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WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 2002
For me, playing with our new "O Beautiful Gaia" web site is like eating peanuts; once I start, it's hard to stop. I had a wonderful day creating and tweeking and revising several web pages including the main home page, our Great Lakes Basin home page and a page with my journal entries of our region's gatherings. Finally by 4 PM they looked good enough for me to send to my web design sisters in Prince Edwards Island to get their feedback and suggestions.
I'm surprised at how much I like doing this. As I wrote yesterday, I've never designed a web site for anyone besides myself, so everything feels new. But after working on my own site for three and a half years, the process feels pretty natural. I guess what's new is the consciousness that I'm part of a community this time; that the purpose behind our CD project is so grand and glorious that whatever I can do to help get it out there is worth any amount of work. But really, it doesn't feel like work; it feels more like play. That's when I know I'm doing what's mine to do.
It was a good day for me to stay home. I'd awakened with a little sore throat and a husky voice that told me I was on the brink of coming down with a cold. After a quiet day inside and a restful afternoon nap, I now feel perfectly well. There was another good reason to stay home today and that was the opportunity to listen to "Variations on Gould", a 14-hour tribute to Glenn Gould on CBC (Canadian Broadcosting Corporation) Radio Two that ran from 8 AM-10 PM. It was superb! CBC Radio is definitely one of Detroit's greatest assets. It's about all I listen to, besides my CDs.
And now it's coming up to the bewitching hour of midnight, and I'm almost ready to call it a night. This has been a fruitful day.
Just for fun, I'll leave you with a few artistic versions of recent photographs:
Geese and deer drawn in crosshatch style
Belle Isle painted in spatter style
A white deer drawn with rough pastels
Pink roses in watercolor
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 26, 2002
What a beautiful day...and I used it well. I scooted down to look at computer printers; I haven't had one since I bought my Mac iBook last March. It took me awhile to go the two and half miles because I had to stop and take pictures of every flower I saw. But if you'd seen this honeysuckle bush, golden flowers, Rose of Sharon and yellow rose, wouldn't you have stopped too? It wasn't just flowers either. I had to stop and admire "Bob's Garden" with his vegetables and the scarecrow watching over things. Then there were the hints of autumn in this tree and these colorful leaves scattered on the green green grass. Sometimes it was just an attractive backyard that caught my eye. It was that kind of a day.
I had success regarding the printer, too. They had the Epson C80 color inkjet printer I wanted. My teacher friend Susan had recommended it, and after seeing print-outs she'd made of some pictures off my web site, I was impressed. The fact that Epson has just come out with a new model meant I got mine for a good price. Of course, once I'd bought the ink cartridges, a 10' USB cable and high quality photo paper, my bill was nothing to sneeze at. But you gotta do what you gotta do.
I was fortunate to have Jason helping me, and when it came time to figure out how I was going to carry this huge box on my scooter, a nice woman named Anne Marie offered to drive it home for me. Coincidentally, it turned out she was on her way to see one of my neighbors, so it wasn't even out of her way. Thanks so much, Anne Marie.
I stopped for lunch at the bagel place where I enjoyed a bowl of cream of mushroom soup and a toasted rosemary oil bagel with jalapeño cream cheese. Next on my list was the library. My last stop was to visit Ed. I found him at his usual lunch place where we visited with Doris, the owner, and Tom, her husband. They're in the process of buying an iMac computer, so we had lots to talk about. Afterwards, I scooted with Ed to his office so I could see how my "O Beautiful Gaia" web pages looked on his Gateway desktop PC. The most significant change was that the font I'd carefully chosen was totally unrecognizable...but it still looked all right. While in Ed's office I again admired the 1939 New York World's Fair plate that one of the librarians gave Ed after he'd asked her for books on the subject. It's probably Ed's most prized possession, not counting his "new" 1991 Volvo with 200,000 miles.
I scooted most of the way home along what I call "the singing street." It's the wide, newly paved street that I can ride on and sing without my voice shaking like it does when I'm on the sidewalk. A few blocks from home I scooted down toward the lake so I could have my cake and eat it too.
Before turning into our garage, I scooted over to our neighbors' house to say "Hi" to their daughter, Jenny, her husband, Greg, and their eight kids. We used to know Jenny when she was young, and were there when she and Greg got married twenty years ago, but we'd only met the oldest kids once twelve years ago. They live in Florida and usually visit our neighbors at their summer home in Maine. Ed and I had been invited to join them for a cookout tonight at the park, but I had to make my regrets as I was driving to Ypsilanti (near Ann Arbor) to sing with the Women With Wings West.
This group of women gathers
once a month to sing rounds, and sing they do! We started promptly
at 7 PM and sang without stopping until 8:30 PM. It was glorious!
Remember, these were the women I'd met and sung with at the September
11 Remembrance vigil put on by the Ann Arbor Ad Hoc Peace Committee
and the Muslim Community Association of Ann Arbor. As long as
the weather holds, I hope to join them regularly. It was well
worth the drive (45 miles each way).
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2002
Today was printer day. Ed unpacked it for me--do they reallythink we need things to be quite so securely packaged???--and helped me set it up. I was surprised at how BIG it is and how much space it requires. But that just offered an opportunity for me to clear away some piles of stuff. However, I still like having my doll corner at the end of this technologically-up-to-date table. It helps keep the different sides of my personality in balance. I mean, how can I take myself too seriously with Raggedy Ann grinning at me with her black button eyes?
So everything looked
fine but the test was in the printing. Whoopee!!! I love it! It
is speedy and prints text wonderfully well. But the stunner is
how my digital photos show up on the glossy photographic paper
I bought. What a difference a good printer can make! The portable
printer I used with my PC was adequate, but nothing like
this. I even printed out the Preface, Introduction and four chapters
of my book manuscript. Now I can do a proper editing job and start
working on that project again. Seeing a hard copy of your own
writing--especially 125 pages of it--is pretty exciting. Makes
it seem real in a way that computer writing doesn't. That's why
books will survive.
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 2002
This is going to be a short journal entry as I've got to get some sleep. It's almost 1 AM and I just got home after a night "on the town" celebrating my friend Pat K.'s birthday. Actually it was pretty tame, as nights go but we had fun.
I picked her up at Day House at 7 AM and was delighted when Emily, our University of Michigan freshman, came out to see me. I was able to take a mother-daughter portrait that I like very much. Pat and I then went to a wonderfully funky restaurant near Wayne State University where we both ordered lentil-walnut burgers and fried onion rings. Yummy. About 9 PM, we walk/scooted over to the Detroit Institute of Arts to see a French movie called (in English) "The Lady and the Duke." It was well done but a little overlong for me. We didn't get out until almost midnight. An unexpected treat was our being led through the closed Art Institute by the Film Theater manager; it was the only way for me and my scooter to get into the balcony where there was an accessible place to park my scooter.
Earlier today I'd had a lunch meeting with Penny, Joan and Cobe to plan next Saturday's retreat day with Carolyn McDade. She's coming into town to launch the "O Beautiful Gaia" CD project with our Great Lakes Basin community. We came up with some great ideas. I can't wait until next Saturday!
But now, I can't wait
to go to bed.
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2002
I guess each of us has a place we go to within ourselves when we're feeling vulnerable; mine is the place of hero/heroine worship. In essence, I give my power away to someone whom I see as stronger, more together, more gifted, more grounded than I. That person may never know I have done this. But I know. It is definitely a child-place, a place of comfort, rather like wrapping myself in a familiar blankey. If I can look up to someone else, I don't have to feel so alone and unprotected. But it is not a place of power and that is the problem.
In these last weeks of stress about the impending war on Iraq, I have gone to that child-place within myself. My "hero/heroine" does not know unless s/he has profound powers of intuition. But I know and today I realize that this old habit does not serve me well. Maybe I need it temporarily, but it will only diminish me if I hang onto it for long. Today is the day to pry my fingers loose and let that blankey go. I don't need it. I have all the power I need within myself. The power others have grown for themselves will do me no good. I must go deep within myself and reclaim my own.
