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SUNDAY, JANUARY 25, 2004
You are an American man of 24 who feels compelled to join with other international activists in actions of non-violent solidarity with the Palestinian people in their struggle for freedom. You are standing in the street of an occupied West Bank city with another activist, both dressed in the fluorescent orange vests that identify you as international observers, your hands are raised overhead to show you are unarmed, when an Israeli soldier in an armoured personnel carrier opens fire with heavy rounds of machine gun fire and you are hit in the face. After more than two months of hospitalization and three facial reconstructive surgeries, you finally return home to the United States. You are still in the middle of reconstructive facial surgery when you start touring the US, speaking of the need to end the occupation of Palestine using non-violent means.
It has only been ten months since your daughter was intentionally crushed to death by a bulldozer operated by an Israeli soldier who knew she was there. Immediately after watching a video in which her death is shown in graphic detail, you are asked to speak to hundreds of people about your daughter and the choices that brought her to this moment. As her mother, you start by sharing her question at the age of two: "Is brave part of growing up?" As her father, you speak of the process toward healing, a process that requires that: 1) you learn the truth of the situation that led to your daughter's death; 2) you take ownership of your part of the problem, in this case the fact that your own tax dollars continue to support the regime that killed your daughter; and 3) you find a way to forgive. You admit that you are not there yet.
You are an American Jewish man married to an American-born Palestinian woman. Together you found a Palestinian-run coalition of people from around the world who come to Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to act in non-violent solidarity with women, men and children who are suffering a brutal, decades-long occupation. In addition to spending much of your time in Israel and Palestine, you travel the world trying to educate people and mobilize resistance to this occupation. During tonight's question-and-answer period, you are asked why the American Congress continues to give more and more money to the Israeli occupiers, and you answer: 1) AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee), a lobbying group that makes huge donations to the political campaigns of candidates; 2) the arms manufacturers--America's #1 industry--who depend on Israel as a major buyer of their weapons, tanks, bombers, missiles and more; and 3) the Christian-Zionist lobby that has great power because the current President supports their mission.
These are just some of the speakers we heard last night in the Michigan State University Student Union. The event, sponsored by the Michigan Peace Team and a coalition of Lansing peace and justice groups, was called "Courage Under Fire: Exposing the Occupation." The speakers I described above were: 1) Brian Avery, an activist volunteer with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), who was shot in the face in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin on April 5, 2003; 2) Cindy and Craig Corrie, the parents of Rachel Corrie, an ISM activist volunteer who was killed as she tried to protect from demolition the home of a Palestinian pharmacist, his wife and three children in Rafah, a border town in occupied Gaza, on March 16, 2003; and 3) Adam Shapiro, co-founder with his wife, Huwaida Arraf, of the International Solidarity Movement in Palestine. Adam is seen as a Mideast hero or a traitor to the Zionist cause, depending on your perspective. I found him to be an exceptionally intelligent, informed, articulate spokesperson about what is actually happening in Palestine, its international implications, what place the United States has in the conflict, and how we as activists and concerned citizens must proceed in our self-education and work for justice in the region. One thing he said that I will not forget: "People overuse the word, peace. Before you can talk about peace, you must ask yourself, 'Can the conditions for peace exist? Before we talk about peace in Palestine, first we must end the occupation."
Before the program began I had the opportunity to speak informally with Brian Avery, and immediately afterwards, I made a heart-connection with Cindy Corrie. Pat Kolon, my dear friend, made all of this possible by driving the 100 miles to and from East Lansing, schlepping my scooter in and out of the car at the dinner before the program, and then again at the MSU Student Union. We left my house at 3:30 PM and didn't return until after midnight.
Here are some of the photos I took last night:
Brian Avery smiles after our conversation. It turns out he knows two ISMers whom I know--Jean McLaren, my Raging Grannies shero from Gabriola Island, BC, and Starhawk, with whom I spiral danced in a moon-lit Washington, DC park during the huge (freezing cold) anti-war demo on January 18, 2003.
Pat's photo of the audience shortly before the program began. I'd estimate there were 200-300 people there. During the question-and-answer period, we heard from an activist who had come from Traverse City with her friends to attend this program. They had all been part of a recent peace team in Israel/Palestine.
Rossina Hassoun, Ph.D., acts as moderator of the program. Dr. Hassoun, an American-born Palestinian, is adjunct professor in the department of Anthropology and the Center for Integrative Arts and Humanities at Michigan State University. At MSU she pioneered one of the first courses taught on Arab-Americans in the United States. She also provides diversity training for health care providers, non-profit groups and businesses.
Sr. Liz Walters, IHM, who has been part of peace teams in Haiti, Panama, Guatemala, Mexico, and, most recently, the West Bank and Gaza, shares what she saw and experienced last summer in Israel and Palestine. She is a member of the Michigan Peace Team, a teacher at a southwest Detroit school that has a high percentage of Latina/Latino students, and an experienced peace activist who has spent 3 years in jails for civil resistance regarding the illegal build-up of US nuclear weapons.
Brian Avery speaks of the need for Americans to educate themselves about the issues and to engage in non-violent resistance to the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
Mike McCurty introduces his video, "ISM Rafah: Solidarity Under Occupation" which we watched last night. Mike is currently working with the Michigan Peace Team as a team deployment coordinator. He provided non-violence training to many of the internationals who came to Israel/Palestine as a part of the Freedom Summer 2002 and 2003.
Cindy Corrie shares with us about her daughter Rachel, her life and dreams, her humor, her poetic gifts and passion for justice. Craig tells how their family heard of Rachel's death after it had already been reported on television, and describes the journey he and Cindy took to Rafah in September 2003. While there, they met the people whose lives had touched Rachel's, visited the mound of dirt and debris where she had died, and experienced firsthand the Israeli military's violent and intimidating response to internationals. Craig also spoke of their attempts to bring Rachel's killer to justice, and encouraged us to urge our representatives to co-sponsor the Rachel Corrie resolution (H. Con. Res. 111), which insists on a full investigation into Rachel's death.
Fr. Peter Dougherty, founder and coordinator of the Michigan Peace Team, who has been on peace teams in Bosnia, Haiti, Chiapas and Palestine, invites each of us to seriously consider joining the upcoming MPT delegations to Israel/Palestine and to Iraq. With traditional priestly fervor, he also encourages us to dig deep in our wallets to help support the work of the Michigan Peace Team. $3200 is collected by passing donation baskets around the room.
Speaking of money, Brian, the Corries and Adam raised $20,000 for the ISM at a similar event in Dearborn on Friday night! My friend Pat and I had cancelled our plans to attend because of a snowstorm that afternoon, but apparently the snow didn't scare other folks. They said 400 people showed up!
Adam Shapiro, of whom I've written earlier, shares with us his top ten list of "concrete absurdities." Among them are: 1) the growing possibility that Ariel Sharon will be demoved from power not because of his brutal leadership of the latest intafada against the Palestinians, but because of a bribe scandal; 2) the US threat to cut funds to Israel if they don't mount an immediate inquiry into the recent deaths of three US government employees at an Israeli checkpoint, while they have never, in the ten months since it happened, asked for an official inquiry into Rachel Corrie's death; 3) the media hype over a joint team of Israeli and Palestinian amateur explorers going to the Antarctic to scale a mountain. Adam's take on that? "So that proves Israelis and Palestinians can get along. We already knew that. It's as if they're trying to say the conflict between Israel and Palestine is due to personality/cultural differences rather than the occupation and its brutal implementation."; 4) After an Israeli peace activist was shot in December by Israeli military at a demonstration protesting The Wall, the military now say that before they fire into such a crowd again, they will first call out,"All Israeli protesters remove themselves from the area."; 5) the continuing US media hype over the government-constructed story of Private Jessica Lynch and the media silence over the death of Rachel Corrie.
Cindy Corrie answers a question during the discussion period. Craig is seated beside her.
Adam Shapiro answers a question a few minutes later.
On the back cover of last night's printed program was the following information:
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the world's major sources of instability. Americans are directly connected to this conflict.
*For a complete list of sources of these statistics, please go to http://www.ifamericansknew.org/
MONDAY, JANUARY 26, 2004
There is nothing, absolutely nothing, like swimming....especially in the winter, especially if you don't walk worth a damn. For one reason or another it had been three weeks since I'd been in the pool. My gawd! I can't begin to describe the sensation of freedom as I stretched arm over arm and kicked my mermaid's legs. Every part of my body came alive. My mind and spirit too. Aren't bodies wonderful? How fortunate I am to have found this form of heaven on earth.
TUESDAY, JANUARY 27, 2004
I spent much of this afternoon reading When Walking Fails: "Mobility Problems of Adults With Chronic Conditions" by Lisa Iezzoni (University of California Press: 2003). I'm finding this book to be well-written, well-researched and reflective of my personal experience of what it's like to be a person who has trouble walking in a culture that values moving fast and getting there without any help from others. The mix of statistics, public policy, medical issues, observations and personal stories makes this a book that I would recommend to health care professionals as well as to individuals who want to expand their consciousness to include other ways of being in the world. Dr. Iezzoni not only teaches at Harvard Medical School, but was diagnosed with relapsing/remitting MS (multiple sclerosis) when she was a medical student 20 years ago. She shares her own story--except in the Preface--sparingly, but it's obvious that her personal experience gives her understanding of and compassion towards those she interviews.
After reading, it was time to sing. With the sun shining on my face through the living room window, I stood (holding onto my scooter seat for support) and sang without stopping for at least 30 minutes. I sang the medley of songs that often accompanies my scoot down to Ed's office. Since the snows came (and came and came), such scooting has been impossible. But that doesn't mean I need to stop singing! And what is my repertoire, you ask?
1. My Funny Valentine
(starting with the rarely-heard verse)
2. The Way You Look Tonight
3. Moon River
4. On the Street Where You Live
5. Getting To Know You
6. Stormy Weather (my Dad's favorite)
7. Over the Rainbow
8. Never Never Land (my friend Joel's favorite)
I then went upstairs and worked for 2-3 hours on my book. So far I've written the first draft of the introduction and six short chapters. I am just starting to write about Rabih Haddad and how I first met Sulaima and the kids in that crowded immigration court waiting room five days after Rabih had been arrested on December 14, 2001. By the way, Rabih is pleased that I'll be including his story within my own.
