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THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 25, 2004
I have decided to fast instead of feast today. It's the least I can do for the people of Iraq. Not that Ed and I had big plans for Thanksgiving but it's the thought that counts.
"How to find hope when hope is hard to find."
That phrase from a song of Carolyn McDade's has been with me all morning. It resonates with a comment posted recently on my blog by a reader who calls her/himself Anonymous. S/He wrote:
Thank you for your blog. Every day I get more down with the world, and I'm constantly amazed by your ability to stay up and active. My activism continues but my mood diminishes.
Yes, these are hard times for persons of conscience, persons willing to look beyond the patriotic rhetoric and deceptive spins to see the truth of what is being done in our name around the world. The untold pain and suffering we are bringing to members of our human family. The intentional and unthinking destruction we bring to species of plants and animals, the air, the land, the water. Our unchecked assumption that protecting American lives and our lifestyle gives us the right to kill others and take way more than our fair share of the planet's natural resources.
And now we look toward four more years with a leader who epitomizes all these earth- and life-threatening assumptions. And who, we know from past experience, acts upon them with little regard for the will of the people.
How to find hope when hope is hard to find?
For me, the answer comes in the very act of resisting: the decision to get out on the streets with my sisters and brothers on rainy nights and frigid days, the community of thinking/feeling/dedicated persons I find at my side, young and old, black/white/Asian/Arab, rich and poor, housed and homeless. When we are out there together as one, saying loud "NOs" to the wars and destruction being done in our names, then I know hope.
Hope is not success; it is going ahead as if success is possible even when you know your efforts are unlikely to make any difference. Hope can seem foolish, but it is what keeps people going when the reality is too harsh to contemplate. Hope cries "I have a dream" when living a present-day nightmare. Hope believes in the impossible. Hope knows change is all there is.
So on this day when my American sisters and brothers are freezing their tails (in the northern states) at Thanksgiving Day parades, feasting on turkey and watching football games on TV, I sit here at my computer looking out over the snow-brushed roof of my neighbor's house, over trees suddenly bare, into a cardinal's eyes bright against the blue sky, and I feel full of hope.
May hope and its companion, action, sit at the table with you and your family and friends as you celebrate this day of Thanksgiving.
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 26, 2004
"How are Canadians and Americans different?"
Tsering Sergong of CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Company) in Toronto asked me this question during a phone conversation this morning. We were talking about my participation in a CBC Town Hall with Peter Mansbridge of "The National" to be held in Windsor this coming Monday, November 29. The topic of the show is Canadian-American Relations.
Although Tsering stressed that the discussion would be more ideological than political, I can't help but think the timing has something to do with George W. Bush being re-elected and last week's enactment of a new policy that "alien Canadians"--those persons who have retained their Canadian citizenship even though they make their homes in the United States--will be photographed and fingerprinted every time they cross the Windsor/Detroit border and want to return to the States. She did mention that there's been talk of Americans wanting to emigrate to Canada since the election. My guess is that politics will certainly come into Monday's discussion. How could it not?
I just got off the phone after a nice long talk with Rabih in Lebanon. It had been way too long since we'd talked.
Rabih's busy with his consulting business and has a couple of new ideas for other work-related projects he wants to explore. Sulaima is healthy and busy after having given birth to Ibrahim, their fourth son (and fifth child) last June. Sani, Sami and Rami are still adjusting to the changes between their lives in Ann Arbor and Beirut, but things are picking up, especially for the boys. Ousama, who is five, seems to feel at home wherever he is. But the bright star in their midst is this precious baby, Ibrahim, whom Rabih says everyone in the family lines up to play with. He has just started pushing himself up on his hands and giggling out loud. And whenever any of them speaks to him, little Ibrahim will look right at them and respond. Rabih says his mother positively melts around the baby!
Of course we talked about the election, but we didn't belabor it. Rabih knows better than anyone what it means to have the Bush administration in office for another four years. Read My Brother Rabih Haddad if you don't already know his story. As always, I came away feeling full of hope after talking to this gentle-spirited humanitarian. Our world is blessed by his presence.
After having lived in this border city for 39 years, I do have my own perspective on Canadian-American relations, a perspective born of experience. Except for my friend Lenore, I don't know any other Americans who have spent as much time or have felt as comfortable going back and forth to Windsor as I. I know the layout of that city as well as I know Detroit. And my activities there have bridged many different worlds: dancers and artists, refugees from around the world anxious to gain asylum in Canada, peace and anti-corporate globalization activists, politically-aware university students, women who sing and work together for Gaia (the earth), and individuals who have become lifelong friends. In my opinion, Detroit's proximity to Windsor is among its greatest assets.
So do I feel Canadians and Americans are different? And if so, in what ways?
Generalizations are always dangerous, but I'm going to make them anyway. Yes, I DO believe there are differences between the peoples of these two neighboring countries. I have found Canadians to be more gentle-spirited, community-oriented, comfortable with diversity and less aggressive than Americans. These qualities manifest themselves not only in individuals but in government policies. Unfortunately, in recent years we've been seeing more and more Americanization of Canadian government, due in large part to trade and economic concerns relating to their powerful neighbor. It's hard living next door to the biggest bully on the block.
When I shared some of my thoughts with Tsering, she asked, "Where do you think these differences come from?"
For years I've tried to answer this question for myself. I mean, why is it that every time I pass from the United States into Canada, whether by bridge or by tunnel, I feel I can breathe easier? I don't think it's merely that no handguns are allowed in Canada. It's deeper than that. After much reflection, I find myself going back to the origins of the two countries.
We here in America felt we had to rupture our relationship with England, the home of our first non-indigenous settlers, in a violent war. The Canadians, on the other hand, managed to find their own identity while keeping close ties with their mother country. With a history like the Americans, it makes sense for our people to put great value on rugged individualism and standing up for yourself, violently if necessary. Whereas, in their long history Canadians have learned how to mediate differences and still retain a sense of self.
I'd LOVE to know what you, my readers, think.
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 27, 2004
Good friends are such a gift. Our friend Pat Kolon just left for home after having been with us since yesterday afternoon. If you recall, she lives and works at a Catholic Worker transitional home for women and children in Detroit, so being at our house for a day or two is something she enjoys. And so do we! Pat is the easiest house guest imaginable. She knows our house as well as her own, so is able to take care of her own needs. To be honest, she takes care of ours too.
Pat is an exceptional cook, so for two days Eddie and I have feasted on the most delicious vegetarian food. Yesterday afternoon she cut my toenails for me, a task I've needed help with for the past couple of years. Then this afternoon she cleaned and organized our food cabinets! While looking to see if we had rice and curry powder, she found LOTS of things we didn't need anymore, like catbox deodorizer. Tyllie, our cat, has been dead for at least eight years. Since I haven't cooked in years, I didn't have a clue what was in there. How great to have a friend who thinks it's fun to organize the disorganized!
And now I'm going to bed. A rip-snortin' cold appeared today and I'm dripping like a faucet. I'll be taking my box of tissues to bed with me.
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 28, 2004
In response to my asking for readers' perspectives on the differences between Canadians and Americans, I received the following message:
I've read some of your journal over time. Admire your energy and dedication.
Gotta say I'm thinking that, from what I've read of your journal, you're kinda predictable in finding fault with the U.S at every turn. (Goddess only knows that there are indeed severe and terrible issues and messes under this administration in these times we are in...miserable). But your knee-jerk generalizations about American fault in just about everything big (war..all U.S. responsibility...have you ever talked about human loss in this country (from 9/11 on...civilians, soldiers, their families and friends..except for your concern about the safety of your own niece in N.Y. that gruesome day.) or small...including such generalizations as Canadians are just gentler and nicer and more level-headed etc.than Americans, What do you love about the U.S. Anything at all? Ah well...had to just say it.
I do truly think you are quite a terrific woman.. I mean it..Well, you asked for thoughts!
I'm afraid I have to plead guilty to AL's observation that I fall into the trap of offering "knee-jerk generalizations about American fault in just about everything big...or small..." I DO have a tendency to see things in black or white rather than shades of gray. And I am much more likely to identify with non-Americans than Americans, especially when it comes to war and suffering. Actually, I am always on the side of weak rather than the strong, even when the strong suffers as America did on September 11th.
I wonder why that is?
When I look back on my life, I see a pattern of siding with the "underdog" or marginalized in almost every situation. As a youngster in school I can remember being terribly disturbed when my friends would make fun of someone who was not considered "cool." Then in young adulthood it was not the successful that I wanted to work with but rather those who struggled to survive. That was what brought me into a study of social work. And over the decades since then, my attention and concern has consistently been with those individuals and groups of people who were being marginalized by society: refugees from around the world; the African American community here in Detroit, especially the children; gays/lesbians/bisexuals/transgender folks who were my closest friends during my six winters in San Francisco; and, since 9/11, the Arab Muslim community in Dearborn and Ann Arbor.
Yes, when I think about this current war on and occupation of Iraq, I think more of the innocent civilians who have lost their lives--an estimated 100,000 according to the UN--than of our American troops--1210 dead as of November 16. Now, part of that is that military men and women are doing their "job"--as onerous a job as that might be--whereas civilians are simply trying to survive the war and chaos around them. Certainly some of these civilians have weapons and are fighting back, but they do not have the power or support of a huge military machine behind them like our U.S. soldiers do.
