Windchime Walker

Windchime Walker <$BlogRSDUrl$>

Friday, January 30, 2004


Disability is among the most effective levelers of class, race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, educational background and economic situation. Persons of all kinds have accidents and end up in wheelchairs, deal with chronic mobility problems, have limbs amputated, or are born with congenital health conditions that are disabling. And I'm only referring to disabiliities that require the use of assistive devices to get around, not the myriad assortment of other sensitivities, conditions and diseases that limit people in equally significant ways.

I recently discovered our commonality by joining an online discussion board for wheelchair users. Through their postings I've met men and women from urban and rural America, folks from Scotland, Finland, West Indies and New Zealand, peace protesters and war hawks, hunters and vegetarians, a "Messianic pastor/rabbi" and a declared atheist, housewives and former Harley-Davidson bikers, a man whose hobby is aviation and a woman who researches medieval manuscript art for fun, a police detective and a retired county park I said, ALL KINDS of people. Each one doing the best they can to live normal lives.

Where else could I meet such a diverse group of individuals?

Sunday, January 25, 2004

The Cost of Courage 

You are an American man of 24 who feels compelled to join with other international activists in actions of non-violent solidarity with the Palestinian people in their struggle for freedom. You are standing in the street of an occupied West Bank city with another activist, both dressed in the fluorescent orange vests that identify you as international observers, your hands are raised overhead to show you are unarmed, when an Israeli soldier in an armoured personnel carrier opens fire with heavy rounds of machine gun fire and you are hit in the face. After more than two months of hospitalization and three facial reconstructive surgeries, you finally return home to the United States. You are still in the middle of reconstructive facial surgery when you start touring the US, speaking of the need to end the occupation of Palestine using non-violent means.

It has only been ten months since your daughter was intentionally crushed to death by a bulldozer operated by an Israeli soldier who knew she was there. Immediately after watching a video in which her death is shown in graphic detail, you are asked to speak to hundreds of people about your daughter and the choices that brought her to this moment. As her mother, you start by sharing her question at the age of two: "Is brave part of growing up?" As her father, you speak of the process toward healing, a process that requires that: 1) you learn the truth of the situation that led to your daughter's death; 2) you take ownership of your part of the problem, in this case the fact that your own tax dollars continue to support the regime that killed your daughter; and 3) you find a way to forgive. You admit that you are not there yet.

You are an American Jewish man married to an American-born Palestinian woman. Together you found a Palestinian-run coalition of people from around the world who come to Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to act in non-violent solidarity with women, men and children who are suffering a brutal, decades-long occupation. In addition to spending much of your time in Israel and Palestine, you travel the world trying to educate people and mobilize resistance to this occupation. During tonight's question-and-answer period, you are asked why the American Congress continues to give more and more money to the Israeli occupiers, and you answer: 1) AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee), a lobbying group that makes huge donations to the political campaigns of candidates; 2) the arms manufacturers--America's #1 industry--who depend on Israel as a major buyer of their weapons, tanks, bombers, missiles and more; and 3) the Christian-Zionist lobby that has great power because the current President supports their mission.

These are just some of the speakers we heard last night in the Michigan State University Student Union. The event, sponsored by the Michigan Peace Team and a coalition of Lansing peace and justice groups, was called "Courage Under Fire: Exposing the Occupation." The speakers I described above were: 1) Brian Avery, an activist volunteer with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), who was shot in the face in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin on April 5, 2003; 2) Cindy and Craig Corrie, the parents of Rachel Corrie, an ISM activist volunteer who was killed as she tried to protect from demolition the home of a Palestinian pharmacist, his wife and three children in Rafah, a border town in occupied Gaza, on March 16, 2003; and 3) Adam Shapiro, co-founder with his wife, Huwaida Arraf, of the International Solidarity Movement in Palestine. Adam is seen as a Mideast hero or a traitor to the Zionist cause, depending on your perspective. I found him to be an exceptionally intelligent, informed, articulate spokesperson about what is actually happening in Palestine, its international implications, what place the United States has in the conflict, and how we as activists and concerned citizens must proceed in our self-education and work for justice in the region. One thing he said that I will not forget: "People overuse the word, peace. Before you can talk about peace, you must ask yourself, 'Can the conditions for peace exist? Before we talk about peace in Palestine, first we must end the occupation."

Before the program began I had the opportunity to speak informally with Brian Avery, and immediately afterwards, I made a heart-connection with Cindy Corrie. Pat Kolon, my dear friend, made all of this possible by driving the 100 miles to and from East Lansing, schlepping my scooter in and out of the car at the dinner before the program, and then again at the MSU Student Union. We left my house at 3:30 PM and didn't return until after midnight.

Here are some of the photos I took last night:

Brian Avery smiles after our conversation. It turns out he knows two ISMers whom I know--Jean McLaren, my Raging Grannies shero from Gabriola Island, BC, and Starhawk, with whom I spiral danced in a moon-lit Washington, DC park during the huge (freezing cold) anti-war demo on January 18, 2003.

Pat's photo of the audience shortly before the program began. I'd estimate there were 200-300 people there. During the question-and-answer period, we heard from an activist who had come from Traverse City with her friends to attend this program. They had all been part of a recent peace team in Israel/Palestine.

Rossina Hassoun, Ph.D., acts as moderator of the program. Dr. Hassoun, an American-born Palestinian, is adjunct professor in the department of Anthropology and the Center for Integrative Arts and Humanities at Michigan State University. At MSU she pioneered one of the first courses taught on Arab-Americans in the United States. She also provides diversity training for health care providers, non-profit groups and businesses.

Sr. Liz Walters, IHM, who has been part of peace teams in Haiti, Panama, Guatemala, Mexico, and, most recently, the West Bank and Gaza, shares what she saw and experienced last summer in Israel and Palestine. She is a member of the Michigan Peace Team, a teacher at a southwest Detroit school that has a high percentage of Latina/Latino students, and an experienced peace activist who has spent 3 years in jails for civil resistance regarding the illegal build-up of US nuclear weapons.

