Windchime Walker

Windchime Walker <$BlogRSDUrl$>

Thursday, April 29, 2004

My handpainted wheelchair ramp sign 

Today while the kids at school were painting pictures of spring and working with clay, I made a sign for my new minivan.

One of the problems that handicap-accessible van owners commonly experience is people parking too close to the side door so their ramps can't unfold. Say you've parked in a van-accessible parking place--you know, the ones with diagonal blue lines that are supposed to keep enough space free for your ramp or lift to operate--and you've gone off to shop, have a meal, go to a movie or whatever. But when you come back someone has "parked you in," meaning you can't lower your ramp or lift, meaning you can't get in your vehicle, meaning you can't drive. In cases like that, if you're alone, you might have to ask a stranger to pull your van back far enough so you can get in. Not fun.

So, many individuals who own or use a handicap-accessible van or minivan, post a sign on the side or back window of their vehicle to let other drivers know that they must allow at least 8' of space so the ramp or lift can work. The signs I've seen have been pretty generic. But, of course, being an artist I can't use any old generic sign! So I painted my own.

After painting it--the kids were most appreciative of my efforts--Susan laminated my new sign, and even gave me the perfect thing to attach it to the side window of my minvan: large black velcro circles. I used six, knowing that when I'm going 70 MPH down the highway, that sign had better be well attached. I also appreciate using velcro because I can remove the sign before I go through a car wash. Here is a picture of the finished product, attached and ready to go. Now, if you saw a minivan with that sign on its window, wouldn't you be delighted to allow plenty of room for its ramp to operate? Let's hold the thought ;-)

And more options continue to open up to me because of having this wonderful companion. Not only was I able to use my scooter again at school--which was great because we went down to the gym for an afternoon assembly--but I did something I've NEVER done before! I went to the Lebanese bakery by myself to get my own hummous, baba ganouj, mujadra, tabbouli, veggie grape leaves, garlic spread and spinach pies. Until now, Ed always had to be my designated shopper.

I also stopped at our local car wash and asked the manager--a nice young man named Anthony--if their equipment could handle a handicap-converted van like mine that only sits 7" off the ground (they lower the floor to make it easier to use the ramp). He assured me it would work, and when I mentioned that I'd have to get out of my minivan in a place where I could use the ramp, he smiled and said, "You don't even have to get out of your van if you don't want to." So I went through the wash, scrub, rinse and dry cycles like a kid on an amusement park ride, and when it came time to pay, Anthony took my money inside and brought me back the change. It was a piece of cake! And fun too.

I do LOVE my new friend!

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Two realities 

Paradox. That's what it is. Here I sat for a week worrying and fretting over my "major" decision whether to buy a used handicap-accessible minivan or a new one, while people in Iraq were worrying and fretting about whether or not they would survive another day of fighting. Now that the U.S. forces are employing fierce air strikes to try to put down the insurgents, no one is safe. In Fallujah, no one has been safe for a long time. Just ask the gravediggers who have buried bodies on top of bodies--many of them women and children--in the city's soccer stadium-turned-mass graveyard.

How could two realities be more different?

Here in Michigan I sit listening to waves slap the shore and watch a bird hover over the water, suddenly dive in, rising with a fish in its beak. Tulips are in full bloom and trees--now white, pink and lime green--line streets in neighborhoods where the loudest sound is trees being trimmed. Yes, sometimes I wake in the wee hours and hear bomber jets from Selfridge Field screech through the night sky on their way to god-knows-where. But except for these occasional pinpricks of reality, all seems idyllic.

But that is an illusion, and a dangerous one. Until war comes to America we will never know what life is like for so many of the world's people. I'm not saying that I want that to happen; I'm simply acknowledging our inability to know from the inside what the decisions our government makes mean to men, women and children in Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan, Haiti, among many other places. We live in denial and get angry when anyone tries to wake us up.

Think of people's reactions to the disclosure of those photos of rows of flag-draped caskets. How many decried showing such images publicly. As if not seeing them would make the numbers of American soldiers lost in Iraq--115 so far in April; 724 since the war began--more acceptable. Tell that to their families and friends.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

It's done! 

In our garage is a beautiful silver-blue 2003 Dodge Grand Caravan that's been converted into a Braun Entervan with fold-up ramp, power transfer driver's seat and hand controls. After renting it for six days, I now own it. Well, the transfer of title hasn't happened yet, but I have a bill of sale and its former owner has my cashier's check.

Whew! I sure am glad the decision-making process is over. To be honest, I loved this minivan from the moment I first scooted up its ramp and parked in its spacious interior. However, as with any decision involving such a large amount of money, I had to explore all my options, consult with experts, have the vehicle carefully checked, and weigh what seemed like a ton of pros and cons. But I finally followed my heart. Happily, my head agreed!

And now all I want to do is rest and think of nothing that uses any gray matter. For two weeks now I've been totally absorbed in this process. I've neglected friends and family, but everyone has been exceptionally understanding. Not only that, my journal and blog readers have had to walk with me every step of the way. I expect you didn't mind going to Pt. Pelee and Belle Isle, although you might have gotten a bit tired of hearing more than you ever wanted to know about minivans! But as my faithful reader Genevieve says, for me it's been a real adVANture!

Monday, April 26, 2004

Rediscovered Pleasures 

Every day now I'm doing things I never thought I'd do again. Today it was going to Belle Isle by myself and scooting over to Lighthouse Point. The last time I did this was in 1990.

Belle Isle is Detroit's Central Park. It's an island in the middle of the Detroit River with Ontario on one side and Michigan on the other. The only way to get to the island is by bridge or boat. Ed and I lived in an apartment building across from Belle Isle when we were first married. We kept his 13' Boston Whaler in a marina next to our building and often took it over to the island. Ed had grown up belonging to the Detroit Boat Club on Belle Isle, so we had a membership there for a good number of years. We'd moor our boat at the club, run around the island (6 miles), take a swim in the olympic-sized pool, eat lunch on the porch and go back home by boat. Other times we'd drive over and play tennis on the public courts, ride our bicycles, and I even ran two marathons that finished on Belle Isle. Most readers recognize the name because it's where I often go to see the wild deer.

Well, today I parked over by the fishing dock next to the Coast Guard station, scooted out onto the dock to take pictures of a passing ocean-going freighter and a zoom shot of the Detroit skyline. Then I scooted down to Lighthouse Point, but on the way I had to stop and admire a young family of geese (photo #1 & #2), and farther along, two napping geese beside one of Belle Isle's many lagoons.

But, for me, there was nothing quite like scooting along the walkway toward the lighthouse (photo #1 & #2). In 1989-90 our dog Timmy and I used to come to this Point regularly. Winter, spring, summer, fall...we'd be here every season. In the winter I'd bring my cross-country skis. So today I felt Timmy's joyful spirit at my side as I took in the views we used to share. There was even the extra drama of seeing a laker head into the Detroit River from Lake St. Clair and then pass right by.

But going to Lighthouse Point on Belle Isle wasn't the only rediscovered pleasure of the day. I did something else that most people take for granted, but that had been impossible for me for years and years. I stopped at four different places, got out of my car--actually, the accessible minivan--went inside with no effort and no help from anyone, and then got back in my car and drove to the next place. Amazing!!!

By the end of the day I had decided for sure that this is the accessible minivan I want. So I talked with Ed who said, "Go for it." I then called Hugh, the owner of Wheelchair Getaways from whom I'd rented it, and Ed and I will drive out there tomorrow and I'll give him a check. It feels SO right. I really love this minivan and already feel comfortable driving it. Ed's happy with my decision because I explored every option and found answers to all the questions he had. For me, the final "Yes" came when I visited our friend Bob who has recently been put in a nursing home. Bob has good instincts about things like used cars, so I presented him with all the facts and asked his advice. He was real clear: buy the used minivan that your mechanic approved, saves you money, has an excellent extended warranty, and that you love. It's always nice when someone's objective opinion agrees with what you want to do anyway!

A Million +: Massive Turnout for March for Women's Lives 

"Tens of thousands," I wrote in relation to the numbers of women at yesterday's march and rally for Women's Reproductive Rights in Washington, DC. HA! My guesstimate wasn't even close! March organizers say there were OVER A MILLION in attendance!!! It was wall-to-wall demonstrators--women and men--covering every inch of the Mall from the U.S. Capitol to the Washington Monument. In an article published by Reuters--"Massive Protest Decries Bush Abortion Policies"--the author reports that this may have been the largest demonstration EVER in U.S. history!!! So much for citizen apathy!!!

Sunday, April 25, 2004

"Seeing" where you are meant to be 

I sit here at my computer as tens of thousands of women march through the streets of Washington, DC demanding their rights to retain control over their individual reproductive choices. George W. Bush and his Christian fundmentalist appointees have already made strides in their assault on women's rights, but if he is reelected we believe our rights will be totally demolished. Today's rally and march, the first such in 12 years, is an important opportunity for women who feel the government has no right to dictate their private reproductive choices, to stand with their sisters and say, "No government interference! We will fight for the rights we worked so hard to gain."