I must say here that I am a total and complete pacifist. I believe there is NO proper place or time or reason to go to war. That may sound unrealistic in light of today's threats and dangers, but it is core to who I am. I believe we humans are resilient and imaginative enough to find other ways than violent ones to resolve our conflicts, whether they be personal, local, national or international. Non-violent resisters like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, and Vandana Shiva are my models. These individuals have led non-violent movements against injustice--injustice often enforced by violent means--and in doing so, did not become like their oppressors. Too often we fight oppression using the oppressors' tools and in so doing, become like them in the end.
Maybe part of my need to give the non-American side of things is that I feel the American side is being seen and heard almost exclusively on TV, radio and in the print news. As far as I can tell, our current media offers its own knee-jerk generalizations about American "right and might," much of which is quoted directly from statements made by members of the Bush administration. When you have government leaders who refuse to reflect on any of their past actions, you have the makings of a totalitarian state.
There I go again.
AL asks if there is anything I love about the U.S. Yes there is. I love our "can do" spirit, our openness and directness, our welcoming ways, our tender hearts, our generosity, our idealism, our inventiveness, and our courage. As I write this, I am aware that in the climate of fear and arrogance encouraged and modeled by our current president and his staff, Americans have lost some of their most refreshing qualities. Be that as it may, Bush will not be in office forever and I believe the people of this country will re-find themselves and their innate goodness once their fears subside.
I thank AL for her/his honest and helpful observations. I don't know how much I'll be able to change how I present things, but at least now I'll be more aware of the one-sidedness of my views. I've just edited the description posted on my blog to better reflect what readers will find there. It now says:
"A woman artist/activist/writer's creative--often to the left of mainstream--responses to world events, disability and life."
If you have a bias, admit it.
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 29, 2004
I'm afraid I won't be in Windsor at this evening's taping of "The National." My cold has won over my desire to share my views on Canadian-American Relations. But if you live in Canada or a border state in the US (or want to check it out online), you can tune into CBC-TV at 10 PM tonight and listen to what folks in Windsor and Detroit have to say about this most timely subject. Timely because George W. Bush will be in Ottawa and Halifax on Tuesday and Wednesday trying to mend fences. By the way, they are expecting LOTS of opposition to his visit by protesters out on the streets. Canadians are not real fond of George and they are ready to let him know it. Of course, if Bush is kept encased in his usual protective bubble, it's unlikely he'll know anyone is out on the streets, much less protesting. Makes me think of the "Hear no evil, Speak no evil, See no evil" monkeys. If I don't see, hear or speak of something, it does not exist. What a sad--and dangerous--way for a person of power to live in today's world.
I just watched two of my friends--Pat Noonan from Windsor and Peggy Case from Michigan--speak on a special segment of CBC-TV's "The National" nightly news program. They were superb! Pat talked about her friends from the States who share her values, are also upset at Bush's win, but are committed to follow what she called "their American Dream" and continue to work for justice within their nation. Peggy spoke with clear-minded passion about the difference between American and Canadian values being that Canadians are not empire-builders like their American counterparts. She also told of her disappointment in Bush winning the election, but said that, even though she gets tired after all these years of working for justice, she will stay and keep fighting for what she believes in.
The program was not as we had imagined it would be. Instead of providing an opportunity for dialogue between Windsor and Detroit-based Canadians and Americans, there were time-consuming taped and live segments telling the stories of people from other parts of both the US and Canada. The main thrust seemed to be the decision of some Americans to emigrate to Canada as a result of George W. Bush having won another term as president. The speakers in the Windsor audience were apparently chosen ahead of time and told when they would speak. Then they were supposed to respond to the stories that had just been aired.
Many of our friends were in the audience but were not on the list of speakers. Peggy said they had a chair with my name on it, so I guess I would have been a member of the audience but that doesn't mean I would have been asked to speak. Unfortunately, a number of right-wing Michigan folks were allowed to speak. I was embarrassed for my country, especially when the first American speaker ended his unpleasant response to a man in Seattle who was in the process of moving his family to Nelson, BC, by saying, "Good riddance!" Just what Canadians, who already wonder how their neighbours to the south could re-elect Bush, need to hear.
But, as I say, Pat and Peggy did us proud.
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 30, 2004
After having been a one-box-of-tissue-a-day person for two days and three nights, today I did not need to use ONE TISSUE all day! I am well! Weak as a kitten, but otherwise well. I don't even have a cough. Can't quite figure that out. Usually my colds follow a predictable pattern. They start with a sore throat, go into a stuffy head, then to a dripping nose, and finally a cough that hangs on for awhile. Probably my staying quiet and getting LOTS of sleep every night helped. Whatever worked, I'm happy to be feeling myself again.
This evening I realized that today is the tenth anniversary of my dear "heart friend and train buddy" Joel Payne's death in 1994. Joels was 35 when he died of complications from AIDS. He had one of the most beautiful smiles and singing voices I've ever seen or heard. A truly gentle man. In the spring of 1996, I invited his family and friends to help me make him a panel for the AIDS Quilt. I will never forget how it felt to see Joels' panel laid out alongside thousands of others on the green grass of the Mall that sunny autumn day in 1996. Joel--who had brought his friend Robert Womack's panel to the Mall in 1993--was so present. And finally at peace. If I ever get access to a scanner, I'll show you pictures of both Joels and his quilt panel. Until then, perhaps you can feel his spirit and life in the painting I did today that I'm calling, "Spirals For Joel."
I also painted one that I call "November's End." I had a lot of fun adding background color to this painting by using my Photo-Shop software. Why not play around with both acrylic inks and computer graphics? I suspect this is just the beginning...
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 1, 2004
There's something special about being with old friends, especially friends you haven't seen in a long while. Just being in their presence takes you back to the places and times you shared. But the strange part of it is that none of you are the same persons you were then. And the memories that surface can be as disconcerting as they are pleasant. That was what I experienced today during my lunch date with Ethel Phillips, Mary Lewis and Inez Jenkins, three women who were like family to me back in the 1980s.
I first met them (and Charlie, Ethel's dear husband, who died in 2002) at an inner city Detroit church that I started attending in March 1985. From the start, the people in that church welcomed me like a sister, daughter and granddaughter. It was--and still is--a mostly Black community, but the priest and nuns who worked and lived there were white. My memories of the people are 100% wonderful. Of course there was sadness, as when my dear sister Ramona died, or when Vickie, a woman I'd gotten close to at a group home nearby, got angry and cut me out of her life, but that was part of being family. My unpleasant memories have to do with the priest. I don't need to go into details except to say that when you have a dysfunctional system, it attracts and encourages dysfunctional behavior in its members. And that priest was--and I gather still is--a perfect example of a screwed up system.
So being with Ethel, Mary and Inez brought it all back, not just the good parts. But being 62 instead of 43 makes a lot of difference. I could accept the mixed memories--good and bad--and still thoroughly enjoy our time together. And being with Inez again was worth everything.
Inez and I became especially close during my years at that church. We would go together to group homes in the area giving weekly prayer services, often including Roz's young daughters, Mickie and Kutrece. If I were to name one person whom I'd consider Christian in the best sense of the word, it would be Inez. She is among the most honest human beings I've ever met, someone who does not suffer fools for a minute. She makes no big to do about doing "service"; she just does it. Often with no one being the wiser. If I ever want to know what's really going on, Inez is the one I ask. She sees through artifice like a hot knife cuts through butter. But she also manages to live with the paradoxes she finds in human nature without losing any sleep over it. It's like Inez has seen it all and nothing is going to keep her down for long. I love and admire her tremendously.
So why don't we get together more often? Before I had Sojourner my handicap-accessible van, there was the scooter-assembly issue, but now I have no excuse. I hope I don't get so busy with my day-to-day activities that I miss making opportunities for us to spend more time together. By the way, it makes no never-mind to Inez that I left church and religion twelve years ago. As I say, all Inez expects of people is to be authentic.
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 2, 2004
"Hope is the thing
with feathers that perches in the soul."
When I turned the page to December on my Syracuse Cultural Peace wall calendar today, this was the quote that met my eye. How it spoke to me! At that time I was in the middle of a painting and was letting the first layer dry before adding the next. Spirals were still my symbol-of-choice, but when I'd finished the second layer on which I'd drawn black spirals similar to those on Monday's "Spirals for Joel" painting, I saw that something wasn't working. So I decided to let that layer dry and then paint white line spirals over a few of the black ones. But when I picked up my brush, the Emily Dickinson quote came to mind and I chose to add a white feather instead. After the feather was painted--at least the first layer--I saw a fat white drop had fallen in the middle of my painting. Instead of trying to cover it, I added white splatters to the entire image. It seemed to loosen things up and give it an energy it hadn't had before. Even then I knew I wanted to add Emily Dickinson's quote to the digital photo of the painting. That's where Adobe Photoshop came in. I named the finished product "Hope's Feather."
Can you tell I am ADORING making art again? It feels so different from when I used to paint in the '70s and '80s. Back then I was very interested in the product. Exhibiting my work in local and national shows was a huge deal to me, and every painting was measured according to its merits in that regard. Well, not every painting, but a lot of them. In the late '80s I turned down a different path altogether. Except for teaching watercolor classes at a local community center and taking on a few commissions from an interior decorator and a high school drama teacher (I designed a couple of theater sets for her students), I pretty much stopped making any kind of visual art. I certainly stopped exhibiting in shows. In the '90s I took yet another path, and ended up turning my black pen-and-ink drawings into items I could vend at conferences and fairs.
