Windchime Walker

Windchime Walker <$BlogRSDUrl$>

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Remembering Joels 

After having been a one-box-of-tissue-a-day person for two days and three nights, today I did not need to use ONE TISSUE all day! I am well! Weak as a kitten, but otherwise well. I don't even have a cough. Can't quite figure that out. Usually my colds follow a predictable pattern. They start with a sore throat, go into a stuffy head, then to a dripping nose, and finally a cough that hangs on for awhile. Probably my staying quiet and getting LOTS of sleep every night helped. Whatever worked, I'm happy to be feeling myself again.

This evening I realized that today is the tenth anniversary of my dear "heart friend and train buddy" Joel Payne's death in 1994. Joels was 35 when he died of complications from AIDS. He had one of the most beautiful smiles and singing voices I've ever seen or heard. A truly gentle man. In the spring of 1996, I invited his family and friends to help me make him a panel for the AIDS Quilt. I will never forget how it felt to see Joels' panel laid out alongside thousands of others on the green grass of the Mall that sunny autumn day in 1996. Joel--who had brought his friend Robert Womack's panel to the Mall in 1993--was so present. And finally at peace. If I ever get access to a scanner, I'll show you pictures of both Joels and his quilt panel. Until then, perhaps you can feel his spirit and life in the painting I did today that I'm calling, "Spirals For Joel."

I also painted one that I call "November's End." I had a lot of fun adding background color to this painting by using my Photo-Shop software. Why not play around with both acrylic inks and computer graphics? I suspect this is just the beginning...

Monday, November 29, 2004

My friends were great! 

I just watched two of my friends--Pat Noonan from Windsor and Peggy Case from Michigan--speak on a special segment of CBC-TV's "The National" nightly news program. They were superb! Pat talked about her friends from the States who share her values, are also upset at Bush's win, but are committed to follow what she called "their American Dream" and continue to work for justice within their nation. Peggy spoke with clear-minded passion about the difference between American and Canadian values being that Canadians are not empire-builders like their American counterparts. She also told of her disappointment in Bush winning the election, but said that, even though she gets tired after all these years of working for justice, she will stay and keep fighting for what she believes in.

The program was not as we had imagined it would be. Instead of providing an opportunity for dialogue between Windsor and Detroit-based Canadians and Americans, there were time-consuming taped and live segments telling the stories of people from other parts of both the US and Canada. The main thrust seemed to be the decision of some Americans to emigrate to Canada as a result of George W. Bush having won another term as president. The speakers in the Windsor audience were apparently chosen ahead of time and told when they would speak. Then they were supposed to respond to the stories that had just been aired.

Many of our friends were in the audience but were not on the list of speakers. Peggy said they had a chair with my name on it, so I guess I would have been a member of the audience but that doesn't mean I would have been asked to speak. Unfortunately, a number of right-wing Michigan folks were allowed to speak. I was embarrassed for my country, especially when the first American speaker ended his unpleasant response to a man in Seattle who was in the process of moving his family to Nelson, BC, by saying, "Good riddance!" Just what Canadians, who already wonder how their neighbours to the south could re-elect Bush, need to hear.

But, as I say, Pat and Peggy did us proud.

"The National" tonight 

I'm afraid I won't be in Windsor at this evening's taping of "The National." My cold has won over my desire to share my views on Canadian-American Relations. But if you live in Canada or a border state in the US (or want to check it out online), you can tune into CBC-TV at 10 PM tonight and listen to what folks in Windsor and Detroit have to say about this most timely subject. Timely because George W. Bush will be in Ottawa and Halifax on Tuesday and Wednesday trying to mend fences. By the way, they are expecting LOTS of opposition to his visit by protesters out on the streets. Canadians are not real fond of George and they are ready to let him know it. Of course, if Bush is kept encased in his usual protective bubble, it's unlikely he'll know anyone is out on the streets, much less protesting. Makes me think of the "Hear no evil, Speak no evil, See no evil" monkeys. If I don't see, hear or speak of something, it does not exist. What a sad--and dangerous--way for a person of power to live in today's world.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Knee-jerk generalizations 

In response to my asking for readers' perspectives on the differences between Canadians and Americans, I received the following message:


I've read some of your journal over time. Admire your energy and dedication.

Gotta say I'm thinking that, from what I've read of your journal, you're kinda predictable in finding fault with the U.S at every turn. (Goddess only knows that there are indeed severe and terrible issues and messes under this administration in these times we are in...miserable). But your knee-jerk generalizations about American fault in just about everything big (war..all U.S. responsibility...have you ever talked about human loss in this country (from 9/11 on...civilians, soldiers, their families and friends..except for your concern about the safety of your own niece in N.Y. that gruesome day.) or small...including such generalizations as Canadians are just gentler and nicer and more level-headed etc.than Americans, What do you love about the U.S. Anything at all? Ah well...had to just say it.

I do truly think you are quite a terrific woman.. I mean it..Well, you asked for thoughts!


I'm afraid I have to plead guilty to AL's observation that I fall into the trap of offering "knee-jerk generalizations about American fault in just about everything big...or small..." I DO have a tendency to see things in black or white rather than shades of gray. And I am much more likely to identify with non-Americans than Americans, especially when it comes to war and suffering. Actually, I am always on the side of weak rather than the strong, even when the strong suffers as America did on September 11th.

I wonder why that is?

When I look back on my life, I see a pattern of siding with the "underdog" or marginalized in almost every situation. As a youngster in school I can remember being terribly disturbed when my friends would make fun of someone who was not considered "cool." Then in young adulthood it was not the successful that I wanted to work with but rather those who struggled to survive. That was what brought me into a study of social work. And over the decades since then, my attention and concern has consistently been with those individuals and groups of people who were being marginalized by society: refugees from around the world; the African American community here in Detroit, especially the children; gays/lesbians/bisexuals/transgender folks who were my closest friends during my six winters in San Francisco; and, since 9/11, the Arab Muslim community in Dearborn and Ann Arbor.

Yes, when I think about this current war on and occupation of Iraq, I think more of the innocent civilians who have lost their lives--an estimated 100,000 according to the UN--than of our American troops--1210 dead as of November 16. Now, part of that is that military men and women are doing their "job"--as onerous a job as that might be--whereas civilians are simply trying to survive the war and chaos around them. Certainly some of these civilians have weapons and are fighting back, but they do not have the power or support of a huge military machine behind them like our U.S. soldiers do.

I must say here that I am a total and complete pacifist. I believe there is NO proper place or time or reason to go to war. That may sound unrealistic in light of today's threats and dangers, but it is core to who I am. I believe we humans are resilient and imaginative enough to find other ways than violent ones to resolve our conflicts, whether they be personal, local, national or international. Non-violent resisters like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, and Vandana Shiva are my models. These individuals have led non-violent movements against injustice--injustice often enforced by violent means--and in doing so, did not become like their oppressors. Too often we fight oppression using the oppressors' tools and in so doing, become like them in the end.