Brian Avery speaks of the need for Americans to educate themselves about the issues and to engage in non-violent resistance to the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

Mike McCurdy introduces his video, "ISM Rafah: Solidarity Under Occupation" which we watched last night. Mike is currently working with the Michigan Peace Team as a team deployment coordinator. He provided non-violence training to many of the internationals who came to Israel/Palestine as a part of the Freedom Summer 2002 and 2003.

Cindy Corrie shares with us about her daughter Rachel, her life and dreams, her humor, her poetic gifts and passion for justice. Craig tells how their family heard of Rachel's death after it had already been reported on television, and describes the journey he and Cindy took to Rafah in September 2003. While there, they met the people whose lives had touched Rachel's, visited the mound of dirt and debris where she had died, and experienced firsthand the Israeli military's violent and intimidating response to internationals. Craig also spoke of their attempts to bring Rachel's killer to justice, and encouraged us to urge our representatives to co-sponsor the Rachel Corrie resolution (H. Con. Res. 111), which insists on a full investigation into Rachel's death.

Fr. Peter Dougherty, founder and coordinator of the Michigan Peace Team, who has been on peace teams in Bosnia, Haiti, Chiapas and Palestine, invites each of us to seriously consider joining the upcoming MPT delegations to Israel/Palestine and to Iraq. With traditional priestly fervor, he also encourages us to dig deep in our wallets to help support the work of the Michigan Peace Team. $3200 is collected by passing donation baskets around the room.

Speaking of money, Brian, the Corries and Adam raised $20,000 for the ISM at a similar event in Dearborn on Friday night! My friend Pat and I had cancelled our plans to attend because of a snowstorm that afternoon, but apparently the snow didn't scare other folks. They said 400 people showed up!

Adam Shapiro, of whom I've written earlier, shares with us his top ten list of "concrete absurdities." Among them are: 1) the growing possibility that Ariel Sharon will be removed from power not because of his brutal leadership of the latest intafada against the Palestinians, but because of a bribe scandal; 2) the US threat to cut funds to Israel if they don't mount an immediate inquiry into the recent deaths of three US government employees at an Israeli checkpoint, while they have never, in the ten months since it happened, asked for an official inquiry into Rachel Corrie's death; 3) the media hype over a joint team of Israeli and Palestinian amateur explorers going to the Antarctic to scale a mountain. Adam's take on that? "So that proves Israelis and Palestinians can get along. We already knew that. It's as if they're trying to say the conflict between Israel and Palestine is due to personality/cultural differences rather than the occupation and its brutal implementation."; 4) After an Israeli peace activist was shot in December by Israeli military at a demonstration protesting The Wall, the military now say that before they fire into such a crowd again, they will first call out,"All Israeli protesters remove themselves from the area."; 5) the continuing US media hype over the government-constructed story of Private Jessica Lynch and the media silence over the death of Rachel Corrie.

Cindy Corrie answers a question during the discussion period. Craig is seated beside her.

Adam Shapiro answers a question a few minutes later.

On the back cover of last night's printed program was the following information:

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the world's major sources of instability. Americans are directly connected to this conflict.

- The U.S. gives $15,139,178 per day to the Israeli government and $568,744 to Palestinian NGOs.

- Israel has been targeted by at least 65 UN resolutions and the Palestinians have been targeted by none.

- 909 Israelis and 2,652 Palestinians have been killed since September 29, 2000; 6,077 Israelis and 24,483 Palestinians have been injured during the same amount of time.

- 106 Israeli children have been killed by Palestinians, and 506 children have been killed by Israelis since September 29, 2000.

- The Israeli unemployment rate is 10.4%, while the Palestinian unemployment is estimated at 37-67%.

- One Israeli home has been destroyed by Palestinians and 2,202 Palestinian homes have been completely destroyed (14,436 partially destroyed) since September 29, 2000.

- 60+ new Jewish-only settlements have been built on confiscated Palestinian land between March 2001 and July 11, 2003. There have been 0 cases of Palestinians confiscating Israeli land and building settlements.

*For a complete list of sources of these statistics, please go to

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Israeli/Palestinian Conflict 

I have never seen a subject that can turn progressive against progressive as quickly as the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. I've been taken to task more than once (more than twice...more than three times) by Jewish friends and aquaintances for my anti-Sharon words and sentiments in my online journal and for what they see as pro-Palestinian group emails I've sent over the years. And today it happened again.

All I was doing this time was announcing an "Event For Palestine" that will be held at the Heritage Manor in Dearborn, MI tomorrow (Friday) night at 7:30 PM. Rachel Corrie's parents, Brian Avery and Adam Shapiro are scheduled to speak.

Rachel Corrie was the young International Solidarity Movement member who was bulldozed to death on the Gaza Strip by an IDF (Israeli) soldier in 2003. Brian Avery, also of the ISM, was shot in the face by an IDF soldier and is still undergoing reconstructive surgery. Adam Shapiro is co-founder of the ISM in Palestine. All funds collected tomorrow night will go to the International Solidarity Movement.

The ISM is "a Palestinian-led non-violent movement of Palestinian and International activists working to raise awareness of the struggle for Palestinian freedom and an end to the Israeli occupation."

I know a 76 year-old Raging Granny, Jean McLaren, from Gabriola Island, BC who has joined the ISM in Israel and Palestine twice in the past year and a half. In addition to giving non-violent training sessions to ISM activists, Jean served as a companion to Palestinian women, men and children under threat of injury or death, the bulldozing of their homes and the destruction of their olive groves. Starhawk was also with the ISM in Israel and on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in 2003.

The important thing to remember is that the ISM is totally non-violent in their attitudes and actions. They also do what they can to educate and promote understanding between Palestinians and Israelis. Often they work together.

But this fact does not stop many Americans of Jewish heritage from seeing the ISM as a threat to Israel. To them Palestinians equal suicide bombers. And they often see as anti-semitic other activists' expressions of solidarity with the Palestinians and criticisms of the US giving $7 million A DAY to Sharon and the Israeli military. It can be a difficult gap to bridge.

But that doesn't mean we stop trying.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

The Real State of the Union 

Tonight George W. Bush, the nation's first unelected president, will give his State of the Union performance. I will not be watching; my doctor said lies are bad for my health. Just in case there's someone out there who wants a preview of what won't be said, I quote the following article that appeared in today's Independent/UK:

George W Bush and the Real State of the Union

Today the President gives his annual address. As the election battle begins, how does his first term add up?