When I first heard a year ago about this march and rally, I assumed I'd be there singing with the Raging Grannies. Well, the Raging Grannies are there--five from our gaggle alone--so why am I not with them? That is hard to put into words.

As the time approached, I kept trying to see myself there, but I couldn't. And I've learned over the years, that if I can't see myself someplace ahead of time, that tells me I'm not meant to be there. And vice versa. Even if I come up with every reason in the world not to go to a gathering, march or event, but I keep seeing myself there in my mind's eye, then I must respect that "seeing" and go. I have never been led astray when I've used this tool of discernment. Of course, it took me at least five decades to discover and hone these "seeing" powers so they could be trusted.

But even if I'm not there in body, I am definitely with my sisters (and brothers) on the streets of Washington, DC in my heart and mind.

So when I received yesterday's unexpected gift, I knew why I had stayed home. A Carolyn McDade song comes to mind. "There Is a Time" has verses that show how each time has its own special needs. One verse says, "There is a time that we must come together," while another says, "There is a time that we must leave." This weekend was obviously my time to be by myself in the woods. And even though my sister Grannies and other activists might not see that as a good enough reason to miss today's march, I do.

Because only I know what happened out there as I sat in my scooter on a hidden path beside a moss-covered fallen tree, amid sounds and sights of countless species of birds, smelling the unique blend of musky decay and spring's newness, under tall unleafed trees, with my feet planted on lush green earth: I found my Self, the self I'd been missing for longer than I knew, the self that is One with nature. I reclaimed my rights by going to the woods by myself. It was where I was meant to be.

So today I sit and savor the gift of yesterday. I go through and put up the photographs I took, knowing that these images--no matter how beautiful--are mere reminders of what actually happened. And I know that whatever amount of time, energy and money it takes for me to get my own handicap-accessible minivan is well worth it, because it was having the use of such a van that gave me back my SELF. And I'd say that is priceless.

Click here to see my "Alone In The Woods" online photo album.

No Comment! 

Friends, the "comments" section of this blog has been acting unpredictable of late, so if you arrive here and find no comments posted below the entries, simply click the "contact me" under my picture to email me directly.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Could I be any happier? 

I hiked three hours in the woods by myself today! Sound impossible? Not with Ona my trusty scooter, a handicap-accessible minivan, and the well-maintained trails at Pt. Pelee National Park in Leamington, Ontario, it isn't!

This was the first time in ten years that I'd been free to hike by myself in the woods. And to sit in silence, with birdsong, leaves rustling, and occasional hikers' voices being the only sounds I heard...except when I sang softly to myself. For an individual who began taking solitary walks in the woods sixty years ago at age 2--I'd escape from our back yard and toddle over to the stream under the big tree where peeper frogs, turtles and caterpillars kept me company--this was the greatest gift imaginable. The following question kept running through my head: "Could I be any happier?" The answer was, "No!"

Tomorrow I'll share the photos I took and tell you more about this glorious day, but now I must get some sleep. It's almost 10 PM and I only returned home a half hour ago after having left the house this morning at 10 AM.

I can't stop smiling.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Earth Day in Michigan 

I'm quickly running out of steam, so this will be a shorter-than-usual entry. It's only 10 PM, but after a long drive (90 miles round trip) to have the rental van's Braun conversion--including the rattling ramp--checked over, and a brain-wearying meeting with the salesman that involved LOTS of $$ talk in addition to looking at two possible candidates (both brand new 2004 models), lunch at my favorite Lebanese restaurant (made possible because of the rental minivan), arriving home and setting out for a lovely scoot down to the gym, and then a good hard workout...I am ready for bed! But first let me give you a taste of Earth Day in Michigan:

Flowering trees
Azaleas in bloom
A lovely yard
Pansies and tulips
A newly-green tree
Weeping willows beside the lake

Maryland attorney To Meet With Sept. 11 Commission 

The subject of the followng email that I received today from Rabih Haddad's brother, Bassem, was "Vindication may soon follow." May it be so!

"Maryland Attorney To Meet With Sept. 11 Commission"

FREDERICK, Md. (AP) - A Maryland attorney is scheduled to meet this week with the commission investigating the September 11 terror attacks to discuss the government's approach to stopping terrorist financing.

Roger Simmons, of Gordon and Simmons, represented the second-largest Muslim charity in the nation in the wake of the attacks.

An executive order issued by President Bush three months after the Sept. 11 attacks accused Global Relief Foundation of diverting contributions to help bankroll terrorism - a charge the group denies. Since then, officials have frozen the group's bank accounts, revoked its tax-exempt status and deported a co-founder.

"I am the first one to say that, if anyone had anything to do with financing terrorism, then shut them down," Simmons told The Frederick Post. "But first give them due process."

Counsel for the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks invited Simmons to meet with members.

Simmons specializes in First Amendment cases, including Patriot Act litigation. Under the provisions of the Patriot Act, GRF, based in Chicago, was denied due process, Simmons said.

Simmons said he believes his investigation indicates the GRF was legitimate. No criminal charges were brought against any GRF employee, but one of its founders was deported to Lebanon after spending 19 months in jail for an expired visa.

"I decided after talking to everyone in the organization and looking at all the documentation that if you could come up with a charity that was clean, this one was the cleanest you could imagine," Simmons said.

Simmons said tens of thousands of hours were wasted by the FBI in attempting to find evidence of wrongdoing on the part of GRF and its executive director, Mohammad Chehade.

GRF was giving food, blankets, tents and money to vicitms of violence, primarily in the Middle East.

The relief workers at GRF themselves, Simmons said, were "tarred and branded and labeled bad because they worked for a Muslim charity."

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Minivans, Scooters, Children...and Truth 

Night and day. That's what it feels like for me to be pushed in my mother's wheelchair at school as opposed to propelling myself in my scooter. And the kids responded differently too. Instead of the usual lugubrious questions about, "Why can't you walk, Ms. Patricia?", today I heard, "Wow! That scooter is SO cool!! I wish I had one!" You should have seen the faces on the three fifth-grade boys who came down to help straighten out my ramp (it couldn't slide out properly on the grass beside the curb). After I'd scooted out the van onto the sidewalk, and then pushed the remote control to lift the ramp and close the side door on the minivan, those boys' mouths literally dropped open. "I WANT ONE!!!" came out of three mouths at once.

Now I have to say, Susan and the kids have been wonderful about getting my Mom's wheelchair in and out of my car, pushing me to and from the classroom to my car, and even to and from the bathroom when I needed it, but there's NOTHING like independence! I know I sit up straighter and, according to friends, even look differently when using my scooter. The main thing is I feel different. More self-possessed, stronger and happier.

Driving this accessible minivan is already changing my life...and I've only had it two days. I find myself thinking about all the options it gives me to go places and do things. It feels like the world has been opened up to me again. I suspect having such a minivan of my own will be as life-changing as it was to get La Lucha, my first scooter, back in May of 2000.

On the way home from school, I stopped at my local garage and asked the mechanic to do a diagnostic on the minivan. Wally has been servicing my cars for at least 20 years and I trust him totally. Actually, he's given me diagnostics on two other used cars during that time--both of which I ended up buying--and his advice has always been sound. Even though he and his assistant admitted that 25,000 miles is a LOT of mileage for one year, he said the car has been well maintained and everything looks good. He found an oozing power steering cable that would only be $20 to replace, but it obviously wasn't a problem because the power steering fluid was still full. He also said the vehicle had been undercoated after they'd done the conversion, and they'd done a VERY thorough job. These were the best results of any of Wally's previous diagnostics; he had always found a list of minor things wrong on the other cars I'd brought to him. That means a lot.

So far, the only negatives I've seen or heard are: 1) the loud rattling sound of the folded ramp whenever I pass over bumps in the road; and 2) the tendency of the ramp not to slide out properly on grass or uneven surfaces. I've posted a question about both issues on the wheelchair junkie online bulletin board, so I'll see what other handicap-accessible van users have to say about it. Hugh, the rental guy, mentioned the grass problem when he was instructing me yesterday about the minivan, and I've already seen postings about the rattling noise, so it may be that these quirks come with the territory. Tomorrow I'm also going to talk to the accessible van dealer who sells new vehicles to get his perspective on things.

As of now, I'm leaning towards buying this rental van and Ed is playing devil's advocate and bringing up all the reasons to buy a new one. I'm going to sit with all options until my rental week is up. But, no matter what we buy, we ARE going to be getting a handicap-accessible minivan. That's for sure.


Totally off the subject, but extremely important is this article, "Documents Linking Al-Qaeda, Charity Not Found," in USA Today that finally refutes the media accusations that the Global Relief Foundation--the humanitarian aid organization co-founded by Rabih Haddad--was linked to terrorists. Apparently the journalist who broke the story back in January 2002--Jack Kelley--has been totally discredited and charged with plagarism, among other things. Ed told me the editor of USA Today has resigned because of the scandal.