So here I am in 2004 painting
for the pure joy of painting. I have no expectations when I sit
down to a piece of white watercolor paper and my palette with
rich hues of acrylic inks pooled in its plastic wells. If I feel
like it, I post the finished product on my journal and blog; if
not, I don't. But even if something ends up on my web site, that
possibility is far from my mind once my brush loaded with colors
touches the partly-watersoaked paper. As those colors explode
into whatever forms they choose, I am thrown into the ecstasy
of creation. From then on, the painting tells ME what to do and
where to go; I am its servant not its master. Some of my most
original images come out of "mistakes" or things that
aren't working as I'd hoped. I learned long ago not to fight those
moments but to allow them to take me in new directions. Probably
a life lesson there...
After I posted my intention to find a scanner so I could share some photos of Joel Payne with my readers, my dear friend Jeff Golden emailed me this wonderful photo of him and Joel snowshoeing in front of the Great Divide of Sequoia National Park, high in the Sierras, late in December 1993. I have Joel to thank for introducing me to Jeff (now Noah's Dad) who has become a life-long friend.
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 3, 2004
At school today I overheard the following exchange between a fifth grade girl and Susan, the art teacher:
"If I bring pink hair dye to school next week, will you dye my hair during art class?"
"Of course not! If you want to dye your hair you'll need to do it at home with your mother."
"But Ms. Patricia dyes her hair pink. It's ART!"
After school I went out to dinner with Pat Kolon and then we went over to the Detroit Institute of Arts to hear the Michael Kaeshammer Trio perform live jazz in the Diego Rivera Court. I'd heard about this concert on CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) earlier this week. Michael Kaeshammer, a German-born Canadian, is a favorite on many of the CBC radio shows. I've been hearing his CDs since 1998, when this young man was only 21. Now 27, he's won countless awards and is a critical and popular success with his extraordinary boogie-woogie, stride and jazz piano. And now I know why! Michael and his trio kept a large audience spellbound with their originality, musicianship and rapport. Mark on bass and Ben on drums (I apologize for forgetting their last names), are superb musicians in their own right, but together with Michael they moved beyond that into the sphere of magical. If you can ever see them perform, DO!
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 4, 2004
Today our O Beautiful Gaia/Great Lakes community of women met as we have met on the first Saturday of every month since September 2002. We celebrated the upcoming winter solstice with individual sharings about the place of darkness and light in our lives and in the world, and ritualized our sharings by each of us lighting the candle we had brought to the circle. The rest of our time together was devoted to song, in particular to Nancy Nordlie's and Carolyn McDade's new songs based on the Earth Charter.
After four hours together at the Budmir Public Library in Windsor, Ontario, some of us went to a wonderful Chinese restaurant for an early supper. Then Judy Drylie and I crossed the Ambassador Bridge back into the States, and drove over to the Detroit Cultural Center to meet the Raging Grannies for our second annual Noel Night "caroling."
Noel Night is an annual Detroit festival that brings children and adults down to the museum district for an evening of free concerts, exhibitions, artistic activities, dance performances, storytelling and more. Tonight the weather cooperated, with the temperature hovering around 40 degrees F. There were horse-drawn hansom carriage rides, an outdoor stage in the middle of Woodward Avenue, and LOTS of families on the streets and inside the museums.
Only three of us Raging Grannies showed up--Granny Kathy Russell, Judy Drylie and me--but we went ahead anyway and caroled out in front of the International Institute and on the sidewalk where people were lined up to ride in the hansom carriages. Even though our repertoire included satirical takes on Christmas as "Consumer Wonderland" and a real friend to Big Business, we received surprisingly positive responses from adults and children. I was especially pleased when a nine-year old boy give us the thumbs-up after hearing one of our anti-war toys carols.
So often we Raging Grannies "preach to the converted" at rallies and demonstrations, but tonight we were speaking directly to the people, all kinds of people. It felt like we made a difference. And that's all we Grannies ever want.
I got back home about 9:30 PM, feeling satisfied with a day well spent. And now to bed...
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 5, 2004
How do you make decisions? Do you consciously weigh all the factors and let your head make the final decision? Do you make split-second decisions based on your gut instincts? Do you ask others for advice? Do you write out a list of pros and cons? Do you facilate, going back and forth between your options before you come to a final decision? Do you try to get someone else to make the decision for you? Once a decision is made, do you second-guess yourself?
I've done all of the above at one time or another. But at this stage of life--I'm 62--I seem to have developed a system of decision-making with which I'm comfortable.
If possible, I let myself sit with a decision for a good period of time without coming to any conclusions. While the question is gestating, I allow as many options as possible to filter through my mind. Then I "try on" each option as if I were in a fitting room trying on different garments of clothing before buying. But in the decision-making process, I might "wear" a particular option for days, weeks or even months before either discarding it or deciding to keep it. It is during this stage that my powers of imagining are called upon.
Say I'm trying to decide whether or not to be part of an upcoming event. For as much time as I have, I let myself imagine actually being there and doing whatever it is we will be doing. The more senses I can bring to this, the better. I try to see myself there, hear, touch, taste and smell what might be my experiences. And then I ask myself, "How does this fit with who I am and how I want to use my time and energy?" Occasionally the answer surprises me. I might find that something I felt sure I would say "Yes" to, does not fit. And vice versa. There might be something I didn't really feel drawn to that seems to have my name on it.
When I follow this process, I trust my decisions and do not second guess them.
This is how I recently decided not to attend Carolyn McDade's 70th birthday singing retreat scheduled for next June in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Much as I've tried, I just don't see myself there. When Carolyn told me last May about this retreat called "A Continent In Song," I thought for sure I would attend. But after seven months of discernment, I now know I will not. Many of my O Beautiful Gaia/Great Lakes sisters are making plans to fly and even drive to the Canadian prairies next June. I know all who are there will be graced by the experience. But I also know those of us who are not there will be graced as well.
MONDAY, DECEMBER 6, 2004
After reading a recent column by Molly Ivins--"Torture in Our Names"--late last night, I decided I needed to do something more than I have been doing to say, "No! Not in MY name!" So I wrote the following letter to the editor of the New York Times:
To the editor:
Does George W. Bush really believe he has received a "mandate" from the American voters to eviscerate 30 year-old environmental laws and protections, use weapons on Iraqi civilians that are outlawed by the Geneva Convention, take government deliberations ever more firmly behind closed doors, nominate to the position of U.S. Attorney General a man who supports the president's "right" to order torture of prisoners during wartime, and threaten to withhold aid from nations that would dare to hold the U.S. accountable to the UN War Crimes Tribunal?
Where will it end? And when will 51% of the American voters wake up to the truth that the man they chose to lead the United States for four more years is systematically destroying their nation's credibility, accountability and alliances across the globe?
What is their definition of "moral", anyway?
I spent much of the day and evening watching the six-hour DVD, "Angels In America." Yes, it made me think of my dear friend Joels who died of AIDS and my equally dear friend Scotty who did not, but it did NOT make me believe in angels.
I also swam a half mile tonight, the farthest I've swum in months. I credit my endurance to a new pair of goggles. Might not seem that important, but having a pair of goggles with a seal made of foam rubber instead of the hard rubber ones that create such a tight seal they often cause pain around your eyes, meant I could swim in total comfort. I never even knew this type of goggle existed until a sister swimmer mentioned it in the locker room about a month ago. I thought ALL swim goggles hurt. Not so, my friends, not so.
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 7, 2004
Last night I swam laps for a solid hour and while I swam, I thought. Lots of different things passed through my mind. There's something about water to keep your thought processes fluid. But one thought bubbled up from the deep dark depths of my being, and almost made me stop in my tracks, which, believe me, would have been hard to do in a pool. And that thought was:
"I am not a citizen of one nation but a citizen of the world."
It was one of those "AHA!" moments when pieces of the puzzle snap firmly into place and you know you will never see life in the old way again.
It explained why I so resist patriotic fervor in all its manifestations. Why I stay silent and seated when Americans pledge allegiance to their flag or sing their national anthem. Why I am so deeply offended when deaths from any war--in particular, the current war on Iraq--are only counted if you are American. Why my heart goes out to ALL women, children and men who are at the mercy of power plays by their government and military leaders--their wars, occupations, seiges, their genocidal attitudes and actions, their brutally-imposed economic sanctions--in addition to the unfair and oppressive World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) debts the people have to pay, and the ever-expanding multinational corporate control of such basics as what seeds they plant, what food they export and import, who has access to the water, land and natural resources in their bio-region, the conditions under which they work, where and how they live, what kind of health care they receive (or do not receive), what they buy and even what they think (the power of advertising).
It also explains my gut reaction to George W. Bush's world view in which NO ONE matters except those individuals and groups that belong to his country, religion, political party, economic and racial background. The "U.S. is #1" assumption that undergirds all of his domestic and international policy decisions is anathema to me. I do NOT accept him as my leader.
So, yes, I pay taxes to the local, state and federal governments of this country. And yes, I benefit from its excessive claims on material goods that should rightly be shared with the world community. I vote in their elections, and my passport says I am a citizen of the United States of America.
But that is NOT my primary citizenship. I belong to the World Community, and it is to that community that I pledge my allegiance.