232: Number of American combat deaths in Iraq between May 2003 and January 2004

501: Number of American servicemen to die in Iraq from the beginning of the war - so far

0: Number of American combat deaths in Germany after the Nazi surrender to the Allies in May 1945

0: Number of coffins of dead soldiers returning home from Iraq that the Bush administration has allowed to be photographed

0: Number of funerals or memorials that President Bush has attended for soldiers killed in Iraq

100: Number of fund-raisers attended by Bush or Vice-President Dick Cheney in 2003

13: Number of meetings between Bush and Tony Blair since he became President

10 million: Estimated number of people worldwide who took to the streets in opposition to the invasion of Iraq, setting an all-time record for simultaneous protest

2: Number of nations that Bush has attacked and taken over since coming into the White House

9.2: Average number of American soldiers wounded in Iraq each day since the invasion in March last year

1.6: Average number of American soldiers killed in Iraq per day since hostilities began

16,000: Approximate number of Iraqis killed since the start of war

10,000: Approximate number of Iraqi civilians killed since the beginning of the conflict

$100 billion: Estimated cost of the war in Iraq to American citizens by the end of 2003

$13 billion: Amount other countries have committed towards rebuilding Iraq (much of it in loans) as of 24 October

36%: Increase in the number of desertions from the US army since 1999

92%: Percentage of Iraq's urban areas that had access to drinkable water a year ago

60%: Percentage of Iraq's urban areas that have access to drinkable water today

32%: Percentage of the bombs dropped on Iraq this year that were not precision-guided

1983: The year in which Donald Rumsfeld gave Saddam Hussein a pair of golden spurs

45%: Percentage of Americans who believed in early March 2003 that Saddam Hussein was involved in the 11 September attacks on the US

$127 billion: Amount of US budget surplus in the year that Bush became President in 2001

$374 billion: Amount of US budget deficit in the fiscal year for 2003

1st: This year's deficit is on course to be the biggest in United States history

$1.58 billion: Average amount by which the US national debt increases each day

$23,920: Amount of each US citizen's share of the national debt as of 19 January 2004

1st: The record for the most bankruptcies filed in a single year (1.57 million) was set in 2002

10: Number of solo press conferences that Bush has held since beginning his term. His father had managed 61 at this point in his administration, and Bill Clinton 33

1st: Rank of the US worldwide in terms of greenhouse gas emissions per capita

$113 million: Total sum raised by the Bush-Cheney 2000 campaign, setting a record in American electoral history

$130 million: Amount raised for Bush's re-election campaign so far

$200m: Amount that the Bush-Cheney campaign is expected to raise in 2004

$40m: Amount that Howard Dean, the top fund-raiser among the nine Democratic presidential hopefuls, amassed in 2003

28: Number of days holiday that Bush took last August, the second longest holiday of any president in US history (Record holder: Richard Nixon)

13: Number of vacation days the average American worker receives each year

3: Number of children convicted of capital offences executed in the US in 2002. America is only country openly to acknowledge executing children

1st: As Governor of Texas, George Bush executed more prisoners (152) than any governor in modern US history

2.4 million: Number of Americans who have lost their jobs during the three years of the Bush administration

221,000: Number of jobs per month created since Bush's tax cuts took effect. He promised the measure would add 306,000

1,000: Number of new jobs created in the entire country in December. Analysts had expected a gain of 130,000

1st: This administration is on its way to becoming the first since 1929 (Herbert Hoover) to preside over an overall loss of jobs during its complete term in office

9 million: Number of US workers unemployed in September 2003

80%: Percentage of the Iraqi workforce now unemployed

55%: Percentage of the Iraqi workforce unemployed before the war

43.6 million: Number of Americans without health insurance in 2002

130: Number of countries (out of total of 191 recognized by the United Nations) with an American military presence

40%: Percentage of the world's military spending for which the US is responsible

$10.9 million: Average wealth of the members of Bush's original 16-person cabinet

88%: Percentage of American citizens who will save less than $100 on their 2006 federal taxes as a result of 2003 cut in capital gains and dividends taxes

$42,000: Average savings members of Bush's cabinet are expected to enjoy this year as a result in the cuts in capital gains and dividends taxes

$42,228: Median household income in the US in 2001

$116,000: Amount Vice-President Cheney is expected to save each year in taxes

44%: Percentage of Americans who believe the President's economic growth plan will mostly benefit the wealthy

700: Number of people from around the world the US has incarcerated in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

1st: George W Bush became the first American president to ignore the Geneva Conventions by refusing to allow inspectors access to US-held prisoners of war

+6%: Percentage change since 2001 in the number of US families in poverty

1951: Last year in which a quarterly rise in US military spending was greater than the one the previous spring

54%: Percentage of US citizens who believe Bush was legitimately elected to his post

1st: First president to execute a federal prisoner in the past 40 years. Executions are typically ordered by separate states and not at federal level

9: Number of members of Bush's defense policy board who also sit on the corporate board of, or advise, at least one defense contractor

35: Number of countries to which US has suspended military assistance after they failed to sign agreements giving Americans immunity from prosecution before the International Criminal Court

$300 million: Amount cut from the federal program that provides subsidies to poor families so they can heat their homes

$1 billion: Amount of new US military aid promised Israel in April 2003 to offset the "burdens" of the US war on Iraq

58 million: Number of acres of public lands Bush has opened to road building, logging and drilling

200: Number of public-health and environmental laws Bush has attempted to downgrade or weaken

29,000: Number of American troops - which is close to the total of a whole army division - to have either been killed, wounded, injured or become so ill as to require evacuation from Iraq, according to the Pentagon

90%: Percentage of American citizens who said they approved of the way George Bush was handling his job as president when asked on 26 September, 2001

53%: Percentage of American citizens who approved of the way Bush was handling his job as president when asked on 16 January, 2004

© 2004 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd

Sunday, January 18, 2004

We Honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Tomorrow Detroit will hold its annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr birthday celebration; last Friday would have been his 75th birthday. Somehow I find it surprising that he would have been so young had he lived--just one year older than my dear husband Ed.