Rabih and Sulaima always said the truth would come out. I just wish they hadn't had to suffer so much before it FINALLY did.

New Wheels (rented for now) 

As the kids used to say, "I am REALLY psyched!!!" I picked up my rental handicap-accessible minivan today (Wednesday), gave it a good test drive on the expressway for 50 miles coming home, went through warm weather with the windows open, rain with the front and rear windshield wipers working, tried out the cruise control and CD player, and found the hand-control brakes to be unexpectedly easy to use. This accessible minivan has both hand and foot controls, so you can use either or both. My Neon is unadapted, so I didn't imagine I'd be using hand controls in the van--at least not yet--but on the straight-a-way, the hand brakes are pretty cool.

As you know if you're a regular reader, I'm renting this Dodge Grand Caravan for a week to see how comfortable I am driving a handicap-accessible minivan. I'm in the market to buy one so I can transport my scooter without my friends and family always having to assemble/disassemble it every time I go someplace. It will also give me the option of going places on my own, without having to worry about finding a nice stranger to help me get my scooter in and out of the trunk of my car. Again, if you're a regular reader, you'll know how important it is for me to feel independent. And that's an understatement.

If I like driving this minivan, the next question is: Do I buy used or new? If used, the minivan I'm renting--a 2003 Dodge Grand Caravan with 25,000 miles--is available for me to buy. I've explored all aspects of this option with the owner of the rental company--price, service records, warranties for both the Braun Entervan conversion and for the vehicle itself--and am satisfied with his answers. Now I will try it out in different driving and parking situations, and take it to my trusted mechanic to get a diagnostic on the minivan itself. As I wrote yesterday, I've bought enough used cars to know the questions to ask (I hope) and the steps to take so as to ensure, to the best of my ability, that I'm not getting a lemon.

I asked Hugh, who runs this Wheelchair Getaways franchise out of his home WAY out in the country, to take pictures to show my journal and blog readers. The first three--photos #1, #2 & #3--show me backing up the ramp in my scooter and parking it behind the power transfer driver's seat. The final picture is of me driving the minivan, right before I started off for home. A happy moment came as I pulled into our two-car garage and found there was plenty of room for me to lower the ramp and scoot out of the minivan. That had been a niggling concern.

This evening I drove the minivan to a Peace Talk being given by Dr. Muli Linder, an Israeli medical doctor who is one of the 600 soldiers and officers of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) who have refused to serve militarily in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the interest of peace. They call their movement the Courage To Refuse, and in the U.S. they're often known as Refuseniks. Whatever they're called, these are courageous people whose decision not only puts them at risk of prison but often alienates them from family and friends. Dr. Linder shared that he has not yet been imprisoned (over 200 of the Refuseniks have), but it has been personally painful that his father and mother disapprove of his decision. He describes his parents as strong Zionists who both lost close members of their families in the Holocaust.

I found this young man--31 years old, a husband and father of two young children--to be a true man of peace. His talk was reasoned and honest, focusing mainly on his own story and how he came to his decision to sign the Combatant's Letter in the winter of 2002. There was a lengthy question and answer period that could not have been easy for him. But he managed to defuse even the most antagonistic comments and questions. Of course, his being a psychiatrist probably didn't hurt! It is always hopeful to meet persons of conscience.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Fallujah through the eyes of an ambulance volunteer/clown 

I have just read a blog entry that has me shivering in shared fear and bowing in shared gratitude. If you want to hear a first-hand account of what it's like to be an ambulance volunteer (and a clown) in Fallujah, go to the British human rights activist Jo Wilding's blog and read her April 20 entry. When it cuts off in the middle of a sentence, scroll down and pick it up again in entry #2.

Gawd! The courage of some people!!!

A path to world peace 

Today a regular reader emailed me in response to yesterday's journal/blog entry. Among other things, she said,

And it is very hard for me to mourn the death of a man who would have gladly killed me simply because I am a Jew, without knowing anything about who I am and what I think. I just want everybody to stop -- stop hating, stop killing, stop hurting, just stop!

Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could gather all those who are hating, killing and hurting others--or instructing their followers to do so--and tell each one to go to their rooms for a "time out" until they can learn to get along?

I often want to ask today's leaders if they feel they've made good choices. And if not, what would be a better choice? That's what we do with kids when they misbehave at school. If they can't correct their behavior, we send them down to the office. Once there, the vice-principal sits them down and tries to find out what's going on. If their offense was particularly serious, they are sent home for the day, or maybe longer.

If I were vice-principal of the U.S. classroom, this is what I'd say to you-know-who:

OK, George. What's going on? You've been caught lying again and again. Not only that, you've been sending your buddies into the playground to beat up on the most defenseless students in school. And now you've hooked up with that bully Ariel and told everybody you are with him all the way.

Do you think you've been making good choices here? How do you think you could handle things better? Maybe it's time for you to go back home to Crawford and consider what you've been doing. When you're ready to make better choices, let me know. Then we'll see if we can take you back into school. It all depends on you.

How I wish it were that simple.

Close Connections, Wise Ones and Night Owls 

Here I am again, starting my journal/blog after midnight. For some reason I've been turning night into day for almost a week now. I haven't gone to bed before 2 AM since last Wednesday; on Saturday it was 4 AM. When I talked to Rabih today, he said he was worried about me the other morning when it was 9 AM his time (2 AM my time), and I hadn't yet put up my journal/blog entry!

Don't worry, faithful readers, I'm just being my truest Night Owl self. But I sleep in, so I'm not short-changing myself in that regard. Actually, I have a herstory of doing this whenever something new is on the horizon. Usually I have no idea what it might be, but I've learned to relax into the process and let things take their course. In retrospect, it always makes sense.

Maybe I'm instinctively putting myself on Middle Eastern time because of the close connections I feel with the people there. I did that during the first Gulf War--even changed my watch to Iraqi time and stayed there until the cease fire. But today when I say "close connections," I mean that I've talked on the phone twice with Sulaima and once with Rabih in Lebanon in the last two days. Like they lived next door...which in today's world, they do. I've also received two emails from Rabih during that time, the second in response to my letter to the editor of the New York Times. In it, he offered his reflections on what is currently happening in the Middle East. He wrote:

I am increasingly perplexed by the simplicity of the issues in comparison with the complexity of the stances that people, institutions, and governments take on them.

For example, the state of Israel was founded based on a 3000 year old promise to return to the land of "milk and honey". They uprooted the natives, scattered them all over the world, demolished their lands and homes, wiped out every kind of hope and aspiration they may have had, amputated every "olive branch holding" hand. All this in the course of a little over 50 years, and now they have denied them the right of return to what is rightfully theirs in the first place. If the Palestinians do not have the right to return to their lands because it is inconceivable, then how was the whole idea of the state of Israel conceived ?

If regime change in Iraq was dictated by that country's "rogue" regime which allegedly did not abide by UN resolutions and possessed weapons of mass destruction, then isn't Israel due for a regime change right about now? No other country has violated more UN resolutions. It is confirmed that Israel possesses weapons of mass destruction developed with American technology. And, above all, it is a regime that engages in state terrorism like other governments collect taxes.

If Afghanistan was invaded for harboring terrorists and offering them material support, then what should be done with an administration that not only sanctions Israel's rogueness but also finances it.

If it is Freedom and Democracy that the US is trying to bring to Iraq, then why is it "imposing" them?

These are just a few of the things that boggle my mind. Don't misunderstand me my dear sister. "Despair" is not in my dictionary. It's just that history is rich in wisdom and lessons that no one seems to be paying attention to. Where is Pharaoh and his armies? Where are the Persian and the Roman Empires? Where is the British Empire? They all transgressed and oppressed and they're all gone!

Rabih Haddad defines the term "wise one," in my view. Even when the news gives him pain--as it certainly does these days--he is able to stand back and see things in an historical context, rather than giving in to pure emotion (which is more my style of late). I am so grateful to have him, Sulaima and their children in my life. When I recall how we first met, I can't believe he is finally free and that we can talk on the phone any time we want. Gratitude is too small a word.

In addition to contacts with my sister and brother in Lebanon, I've had three email exchanges with Raed in Baghdad over the past two days. Raed is an extraordinarily gifted communicator whose blogs have won international awards; I've been a faithful reader of his for over a year. He now has a new blog called "Raed In the Middle" which gives the whole Iraq war and occupation a human dimension. Not only that, his analysis of what is happening and why offers a perspective we in America need to hear. On Saturday night--actually, in the wee hours of Sunday morning--after reading his pained blog entry relating the assassination of the Palestinian Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantissi, I wrote Raed a long email. Actually, that was what kept me up until 4 AM that night. Since then we've emailed back and forth several times, and I continue to pinch myself to see if I am dreaming. The thought that I am communicating with someone in Baghdad, especially now, fills me with awe. Isn't this internet a wonder???