Maybe part of my need to give the non-American side of things is that I feel the American side is being seen and heard almost exclusively on TV, radio and in the print news. As far as I can tell, our current media offers its own knee-jerk generalizations about American "right and might," much of which is quoted directly from statements made by members of the Bush administration. When you have government leaders who refuse to reflect on any of their past actions, you have the makings of a totalitarian state.

There I go again.

AL asks if there is anything I love about the U.S. Yes there is. I love our "can do" spirit, our openness and directness, our welcoming ways, our tender hearts, our generosity, our idealism, our inventiveness, and our courage. As I write this, I am aware that in the climate of fear and arrogance encouraged and modeled by our current president and his staff, Americans have lost some of their most refreshing qualities. Be that as it may, Bush will not be in office forever and I believe the people of this country will re-find themselves and their innate goodness once their fears subside.

I thank AL for her/his honest and helpful observations. I don't know how much I'll be able to change how I present things, but at least now I'll be more aware of the one-sidedness of my views. I've just edited the description posted at the top of this blog to better reflect what readers will find here. It now says:

A woman artist/activist/writer's creative--often to the left of mainstream--responses to world events, disability and life."

If you have a bias, admit it.

Saturday, November 27, 2004


Good friends are such a gift. Our friend Pat Kolon just left for home after having been with us since yesterday afternoon. If you recall, she lives and works at a Catholic Worker transitional home for women and children in Detroit, so being at our house for a day or two is something she enjoys. And so do we! Pat is the easiest house guest imaginable. She knows our house as well as her own, so is able to take care of her own needs. To be honest, she takes care of ours too.

Pat is an exceptional cook, so for two days Eddie and I have feasted on the most delicious vegetarian food. Yesterday afternoon she cut my toenails for me, a task I've needed help with for the past couple of years. Then this afternoon she cleaned and organized our food cabinets! While looking to see if we had rice and curry powder, she found LOTS of things we didn't need anymore, like catbox deodorizer. Tyllie, our cat, has been dead for at least eight years. Since I haven't cooked in years, I didn't have a clue what was in there. How great to have a friend who thinks it's fun to organize the disorganized!

And now I'm going to bed. A rip-snortin' cold appeared today and I'm dripping like a faucet. I'll be taking my box of tissues to bed with me.

Friday, November 26, 2004

"How are Canadians and Americans different?" 

Tsering Sergong of CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Company) in Toronto asked me this question during a phone conversation this morning. We were talking about my participation in a CBC Town Hall with Peter Mansbridge of "The National" to be held in Windsor this coming Monday, November 29. The topic of the show is Canadian-American Relations.

Although Tsering stressed that the discussion would be more ideological than political, I can't help but think the timing has something to do with George W. Bush being re-elected and last week's enactment of a new policy that "alien Canadians"--those persons who have retained their Canadian citizenship even though they make their homes in the United States--will be photographed and fingerprinted every time they cross the Windsor/Detroit border and want to return to the States. She did mention that there's been talk of Americans wanting to emigrate to Canada since the election. My guess is that politics will certainly come into Monday's discussion. How could it not?

4 PM

I just got off the phone after a nice long talk with Rabih in Lebanon. It had been way too long since we'd talked.

Rabih's busy with his consulting business and has a couple of new ideas for other work-related projects he wants to explore. Sulaima is healthy and busy after having given birth to Ibrahim, their fourth son (and fifth child) last May. Sani, Sami and Rami are still adjusting to the changes between their lives in Ann Arbor and Beirut, but things are picking up, especially for the boys. Ousama, who is five, seems to feel at home wherever he is. But the bright star in their midst is this precious baby, Ibrahim, whom Rabih says everyone in the family lines up to play with. He has just started pushing himself up on his hands and giggling out loud. And whenever any of them speaks to him, little Ibrahim will look right at them and respond. Rabih says his mother positively melts around the baby!

Of course we talked about the election, but we didn't belabor it. Rabih knows better than anyone what it means to have the Bush administration in office for another four years. Read My Brother Rabih Haddad if you don't already know his story. As always, I came away feeling full of hope after talking to this gentle-spirited humanitarian. Our world is blessed by his presence.

11 PM

After having lived in this border city for 39 years, I do have my own perspective on Canadian-American relations, a perspective born of experience. Except for my friend Lenore, I don't know any other Americans who have spent as much time or have felt as comfortable going back and forth to Windsor as I. I know the layout of that city as well as I know Detroit. And my activities there have bridged many different worlds: dancers and artists, refugees from around the world anxious to gain asylum in Canada, peace and anti-corporate globalization activists, politically-aware university students, women who sing and work together for Gaia (the earth), and individuals who have become lifelong friends. In my opinion, Detroit's proximity to Windsor is among its greatest assets.

So do I feel Canadians and Americans are different? And if so, in what ways?

Generalizations are always dangerous, but I'm going to make them anyway. Yes, I DO believe there are differences between the peoples of these two neighboring countries. I have found Canadians to be more gentle-spirited, community-oriented, comfortable with diversity and less aggressive than Americans. These qualities manifest themselves not only in individuals but in government policies. Unfortunately, in recent years we've been seeing more and more Americanization of Canadian government, due in large part to trade and economic concerns relating to their powerful neighbor. It's hard living next door to the biggest bully on the block.

When I shared some of my thoughts with Tsering, she asked, "Where do you think these differences come from?"

For years I've tried to answer this question for myself. I mean, why is it that every time I pass from the United States into Canada, whether by bridge or by tunnel, I feel I can breathe easier? I don't think it's merely that no handguns are allowed in Canada. It's deeper than that. After much reflection, I find myself going back to the origins of the two countries.

We here in America felt we had to rupture our relationship with England, the home of our first non-indigenous settlers, in a violent war. The Canadians, on the other hand, managed to find their own identity while keeping close ties with their mother country. With a history like the Americans, it makes sense for our people to put great value on rugged individualism and standing up for yourself, violently if necessary. Whereas, in their long history Canadians have learned how to mediate differences and still retain a sense of self.

I'd LOVE to know what you, my readers, think.

Thursday, November 25, 2004


I have decided to fast instead of feast today. It's the least I can do for the people of Iraq. Not that Ed and I had big plans for Thanksgiving but it's the thought that counts.

"How to find hope when hope is hard to find."

That phrase from a song of Carolyn McDade's has been with me all morning. It resonates with a comment posted recently on my blog by a reader who calls her/himself Anonymous. S/He wrote:

Thank you for your blog. Every day I get more down with the world, and I'm constantly amazed by your ability to stay up and active. My activism continues but my mood diminishes.