I know ways to do this. As I say, this is not the first time I've gone to this place of other-idolation. And I know it always happens when I am in an "in-between" place in my growth, a place where my old patterns and skills are no longer enough to negotiate the path ahead. A time when I am called to find new ways, new tools, new powers to cope with and learn from whatever life event is knocking at my door. And so it is now.
I vividly recall how I felt the last time the USA started a war against Iraq. It hit me with such force that it seemed my own house was under attack. It was. The house of my previous assumptions, my idealizations, my illusions. The way out of that devastation was a solitary journey. I retreated to my upstairs room--the room where my computer now resides and where I'd made art and conducted ritual gatherings back in 1991--and stayed there for three weeks. Believe me, there was no hero/heroine who could have helped me then. I was on my own. And I had to be in order to home-grow what I needed to live as a human being who was finally awake and aware to what was going on in the world around me.
So now another US President--like father, like son--is choosing to put the world through the same horrors again, only this time the risks are greater and the lies more entrenched. There are rough waters ahead. How am I going to make my way through this time? Am I going to try to ride on someone else's back or am I going to swim with my own two arms and legs? Perhaps my recently-gained prowess at swimming is one of the skills I need to develop further. I know that making art is another. Actually, it was drawing in my art journal this morning that woke me up to the need to stop worshiping another. Art is always a path into my hidden power and knowings.
So I'll swim and make art, for starters. Another support is being in circles of women, especially singingin circles of women. Fortunately, I've already put that at the top of my list of priorities. I have the "O Beautiful Gaia" CD project community, Notable Women, and now the Women With Wings West to sing with every month. I can make it through anything if I can sing. I also need a significant work to keep my heart and mind focused on something besides world events which I cannot control. My web site with its daily journal and the book of journal entries I'm pulling together fill that need. And this time I'm connected through the internet with untold numbers of sister and brother activists around the world. I send and receive dozens of emails daily that give what I see as truthful perspectives on local, national and world events. I am not an isolated voice crying in the wilderness. There is a vast interconnected chorus of voices who dare to speak out against the madness that surrounds us. And finally--or firstly--I need persons at my side whom I love and who love me, persons like my faithful life companion Eddie and my dear friends. I may have to choose my own path but that doesn't mean I have to walk it alone.
As I list these columns of support, I see that I can truly stand on my own two feet, no matter what lies ahead. I do not need a hero/heroine on whom to depend. I am strong and capable. I have my own power on which to draw. I will make it.
There's one more support that I failed to mention: the lake and its waters. I scooted down to the park this afternoon, took the path by the lake and ended up at the fishing spot beside the gazebo. No one was there so I sat quietly and let the water speak to me. It said, "Flow, just flow. Don't get stuck. Don't get sucked under. Just flow with the current." After awhile a fisherman named Roger came with his rod and reel. As soon as he dropped his line into the water, something started tugging on it, hard. He skillfully pulled out a good-sized small-mouth bass and promptly threw it back into the lake. I asked if he ever kept the fish he caught and he said, "No. I always throw them back." I scooted over to another spot by the water and sat some more. On my way out of the park I saw these gulls at rest. Learnings everywhere.
It was too lovely to go inside, so I scooted along the lake towards Ed's office. On the way, I stopped at the market and bought some spinach dip, tunafish salad, Triscuits and Odwalla juices. Ed and I then had a mini-picnic in his office courtyard. Here is my sweetie with his "new" 1991 Volvo, the apple of his eye.
Life can be so simple.
Why do we insist on complexing it up?
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 2002
I ask you to visualize
these two people together again.
Rabih Haddad and his wife Sulaima Al-Rushaid, together with their four children in their home in Ann Arbor. Able to touch, kiss, hug one another. To sit together on their sofa and watch TV. To eat breakfast together in the morning and dinner in the evening. To be able to read bedtime stories to their four-year-old and tuck him into bed. To listen to the older kids as they talk about their day at school. To pray together at home and in the Mosque. To be able to weep and smile, giggle and talk about unimportant things. To walk outside together with their children in the fall-scented air. To hold hands as they walk. To make plans for their future together. To dream and to imagine. To know that when they go to sleep at night, they will see the other beside them in bed when they wake up the next morning.
Can we even begin to imagine how this nine-and-a-half month nightmare must feel to Rabih, Sulaima and their children? Can we imagine what it would be like to lose the one we love suddenly, harshly, with no knowledge of when we would be together again? Can we know how precious are the small things, the daily routines, that we take for granted?
Tomorrow at 9 AM EDT, Rabih and Sulaima have the best chance of being together again that they have had since he was arrested on December 14, 2001. There will be an open detention (bond) hearing before a new, hopefully unbiased, immigration judge. If she or he determines that Rabih Haddad is not a flight risk or a danger to the community, he will be released. Just like that.
Please, please use all your powers of visualization to see Rabih walking (running?) free out of that dreadful jail and into the arms of his wife and children. We have the power to manifest that reality. Let us dare to do so.
"Free at last, free at last, thank Allah almighty, I'm free at last!"
May it be so.
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 1, 2002
May I be honest? After spending eleven hours at the Immigration Court today, I'm too tired and too disgusted to write much of a journal entry tonight. My brother Rabih Haddad is still in jail and likely to remain there. The so-called open hearing was a sham as far as I could tell. Just an exercise in fake due process. And it didn't even remain open; at 6 PM, the court was cleared to hear "secret testimony." I never did get into the court room, but I was OK with that. It would have been a l-o-n-g time to sit and listen to witnesses for Rabih whose positive testimony was obviously going to make no difference at all. The one thing I did miss was seeing my brother in person. He was actually there for the first time, not just video-taped from jail. I would have liked to see this man I've grown to care for so deeply. But I was able to meet his brothers, Mazen and Bassem, both of whom had sent me emails thanking me for being such a friend to Rabih. Actually, Mazen and I had the opportunity to sit down together and have a good talk after the court had been cleared. He is a wonderful man, sensitive, honest, articulate and clear-thinking; a fellow who would obviously be fun to be around in different circumstances. He loves his brother very much and is trying to deal with the loss of Rabih behind bars, and the recent death of their beloved father. May he receive some measure of comfort. Here is Mazen with his cousin Jinan. At this moment they are driving back to Toronto.
Friends, I've got to go
to bed. I'll tell you more tomorrow and share my pictures with
you then. I trust you understand.
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 2, 2002
I tried to deal with my negative feelings about yesterday's court hearing by using my art journal this morning, but I'm afraid it didn't really help. If anything, my feelings are more raw than ever. It's hard to see any good in lies and deceptions played out on an institutionalized scale. They call it the Department of Justice; I say if that is justice, what do you call injustice?
Let me give you an example. After nine hours of waiting around, the media cameras and press reporters snapped to attention when a representative from the Department of Justice came to tell them there would be a five-minute statement by a Justice spokesperson with no questions allowed. A man in a suit soon appeared. The lights went on, cameras buzzed, microphones were jabbed in his face and reporters frantically took notes. His message? Rabih Haddad was not only in jail for violating his visa, he was tied to terrorists through his relief organization which had had its assets frozen by the government and would soon be on a special terrorist-type list of such organizations. Haddad would not be released on bond because he was a clear danger to our country. Five minutes up...no questions, please. And the timing of this message that sounded so official but had nothing to do with what was actually going on in the courtroom upstairs? Fifteen minutes before the deadline for the 6 PM television news shows. The press and media ran out the door to send their "news" to the stations. So these unsubstantiated accusations were broadcast as the latest-breaking news of the day! Is it any wonder the American people don't get it?
The media weren't the only ones who did a lot of waiting yesterday. Those of us who didn't get into the courtroom--in the morning they only had room for thirty members of the press and media, Rabih's family, witnesses and three members of the public--waited, some of us for eleven hours. The women waited and the boys waited. Folks talked, sat staring into space, read, went to the cafeteria and/or walked around. We were watched over by immigration court guards on the fourth floor where the court is located.
But waiting wasn't all we did. In the morning we held an enthusiastic support demonstration for Rabih on the sidewalk in front of Brewery Park, this guarded complex of buildings in which the INS and Immigration have their offices and courtrooms. About sixty of us marched with signs and shouted things like, "Who do we want? Rabih. Were do we want him? Home." Kristine and her daughters, Leena and Miriam, had made a bunch of signs, three designed especially to hang from my scooter . Many members of the Muslim Community Association and the Ann Arbor Ad Hoc Committee for Peace had come by bus; others had driven. It takes about an hour each way. There were also Detroit activists present, among them Shawn and I.