Monday, April 19, 2004

Sunday continued... 

Beyond writing letters to the editor, emailing friends and reading up on what is going on in Iraq and Palestine, I called Lebanon and had a wonderful talk with Sulaima (Rabih was at evening prayers at the mosque). Then I went out into this GLORIOUS spring day. A high of 80 degrees!!! Trees and bushes greening up, forsythia in full bloom, and jonquils and daffodils everywhere. I wore a short-sleeved shirt and shorts and went to the gym for a good, hard workout. Then I stopped in to see Ed for a few minutes before scooting down to a restaurant I like for a nice supper of salad, soup and french bread. I sat outside at their one of their tables and enjoyed the sounds of birds and fragrance of flowers. At 7 PM I met with our community peace group for their weekly vigil/discussion at a local coffeehouse. Again, we sat outside and, even though it was hard to hear one another, it was a delight to enjoy more of this beautiful day. I was home by 9 PM.

But I have to say, as grateful as we all are for spring finally bringing the warmth and beauty we craved, everyone I talked with today said that last week was a nightmare. I first heard it in an email from Rabih this morning, then Sulaima said it, and finally the peace folks, especially Aly, agreed that they hoped never to have to go through another week like that one. Poor Aly, a deeply sensitive man, was throwing up all week, yet had no fever. These violent choices by world leaders take it out of all of us.

And now Sharon's forces have assassinated another Palestinian leader, this time it was Abdel Aziz Rantissi, a medical doctor who recently took over leadership of Hamas after the assassination last month of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. Sulaima said that as soon as they heard about this latest assassination, the people of Beirut took to the streets for a huge protest demonstration. Where will it end?

Sunday, April 18, 2004

My Letter to the NY Times 

Since Bush's joint press conference with Ariel Sharon on Wednesday, I've been trying to figure out why the White House would choose this week of all weeks to announce such a radical shift in foreign policy, a shift that was certain to further inflame Arab people all over the world. It wasn't as if the Bush administration wasn't already doing enough to stir up anti-American sentiment with their actions in Fallujah, Sadr-city in Baghdad, Najaf and other hotspots around Iraq. Why add to it?

Yesterday a lightbulb flashed on in my head and I suddenly saw that the Bush adminstration was acting with great intentionality: that they WANTED to fan the flames of anti-American feeling among Arabs and Muslims. And why would they want to do this? Simple. If they could push these people far enough, they could then point to them and say,"Look! They're barbarians, terrorists every one. We've got to go in there (Iraq, Syria, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, etc.) and put them down or they'll come and attack us here in America!"

2 + 2 = 4

So today I wrote the following letter to the editor of the New York Times:

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Dear editors

Many people scratched their heads in amazement last Wednesday that President Bush chose that week, a week of gruesome developments in Iraq, to further inflame the Arab world by announcing an unexpected foreign policy shift that gave Israel's Ariel Sharon complete freedom to pursue his dream of taking over the West Bank and eliminating any real chance for the Palestinian people to return to their homeland or create their own state in the future.

But timing is everything, and the Bush administration was well aware of the certainty of an Arab-based anti-American response to this announcement. In fact, that was what they wanted. And the more violent the better. For explosive anti-American attitudes and actions by Muslims and Arabs the world over are the President's trump card in this tragic game he is playing with human lives in the Middle East. I say "the President", knowing full well that he is not the one making decisions, but the one who presents the decisions made by others.

There is one decision-maker in Bush's White House right now, and that is Karl Rove, the man entrusted with getting the President re-elected in November. Every decision we see from now on is made with that prize in mind. And Karl Rove is a canny political thinker. He knows that, with the economy in shreds, former administration insiders lining up to go public with unsettling disclosures, Congress beginning to wake from their 9/11 fear-induced slumber and Iraq looking more like Vietnam every day, he has to do SOMETHING to turn this this around, and fast. That "something" is to so inflame Iraqis, Palestinians, Iranians, Syrians, Jordanians, the Lebanese and Turks that all of these people can be painted with the Big T (terrorist) brush and turned into Enemies Of The American People. Hey, it worked with Saddam Hussein.

The best defense is a good offense. But to mount that offensive, you need to create an enemy. So whip up an already beleagured, oppressed, frustrated, terrified, angry mass of people and then mow them down. The "War President" rules again. Simple, says Karl Rove, the genius who got George W. Bush into office in the first place.

I say, wake up, my American sisters and brothers! Don't fall into their trap. Look behind the rhetoric to the substance; it is barely concealed. If we allow ourselves to "hate" a new enemy, we are lost. The stakes are high and we need to play the hand we've been dealt with forethought and cunning. Don't let Karl Rove over-trump us again.

Patricia Lay-Dorsey
Detroit, Michigan

Open windows and bunny rabbits 

It's 1 AM Sunday morning and the window is open beside my computer table. Ah, spring!

Tonight my friend Pat Kolon and I went out to dinner and to a wonderful movie at the Detroit Film Theatre. It was so warm that we sat outside in front of the Art Institute for awhile after dinner. Pat had on a light cotton jacket and I also wore cotton. Even four days ago I wouldn't have imagined such a thing would be possible.

The movie was excellent! Here's how it was described online:

JAMES' JOURNEY TO JERUSALEM (Israel-2003-Ra'anan Alexandrowicz)
A canny and charming modern fable, Ra'anan Alexandrowicz's debut feature follows the adventures of James (Siyabonga Melongisi Shibe), a devout, wide-eyed Christian who encounters unexpected barriers of every sort while attempting a pilgrimage from his African village to the Holy Land. With terrific performances and a biting, witty script, James' Journey provides an astute look at the economic, moral and spiritual hypocrisies of Western society-while stealthily layering such serious issues with a brightly satirical glint and a lilting, fairy-tale grace.
(87 min.)
"Smart and satisfying... James' Journey is a little gem." -Kevin Courrier, Boxoffice

I heartily recommend it.

Earlier, I spent a good number of hours online researching handicap-accessible vans. Things are moving forward in that area. I've arranged to rent an accessible minivan for a week starting next Wednesday, just to give me a better idea of what I might want to buy. As of now, I'm looking into a Dodge Grand Caravan (the minivan I'll be renting), a Toyota Sienna (that just came out with a handicap-accessible model this year), and a Honda Odyssey. These ramp-converted minivans cost a lot of $$ so I want to be sure that I end up with what will best suit me. I am DEFINITELY ready.

But I couldn't spend this whole beautiful day inside. In the mid-afternoon, I scooted down to our lakefront park, and took this picture of a little girl on the beach with her mother. On the way home, I took another picture, this one a close-up of a tulip. But my final picture is my favorite. By now I'd scooted back inside the house, and just happened to look out the front window. Under the bushes right outside the window was a young cottontail bunny rabbit taking a nap. AWWWWW, it was SO cute!!! Don't you think so too?

It is now 1:45 AM and my eyes are getting bleary. Time for bed. I can't wait to go to sleep next to an open window!

Friday, April 16, 2004

What's Really Going On? 

From Jo Wilding, a British human rights activist in Iraq who was in one of the relief trucks that got into Fallujah on Sunday, April 11:

And the satellite news says the cease-fire is holding and George Bush says to the troops on Easter Sunday that, "I know what we're doing in Iraq is right." Shooting unarmed men in the back outside their family home is right. Shooting grandmothers with white flags is right? Shooting at women and children who are fleeing their homes is right? Firing at ambulances is right?

Well George, I know too now. I know what it looks like when you brutalise people so much that they've nothing left to lose. I know what it looks like when an operation is being done without anaesthetic because the hospitals are destroyed or under sniper fire and the city's under siege and aid isn't getting in properly. I know what it sounds like too. I know what it looks like when tracer bullets are passing your head, even though you're in an ambulance. I know what it looks like when a man's chest is no longer inside him and what it smells like and I know what it looks like when his wife and children pour out of his house.

It's a crime and it's a disgrace to us all.

From Robert Fisk, an internationally-respected journalist who has lived and reported on events in the Middle East for decades, who writes in the Independent/UK:

What Bush has actually done is give way to the crazed world of Christian Zionism. The fundamentalist Christians who support Israel's theft of the West Bank on the grounds that the state of Israel must exist there according to God's law until the second coming, believe that Jesus will return to earth and the Israelis - for this is the Bush "Christian Sundie" belief - will then have to convert to Christianity or die in the battle of Amargeddon.

I kid thee not. This is the Christian fundamentalist belief, which even the Israeli embassy in Washington go along with - without comment, of course - in their weekly Christian Zionist prayer meetings. Every claim by Osama bin Laden, every statement that the United States represents Zionism and supports the theft of Arab lands will now have been proved true to millions of Arabs, even those who had no time for Bin Laden. What better recruiting sergeant could Bin Laden have than George Bush. Doesn't he realise what this means for young American soldiers in Iraq or are Israelis more important than American lives in Mesopotamia?