Yes, these are hard times for persons of conscience, persons willing to look beyond the patriotic rhetoric and deceptive spins to see the truth of what is being done in our name around the world. The untold pain and suffering we are bringing to members of our human family. The intentional and unthinking destruction we bring to species of plants and animals, the air, the land, the water. Our unchecked assumption that protecting American lives and our lifestyle gives us the right to kill others and take way more than our fair share of the planet's natural resources.

And now we look toward four more years with a leader who epitomizes all these earth- and life-threatening assumptions. And who, we know from past experience, acts upon them with little regard for the will of the people.

How to find hope when hope is hard to find?

For me, the answer comes in the very act of resisting: the decision to get out on the streets with my sisters and brothers on rainy nights and frigid days, the community of thinking/feeling/dedicated persons I find at my side, young and old, black/white/Asian/Arab, rich and poor, housed and homeless. When we are out there together as one, saying loud "NOs" to the wars and destruction being done in our names, then I know hope.

Hope is not success; it is going ahead as if success is possible even when you know your efforts are unlikely to make any difference. Hope can seem foolish, but it is what keeps people going when the reality is too harsh to contemplate. Hope cries "I have a dream" when living a present-day nightmare. Hope believes in the impossible. Hope knows change is all there is.

So on this day when my American sisters and brothers are freezing their tails (in the northern states) at Thanksgiving Day parades, feasting on turkey and watching football games on TV, I sit here at my computer looking out over the snow-brushed roof of my neighbor's house, over trees suddenly bare, into a cardinal's eyes bright against the blue sky, and I feel full of hope.

May hope and its companion, action, sit at the table with you and your family and friends as you celebrate this day of Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

What a difference two days can make! 

When I came home from school this afternoon, I saw that Monday's golden-leaved trees were now bare. And instead of its autumn hues of blue and green, the whipped-up lake had turned muddy-brown with angry-looking waves crashing against the breakwall. After dinner, beep-beep, beep-beeps and yellow flashing lights signaled the salt truck's first appearance of the season. And Ed, who normally gets so warm on his after-dinner walks that he takes off his jacket or sweater, came home tonight looking like an Arctic explorer.

Winter has come to Michigan. By 7 PM, the pelting rain that had begun during the night and had kept up for much of the day, turned into sleet which then became wet snow. Now it seems to have settled into cold slush.

Happily, we have no place we have to go and no obligations to meet. Having heard the forecast of pretty unpleasant conditions for the next few days, I stopped at the library on the way home from school and loaded up on rented videos and good books to read. And Eddie's happy with his Thanksgiving gift of Josef's dark chocolate and raspberry cake that I bought and gave to him yesterday.

May my American readers enjoy your Thanksgiving as much as Ed and I already are.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

An enduring assignment 

This morning I realized that I'd actually started keeping this daily journal forty-four years ago.

Dr. Mary Lynch Johnson's traditional assignment for freshman English classes at Meredith College was for her students to write and hand in a 500-word essay every day that her class met during the first semester, or three essays a week for fifteen weeks. This was in addition to all the other assignments she piled on us unprepared 18 year-olds. When we asked what she wanted us to write about, she said, "Whatever's going on in your life. What you see, hear and feel."

That was when I started to notice and try to find words to describe the ordinary stuff of life.

So when I look at my daily commitment to keeping an online journal for the past 57 months (five years in February), I see Dr. Johnson's hand in it. Dr. Johnson with her wispy gray hair escaping untidily from her bun, her penetrating blue eyes shining from behind her rimless eyeglasses, her lispy Southern voice reading Shakespeare's sonnets aloud as if they were love notes addressed to her, her marching any student caught chewing gum up to the wastepaper basket beside her desk to spit it out, her cautionary words about the dangers of using any of the three cuts allowed and my learning the hard way that she was right (I missed the only class where she taught us how to parse poetry), her sending me a sixpence to put in my shoe when I married six years later. (Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue...and a sixpence in her shoe.)

I will not forget Dr. Mary Lynch Johnson.

Monday, November 22, 2004


I so much prefer the Canadian and British spelling of this word: it rolls off your tongue with a sensuousness befitting rich reds, outrageous oranges, cool blues, regal purples, dazzling yellows and luscious greens. The American color is too abrupt. It doesn't give your eyes and ears time to take in the wonders being addressed.

Today I let colour have its way with me, not only in my paintings (photos #1 & #2) but on my late afternoon scoot (photos #1 & #2). I gave into its irresistible embrace and left my inhibitions behind. Pure colour seduces, inspires, soothes and excites. If it weren't for colour, I wouldn't paint. Yes, I've worked in black and white at different times in my life, but generally when I was trying to figure things out. My Word Art pen-and-ink drawings come to mind, as do the Sacred Stones. In both cases, the art was in the service of a message.

But now? I have no message beyond utter delight in the making. During these days when simply reading the news can take more fortitude than I have available, colour is my ally and friend. It never disappoints or demands more than I can give. Ah ha! So that's why I pink my hair.

Funny how writing this blog answers questions I don't even think to ask.

Apologies Accepted 

After posting information last night about the web site Sorry Everybody, I discovered there is another web site that sprang up in response. It is called Apologies Accepted, and was put up by computer nerds in the Netherlands for the world's people to let us sorry Americans know they appreciate our apologies. On its third day in operation, "Apologies Accepted" had a million hits!

Isn't this internet world amazing??!!

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Divided We Stand; United We Fall 

On November 3 John Kerry urged the American people to heal their wounds and come together for the next four years. Considering this was his concession speech, it was implied that he meant for us to come together under the newly re-elected president, George W. Bush.

I have disagreed with John Kerry over many of his policy positions, but never more vehemently than over this one.

The last thing our country, world and planet needs now is for the 49% of the American people who voted to get Bush out of power to give up our opposition and join hands with the 51% who gave him four more years. No, we need every single solitary non-Bush voter to stand firm and fight every decision that comes out of this neo-conservative, Christian fundamentalist, imperialistic, warmongering, Ariel Sharon-supporting, Arab Muslim-hating, repressive, homophobic, anti-choice, anti-immigrant, corporate-ruled, environmentally-destructive White House.

It is the time to fight not unite.

When I go swim laps every Monday and Wednesday night, I must scoot down the halls of our local middle school where American flags fly and large signs are posted that decree in red-white-and blue letters, "United we stand; divided we fall." It is all I can do to keep from tearing them down. Last week there were also student-made posters decrying cloning because "God is the only one allowed to create life." Now I'm not a fan of cloning, but it concerns me greatly when public schools in this country have religious messages posted in their halls. School prayer--as in Christian prayer--is not far behind.