We had a banner that read, "Justice for Rabih", and a pile of signs from which to choose. Some of the signs were familiar to me from other demonstrations, but others were new. During the demo, Cynthia showed me the "Cats For Peace" sign that her cat Tina had worn during the Ad Hoc Peace Committee's weekly anti-war presence at the Ann Arbor Farmer's Market last Saturday.
Because cameras weren't allowed in the courtroom, we had a good amount of media attention at our demonstration. It felt good to be doing something.
About 11:30 AM, we packed up our signs and headed back into the lobby to wait for folks to come downstairs during the lunch break. We wanted to hear how things were going. Well, we had some more waiting to do as they didn't break for lunch until 1:30 PM. But when they did, we got a report from one of our brothers who had been in the courtroom. He said Sulaima, Rabih's wife, and his brother, Bassem, had been among the three witnesses to take the stand. He felt everyone had stood up well to cross examination. At the same time that we were trying to find out what was going on, the press and media were doing the same.
We women then waited by the elevators for Sulaima. We figured if she wanted protecting from cameras and inquisitive news reporters, we could gather her into our folds and walk her wherever she wanted to go. When she appeared, that was exactly what she wanted. She told us with tears in her eyes that they had just let Rabih hug her and their boys, Rami and Sami. I know that the last time they had been allowed to touch was August 3. It had been three months before that. Even when Sulaima had to go tell Rabih in August that his father had died, the prison authorities would not allow her to have even a few minutes to hug him. And this for a man who has only been charged with a visa violation.
Sulaima, accompanied by a few friends, went into the cafeteria and Cynthia positioned herself to warn reporters and news photographers that Sulaima did not want to be approached or photographed. One fellow got quite huffy in response, but Cynthia didn't care; she had a job to do and she did it. Thanks to her, Sulaima was not disturbed during the lunch break.
After court reconvened, a number of us went into the cafeteria for a late lunch. One of the best parts of these long hours of waiting was the opportunity to get to know each other better. So many of these folks I know by face, and some by name, but we've rarely had time to just sit and talk. Well, we had plenty of time for that yesterday. We actually had some candid discussions between Muslim and non-Muslim women about our cultural differences and similarities.
After lunch I decided to head outside into the parking lot for a scoot. It was a hot day but comfortable in the shade. Although surrounded by expressway traffic sounds, I found a couple of pine trees and a little grass to sit beside. I took off my sandals and tried to relax but my stomach was still tied in knots.
Back inside the lobby I happened on Sami, Rabih and Sulaima's almost ten year old son. He showed me a hand game his mother had taught him. I countered by showing him the "Here's the church, here's the steeple, open the door and see all the people" hand game we used to play as kids. He asked, "What's a steeple?" Mosques don't usually have such things. We then got into a wonderful discussion about history. He asked who had been the President when I was a kid. I said, "Truman." Sami smiled and said, "Harry S. Truman?" I was impressed. He then went on to say, "And the next president was Eisenhower." Right again. We went through all the Presidents in order. I had trouble remembering Richard Nixon. He then told me about the Aztec, Anasasi and Mayan tribes he's studying about in fifth grade Native American history. I described the Anasasi cliff dwellings I'd seen at Canyon De Chelly in 1994. We then talked books. He's a great reader--he was reading a library book as he waited--and is a particular fan of the Harry Potter series. He told me about Books #3 and #4 that I've not yet read; Book #3 is his favorite.
What a bright, well adjusted child. The only times he seemed to close down was when I talked about his Dad. I sense he protects himself by not thinking about it.
This conversation with Sami and the talk I had later with his Uncle Mazen were the most precious parts of what ended up being a very long and discouraging day. I didn't get home until 7:45 PM, twelve hours after I'd left home yesterday morning. If this day was hard for me, what must it have been like for Rabih and Sulaima, for their sons Rami and Sami, for their two children at home, for Rabih's brothers Bassem and Mazen, for his mother in Lebanon and Sulaima's father in Kuwait? I can't even begin to imagine what all of this must feel like from the inside. I suspect that "nightmare" is too small a word.
In terms of the case itself, I began to realize during the Department of Justice news conference that my brother Rabih was going to have a tough time getting any justice here. And as I heard more and more details of how the case was being handled by the judge, my discouragement grew. For, even though members of our community overheard the press and media who were in the courtroom say that Rabih's testimony had answered any questions they had had about the case, it appeared that the judge had come into the proceedings with his mind already made up. Then I learned that even if he did rule in favor of letting Rabih out on bond, the government would immediately appeal and that appeal would go to the Immigration Court Appeals Board. That was when I knew that what they called "due process" was no such thing.
By the way, whatever happened
to "innocent until proven guilty?"
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 3, 2002
Sometimes nothing beats
watching "The Big Chill" and getting up and dancing
to the music. That and making a red torn paper frog and a construction
paper cut-out green bush with a robin's egg blue chick in a brown
nest, stretching open its yellow beak to be fed. Add being with
kids, an after school nap, shrimp fried rice for dinner, Tricuits
and grapefruit juice for a late night snack and you know you can
handle anything. Sometimes all you need is simple pleasures and
it's up to you to find them.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 4, 2002
Home. Just the word makes the heart beat with longing and the eyes mist over. There is a deep connection that people, even in our mobile society, feel toward home. For many "home" is not so much a physical structure as a touchstone, a remembrance of a place or time when they felt loved and protected.
As a white person of privilege in a white-dominated society like the U.S., it is easy to take home for granted. And so I have. Ed and I have shared this comfortable old-shoe of a home for over 31 years; before that, my family of origin lived in the same house for 56 years. My home has never been threatened or attacked. And I do not feel it is under threat today no matter how our government leaders attempt to fan the flames of fear so they can attack the homes of other families across the globe.
Recently I've experienced hints of what it must feel like to have your home violated. As I say, it is mere hints, but I've been surprised at the powerful feelings that are engendered in me, feelings of hatred and lack of forgiveness. And this is for such small "violations" as the loss of my beautiful view of trees, grass and sky out the windows on the east side of my house, and today the loss of fresh healthy air to breathe as asphalt fumes from my neighbors' roofers permeated every room of my house giving me what I guess is called a "sick headache." My gut response was intensely negative. I was forced to evacuate my home--at least that is what it felt like. But I realized the poisonous air that kicked me out of the house was nothing compared to the poison of hatred that seized my heart.
I scooted down to the lake and was delighted to find a strong wind coming out of the south. It gave me back my breath. I went into the park and scooted out to the far docks where the wind over the lake was the most intense. I stayed out there for over an hour. I spoke my hostile feelings out loud and let the winds carry them away. I sang. I stood holding onto the wrought iron fence and let the winds blow right through me. I felt like a little girl again, standing on the bow of our sailboat, holding onto the wires that held the jib, and loving everything about the wind. I toned at the top of my lungs, confident that I could vocalize as loud as I wanted and no one could hear me. I watched gulls soar on the winds and then beat their way back, dipping occasionally into the waves and coming up with small fish that quickly disappeared down their gullets.
By the time I returned home five hours later, the welcome rains and Ed's effective fan exhaust system had restored my home to me, healthy and comfortable again.
What must it be like for the Palestinian people who live on the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, the people of Afghanistan and now the people of Iraq? How do they feel as their homes are threatened, attacked, destroyed? How much hatred, how much pain, how much suffering must they feel?
Do U.S. government leaders
think of "home" when they support those who make war
on others, when they create and stockpile weapons of mass destruction,
sell such weapons the world over, drop bombs on defenseless people
and start wars of their own? Do they even remember that there
are people down there under the video-game sights of their
war planes? If they were aware of homes and the people who live
in them, could they contemplate such a thing as a pre-emptive
war on Iraq?