After dinner I worked a couple more hours on the book until Ed dragged me downstairs to watch a BBC video series he's watching for the second or third time--Ian Richardson in "House of Cards." Ed says I need to take a break every so often from my writing. He's right, of course.
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 28, 2004
Tonight I was touched by the swimming fairy! That's how the woman in the lane next to mine put it when I told her I'd had one of the best swims of my life. It wasn't that I did anything differently, it was just that my body acted like a well-oiled machine. There was no feeling of effort, yet I know I was kicking more efficiently than ever, and my arms were stretching out in front of my head just like they should. Maybe what was different was that I smiled the whole time. I couldn't help it. I felt like I was flying. And I was. I swam a half mile of the freestyle without stopping--a full hour of exercise--and I could have gone on forever. For that whole hour, my mind didn't even wander. All I wanted to think about was how glorious it felt to be cutting through the water like this, to have a body that felt so in tune with its surroundings and so full of energy. Speaking of energy, my body vibrated from head to toe for at least an hour after I'd gotten out of the water. Actually, it's still resonating, and it's been four hours since I stopped swimming.
It reminded me of when I used to be a long-distance runner. How on good days, after two miles or so, my body would go into such a place of harmony that I no longer had to tell it what to do. It was like that tonight. Harmony is the right word to describe what happened.
Makes me think of the people who look at me with pity when they see that I have to use a scooter or a wheelchair or a walker. How often they imply, or even say outright, that it's a shame my health is so poor. As if being disabled means you're unhealthy. I wonder how often those folks have such a wondrous experience of their bodies?
THURSDAY, JANUARY 29, 2004
Talk about riding a roller coaster. After last night's ecstatic swim, I stewed and fretted in bed for hours before I finally got up at 2 AM, took a hot shower, and then finally dropped off to sleep. The object of my pique doesn't even need to be mentioned, partly because I don't feel like baring all to the world, but partly because I suspect I was a pique looking for a place to settle.
It's been a long hard month, and we didn't even get our always-anticipated January thaw. Weeks of freezing cold temperatures. Snow upon snow upon snow, lovely as it falls but all-too-soon becoming dirty mounds of inconvenience . Icicles that looked so charming three weeks ago no longer fill me with delight. Even the kids at school are getting tired of it. Indoor recess day-after-day rattles everyone's nerves. Instead of working off steam, they build it up. And why in the world does the state schedule the onerous MEAP tests in January? Tests that determine whether a school stays open or not, what kind of state support it will receive, or, if the scores are low, what kind of state supervision they will undergo.
Sorry to sound like a sourpuss, but there it is.
However, since I'm not fond of staying stuck in negativity, when I got home from school, I called the Michigan League and made a room reservation for Saturday and Sunday nights. Even though it will still be cold and maybe snowy in Ann Arbor, at least I'll be able to scoot around town. I also called to buy a ticket for what promises to be a wonderful evening of music at the Michigan Theater on Saturday night. The University Musical Society is putting on a concert of Arab fushion music with the world-renowned Simon Shaheen and his band Qantara. By the way, the kids told me today that they're going to Ann Arbor tomorrow (Friday) for a day-long workshop with Simon Shaheen. That will be a real treat for our Arab drum ensemble and chorus.
I was planning to be in Ann Arbor on Sunday anyway. My goddess daughter, Emily, is dancing in a Javanese dance and instrumental concert at the newly renovated Hill Auditorium at 4 PM. This is her second semester of Javanese dance, and when her mother, Pat Kolon, and I saw last year's performance, we swore never to miss another one. Such an exceptional mix of music, movement, vocals and glorious costumes! So that's what I'll be doing on Sunday afternoon.
I also hope to visit the East Indian art exhibit at the University Museum of Art, and maybe see the movie, "Girl With the Pearl Earring" at the Michigan Theater on Sunday night. I liked the book very much and would like to see how they adapt it. I've also emailed my friends Miki and Akira to see if we can get together for dinner either Saturday or Sunday night.
A change of scene should help restore my equilibrium, not to mention restoring the JOY of being out and about on my scooter again. I miss my freedom.
And now--to give you a real treat--let me show you what arrived in the mail last night. My online friend, Genevieve (otherwise known as Joan Badke) had emailed to tell me she'd painted me a special gift that she'd be mailing from her home in British Columbia. WELL, WAIT TIL YOU SEE WHAT SHE DID!!!! It is acrylic on canvas, and is based on an online photo of GranMotoko, Granny Charlotte and me singing last December in front of the US District Courthouse where the ACLU was arguing the legality of six Muslim organizations' lawsuit against Ashcroft and portions of the Patriot Act.
But who are those other two singers with their arms (paws?) around GranMotoko and Granny Charlotte??? Hey, we Grannies aren't picky. Whoever wears a Granny hat and knows the words is always welcome!
FRIDAY, JANUARY 30, 2004
Disability is among the most effective levelers of class, race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, educational background and economic situation. Persons of all kinds have accidents and end up in wheelchairs, deal with chronic mobility problems, have limbs amputated, or are born with congenital health conditions that are disabling. And I'm only referring to disabiliities that require the use of assistive devices to get around, not the myriad assortment of other sensitivities, conditions and diseases that limit people in equally significant ways.
I recently discovered our commonality by joining an online discussion board for wheelchair users. Through their postings I've met men and women from urban and rural America, folks from Scotland, Finland, West Indies and New Zealand, peace protesters and war hawks, hunters and vegetarians, a "Messianic pastor/rabbi" and a declared atheist, housewives and former Harley-Davidson bikers, a man whose hobby is aviation and a woman who researches medieval manuscript art for fun, a police detective and a retired county park ranger...as I said, ALL KINDS of people. Each one doing the best they can to live normal lives.
Where else could I meet such a diverse group of individuals?
SATURDAY, JANUARY 31, 2004
It is a sunny, cold day with the lows tonight predicted to be +5 F. But that won't stop me! I'm off in a few minutes to drive to Ann Arbor for the weekend. Won't be updating my journal until Monday night. See you then...
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 2, 2004
I feel like a new person! My time in Ann Arbor was all I'd wished for and more. It's now close to 10:30 PM, I've just returned home from a wonderful half-mile swim, so I'll postpone show-and-tell until tomorrow. But I do want to show you some pictures that I took today...not in Ann Arbor, but on Belle Isle.
On my way home, there was a big traffic slow-down up ahead on the freeway, so I escaped onto the surface streets. That meant I would be driving right by Belle Isle. Well, you know me and the deer on Belle Isle, so even though it was already close to 4 PM, I turned off E. Jefferson onto the Belle Isle bridge and entered the world of creatures.
The first creatures I saw made me gasp. What in the world are swans doing on the Detroit River in February? But there they were, six of them with their regal heads held high, gliding through what must have been very cold water. Next, it was the Canadian geese...hundreds of them in gaggles ranged along the Canadian side of the island. As always, there were what I call the "watch geese" making it safe for their companions to forage for food without having to raise their heads and look around for signs of danger. My final friend was also feathered, but this creature was perched high in a stand of trees: a redtailed hawk. Not a deer in sight, and I searched all their favorite haunts. They must have a special snow-friendly place that I don't know about.
Shortly before leaving the island, I enjoyed seeing the ice sculpture that the Belle Isle staff create every year by hosing down a large cut evergreen tree. And my very last view of the island was this picnic area covered in snow. Just for contrast, here is a photo that I took of the same area during the first days of autumn.
Yes, Virginia, green grass and leafy trees DO exist!
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 3, 2004
My Saturday in Ann Arbor started with a scoot around campus. It was SO wonderful to be out on the roads--well, sidewalks--again after three weeks of inaccessible, snow-covered sidewalks and streets where I live. I felt free again! And Ann Arbor's sidewalks were totally clear and scootable, both on campus and downtown.
On this beautiful, cold, sunny day, I found a tree in the Diag that I soon named the squirrel tree. There were five fat brown squirrels in residence--one nibbling nuts (and checking me out) at the base of the tree, two more chasing each another through the branches, one taking a nap, and another who joined his/her friend on the ground. This was the view of the Diag looking toward the flagpole from the squirrel tree.
After enjoying the antics of my furry friends, I scooted through the Diag toward State Street. Once there, I crossed at the corner, scooted half a block toward the Michigan League (where I was staying) and went into my favorite Japanese restaurant--Sushi.com--for a late lunch. I scooted up to the sushi bar and was greeted by Lee, a master sushi artist whom I've seen here for as long as I've been coming. I asked after my friend Mike, who usually worked behind the sushi bar too. Lee told me that he had gone back home to Toronto. I'll miss him. Mike always greeted me warmly and had even given me and my friends some gift sushi rolls one time. But, even with Mike gone, my miso soup, salad and veggie roll were delicious. I finished eating just in time to scoot over to the Michigan Theatre for the 4 PM showing of "The Girl With a Pearl Earring."
It's a good film. I'd recommend it, especially if you're fond of Jan Vermeer and the Dutch masters. The book is more complex, but, for a movie, I think the adaptations work well.
After the film, I scooted down to Main Street and the Crazy Wisdom bookstore to buy my friend Miki a gift. Her birthday had been Friday and we three (Akira too) were going to have dinner together on Sunday night. I found a lovely card and a hand-painted Peruvian pottery flute that felt right.
Now it was time to get something to eat before the Simon Shaheen concert at 8 PM. I scooted back up Liberty Street to the Indian restaurant Miki and Akira had introduced me to on my last visit to Ann Arbor. A popular place, there were perhaps a dozen people waiting to get a seat. But, after waiting only ten minutes or so, the waiter came and asked if I'd mind if they put a small table for me right in the middle of the aisle. Suited me just fine. That meant I could watch all the action while enjoying my samosas, chana masala and sweet lassi. What I ended up doing was listening to--and sometimes muttering to myself in response to--a conversation between two men at a nearby table.
The elder man was white-haired and dressed in a camel-hair jacket. He spoke with the assurance of someone who is used to being in charge. The other man was middle-aged, dark-haired, olive-skinned, and more soft-spoken. Their wives were carrying on their own conversation. The white-haired man started by saying, "Well, I'm going to vote for Bush. I don't know how you feel about that." What followed was a discussion between two individuals who saw things very differently. The younger man, whom I'd guess to be of Middle Eastern or Mediterranean descent, voiced his concerns over Bush's preemptive war, the mess it had brought to Iraq, and the lies about WMDs on which it had been based. The older man simply repeated what he'd obviously heard on Fox News, much of which I knew to be untrue. For instance, he kept saying, "If Saddam Hussein hadn't kicked the weapons inspectors out of the country last winter, I think things would have been very different." Of course, any informed person knows that Hussein did NOT kick the weapons inspectors out at all, but this is one of Bush's oft-repeated lies that the mainstream media allow to go unchallenged.