Whatever happened to separation of church and state? Wasn't religious intolerance one of the main reasons the pilgrims left England? And didn't our founding fathers insist on an America where state and religion would be forever separate? During Bush's second term you can be sure that separation will be totally erased.

These are scary times, times when DISSENT is needed more than ever before. Believe me, George W. Bush is doing his level best to purge his government not only of dissenters but of questioners. In a George W. Bush-run world, no one questions their Leader-In-Chief. He is more infallible than the Pope. And, as we have seen, he refuses to reflect on past decisions or consider the possiblity that he and his people might have made any mistakes.

He reminds me the most immature of our four graders.

But just because the president of our country is immature doesn't mean we must be. No, we must be more mature and clear-headed than ever. We must escalate our efforts to mobilize community opposition to the abuses being wrought by our government and military leaders. Like we wish the German people had done under Hitler, we must be willing to put ourselves at risk of censure and arrest as we stand firm for the principles upon which our nation was built.

If 51% of the country's voters choose to keep their heads in the sand or even cheer on the dangerous tactics of their leader, let them. We 49% can make George W. Bush's second term a time of true democratic revolt if we work together with intentionality, using non-violent means to create change.

But first we need to apologize to our global sisters and brothers for our failure to turn this monster regime out of office on November 2. And that's where our inspired and inspiring young people come in.

A number of self-identified computer nerds have created a marvelous web site called "Sorry Everybody." On this site are an ever-growing number of digital photos sent in by ordinary Americans who want to offer their apologies to the world community for what happened here on November 2. The loving responses posted by women and men from across the globe is enough to bring tears to the eyes of even the most cynical among us.

Last night I stayed up until 3:30 AM looking at dozens and dozens of these photos. I even submitted one of my own. When you get to the home page of Sorry Everybody, simply click on the photo to enter the gallery, from there you'll have access to 1000s of photos. Click on whichever thumbnail photo you want to see in a larger format. If your response is anything like mine, the messages shared on this site will soothe your post-11/2 feelings, and help you see that you are not alone.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

A quiet Saturday 

Just what I needed--a day with nothing on my calendar. I slept late, showered, and called Pat Kolon to invite her to come over for dinner and a video later in the day. Ed brought his Subway sandwich home for lunch so he could watch some of the Michigan-Ohio State football game on TV. I heated up a couple of pizza slices and joined him at the kitchen table. It's at times like this that I'm grateful Ed prefers to watch sports with the sound muted. He's not much of a sports-watcher anyway.

After Eddie went back to his office, I got on my scooter and took off toward the little strip mall a mile away. It was a mild day with hints of blue peeking through the soft gray clouds, a lovely day for a scoot. By now so many trees are bare that those still sporting colorful leaves look more beautiful than ever. I've never been very fond of November, but this year I find myself appreciating its place as a gentle bridge between autumn and winter.

When I got to the mall, I went right to the video store and found two videos I thought looked like nice light entertainment. For that was what I was after...entertainment. After attending three protest demos in one week, I'd had all the relevance I could handle for awhile. I also went to the bookstore and bought a novel by an East Indian writer I admire.

Soon after I'd returned home, Pat arrived. We caught up on one another's news, gave Eddie our orders by phone for Chinese carry-out for dinner, and went into the den to start watching one of the videos. Ed got home about 7:30 PM and we had a thoroughly enjoyable meal together. Pat has been our friend for so many years that she's like a member of the family. While I washed the dishes, Ed played the piano for us. Pat went home about 9 PM, Eddie went for his usual walk, and I started reading my new book.

As I say, this day was just what I needed.

Friday, November 19, 2004

From pink to Pat to protest to party 

Another big day. I left the house at 11 AM and didn't return home until 9:30 PM.

My first stop was Lessa's Hair Salon on the east side of Windsor, Ontario where I got my hair cut and pinked. I must admit I haven't been feeling particularly "in the pink" since the election, and had seriously considered not pinking my hair this time. But I decided that was all the more reason to brighten things up a bit. Besides, at school yesterday I'd let each class vote as to whether or not I should go pink again, and you can probably guess the result of that vote!

After Lessa's, I drove over to my friend Pat Noonan's apartment in the middle of Windsor, picked her up and we went to her favorite Pakistani restaurant for a leisurely lunch. Pat is one of my longtime activist friends so you can pretty much guess our topics of conversation. Needless to say, Canadians are as disturbed about the American election as are half of the voters over here.

By the time we'd finished, it was time for me to get back to the States for the MECAWI-sponsored protest demonstration against the war in Iraq, specifically against the seige of Falluja. I took the Windsor/Detroit Tunnel across the river and parked in a lot about three blocks away. Then I scooted down East Jefferson back toward the American entrance to the tunnel where our demo had just begun. It had rained off and on all day, and for the next hour and a half we stood (I sat) in a steady drizzle. I'd guess there were 100 of us lining East Jefferson, with a good range of ages and ethnicities. MECAWI (the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War in Iraq) has worked hard to diversify their membership, and judging from today's demo, they're doing a good job of it. There were three Raging Grannies there and we led the protesters in singing "Are You Sleeping, Uncle Sam?" It was fun to meet Granny Charlotte's granddaughters, Emily and Erica, who really seemed to get into it. And knowing our Windsor peace activist sisters and brothers were demonstrating across the river at the Windsor entrance to the tunnel helped us know we weren't alone. It also lifted our spirits to receive so many honks and thumbs-up from drivers with both Ontario and Michigan license plates. I don't think this is a very popular war.

I got back to my minivan about 5:45 PM feeling pretty cold and wet. My next event wasn't until 7 PM so I let myself dry out and warm up in Sojourner before starting off for the Library Supporters' party being put on by the Grosse Pointe library staff. If you're a regular reader, you'll remember the three months of library pickets and meetings I was part of this summer as we fought for a fair contract for our woefully underpaid library staff. Our efforts had met with success on September 15 and tonight the staff wanted to thank all their loyal supporters. There was a groaning buffet table full of delicious food, our picket signs propped around the perimeter of the room, and probably 80 people in attendance, most of whom I recognized. There were short speeches, special presentations and good conversation. It was such a lovely way to offer thanks.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Recess activism 

I don't know why I'm so sleepy, but I am. Yes, today was a school day, but not a busy one. I spent most of the day painting. In the three fourth grade classes we were visiting China, so we painted mountains, pagodas, bamboo and evergreen trees in sumi-like strokes using black paint on manilla paper. Then the first graders continued painting using tempera paint over large abstract crayon drawings we'd done to classical music a few weeks ago. I really got into that! The two fifth grade classes were working on a project that my hands can't manage very well, so in one of the classes I finished my first grade painting and in the other I colored an intricate printed design with markers.