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 5, 2002
Now I know I'm going to make it through the madness that is to come. I feel full to overflowing--full of love, understanding, support, solidarity, strength and truth. Even as death and destruction swirl around the leaders of this country, I was in a circle of individuals who, as Mary Margaret Parent's lyrics say, "choose to differ from the rest." Where war is all anyone seems able to talk about these days, we spent the entire day singing and speaking of Gaia, our planet earth, endangered species, land conservancy, hope, peace, commitment, sustenance and cultural transformation. We dreamed dreams even as we looked at the hard truths. We soared on the wings of our collective creativity. We immersed ourselves in a shared vision of leaving this earth on which we live in better shape than we found it. We committed ourselves to the generations to come and their right to have a planet that can sustain them and offer them life and joy. We are not going to give into despair, apathy or numbness. No, we will shout and sing, drum and dance, circle and create, dissent and demand, persevere and participate. As Carolyn McDade, our trusted visionary song sister so aptly said, "We will not wimp out!" With such power at my side, with the wonderful women of this already amazing "O Beautiful Gaia" CD project community as my sisters, I know I will not give up the fight for justice and peace. No, not until every strand of the glorious web of life with whom I share this planet is safe from human choices that destroy. I will not give up. Ever.
But tonight I am going to go to bed early and leave you, hopefully, wanting more. Tomorrow I will share much, much more of what happened today. Until then I leave you with a smile on my face and a heart burning with gratitude.
When women gather in a circle to sing, it is an act of revolution. If those who have curtailed civil liberties in the United States since 9-11 had any smarts, they'd outlaw such gatherings as seditious, because change happens there and true change is always seditious. It rocks the boat, causes people to think, gives them courage and undermines submission to outside authority.
All of the above happened today in an old Detroit Unitarian Universalist Church near Wayne State University. Fifty Canadian and American women joined together for a daylong workshop with Carolyn McDade, a one-woman cultural transformative agent in the guise of singer/songwriter from Cape Cod. No one left that circle the same person she had been when she entered. For myself, I entered empty and left full.
So much happened and I tried to document it all with my trusty digital camera. I have as many pictures from those seven hours--eight, counting dinner--as I've had from entire weekend gatherings. Everytime I looked up there was another moment I wanted to capture, partly for myself, partly for the women at my side and partly for friends far and near who were with us in spirit. Please bear with me as I overload you with images; I just couldn't leave any of these out.
Let me start by taking you around our circle. I must apologize to the women pictured in Circle Photo #4. Maybe it was the radiation of your energies, but for some reason I jiggled my camera and you are all mysteriously hazy. By the way, this circle singing came near the end of our day together. I think you can see that in the way we look. Here we go, from left-to-right...Circle Photo #1, Photo #2, Photo #3, Photo #4, Photo #5, Photo #6, Photo #7.
Now that you've seen who we are, let me share some of what happened during this amazing day. Our altar was created from leaves that we'd asked each woman to bring from the land on which she lives. Toronto, Detroit, downtown Windsor, Ontario, the suburbs surrounding Detroit, Essex County in Ontario, Northern Michigan--we come from diverse places and live different kinds of lives. The planning committee (a rotating volunteer position) also asked each of us to bring a container of water from our region. There were as diverse containers used as women in the circle. Jean handpainted her glass jar of water with an image of the trees that shelter the Windsor canal from which she got it. We sang what has become our theme song, "O Beautiful Gaia", as water was brought up and placed on the altar. By the way, we call it the "altar" because it is the sacred center of our circle and contains our collective energy. We also began the day with a Sun Salutation in movement to the Four Directions.
Carolyn was here with us women of the Great Lakes Basin to help launch her visionary CD project, "O Beautiful Gaia." Although this project was originally dreamed into being by Carolyn, she is clear that it is now in the hands and hearts of each of the three communities involved to create what it is to become. These communities are: 1) Atlantic New England, where Carolyn lives and has been part of a community of activist/singing women for decades; 2) Atlantic Canada, which includes Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador; and 3) our Great Lakes Basin, centered in the Windsor, Ontario/Detroit, Michigan area and made up of equal numbers of Canadian and American women. Much of this day was devoted to Carolyn teaching us many of the songs we will record in June, and sharing with us the ground from which this dream sprang.
As I understand it, Carolyn's purpose in bringing "O Beautiful Gaia" to birth is her passionate dedication to those who will come after us. She does not want to die without having done everything she can to help heal and preserve this precious planet on which we live so that generations to come might have a home that is free from pollution, destruction of species, human-made "natural" disasters, irreverent use of natural resources, and all that goes against the balance of nature. She is committed to land conservancy, specifically the idea of each person owning four acres of land that they will ensure is preserved in its natural state for the generations to come. But, again, she repeats over and over again that it is up to each community to dream their own dreams and create what is theirs to create. As we all now realize, the CD is a mere catalyst to form these communities and get things going.
So we listened to Carolyn with heartfelt attention whether she was sharing her dreams or improvising an anti-war song, but we also "did our own thing" as when our drummers spontaneously set a beat that got us chanting and dancing. Our community is like that: we take off sometimes and you just have to go with the flow...as Carolyn did with utter delight. Of course it doesn't hurt that we have gifted musicians like Nancy Nordlie on drums, banjo and guitar, and Sandy Yost on drums, flute, clarinet and saxophone.
There was just the right balance of talking, movement, silliness, seriousness and song. As I said earlier, much of our day together was spend singing the songs we will probably record in June. Wonderful songs, I might add. Every community will sing Carolyn's "Longing Series", but in each case it will reflect the bio-region of which we are a part. For instance, we of the Great Lakes Basin will sing the names of our own endangered species as well as writing our own verses to "I Sing the Longing."
Carolyn gave us some practice in writing verses today by playing a simple melody she'd written on Thursday night (!) that ended with the phrase, "We say yes!" She played it enough times for us to get it in our bodies and then asked us to break into groups of three and create a verse using this melody and ending with those words. While we worked, she kept playing it over and over. I suspect we were all surprised to find how easy and fun this was. Some of our number even came up with two verses and others added movement to their song. It was pure delight to hear each group and then to learn their verses. We found out we are all songwriters! If I were to have to choose my favorite part of the day, this would be it. Seeing folks who might normally be shy about singing in front of others give it everything they had was inspiring. I think Pat Noonan's smile says it all.
Even though the day seemed like one of those magical timeless times, it was over all too soon. But we concluded with a fitting ritual. Each person went up and reclaimed their container of water, brought it back to their place and held it as we sang a closing song. Such a sacred time.
Happily, we didn't have to part yet. Thirty of us walked--I scooted--across the street and had dinner together at the Cass Cafe, a wonderfully funky local restaurant. The food was good and the company even better.
And to think this was
only our second time together. What power!
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 6, 2002
I awake this morning and look out my bedroom window to see autumn-green trees bathed in golden sunlight. I look up and see prism-generated rainbows of light dance on the ceiling. An unfamiliar feeling comes over me. I ask myself what it is and am surprised to hear: happiness. This is what it feels like to be happy...completely and deeply happy.
How long I've allowed the madness of persons outside of myself to affect me in every fiber of my being. I vow to remember this moment and never again give them that kind of power over me. Yes, their actions and decisions will give me pain--I know this. But I will never again allow them to steal my happiness. Never again.
To read about what filled
me with such happiness, go to yesterday's story of the "O
Beautiful Gaia" workshop with Carolyn McDade.
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)
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 8, 2002
Today is Ed's and my 36th wedding anniversary. I made him an anniversary card on the computer that brought tears to both our eyes. How grateful I am that when I was so young and unformed I had the wisdom to marry this man. I can't imagine another life companion who would have responded as respectfully to my often erratic patterns of growth. Bless the man.
I ran out of steam today and had to stay home from school. It was perfectly understandable since I'd gone to bed at 12:15 AM and gotten up at 3:30 AM to finish yesterday's journal entry. I didn't get it online until 7:30 AM. A seven-hour job all told, but worth every minute. If the story and photos from yesterday's anti-war demonstration here in Detroit help just one person see the consequences of Bush's horrific intention to mount a pre-emptive war on Iraq, then my sleepless night will have been well spent.