As you can imagine, I was stewing in my soup having to sit there and listen to this stuff. But I ended up doing something about it that wasn't terribly polite, but sure made me feel better. As I scooted by their table on my way out of the restaurant, I said to the younger man, "You know, everything you said is absolutely true." The white-haired man said, "What did she say?" And his wife smiled and said, "She says she agrees with him!"
What happened next was one of those evenings of music that I will never forget. First of all, this concert of the world-reknowned Palestinian violin and oud player, Simon Shaheen, and his band, Qantara, was co-sponsored by the University Musical Society and ACCESS (the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services), so it brought in people from all over the Ann Arbor/ Detroit/Dearborn area. The Michigan Theatre was packed to the gills; I didn't see an empty seat. And for me it felt like old-home week. I saw and spoke with a number of my friends from the Arab community. Not only that, during the intermission I made friends with the family sitting in front of me. They'd apparently gotten a kick out of my enthusiastic response to the concert, and introduced me to their son Omar, who is a pianist/composer and has been studying at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. It was fun to discover he is friends with Hiromi, the amazing young jazz pianist/composer, whom I'd gone crazy over after hearing her play at the Ford Detroit International Jazz Festival last Labor Day weekend.
I wish there were words to describe the sounds that Simon Shaheen creates with the violin and the oud, but, unfortunately, I know no such words. How do you describe soul-stirring music that takes you to distant lands that feel exotic yet familiar? As I said to my Arabic friends, even though this is not music of my cultural heritage, it feels like it is. Of course it does; this is music from the Cradle of Civilization. It is EVERYONE'S music. And it wasn't just Simon; every one of the musicians at his side were glorious. When he brought on three older, highly-respected Arab musicians from Dearborn, the audience went crazy!
After the intermission, Simon and the band performed a premiere of the composition that the UMS and ACCESS had commissioned for tonight's concert. He calls it "Arboresque" after the city where he's been an artist-in-residence for the past three weeks. Lyrical, upbeat and with a traditional Arabic rhythm, the piece was beautifully conceived and played. The audience loved it.
When we walked (or scooted, depending on your preference) out of the theater at 11:15 PM, everyone was smiling. It was that kind of evening. I had a nightcap of hot apple cider and a butter pecan cookie at Ameer's Mediterranian Cafe before turning in for the night at my Ann Arbor home-away-from-home, the Michigan League.
And now I'm going to take a break and continue my Ann Arbor story in tomorrow's journal. Sunday was a VERY big day!
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 4, 2004
The saga of my weekend in Ann Arbor continues...
On Sunday I awoke to another beautiful sunny day. The temperature had risen to a balmy 23 degrees F., but the wind made it feel colder than Saturday's 15 degrees. However, nothing was going to keep me down. I pulled my muffler tight around my neck, covered my head with my knit cap, slipped on my ski mittens, and off I went.
My scoot took me in front of the newly-renovated Hill Auditorium where I would be seeing my goddess daughter Emily dance later in the day, across the Diag to S. University, alongside icicle-draped classroom buildings, and finally into the heart of town in my search for a feta cheese omelet. After an unsuccessful attempt to order breakfast at the Greek restaurant on the corner of Main and Liberty ("Sorry, we only serve lunch and dinner."), I scooted into a family-run diner that had a sign out front promising, "Breakfast served all day."
What a find! Not only was it warm and inviting, with a perfect scooter parking place next to a booth by the window, but the family who has run it for decades is Greek, so of course there was a feta cheese omelet on the menu. Obviously a favorite of locals, it was a great people-watching place, both inside and out. What I especially appreciated was not only the delicious food, but the presence of a good number of men from the streets--Ann Arbor has a surprisingly large homeless population--sitting warm and comfortable at the tables closest to the door. A real community place.
After a leisurely breakfast, I scooted over to the University of Michigan Museum of Art. On the way in, I met Carol, a curator who had mounted the Surrealism exhibit currently on view. So I added that to my list of 1) "Divine Encounters, Earthly Pleasures: Twenty Centuries of Indian Art"; 2) the Shakuhachi Flute Concert in the Japanese Gallery tea house; and 3) "Barbara Hepworth [the sculptor] at 100." I started with the flute concert and found it quite meditative. When the flute master stopped playing and started talking, I scooted across the building to the Indian exhibit. The images were lovely, but the identifying stories too hard to read for a viewer at wheelchair height. So after viewing the images, I scooted next door to the Surrealism exhibit. What a treasure! This show was my favorite of the day, full of life, energy, color and diverse artistic media and sensibilities. While there I enjoyed listening to and watching a father showing his young daughters the art. I couldn't understand his words (he spoke a language I did not know), but his obvious delight in his little girls and their love of their Daddy was contagious.
By 3:30 PM, it was time for me to leave the museum and scoot over to Hill Auditorium for Emily's Javanese dance performance. This annual free concert sponsored by the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, the Residential College of the International Institute and the Stearns Collection of Musical Instruments of the School of Music is a favorite of Ann Arborites, judging by the sold-out house. In this case I was lucky to be disabled because the handicap-accessible seating area put me front-and-center, while Emily's mother, Pat Kolon, her aunt, BJ, and friend, DeeDee, had to sit quite far back.
What a rich sensory experience of instruments, voices, dance, story and costumes! This dance drama, "Gongs of Truth", was adapted from the original Ramayana, by Wasi Bantolo, artist in residence at the University of Michigan. In the program he wrote, "Gongs of Truth forms a new interpretation of this story, one that articulates critical issues that plague today's world--including the destruction of the environment and the reliance on war to solve problems." His wife, Olivia Retno Widyastuti, also an artist in residence, Henri Purwanto, guest drummer from the University of California at Berkeley, and Susan Pratt Walton, the Director of Gamelan (Javanese instrumental and vocal music) were featured artists in the production. There were 9 other featured dancers, 36 dance students, 11 singers, and 22 advanced gamelan music students. The Beginning Javanese Gamelan ensemble provided introductory music to the dance drama.
I took only two pictures once the dancing began: the first, a general picture (without a flash) of the dancers, and the second (with flash), more specifically of my goddess daughter Emily dancing. They had asked that we not take flash pictures as it would distract the dancers. But when the cast was taking their bows I took four pictures--photo #1, #2, #3 & #4. After the performance, Emily kindly posed for two more pictures (with flash)--photo #1 & #2. We also did the "family thing" and took lots of group pictures with different cameras (which must have driven Matt, Emily's date, a bit crazy!). Here are the two that were taken with my camera-- photo #1 & #2.
There were many special moments during this glorious afternoon of Javanese music and dance, but the one that will stay with me didn't happen onstage. While we were talking with Emily in my disabled seating area after the performance, a wide-eyed little boy of no more than 3 came up behind her, touched her glistening costume and said shyly, "You're pretty." Then he ran away.
He was right. She IS pretty!
I then had about an hour before I was to meet Miki and Akira for dinner. I scooted next door to the Michigan League, went upstairs to my room, put my feet up and continued to read my latest obsession, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides. At 7 PM I scooted down to the lobby to meet my friends.
We had a wonderful meal together at our now-favorite Indian restaurant, and caught up on all our news. I'll be honest; my fast pace began to catch up with me towards the end of the evening. I was in bed by 10 PM.
On Monday before I left to go home, I scooted down Liberty Street to a special chocolate store to get a pound of truffles for Eddie for Valentine's Day. It's no secret because I gave them to him as soon as I got home! And then I had lunch with Emily. We went to Sushi.com and had a delicious meal and a wonderful visit. It's always precious when we have an opportunity to spend time together.
So that is the tale of my weekend in Ann Arbor. Now you see why I said I returned home restored. It was just what I needed.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 5, 2004
Am I becoming a disabled activist by default? I don't mean an activist with a disability; I've been that for years. I mean an activist who fights for the rights of persons with disabilities. Last weekend in Ann Arbor gave me two opportunities to hone my skills.
The first occurred at the University of Michigan Museum of Art on Sunday. When I tried to scoot into the women's restroom, the way was blocked. Through the partially-opened door, I could see a big black couch was in the way. I went to the guard and asked if someone could please move that couch out of the way so I could get into the bathroom. He had on a neck brace, so he asked the staff member who was working the cash register in the Museum Shop to help me. She came and pushed the couch forward enough so I could get through the door. Fortunately the handicap-accessible toilet stall was right there so I could use it, but all the other stalls were blocked by the couch. Obviously it had to go.
I asked the guard if any of the museum administrators were in, but, because it was Sunday afternoon, the answer was "No." I then asked for the name and phone number of the administrator to whom I should speak about this problem, and he wrote down a name and a phone number. He also told me that someone else had complained about this problem during last summer's Ann Arbor Art Fair, but nothing had been done about it. He wished me luck but you could tell he wasn't particularly optimistic.
Monday morning I called the number I'd been given, and left a message on the museum administrator's phone machine. Since I'd be out of phone contact that day, I didn't leave my number, but gave my name and a brief description of the problem. I think I said something like, "Besides being discourteous to disabled visitors to the museum, this situation is illegal." I don't really know if that's true, but it sounded good. I was courteous throughout, and said I was sure she'd want to know about this problem. I encouraged her to simply remove the couch from the restroom. Then I told her I'd call back later to speak with her in person.
Tuesday morning I called her back. The first thing she said when I identified myself was, "Oh, I'm so glad you called back. The museum was closed yesterday, so I had the couch removed. We replaced it with a much smaller cot. And we checked to be sure the door could open wide enough for anyone in a wheelchair." She went on to thank me profusely for bringing this to her attention. She then admitted that there had been an earlier request to move the couch, and she had been dragging her feet. "But as soon as I got your message, I knew I needed to take care of this problem NOW! And so I did." She must have thanked me five times for speaking up. She also told me that the museum is going to be expanding within the next five years and that handicap-accessibility is one of her top priorities.