I have no special stories to share from today, but there is one from last week. When the last class of the day came to art on Thursday they were all upset because the school principal had disciplined the entire fifth grade as a result of something that had happened at recess that day. I didn't hear any details beyond the fact that all fifth grade classes were to be barred from recess for the rest of the year. The kids were outraged. One of the older students took control and in his deep voice called out, "Let's go on strike! How do you spell recess?"

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

A quiet day. Finally. 

I painted, read in Adrienne Rich's book, "Arts Of The Possible," and sent out group e-mailings for this Friday's Detroit area protest demonstration against the seige of Falluja. MECAWI (The Michigan Emergency Committee Against the War On Iraq) is organizing the demo in solidarity with a worldwide call for protests against the US-led massacre of Falluja. The Windsor Peace Coalition is mounting a peace demonstration at the same time as ours (4-6 PM), so we will have our own International Protests straddling the shores of the Detroit River.

Regarding last night's demo against the Governor of Oaxaca, it occurred to me in the night that maybe--just maybe--our picketing had something to do with Governor Jose Murat not showing up at the dinner in his honor but sending a representative instead. Then I got an email from Rima, a regular reader in San Francisco, in which she said, "It is possible that Sr. Murat sent the representative in his place because of your protest."

After reading Rima's response, I recalled that Governor Murat has had a number of assassination attempts against his life and perhaps was uneasy that this might be a set-up for another. In Oaxaca he always travels surrounded by lots of bodyguards, but I doubt if he'd brought that many with him to Detroit. So maybe the nine of us had a far greater impact than we ever imagined! Otherwise why didn't he show up? It would make no sense to travel all this way and then miss one of the grandest gatherings held for him here in Detroit.

Puts me in mind of Margaret Mead's quote: "A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed it's the only thing that ever has."

And now it is time for me to prepare to go swim laps at our local middle school. I am LOVING being back to my swimming and working out at the gym. Didn't my cracked rib heal quickly?

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Support CIPO's struggle for justice! 

No no, no nos moveran
No no, no nos moveran
Y como un arbol vive junto al rio
No nos moveran!

Unides en la lucha, no nos moveran
Unides en la lucha, no nos moveran
Y como un arbol vive junto al rio
No nos moveran!

We shall not, we shall not be moved,
We shall not, we shall not be moved!
Just like a tree that's planted by the wa-a-ter,
We shall not be moved!

By those who wage destruction, we shall not be moved,
By those who wage destruction, we shall not be moved,
Just like a tree that's planted by the wa-a-ter,
We shall not be moved!

Over and over we Raging Grannies sang this song tonight. As well-dressed couples made their way into the elegant Dearborn, Michigan restaurant to honor the Governor of Oaxaca, Mexico--Mr. Jose Murat--we sang, handed out leaflets, and chanted things like:

Governor Murat supports paramilitary groups!
End the repression of indigenous peoples in Oaxaca!
Free the CIPO leaders!
Jail Jose Murat; don't fete him!

Gabriela and her husband Joaquin stopped people on their way into the restaurant and told them in Spanish of the Governor's history of human rights abuses against the indigenous peoples of Oaxaca, and especially of his having jailed fourteen CIPO (Indigenous Peoples Council of Oaxaca) leaders on September 14, 2004. Their crime? Tenting in the plaza outside the governor's mansion in an attempt to get him to meet and talk face-to-face with them. His response to their request? To ignore them for months and then to have them arrested and thrown in jail the day before the annual celebration of Mexico's independence from Spain.

We received many different responses from people. Of course there were those who tried to ignore our presence. Then there were those who took our leaflets but would not stop and talk with us. But we also had people stop, ask us questions and listen carefully to Gabriela and Joaquin's answers. A number of these said they did not know of Governor Murat's repressive treatment of the indigenous people in his state. Then there were the two women from Oaxaca who came outside the restaurant to thank us for mounting our protest. One of them said, "I didn't know anyone this far north knew about this." And then there was the man who stopped on his way into the restaurant to hear what we had to say, and asked for some leaflets to take inside to hand out. After a half hour, he came back for more!

We were a small but vocal group of activists: Five Raging Grannies (Gabriela, Charlotte, Kathy, Magi and Patricia), David Sole of MECAWI (the Michigan Emergency Committee against the War on Iraq), Richard of the Michigan Lawyers' Guild, and Fred and Joaquin, both of whom had attended the 2004 World Social Forum of the Americas in Quito, Equador, in July. That was where Joaquin had met members of CIPO-RFM and had learned about the repression they were facing from Governor Murat and his paramilitary group called CROCUT, in their home state of Oaxaca. It was Joaquin and Gabriela who organized this protest, made most of our signs and created the informational leaflets.

We Raging Grannies had considered attending the dinner and then standing up in the middle of the speeches and yelling, "Free the CIPO leaders!", but we came up with our idea too late to buy tickets. It was just as well. I think our method of protest--we stayed out in front of the restaurant singing, conversing with guests, handing out leaflets and chanting for two hours--was more effective as a tool to educate people than the drama of disruption would have been. And the Mexican Consulate knew we were there. At one point,a representative of the Consulate came out to try to get us to leave. We assured her that we were within our rights to be on a public sidewalk. She finished by saying, "Well, I hope you'll be quiet and calm." Granny Kathy reminded her that the exercise of our right to free speech did not necessarily mean we would remain quiet. And we didn't.

For more information on the indigenous people's struggle for justice in Oaxaca, you can go to their CIPO-RFM web site and, if you don't read Spanish, there is a section in English that is called "Our Story." In short, this coalition of 27 indigenous communities is asking:

1. Respect for their self-determination;
2. Protection of their habitat (forest, land, crops and water);
3. Dismantling of paramilitary groups and prosecution of those in CROCUT who are responsible for murders in Yaviche, Lagunilla, Yucunicuca and San Isidro Aloapam;
4. Guarantees for the life of Raul Gatica (who was threatened by the governor's body guards) and all others in jail or under surveillance;
5. Allowing broadcast of community based media (TV and radio), particularly "Radio Guetza" at 94.1 FM;
6. The immediate release of the following political prisoners:

Dolores Villalobos Cuamatzin (Nahua)
Leonor Lopez Alvarez (Zapotec)
Guadalupe Garcia Garcia (Mixtec)
Gilardo Perez Gomez (Mixtec)
Gumaro Lopez Alvarez (Zapotec)
Reynaldo Hernandez Feria (Mixtec)
Mauro Garcia Garcia (Mixtec)
Kalid Perez Gomez (Zapotec)
Carmen Lopez Perez ((Zapotec)
Margarita Garcia Garcia (Mixtec)
Miquel Cruz Moreno (Zapotec)
Jose Cruz Cruz (Zapotec)
Abel Ramirez Ramirez (Chatino)
Habacuc Cruz Cruz (Mixtec)

By the way, Governor Jose Murat is visiting Detroit to "showcase Oaxaca's heritage." This evening was to be a gathering of "oaxacaquenos" in Michigan to celebrate their rich and colorful culture with traditional food, music and crafts. According to Joaquin's leaflet, "What the governor will not showcase is his government's systematic persecution of indigenous communities. The people that are precisely trying to preserve their dignity, traditions and self-determination."