After all these months
of fighting in the trenches, today a friend offered me the opportunity
to step back and look at the overall picture of why I do what
I do. She asked me to send two photos: one taken during an action
of dissent--she mentioned the photo of me demonstrating
in front of the White House in September--and the other taken
when I am saying a passionate "Yes" to whatever gives
me life. She then asked that I write a few paragraphs about each
moment. Every so often we need to stop and tell our
story to ourselves so we can hear its truth and wisdom.
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:
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 12, 2002
What a week! The daylong workshop with Carolyn McDade and fifty women from the "O Beautiful Gaia" CD project on Saturday. Arriving home at 9 PM on Monday after seven hours at a huge anti-war march and rally in downtown Detroit. Our 36th wedding anniversary on Tuesday. Going to Ann Arbor to celebrate on Wednesday, then having Ed drop me off for the final hours of the Detroit peace vigil at the Federal Building, and swimming my usual 680 meters of the crawl that night. Friday I spent the day at the Detroit Institute of Arts with Susan and two fourth grade classes from school, ran into my activist friend Kara and little Hannah (the baby who was at Wednesday's closing circle in front of the Federal Building), and in the evening attended a candlelight vigil for peace. Most of these activities involved taking many digital pictures and putting in long hours preparing my journal entries. This is not to mention the emotional turmoil of a week of email activism and phone calls trying to turn the tide in the Senate and House regarding their votes on Bush's war resolution...and yesterday's loss of heart when it finally passed. By today I was exhausted. Of course it didn't help that I was too tired last night to finish writing my journal entry so went to bed at 12:15 AM and got up at 3 AM to continue working on it. I finished up at 6 AM, went back to bed and slept until noon. Luckily, I had nothing planned for today so was able to lay low and restore myself. Our friend Pat K. came over about 5:30 PM, shared a Chinese dinner with us, brought a wonderful video to watch--"Tortilla Soup"--and left about 10 PM. I'm definitely going to bed early.
As I said, what a week!
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 13, 2002
When I'm with women, it's not as if I forget the horrors that surround us; it is simply that I can hold them in my heart without losing hope. The women give me courage and hope. They help me balance the paradoxes that, when I am alone, can tear me apart. And today we were not simply together, but were together on land filled with beauty and grace. Woodpeckers at the feeder, Obedience Plants ready to obey, black walnuts dropping to the earth with a thud, bright blue skies, puffy white clouds, colorful chrysanthemums, wind blowing through the trees, a lime green swamp in the distance, and the loving hospitality of our sisters, Peg and Jeanne. How could I not find grounding and strength?
The afternoon started with Jeanne offering Penny and me a "writing prop" to prime our creative pumps. After looking at these items, each of us wrote in silence for about fifteen minutes. We then read aloud what we had written. One of the great gifts of our writing times is being listened to with total attention. How often do you really feel that others are listening when you speak? It is a gift when it happens, as it always does with these women. Our stories are so important and when we read them aloud, we can hear them ourselves.
By now Peg and Nancy had joined us out on the deck under the Black Walnut tree. I think it was Penny's idea that we write something together. She started with the sentence: "Women sitting on the porch listening to the walnuts thunk on the ground, and melting into a group." The paper was then passed to Peg, to Jeanne, to Nancy, and to me, with each of us adding a sentence. It went around the circle twice and when it came back to me the second time, I knew it was done. I read it aloud and we agreed it was quite wonderful.
Peg then took Penny, Nancy and Sooz--who had just arrived--on a short hike to see the Bottled Gentian, a lovely flowering plant that is on Michigan's list of endangered species. Nancy kindly took my camera with her so I could "see" what they were seeing. Not only did she take pictures of the Bottled Gentian, but also of wild roses, mushrooms, a purple flower whose name I do not know, and her sister hikers. For me, it was almost like being there.
This gathering was officially our monthly Notable Women rehearsal, so singing was the next activity on our "agenda." By now there were an even dozen of us sitting outside on this beautiful, somewhat chilly, October afternoon. We started with some chants that seemed to insist upon drums and the percussion instruments that Penny so graciously brings to every gathering. We then got out our books and turned to a song that Penny and Sandy signed as we sang.
Soon enough the chill got too much for us and we moved inside. But the singing continued. We had a surprise planned for Penny, but she beat us to it. She had made beautiful bookmarks for each of us, bookmarks that celebrated the witch in every woman and had different Wiccan quotes, mostly by Starhawk. Mine read, "Witchcraft has always been a religion of poetry, not theology. The myths, legends and teachings are recognized as metaphors for "That-Which-Cannot-Be-Told." It was by Starhawk. Our theme for today's Notable Women gathering was The Witches. We sang a number of Wiccan songs and chants, and Sooz brought the Canadian documentary, "The Burning Times" for us to watch. But first we had a surprise for Penny, our sister who co-founded and helps keep Notable Women an ongoing source of joy to so many of us.
Penny's birthday is Thursday, October 17. Nancy came up with the idea of our celebrating her birthday today and everyone was delighted to be part of it. Nancy got Penny a beautiful labyrinth pin as a gift from the chorus, and I found a scarf in Ann Arbor that felt like it could only be worn by her. Carolyn McDade went in with me on the scarf and also sent a loving note by email that I printed out and made into a birthday card. After all the gifts and cards had been opened, Nancy led us in one of her original songs that she dedicated to Penny. It was a good birthday party for a wonderful woman.
By now it was time for
food. We enjoyed Sooz's squash soup, Penny's lentil/black rice
soup, Mary Jane's broccoli salad and bread, with cookies and cheesecake
for dessert. After dinner, we watched "The Burning Times."
I was glad to see it in a circle of women; it would have been
hard to see alone. What terrifying times. As they said, this was
Women's Holocaust, with nine million women having been
tortured and killed over a span of 300 years. We spent time discussing
it afterwards, and ended the evening by dancing The Elm Dance.
They placed me in the center of the circle where the powerful
energy they generated gave me strength and healing. How I love
MONDAY, OCTOBER 14, 2002
Happy Thanksgiving to my Canadian friends and readers. May you find much to be thankful for in your lives. I, for one, am simply thankful to be home. I've just returned from one of the most discomfiting "peace" demonstrations I've ever attended.
George W. Bush was in town--Dearborn to be exact--to speak at a $1000 a plate Republican fundraising dinner this afternoon at 4:30 PM. Needless to say, the peace community organized a demonstration to let him what we think of his planned war on Iraq. The usual, right? Wrong. What we didn't know was that another group was rallying to tell the President what they think of his intention to "take out" (kill) Saddam Hussein, and their perspective was very different from ours.
Our demonstration started in the normal way. A group of us met in the shopping center parking lot as planned, got our signs in order, and prepared to make our way over to the Ritz Carlton Hotel where Bush would be speaking. I delighted in seeing lots and lots of my old peace friends, as well as three of my O Beautiful Gaia singing sisters, Julia, Sandy and Sooz. As always, I scooted around taking pictures of folks with their signs. Here are some of those I saw in the parking lot and others I saw once we'd started demonstrating. By the way, I have my dear friend Sooz to thank for many of today's pictures.
Be Creative. No War
A young family holding Green Party and multi-colored peace signs
Diplomacy Not War
No War For Oil and Pre-emption = Terrorism
Bush, We Don't Want Your Dirty War and Stop U.S. Aggression
Make Peace With the People of Iraq and Justice Not Revenge
No War For Oil. Don't Murder Our Children
Make Solar Power Not War and Mr. President, What Would Jesus Do?
Sane People of Earth: Speak Out
Peace for the World's Homeland
Soon it was time to walk/scoot across the parking lot to the hotel. I don't think anyone was surprised to see police barricades already in place to keep us protesters away from the President and the hotel entrance. But things were set up in a respectful way and the police were just doing their job, so we gathered without complaint on the grassy verge where they'd arranged for us to stand. I needed strong arms to lift my scooter La Lucha over the curb and onto the grass, and found folks eager to help. Once there, I scooted up to the barricade and positioned myself in the front row. Two young Muslim women were beside me and one of them helped tie my sign on the front of the barricade. Sooz, Sandy and I began to sing peace songs, starting with the "Circle Chant." This friendly crowd readily joined in as we moved on to songs they knew, like "We Shall Overcome." We soon had a wonderful songfest going. Many gray-haired folks in the crowd said it reminded them of their Vietnam protest days. Julie Beutel, who had led songs at last week's demonstrations, was close by and continued the singing after we'd run out of songs. As I say, it was a mellow, good-natured demo. But not for long.