I pledge allegiance
to the World Community
and to all animate and inanimate life forms
with whom we share this beautiful planet, Earth.
One community of sisters and brothers
who breathe the same air, work the land
and value the waters that flow in, through,
between and among us.
We vow to live in peace,
with respect for
our differences and a just distribution of
the goods and services we need to survive.
Sustainability and protection of the planet on
which we live will guide our common decisions
for as long as our species exists in human form.
May it be so.
From a reader of my blog came the following comment:
random question but genuine. why do people blog about random personal stuff in life? i mean not that you're boring or dull or 'i don't give a shit' or anything like that. yeah i know i don't have to read them but they're everywhere. who cares that tonight is work's xmas party or whatever? it's so personal, so random, so odd to write about. just why? why put your diary/journal/daily thoughts on public view? who cares if you're in montana this month and florida next. (just random examples) it's my new question for all bloggers. it's not a criticism at all. it's just a genuine stumper for me that i'm trying to understand. really i want to know.
Gilgian, I hear and respect your question. It DOES take a certain amount of moxie to put yourself and your life out there in a blog or online journal. I'm sure each of us bloggers would answer differently, but this is my take on it:
I blog because it comes naturally for me to do so. I kept a private journal for years, and when I entered the computer world, it seemed almost inevitable that I'd go public with my journal. I've been keeping a daily online journal for almost six years and a blog for one, so it obviously suits me to share my life in this way.
Blogging/journaling helps me value life in all its ordinariness. It's gotten so I can't enjoy an event or interesting conversation without wanting to share it with my readers. Maybe part of it is that I've developed a feeling of connection with some long-time readers. I know their stories and they know mine. I know what interests them and I know the obstacles that might get in the way of their being able to do what I do or go where I go.
I also like to add digital photos to my entries. Sometimes I can show my readers things they can't see themselves. For example, a regular reader in Northern California LOVES to see my autumn pictures from Michigan because they remind her of her childhood out east. And another reader in Sweden enjoys following me all the places I go and doing what I do because her chronic health condition keeps her mostly at home. But even if I show a picture of something my readers might be able to see themselves--a rose, for instance--perhaps seeing it on my blog or journal will help open their eyes to seeing and appreciating it more fully in their own lives.
And I use my blog/journal as more than just a Day-In-the-Life-of-Patricia type thing. It also offers an opportunity for me to share my views and feelings about what is happening in my country and in the world. As an anti-war activist who has had a LOT of trouble stomaching the direction George W. Bush has taken our country, it helps me to be able to provide links to articles that give important information America's people are not getting on Fox News. Sometimes I offer my own reflections and critical analysis about what is going on, and occasionally I simply vent my spleen.
I find that I feel less powerless when I can speak my truth. Of course, that is true for everyone. Perhaps that's why we have so many bloggers during these trying times.
Here's a twist on the usual perception of a blogger as a self-centered individual who thinks s/he's something special. If I didn't blog or journal online, I'd feel I was being selfish. If funny or beautiful or even difficult things are given to me to experience, I feel I MUST pass them on. Keeping them to myself would be the ultimate betrayal of the gift. And I'm not talking about BIG stuff, but about something as small--and incredible--as a red cardinal perched on the bare branch outside my window, or a 10 year-old girl wanting to dye her hair pink in art class because she says Ms. Patricia has pink hair and it's ART!
Life is made up of such moments, moments we often scurry past in our absorption with what's "important." By calling attention to the ordinary in my life, I hope I'm encouraging other people to look at the miraculous ordinary in their lives. For each life is worthy of attention and invites awe when we allow it to.
And, let's face it, I blog and journal because I like doing it. I'm a writer, a communicator. This is who I am. But I respect that it is not for everyone. And that reading my blog and/or journal is not for everyone. Strangely enough, I think I'd do it even if I had NO readers. My satisfaction is in the writing.
If you have any more questions, Gilgian, please feel free to ask. That's why I have the "comments" section on my blog. It's rare that anyone uses it, but when they do, I listen.
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 8, 2004
Today Brigitte, Joan and I got together for lunch. It might be our last lunch together before Joan joins her husband Nick at their new home in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The three of us have been getting together every couple of months since we first met in a water aerobics class back in June, 2000. I'm going to miss spending time with these intelligent, interesting, cosmopolitan women. But since I'm beginning to feel a need to go to the desert again, Joan and I might see one another out in Santa Fe in a few months. I've been "seeing" myself on a train again, and driving through either New Mexico or Arizona in a minivan like Sojourner. All of which is possible with the presence of Wheelchair Getaways rentals in most major cities. If you recall, I bought Sojourner used from the Detroit area Wheelchair Getaways rental company, so I'd be renting a vehicle that I already know and love.
I had another great half-mile swim tonight, but this time I was really churning because I was so angry. Right as I took the lift into the water, Tim told me that the next session, which starts in January, has been reduced from two hours on Monday and Wednesday nights to one. That means the lanes will be ridiculously crowded...and even disabled spoiled Patricia (me) will have to share her lane for the first time EVER! And who will be getting our extra hour, from 8:30-9:30 PM? The high school swim team! As if they don't have enough chances to swim in their own pool. ARGGG!!!! Of course my activist spirit kicked in and I encouraged my sister and brother swimmers--a number of whom have been swimming these two hours twice a week every winter for ten years--to call the fellow in charge of programming for Community Ed to let him know we do NOT appreciate losing one of our precious adult lap swimming hours. On Wednesday I'll be bringing a petition to get signatures, and we'll go from there. After my months of activism on behalf of our local library staff, I know that if you don't raise a public stink you haven't got a prayer. But, believe me, we will not take this lying down. The only place WE'RE going to lie down is in our pool for not one but TWO hours twice a week!
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 9, 2004
I got up at 7:30 AM and, except for a nap, have been moving at a fast pace ever since. It's now midnight and I've got to get to bed because tomorrow is another of those marathon days--leave the house at 8 AM, stay at school until 3 PM (where I'll be teaching four art classes), pick Pat Kolon up at 3:45 PM, drive to Ann Arbor, dinner at our favorite East Indian restaurant with Akira at 6 PM, then over to the Kerrytown Concert House for an 8 PM solo piano concert by Bill Charlap (whose new CD was just nominated for a Grammy for Best Jazz Instrumental), and finally home by about midnight. I don't think I'll be writing a journal or blog entry tomorrow!
I'll try to catch up with you on Saturday after the Raging Grannies' big Rage at Wal-Mart and before Pat and I go to another jazz concert, this one here in Detroit.
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 11, 2004
This is Granny Patricia of the Raging Grannies Without Borders checking in after a most satisfying "rage" at a local Wal-Mart store. Our gaggle was one of fifteen gaggles of Raging Grannies across Canada and the U.S. who were part of a long-planned Coast-To-Coast Rage Against Wal-Mart today.
At 2 PM, eight of us hardy Grannies set up in front of the main entrance to an EXTREMELY busy suburban Detroit Wal-Mart with our Raging Grannies banner, leaflets and song sheets in hand (songs thanks to our sisters across Canada and the US).
Because of our Granny Kathy Russell's great research, we felt our leaflets gave folks a lot of info they probably didn't already know. Granny Dolores had the smarts to ask each person entering the store, "Do you belong to a union? If so, you need to read this info about Wal-Mart!" In this heavily-unionized town, that intro helped folks be more receptive.
Kathy had also composed a press release that Nancy, a new member of our gaggle who came to us from the Sierra Club, had emailed to our local media. Our biggest newspaper, the Detroit Free Press, took the bait and sent out a photographer who stayed with us the entire time we sang, and now wants us to call him EVERY TIME we have a gig! There was also a photographer from a new free women's magazine in Detroit--STRUT--that will be running a 500-word article on our gaggle in their January issue. The journalist writing the article had already spent an evening interviewing four of us a couple weeks ago. As a peace-loving person herself, she LOVED the Grannies!
After about 40 minutes of singing and leafletting, we Grannies were approached by a stern-faced Wal-Mart store manager who told us we had to move away from the entrance to their store. I engaged her in a bit of Granny give-and-take while the other Grannies continued to sing, but we soon decided to move out to the sidewalk beside a busy six-lane highway where cars turned to come into the parking lot. Once there, we held up signs that said stuff like, "Boycott Wal-Mart", "Santa Doesn't Like Sweatshops", "Wal-Mart Is a Union Buster...cited 40 times by the USNLRB" and "Wal-Mart grosses $27 billion a year, but pays workers $7.50 an hour."
For another 20 minutes or so we leafletted cars going in and out of the parking lot. At one point a local police car stopped to talk to us about what we were doing, and after hearing our story, the officer smiled and said, "I'm a non-violent fellow myself" and gave us pretty much latitude on where we could picket.
At a little after 3 PM, we Grannies had frozen hands and feet and decided to call it a day.
By the way, we met up with a small group of mostly younger women with signs who picket Wal-Mart on a monthly basis. They stood and sang with us and we hope to join them from now on at their monthly protests. Their web site URL is http://boycottwalmart.meetup.com. I'd forgotten to bring my digital camera, so we have Julie of their group to thank for today's photos. Another two women, who were there to shop, were so taken with our protest that they stood in front of the store entrance for 15-20 minutes handing out our leaflets.