Everything the US government has done to preserve its name as a "middle-man" in the Middle East has now been thrown away by this gutless, cowardly US President, George W Bush. That it will place his soldiers at greater risk doesn't worry him - anyway, he doesn't do funerals. That it goes against natural justice doesn't worry him. That his statements are against international law is of no consequence.

From Juan Cole, Middle Eastern History Professor at University of Michigan who is being interviewed by everyone these days, who writes in his blog:

I have concluded that the Bush administration is like Iran. The Iranian government has two of everything. It has a relatively liberal president, and a hardline supreme jurisprudent. The reformists control the foreign ministry, the hardliners control the military. The reformists have some parliament representatives, the hardliners control the Guardian Council, which has the power of judicial review over parliament. You never know with the Iranian government who is on top or what a policy means, since it could be coming from either competing section of the same government.

Likewise, in the Bush administration, the Pentagon has its own foreign policy, which competes with and often trumps the foreign policy of the State Department and the National Security Council. Thus, Gen. Myers is pointing fingers at Iran and Syria and making all sorts of wild accusations at them, darkly hinting they will be overthrown if they don't shape up. And Colin Powell is writing them polite letters about bilateral relations and could they please use their good offices to help the Americans in Iraq. It is bizarre, and the urbane, canny leaders in Damascus and Tehran (who have long experience of residence in the UK and Germany respectively), must be scratching their heads in wonder at this Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde American hyperpower that rages about an axis of evil and goes about preemptively invading countries on the one hand and then comes politely, hat in hand, to request selfless assistance on the other.

From Faiza, who with her husband Azzam and her sons Khalid, Raed and Majid, lives in Baghdad and writes in the family's blog:

At night, I went out to the garden in the darkness, the electricity was off, and the generator was on and making a loud noise, I sat on a chair and I thought of those who die here everyday, Iraqi people, and about the Americans and others who died and the yellow ribbons wasn't much useful for them, and they went home dead bodies, for what? I wondered and I cried and grieved all the lives that we, Iraqi and American people, have lost, I cried a lot, and I felt angry with everyone who lied and made this war for his personal benefit, a bunch of criminals who have no mercy, who accomplish their evil dreams and destroy the whole world from far east to far west, while we, the rest of people, sink in our questions and sadness.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

A Dream 

I am a student in a large college class and George W. Bush is coming to speak. I sit on the floor in the balcony with my back turned towards the podium downstairs where he will be standing. He arrives with a lot of hoopla and I try to close my ears so I don't have to hear him. There are students around me doing the same thing. Fortunately he is late arriving and the class ends soon after he gets there, so we only have to listen to him for a minute or two.

I leave class and take the elevator to the first floor. I leave the building by a door I'm not familiar with and find myself outside but not sure which way to go to get to my next class. Off in the distance to my left is a huge construction site with lots of workmen and equipment plowing up the grounds. To my right is a mountain of sand that looks like one of the tallest ridges at Canyon De Chelly in Arizona. Directly in front of me is a sandy beach with the Pacific Ocean lapping its shores. My feeling is that the classroom building I need to get to is the same distance whether I go to the right or to the left. But first I decide I must dip my feet in the ocean. Even though I have on canvas tennis shoes, it feels great to wade into the water. By the way, it is warm and sunny out, like summer.

But I still have a class to go to, so I turn to the right, dwarfed by this mountain of sand, and realize I must climb over it to get where I am going. I look up and see a good number of women climbing this extremely high, almost vertical surface and begin to try it myself. I find it impossible going. The women yell down to encourage me, but I yell back up that, with my MS, I just don't think I can do it.

Next thing I know, there is another option. Directly in front of me is a high wall--like the wall inside a house, but at least three stories high--and if I can get to the top of that, I will be close to where I need to go. I grab hold of a white rubber-like strip attached to the wall, and start climbing. As I climb, the strip pulls away from the wall, meaning it would be useless if I tried to go back down the wall. Besides, I'm not confident that it will hold without breaking as I climb up the wall. I make it to a narrow ledge, but when I look up I see that I still have a long way to go. I don't see how I can make it. I look down over my shoulder and realize that I'm already so high off the ground that, were I to fall, I'd definitely hurt myself. I don't know what to do.

Suddenly a woman appears at the top of the wall. I tell her I'm stuck and need help. She reaches down and amazingly can touch my hands that are hanging onto the strip above my head. We grab each other's hands and she begins to pull me up the wall. Soon it becomes obvious that she's getting exhausted with the effort. We yell for help and another woman appears at her side and helps pull me to the top. I make it, feeling as though I have captured the Holy Grail. This is obviously about MUCH more than simply getting to my next class; it is the completion of one of life's essential tasks. I bask in the joy of accomplishment and express deep gratitude to the women who helped me. Without them, I could not have done it. I awake still glowing with a feeling of accomplishment.

This dream occurred in the morning, shortly after Ed had come upstairs to say goodbye. I was still in bed. He complained that the New York Times was showing its true colors in how it presented George W. Bush's announcement that the U.S. now supports Ariel Sharon's insistence that the Jewish settlements on the West Bank remain in place. I'd heard the news last night on CBC radio and had been enraged that, in the midst of the U.S.-led Fallujah massacre and the threat of another massacre in the holy Shiite city of Najaf in Iraq, Bush would further antagonize the Arab world by backing down on his earlier request that at least some of the West Bank Jewish settlements be dismantled as part of the Middle East road map. Not only that, Bush is now saying the Palestinian refugees have NO right of return to their homeland, and that, except for the tiny Gaza Strip, EVERYTHING belongs to Israel. Talk about being in Sharon's pocket! I was aware that I'd promised not to get so caught up with world events, but felt I was going to have to write about this, at least in my blog. So that was what was going through my mind as I dropped back off to sleep. And then the dream appeared.

What does it mean?

Well, Bush was there but made little impact on me. What became much more important was my own journey and the need to get from Point A to Point B. There were definitely obstacles in my way, but when I did my best to surmount them, help appeared--the help of women--and I made it. The journey was sometimes confusing, often daunting and not a little scary, but success was sweet.

So what I hear is "Keep to your own path. Don't get sidetracked into spending too much energy on decisions made by other people (like Bush). The journey always involves learning (I needed to get to my next class), but don't forget to take time to play (wading in the ocean). It involves not just your mind and spirit, but your body as well. You'll be required to show courage and have the willingness to take risks without knowing the outcome. Don't get caught in the trap of thinking there are only two options; always look for a third option that is not readily apparent. Be prepared to ask for and receive help, for that's the only way you'll make it through. And when you reach the summit, you'll see that whatever it took for you to get there was well worth it."

Wednesday, April 14, 2004


There are signs I look for to determine if I am living in balance with what I call the Universe. The primary of these is occurrences of synchronicity, or those moments of "happenstance" when the unexpected shines forth in gloriously mysterious ways. Such moments may be small and seemingly unimportant, but I see them as evidence that I am "on the path." Today and yesterday two such moments graced my life.

The first occurred when I came to the unsettling awareness that the directions I'd been given to the Oakland University classroom building where I was scheduled to teach a class, were wrong. The first sign that things were not as I'd been told came as I took the University Drive exit off of I 75 North and discovered that where I had been instructed to turn left, the signs to the university said to turn right. And then, once on campus--a LARGE, spread-out campus, I might add--my directions said I was to follow Meadowbrook Road until it came to a dead end, at which time I was to turn left on Pioneer Drive. Well, I drove and drove for at least 2-3 miles, going through different parts of the campus, and when the road finally came to a dead end, it was at Adams Road, the outside edge of the Oakland University campus. I realized I had to make a U-turn and go back where I'd come from, but I had absolutely no idea where to go from there. As I waited for a car to pass through the traffic light onto campus, I looked up and there were two of my O Beautiful Gaia sisters, Nancy Nordlie and Penny Hackett-Evans, in the car! They stopped, rolled down their window and asked where I was going. I told them my sad story, and when they asked what classroom I needed to get to, it turned out it was the same one they were going to! They told me to follow them, and I did...through many twists and turns, I might add. Once there, Nancy and Penny went off to their African drumming class and within two minutes, the professor who had said she'd meet me in the parking lot, was standing beside my car.

The second instance of synchronicity occurred this afternoon. I was scooting along the "singing street" when I saw Patti--a woman with whom I swim on Monday and Wednesday nights--walking her dog. I stopped and we had a wonderful conversation in which she told me she makes magnetic arm wraps and has been selling them herself and at a few stores. I mentioned how I used to sell my Sacred Stones at psychic fairs, and how interesting that had been. She's been considering vending her magnetic wraps at psychic fairs herself, so was asking me questions about my experiences. Suddenly I heard a woman's voice say, "So we meet again!" I looked up and there was Mary in her red van with her daughter Tory in the backseat.

