmly.

Still others take the number willingly & then I can see them hesitate as they walk down the path, debating whether to pin it on or not.

Then there’s the group that ‘get’s it’ immediately – they are either the staunchly pro-war folks who snarl disgustedly or the deeply pro-peace who reach out with profound gratitude. The latter take the number & pin it on immediately. The former sometimes stop to vent but most of the time throw some disparaging remark over their shoulders. No one has acted out too terribly tho thus far tonite.

One older white woman, maybe in her mid 60’s, took the number with shaking fingers & thanked me so much for being here. “My son, my son” she stumbles wildly, “my son is going soon.”

Then I see a very tall, maybe mid-thirties son following her into the crowd. He has a deeply troubled look on his disappearing face. Then suddenly he turns back and pleads with me to please stop this war.

I see the depth of his despair. And I see his shame. His helplessness and his faith render me speechless. I can only reach out and hug him silently as I slip a GI rights card into his jacket pocket.

Peace is Patriotic Plans for PBS Patriotic Concert on the West Lawn tonite

We have caucused all day, discussing the vital need for our presence during these pro-war activities – and discussing the safest yet strongest way to be that voice for peace.

The overwhelming positive response to our action under the our Peace Mulberry Tree has emboldened us. It is a great reminder once again that we are in the majority – it is just that the minority reacts so violently we sometimes allow their reaction to erase the many softer voices.

We have planned several actions for tonite: the totally AWESOME young women from Long Island are making a banner: a large, hot pink peace symbol that says: we are hurting, we are mourning; we want this war to end NOW around the outside of the circle. We are going to use this to sit around once we get inside the concert.

We also have pink balloons we are going to blow up, draw peace signs, and toss them around the concert lawn, giving them to kids, and playing with them.

We are doing the “numbers” action – we’re printing the number of u.s. dead soldiers on a hot pink slip of paper, and then we’re adding some statistics on the back, quoting the source – we’ll do the one about 72% of soldiers, 66% of u.s. citizens, and 8000 ‘deserters’.

The final thing we are doing is a flyer w/info about Harkin’s resolution on one side, and the number to call their senator on the other.

It should be a great evening! Peace, Sam

Belly of the Beast

Between the motorcycle energy and the huge pro-war military presence, it is difficult to stay centered & feeling ‘safe’ today. Especially after the white male snatched the list of dead soldiers’ names from Judy's hands.

We are under the mulberry tree, deciding we need really to be the voice for peace today. All around us, the voice for war is thundering in unison with unmufflered harleys. The tree sits just west of the largest phallic building in D.C., on a slight rise overlooking the paths to other war memorials – paths traversed by many, even in this high heat & humidity.

We stand under the tree, lining the edge of the rise, holding the faces of war, ‘peace please’, and ‘not one more death in Iraq’ posters. Charlotte begins to read each name of the dead in an amazingly powerful cadence, emphasizing each syllable of each name; Toby beats the drum at the conclusion of each name, completing the rhythm.

Two of the Long Islanders have rushed off to catch their bus; three others remain behind to be our voice for peace. We range from 18 to 77 years old. We are all shaken – some questioning what we did wrong, did our banner provoke violence, maybe our pictures were too offensive.

I say we are not responsible for other people’s reactions: everyone is free to respond in his or her own way. Hopefully most people are committed to non-violence, to respecting free speech, to rationally expressing themselves… in a perfect world.

We focus on our truth, what we need & want to say; and not what other folks want us to say, nor the way they want us to say it. Everyone is also determined: determined to be the voice of peace; determined to stand our ground, the soil of non-violence, the dirt of truth, the grass of life.

We begin again. The first person that responds, a brown-skinned middle-aged man w/a heavy accent, climbs up the hill & vigorously takes each of our hands in both of his, murmuring his deep thanks.

The next man, a huge older white fellow with lots of hair, hikes up his suspenders as he flashes the peace sign. We all breathe a sigh of relief. He circles back around after he passes us to climb the hill & tell us how glad he is to see us, how much he appreciates our work, and then he talks about the horrors of war.

We begin to count the responses of all the people who pass & who are responding. We’ve run out of fingers & toes before we run out of positive responses. Again, we have learned to focus on the majority – even though those few who respond negatively do so very violently. We cannot allow the bellowing voice of a few overwhelm the soft voice of the many.

An older white woman, loose beige clothes billowing slightly in the heat & moisture-laden breeze as she climbs the steepest part of the hill to where I'm standing, demands to know if we’re with the group that was in front of the white house showing these ‘obscene photos’ – she waves in the general direction of "our real faces of war" (we have the most benign ones today: the u.s. soldier burying his head into the body of the child he has clutched to his chest wrapped in a blanket seeping the child’s blood; and a father standing with his arms thrown around his/someone’s son as their tears run with random blood & dirt).