I began to hear angry-sounding chants coming from the opposite end of the crowd, and a group of men started walking through, handing out flyers and saying in strong language that Saddam was evil and had to be "taken out." They supported what the President intended to do. It was members of the Iraqi community who feel passionately that Iraq must be rid of Saddam Hussein and the only way to do it is by the U.S. going in and taking care of it. They support war on their own country if it means the end of Saddam.
Whew. Their numbers and passion grew, so that the police moved them across the street to their own demonstration area. At that moment the whole idea of a peace rally was lost in each side trying to out-chant the other. I'm ashamed to say that I fell into it myself. As if we were enemies. Bush was practically forgotten, except for one immature man with a bullhorn who kept shouting hateful things about him. When that fellow placed himself next to me, I asked him not to yell such things because, with a bullhorn, it made it sound like he was speaking for all of us, and he was not. He respected my request and started picking up on the chants that folks were starting around us, chants like, "One, two, three, four...we don't want Bush's war" and "Hell no, we won't go; we won't fight for Texaco!"
Needless to say, the press and media were in their element, running around taking pictures, interviewing people on both "sides" and setting up their network news reporters for on-the-scene broadcasts in front of either us anti-war folks or the Iraqi "pro-war" contingent . Again I'm not proud that I played into it by chanting louder whenever the TV cameras closed in.
My friend Sooz kept her wits about her though, and said in the middle of it all, "I'm not comfortable with this. I'm just going to remain silent." Her friend Ann actually went across the street to try to talk with some of the folks and find out what they were thinking. She came back saying, "They just want the U.S. to go in and take Saddam out without going to war." Sooz and Ann were ready to go back and spend more time across the street, but I was not comfortable joining them. They soon decided it was time to go home. I stayed, but chose to stand in silence, hoping to be a more peaceful presence than I'd been earlier. When I mentioned to a photographer whom I've known from jazz festivals and such, how sad it was that we appeared to be against the Iraqi people across the street, he replied, "Yes. It's too bad there are only two sides to a street." Wise statement.
When I saw that I was no longer of benefit to the gathering, I left. On the way to my car, I stopped near a vanload of young activists--some of whom had been drummers at the demo--and asked if any of them could help put my scooter in my car. Paul graciously volunteered. As we walk/scooted across the parking lot, I asked how he felt about the demonstration. He said, "I guess I was disappointed. It wasn't exactly what I'd expected." I asked what he meant and he replied, "Well, you know the people across the street? I mean like we weren't really enemies but it sure seemed like it."
Besides being disappointed
in my own need to drown out the voices that differed from my own,
I now see how ignorant I am about Iraq and its people. Where I
imagined every Iraqi person, wherever they lived, would be against
this horrendous war on their country, I found there are different
ways of seeing things no matter who you are and where you were
born. I have so much to learn.
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 15, 2002
I've just finished editing and creating photo links for yesterday's journal entry, so you might want to check it out. After spending time reading my own story--the advantage of keeping a journal--I see that my exhaustion last night was more emotional than physical. What happened at that demonstration really took it out of me.
I've had twenty-four hours to think about what got triggered for me there. Certainly some of it was disgust at my needing to be louder than the "opposition", but a lot of it had to do with the kids I know and love at school. I say "know", with reservations. On my way to school this morning, I realized how little I actually know of these kids, their families, their attitudes and their cultures. Just because most of them are Muslims who were born in the Middle East does not mean they live similar lives. A lot depends on their country of origin and why their families chose --or had--to leave. The most recent immigrants in our school are from Iraq. Were some of my kids out at yesterday's rally, yelling support for Bush to go in and kill Saddam no matter what? It's not unlikely. So how does that make me feel? Ignorant and full of illusions.
Fortunately, I had an opportunity to begin to understand at least some of what our Iraqi students experience at home, not by talking to them directly but by spending the lunch hour asking questions of, and listening to, Susan and Marlene, both of whom have taught and worked with these kids for years. For instance, I learned that many of our students come from families that have lost loved ones through incredible acts of violence perpetrated by soldiers in Saddam Hussein's military. They hate him with a passion we cannot imagine, and will do anything to see him destroyed...even support a U.S. war against their home country. This is what our Iraqi kids hear at home. Not all of them, certainly, but a significant number. It gives me pause. I also learned that most of our kids are refugees. That too gives me pause.
It explains so much. It explains the readiness of some of our youngsters to hit one other with little provocation. It explains the haunted look in the eyes of some of our new, non-English speaking kids. It explains their fear of the teacher telling their parents they've been disruptive in class. These are families that use physical punishment to toughen up their children so they can survive.
How can I understand such
things? I doubt if I ever will. But at least I can try to be more
aware of the differences in our life experiences. At least I can
offer them as much love and compassion as I am capable of giving.
At least I can try to show them non-violent ways of responding
to life's demands. But mostly, I can try to learn things from
them that I would be unable to learn from anyone else. I can let
them be my teachers.
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2002
They came just in the knick of time. A few minutes before Pat N. appeared at my front door, I'd just sent out a most disturbing group email about the Bush Administration's latest destructive action: issuing a permit that exempts the Navy from having to obey the Marine Mammal Protection Act so that they can deploy "a new and extremely dangerous sonar system that would blast hundreds of thousands of square miles of ocean habitat with noise so intense it can maim, deafen or even kill whales at close range." Does it never end?
Without my friends, I might have stayed stuck in a place of impotent despair over this latest in what seems to be a never-ending list of actions taken by the current U.S. President that puts some form of life on this planet at risk. What I needed was to be with women who are awake, aware, informed, critical thinkers and truth-speakers. And there they were, coming to my house for our monthly book group discussion. Our topic for tonight was Good News for a Change, by David Suzuki and Holly Dressel (Stoddart: 2002). This book contains well-researched descriptions of countless individuals, groups, businesses and organizations across the globe that are making choices that benefit rather than harm their local communities and the earth. As it says on the flyleaf, '"This spontaneous, global quest for ways to survive sustainably is opening up a very different planetary future from the one based on endless economic and industrial demands." A perfect book for times such as these.
There were four of us tonight, half of our usual number. Two of our members--Mary Margaret and Alicia--are currently principals at schools in Windsor, Ontario so their schedules are pretty tight, especially in the beginning of the year. Joan, another Windsor woman, is in the Dominican Republic for a couple of weeks with her co-worker Mary. They are visiting the women's groups that they helped form during their twenty years working and living with the women in the D.R. Penny, from the Detroit side of the river, travels in her work as a trainer for folks who work with victims of domestic violence, so also had to miss tonight's meeting. But Pat N., my sister activist from Windsor, Lisa who drives over an hour to join us from her home in the Michigan Thumb, and Lenore who lives in downtown Detroit, all gathered to discuss the book and whatever else came to our agile minds.
One of the things I love
so dearly about these women is that, not only are they intelligent
and stimulating, but they are very funny. Even as we discuss
the hard truths of life in today's world, we tease one another
and act wonderfully irreverent. I laugh until tears come to my
eyes. We all do. But our discussions never degenerate into superficial,
coffee-klatch type stuff; we really stay focused on world events
or whatever subject our book addresses. As I say, I don't know
what I would do without them. Especially now.
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 17, 2002
Is there anything more important than sharing stories with friends? The stories each of us bring to every gathering, every encounter, whether or not we are conscious of them, set the stage for what happens between us. Today my friends Joan, Brigitte and I took the time to share some of our most tender stories.
It all started when Brigitte said, "I first met my husband when he spilled hot coffee on me." I asked her to tell us the story and she did. Brigitte was 23 at the time and working as a secretary to a General on an American Army base in Germany, her home country. She'd forgotten to bring her stenographer's pad to an important meeting, so was leaving the room to go fetch it. Just as she opened the door, a young Army officer was coming in with an urn of hot coffee which he proceeded to spill all over her dress. She was so upset she never even looked at him. But he obviously noticed her because he later called to apologize and asked if he could take her to dinner to try to make it up to her. That was how she met the man she's been married to for over forty years.