What would our country be like today had Dr. King been able to live the long life he deserved? What would he be saying about the current US president's choices for preemptive wars, civil rights-defeating bills like the US Patriot Act, over-bloated defense budgets and underfunded social and education programs? How would he see a federal deficit amounting to trillions, a deficit that will be left as a monstrous legacy to our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren?

Would all this be happening if we had a national leader of the stature of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr? I wonder.

So tomorrow at noon, Detroiters and suburbanites of all ages, races, religions, economic and educational backgrounds, countries of origin and political beliefs will meet at Central Methodist Church--the "peace church"--and at 1 PM, those of us who are able, will walk, scoot, wheel down Washington Blvd., circle around the US Federal Building on Michigan Avenue, and head back toward the church for an indoor--bless them!--rally to be held from 2-4 PM.

The organizers say we will honor "the peace and social justice legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr...The rally will feature local speakers, music and a public demonstration calling for an end to the occupation and to bring the troops home now!"

The Raging Grannies Without Borders have been invited to sing two songs at the rally. The first will be Rochester, NY Granny Vicki Ryder Lewin's "Follow the Money" (a song that tells in no uncertain terms who profits from the war on Iraq), and our second song will be one I recently adapted from a William Wolff song that one of our Grannies found in an old Unitarian-Universalist songbook. It goes like this:

(tune: We Gather Together)

We Grannies here gather to sing out for freedom,
To join with all people and make justice known.
No dark inquisition will sway our disposition,
In freedom's name we sing for the planet, our home.

So people of conscience, refuse to stay silent,
And dare to reclaim all the rights that are ours.
We make no concession to tyranny's oppression,
Our faith is in the people and their sov'reign pow'rs.

This day as we gather to sing out for freedom
Our voices join others who circle the earth
Together our efforts are tearing down the barriers
So freedom, peace and justice can now come to birth

Friday, January 16, 2004

Monty Python Is Anti-War 

This is going to be a VERY long post, but I think it's worth it. Hope you agree. Although it's almost a year old now, this Letter to the Editor is still all-too-relevant, besides being laugh-out-loud funny...

A letter to the London Observer newspaper from Terry Jones (of Monty Python fame).

Sunday January 26, 2003
The Observer

I'm really excited by George Bush's latest reason for bombing Iraq: he's running out of patience. And so am I! For some time now I've been really pissed off with Mr Johnson, who lives a couple of doors down the street.

Well, him and Mr Patel, who runs the health food shop. They both give me queer looks, and I'm sure Mr Johnson is planning something nasty for me, but so far I haven't been able to discover what.

I've been round to his place a few times to see what he's up to, but he's got everything well hidden. That's how devious he is. As for Mr Patel, don't ask me how I know, I just know - from very good sources - that he is, in reality, a Mass Murderer. I have leafleted the street telling them that if we don't act first, he'll pick us off one by one.

Some of my neighbours say, if I've got proof, why don't I go to the police?
But that's simply ridiculous. The police will say that they need evidence of a crime with which to charge my neighbours.

They'll come up with endless red tape and quibbling about the rights and wrongs of a pre-emptive strike and all the while Mr Johnson will be finalising his plans to do terrible things to me, while Mr Patel will be secretly murdering people. Since I'm the only one in the street with a decent range of automatic firearms, I reckon it's up to me to keep the peace. But until recently that's been a little difficult. Now, however, George W. Bush has made it clear that all I need to do is run out of patience, and then I can wade in and do whatever I want!

And let's face it, Mr Bush's carefully thought-out policy towards Iraq is the only way to bring about international peace and security.

The one certain way to stop Muslim fundamentalist suicide bombers targeting the US or the UK is to bomb a few Muslim countries that have never threatened us.

That's why I want to blow up Mr Johnson's garage and kill his wife and children. Strike first! That'll teach him a lesson. Then he'll leave us in peace and stop peering at me in that totally unacceptable way. Mr Bush makes it clear that all he needs to know before bombing Iraq is that Saddam is a really nasty man and that he has weapons of mass destruction - even if no one can find them. I'm certain I've just as much justification for killing Mr Johnson's wife and children as Mr Bush has for bombing Iraq. Mr Bush's long-term aim is to make the world a safer place by eliminating 'rogue states' and 'terrorism'. It's such a clever long-term aim because how can you ever know when you've achieved it?

How will Mr Bush know when he's wiped out all terrorists? When every single terrorist is dead? But then a terrorist is only a terrorist once he's committed an act of terror.

What about would-be terrorists? These are the ones you really want to eliminate, since most of the known terrorists, being suicide bombers, have already eliminated themselves.

Perhaps Mr Bush needs to wipe out everyone who could possibly be a future terrorist? Maybe he can't be sure he's achieved his objective until every Muslim fundamentalist is dead? But then some moderate Muslims might convert to fundamentalism. Maybe the only really safe thing to do would be for Mr Bush to eliminate all Muslims?

It's the same in my street. Mr Johnson and Mr Patel are just the tip of the iceberg. There are dozens of other people in the street who I don't like and who - quite frankly - look at me in odd ways. No one will be really safe until I've wiped them all out. My wife says I might be going too far but I tell her I'm simply using the same logic as the President of the United States. That shuts her up.

Like Mr Bush, I've run out of patience, and if that's a good enough reason for the President, it's good enough for me.

I'm going to give the whole street two weeks - no, 10 days - to come out in the open and hand over all aliens and interplanetary hijackers, galactic outlaws and interstellar terrorist masterminds, and if they don't hand them over nicely and say 'Thank you', I'm going to bomb the entire street to kingdom come.

It's just as sane as what George W. Bush is proposing - and, in contrast to what he's intending, my policy will destroy only one street.

Terry Jones

Thursday, January 15, 2004

"That's OK"  

I just read Katja's January 14 blog entry--You're Welcome, in which she urges readers to reclaim the phrase "You're welcome" in response to "Thank you." She maintains that most people reply to a "Thank you" with another "Thank you", ad infinitum.

I would like to add my two cents to the discussion. I'm not as put off by receiving a "Thank you" to my "Thank you" as I am when I hear, "That's OK." I want to say, "No, that's not OK; I'm not talking about OK; I'm saying thank you."