“They’re pornographic” she shouts. I reassure her in my most firm understanding voice that none of our photos are either obscene (the way she means it – obscene to me/us because they are real) or pornographic – but they are horrific & tragic, real faces of war, I add. As she goes on to scream about those awful photos she saw, I realize she is speaking of the anti-nuclear war people & the pictures they have depicting the real consequences of nuclear war. I have not looked closely at their pictures yet I can see them too clearly in my head as she describes them.

She calms a little as I speak softly, at least a lot softer than her, & I agree with her that the photos are horrific. She is not just worried about children see the photos but visitors to our White House & what kind of an impression these pictures make on foreigners. I again say to her how horrific these photos are & then I make sure I have captured her eyes & her attention when I say ‘and it is even more horrific that we have actually done these things to our fellow human beings’.

Slowly, she cannot do anything but nod in shameful agreement with me. I invite her to join us, to prevent any more of these pictures, to end this war in Iraq. She tells me she agrees we are so privileged we just have to see the pictures not be the pictures. She tells me she’s on our side & will work for peace – just not today. But maybe she already has taken that step when she climbed up the hill.

Testosterone City - continues

I’m ready to leave the shade of Department of Energy & head back to join the rest of the cp wimmin who are doing one of our Memorial Day weekend actions: a solemn reading of the names of the dead U.S. soldiers and Iraqis, their rank, and their ages.

As I venture out the shade down the steps & into the bright muggy sun & approach Independence Avenue, I’m dismayed to see the motorcycle parade has begun – hundreds of thousands of bikers in their best regalia and most festooned bikes, are steadily tooling down the huge avenue discharging a cacophony of smoke, steam, horns, shouts & incredibly thunderous engines.

Folks have line either side of the street – waving flags, arms, various other body parts, as the bikers respond in kind.

I see I cannot cross the street – at least without taking the chance of being run over unintentionally or not. Worse I realize, the bikers are waving at me too!

I have my best cp regalia on, including my anti-war pro-peace umbrella. I’m getting hostile vibes & disgusted looks from the sideliners. And I’m stuck in testosterone city. It is unnerving.

What the hell. I raise my arm & hold the peace symbol up in the air as the bikers pass. No one returns the peace symbol, but no one veers in my direction to run me over.

I check in with Charlotte. She tells me the distressing news that some young white male has attacked us – he grabbed the sheets of paper with the names of the dead as he shrieked profanities, ripping the papers & throwing them as he ran away.

Toby is chasing him down, two others have to leave to catch a plane, I’m stuck behind the motorcycle mania – I see a break & race across the street, thinking about tonite & tomorrow, & trying to assess the risk… I feel the most uneasy that I’ve ever felt.

It is never the individual asshole that is the most scariest – it is all the other people around that either watch with that unattached observing stand or those that jump in to assist the asshole… there seem to be an abundance of both today in D.C.

Testosterone City - begins

I am waiting at the Dept of Energy Building in case anyone show’s up for the postponed “Divine Strake” protest from yesterday’s flyering through the mall & in front of the White House. While I’m sitting on a bench under the building (it is raised on great pillars so there is no ground level but lots of shade in this unbearable humidity!) 2 large white males come rollerblading over & sit at the end of another bench several feet from me. I ignore them. Several minutes pass as they take off their blades & helmets. I can see that one is older than the other – and the younger turns his back to me & appears uninterested. I briefly ponder their relationship & why they chose that bench as opposed to the 20 other benches farther away from me.

The older man raises his voice to be heard across the expanse of cement benches & supporting posts, & asks me if I am looking for anyone. I’m immediately suspicious & answer him shortly ‘no’. I get up and nonchalantly walk around before he asks me if I was part of the group in front of the White House on Mother’s Day. He explains that he rollerblades with his son every day & saw us there. He then tells me he works for the Department of Defense. I look at him askance & he slowly explains he’s never supported this war – even as a republican. As disbelief crosses my face, he assures that at least – he pauses to do mental calculations - one third of the DoD folks are totally against this war. A shadow envelops him as he gestures to his son. I see now that the young man is mentally disabled. “I love him” he explains, “he has me to take care of him, & I’ll do it all his life”.

He turns to me & asks: “do you know how many young men are coming back like him?”

It is the first time someone has raised the brain injuries soldiers are suffering from in Iraq with me.

“He was born this way. It’s not his fault. It’s no one’s fault.” he repeats in his measured tone.

He gestures again sadly towards his grown son & asks me to imagine many more men roaming the streets like his son.

“Who will love them?” he looks deeply into my eyes. “Who will take care of them?”
Who indeed

Victory for Peace!!!

The national day of action has been postponed - INDEFINITELY - yeah! Because the Dept of Energy has postponed the testing of "divine strake" indefinitely.

We are all very excited & our hope level has zoomed way over the 100% level! We will still be on our toes, no matter what, but for now, we can claim victory. We do not have to do the action at the Department of Energy which we planned for today. Instead we decide to continue the "Reading the Names" Action on the Mall at one of the memorials.

I am going to the Dept of Energy at noon to see if anyone has decided to join us. We handed out lots of flyers yesterday about the action & we put it up on many lists - we'll see. It's been difficult to get locals involved in any numbers.