We Grannies received an unexpected gift from the New York Times by this being the day they printed an article titled, "Unions Plan Big Drive for Better Pay at Nonunion Wal-Mart." I couldn't let this opportunity pass by, so when I returned home from our rage, I wrote the following letter to the editor of the NY Times:
Re: Unions Plan Big Drive for Better Pay at Nonunion Wal-Mart
To the Editor:
We Raging Grannies want to thank the A.F.L.-C.I.O. and more than a half dozen unions for joining our campaign to fight the Wal-Mart-ization of our world economy.
On the same day that the N.Y. Times ran an article announcing this campaign being mounted by some of the largest, most powerful unions in the United States, Raging Grannies in fifteen cities across the United States and Canada participated in a coordinated Coast-To-Coast "Rage" at Wal-Mart stores in our local communities.
We Raging Grannies--women of age and experience who work to leave a more peaceful, just and environmentally friendly world to our grandchildren--have our own way of being heard: we sing! Often off-key, but always on-target.
Please let John J. Sweeney, the president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., know he can call on the Raging Grannies any time he needs a gaggle of wise elders to help bring down the Wal-Mart giant.
Granny Patricia Lay-Dorsey
Raging Grannies Without Borders
Are you surprised to hear that I canceled tonight's date with Pat to go hear more jazz? Pooped is too mild a word for what I feel right now. But as soon as I put up this entry, I'm off to bed. Tomorrow I'll tell you about last night's incredible solo piano concert by Grammy nominee Bill Charlap at Ann Arbor's Kerrytown Concert House.
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 12, 2004
Jazz, jazz and more JAZZ!!!
That is the story of my weekend...except for yesterday when I
was busy with and then exhausted from our Raging Grannies Coast-To-Coast
rage against Wal-Mart.
On Friday night, Pat Kolon and I met Akira for dinner in Ann Arbor at our favorite East Indian restaurant and then walked over to the Kerrytown Concert House for an 8 PM solo piano concert by Bill Charlap. The 8 PM show was totally sold out so they'd added another at 10 PM. After a full day at school I expected to fade before too long, but how wrong I was.
Bill Charlap is probably the finest pianist I've ever heard in person. We were seated beside the stage, about eight feet from Bill. But our view was of his back, not his face. That meant we could see his hands on the keys, especially at the low end of the bass section and the high end of the treble. What a fascinating perspective!
What I saw were his fingers touching the keys in more ways than I could count. He caressed, slid, pounded, tickled, tapped, skipped and sometimes danced across those keys, and each touch created a distinctly different sound. Never before have I heard such a variety of sounds come from a piano. And, unlike many master pianists, Bill Charlap never used tricks or trills or other unnecessary techniques to show off his expertise. Every note he played was essential to the whole.
His repertoire surprised me, mainly because I had expected a pure jazz pianist. Yes, he plays in a jazz style and even played some jazz pieces, but Bill Charlap is first and foremost a master of the American Song Book. Gershwin, Jerome Kern, Richard Rodgers, Cole Porter, Leonard Bernstein, to name a few. And no wonder. When I read about his early years growing up in Manhattan, the son of a Broadway composer and a popular singer, it all made sense. Many of the composers he loves to play used to hang out in his family's apartment. Their music is in his bones. And it shows.
After the first set, I looked at Pat and said, "I can't leave!" So we bought tickets for the second set. During the intermission, Bill Charlap came and sat beside us. I asked him if he composed his own music and he nodded his head. "Oh," I exclaimed, "Would you please play one of your compositions during the second set?" "No," he replied. When I pushed a little, he said, "I leave it to the writers to write the songs. I just play them."
Well, he did more during the second set than just play them. It was a smaller audience that included students from the Theatre Arts college of the University of Michigan, and Bill Charlap transformed himself from pure performer to master teacher/performer. It was fascinating! He gave us historical and musical background on each song and in a few cases, played it three different ways, echoing the playing styles of the composer, another famous pianist and finishing with his own interpretation. We were spellbound. The audience was so attuned to him that when he played his final piece, we sat in silence for as long as he held his fingers on the keys, which felt like timeless time. The second his hands dropped to his side, we burst into loud, sustained applause.
I got home at 1:30 AM and was still so high that I couldn't go to bed until almost 3 AM. So that was Friday night.
Today was another one of those live music events that you just know you'll remember forever. It was the Detroit jazz musicians' tribute to one of their own, Roy Brooks, an internationally respected drummer and composer who has recently had to enter a nursing facility. It was held at Bert's Marketplace, a rather funky jazz club in Detroit's Eastern Market.
I got there at 4 PM just as it was scheduled to start, but was able to get the best seat in the house thanks to Charles Wood, another of my special jazz friends, who had gotten there at 2 PM! I took a ton of pictures that I hope to put up as a photo album when I get a chance. I wrote down the names of each musician who played in this four-and-a-half-hour jam session, and just counted 36! We had famous musicians, those known locally, upcoming stars and total unknowns. There were former Detroiters, current Detroiters and out-of-towners. We heard women and men, old and young. They even got Roy Brooks up on stage in his wheelchair and repositioned the drums so he could do his thing. I wish you could have been there to see his face.
This was pure Detroit--down
home, informal, gutsy, improvisational, excellent musically, with
a family feeling running throughout. No one stepped on anyone's
toes or took more than their fair share of time. The audience
was made up of musicians and Detroit's faithful jazz lovers, so
the response was vocal, enthusiastic and sometimes instructive.
I especially loved seeing a young, gifted University of Michigan
student bassist play
with the "big boys" and receive the attention and
affirmation he deserves.
It was SO Detroit that Martha Reeves (remember Motown?) was sitting right behind me playing her tambourine and sometimes singing along with the music. By the way, she DID go up at one point and sing "Dancing in the Streets!"
Sometimes I pinch myself to see if I'm dreaming that I live in a jazz city like Detroit. Lucky, lucky me!
MONDAY, DECEMBER 13, 2004
I realized this morning
that Ed and I have had little time together the last few weeks
so I stayed downstairs with him tonight instead of coming upstairs
to my computer. Actually I didn't see him until later this evening.
I'd left the house at 6:30 PM to attend a memorial service for
my friend Penny's mother and didn't return home until 9:30 PM.
What a lovely tribute Penny wrote and planned for her Mom. It was simple yet profound, with a telling of her mother's life in movements like a symphony. Although I'd never met her mother, now I feel I know her. And Penny's words--that were spoken by the UU (Unitarian-Universalist) minister at this church where our singing group, Notable Women, used to meet--were interspersed with instrumental piano and with songs sung by our gifted friend Nancy Nordlie. It was full of heart without being a bit sentimental. I would love to have Penny plan my memorial when the time comes. She is a UU minister herself so has experience of such things, but it was more than that. She brought her unique blend of creative restraint to the evening, as well as a deep reverence for death as a natural part of life. Perfection, in my view.
After I got home, I joined Ed in watching a fascinating documentary DVD--"The Weather Underground"--that tells the story of the Weatherman revolutionary movement of the 1970s. What I found especially interesting was to hear the movement's members, now in their 50s and 60s, discuss what they'd been part of thirty years before. Not just what they'd done, but the philosophy behind their actions. I was also interested to note how deeply I resonated with their feelings of being marginalized from the mainstream members of society by their insistence that the U.S. stop its unjust war against the Vietnamese people. And their disgust over how few of their sister and brother Americans seemed to notice the horrible things being done in their name. Sound familiar? Of course, the Weathermen turned those feelings into reasons to commit violent acts, whereas I remain totally committed to nonviolence. We started from a similar place but ended up worlds apart.
Next Ed and I sang at the piano for awhile, practicing songs for the annual VA (Veterans' Administration) holiday lunch that we attend every year--Ed consults there once a week--and then put up our christmas trees. Actually it's a 6"--yes, that's six inch--square glass-enclosed stand of five tiny trees with colored lights on them. Ed suggested our opening up our tall desk that's in the corner behind the couch, and putting our "trees" there. So that meant cleaning off the top of that desk which led to looking at christmas cards we'd received in 1998. You know how it goes, one thing leads to another.
Oh, I almost forgot. I wanted to show you the bushy-tailed squirrel who took a nap in the crook of the tree outside my window while I worked at the computer this afternoon. It's a young one, I think.
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 14, 2004
Last night I read a recent letter by Michael Moore, called "It's Time to Stop Being Hit." At the heart of it is an excerpt from an essay written by Mel Giles, a friend of Michael's who works with victims of domestic abuse. In her essay she points out similarities between the persons with whom she works and the responses of many Democrats to last month's presidential election.
As I read her analysis, I was reminded of the journal entry I wrote after having heard the results of that election on Wednesday, November 3. Both analyses examine the group dynamics operating in what we often see as the purely political sphere. But since it is always humans who determine political policies, decisions and actions, it makes sense to examine the psychological and sociological determinants underlying them. Only then can we stop reacting and start acting with forethought and conscious intention.
I want to copy here the excerpt from Mel Giles' essay that Michael Moore quoted because I personally found it full of truth and wisdom. But I take it beyond a "Democratic" thing. To me it accurately describes the abusive relationship everyone in this country and many other countries has unwittingly entered into with George W. Bush and his people. I, for one, am done with being a victim to their abuse. I will follow the path outlined by Mel Giles for leaving this destructive relationship and getting on with the business at hand: working for peace and justice for all.