My husband Ed and I have noticed another use of "That's OK" among younger people. When you ask if they want something, want to go somewhere, or do something, and they respond, "That's OK", that means "No." If they say "I don't care", that means "Yes."

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Young Activists 

When anyone asks me where I find hope as an activist committed to peace in a world that seems more and more intent on war, I always answer the same: it is the young activists who give me hope! High school and university aged women and men who show such courage and dedication, are incredibly well informed and willing to put their lives on the line for their is THEY who give me hope. Not just for the future but for the present.

In today's inbox I found another story that fills me with hope. What follows is an article written by Linda Holzbaur, the mother of Anna Ritter, one of the four courageous young women you will meet through her words and through their own statements. Oona, Marie, Ana and Anna are appealing their prison sentences for a nonviolent civil disobedience action taken in a protest against the war on Iraq at the Army Recruiting Center in Lansing (near Ithaca, NY) on December 21, 2002. They could use our support. Their email addresses are:

Oona GradyDeFlaun:
Marie DeMott Grady:
Ana Grady Flores:
Anna Ritter:

And now for their story, followed by their statements to the judge:

Marie DeMott Grady, Ana Grady Flores, Oona Grady DeFlaun and Anna Ritter were sentenced today by Judge William Burin of Lansing to a $250 fine for their participation in a protest against the war on Iraq at the Army Recruiting Center in Lansing on December 21, 2002. The four teens told the judge that they cannot in good conscience pay the fine: they were then sentenced to incarceration for four weekends in the Tompkins County Jail (from 6 pm Friday evening to 6am Monday morning) starting January 9. When the adults refused to pay their $100 fine, they spent from 1 1/2 - 4 days in jail.

On December 21, 2002, a national day of antiwar actions, about three hundred local citizens marched silently through the Pyramid Mall dressed in black with signs that read "No War On Iraq." Thirteen people, including the four teens, then proceeded to the Army Recruiting Center where they laid down on the floor with banners which identified each as a victim of war, either a serviceperson or an Iraqi civilian. They read from Dr. Martin Luther King's Christmas Sermon of 1967 and were arrested when they refused to leave.

The District Attorney, George Dentes, charged the adults with a trespass violation (a violation is on par with a traffic ticket) and the minors with a misdemeanor violation, a more serious charge. The adults who had participated received a $100 fine after their trial last May. Youthful offenders charged with misdemeanors are not entitled to a jury trial, adults are. These youthful offender laws were written to protect young people yet the Tompkins County District Attorney has used them to gain misdemeanor convictions without the expense of jury trials.

Each of the four girls read a statement today, expressing their disappointment that the judge did not understand why they felt called to participate in the die-in that day. Thousands have died, the Administration has lied, their powerful corporate friends have profited, families are divided and irreparable harm has been done to people, a culture, the environment and the stability of the earth. Four young girls are now being jailed for a nonviolent protest: is this justice?

Ana Flores is a student at the Alternative Community School in Ithaca. Anna Ritter, Oona and Marie are homeschooled. All four received the William DeWinter Human Rights Award from the Tompkins County Human Rights Commission on Dec. 10th, 2003.

Sentencing Statement - Marie DeMott Grady-18

It is easy to forget, to block out our reasons for going to the recruiters' center. If you only take into account the facts that we were there, did lie down, and refused to leave when we were ordered to by police, then obviously we were and are guilty. It seems that somehow, I don't know how, we failed to explain full enough to you our reasons for being there and for that I apologize. We went there to try in some very small way to prevent the pain and suffering being experienced by so many families in this country as they receive the most dreaded news you can give to any parents. Your dead.

I cannot get the picture of the father of the Cornell student killed in Iraq who was in the paper recently and the horror on his face, out of my head. Nor can I forget the face of a young Iraqi boy in the hospital who represents so many Iraqi children who are sick and dying from the poison we have bombed them with. There are thousands of Iraqis still suffering along with our troops. I do not believe that I committed a crime by going to the recruiters' office. I would ask you to give us a time served sentence. We have spent an enormous amount of time preparing for and participating in this court process and I think that all of that time and energy more than makes up for a crime that we did not commit. If you cannot do that, I would encourage you to give us the community service of educating other young people about conscientious objector status and their options concerning the military. It would have a similar message to our action and I would hope that it would be acceptable to you. I must tell you that, meaning no disrespect for you, I cannot in good conscience pay a fine. I feel that doing so would be like agreeing with your guilty verdict and that is something that I cannot do. Please do as your conscience tells you. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sentencing Statement - Anna Ritter-17

Good morning Judge Burin,
Today you are going to sentence us for what you say was a crime. You found us guilty after we proved our action was legal under international law. I hope you will decide not to punish us, because we should not be punished for trying to save lives. We have the support of our community, in fact the four of us just won the Tompkins County Youth Human Rights Award . If you still decide to sentence us, I ask that you let us organize programs to educate youth about the military. I refuse to pay a court fine, but talking to youth about the military would benefit others, and we would not have to get arrested again, and keep bothering you. I will stand in solidarity with my co-defendants and ask that you sentence us all the same thing. Thank you and good day.

Sentencing Statement - Ana Grady Flores- 17

For the past five days I have been sick with the flu. So sick that I was paralyzed in bed, I couldn't open my eyes because of the horrible pain it came with. I couldnít move my legs because of the excruciating arthritic pain, and most of all my head, Mr. Burin, my head felt like it was being crushed not just once but over and over again. When I needed to go to the bathroom my mom carried me because I could not walk on my own. But you know something your Honor, I was lucky, I was privileged to be in the position that I was in. Not that I was glad to be sick, but I had what I needed. I had clean water that I could drink, medicine which healed me, and a family to care for me in the warmth and safety of my home, unlike the innocent people in Iraq who don't have enough basic medicine like Tylenol and medicine that would cure simple things like diarrhea. They don't have a safe place to go to because their houses have "accidentally" been bombed by U.S. warplanes.

I am not guilty of committing any crime. All we were trying to do was share with our men and women in the service another way and if trying to share with people different options is a crime in this country then we are no longer living in a true democracy. I cannot consciously pay any fine to the court. I am a student and do not have the money. I would like to thank you for the time that you have spent with us.