Joan then shared the story of how she and Nick met. As she tells it, she was very into the early '70s way of life, sowing a few wild oats and engaged in socially-aware kinds of activities, while teaching journalism in a local community college. At the time she was living in Miami with her two children from her first marriage. A friend invited her to a meeting to talk about setting up a free school. It was held at a progressive synagogue and one of the persons involved was a young rabbi, whom she describes as "tall, with long hair and wearing an army fatigue jacket." She was not particularly taken with him--"He seemed pretty full of himself." After the meeting, one of the women invited everyone to go for a ride in a huge old Greyhound bus she'd recently bought. Joan and Nick sat beside one another and that was the beginning of what has been thirty years together.
Ed's and my story started in mid-January 1966 at the weekly Friday conference at Detroit's Lafayette Clinic where I was a second year social work student from Smith. I happened to sit next to Ruth Brackett, a former pediatrician who was training to be a child psychiatrist. As she knitted away--Ruthie always knitted--she casually invited me to her house on Sunday evening for her usual Sunday Salon. I didn't have a car, but since she and Don, her husband, only lived three blocks from my apartment, I figured it would be easy for me to walk over...which I did. I remember a warm, messy, book-lined Victorian home filled with people, a few of whom I recognized from the Clinic. There was one fellow, in particular, who had on a red plaid wool shirt and was smoking a cigar. This was the mid-60s, so everyone smoked then, including me. But I'd only known one other person who had smoked cigars and that was my grandfather whom I'd loved dearly and who had died when I was eight. The cigar smoke brought back fond memories. This fellow, who was nice-looking and had a sweet smile, sat down beside me in front of the fireplace and proceeded to state his views about psychiatry and social work. Our opinions--even then--were quite different, so we had the first of what has ended up being a lifetime of intellectual "discussions." And although he looked pretty conservative--besides being older than I (twelve years)--when he offered me a ride home, I was pleasantly surprised to see that he had a red car. That alone made me think there was more to this fellow than I thought. Thirty-six years later, there's still a lot more to this fellow than I thought.
Our lunch conversation
went from one such story to another. It was wonderful to see the
paths we each had taken to get where we are today. I, for one,
came away feeling deeply grateful for the choices I've made. I
suspect we each felt the same.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 18, 2002
Balance, balance, balance. If I say the word enough, if I use it like a mantra, maybe it'll take root somewhere in my psyche. To live in balance is my ultimate task during these times of wars, lies and lack of regard for the earth and anything on it. If I don't find a way to balance my political awareness and activism with nurturing, lifegiving attitudes and activites, I'm going to go up in smoke. I know that. The question is, how do I do it?
Today my great friend Pat N. and I got together in Windsor (Ontario) for lunch. Now, here is a true sister, one who knows what I'm talking about when I say I need balance. She's been an activist since before I even knew the word. Pat N. defines the word in my book. She, of all the people I know, best understands from the inside what I struggle with, so I find that I can hear her suggestions and advice in ways that I can't hear it from others. And it doesn't hurt that she always speaks truth and is exceptionally funny.
Actually Pat's been worried about me of late. She reads my journal and knows what I've been going through, what with Bush's determination to mount a pre-emptive war against Iraq and the U.S. Congress having handed him a blank check to attack any country he deems "necessary", not to mention what's been happening with my brother Rabih. She knows I was recently out on the street demonstrating four times within eight days. She knows how passionately I feel about all of this. And most importantly, she cares about me. I cannot express how much I appreciate Pat N. being in my life.
One of our topics of conversation at lunch today was the question of how I can find balance. I mentioned a few ideas that had come to mind: 1) be faithful to my swimming (I'd missed both swim times this week); 2) return to making art, especially in watercolor (a fluid, undemanding medium); and 3) ground myself in nature. Pat agreed that these all sounded good. I knew it myself but it helped to have her encouragement.
So about six miles from home, I turned off East Jefferson Avenue, crossed the bridge over the Detroit River and started circling Belle Isle, Detroit's 702 acre city park. I was in search of my friends the deer. But before I found them, I was found by Canadian geese and sea gulls grazing, dozing and flying over a grassy field with still-green trees and a lagoon beyond that. Even though it was chilly and had started to sprinkle, I opened my car windows and turned off the engine. I wanted to hear their voices. Honk, honk! Screech, screech! Like music.
After spending time with the geese and gulls, I turned into the woods. Before I'd gone very far, there they were: fawns, does, young bucks with fuzzy knobs on their heads, and mature heavily-antlered bucks. I again opened the window, although by now it was raining steadily, turned off my engine and just sat there, listening, watching, smelling and feeling the glorious deerness of it all. I took a few pictures, but mostly sat in silent awe. What a wondrous sound bucks make when they knock antlers...it almost sounds like hollow wood. There was nothing aggressive in it, more like a dance. I could almost feel the itch that wanted scratching. When not batting heads, the bucks rubbed against trees, sometimes bringing down vines and loose branches, or nibbled at whatever tasty bits they could find on the forest floor.
As I sat there, I started
breathing again, really breathing. Not the shallow breaths
I get in the habit of taking in the city, but those deep, sustained,
audible breaths that come from my depths. And I knew at that moment
that whatever madness swirls around this wounded world, there
will always be a pocket of sanity and peace to which I can come
and re-find all that is good and true. My touchstone. My sacred
space. My haven. My friends the deer.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 19, 2002
My mother has developed
pneumonia again. She has a high fever, is wheezing and sleeps
most of the time. When asked how she feels, she replies, "Fine."
They have her on antibiotics, oxygen and a nebulizer. The chest
x-ray showed the tumor in her lung has grown. The doctor says
she has nine lives. If so, she's on her third since April. He
also says she could die at any time. Since hearing late last night
of her condition, I've sat with the question of whether I will
go to her side now or later. My sister Carolyn, who lives near
Mom and saw her tonight, said that Mom recognized and smiled at
her when she entered the room but then obviously wanted to go
back to sleep. When I tried to talk with her on the phone this
morning, Mom told the caregiver that she didn't want to talk.
That, for now, tells me to stay put until Mom shows signs of wanting
company. I can get in the car at a moment's notice and be in Washington,
DC. the next afternoon, so I will stay at the ready. The important
thing is that she appears to be in no distress and receives extraordinarily
good care from the caregivers, nurses, doctors, chaplain, staff
and volunteers at this wonderful nursing care facility where she
has lived for three years. They love her and she loves them. Whenever
I ask how she's doing, she always says, "I'm very happy,
and why shouldn't I be? I'm living exactly like I want."
My mother is 89 and my model of how to age with grace and contentment.
If she chooses to die this time--because I do believe such choices
are within her power--I will do my best to respect her wishes
and celebrate her passing. But I will always miss my Mommy.
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 20, 2002
I can't recall a more relaxing weekend than this one. Except for a lovely scoot by the lake late this afternoon, I have read for two days solid. And not my usual political fare either, but a novel. The British pyschological mystery writer, Ruth Rendell's latest, Adam and Eve and Pinch Me. Perfect!
Mom is still the same. They've been unable to get her fever down, which concerns me. If I wake feeling strong and ready for a long drive tomorrow, I'll head east. As before, I'll take the 580 mile trip in two segments, spending tomorrow night in Pennsylvania. Although I'll have my laptop with me, I will not be putting up a journal entry until Tuesday night. All this is assuming I have the requisite energy tomorrow. If not, I'll start off on Tuesday.
Let me leave you with
some images of autumn in Michigan. A
golden tree along the lake. A lone boat
under sail. Trees
illuminated by the late
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 22,200
She's done it again! Let's see now, which of her nine lives does this make? Three since April and I can't recall how many before that. Mom is just fine, thank you very much. Well, she's still on oxygen but she has no fever, she's alert and was delighted to see me...but no more delighted than were Muriel her afternoon caregiver and Joseph the afternoon nurse. They were grinning from ear to ear. As Muriel said to Mom, "I'm not ready for you to go anyplace so you better just stay here." She and Mom then sang a ditty I suspect they sing regularly, "I love you, you love me, we love each other." How could my sisters and I be so fortunate as to have our mother in such a wonderful place where she is cared for by such loving people? No wonder Mom isn't ready to leave yet!