The other song we Raging Grannies sang during our protest demonstration was to the tune of "When the Saints Go Marching In." We started with our usual verse having to do with human rights, and then added a number of verses I wrote specifically for tonight's protest:

When everyone has equal rights
When everyone has equal rights
Oh how I want to be in that number
When everyone has equal rights

New verses:

When CIPO's leaders are set free...
When Zapotec and Mixtec thrive...
When violence by CROCUT ends...
When forests are not cut and slashed...
When water is a right for all...
When Oaxaca can live in peace...

In case you're wondering, we never did see the guest of honor. Apparently he didn't show up at all, but rather sent a representative. However we're sure he will hear of our protest. May it help our indigenous friends regain their freedom and receive the respect and rights they deserve. Power to the People!

Monday, November 15, 2004

I don't know where to begin... 

Should I tell you about this afternoon's march from the Federal Courthouse to the Federal Building in downtown Detroit, an anti-war demonstration and march that was organized in solidarity with Americans across the country who are in despair over the massacre being enacted in Falluja by our newly re-elected president?

Or should I tell you of my extremely full day yesterday, a day that took me across town at noon to pick up Freda Knott, the Victoria, BC Raging Granny, then into the center of Detroit to show her the sculptures/monuments dedicated to Labor and to the Underground Railroad at Hart Plaza, on to lunch in Greektown, then back to my house for our monthly song circle from 3-5 PM, followed by supper for Freda, Rachael (one of the O Beautiful Gaia CD singers) and me, and finally an invigorating gathering of sixteen women activists to meet Freda and to "rise up from the ashes of 11/2" that was held in my living room from 7:30-9:30 PM last night?

I have photos from all these events, but don't see how I can possibly put them all up tonight. It's almost midnight and I'd love to get to bed at a reasonable hour.

After today's demonstration/march, which went from 4-5:30 PM, I picked Ed up at his office, had a rare dinner with him at our favorite neighborhood restaurant, and then went to the middle school where I swam 24 lengths that felt fabulous. Earlier today I'd driven Freda to the airport and had returned home to make a sign for the demo/march. I considered many possible messages but decided upon, "Four more years of Bush starts in Falluja."

Tomorrow promises to be active but nothing like the past few days. I only have my noon appointment at the gym with Matt, my personal trainer, and then another demonstration in the afternoon. This time we're protesting the Governor of Oaxaca, Mexico, who has disappeared, imprisoned, tortured and killed indigenous leaders, not to mention stealing land from the indigenous peoples and keeping them in a subjugated position in his state. He is being honored by the Mexican Consulate and other Detroit area dignitaries at a dinner at 5:30 PM tomorrow (Tuesday). Granny Gabriela, who was born in Mexico and works in the Mexican community in Southwestern Detroit, has asked us, her Raging Granny sisters, to join her and other members of the Mexican-American and peace communities in protesting this human rights abuser. We are honored to stand beside her.

For me, this demonstration has special meaning. In 1992 I celebrated my 50th birthday by working for two weeks with the poor halfway up a mountain in Oaxaca. Many of the women and children I got to know were of indigenous heritage. I especially remember Patricia, her eldest daughter Maricela, Maricela's baby Oscar, and her two little girls, who welcomed me with love into their dirt-floored, tin-roofed, cardboard and wood-sided, one-room home every day, and, on my birthday, served me a glass of kool-aid made from their precious supply of water that they carried from the community well at the top of the mountain every morning. They were probably the poorest persons I've ever known and, without any doubt, the most generous. I will be protesting in their names tomorrow.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Remembering and moving forward 

My friend Penny's mother died peacefully during the night on Thursday. In her email to our Gaia community, Penny asked that instead of buying her flowers, we buy flowers for ourselves in her mother's memory. I've never before heard of such a request, but isn't it perfect? That way we can each remember Penny's mother with love every time we look at the flowers we chose.

Early this afternoon I scooted a block down the street to our local florist shop/greenhouse. Once there I was bowled over by the beauty of this bright red amaryllis plant. It makes me smile every time I see it.

But the amaryllis wasn't the only spot of color that took my eye today. Three doors from us is a maple tree that is always the last to shed its leaves. Not only that, it remains a flaming reminder of autumn long after the trees around it are looking ahead toward winter. Like it just doesn't want to let go. Well, neither do I, so I appreciate its perseverance.

On this sunny afternoon, the Raging Grannies Without Borders had their monthly meeting/rehearsal at my house. Even though there was a goodly amount of talk about the election--particularly each Granny's personal experiences as poll monitors and neighborhood canvassers--we seemed ready to move forward.

We planned three rages in November and December: 1) This Tuesday we will protest the governor of Oaxaca, Mexico--a longtime human rights abuser--who is being honored at an event in Dearborn; 2) The first Saturday in December we will again be "guerrilla Grannies" by singing around the Cultural Center during Detroit's annual Noel Night; and 3) On December 11, we will be part of an international coast-to-coast Raging Grannies' protest of the giant retail monster, WalMart.

This Monday, the Detroit Area Peace with Justice Network is planning a March Against U.S. War Crimes in Iraq in front of the Federal Courthouse (231 W. Lafayette between Washington Blvd. and Shelby) from 4-5:30 PM. With our busy Raging Grannies' schedule--lunch with Freda yesterday, our monthly meeting today, tomorrow's women activists' gathering at my house, and Tuesday's protest of the governor of Oaxaca--we decided not to try to fit in Monday's demonstration too. But I'm going to try to be there if I'm not too pooped. I need to stand up publicly against the horrible massacre in Fallujah.

At our meeting I shared the following quote that I'd found in Alison Acker and Betty Brightwell's wonderful book about the Raging Grannies, Off Our Rockers and Into Trouble:

"If you're not living on the edge, you're taking up too much room."
Anita Bundy


Friday, November 12, 2004

Lunch with Freda 

Occasionally you meet someone for the first time and immediately feel as though you've known one another all your lives. That was how I felt today when I met Freda Knott. Now maybe part of it is the natural affinity we have by being Raging Grannies, but it felt stronger than that.

So many of our Grannies either have 9-5 jobs, had previous commitments or were not feeling well, so Grannies Charlotte, Judy, Marilyn and I were the fortunate few from our gaggle who were able to meet with Freda for lunch today. We arrived at her motel out in Farmington Hills, a northwestern suburb of Detroit, about 11:30 AM and spent four rich hours together.