Sentencing Statement - Oona GradyDeFlaun-18

I did an action almost a year ago and I have been talking to people about it ever since. I went to the US Army and Marines Recruiting station because under International Law, which we are bound to under the constitution, I was obligated to put my body on the line. It was my duty to get in the way of life as usual - because killing people should never be considered life as usual.

I have spent this year talking to people, from my friends and family to total strangers, about why I did this action. This November the four of us were asked to speak at the rally to close the US Army School of the Americas in Ft. Benning, Georgia. And just last week we received the William De Winter Human Rights Award from the Tompkins County Human Rights Commission. It is wonderful to have such strong community support.

One of the reasons that I did this action is because of my concern for young people like me who join the military for economic reasons without fully understanding what they are getting into and that there are other options out there. I am going to college in the fall and know first hand that there isn't a lot of money out there to help working class and poor people get an education. But there is one well publicized way of getting it all for free.

As I and my codefendants have clearly stated and proved to you, we did not commit a crime and therefore should not be punished. I am not willing to pay a fine and likewise am not able to cooperate with probation. The community service that we four have already started - speaking truth about the military - is a service I plan to continue. I am planning on educating myself more on how to gain conscientious objector status first by taking a training and then by giving workshops with and for interested students and teachers. I plan on using this knowledge and experience to work with people on alternatives to the military. Judge Burin, I believe that the punishment should fit the "crime," and I think assigning us this community service would be the most appropriate "punishment."

Monday, January 12, 2004

Another CD Launch 

On Saturday, Peg, Jeanne, Judy and I arrived in Georgetown, Ontario at 3:30 PM after an easy three-hour drive from Detroit. We checked me into my motel room and proceeded to stretch out, two to a bed, for a little lie-down before we were to meet our Great Lakes sisters at a nearby restaurant for dinner. Our dinner gathering was fun and afterwards, folks went to Arlene's house to practice singing for Sunday's O Beautiful Gaia CD launch. I chose to stay at my motel and go to bed early. The other women were staying in people's homes, but because of my accessibility needs I was staying at a motel. It was very comfortable.

Sunday, after eating lunch and having a wonderful visit together, my brother Mazen Haddad (Rabih's brother) drove me to Milton for the O Beautiful Gaia CD Launch. I arrived a little after 2 PM, just in time to practice (photos #1 & #2) a couple of songs with the ten Great Lakes Basin sisters who had travelled from the Windsor/Detroit area, our three Georgetown sisters--Catherine, Arlene and Dianne--who had organized today's event, and their singing circle with whom we would be singing. Jeanette accompanied us on the piano.

The Launch was held in the sunny, elegant Hugh Foster Hall, and at the center of the room was a lovely altar. By 3 PM, the room was full of friends who had come from as far away as Toronto and Hamilton. I recognized many of their faces because we'd attended a Carolyn McDade retreat together in October 2001 at Five Oaks retreat center in Paris, Ontario. Before today's program began--while we were enjoying the delicious homemade refreshments--I met Daphne and asked her to be my designated photographer. I knew it would be impossible for me to sing and take pictures at the same time. Many of the following photos are her work.

The program opened with Catherine introducing the O Beautiful Gaia CD project. She stressed that we were interested in so much more than simply making a CD; it was the preservation of the planet that motivated and encouraged us to keep moving forward. Throughout the day we sang, always inviting everyone to join in (words to the songs were printed in their programs). Interspersed throughout the afternoon were reflections and/or readings by members of our Great Lakes Basin community, as when Dianne introduced the round, "The Rivers Are Flowing." Thanks to hours of hard work, Cobe was able to show a Power-Point presentation of the endangered species as we chanted their names. Two of our songs were interpreted in dance. Cheryl performed a lyrical modern dance as we sang "The Circle of Life", and Valerie led the community in dancing to "So Great A Love." Daphne took this, my favorite photo, as that dance came to a beautiful conclusion. And then the Assent/Dissent movement songs led into a time of drumming and percussion, with everyone involved, including Pat N. and Jeanne dancing to the beat. We finished by singing "O Beautiful Gaia" one final time.

By the time the program had ended, it was 4:30 PM. Snow flurries were making things look even more lovely, but my friends and I still had to return home to Detroit. The snow seemed to have stopped by the time we were packed up and ready to go, so after posing for this silly picture, Peg got behind the wheel and we set off for home. It wasn't until we'd been on the 401 about a half hour that the occasional flurries had turned into a blizzard, with white-out conditions. We kept up our courage by singing Carolyn McDade and Holly Near songs, and five and a half hours later, we pulled into my driveway, deeply grateful to be home.

Friday, January 09, 2004

The Bush Hitler Thing 

Once in a long while you read an article or column that you wish everyone would read. And so it is with "The Bush Hitler Thing", a reader's submission published today on

It starts:

"My family was one of Hitler's victims. We lost a lot under the Nazi occupation, including an uncle who died in the camps and a cousin killed by a booby trap. I was terrified when my father went ballistic after finding my brother and me playing with a hand grenade. (I was only 12 at the time, and my brother insisted the grenade was safe.) I remember the rubble and the hardships of 'austerity' - and the bomb craters from Allied bombs. As late as the 1980s, I had to take detours while bombs were being removed - they litter the countryside, buried under parking lots,buildings, and in the canals and rivers to this day. Believe me, I learned a lot about Hitler while I was growing up, both in Europe and here in the US - both my parents were in the war and talked about it constantly, unlike most American families. I spent my earliest years with the second-hand fear that trickled down from their PTSD - undiagnosed and untreated in those days."

And ends:

"I'm afraid now, that what may still come to pass is a reign far more savage and barbaric than that of the Nazis. Already, appeasement has been fruitless - it only encourages the brazen to escalate their arrogance and braggadocio. Americans support Bush - by a generous majority - and mass media sings his praises while indicting his detractors - or silencing their opinions completely. The American people seem to care only about the domestic economic situation - and even in that, they are in complete denial. They don't want to hear about Iraq, and Afghanistan is already forgotten. Even the Democratic opposition supports the occupation of Iraq. Everyone seems to agree that Saddam Hussein deserves to be executed -with or without a trial. 'Visitors' are fingerprinted. Guilty until proven innocent. Snipers are on New York City rooftops. When do the Stryker teams start appearing on American streets? They're perfectly suited for 'Homeland Security' - and they've had a trial run in Iraq. The Constitution has been suspended - until further notice. Dick Cheney just mentioned it may be for decades - even a generation, as Rice asserts as well. Is this the start of the 1000 year reign of this new collection of thugs? So it would seem.