It felt pretty swell to meet with immediate success in my first disabled activist effort, but I suspect this next issue is going to take a lot more than one or two phone calls to see the changes I feel need to be made.
I told you in yesterday's journal about going to the newly-renovated Hill Auditorium on Sunday to see my goddess daughter Emily perform in the University of Michigan Javanese dance drama, "Gongs of Truth." The background of my complaint is that Hill Auditorium has just reopened after a two-year, multi-million dollar renovation. It was such a big deal that the New York Times even ran an article about the reopening and the beauty of this Ann Arbor treasure.
Well. Beautiful, yes, but--and that's a big BUT--they left out an essential element that would have made it truly handicap-accessible. There is NO automatic door-opener from the sidewalk into the building. And the door pulls open which makes it even harder for scooter and wheelchair folks to manage.
It isn't that I expect automatic door-openers on every building, but when you've just spent hundreds of millions of dollars, kept a building closed for two years, and dug up all the land around the building itself, I DO expect total accessibility to be part of your plans. To be honest, I was shocked that they didn't have that simple aid for the elderly and disabled! The Michigan League--which is just as old--has automatic door-openers inside and out. And there was one other thing missing--no signs at street level to tell you where the accessible entrance was located. I had to scoot around both sides of the building to find it.
But they did some things right. The new handicap-accessible seating area is excellently placed. And there are not only signs all through the lobby showing where to find the ramps to the disabled area, but they even have a special handicap-accessible one-stall restroom across from the regular restrooms that also have accommodations for the disabled. So it wasn't as if they weren't thinking of us; they just missed this one, rather essential, part of making the building totally accessible.
On Sunday, I got the name and telephone number of the Hill Auditorium house manager, and on Monday morning I called her. This time I was lucky and she answered the phone herself. It turns out her husband uses a wheelchair, so she is WELL aware of such problems. In this case, she thought it would carry more weight if I brought my concerns directly to the person who had overseen the renovations, so she gave me his name and number. She also thanked me for doing this. As she said, I am doing it not just for myself, but for everyone.
I called and talked with Jeffrey Kuras, the Director of University Productions. I think Mr. Kuras was somewhat embarrassed that they hadn't thought of automatic door-openers in all their discussions around accessibility during the renovations. He said he'd bring it up with the architects at their meeting that afternoon. I told him I'd be calling back to see how thing were proceeding.
In all of this, I'm learning that it doesn't pay to complain unless you're willing to take it to the next step, and that is to bring the problem to the attention of the person who has authority to make changes. And even then, you don't just make your request and go away; you keep at it until you meet with success.
As I said earlier, I sense I'm just beginning with this Hill Auditorium automatic door-openers issue.
Yesterday I left a message on Jeffrey Kuras' phone machine, and today he called me back. In essence he said that the architects informed him that automatic door-openers are not ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) required, and that anything they might do about it would take many, many months to accomplish. He seemed to think it would cost $10,000 per door. What disturbed me about our conversation was his repeatedly saying, "Yes, it would be nice if they had automatic door-openers." Almost as if I were asking him to change the paint in the ladies room so it would be nicer aesthetically. Handicap-aaccessibility is not about being NICE; it is about being JUST. It is an issue of justice, not kindness or charity.
After talking with Mr. Kuras, I called the newly-formed University of Michigan Office of Institutional Equity and left a message for Anthony J. Walesby, Assistant Provost and Senior Director, detailing my concerns. This office is equipped to handle issues relating to discrimination due to race, religion, abilities, sexual orientation and/or gender. It has a special department that works specifically on issues of accessibility and possible ADA infringements in university buildings. They say the Anthony Walesby is a dynamic individual who is committed to justice for all.
If one door seems locked, just try another.
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 6, 2004
Well, here we go again. I took another fall--actually more of a slide than a fall--and pulled the tendons on the outside of my right knee. It's painful and I can't put weight on it, but, believe me, I've been through worse than this...as you know if you're a regualr reader. As always happens, help was at my side in a matter of minutes. Help, this time, in the person of my friend Pat Kolon. No more than ten minutes after my fall, while I was still on the floor in the bathroom where it had happened, Pat walked in the front door with a homemade dinner for the three of us. She helped me up off the floor, helped me get downstairs, got me settled in a chair, filled a hot water bottle and applied it to my knee, and entertained me with interesting conversation. Within an hour, Eddie came home, got my traveling scooter from the trunk of my car, brought it upstairs, and set it up for me. After a delicious dinner of Pat's sweet potato pancakes and vegetarian Tighlman Island stew, both Pat and Ed helped me get things set up here upstairs.
We have been through this so many times before that we have it down to a system. The joy this time was having my stair lift. Hip hip hooray for stair lifts!
But before this unfortunate accident, I'd had a glorious day. It was the first time since early January that the roads were clear enough and the temperature mild enough for me to go scooting in my neighborhood. The sidewalks were still treacherous, but my singing street is wide enough that I always scoot on the side of the road anyway. I went down and had lunch with Eddie at Subway, picked up a few things at the drugstore, stopped at the library, got a haircut, and finished off with an Italian gelato (a mixture of meringue and peach). Then I sang all the way home. Lovely.
And to give you a giggle, here is a picture Ed insisted I take. His great-grandmother's rocking chair has become the home for my decorated bra. Remember the art day I had with Sooz and Penny two weeks ago? Ed thinks it makes the rocking chair look like a woman. What do you think?
Now it's time to put this unhappy knee to bed.
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 7, 2004
Well, I'm calling it a miracle. If you're a regular reader, you know I don't use words like this. But in the middle of last night, the pain left my knee. One minute it was giving me sharp pains and muscle contractions, and the next, it was lying comfortably stretched out on the bed. When I awakened this morning, I had no pain and could put weight on my right leg (something I thought wouldn't happen for weeks). I got up, got dressed and went to our monthly O Beautiful Gaia day-long gathering over in Windsor, Ontario.
Not only was it a very important gathering--one where we would begin to discern who and what we are as a group now that the CD is made--but there was a sweet surprise waiting for me: Mary White was there!
Do you remember my writing of Mary White last March? She was our Gaia sister and longtime member of the Detroit women's community who suddenly became ill and almost died. Her crisis came unexpectedly the Thursday she was getting ready to drive down to Detroit from her home in Northern Michigan to join us as we made the rough-cut O Beautiful Gaia CD.
Mary had not been well for some time, but in her usual can-do style was trying to forge ahead with her life. As I understand it, her daughter-in-law saved her life that day by saying to Mary, "If you get in this car to drive to Detroit, I'm going to throw myself in front of it! You need to go to the doctor, not to Detroit." The doctor immediately sent Mary to the hospital where, for a matter of weeks, she was close to death. Her illness turned out to be a serious, chronic, extremely rare condition that has required major adjustments to her way of being in the world. Because of Mary's inner will to live, exceptional care by her family and friends, and the unexplanable gifts of the Universe, this Wise Woman has brought herself from the brink of death to a deeper gratitude for life than ever (and she always lived in gratitude). Today was her first time back with us for our monthly Gaia gathering since February 2003.
Two of our Gaia sisters have been part of her caregiving community, so they have been with Mary from the beginning. Special friends have visited her up at her home in Empire, MI, and most other women in our circle saw her in December at Joan Tinkess' 70th birthday celebration at the Ojibway Nature Centre in Windsor. But today was my first time with Mary in a year, and I couldn't stop grinning, holding her hand and resting my head on her shoulder. I love Mary White. Just knowing this holy woman is on the planet gives me comfort and joy. She doesn't have to DO anything; her presence is enough. Can't you see it in her face?
So I was where I should be today, thanks to an unexpected miracle. And all day long I experienced no pain in my leg or knee. When I stood to transfer to the toilet or from my scooter to the car, the affected knee felt a little wobbly, but that was all. I got home safe and sound--thanks to Judy Drylie who chauffeured me today--and went right to bed. Not because of pain, but because I was tired. I slept from 6-8 PM, and will soon go back to bed. I'm feeling some twinges in my knee but nothing to fret over.
Tomorrow I'll share the stories and photos from this wondrous Gaia day. And don't worry, I'm still using my scooter La Lucha upstairs and Ona downstairs. I'll be pampering this knee until it feels good and strong again. But, all going well, I seem to be over the hump. My deepest gratitude for all of your healing thoughts. I suspect YOU were the miracle!
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 8, 2004
The moon blazes white
upon my quilt
turning night into day.
I cannot sleep with
its unblinking eye
in the February sky.
What does she see,
this farsighted moon,
this unprotected orb
My legs stirring like
under the blanket?
A child's voice adding
the chorus of moans and cries
in an overcrowded Iraqi
A couple married so many
years they hardly wake
to make middle-of-the night
love under soft, wash-worn sheets?
An elephant trumpeting
final cry as the poacher's bullet
pierces its heart?
A woman placing her nipple
into the already-sucking mouth
of her hungry baby?
A star dying a lonely
within a galaxy on fire,
swirling in space?
The moon sees all, tells
and knows its place.
The silent observer
February 8, 2004
*To see the February 7 Great Lakes Basin photo-journal, click on this link.
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 9, 2004
Two items of information gave me hope on this gray winter day:
1) The New York Times ran its most critical editorial to date of our current president. Titled, "Mr. Bush's Version", this lengthly analysis of yesterday's Meet The Press interview between Tim Russert and George W. Bush, called into question more than simply whether or not GWB knew the Iraqis had no WMDs before he used that "fact" to justify his determination to attack Iraq; it questioned his very character and fitness to serve as president. FINALLY!
2) Today I heard from Carol Bendure that Pointes For Peace added 39 new names and addresses at their table in front of the Democratic Caucus site for the Grosse Pointes on Saturday. Pointes For Peace was co-founded by Carol and Mary Read last winter to mobilize community opposition to Bush's plan to attack Iraq. From a core of 15 hardy souls, their group has grown to 300! They still gather every Sunday night to discuss national and international news at a local coffeehouse, and on February 23rd will present their seventh Peace Talk to the community. These talks generally attract between 100-150 persons, but they're expecting at least 200 on February 23rd because Bishop Tom Gumbleton is scheduled to speak about his recent trip to Iraq. By the way, the Grosse Pointes (five cities to the east of Detroit) are heavily Republican and noted for their politically conservative views. Carol also told me that 830 persons voted on Saturday in the Grosse Pointe Democratic Caucus for Michigan's Primary! This compares with 100 voters four years ago.