Watch Dan Rather apologize for not getting his facts straight, humiliated before the eyes of America, voluntarily undermining his credibility and career of over thirty years. Observe Donna Brazille squirm as she is ridiculed by Bay Buchanan, and pronounced irrelevant and nearly non-existent. Listen as Donna and Nancy Pelosi and Senator Charles Schumer take to the airwaves saying that they have to go back to the drawing board and learn from their mistakes and try to be better, more likable, more appealing, have a stronger message, speak to morality. Watch them awkwardly quote the bible, trying to speak the "new" language of America. Surf the blogs, and read the comments of dismayed, discombobulated, confused individuals trying to figure out what they did wrong. Hear the cacophony of voices, crying out, "Why did they beat me?"
And then ask anyone who has ever worked in a domestic violence shelter if they have heard this before.
They will tell you: Every single day.
The answer is quite simple. They beat us because they are abusers. We can call it hate. We can call it fear. We can say it is unfair. But we are looped into the cycle of violence, and we need to start calling the dominating side what they are: abusive. And we need to recognize that we are the victims of verbal, mental, and even, in the case of Iraq, physical violence.
As victims we can't stop asking ourselves what we did wrong. We can't seem to grasp that they will keep hitting us and beating us as long as we keep sticking around and asking ourselves what we are doing to deserve the beating.
Listen to George Bush say that the will of God excuses his behavior. Listen, as he refuses to take responsibility, or express remorse, or even once, admit a mistake. Watch him strut, and tell us that he will only work with those who agree with him, and that each of us is only allowed one question (soon, it will be none at all; abusers hit hard when questioned; the press corps can tell you that). See him surround himself with only those who pledge oaths of allegiance. Hear him tell us that if we will only listen and do as he says and agree with his every utterance, all will go well for us (it won't; we will never be worthy).
And watch the Democratic Party leadership walk on eggshells, try to meet him, please him, wash the windows better, get out that spot, distance themselves from gays and civil rights. See the Democrats cry for the attention and affection and approval of the President and his followers. Watch us squirm. Watch us descend into a world of crazy-making, where logic does not work and the other side tells us we are nuts when we rely on facts. A world where, worst of all, we begin to believe we are crazy.
How to break free? Again, the answer is quite simple.
First, you must admit you are a victim. Then, you must declare the state of affairs unacceptable. Next, you must promise to protect yourself and everyone around you that is being victimized. You don't do this by responding to their demands, or becoming more like them, or engaging in logical conversation, or trying to persuade them that you are right. You also don't do this by going catatonic and resigned, by closing up your ears and eyes and covering your head and submitting to the blows, figuring its over faster and hurts less if you don't resist and fight back.
Instead, you walk away. You find other folks like yourself, 57 million of them, who are hurting, broken, and beating themselves up. You tell them what you've learned, and that you aren't going to take it anymore. You stand tall, with 57 million people at your side and behind you, and you look right into the eyes of the abuser and you tell him to go to hell. Then you walk out the door, taking the kids and gays and minorities with you, and you start a new life. The new life is hard. But it's better than the abuse.
We have a mandate to be as radical and liberal and steadfast as we need to be. The progressive beliefs and social justice we stand for, our core, must not be altered. We are 57 million strong. We are building from the bottom up. We are meeting, on the net, in church basements, at work, in small groups, and right now, we are crying, because we are trying to break free and we don't know how.
Any battered woman in America, any oppressed person around the globe who has defied her oppressor will tell you this: There is nothing wrong with you. You are in good company. You are safe. You are not alone. You are strong. You must change only one thing: Stop responding to the abuser.
Don't let him dictate the terms or frame the debate (he'll win, not because he's right, but because force works). Sure, we can build a better grassroots campaign, cultivate and raise up better leaders, reform the election system to make it fail-proof, stick to our message, learn from the strategy of the other side. But we absolutely must dispense with the notion that we are weak, godless, cowardly, disorganized, crazy, too liberal, naive, amoral, "loose," irrelevant, outmoded, stupid and soon to be extinct. We have the mandate of the world to back us, and the legacy of oppressed people throughout history.
Even if you do everything right, they'll hit you anyway. Look at the poor souls who voted for this nonsense. They are working for six dollars an hour if they are working at all, their children are dying overseas and suffering from lack of health care and a depleted environment and a shoddy education.
And they don't even know they are being hit.
by Mel Giles
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 15, 2004
I'm finding that local activism takes lots of time and energy--not to mention an inquiring mind--especially if you're the one organizing it. As I tackle this Community Ed adult lap swim issue, I find myself using a lot of what I learned during our advocacy for the local library staff last summer. Of course at that time I was not organizing anything, but merely picketing, attending and occasionally speaking at school board and library board meetings .
Ever since I learned last Wednesday that we were losing half of our two-hour adult lap swim time on Mondays and Wednesdays for the winter session, I've been hard at work. What I mainly needed was to find out exactly what was going on. For instance, why are we being bumped, who will replace us for that hour, what pressure has been brought to bear on the Community Ed program supervisor that he made this decision, and who holds the power?
After three long phone conversations with this program supervisor, who was very forthcoming with information, I discovered that we're being displaced by a newly-formed district-wide youth swim club. When I further explored the inner workings of this decision, it became clear that the school board had insisted this new club be given more pool time. And behind that bit of information was the not surprising fact that the parents had lobbied the school board all fall to get extra practice time for their kids.
By going to the web site of this swim club, I discovered that in the upcoming winter session, these kids--perhaps 110 girls and boys aged 6 to 18--are scheduled for 33 hours of pool time in three of our four schools. By the way, this affluent community does not have an indoor community pool but has to rely on the schools for all of its youth and adult swim activities. And, believe me, swimming is VERY big here.
So then I looked at our Community Ed adult lap swim program for the winter and found we had only fifteen and a half hours allotted to us. Five of those sessions start at 6 AM and two go from 9-10 PM, so we aren't exactly scheduled for prime time! And I'm not even mentionaing all the other hours devoted to youth swim activities in our Community Ed brochure. What I see in all this is a community that shortchanges its adults in favor of its youth. And this is not the first time I have noticed this kind of discrimination.
During the summer months at our outdoor city pool, the swim team and youth lessons go from 9-1 PM and from 3:30-5:30 PM five days a week. Sometimes one lap lane is kept open for adult swimmers, but not always. And then there are the occasional swim meets that close the pool totally for an evening or a Saturday afternoon. For this reason, I've always found it difficult to come up with a good time to swim laps during the summer. Even at the best of times--which I found to be Saturday and Sunday mornings--only two lanes are devoted to lap swimming.
But to get back to our winter swimming problem, I ended up writing a group letter to the school board and making informational handouts for each of our 20 Monday/Wednesday lap swimmers. I brought the letter to swimming tonight--our last swim of the fall session--and everyone signed it. On the handouts I gave the school board's email address and the phone number of the Community Ed program supervisor. I encouraged my sister and brother swimmers to let these folks know how they feel about losing an hour of our swim time. I also gave them a thumbnail sketch of what is going on so they will have talking points. But I mainly stressed their joining me at the January 3 school board meeting so we can tell the board members in person how this decision affects us. I know from our library advocacy that nothing beats letting the powers-that-be see and hear from the individuals whom their decisions impact. I hope we get a good turnout.
What I'm learning in all of this activism is not to just sit around and complain if I don't like something. We can all help make change if we just go ahead and do it.
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 16, 2004
If only Riverbend's blog "Baghdad Burning" were required reading for every man, woman and school-age child in America! Would they finally wake up to what this never-ending war and occupation means to the average person living in Iraq? Or would they continue to see themselves as better than, separate from, more deserving than the people in that American-made hell hole?
But Riverbend is just like us. Probably better educated than most. When you read her excellent English prose, it's hard to imagine it is not her primary language. She is a single 25 year-old woman who now lives with her parents and brother in what used to be a very nice neighborhood in Baghdad. Before this most recent war started in March 2003, she had a job she loved with a computer company in Baghdad. She had an active social life, many friends and lived with her girlfriends in an apartment not far from work. Although a practicing Muslim, Riverbend did not cover her head with a scarf, but dressed in levis like her counterparts in the Western world. She felt free and equal in her society.
And now? She can no longer leave her home without the protection of her male relatives. Her job fell through soon after the war began, and that company is now out of business. Her day-to-day life is consumed with concerns like: Will the bombs and missiles being dropped near us shatter our windows again or even hit our house and kill us? How can we feed the family when it is too expensive and dangerous to go get food to cook? And if we get food, how will we cook it when there is on-again-off-again electricity and buying fuel for the neighborhood generator costs an arm and a leg and means waiting at least 12 hours in a long line of cars? And how will we get gas for our car? That is becoming almost impossible in this oil-rich country.
How long have you lived without electricity? My longest stint was back in the 1970s when a winter ice storm knocked out our lines and we were without power for six cold days and nights. But even then, our neighbors across the street got their power back after three days and hooked up an extension cord across the street so we could use their electricity.
In Baghdad you have no idea when or if you're going to have electricity, meaning very little can be planned ahead. If the power goes on in the middle of the night, you get up and run loads of wash, cook up a storm, work at your computer, try to watch TV to see what's going on--not so much in the world--as in your own city and country.