Now, Mary and Tory were a very important part of last night's class at Oakland University. They are neighbors of the professor, Sue Rumph, and live an hour north of my house in a town called Rochester (close to OU). Sue had invited them to attend the class where I'd be guest speaker, thinking it would probably be one that 9 year-old Tory would enjoy. Well, not only did she delight in being there, but that youngster asked two of the most pertinent, sophisticated questions of the night: 1) What's it like to get arrested? [at a protest demonstration]; and 2) Is it illegal to use names like Pfizer and Walmart in your songs? She and I made a close connection, as did her mother, Mary, and I. They even came down with me to my car at 9 PM after I'd finished teaching and Mary disassembled and put my scooter in the trunk of my car. Then they went out of their way to lead me to the expressway, since I would NEVER have found it on my own.

But why were they here today, driving down my singing street, 40 miles from their home? They were on their way to visit Mary's brother and his family who "just happen" to live on the singing street. After Patti and her dog went on their way, I scooted by Mary's brother's house and stopped in to meet everyone and to say a more relaxed "Hello" to Mary and Tory.

As I say, neither of these moments are huge in importance, but they were oh so sweet.

What was also sweet was last night's "Women and Social Movements" class. I'd been invited by Professor Rumph to speak about my experiences as an activist organizer, in particular as co-founder of the Raging Grannies Without Borders of Detroit. Instead of simply lecturing, I developed an interactive series of exercises that I called, "Creative Dissent...Raging Grannies Style."

There were about 15 students and I asked that they move the classroom chairs from rows into a semi-circle so it wouldn't be so intimidating (for me). We sang Raging Grannies songs from the songsheet I'd brought, I shared some of my personal story of becoming an activist, told them how our gaggle had started and a little about how we organize ourselves, discussed (photos #1 & #2) the six steps to becoming a creative dissenter that I'd brought as a handout, and had some time for them to write their own satirical songs in small groups (photos #1 & #2) and then sing them for the class (photos #1, #2 & #3). My favorite part of the whole two hours was when the students discussed their own personal experiences in relation to each of the six steps. The one that seemed to resonate most emphatically was #2, "Think for yourself but don't take on the world just yet." Many students in this "Women and Social Movements" class have experienced times with members of their families and friends where it just didn't pay to try to argue their newly-formed beliefs and opinions. As one of the women said, "You can't argue with ignorance." Wise words.

Monday, April 12, 2004

Regaining Balance 

Occasionally a friend or companion manages to express the inexpressible within your heart. I invite you to go to my friend Dorothy Walter's blog entry for today--"On the Longing For a Perfect Body"--to catch a glimpse of the contrariness that has accompanied me of late.

(As I write this, the "Rilke" bird sets up his/her song outside my window. "Rilke, Rilke, Rilke, Rilke..." How appropriate.)

My concern is not having a perfect body, but it IS having more of a balance between joy and pain, compassion and idealism, knowledge and serenity. These two and a half days away helped me see that something needs to change (within not without) before I tear myself (or those dear to me) apart. My disequilibrium cannot be blamed on the horrendous world situation or my government's lying ways, or the challenges of living with a less-than-able body, or my intolerance of others' different ways of looking at things, or even the weather (will it ever warm up?). What is out of balance is my own attitude, and that is what needs to change.

I must find a way to live in peace no matter what is going on around me. I can no longer give other persons (or governments) the right to determine how I feel and what I say or do. No, I must reclaim my own power, keep a sense of perspective, and do for myself whatever is needed to "lighten my load."

A few ideas come to mind. One has to do with how I exist within my other-abled body and the constraints it imposes on my mobility. The first thing I see is that I've been allowing it to limit me more than it should. I know my regular readers will say, "Oh, here she goes again", BUT it is definitely time for me to get a handicap-accessible minivan. There is absolutely no reason why I need to feel so dependent on Ed and my friends to schlep my scooter in and out of the trunk of my car every time I want to go someplace. There IS another option, and it's time to take it.

Another change that needs to be made is in how much time and attention I give to world events. Now maybe some folks would do well to be better informed, but that is not my problem. I need to be LESS well informed! Not that I won't keep up with what is happening in the world, but not with the obsessiveness that has driven me of late. I must protect myself from the anger and despair that take hold of me when I read too much news. If I can do something about it, fine, but if I am powerless to change the course of events, then I must learn to let them wash over me like a cascading river, not sweep me along like a twig or a leaf. One thing I can do right now is change my online homepage (where I log onto) from to some other, less news-oriented web site. Like my friend Dorothy's blog, for instance.

This weekend in Ann Arbor also showed me where I find nourishment and a rest from my overactive brain--in live music. Saturday night's jazz with Ingrid Jensen (trumpet player) and Project O at the Firefly, and Sunday's combination of chamber music and jazz with the Phoenix Ensemble at the Kerrytown Concert House took me outside of myself in healing and energizing ways. I became the music and it became me. What delight! So I MUST go hear more live concerts. You know, part of what I like about Ann Arbor is that it's a scootable city, but Detroit has its own great music venues; I just have to drive to get to them. With my own accessible minivan, I'll have that capability whenever I want.

In my interpersonal relationships, I need to regain my sense of humor. When I can laugh, I can handle anything. Life is not as deadly serious as I make it out to be. And the things that bug me about other people are not worth making such a big deal over. That's just a fact. So lighten up!!!

As they say, it helps to go away to regain perspective.

Saturday, April 10, 2004

A weekend away 

As soon as I put up this entry, I'm on my way to Ann Arbor for the weekend. I won't return home until late afternoon on Monday. Am very much looking forward to a few days away from the computer and especially the news. I have dates with friends, Indian and Japanese food to eat, and great live music to hear. Have a good weekend and I'll see you in a few days...

Fallujah Massacre 

The latest count for the last 3-4 days of fighting in Fallujah, Baghdad and most cities in Southern and Western Iraq is 460 Iraqis dead and 1000 wounded; 45 Americans dead and I don't know how many wounded. More than 300 Iraqis have been killed and over 500 wounded in Fallujah alone. The people of Iraq are calling it the Fallujah Massacre. And the fact that Friday, April 9, was the one year anniversary of the occupation of Baghdad only makes it worse. What the U.S.-led troops are doing in Fallujah is monstrous. Is this the way to retaliate for the horrible deaths and mutilations of 4 Americans? To massacre men, women, children, the elderly and sick as a "collective punishment?" Is this Bush & Co.'s idea of justice? It makes me sick to my stomach.

And before I get more emails castigating me for only taking one side, I am also disgusted by the terrible violence unleashed by Iraqi militias of all kinds, especially the kidnapping of individuals like the three Japanese and one Canadian humanitarian workers, the Brit who is feared kidnapped, and the eight South Korean clergymen who were abducted Thursday and released today. I am not saying the insurgents are innocent--they're NOT!--I'm just saying the American response is WAY over the top.

Stop the massacre in Fallujah!

Friday, April 09, 2004

A Different Slant 

From a reader:

The mosque attack was terrible, question. Just wondering why you also don't express outrage over the attack and burning and hanging of American civilians in Fallujah...and the glee and dancing in the streets over those bodies. You often say very good things, make very good points but you are becoming exceedingly one sided and knee-jerk and frankly a tad paranoid (ex. daylight savings time as some sort of conspiracy!! For those of us who work long hours in buildings every day, 5 or 6 months of extended daylight is a blessing!! We can have some time outdoors in the light of day! You have that continually so that would not be an issue for you.) Anyway...don't mean to be overly critical but I think I'll discontinue keeping up with your journal. Wishing you luck, love and good health.

She's right, of course. I am one-sided in my views. And it's true that I didn't mention the horrible deaths, mutilation and public display of the bodies of the American security contractors. By the way, they were not exactly civilians, but were actually described in a number of news accounts as members of the U.S. privatized armed forces or "mercenary troops." But, who they were and what they were doing in Fallujah is not the point. What was done to them was atrocious and has no place in a civilized world.

And perhaps my corporate paranoia was showing when I asked the question, "Who benefits from Daylight Savings Times?" and went on to offer the idea that someone must be making money off of it. She's also right that I hadn't taken into account the joy that that extra hour of daylight gives people who work inside all day.

But isn't this the reason we have so many of us here on earth? To help each other round out our views and temper each one's tendency toward tunnel vision?

And isn't it also the risk of keeping a public journal? When you lay out your inner thoughts and opinions, you are bound to step on someone's toes. That is, if you dare to try to think outside the box.

As for my own particular slant on things, I guess I'm just a contrary character. When I see the media and our government's officials hammering home the same views day after day, I have to take a different tack. And I must ask questions. If I don't ask the questions, how can I examine what we take for granted? Like DST, and Easter-as-a-national-holiday. Or the war on Iraq as a "war of liberation."

My journal and blog are not going to be for everyone. I am SO aware of that fact! If I were to say for whom I write, it would be for other questioners, and those who are trying to think outside the box. I do not write for the majority; they have enough resources already. No, it's us small fish who keep swimming against the tide for whom I write. And the longer Bush & Co. stays in power, the more paranoid I expect I'll become. So be prepared!