Believe me, if this is happening in Grosse Pointe, it must be happening everyplace!
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 2004
Some days you just have to stay home and clean your closets. That's what I spent hours doing today. Of course, the closets I had to clean were more virtual than real, but that didn't make it any easier.
Since losing access to my Outlook Express email software last November, emails have become a bit of a pain. I have to go online to the earthlink.net web mail web site, and, believe me, it is slower than molasses in January to operate. For this reason I'd gotten far behind with my emails. As of this morning there were 240 in one inbox and 160 in the other. Many of them had not been read, much less responded to. My apologies to my friends.
After more hours than I'd like to admit, my inboxes now look as "closets" should--uncluttered and containing only what I intend to use. Whew! I can breathe again.
So the big question is, did the groundhog see its shadow last week? Since I live in Michigan, I'm afraid whether she did or didn't, we've still got six more weeks of winter. But I did hear birds singing outside my window a couple of days ago, and Sunday's sunset flooded the western sky with color at 6 PM rather than 5 PM. But I still needed reminders that winter isn't our only season, so I created an Adobe Photoshop collage made up of digital photos I've taken over the years. This summer collage is now what I see on my computer's desktop. Believe me, it helps!
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 11, 2004
There are two kinds of persons: those who like surprises and those who don't. The former find the unexpected brings a sense of adventure into their lives, while the latter experience the unexpected as a source of discomfort. Those who prefer life to unfold as planned, often get more pleasure in the anticipation of an event than in its reality. On the other hand, there are those who find themselves dreading planned events, even if it is something they'd generally enjoy. And, of course, some people just love life, planned and unplanned.
Today the unexpected came into Ed's and my life. By the way, my Eddie is one of those folks for whom planned events are a source of anxiety, so I've found that spontaneity is the way to go.
I'd scooted down to see him on this sunny cold day. After taking a couple of pictures of the semi-frozen lake--photo #1 & #2--I arrived at his office at 1 PM, about 45 minutes before he usually goes over to Subway for lunch. By the way, Ed is very comfortable with habit. To him, a habitual activity is quite different from a planned activity, mainly because the habit is self-directed whereas plans often come from outside of himself.
Anyway, I said, "What would you say to going to eat lunch at one of the restaurants on the Hill?" (the Hill being a local shopping street near Ed's office). His face was a study in conflicting emotions, but when he said, "As a Valentine's Day present?", I knew I had him. For days now he's been asking, "What do you want for Valentine's Day?" I kept saying, "Just a card", but that didn't seem to satisfy. Now he saw a way to give me a Valentine's gift, a way that would obviously please me. But first he had to go to Subway and give them the New York Times (he does this every day), and copies of the crossword puzzle (another daily gift). So I waited in his office while he walked the half block to the Subway. When he returned, we walk/scooted over to the Hill. I suggested an upscale restaurant that my friends, Joan and Brigitte, and I like. Ed and I had never been there, but he was willing to give it a try.
What a success!!! Not only did he enjoy its light, bright interior, but the food was a smashing success. His steak sandwich and homemade potato chips, and my bleu cheese pizza and bowl of homemade tomato soup were done to perfection. And we each had enough left over for at least one more meal.
What a perfect early Valentine's Day present!
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 12, 2004
Do you ever find yourself having negative feelings every time you think of or hear about a particular person? I'm not pleased when this happens to me as I consider a sign of immaturity. Even if the person in question is objectively problematic, I'd still prefer to think I could look at their words/actions/attitudes with some degree of compassion rather than judgement. Actually when something like this gets going, it seems to have a life of its own. Nothing I try to do or think has any effect; my feelings run the show. Not my favorite way of being in the world.
As you might imagine--since I'm bringing this up--I am currently in the middle of just such an unpleasant situation. I'm not sure what to do about it either. For the most part I'm trying to avoid contact with the person in question. Occasionally I must be where she is, but then I do my best to stay on the fringes and not get too involved. I'm hoping my negativity will pass, like a bad virus. Please hold me in your thoughts.
It was WONDERFUL to be back at school today with Susan and the kids! I know teachers and students need a mid-winter break, but that doesn't make me stop missing them. Unfortunately I've let it get too late to share my pictures and tell you about my day at school, so I'll fill you in tomorrow.
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 13, 2004
Recently I found the blog of an Iraqi woman who lives in Baghdad. Baghdad Burning is filled with the insights, political analyses and tales of daily life of a 24 year-old woman who is trying to survive in a city given over to conflict, violence, power-struggles, and conditions that lead to the breakdown of civilization. A breakdown of civilization that can be laid at the doors of a small cadre of men in a big White House across the ocean, men whose inordinate greed, self-fulfilling prophecies of being ordained by God for this "mission", and hunger for personal power defies reasoned imagination.
Riverbend, the blogger, had not posted an entry since January 31. Today we found out why. I will not speak for her--let her tell you the story herself, a story that is a nightmare lived by too many families in Iraq today. Please read it, feel it, and think about what needs to be done to stop this US-led terror from continuing to make life miserable for our sisters and brothers in Iraq. Bush calls himself "The War President." Read Baghdad Burning and see what that war really means. Then send the link to your friends, family, co-workers and neighbors who think George W. Bush is a good guy who deserves to be elected (not re-elected, as he was never elected in the first place). May the truth set us free.
Earlier today we Raging Grannies did our part to bring truth to the world. It was a small action, but on this Arctic winds-whipped day in Detroit, it made its mark. We'd gone down to the Detroit City Council committee meeting room to support speakers from the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) and MECAWI (Michigan Emergency Committee Against War In Iraq) as they presented their firsthand knowledge of being videotaped and harassed by Detroit Police during a peaceful anti-war protest last September 27. When we arrived fifteen minutes before the hearing was to begin, we were disappointed to discover the hearing had been postponed with only two hours notice. So the five of us--three "official" Raging Grannies and two friends of Granny Charlotte's--stood outside the door to the City-County Building and started singing. I'd brought our anti-Patriot Act song sheet which seemed to apply.
There was lots of foot-traffic in and out of the building, and a few folks acknowledged our presence by smiling and/or stopping to ask what we were singing about. After twenty very cold minutes, two women security guards came and respectfully told us we'd have to move away from the doors and stand closer to the street if we wanted to continue. Since none of us had dressed adequately for a cold-weather RAGE, we were happy to stop singing and go to our cars.
I like these kinds of Grannies' rages where you stand in a well-peopled area and simply sing. It reminds me of our singing in the lobby outside the Detroit Boat Show last February 15th after Detroit's mammoth Anti-War Demo at Cobo Hall. Folks hear you singing familiar tunes and their ears listen before they can screen out your words. Besides, we're just little old ladies in fancy hats. How could we be a threat to anyone? HA!
Well, I promised you pictures from yesterday. As I drove down a Dearborn street close to school, I saw a house decorated for Eid Al Kabeer. It reminded me of why we'd had our mid-winter break last week. Eid Al Kabeer, also known as the Big Eid or Al Eid Al Adh'ha, is described by River in her Baghdad Burning blog in this way:
"During the Big
Eid, Muslims from all over the world go to Mecca in Saudi Arabia
and visit 'Bayt Allah' or 'God's House' which was built by the
Prophet Abraham. Visiting Mecca is one of the five pillars of
Islam which include fasting, 'shahada' or bearing witness to God
and the Prophet, prayer, visiting Mecca (at least once during
the lifetime), and 'Zekat' or charity.
"After visiting Mecca and taking part in certain Islamic rituals, a man becomes a 'Hajji' or 'one who has done the Haj' and a woman becomes a 'Hijjiya'. That is why it is quite common to see people in Muslim countries calling an elder 'Hajji' or 'Hijjiya'. It is assumed that by the time a man or woman reaches a certain age, they have gone to visit Mecca and gained the prestigious and respectful title of Hajji or Hijjiya."
Several of the girl students showed me presents their mothers had brought them back from the Haj'. They were obviously proud of their new jewelry and purses from such a holy site. As I've said many times before, these children are my teachers.
But yesterday's art project was very American. We made Valentine's Day cards. In my humble opinion, the kindergarteners did as well as the fifth graders (photo #1 & #2).
Our second floor hall is covered with art. There is a huge mural--photo #1 & #2-- of snowflakes, snowpersons and evergreen trees made by all the students, as well as special projects posted on the walls outside each classroom. Here are some of the third grader's tissue paper drawings. They were to recreate a landscape, cityscape or seascape. I think they turned out very well.
I spent the day making a Valentine's Day card for Eddie. Shhh...it's a surprise until tomorrow. But now that it's after midnight, it has become today!
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2004
I received seven Valentine's gifts today.
When I came downstairs this morning, there was a big red helium balloon tied to my scooter basket. It said "Happy Valentine's Day." Ed said the other one he'd bought--one that said "I love you"--was caught by yesterday's Arctic winds as he tried to put it into the car. But as it sailed into the stratosphere, he thought to himself, "How perfect! Patty will like that since she loves EVERYONE!" He must not have read Thursday's journal entry.
My second present was a cute card with a little hamster holding a valentine in its paws. It looked just like my hamster, Gemini, who died in 1966.
The third present was a purple--as Ed said, "The color's right!"--fabric bag with handles. Just perfect to keep in my scooter basket for carrying groceries and such.
And fourth was a lovely deep purple African Violet.
The fifth was having the Raging Grannies meet here at my house (minus our most challenging Granny).
And the sixth was a box of delicious cookies from Israel that Granny Dolores brought me.
There was one more gift: the gift of truth. River's Baghdad Burning blog entry today reminded me of the anniversary of a horrible day in our shared history--February 13, 1991 when US missiles massacred 400 women and children in the Amiriyah Shelter in Baghdad. We must not forget the horrors we have brought to others, just as we must not forget the love we have shared. The darkness and the light. We must own it all or risk becoming paper doll cut-outs incapable of having any depth of meaning or purpose.
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 2004
Dr. Seuss For President
The Whos down in Whoville
liked this country a lot,
But the Grinch in the White House most certainly did not.
He didn't arrive there by the will of the Whos,
But stole the election that he really did lose.
Vowed to "rule from the middle," then installed his regime.
(Did this really happen or is it just a bad dream?)