And I haven't even mentioned the terror of having your friends and family members always at risk of being picked up and imprisoned by the occupying army, or your home being raided by fearful angry young GIs with assault weapons, your father and brother being beaten or killed by the same, or any of you being abducted for ransom by criminal gangs that now roam the unpatrolled streets.
How would <em>you</em> like to live like that? Is it any wonder the Iraqi people hate the people who are doing this to them? And despise the government and military leaders who order such carnage and destruction? Wouldn't you?
Anyway, I encourage you to take a deep breath and click on this link to Riverbend's blog. As we celebrate our holidays with travel, gifts, family gatherings, cards sent and received, sparkling lights and lovely carols, let us remember what our country is doing to people just like us in a country that has done us no harm.
I don't know about you, but I'm not feeling particularly jolly this year.
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 17, 2004
I am still flying high! Are you, my readers, getting sick of hearing me dither on about the fabulous jazz I'm hearing? Because if so, you'll definitely want to skip this journal entry.
Urban Transport. Remember that name. I know I've written about them before, even shown you pictures (see Monday, September 1 in my Detroit Jazz Fest 2003 photo album and September 7, 2004 in my Journal 55 archive), but this quintet just keeps getting better and better. They play all original music, some of it edgy, some tender, while others have you rockin' in your chair. I personally can't listen to them without moving in just about any way I can while staying seated in my scooter. Each musician--Vincent Chandler on trombone, Dean Moore on alto sax, Rick Rowe on piano, Josef Deas on bass and Sean Dobbins on drums--has his own unique sound and yet they blend together in a way I have rarely heard in any group. Talk about tight! The fact that they range in age from 20-36 makes me wonder what's to come. I mean, how much better can they get?
To my knowledge, Urban Transport has mainly played gigs around Southeastern Michigan, but in my humble opinion, these fellows are ready for the big time. I'd love to see them play clubs like the Jazz Showcase in Chicago, Yoshi's in Oakland, California, and the Blue Note in New York City. Believe me, they are plenty good enough. When I mentioned this to Vincent Chandler, the leader of their group, he said something about it being hard to take the time to tour. I know a couple of their members teach at Michigan State University--which has a great jazz program--and one of them is currently in medical school.
Now I'm going to say something controversial here. Surprise, surprise! I know most people would say teaching and being a doctor are among the most beneficial things a person can do with their life. I disagree. As an old crone--62 and counting--I say if you've been given a creative gift that brings deep joy and healing (yes, healing!) to people, that gift is meant to be used to its fullness. And the caliber of music these young men make shows me that each one of them has been given just such a gift.
Yes, I remember teachers who impacted my life. I am also deeply indebted to a doctor or two who helped me through a tough time physically. But music? Ah, these are the people who have touched my soul and opened my heart. I would not be who I am had they and their music not come into my life just when I needed it most. Like now, for instance.
If you're a regular reader, you know how difficult these George W. Bush years have been and continue to be for me, how sorely pained I am by what my country--under his "leadership"--is doing to people all over the world but especially in Iraq, not to mention the environment, our own youth especially our youth of color, our Arab Muslim sisters and brothers who have been under attack and often locked up without cause (remember my brother Rabih Haddad), the species of animals and plants we're losing because of Bush's campaign donors' mining/clearcutting/polluting, women's right to choose at grave risk of being overturned, and the list goes on. You also know that I don't just sit around moaning about these abuses and injustices, I'm out there (literally) on the streets dissenting, behind the scenes organizing, and using my blog and web site to communicate the truth as I see, hear and read it.
But I'll tell you something. I don't know where I would be without live jazz during these dark days. It nourishes, energizes, soothes, inspires, stretches, heals and enlivens me in ways nothing else can. It is my spiritual home.
So, if any musicians happen to be reading this entry, please do me a favor and ask yourself this question: When do I feel most alive? Because the answer to that is the answer to how you are meant to spend your lives. May it be so.
Photos from tonight's Urban Transport concert in the DIA (Detroit Institute of Arts) Diego Rivera Court:
Vincent Chandler on trombone and
Josef Deas on bass
Dean Moore on alto sax & Sean Dobbins on drums
Rick Rowe on piano
Vincent Chandler rapping
Dean Moore on alto sax
Josef Deas on bass
Sean Dobbins on drums
Urban Transport musicians with their teacher Donald Walden
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 18,
(If you visited before 1 PM on Sunday and found no entry yet posted for Saturday, it was because I'd forgotten to copy it here after I'd written and put it up on my blog last night. Sorry.)
Have you wondered why all of a sudden you're seeing all those yellow ribbon bumper stickers plastered on the back of SUVs, minivans, vans and trucks? Although the message reads "Support Our Troops," I have a feeling the PR wizards who came up with this idea had more in mind than that.
Of course, this is not the first time we Americans have seen this symbol during a time of war. In 1991 everyone was encouraged to tie yellow ribbons around the trees in front of their houses and onto their car--yes, we had cars back then--antennas as an expression of support for George W's father's war on Iraq. Yellow ribbons and American flags were the decorations of the day.
So now the presidential election is over. The Bush/Cheney bumper stickers have been peeled off the back windows and bumpers of his supporter's vehicles, and the lawn signs have been relegated to the garage. If you were one of George W's highly paid Public Relations advisors, wouldn't you be anxious to find another way to get folks to show their support for Mr. Bush? Especially since he's still embroiled in a war and occupation that is definitely not going well.
Ah ha, they say, let's bring out the yellow ribbons again! But a little differently this time. Since we live in a country where folks are more on the roads than in their homes, let's give them something to put on their vehicles.
The next question is: How best to market these stickers? You've got to make it easy for consumers to find them in their local stores, and it helps if the message printed on them is as generic as possible. That way you might even get non-Bushites to use them.
OK, you sell them in nationwide retail chains. Rite-Aid, Wal-Mart, Target, Ace Hardware, Meiers, etc. will do nicely. But these places have lots of merchandise and you can't afford to have your yellow ribbons get lost in the shuffle.
As a former retail worker I know how you take care of that. You pay BIG MONEY to get the stores to display your item right beside their cash registers. That's the golden spot where all impulse buying happens.
So how do I know how all this came down? Because two weeks ago, I had to go to Rite Aid to buy poster paper and a black permanent marker to make our anti-Wal-Mart signs. When I went up to the cash register to pay, there they were--a display of yellow ribbon "Support the Troops" bumper stickers standing right beside the register. You couldn't miss them if you tried.
My final question is: Who is paying the BIG BUCKS to all these retail chains to display this item so prominently?
I'd guess it comes from the top. It is hardly likely that the maker of these bumper stickers would have that kind of dough, and if they did, it's even less likely they would use it this way. No, the money's got to be coming from whomever benefits the most from this propaganda campaign. The Defense Department? The White House? One of Cheney's right-wing neo-conservative groups of billionaires?
All we can know for sure is that George W and his crowd feel the need right now for public support of his ill-conceived and poorly executed war on and occupation of Iraq. And they'll do whatever it takes to get at least a semblance of such support.
Remember "Wag the Dog" and their jogging shoe campaign? So what will it be next?
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 19, 2004
I was feeling kind of blue after having read a rather mean-spirited comment posted on my blog in response to last Friday's entry by a man (or boy?) named Matt, so I spoke to Ed about it this morning. His response was to share one of what he calls his "Dorsey aphorisms." He said:
The fineness of an idea is inversely proportional to the number of persons who can share it.
Thanks, Eddie, I needed that!
It is now 11 AM on a bright sunny Sunday morning. After Ed and I had taken a lovely after-dinner walk/scoot in mild (for December) temperatures last night, the north winds began to blow, signaling a change in the weather. Today I awoke to frost on the window beside my bed. Ed told me it was +1 degrees F. at 9 AM. BRRRR!!! But they say it's going to warm up as the day goes on...all the way up to +10 F. Autumn is tiptoeing out on frigid feet.
I'm listening to the annual 12-hour live Euro-Radio Christmas Concert on CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Company). I missed the first six countries but still have the opportunity to hear seven more. They are currently broadcasting from an eastern Bohemian town in Czechoslovakia.
I always like to listen to this concert because it helps me feel closer to my friend Margaretha in Sweden. She, along with Barbro her mother and Thore her Dad, never miss a minute of it. It is also the perfect music to listen to as I print out and write personal notes on my holiday cards. I'm using my "Hope's Feather" painting on the cover and "Let there be peace on earth" printed on the inside of each card.
One hour before the 12-hour Euro-Radio Christmas Concert was to end, I sent the following email of thanks to the CBC producers of the broadcast:
From: Patricia Lay-Dorsey
Sent: Dec 19, 2004 3:27 PM
Subject: Thank you, dear friends
As an American who is deeply shamed by the actions and attitudes of my country's leaders towards our sisters and brothers in countries across the globe, this year's broadcast of the 12-hour Euro-Radio Christmas Concert on CBC means more to me than ever. Through travelling to cities and towns around Europe and hearing their magnificent voices and instruments raised in song, I feel we are united heart-to-heart.
For me personally, the reading of Marion Wright Edelman's Prayer for the World's Children was the moment I will not forget. In that reading and the music you chose to accompany it, I was able to hold in my arms the children in Iraq, in the Sudan, on the streets of my own city of Detroit, and all over the world. And in the holding, I could let them know we will not forget them, we will continue to do all that we can to protect, feed, shelter, teach and learn from them even during times like these when the leaders of some countries insist on unleashing violence and destruction across the earth.