"I can only hope that in the coming year there will be some sign - some hint - that we are not becoming that which we abhor. The Theory of the Grotesque fares all too well these days. It may not be Nazi Germany - it might be a lot worse."

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

The Stress of Knowing 

I'm coming to see that my knee-jerk anger/outrage when I read articles like this one--"Execs Pay to Play with GOP: Fund-Raiser Includes Helping Leaders Write Energy 'To-Do List'"--is not helpful, to myself or to others. I would do better simply to take it in as information that I need to have. It isn't as if getting myself in a stew-fit will change anything anyway. All it will do is disrupt my equilibrium and cause unnecessary stress. I'm sure this Republican-dominated Congress and George W. Bush's administration are not the first to play this game. I can certainly see members of Bill Clinton's administration--including Bill himself--and the formerly Democratic-dominated Congress acting in much the same way. Perhaps the "To-Do List" looked a bit different, but the idea was the same--promises made for campaign donations received. Politics American-style stinks to high heaven and has for a long, long time.

A Buddhist approach, that's what I need. Breathe it in as information received and breathe it out as knowledge shared. No judgements, simply awareness of what is. When action is called for, I'll know, but until then mindfulness will suffice.

What helped me see things in perspective was another article--"Dean's Uphill Battle in Bush Fantasyland"--in which we see the unsavory shenanigans going on behind the scenes in the Democratic party, in particular, Bill and Hilary Clinton's response to the rise of Howard Dean. Who'd a thunk a Democrat would not want the Democratic candidate to unseat George W. Bush in 2004? But when ambition--personal ambition--is at the heart of your decisions/actions/opinions, anything is possible. Interesting.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

The Possibility of a Book 

I've just finished reading another of my post-September 11th journals--this one was Journal 23. I've now read four and a half months' of journal entries and am amazed at how much happened in my life during that block of time. What especially interests me is how quickly Rabih Haddad and his wife Sulaima moved to the center of my heart and my commitment to justice. It is now January 24, 2001 (in my journals) and I have just arrived in San Francisco for my 3-month winter stay.

The more I read the more encouraged I get about the possibility of turning this into a book. When I mentioned this idea to Ed, he reminded me that with my mother's legacy money I could actually afford to self-publish it if I wanted. Hadn't even considered that. But a friend of mine self-published his book through Xlibris last year and they did a wonderful job. Hmmm...

Reading My Own Story 

It feels funny to say that I am deeply touched by my own story, but I am. This afternoon I continued reading the journals I'd written after September 11, 2001: today it was Journal 22. It's interesting to see how the theme of September 11th runs through every entry. Even if I'm writing about scooting beside the lake on a warm autumn day--as I often was because the weather that year was unusually mild--the horrors of what we had suffered as a nation on that most beautiful of September days, and the horrors of retribution that followed, are never far from the surface. I now see it was the absence of a common theme that blocked my first efforts to convert my online journals into a publishable body of work. At that time--was it spring 2002?--I'd simply planned to collect a year's worth of journal entries--starting with my first entry on February 25, 2000--and call it a book. The only "theme" was life. Perhaps it was still too close to September 11th for me to see the transformative power of that tragic event. Truly, nothing was ever the same after that. And for a peace activist like me, September 11th and how it was used by my government, narrowed my focus like a laser beam.

I will continue working on this project.

Actually, today helped me see what a good choice it is for me to work at something here at home. Especially during a Michigan winter. I awoke to frost on my window and reports of a high of 17 degrees F. A lovely stay-at-home day. In addition to my journal project, I spent time reading Maxine Hong Kingston's most recent book, "The Fifth Book of Peace", cleaned up my overloaded email files, enjoyed a lovely Middle Eastern lunch, and sat on our living room couch with brilliant sun shining on my face and sang songs I already knew and songs I made up. Soon Ed will be home for dinner and we'll have the treat of eating my friend Pat's homemade corn quesadillas. Then we'll probably end the evening by watching the quirky BBC video, "The Singing Detective."

A nice winter's day.

A New Beginning 

The first Monday after the holidays always feels like a new beginning to me. And I used it that way. I began to explore the possibility of converting some of my journals into hardcopy. I tried this once before but the time wasn't right. What I looked at today were the entries starting with September 11, 2001. I've heard of, seen and/or read many books by journalists and political analysts who have tackled our post-September 11th world, but have yet to see the story from an unknown activist's point of view. Today I re-read Journal archives 19, 20 & 21 and found it interesting going. I plan to continue to explore this idea. Any suggestions from my faithful readers would be most appreciated.

Tonight Ed drove me and La Lucha my scooter to swimming. Yesterday's snow made the roads and sidewalks too treacherous for scooting. Thanks, Eddie. It felt GREAT to be back in the water!!! Everyone always asks me how were my holidays, but I have to say that I much prefer my everyday life. I have missed both swimming and the kids at school SO MUCH. Tonight's swimming was both familiar and new. I did 20 lengths of the freestyle before my left shoulder--that's been bugging me of late--set up such a howl I couldn't ignore it. I asked Tim to please get me a kickboard and when he brought it over, he suggested that I also try fins. I've resisted this idea for several years, but decided to give it a try tonight. Tim even fitted them on my feet and coached me in their use. I must admit I didn't much like them. I felt like a penquin with too big feet. But the longer I used them--or tried to use them--the more I could see their benefit. Not only could I go faster, but I could feel my thigh muscles getting a workout. That is worth any discomfort! I'll definitely try them again.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

Memories of Broadway Plays 

I'm listening to a remastered CD of the original cast recording of "Hello Dolly" on CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Company) radio. Carol Channing and her bigger-than-life, squeaky, throaty voice brings back vivid memories of seeing her in the pre-Broadway showing of this hit musical at the National Theatre in Washington, DC. It was 1963 and the audience response was unlike anything I've ever seen. I think we stayed on our feet cheering for at least twenty minutes.