He didn't hear voters,
just his friends he was pleasin'
Now, don't ask me why, no one quite knows the reason.
It could be his heart wasn't working just right.
It could be, perhaps, that he wasn't too bright.
But I think that the most likely reason of all,
Is that both brain and heart were two sizes too small.
In times of great turmoil, this sure was bad news,
To have a government that ignores its Whos.
But the Whos shrugged
their shoulders, went on with their work,
Their duties as citizens so casually did shirk.
They shopped at the mall and watched their TV.
They drove their gas-guzzling big SUV.
Oblivious to what was happening in Washington, DC.
Ignoring the threats to democracy.
They read the same papers
that ran the same leads,
Reporting what only served corporate needs.
(For the policies affecting the lives of all nations
Were made by the giant US corporations.)
Big business grew fatter, fed by its own greed,
And by people who shopped for the things they didn't need.
But amidst all the apathy
came signs of unrest,
The Whos came to see we were fouling our nest.
And the people who cared for the ideals of this nation
Began to discuss and exchange information.
The things they couldn't read in the corporate-owned news
Of FTAA meetings and CIA coups.
Of drilling for oil and restricting rights.
They published some books, created web sites
Began to write letters and use their e-mail
(Though Homeland Security might send them to jail!)
What began as a whisper
soon grew to a roar,
These things going on they could no longer ignore.
They started to rise up and fight City Hall
Let their voices be heard, they rose to the call,
To vote, to petition, to gather, dissent,
To question the policies of the "President."
As greed gained in power
and power knew no shame,
The Whos came together, sang "Not in our name!"
One by one from their sleep and their slumber they woke
The old and the young, all kinds of folk,
The black, brown and white, the gay, bi- and straight,
All united to sing, "Feed our hope, not our hate!"
Stop making new weapons
and bringing more war!
Stop feeding the rich, start feeding the poor!
Stop killing Iraqis to fuel SUV's!
Stop telling us lies on the mainstream TV's!
Stop treating our children as a market to sack!
Stop feeding them Barney, Barbie, Big Mac!
Stop trying to addict them to lifelong consuming,
In a time when severe global warming is looming!
A mighty sound started
to rise and to grow,
The old way of thinking simply must go!
Enough of God versus Allah, Muslim vs. Jew
With what lies ahead, it simply won't do.
No American dream that cares only for wealth
Ignoring the need for community health.
The rivers and forests are demanding their pay,
If we're to survive, we must walk a new way.
No more excessive and mindless consumption
Let's sharpen our minds and garner our gumption.
For the ideas are simple, but the practice is hard,
And not to be won by a poem on a card.
It needs the ideas and the acts of each Who,
So let's get together and plan what to do!
So they started to gather
from all 'round the Earth
And from it all came a miraculous birth.
The hearts and the minds of the Whos they did grow,
Three sizes to fit what they felt and they know.
While the Grinches they shrank from their hate and their greed,
Bearing the weight of their every foul deed.
From that day onward the
standard of wealth,
Was whatever fed the Whos' spiritual health.
They gathered together to revel and feast,
For although our story pits Grinches 'gainst Whos,
The true battle lies in what we daily choose.
For inside of each Grinch is a tiny small Who,
And inside each Who is a tiny Grinch too.
One thrives on love and one thrives on greed.
Who will win out? It depends who you feed!
By Author Unknown
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 16, 2004
I feel like I'm living part of each day here in Michigan and part in Baghdad. Ever since I discovered Riverbend's blog, Baghdad Burning, I've been reading not just her current entries but her archives. She started keeping her blog last August, so there are now six archives; I've read three.
I can't say enough about this woman's insights, political awareness and powers of analysis, knowledge of the current situation and history of Iraq, the political and religious players in Iraq and America, their foibles and the groups that support or hate them, her religion and culture, her neighborhood and family. I could go on and on. One more thing--Riverbend is one of the finest writers I know. And I understand that lots and lots of people discovered her way before I did. One of my journal readers wrote yesterday to say that she's been reading Riverbend's blog for some time now. She also reads A Family In Baghdad, a blog kept by a mother and her three sons. I originally found both blogs through links from Where Is Raed?, a blog I followed daily during the height of the war last spring.
Do we realize what is happening here? Because of the internet, we are now able to BE with people in Iraq and other far-flung places that most of us will never see. We don't have to be dependent on the men who bring wars and suffering or on the mainstream media that supports their actions to tell us what they've decided we should know about Iraq and Iraqis.
No, we don't believe their lies, because we've heard the truth from Riverbend, Fayza, Raed, Khalid, Majid, Salam Pax and Raed. We know they are our friends not our enemies. What they suffer, we suffer. When they celebrate, we celebrate. Through their ears we hear explosions and gunfire in the night, the heavy tread of tanks during the day. We feel their fear and anger. We see date palm trees bulldozed and lying broken by the side of the road. We cry and laugh with them. Because all of it is happening NOW. This is no memoir we're reading, no book written after the fact. These are the facts, and they are happening right now.
Do we realize how revolutionary this is? No other time in history has such an opportunity existed. Never before could the citizens of countries at war with each another, speak and listen to one another as individuals, with no government getting in the way.
Now when I put it like that, I realize that George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Karl Rove and John Ashcroft would LOVE to put an end to such freedoms. I think we'd better keep a close eye on their behind-the-scenes manuvering, because--not to be paranoid--my guess is they are already doing everything they can to close down, or at least control, the internet. It is, after all, the most significant, effective tool for organizing, connecting, sharing, informing and communicating on a global scale. What a threat to Bush's White House!
Be watchful, friends. We don't want to lose this.
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 17, 2004
What a gift to have wise friends! I just got off the phone after talking to my brother Rabih Haddad and his daughter Sana in Lebanon (it is now 2:30 PM in Detroit, and 9:30 PM in Beirut). I am left with a smile on my face. Not only did we play catch-up in terms of our news, but with both Rabih and Sana the conversation dipped deep into issues that touch our hearts. Sana and I talked about friendship and the importance of finding people who want to talk about more than superficial stuff, about how sometimes it is best to go off by yourself and think. Rabih and I talked about prejudice, hatred and anger.
We agreed that for some people, having someone or something outside of themselves to hate is pleasurable. It keeps them from looking inside, from examining their own dark places within. If they can project all of that outside of themselves, then they don't have to deal with it. Prejudice and hatred can be addictive. And as with any addiction, those who are in the habit of using it are often unwilling to give it up.
Anger, at least the kind of anger that moves easily into rage, is insanity. So when someone is angry in that kind of way, they are unable to reason. Rabih's saying this reminded me of the man I'd encountered after a community-wide commemoration in Ann Arbor on the occasion of the first anniversary of September 11. I remember trying to dialogue with him and finally giving up by saying, "Jim, I don't think we can communicate tonight, so I think we'd better stop trying." To me, he seemed totally out of control. Rabih mentioned a teaching from the Prophet regarding anger. A man came up to the Prophet and asked, "What should I do to live a good life?" The answer was, "Don't get angry." The man kept asking the same question over and over, apparently looking for additional instructions. To every question, the Propet answered with the same words, "Don't get angry."
I then asked Rabih, "But what do you do when anger comes anyway?" I mentioned my anger at the decisions made by George Bush and his advisors, decisions that bring more and more suffering to the world. I brought up the anger that he, Rabih, feels about what happened to him over those nineteen months of unjust imprisonment here in the US. Rabih's answer was interesting. First of all, he said that there are different kinds of anger. There is the kind of anger that becomes rage, and there is anger that is an authentic response to what is going on around you. In answer to my question, he again quoted the Prophet. When you feel anger, "change your position." He means it literally. If you're sitting, stand and walk. If you're inside, go outside and breathe the fresh air. Even washing your face with cold water can help. Now, that was a new one on me. I don't think I've ever heard that kind of advice before, but it makes sense.
Again technology is giving me opportunities I would not have had otherwise. Without the telephone, my brother and I would not be able to hear one another's voices or have conversations like we had today. It makes me feel grateful to live in these times. Everything can be used for good or ill. Technology is a tool, not an end in itself. It is up to us humans to decide how we will use technological tools. Will we use them to wield control for our own greedy and/or power-hungry purposes? Or will we use them to build community and establish connections? I choose the latter, and I know my brother Rabih does the same.
After talking with Rabih and Sana, I went for a scoot. Yes, it was sunny, but it was also cold...VERY cold down by the lake! In fact, my digital camera froze up on me for the first time ever. Some of my pictures didn't come through at all. I'd noticed that the camera was acting funny--yes, it would beep when I took a photo, but then it wouldn't turn off when I pressed the power switch. I had to press it a couple of times before it would respond. So I can't show you the ice-covered lake at the far end of the park, but I can show you this view of the park as I entered, three hardy ice skaters in the harbor (photo #1 & #2), an ice-fishing shanty in a different part of the harbor, and the snowy beach with the ice-covered lake beyond it.
By the way, I continue to work every day on my book, Scooting Towards Justice. I just finished gathering the journal entries for a chapter called "Election 2000." What a wild time that was!
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 18, 2004
This morning as I passed from the Stars & Stripes to the Red Maple Leaf painted on the wall of the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, I thought to myself for perhaps the hundredth time that one of the best things about living in Detroit is being so close to Windsor, Ontario. Twenty minutes from my door on a good day. Is it my imagination or do I always breathe easier when I come up on the other side of the Detroit River? Especially since Bush and his crowd started their War On Terrorism--more like a War on Democracy--Canada seems so gentle-spirited in comparison. I know things are not perfect over there either, but, believe me, things are A LOT better than in the States. And today I was able to stand with my Canadian sisters and proclaim without words the kind of world we all want...a world without war.
My friends Joan Tinkess and Pat Noonan started this Women In Black group back in November 2002. Since then, for a half hour every Wednesday, from 8-15 women have stood in silence with their signs--photos #1 & #2--at the entrance to the Ambassador Bridge to the US. Not only are they seen by truckers and cars that pass by, but since they're right beside the University of Windsor, students walking by see them too. And let me tell you, their faithfulness during ths VERY cold and snowy winter is pretty awesome. They have not missed one Wednesday since November 2002; they were even out there on Christmas and New Years Day. What an effective presence of peace.