First we visited in the motel lobby while waiting for Marilyn to join us from Brighton, out near Ann Arbor. While we waited Judy, Charlotte and Freda entertained me by singing a Victoria Raging Grannies' song about health care called "Old Folks At Home." We ALL enjoyed it!

We sat there sharing stories even after Marilyn had arrived, that is until one of us mentioned lunch. After Wendy, who was working the desk at the motel, kindly took our picture, we went outside and piled into Sojourner, my handicap accessible minivan, also known as the GranMobile. I'd checked the internet last night and had found four East Indian restuarants within a mile of Freda's motel. We liked the looks of Shalimar, and went inside.

The lunch buffet was reasonably priced, the food delicious, the setting attractive, the servers friendly, and no one rushed us even though we ended up staying until 3:30 PM, a half hour after they were to have closed to prepare for dinner. We talked and listened to one another about everything from the U.S. election, to Canadian politics, to our own personal stories of becoming activists, to the unique experiences and ways of doing things by our respective Raging Grannies' gaggles in Victoria, BC and here in the Detroit area.

The gaggle Freda belongs to in Victoria, BC were the first Raging Grannies in the world, having formed in 1987 to protest in a more colourful and satirical way the nuclear submarines coming into their harbor. As one of the youngest gaggles--we just celebrated our second anniversity on November 9--our Raging Grannies Without Borders have a lot to learn from more experienced Grannies like Freda. If we'd had the time, I'm sure we could still be sitting there without having run out of things to talk about!

I'm so glad I'll have more time with Freda on Sunday and Monday. She is such a warm and invigorating person to be around. And it looks like the Sunday evening gathering I'm hosting to introduce Freda to local women activists will be well attended. I've already received sixteen yes's even though I didn't ask for RSVPs. As they say, if you build it, they will come.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Remembrance Day 2004 

November 11 is celebrated as Remembrance Day in Canada and the UK. Not surprisingly, it has a more militaristic identity in the United States where it is called Veterans Day.

Today I remember not the warriors of the past, but the innocent victims of the present.

I remember Falluja...

Fighting in Falluja has created a humanitarian disaster in which innocent people are dying because medical help cannot reach them, aid workers in Iraq said today.

I remember Falluja...

In one case, a pregnant woman and her child died in a refugee camp west of the city after the mother unexpectedly aborted and no doctors were on hand, Firdoos al-Ubadi, an official from the Iraqi Red Crescent Society, said.

In another case, a young boy died from a snake bite that would normally have been easily treatable, she said.

"From a humanitarian point of view it's a disaster, there's no other way to describe it. And if we don't do something about it soon, it's going to spread to other cities," she said.

I remember Falluja...

About 10,000 US soldiers and 2,000 Iraqi troops are fighting to wrest control of Falluja, 50km west of Baghdad, back from insurgents.

At least 2,200 families have fled Falluja in recent days and are struggling to survive without enough water, food or medicine in nearby towns and villages, she said.

Some families have fled as far as Tikrit, about 150km north of Falluja.

I remember Falluja...

But the biggest concern is people in and around Falluja itself -- they can't be reached because US and Iraqi forces have set up a wide cordon around the city to prevent anyone from entering and any insurgents from fleeing.

It is unclear how many civilians are left in Falluja, but the US military estimates 150,000, or half the entire population, have fled the city since they began shaping up for an offensive in October.

The Muslim Clerics' Association estimates about 60,000 people are still there but it is unknown how they arrived at the figure and because of the chaos no official numbers are available.

Many of those who fled are with relatives and do not show up in refugee statistics.

I remember Falluja...

Between a nightly curfew and the danger of venturing on to the streets, many are effectively trapped at home.

"We've asked for permission from the Americans to go into the city and help the people there but we haven't heard anything back from them," Ubadi said. "There's no medicine, no water, no electricity. They need our help."

The Red Crescent Society has teams of doctors and relief experts ready to go in to each of Falluja's districts with essential aid, but needs US approval first.

I remember Falluja...

The US military was not immediately available to comment on the aid agency's request, but has said its first priority is to defeat the rebels holed up in Falluja.

An offensive was launched late on Monday and in furious street-to-street fighting since, US forces have battled their way into the heart of Falluja's most rebellious district.

Commanders say they are doing everything they can to minimize civilian losses, but it is not always possible.

I remember Falluja...

This week, a 9-year-old boy died after being hit in the stomach by shrapnel. His parents were unable to get him to hospital because of the fighting and so resorted to wrapping a sheet around him to stem the blood flow.

He died hours later of blood loss and was buried in the garden of the family home.

"We buried him in the garden because it was too dangerous to go out," said his father, teacher Mohammed Abboud. "We did not know how long the fighting would last."

I remember Falluja...

The International Committee for the Red Cross says there are thousands of elderly and women and children who have had no food or water for days. At least 20,000 have gathered in the town of Saqlawiya, south of Falluja.

"The Red Cross is very worried. We urge all combatants to guarantee passage to those who need medical care, regardless of whether they are friends or enemies," spokesman Ahmad al-Raoui said. "They must be allowed to return home as soon as possible."

I remember Falluja...

Aid workers say there are still hundreds of families left in the city, which has been pummeled by sustained aerial bombardment and artillery fire in recent days.

"We know of at least 157 families inside Falluja who need our help," said Ubadi.

I remember Falluja...

For some it is already too late.

One mother and her three daughters had intended to flee but their home was hit by a bombardment earlier this week and all died, neighbors who escaped told aid workers.

The article quoted in non-bold is "Human 'Disaster' Looms in Encircled Falluja"
Published on Thursday, November 11, 2004 by Reuters


Let us never forget this November 2004 bloodbath in Falluja, George W. Bush's first public action as newly re-elected president of the United States. George W. Bush, the "pro-life" candidate whose "moral values" won him the election.


Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Rising From the Ashes of 11/2 

How do I know I'm recovering from my post-election depression? Because I'm organizing again!

I spent much of today and tonight organizing two gatherings to meet and greet an amazing activist who's coming to town. Last night I received an email from Freda Knott, a member of the Victoria, BC Raging Grannies, saying she'd be in the Detroit area for a conference from Thursday night until Monday morning and would love to get together with our gaggle. So I took the times she was available and worked out two opportunities, one for our Raging Grannies and the other for all women activists in the Detroit/Windsor/Ann Arbor area. Of course the fact that the women's gathering will be held in my living room means I hope not ALL the women I'm inviting will show up! But if they do we have a nice big carpet they can sit on.

Friday we Grannies will meet Freda for lunch out in Farmington Hills where her conference is being held. Then Sunday I'll pick her up at noon and she'll come spend the night with Ed and me. She'll join the singing circle that will be meeting here that day from 3-5 PM, then after supper, she'll meet the women activists I'm inviting to join us from 7:30-9:30 PM for what I'm calling "Rising From the Ashes of 11/2: A Gathering of Women."