And always write and tell me your truthful opinions about my journal and blog entries. For without you, I really WILL go off the deep end. I offer special thanks to the reader who inspired me to re-think what I am doing here. She opened my eyes and, I hope, my heart.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Unacknowledged Cultural Traditions 

Back when I was Christian, it never occurred to me how much the dominant religion of a country influences its culture, language, history, politics, economics, labor, communications, even the military. But, believe me, I notice it now. Especially during that religion's High Holidays.

Easter means no more to me than does Eid, Passover or the holidays of other religions. That is not to say I don't treat these holidays and their observances with respect, it's just that it means nothing to me personally. Perhaps that's why I noticed how central Easter seemed to be in people's consciousness this week. For instance, my favorite radio station (CBC in Canada) is already playing music relating to this Christian holiday. And tomorrow's programing promises to be exclusively devoted to religious music of the "season."

Well, I'm sorry but it is not MY season, nor is it the season of my Muslim, Jewish, Pagan and non-religious friends. Actually it is a season of special holidays for some of these religions, but will we be hearing music from their religious traditions on the radio this weekend? I doubt it. That's what I mean about the dominant religion holding the power.

Think about it. Many workers will be let off work tomorrow afternoon for Good Friday services. Most schools have a week of Easter break. Television advertising focuses on Easter finery, food, and family gatherings. Images of Easter bunnies, Easter eggs and Easter baskets abound. Television movies tell "The Greatest Story Ever Told" in a multitude of ways.

It's hard to get away from it, at least on this continent.

Again, I want to make clear that I'm not putting down anyone's religion, I'm just pointing out the Christian-centered culture in which we live. If it is your religion, you, like I prior to 1993, probably haven't even noticed.

It makes me think of being African-American in America, or disabled, or Native-American, or Asian-American, or Muslim, or gay. If you belong to any of these subgroups, how often do you see yourself pictured (favorably) in advertisements, television shows, movies, novels, etc? Maybe a token here and there, but maybe not. Or worse, maybe you're always the "bad guy," or the one to be pitied, or being stereotyped in a demeaning way.

It's unacknowledged cultural traditions that instill attitudes we don't even notice. Attitudes like, "My way is the only way." Or my religion, my country, my language, my sexual orientation, my politics, my holidays, my sports teams, etc.

All cultures have traditions. But, as responsible adults, it's up to us to recognize them. If we do, then we can consciously choose which traditions to hold onto and which to let go. For myself, more and more traditions fall by the wayside every year. I consider that a healthy state of affairs.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Finding the truth about Iraq 

Because of the internet, we do not have to stomach the lies and misrepresentations the mainstream media call news. Thank God! If you want to hear it *like it is* in Iraq, go to "Baghdad Burning" and "Raed In the Middle", two blogs by persons I highly respect. And once you've read them, imagine yourself living there now. These are NOT our enemies, any more than we are their enemies. We are brothers and sisters caught in the middle of a nightmare started by leaders who are proven liars. Don't believe Bush/Rumsfeld/Cheney when they describe what is happening in Iraq as a civil war, or the fault of a "firebrand cleric." The blood is on their hands more than anyone else's. If they hadn't insisted on attacking a defenseless country, none of this would be happening.

A U.S. Senator's Call for Sanity 

Today Senator Robert C. Byrd, (Democrat, West Virginia), stood up on the Senate floor and delivered the most articulate, impassioned, informed speech on the crisis in Iraq that I have yet heard. Please read his whole speech, but if you can't, at least read this excerpt from it:

This Republic was founded in part because of the arrogance of a king who expected his subjects to do as they were told, without question, without hesitation. Our forefathers overthrew that tyrant and adopted a system of government where dissent is not only important, but it is also mandatory. Questioning flawed leadership is a requirement of this government. Failing to question, failing to speak out, is failing the legacy of the Founding Fathers.

When speaking of Iraq, the President maintains that his resolve is firm, and indeed the stakes for him are enormous. But the stakes are also enormous for the men and women who are serving in Iraq, and who are waiting and praying for the day that they will be able to return home to their families, their ranks painfully diminished but their mission fulfilled with honor and dignity. The President sent these men and women into Iraq, and it is his responsibility to develop a strategy to extricate them from that troubled country before their losses become intolerable.

It is staggeringly clear that the Administration did not understand the consequences of invading Iraq a year ago, and it is staggeringly clear that the Administration has no effective plan to cope with the aftermath of the war and the functional collapse of Iraq. It is time -- past time -- for the President to remedy that omission and to level with the American people about the magnitude of mistakes made and lessons learned. America needs a roadmap out of Iraq, one that is orderly and astute, else more of our men and women in uniform will follow the fate of Tennyson's doomed Light Brigade.

U.S. bombs Fallujah mosque 

The latest from Iraq is that the U.S. forces have bombed a mosque in Fallujah, killing 40 worshippers at afternoon prayer.

Do they have NO sense of what this will mean to ALL the people of Iraq? And not only Iraq. It is a desecration to Muslims across the globe.

Yes, the U.S. has the weaponry to do whatever they want, but, my God, does that mean they have to use it in ways that will further inflame the situation?

And where does the press come off saying this is a "civil war"? It is HARDLY that! The Sunnis are not fighting the Shi'ites, Sistani's Shi'ites are not fighting al-Sadr's Shi'ites; they are all fighting US, the occupiers of their country. An insurrection, if you will. A guerrilla war on two fronts. A rebellion. A popular uprising. A revolution. But NOT a civil war. If anything, the American occupation has brought formerly incompatible religious factions together. Having a common enemy can reconcile the most diverse perspectives.

It is madness to think that the U.S. can "prevail", as Scott McClellan of the White House maintained today. Yes, we can crush the insurgents with our military might, but we can NEVER crush the sentiment that drives them. Sentiment that is spreading like wildfire among not only the urban poor of Iraq, but among educated, formerly-moderate members of the middle and upper classes. How can the U.S. prevail against that?

I am checking Juan Cole's *Informed Comment* blog several times a day to hear his analysis of this unfolding nightmare. As a professor of history at the University of Michigan who specializes in the Middle East and Islam, Prof. Cole has been interviewed by countless national and international news services, NPR, and television newscasters in the past few days. By the way, one of his books is titled, "Sacred Space And Holy War: The Politics, Culture and History of Shi'ite Islam." Juan Cole understands what is going on in Iraq today, its historical context, and what is likely to happen next in a way that few Westerners do. Even Raed and Riverbend, Iraqis living in Baghdad, respect Cole and quote him in their blogs.

How I wish George W. Bush and his advisors would do the same.

Daylight Savings Time Revisited 

What fun to get responses to my Daylight Savings Time rant! Different perspectives abound, but I must admit Jeff's information that DSL saves energy is a STRONG selling point. But I'll let them speak for themselves.

From Jeff in Northern California:

Goodness! Suggesting that daylight savings time is yet another corporate conspiracy  You give those creeps way too much credit. Or are you just having a really tough week?

OK, you've triggered my DST Lecture:

Daylight Savings Time was invented, of course, by Ben Franklin, that oh-so-rational man of the Enlightenment. And although he suggested it, the idea caught on with greater fervor in Europe than here in the U.S. In fact, we didn't adopt it until 1918. Our agrarian society, where people got up and went to bed much earlier than we do today, hated it so much that we repealed it the next year even over President Wilson's veto and didn't really embrace it until the 1960s and 70s.

Regardless, the point in Franklin's day was what it still is now: save energy. And now that also means protect the environment. In the 18th century it was the amount of oil used for lamps. Now it's the amount of oil and other power sources used for power plants. Estimates are that DST saves more than 300,000 barrels of oil each month.

Studies have shown that daylight savings time saves energy, because – artificial as it may seem – DST convinces people to go to bed and shut off their electric lights and other related evening power suckers an hour earlier than they would otherwise. So it really has been proven to be good for the environment (and actually bad for big corporations that would want us to consume).

Another thing DST does is allow more children to travel to and from school in daylight, which has been proven to be safer for them than if they had to do it in darkness. It's pretty well accepted that DST has saved the lives of children who would otherwise have been killed in traffic accidents.

The same thing is true of crime. Since people under DST spend less time out in the dark, they are less often the victims of street crime.

Studies also show that most people like DST. I do, for example. Personally I'd enjoy having it all year. In fact, one year I refused to set my clocks back in the Fall, and I kept them on DST all year. It drove my friends nuts. People who visited my home actually became angry at me for confusing them with clocks showing the "wrong" time.

Anyway, there are good arguments in favor of DST. Since you asked "Why do we do it?" I thought I'd email you a few.

From Marcia in Maryland:

Loved reading your lament about daylight savings, just 'cause it gives me an opportunity to gig you!

My brother out in Texas is one of those small farmers who works dawn to dusk and beyond to ready his cotton crops and other growing things for harvest so you can enjoy those beauteous purple cottons you wear with such elan. When you put one of those on each day, think of him crawling out of bed at the crack of dawn to put his hand to the plow. (Granted, the plows are hitched to a massive John Deere tractor equipped with stereo systems and two-way radios!)