My parents were great about taking us to plays in Washington. I remember seeing "West Side Story" in 1957 and falling in love with street gangs. When we went to New York City the following Easter, all I wanted to see were gangs. Forget the Empire State Building or Times Square; if there weren't gangs there, I wasn't interested. I remember going backstage to meet Julie Harris when I was 11. Somehow my parents had arranged it so that I could ask her my burning question: "Should I go into theater as an actress?" If my memory's correct, Ms. Harris was gracious and advised me to get a good education before I made any such decision. During those years we saw Ethel Merman--whom my mother adored--in "Annie Get Your Gun", Mary Martin in "Peter Pan", Gwen Verdon in "Redhead", Rosalind Russell in "Auntie Mame" (the funniest laugh-out-loud play I ever saw), Betty Grable at a Christmas show featuring the Rockettes, and Helen Hayes several times.

My two sisters and I responded by acting in every play put on by our Jr., Sr. high school, and then continuing our acting careers in college. But of the three of us, only my younger sister Emily actually became an actress. After college she entered the drama school at Catholic University (which was excellent at the time) in Washington, DC, and had not a little success in summer stock and professional theaters on the east coast. The play I best remember her in was "The Life and Death of Joe Egg." It was truly disturbing to see my sister "become" Joe Egg, a severely mentally and physically disabled child; her performance was a work of art and, rightfully, received critical acclaim.

All these memories just because I turned on the radio!

It is now 5 PM and the snow has just begun to fall. This morning they were predicting at least 8" of snow tonight, but as the day progressed the predictions dropped to 2-4". But the threat was enough to get me out on the roads. I don't mind the cold but Ona my scooter isn't particularly fond of snow and ice. Well, it was definitely a day when the term "lowering sky" applied. Heavy gray clouds rolled in from the west, but what I will remember was not the clouds but the wind, especially the winds off the lake. The tips of the fingers on my right hand remained red and swollen for over an hour after I'd returned home. And why was it just my fingertips on my right hand that suffered from the cold? Because I had to remove my ski mitten from my right hand in order to take these pictures (photo #1 & #2) of the lake. OOOHH, was it cold!!!

Saturday, January 03, 2004

More News Items 


The Cow Jumped Over the U.S.D.A. by Eric Schlosser, published by the New York Times, 1/2/04.

"The Agriculture Department has a dual, often contradictory mandate: to promote the sale of meat on behalf of American producers and to guarantee that American meat is safe on behalf of consumers. For too long the emphasis has been on commerce, at the expense of safety."

Pace of Attacks on U.S. Troops Hasn't Slowed Since Saddam's Capture by Tom Lasseter, in the Knight-Ridder news service, 1/2/04.

"U.S. and Iraqi officials say they now doubt that Saddam had a significant role in directing guerrilla attacks. They say that while his interrogation has led to some arrests, basic information is still lacking about the guerrilla cells that are attacking U.S. and allied troops with sophistication and brutality."

Condi and the 9/11 Commission, by Timothy J. Burger, in Time Magazine, 12/20/03

"Poised to convene its first hard-hitting hearings in January, the federal commission investigating the 9/11 attacks continues to be at odds with the White House over access to key information and witnesses. Two government sources tell TIME that National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice is arguing over ground rules for her appearance in part because she does not want to testify under oath or, according to one source, in public."

Republicans May Become an Endangered Species, by Rep. McCloskey, published by the Los Angeles Times, 1/2/04

"Back in 1973, the environment was a bipartisan issue. Both parties strongly supported the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, National Environmental Policy Act and many other bedrock laws that have done so much to make our lives enjoyable. Yet today, the Newt Gingrichs and Tom DeLays and others have led the Republican Party to abandon the legacy of Teddy Roosevelt. There are a handful of pro-environment Republicans still in the Congress, but they are outnumbered by people who put corporate campaign contributions and business and development interests ahead in their priorities."

Mogul Behind the Mother of All Media Buyouts by Edward Wasserman, published by the Houston Chronicle, 12/31/03.

"In the spirit of giving, just before Christmas regulators approved a proposal from Rupert Murdoch that will make him the country's mightiest media baron. By a 3-2 vote, the Federal Communications Commission gave Murdoch's News Corp. permission to buy control of DirecTV, the No. 1 U.S. satellite broadcaster."


Building On Our Victories by Elisha Mason, in, 1/2/04.

"If we listen unquestioningly to the mass media, we may begin to believe that we have endured one defeat after another in 2003. And some of us see the commencement of the Iraq War as our greatest defeat. But this is a mistake. Such a perception sees through too narrow a prism. Iraq was a milestone. One battle does not make a war, one experiment does not make an invention and one campaign does not make a movement. In the past year, we have been victorious in progressing as a movement for peace and justice. We have much to celebrate and much to build upon as we face the challenges ahead of us."

Thursday, January 01, 2004

Peace Is Possible 

Do I believe peace is possible? NOW I do, after experiencing today's One Day in Peace with a Global Family Potluck at the Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn Heights, Michigan. Yes, I do. When you see a room full of children, women and men of different religions/no religion, of different races and cultures, from every continent and so many countries I couldn't keep count of them all, people who speak different languages, eat different kinds of food, have different politics and life experiences...if these people can meet in peace, form coalitions dedicated to peace, listen with respect to one another and sit down at table and eat together as one family, then you KNOW peace is possible. Not only possible, but a reality here and now. And it was the children who showed us how to do it, who led us in The World Pledge for Peace. Together, young and old raised our right hands and proclaimed aloud:

"I,________, pledge allegiance to the world,
to care for earth and sea and air,
to cherish every living thing,
with peace and justice

This was the third January 1st that One Day in Peace--nationally proclaimed as such by President Bill Clinton in his final days in office--had been celebrated in this way at this mosque. We had Iman Mohammed Elahi of the Islamic House of Wisdom and Detroit Congressman John Conyers, Jr. to thank for co-hosting the event. Not just them, but all the people behind the scenes who worked untold hours coordinating the many parts of this celebration. And we Raging Grannies were honored to join the wonderful MC, Fadwa Alawieh, the girls from the Islamic Academy, speakers on behalf of the American Indian community, other community leaders, and especially the children.

We've tried war, now let's try peace.

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