I think sometimes we tell ourselves that it doesn't matter if we get out there on the streets or not. Who's going to see us anyway? We say just "living peace" within ourselves is enough. Or maybe we do email activism, or even talk to friends and family about what is happening in the world. We might say there are so few of us it wouldn't pay to get out there.
Yet here are these women faithfully standing in silence week after week. They don't know if what they do makes a difference to anyone (except themselves). They don't know if their signs and their presence have changed even one mind. But they get out there anyway. Rain, snow, wind or sleet doesn't stop them, nor does freezing cold or blistering heat. Sometimes only a few of them can make it, but that doesn't stop them. One of their number comes directly from her job as a night nurse at a local hospital; she hasn't even gone to sleep yet.
Doesn't this make you want to try doing something more for peace than you're doing now? It does me.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 2004
"So who's your candidate?", asked 10 year-old Ali as he took his seat at the art table today.
"Kerry's my man", he continued.
Sometimes I really appreciate not being the teacher because it means I can answer questions like this.
"Anyone but Bush", I replied.
Anyone but Bush. I wonder how many voters in this country would say the same thing. I'd guess there are millions of us. Probably tens of millions. Look at how many people got out on the streets last winter to say "No war in my name!" Has it ever been like this before? Has there ever been a U.S. President who inspired such hatred? And I don't use that word lightly. If I had a dollar for every time I've heard someone say, "I just can't bear to hear his voice or see his face on TV", I'd be rich.
Why is that? I know the right-wing radio show hosts are always saying, "Oh, those liberals! They just hate Bush. It doesn't have anything to do with his policies; it's just a knee-jerk reaction with them."
Is it? And if so, why?
My inability to watch George W. Bush on TV or to hear his voice on radio goes back to when he was campaigning for the Republican nomination in 1999-2000. It WAS a gut thing. And I'm not ashamed of that. I believe we as members of the human species have intuitive, protective instincts for survival. I've seen this in myself on a number of occasions. I recall one day over 15 years ago when I was walking by myself down a rather deserted street in Detroit. Suddenly I felt unsafe. I didn't see or hear anything different, but something had changed. I remember walking up to someone's front door as if I were going in. I waited in their vestibule until the feeling passed, which it did. It was that same feeling of dread and threat that I felt every time I saw or heard Mr. Bush. From the beginning, I'd turn off the TV or radio whenever he appeared. Eventually I just stopped watching any TV or radio news at all. Believe me, my reaction to this man was and is deep.
I think part of it is his emptiness. I'm not saying this to be cruel, but I experience George W. Bush as an individual who is missing certain qualities and inner resources that we expect to find in adult human beings. He seems to have no curiosity, especially of an intellectual nature. He does not reflect on past decisions, meaning he cannot see the consequences of his actions, even after the fact. In terms of making decisions, there appears to be no capacity to weigh the pros and cons. What may look like a decision is simply the manifestation of feelings he's been harboring for some time. And these decisions often come out of childish hurt and/or visions of grandeur. The only benefit to Mr. Bush in getting information from intelligence sources and/or advisers is if it fits what he's already decided to do.
Then there are certain key phrases that can be used to get him to do what you want. In The Price of Loyalty, former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill reports a discussion with the president and his advisers about giving a big new tax cut to the wealthy. According to O'Neill, the president questioned the need for such a tax cut, saying,"Haven't we already given money to rich people? This second tax cut's gonna do it again." But when Karl Rove kept repeating in his ear, "Stick to principle. Stick to principle. Don't waver." , Bush went along with it. Apparently Mr. Bush is willing to go along with anything if he thinks it makes him look strong and determined. Doubting or reflecting on the wisdom of decisions is unacceptable.
In recent weeks we have seen the president "stick to his guns" about the importance of having attacked Iraq and overthrown Saddam Hussein. I genuinely believe that Mr. Bush cannot understand why anyone cares whether Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction or not. The man was "evil" and had to be "taken out." The escalating violent resistance to the U.S. occupation, the utter chaos throughout the country, the daily deaths and woundings of American troops--not to mention the 100,000 women, men and children of Iraq who have died thus far--doesn't seem to worry the president, except insofar as it impacts his chances for re-election. When pushed, Mr. Bush spends most of his time justifying his war and occupation by maintaining, "Iraq's better off since we 'liberated' it."
George W. Bush is not dangerous because he is evil; he is dangerous because he is sincere. If he were lying, the people would pick up on it. But how can you be called a liar if you have never acknowleged the truth, especially to yourself? Everything Mr. Bush says, he believes. THAT is more dangerous than lying. Because with a liar, you can pick up on their deceit through body mannerisms like an unwillingness to look you in the eyes, cold clammy skin, a change in their tone of voice. That is how a polygraph test works: it records such physical dissonances. But someone who doesn't even know they are lying will pass a polygraph test with flying colors. So when people say they believe George W. Bush, their perceptions are correct. This is one of the most sincere men you'll ever meet.
I think most of us know--at least those of us who have studied and brought critical analysis to bear on the issues--that President Bush is less the problem than the advisers his father has gathered around him. People like Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, John Ashcroft, and the nameless ones who stay behind the scenes. For when you have an individual who is missing essential pieces of his or her make-up, it is too easy for more strong-willed persons to fill in the gaps with their own ideas and agendas. And that is what has happened since George W. Bush took office as President of the United States on January 20, 2001.
And that is the nightmare we must end with a vote for anyone but Bush on November 2, 2004.
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 20, 2004
My women's book group was here tonight for our special "Hope's Edge" pot luck dinner and book discussion. As Ed says, never has he heard a group of people who so enjoy being together. And it's true. I look forward to telling you all about it and showing you the pictures Penny took, but now I must go to bed. Preparing to have dinner guests--even dear friends like these women--took more energy than I'd expected. I guess I'm out of practice. Seems to me the last time we'd used Ed's mother's good china, our sterling silver utensils and wine glasses was at least fifteen years ago. But, with Ed's help, I found everything, washed and polished it all, and had things laid out on the table when my friends arrived. Only problem was, I got so protective about which plates they were supposed to use for each course that my friends teased me about it all night. Let's hope next time I can be a little more laid back!
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 21, 2004
This afternoon I took Rabih's advice and "changed my position." His advice was in relation to anger, but I'm sure it would apply just as well to feeling out-of-sorts. Nothing like a nice scoot on a chilly day to clear your head. I returned home and created this photo collage of last night's book group pot luck and discussion. Penny had given me the idea by saying she was taking portraits of each of us in hopes that she could turn them into a collage. Hope she doesn't mind my copying her idea.
I awoke in a funk after stewing and fretting much of the night over stupid things I'd said and done last night. Does that ever happen to you? I tried to figure out what was going on with me, but the best I could do was to see it in the context of this long, hard winter plus recent adjustments I've been undergoing bodywise. It always takes extra energy when I enter a new level of disability, and that's where I am right now. Although I try to walk during the day using my upstairs walker, I now use La Lucha my scooter during my numerous night-time trips to the bathroom. That is new. Until I broke my ankle last July, I'd always walked with my walker, upstairs and downstairs. Lately I've been using my Ona scooter whenever I'm downstairs. I can still walk short distances, but it takes a lot of concentration.
On the wheelchair users' online bulletin board, we've been having an interesting discussion recently. The original question was, "Is it harder to wake up paralyzed after an accident, or to lose your mobility gradually with a progressive condition?" Many folks seem to think a progressive condition is harder because, instead of adapting to a fairly stable condition--even one that is terribly traumatic--you're having to deal with loss after loss after loss. It can certainly wear you down.
Of course, maybe my bad behvior last night was simply that--bad behavior. I guess there are times when we've got to allow ourselves to be a bit of a b***h. Let's just hope I don't make a habit of it.
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 22, 2004
I sent the following email to Ralph Nader after reading of his announcement on "Meet The Press" that he would be running for President of the United States again this year:
There are times to stand for our ideals, and then there are times to stand for our survival. 2000 was a time for ideals; 2004 is a time for survival. We now know what it means to our nation, the world and the planet to have George W. Bush as President of the United States. We can no longer say, as so many of us did in 2000, that there is no difference between the Republicans and the Democrats. We know that GWB does not really care what members of his own party think, much less what the rest of us think. When a man can say that tens of millions of people taking to the streets to protest his war are simply a "focus group", we know he cares not a whit what anyone thinks of him or his actions. When the same man destroys friendships with countries that have been America's allies for generations, we know he cares little for the nation he pledged to lead.
George W. Bush must not be allowed another four years as President of the United States. I speak not as a Democrat, Republican, Independent, Green, Libertarian or member of any political party; I speak as a human being who is deathly afraid for our nation, world and planet, a reasoning being who cannot imagine the damage that will be done if this man is re-elected (or elected for the first time, as is the truth of it) for another four years.
I understand that countless persons, groups and organizations have literally begged you not to run for President this year. Not that they don't think you would make a fine President, or that they disagree with your commitment to bringing a third party into American politics, but that they, like I, are fearful that if we lose even a small percentage of votes that would go to a candidate who could actually beat Bush, the worst might happen and we would have another disastrous four years of Bush & Co. in the White House. We cannot take that chance.
The fact that you have decided to run anyway makes me think either 1) you are living in some fantasy world and have not seen what has happened since Bush took office; 2) your ego is getting in the way of your making a reasoned decision; or 3) you don't really care about our planet, its species, water, air, U.S. civil liberties, women's rights, the working poor, the people of Iraq, our own troops, Muslim/Arab/South Asian immigrants, an economy that is in shambles, a federal deficit that is the largest in our country's history. The list is endless.
I add my voice to those who are BEGGING you to change your mind and not run for president this year. If you go ahead with this irresponsible decision, you will have forever lost my respect. I will hold you personally responsible if George W. Bush gets another four years in office. As I said at the beginning of this message, 2004 is a time to think of survival. Please do your part to help our planet survive. DON'T RUN!
If you would like to let Mr. Nader know what YOU think of his decision to run, you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
But today was about more than politics; it was about spring. Now, my California friends might not agree with my using that word when they see my photos, but around here spring can mean many things. Just having sidewalks clear of snow and ice for the first weekend since early January is cause to celebrate. And sun that warms can bring a smile to anyone's face. For me, spring meant being able to scoot along the lake for the first time in six weeks. Seeing swans only added to the magic (photos #1 & #2).