Enjoying the daylight hours, especially today without rain or snow.

From Natty in Indiana:

Amen, girl!! As an Indiana-resident, I never did "get" DST... never really had to either. Call me a stick-in-the-mud Midwesterner, but I like not messing with the clock. Every few years the state legislature gets it in it's head that we need to "get with the program" and do DST, but so far, thankfully, this year included, it's failed.

From Kimberley in Calgary, Alberta:

I so agree with you, I find it so hard to adjust to the new time, even though my body does not is still on the old time...then it changes just as I am adjusting to it...

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Is this what Democracy looks like? 

Free Speech in Danger: FEC Rule Change Would Silence Hundreds of Activist Groups

Last month the Federal Elections Commission voted 5-1 to consider rule changes that could drastically alter the legal status of many activist nonprofits, including environmental organizations.

If the proposal rules are approved, groups across the political spectrum may be forced to give up their core advocacy work or conform to stringent fundraising and financial reporting requirements usually reserved for political committees.

Further, the FEC could apply the rule change retroactively, in the middle of the election year, throwing the legality of nonprofit program, fundraising and reporting efforts into chaos.[1]

According to People For the American Way, "The chilling effect of the proposed rules on free speech cannot be overstated. Merely expressing an opinion about an officeholder's policies could turn a nonprofit group overnight into a federally regulated political committee with crippling fund-raising restrictions."[2]

The FEC is considering this change in response to pressure from a Republican political committee, "Americans for a Better Country."[3] The group was organized last year specifically to establish "an aggressive voter-mobilization and issue ad campaign to out-raise and out-spend ... the liberal groups whose stated mission is the defeat of George Bush."[4]

The proposed FEC rule change comes amidst continuing actions by the Bush Administration to suppress dissenting views, including a prosecution of Greenpeace in federal court.

As reported by BushGreenwatch, the Ashcroft Justice Department dredged up an obscure 1872 law against "sailor-mongering" to indict Greenpeace on federal felony charges after activists boarded a ship carrying illegal mahogany from Brazil to Miami and hung a banner reading, "President Bush: Stop Illegal Logging." The case is considered a bellwether for the future of free speech and peaceful protest in the U.S.

Greenpeace filed for a dismissal of the case in December. A ruling is expected by April 9. Greenpeace has also filed a motion for a trial by jury should the case go to court, rather than having the case heard only by a judge, as requested by the Justice Department. "We want the public to hear the whole story," says Greenpeace's Nancy Hwa.

Send a comment opposing the rule change to the FEC. Comments should be addressed to Ms. Mai T. Dinh, Acting Assistant General Counsel, and must include the full name, electronic mail address, and postal service address of the commenter. The comments period ends on April 9:

[1] action alert.
[2] People for the American Way FEC Working Group.
[3] Common Cause Press Release.
[4] "Conservative Spotlight: Americans for a Better Country," Human Events Online.

from BushGreenwatch, April 6, 2004

Monday, April 05, 2004

A Country Ablaze: Iraq Today 

I've spent the last two hours trying to educate myself about the current situation in Iraq. Thanks to blogs, online articles, commentaries and academic analyses, I'm beginning to get a grasp of the dramatic turn of events during the past three days.

It is clear that, with the armed uprising led by the Iraqi Shi'ite leader Muqtada al-Sadr, everything has changed. There is now a very real possibility of the situation spiraling totally out of control. And the Bush administration's response? To paint al-Sadr as a mini-Saddam, start rattling their sabres at Iran (whom they say is arming al-Sadr's militia), and escalating the violent repression of Iraqis by the US-led occupying forces.

All this will do is further inflame the already passionate hatred of Americans, not just among al-Sadr's followers in Iraq (estimated at 5 million), but among Shi'ite Muslims the world over.

And to think it all started because of one stupid action taken by Bremer and his U.S. henchmen last week: closing down al-Sadr's newspaper, arresting his assistant, and terrorizing his employees. That's all it took to set this fire abalze, a fire that is likely to spread like the wildfires that demolished hundreds of thousands of acres in the American west last year.

If you would like to study up on the situation, the following are links that I have found helpful:

1. Juan Cole *Informed Comment* blog. Cole is Professor of History at the University of Michigan, an expert on Middle Eastern history, politics and religion, and author of "Sacred Space And Holy War: The Politics, Culture and History of Shi'ite Islam." He is often quoted in international and national mainstream media and in blogs kept by Iraqis living in Baghdad. If you read nothing else, be sure to read Juan Cole.

2. "Taking on the Shi'ites: How America is Creating a Powerful New Enemy"
by Lawrence Pintak, published on Monday, April 5, 2004 by . Lawrence Pintak, the Howard R. Marsh Visiting Professor of Journalism at the University of Michigan, has covered political Islam in the Middle East and Southeast Asia for more than 20 years. He is author of "Seeds of Hate: How America's Flawed Middle East Policy Ignited the Jihad."

3. Raed's blog--"Raed In the Middle"--especially the Sunday, April 4, 2004 entry. Raed is an award-winning blogger whose accounts of life in Baghdad have made him famous around the world. He has a clear eye into what is happening in his country, and the courage to say it like he sees it. It was his original blog--"Where Is Raed?"--that I read every day during the height of the war last spring.

4. "Shiite Uprising Signals Double Trouble for U.S. - Experts" by Jim Lobe, published on Monday, April 5, 2004 by the Inter Press Service. This article is a brief synopsis of what is currently happening in Iraq.

5. "Seeing Iraq Through the Globalization Lens" by Mark LeVine, published in The Christian Science Monitor, April 5, 2004. Mark LeVine is an assistant professor of history at the University of California, Irvine. He was co-editor of "Twilight of the Empire: Responses to Occupation." Juan Cole had a link to this article in his blog and highly recommended that his readers read it. It helps put today's crisis in a broader perspective.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

Daylight Savings Time 

OK, I'll say it right out. I like daylight. Especially when it's sunny. But night is nice too. Full moon nights like tonight especially. So why do we have to screw around with Mother Nature and say she needs to give us one more hour of daylight before the sun goes down?

Maybe in the olden days, farmers needed that extra hour to plant their fields in the spring and harvest them in the summer. But now? With those monstrous agri-businesses taking over the production of our food--most of it from genetically engineered seeds, I might add--an extra hour of daylight is hardly an issue.

Besides, it isn't as if we're actually getting an extra hour of daylight. It's merely being moved from morning to night. Right?

Anyway, my body doesn't like it. For instance, the clock says it's now 7:51 PM. Am I hungry yet? Hell, no. My tummy says it's 6:51 PM, and Ed and I never eat dinner before 7:30 PM. If we wait to eat until then tonight, it'll be 8:30 PM and that's a little too continental for my taste.

How long does it take your body to acclimate itself to DST? How long do you find yourself saying, "OK, the clock says it's 8 PM. So what time is it REALLY?"

Why doesn't anyone question this silliness? Are we so easily led? Why don't we ask the hard questions and find out who is benefiting from DST? I bet there is a reason hidden under all the non-answers, and I bet it means $$ in someone's pocket.

OK, call me cynical. But ask yourself--Does Daylight Savings time really benefit your life? Or does it simply mess up your internal clock each spring, only to have it messed up again in the fall?

So why do we do it?

Friday, April 02, 2004

A kool blog, healed relationship & almost-full moon 

I've got a great new-to-me blog to share with you. Mark Siegel's "The 19th Floor" is chock full of excellent writing, dry wit, progressive politics, and general reflections by an obviously intelligent, very likeable fellow. Check it out!

As for me, I've just made my way through some serious s**t relationship-wise. Well, probably not as serious as I made it seem, but not much fun anyway. Today, though, thanks to the wild-and-wooly kids I help teach art to, I'm feeling WAY better. I've got my best friend--Ed my husband of 37 years--back after two days of barely communicating (my choice). When will I ever learn that just because we've been together forever, that doesn't mean we know each other a whit.

I do have an if-I-do-say-so-myself terrific photo of today's almost-full moon. How I love my Fujifilm FinePix 2800 Zoom digital camera!

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Re: the former ads on my blog 


Little Billy was in his 4th grade class when the teacher asked the children what their fathers did for a living. All the typical answers came up -- fireman, policeman, salesman, doctor, etc.

Billy was being uncharacteristically quiet, so the teacher asked him about his father.

"My father's an exotic dancer in a gay cabaret and takes off all his clothes in front of other men and they put money in his underwear. Sometimes, if the offer is really good, he will go home with some guy and make love with him for money."

The teacher, obviously shaken by this statement, hurriedly set the other children to work on some exercises and took little Billy aside to ask him, "Is that really true about your father?"

"No," said Billy, "He works for the Republican National Committee, but I was too embarrassed to say that in front of the other kids."

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