Thank you for giving this gift of peace to us all.
Detroit, Michigan, USA
I have just finished reading a chilling article written by Michael Schwartz about the U.S. military's plans for Falluja. I recommend your taking the time to read it. The article is called "America's Sinister Plan for Falluja."
The following are quotes from the article:
Residents will now officially be denied entry until at least December 24; and even then, only the heads of households will be allowed in, a few at a time, to assess damage to their residences in the largely destroyed city...
When they are finally allowed to return, if all goes as the Americans imagine, here's what the city's residents may face:
* Entry and exit from the city will be restricted. According to General Sattler, only five roads into the city will remain open. The rest will be blocked by "sand berms" -- read, mountains of earth that will make them impassible. Checkpoints will be established at each of the five entry points, manned by U.S. troops, and everyone entering will be "photographed, fingerprinted and have iris scans taken before being issued ID cards." Though Sattler reassured American reporters that the process would only take 10 minutes, the implication is that entry and exit from the city will depend solely on valid ID cards properly proffered, a system akin to the pass-card system used during the apartheid era in South Africa.
* Fallujans are to wear their universal identity cards in plain sight at all times. The ID cards will, according to Dahr Jamail's information, be made into badges that contain the individual's home address. This sort of system has no purpose except to allow for the monitoring of everyone in the city, so that ongoing American patrols can quickly determine if someone is not a registered citizen or is suspiciously far from their home neighborhood.
* No private automobiles will be allowed inside the city. This is a "precaution against car bombs," which Sattler called "the deadliest weapons in the insurgent arsenal." As a district is opened to repopulation, the returning residents will be forced to park their cars outside the city and will be bused to their homes. How they will get around afterwards has not been announced. How they will transport reconstruction materials to rebuild their devastated property is also a mystery.
* Only those Fallujans cleared through American intelligence vettings will be allowed to work on the reconstruction of the city. Since Falluja is currently devastated and almost all employment will, at least temporarily, derive from whatever reconstruction aid the U.S. provides, this means that the Americans plan to retain a life-and-death grip on the city. Only those deemed by them to be non-insurgents (based on notoriously faulty American intelligence) will be able to support themselves or their families.
* Those engaged in reconstruction work -- that is, work -- in the city may be organized into "work brigades." The best information indicates that these will be military-style battalions commanded by the American or Iraqi armed forces. Here, as in other parts of the plan, the motive is clearly to maintain strict surveillance over males of military age, all of whom will be considered potential insurgents.
It is no stretch to call this an "American gulag", a "concentration camp", "ghetto" or even a "police state." It is a sign of the desperation that the American military leaders are feeling. And it is obvious that it will not work. It will surely create more resentment, more rebellion, more violence. Not to mention it being in violation of international treaties, conventions and accords. No wonder the U.S. is fighting every attempt by the international community to be held accountable for its war crimes.
How can anyone of even average intelligence imagine that the United States is doing all this to "liberate" Iraq? Does it sound like the people of Falluja are being liberated? From what, I ask?
MONDAY, DECEMBER 20, 2004
Every year for as long
as I've known her, my friend Margaretha who lives in Sweden has
sent an e-Advent calendar--called Lucka in Swedish--every day
from December 1-24. During those three weeks she explores a theme
in words and image. Every morning the lucky friends who are on
her e-list receive an original photo taken by Margaretha accompanied
by a quotation that she has found in the books that are always
at her side. Opening her emails is as exciting as opening the
little doors and windows on the printed Advent calendars we used
to have as children. This year her theme has been world peace.
I want to share with you just some of the quotations she has offered
us thus far. When you read them I'm sure you will understand why
I feel privileged to call Margaretha my friend.
Peace is more important
than all justice;
and peace was not made for the sake of justice,
but justice for the sake of peace.
1483 - 1546
Come forth into the
light of things
and let nature be your teacher.
William Wordsworth 1770 - 1850
Nationalism is an infantile sickness.
It is the measles of the human race.
1879 - 1955
Life is as fleeting as a rainbow. A flash of lightning,
a star at dawn. Knowing this, how can you quarrel?
Nature ... invites
us to lay our eye level with her
smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain.
Henry David Thoreau
1817 - 1862
What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans
and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is
wrought under the name of totalitarianism
or the holy name of liberty or democracy?
1869 - 1948
The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware,
joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware.
1891 - 1980
War settles nothing.
To win a war is
as disastrous as to lose one!
1890 - 1976
There is no way to
peace. Peace is the way.
A. J. Muste
Learn to get in touch
with the silence within yourself
and know that everything in this life has a purpose.
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2004
On this longest night of the year I am disinclined to use words. I'll let my painting speak for me tonight.
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 22, 2004
This day didn't end up ANYTHING like I'd expected.
It started out with my leaving the house at 9:20 AM to go to a 10:30 AM haircutting appointment in Windsor, Ontario. My plan was to meet Eddie afterwards at the Detroit VA (Veterans Administration) Hospital for the annual holiday luncheon in the Compensation and Pensions Department where he does evaluations every Monday. We've been attending this gathering of doctors, nurses, medical techs, transcriptionists and secretaries for years. We're kind of the music committee, actually, since Ed brings his keyboard to play carols and I make out song sheets and facilitate singing. It's a wonderful group of people and the food is always terrific. Many of the doctors are from India and bring yummy Indian food, some of it homemade. And you know how I love East Indian food!
So that was how the day was SUPPOSED to look. The reality was quite different.
Ed had suddenly developed a bothersome backache yesterday afternoon. He'd come home early to stretch out on his bed. When it came time for dinner, he ate very little, and then went to bed before 10 PM. Believe me, when my Eddie doesn't eat, I know something is wrong. So we went to bed last night not knowing if we would be going to the VA party today. But this morning he said he felt up to it, so I left the house with the intention of meeting him there at noon. First off, though, I wanted to mail three cards.
The easiest thing was to drive next door to the mailbox beside the city offices. You know the kind--the ones where you just roll down your window and stick your letters into the extended slot. I was careful to drive up nice and close to the box because my arms are so short that sometimes it's hard for me to reach. I was pleased to see how easy it was for me this time. Easy to mail my letters, that is...NOT easy to drive away without a problem.
As I pulled away, I heard a horribly loud crunch, somewhat like my rattle from Ghana makes, but MUCH more so. I still didn't know what had happened, but I figured it definitely wasn't good. I pulled over to the side of the road and turned around to look into the back seat. When I saw a pile of what looked like black pebbles on the seat, my mind couldn't really take it in. But when I looked up and saw a gaping hole where the rear window on the driver's side used to be, I knew. I had crashed the window plumb out!
From then on, it was like a dance: 1) Call Leesa in Windsor to postpone my hair cut until next week; 2) Leave a message on Ed's office phone machine to tell him what had happened and that I'd probably need a ride home from the body shop; 3) Drive right down to my Chrysler body shop and see what could be done.
By now it was snowing hard. But the body shop people were so heads-up that as soon as I'd parked in their lot, there was a young fellow with a roll of clear adhesive tape ready to tape up my window. Inside the office, I explained that, since this was a handicap-accessible minivan, the sooner it could be fixed the better. They were great! They called the car window people and were ready to drive over and pick up a replacement window and install it for me while I waited. But the window folks didn't have my window in stock. The body shop secretary set up an appointment for me to drive out to the car window shop tomorrow at 1 PM, when they assured us they'll have my window and will install it then and there. I was relieved to hear it would only cost $180. I say "only" because I wouldn't have been surprised to hear them say $400 or even higher. And yes, I do have collision insurance.
I called Ed but still didn't catch him at the office. So I drove home. And there he was, not feeling well at all. In fact, he got sick to his stomach about an hour later. That's when I felt sure this was not a backache but an atypical virus. He slept most of the day and I stayed in the room with him to give him comfort...and tea or soup when he could stomach it.
I'm happy to report that he managed to eat some macaroni and cheese for dinner and now says the backache is gone and he's feeling MUCH better.
As far as I'm concerned that's the best accident I've ever had. If I'd gone on about my business, Eddie would have felt he had to go down to VA for the party and that would have been the WORST possible thing for him.
I now say don't cry over spilt milk. There's bound to be a cat somewhere just waiting to lap it up.
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 23, 2004
We awoke to the winter wonderland folks sing about. The first big snowstorm of the season. Of course, since winter just began two days ago, that's not saying a lot! But it's quite lovely. And thanks to Eddie, who's feeling much better, I was able to scoot down our ramp so I could take my minivan in to have the window replaced. Two hours and $265 later (it was twice the original quote because they found that, although it says "Caravan" on the back, this converted Braun Entervan is actually a Grand Caravan), I was snug and warm in a vehicle with all its windows intact. But even cold air whistling through my windowless rear window had not prevented me from feeling a touch of wonder as I'd driven by the partially frozen lake on my way over to the shop. For there were eight swans a swimming!
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 24, 2004
My gift to you this holiday season, dear faithful readers, is a brand new Gallery of Paintings that I've put up on my Windchime Walker web site. By the way, it includes a good number of paintings you have not yet seen. Feel free to print out any of my paintings for your own enjoyment. All I ask is that you give me proper attribution, and please don't publish or use them publicly without first getting my permission. Peace to us all.
© 2004 Patricia Lay-Dorsey. Please use with attribution.