My drive was easy. Clear skies and little traffic on the Ohio Turnpike yesterday. I stayed at my old friend the Cranberry, Pennsyslvania Red Roof Inn last night and even got to watch, "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" on their TV. I awoke to an icy car this morning but a kind man scraped it clean for me. Soon enough the sun warmed things up and I drove with my window open most of the day.
This is the portion of the drive I love, especially in the autumn. I rode through mountains for most of today's 300 miles--first in Pennsylvania, then West Virginia (around Morgantown), and ending up in Maryland. I passed through Cumberland, Maryland with the Cumberland Gap to the south, through Hagerstown where my sister Carolyn was born, finally arriving in Montgomery County, my destination.
At the high elevations--up to 2880 ft. above sea level--the colors were dazzling. It was hard to keep my eyes on the road. Even though no camera could do justice to what I saw today, I tried to get a few pictures. Imagine the camera resting on the top of the steering wheel pointing toward the front of the car and my clicking to take a picture, of what I couldn't tell. They didn't turn out half bad, considering. I've simply named them: drive #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6. The one picture I took looking through the viewfinder was of a sun-dappled forest path at a Maryland rest stop.
I expect that wherever you live, you have heard of the Washington, DC area sniper. This morning a Montgomery County, Maryland bus driver was shot dead. That is the tenth death with three persons wounded critically. Needless to say, people around here are terrified. You see it in their faces and hear it in their voices. As I scooted the mile back to the motel from Mom's nursing care facility around 5:30 PM, I had to be careful not to surprise people as I came up behind them on the sidewalk. Even so, I could see the same tight expression on their faces that I'm seeing on everyone around here. I'm feeling rather spooked myself, but not enough to stay off the streets. I refuse to give into such a fearful way of living.
Could it be that we here
in the Washington, DC area are being given a small taste of what
it must be like to live in other parts of the world? Think of
the West Bank, Israel, the Gaza Strip. Our terror will end when
the murderer is caught, but for them?
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 23, 2002
It is wonderful being here in Washington, DC with Mom as she recovers from her latest bout with pneumonia, but it was hard to miss Rabih's hearings yesterday and today (see My Brother Rabih Haddad for background). The first ones I've missed since he first applied for bond on December 16, two days after his arrest over ten months ago. I gather that I would not have gotten in yesterday anyway. The guards at the entrance to Brewery Park did not let anyone inside the complex except those on a "special list." Shades of the days before District Judge Nancy Edmonds ruled that Rabih Haddad's immigration court hearings were to be open to the press, media and the public. Yesterday, the public didn't get anywhere near the courtroom. The Immigration Court Administrator says it was a "misunderstanding." For persons like Phillis Engelbert of the Ann Arbor Ad Hoc Committee for Peace, long at the heart of support for Rabih and Sulaima, it was "...frustrating, upsetting, frightening, and even Orwellian." I don't know the outcome of Tuesday's hearing--part two in the new bond hearing that Judge Edmonds insisted upon--but I'm sure Rabih was not released. I would surely have heard if that had happened.
Today's hearing was to determine whether or not Rabih would be granted his request for asylum in the United States. I don't know the details but I do know that Rabih is certain his life would be in danger if he were deported to Lebanon, the country of his birth. I just called Phillis to see what had happened in court today. Although she was unable to attend, she'd heard that Rabih and his witnesses had testified and that the courtroom was filled with supporters. Apparently the judge has not yet announced his decision. Although I am aware that the chance of Rabih gaining asylum is slim, my fear was more about deportation than his asylum request being denied. But at least as of now, Rabih and Sulaima--this hearing also involved her and three of their four children--are still here in the U.S.
My day was quiet in comparison. I visited with my dear Mom, who gets better by the hour. This afternoon she was taken off oxygen. She was funny. I was singing again--unlike the last time, today she said I had a nice voice--and when I finished "Tell Me Why", an old camp song, she said with a note of irritation, "I wish they'd turn off that background music!" The "music" to which she referred was the oxygen machine that did its work with loud gasps and groans.
An unexpected advantage of taking digital pictures is that I can show them to Mom on the LCD screen. For instance, my time in the Asbury Methodist Village gardens and lake during Mom's nap this afternoon was enjoyed by her through the photos I took. Photos of a wonderful woman I met named Primrose. She is an avid gardener and when I happened upon her, she was sitting on the bench her daughter had bought, admiring the magnificent growth of this year's chyrsanthemums and autumn-blooming iris plants. We got to talking and I discovered she and her husband moved from their home to a retirement apartment here four years ago. She said she chose Asbury because of these garden plots that are available for the residents to work. Primrose and her husband came over from England 45 years ago with the intention of staying one year. Their daughter, whom she describes as a wonderful woman, lives nearby. I admired the lovely shrubs in her garden plot and Primrose laughed and said, "Oh, those are my husband's. He does the shrubs and I do the flowers." This generous woman picked a bunch of pink daisy and bronze chrysanthemums for me to take to my mother. We put them in my scooter basket so I felt like a rolling bouquet.
After my visit with Primrose, I scooted down toward the lake. Geese were grazing and resting on the grass leading up toward the assisted living building that Mom had first moved into four years ago. I scooted out onto the dock and happily sat in the sun. Beside me was a colorful tree with melodic birdsong coming from its branches. Across the lake I could see that a few of those trees were also beginning to turn. It was hard to remember such things as snipers and war in such a peaceful spot. I guess the balance I was looking for last week has found its own way of manifesting itself.
Mom was utterly delighted
with Primrose's flowers and kept pulling
herself up so she could see them better. As I said, it was
a quiet day...one I would not have missed for anything.
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 24, 2002
This was such a quiet day. Mom and I sat contentedly together for about four hours. We talked, were silent, ate our lunches, and looked at a family photograph album from 1952-53. I read for some of the time while Mom lay in bed. I'd see her look over at me with a happy expression on her face. Several times she spontaneously said, "It is so wonderful to have you here." What more could I ask?
I'm beginning to get geared up for the huge anti-war rally and march here in DC this Saturday, October 26. Thanks to Mom and her nine lives--Muriel her caregiver now calls her "Cat"--I will be able to attend. But the weather changed today and I made a quick trip to Sears for a wool hat and fleece gloves. Not only is it cold but wet...and they're predicting more of the same for Saturday. If you know anyone coming to DC this weekend, tell them to dress warmly and be ready for rain.
It reminds me of the only other such rally/march I've attended in our nation's capitol. It was March 1990, the tenth anniversary of Archbishop Oscar Romero's assassination in El Salvador. There was to be a huge demonstration protesting the U.S.'s military and financial support of the war against the people of El Salvador and I wanted to be part of it. I rode an overnight bus with activists from Michigan, arriving in DC at 6 AM after very little sleep. There was wet snow everywhere. None of us were prepared for snow. I can't remember ever being quite so chilled in my life. After several hours a couple of us escaped into a warm, dry McDonald's for a hot cup of cocoa. At that point I dropped my new African wooden-carved cane on the floor and the lion lost its head. Funny, the things you remember.
Well, this time I'm going to be prepared. Not only do I have a warm wool hat, fleece gloves, a warm wool scarf to tie around my neck, close-toed shoes with warm socks, a fleece jacket and "lap blanket", but also a purple rain poncho to keep me dry. And, of course, La Lucha on which to scoot. I'll be just fine.
Just before getting ready to put up this journal entry, I checked a couple of emails. One was from Susan, my friend the art teacher. In it she wrote, "... You are a bit of a celebrity though. Your picture from the anti-war protest [when Bush was in town] was in the Dearborn paper and the kids all told me about it. You made the front page! C., a fourth grader, cut out the article and colored the whole thing. She decorated all around it and wrote little sayings against war in hearts and flowers. On the back she wrote "made with peace and love". I laminated it and hung it in the room. She is quite proud of you and of her artwork. We all miss you..."
Can you imagine how that
makes me feel? To know the kids are aware of my anti-war activism
and proud of me for it? It makes it all worthwhile. After
all, it's for them that I do it.
© 2002 Patricia Lay-Dorsey. Please use with attribution.