But my first stop was the park where ice fisherfolk were enjoying their sport (photos #1, #2 & #3). When I asked one of these men what he was catching, he answered, "Fish!"
"Yes", I said, "but what kind of fish?"
"Perch and Blue Gill."
"Has it been a good day?"
"Yep. I've caught 15 or 20 good-sized ones today." He pointed to a mess of fish piled on the ice.
"Will you eat them?"
He nodded his head. "Sure."
"Not worried about the mercury?"
He smiled and grunted, "Naw."
I also scooted out to the far end of the park, expecting to see the lake full of ice as it was on Tuesday. But a few days of warmer temperatures and one lovely day of rain had changed things. The water was free and clear, looking north and looking south. There was still ice close to the shore, but the beach was now showing sand instead of snow.
So I did as I love to do and scooted along the lake for a couple of miles, picked up cheese & crackers and Odwalla juices at the market, and visited Eddie at his office. Then I scooted home along the "singing street", delighting in the sun still shining at 5 o'clock. When I turned onto our street I was amazed to see our block without one parked car on it! Only Ed can appreciate how unusual this is. The neighbors who built that huge addition/garage that blocks our view out the eastern-facing windows of our house ALWAYS have at least three cars/SUVs parked on the street in front of their house. Could it be they have finally (after two and a half years) finished off that new garage enough to use it??!! How sweet that would be.
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2004
The signs were all there, I just didn't catch on until this morning. The fact that I let myself get into a stew-fit about stupid things--maybe not so stupid, after all--I said at Friday's book group pot luck dinner was a sign that I needed a change. I guess this is why schools have mid-winter breaks. After two months of hard winter, everyone needs a change. Part of my "mid-winter break" was already planned; I just extended it a couple of days. Thanks, Ed, for the great suggestion.
When I was in Ann Arbor a few weeks back, my jazz friends Miki, Akira and I had dinner together at our favorite East Indian restaurant. At that time, Miki mentioned that she and Akira would be driving to Chicago the last weekend in February to hear the Lynne Arriale Trio perform at the Jazz Showcase. We three had heard this group perform at Ann Arbor's Bird of Paradise jazz club last April. We'd loved her trio so much that, after attending performances elsewhere both Friday and Saturday nights, we went to the Bird afterwards to hear them. I'd talked to Lynne both nights and had bought two of her CDs, "Inspiration" and "Live At Montreux."
Those two CDs have been in the six-CD player in my car since then. I'd guess I've listened to them at least a hundred times. I never tire of them. It isn't just that Lynne Arriale is a superb jazz pianist, but the musicians she has with her--Steve Davis on drums and Jay Anderson on bass--are equally good. And the blend this trio manages to attain is exceptional.
Anyway, Miki and Akira kindly invited me to join them on their Chicago adventure. Or did I invite myself? Whichever it was, we've been emailing back and forth to firm up our plans. We're staying at Hotel 71 on the "Miracle Mile" in downtown Chicago Friday and Saturday nights, February 27 and 28. We plan to go to the early and late shows at the Jazz Showcase--which is within scootable distance of the hotel--both nights. Yesterday Miki and I talked by phone to make the final arrangements. We'll meet in front of the Michigan League at 1 PM Friday, park Miki's car in the University of Michigan employee parking lot (she and Akira are bio-chemists at U of M), and they will drive my car, with me all cozy in the back seat, to Chicago. Since we pick up an hour (Chicago is on Central Time), we should be there between 4-5 PM CST. All going well, we'll have time to check in, go out for dinner--Miki says there's an East Indian restaurant nearby--and get to the jazz club by 8 PM.
About a week ago, I emailed the Jazz Showcase to find out if it's handicap-accessible and to see if we could possibly have reserved seats. I explained that I use a disability scooter and that we'd be driving in from Ann Arbor specifically to see the Lynne Arriale Trio. Even though their web site makes it clear that they do not accept reservations, I got a reply saying that if we got there an hour before the early show--it starts at 9 PM--they would let us in and give us a table close to the stage, which is also close to the accessible bathroom. Sometimes it pays to be disabled! I also emailed Lynne Arriale to let her know we were coming from Ann Arbor to see her perform. She sent me a lovely response, saying she remembered me well. Another advantage of being in a scooter is that you're easy to identify.
This morning, at Ed's suggestion, I reserved a room at the Michigan League for Thursday and Sunday nights. Instead of adding an hour of driving to Friday and Sunday's travels, I'm going to take my own four-day mid-winter break. When I checked online to see what was going on in Ann Arbor on Thursday and Sunday nights, I found two excellent concerts: Habib Koite, who is described as an "Award-winning guitarist, a superstar in his native Mali, whose music infuses the exuberant 'danssa' folk rhythm with flavors of everything from flamenco to blues to Cuban son," is playing at The Ark on Thursday, and Sandip Burman--"A native of Durgapur, India...a renowned master of the tabla, a north Indian percussion instrument, whose repertoire includes a variety of traditional Indian music" is performing at The Ark on Sunday night. That show will be especially enjoyable because Judy Piazza, a local frame drum/percussionist whom I've known for years, will be the opening act. And I've just made a dinner date with Phillis, my friend from the Ann Arbor Area Peace Community, for Thursday before the show.
Am I FINALLY learning to take care of my needs? It feels like it. Now Ed worries that I've scheduled myself too heavily for those four days, but it feels fine to me. The fact that I'll be getting around by scooter both in Chicago and Ann Arbor means I won't be using any extra energy getting from here to there. That makes all the difference.
Tonight I also took care of my needs. Instead of going to a talk that I would have loved to have heard--the speaker recently returned from a factfinding tour of Iraq--I went swimming. We'd missed last week because it was our school system's mid-winter break, and I knew my body/spirit needed to swim more than my mind needed to take in any more information. It was a hard decision, but, as I happily swam my usual half mile of the freestyle, I knew I'd been right.
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 24, 2004
You watch a film like "Rabbit-Proof Fence" and think what a horrible time that was. How could the Australian government possibly have believed that taking what they called "half-caste" Aboriginal children away from their families and putting them in a guarded "school" was the right thing to do? And yet you see that they did believe they were doing what was best for the children. It was so wrong, so horrible, so cruel, so criminal. In Australia these children are now called the "Stolen Generations." And they were. Stolen from their families and communities, their identity was stolen from them. From the 1930s into the 1970s, Aboriginal children were not safe in their own homes. Once stolen from their families and forced into schools that were more like prisons, the children were trained to be maids and servants to the white people. How could the Aboriginal people ever forgive this violation?
So I watch this extraordinary film on DVD tonight and am reminded, not so much of then, as of now. I am reminded of another Fence, of another people who are having everything stolen from them, of a cruelty that is justified by the government as "necessary." I think of Palestine. And I remember an article that GranMotoko, one of our Raging Grannies, forwarded me today, an article written by a Holocaust survivor and educator named Hedy Epstein. But I'll let her tell her own story.
The Saint Louis Post-Dispatch
February 17, 2004
THE MIDDLE EAST: KNOW RESPECT, KNOW PEACE - NO RESPECT, NO PEACE
By HEDY EPSTEIN
Violence, humiliation only aggravate the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
In 1939, I left the village
of Kippenheim, Germany, on a Kindertransport - a small group of
children allowed to go to England - thus surviving the Holocaust.
In December, I went to Israel to honor the memory of my parents,
Ella and Hugo Wachenheimer, who did not survive the war against
the Jews. At a monument near Jerusalem, I lit candles for my parents
and for the other 80,000 Jews deported from France to the death
It is impossible to visit Israel these days without being aware of the constant threat posed by terrorists. Suicide bombs kill and maim innocent persons riding in buses or taking a meal in a restaurant. We Jews who survived the Shoah know all too well that the intentional targeting of civilians is illegal and immoral. So I grieve the loss of life in Jerusalem from the suicide bombs.
But I also grieve the
loss of life in Palestine, which occurs almost on a daily basis.
So I went to Palestine as a member of the International Solidarity
Movement to observe the difficult conditions of daily life under
military occupation. It would have been enough to reach out and
touch just one Palestinian and place my hand on her shoulder and
tell her that I was with her in her pain. But I saw and did much
In Bethlehem, I saw a Caterpillar bulldozer ripping up centuries-old olive trees to clear a path for rolled razor wire and antitank trenches dividing the town where Jesus was born.
In Qalqilia, I was dwarfed by Israel's separation wall rising more than 25 feet. In President George W. Bush's phrase, it "snakes in and out of the West Bank." It keeps farmers from their fields and hems in 50,000 residents on all sides.
In Masha, I joined a demonstration against this wall. I saw a red sign warning ominously of "MORTAL DANGER" to any who dare cross this fence. Then I saw Israeli soldiers aiming at unarmed Israeli and international protesters. I saw blood pouring out of Gil Na'amati, a young Israeli whose first public act after completing his military service was to protest against this wall. I saw shrapnel lodged in the leg of Anne Farina, one of my traveling companions from St. Louis. And I thought of Kent State and Jackson State, where National Guardsmen opened fire in 1970 on protesters against the Vietnam War.
Near Der Beilut, I saw the Israeli police turn a water cannon on our nonviolent protest. And I remembered Birmingham, Ala., in 1963 and wondered why a democratic society responds to peaceable assembly by trying literally to drown out the voice of our protest.
At the end of the journey I had a shocking experience. I knew that what I had said and done was viewed by some as controversial but surely not as threatening. So I did not imagine that the Israeli security force that guards Ben-Gurion Airport would abuse a 79-year-old Holocaust survivor, holding me for five hours and performing a completely unnecessary strip search of every part of my naked body.
The only shame these security officials expressed was to turn their badges around so that their names were invisible. The only conceivable purpose for this gross violation of my bodily integrity was to humiliate and terrify me.
Of course, I felt humiliated by this outrage, but I refuse to be terrified by cowards who hide their identity while engaging in such unnecessary disrespect. It is a cruel illusion that brute force of this sort provides security to Israel. Degrading me cannot silence my small voice.
Similarly, humiliating Palestinians cannot extinguish their hopes for a homeland. Only ending this utterly unnecessary occupation will bring peace to the region.
Hedy Epstein of St. Louis is a Holocaust survivor, Holocaust educator and longtime civil rights and peace activist. Her story is featured in the Academy Award winning documentary, "Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport."
© 2004 Patricia Lay-Dorsey. Please use with attribution.