I phoned Freda in Victoria today and she's happy with our plans.

Now let me introduce you to this incredible woman--

From the book Off Our Rockers and Into Trouble by her sister Victoria Raging Grannies, Allison Acker and Betty Brightwell, we read:

Freda Knott came to the Victoria Raging Grannies as a well-loved friend. We knew her from the Greater Victoria Disarmament Group, where she toiled for many years. She was representing that group aboard the Greenpeace ship "Rainbow Warrior II" with us when we sailed to Kerchikan, Alaska, to protest nuclear ships passing through Canadian waters to reach Dixon Entrance.

Freda grew up in a progressive Jewish home in Vancouver. Both parents were active in peace and left-wing movements, and she remembers accompanying them to collect signatures on the street corner for the Ban the Bomb Petition, which eventually contained six million names worldwide. When she decided to join us she was despairing of the new world order. Having been a Communist most of her life, she saw the USSR she had once admired crumbling into moral, social and economic chaos, and Western capitalism didn't seem like any alternative. In the beginning, though, she was not a Raging Granny fan.

"My first impression, being a rather cautious person, was that dressing in outrageous clothing and acting as they did would be insulting to many older women. However, I saw the very warm reception they received and realized that they were playing a very important role in bringing social and peace issues to the public at large," she says, adding, "Besides, it was time to bring some humour into my activism." Now she says, "The Grannies have become very dear to me. They're my friends and confidantes. They have helped to make my life meaningful and enjoyable."

Freda was married to Erni, 18 years her senior, a former logger and member of the Industrial Workers of the World (Wobblies) and a Communist Party federal candidate. Until his death in December 2003, Erni had a large market garden and kept bees, so they both spent Sundays selling produce at the Metchosin Farmers' Market near Victoria. As if she weren't busy enough, Freda is also a board member of the Victoria chapter of the Council of Canadians and a leading organizer of Victoria's annual Earth Walk. (It started out as a peace walk, morphed into a walk for the environment and is now a walk for global justice.) She's one of our smallest Raging Grannies and the bounciest. We love it when she gets excited and stamps her feet on stage to protest whatever ills are threatening us. Freda is a very active member of the Victoria Solidarity Coalition, which many local activists consider to be the unofficial opposition to the British Columbia Liberal government. (The 2001 National Democratic Party electoral rout meant there were only two NDP members, both of them women, confronting the Liberal agenda in the Legislature.)

And in following the various links to her name in the book's index, we find that whether singing Raging Granny protest songs to try to protect artist Emily Carr's favoured landscape from development by The Royal Bay company, helping to defeat the Multilateral Agreement on Investment, walking with her sister Grannies past indignant security guards, climbing over velvet rope barriers and descending on the minister of the environment to share their concern about the possibility of nuclear accidents in Nanoose Bay, joining over 500,000 protesters on the streets of Seattle at the 1999 WTO meetings, flying with two other Grannies to Berlin at the invitation of Greenpeace to help persuade German pulp buyers to boycott forestry companies that were clear-cutting old-growth forests in British Columbia, mounting a Raging Grannies "cry in" at the Ministry of Health building in downtown Victoria to protest the sad state of BC health care, standing up with another Granny in the BC House visitors' gallery and shouting "Affordable health care for everyone!", or going with three other Grannies to Calgary in June 2002 to protest the G8 Summit that was being held near Kananaskis, Freda Knott has consistently been a fearless and persistent voice for our planet and its people. She is definitely in it for the long haul.

Doesn't she sound JUST like what the doctor ordered for us Bush-whacked activists to refind our spunk?!!

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

A stolen election? 

"Now, don't get paranoid."

That was husband Ed's response when I told him what I'd be writing about tonight. As a thinking, informed citizen of America these days, it's getting easier than ever to be accused of being paranoid or a conspiracy theorist. That's exactly how the spin masters want us to be seen. It lets them continue to weave their webs of deceit without any serious scrutiny by the public.

OK, here it is: More and more evidence is coming to light that George W. Bush probably did not win the election. Not fairly, anyway. And really, none of us should be surprised.

Election 2000 had certainly showed us that our US electoral system was not even close to the democratic ideal we'd been led to believe. And as Election 2004 approached, we became aware that the electronic touch-screen voting machines many states planned to use could not be trusted, especially the ones made by an Ohio firm called Diebold.

Prior to the election, a number of concerns had surfaced about these machines: 1) the owner of Diebold Company--also a top Republican campaign director in Ohio--publicly promised to do "everything in his power" to deliver the Ohio vote to George W. Bush; 2) there would be no paper trails with electronic touch-screen machines, and therefore no way for voters to verify that their votes had registered correctly; 3) because of no printed record of the votes, there could be no recounts; 4) electronic touch-screen voting machines were vulnerable to manipulation by hackers; and 5) there had already been countless discrepancies noted in the results of primaries where Diebold and other electronic voting machines were used.

But in Election 2004, the discrepanies extended beyond electronic voting machines.

Thom Hartmann writes the following in his article, "Evidence Mounts That The Vote May Have Been Hacked", published on November 6, 2004 on

The State of Florida, for example, publishes a county-by-county record of votes cast and people registered to vote by party affiliation. Net denizen Kathy Dopp compiled the official state information into a table, available at, and noticed something startling.

While the heavily scrutinized touch-screen voting machines seemed to produce results in which the registered Democrat/Republican ratios largely matched the Kerry/Bush vote, in Florida's counties using results from optically scanned paper ballots - fed into a central tabulator PC and thus vulnerable to hacking -the results seem to contain substantial anomalies.

In Baker County, for example, with 12,887 registered voters, 69.3% of them Democrats and 24.3% of them Republicans, the vote was only 2,180 for Kerry and 7,738 for Bush, the opposite of what is seen everywhere else in the country where registered Democrats largely voted for Kerry.

In Dixie County, with 9,676 registered voters, 77.5% of them Democrats and a mere 15% registered as Republicans, only 1,959 people voted for Kerry, but 4,433 voted for Bush.

The pattern repeats over and over again - but only in the counties where optical scanners were used. Franklin County, 77.3% registered Democrats, went 58.5% for Bush. Holmes County, 72.7% registered Democrats, went 77.25% for Bush.

Hartmann goes on to discuss the discrepanies between exit polls in swing states like Florida, Ohio and New Mexico and the final vote tabulations. He writes:

Dick Morris, the infamous political consultant to the first Clinton campaign who became a Republican consultant and Fox News regular, wrote an article for The Hill, the publication read by every political junkie in Washington, DC, in which he made a couple of brilliant points.

"Exit Polls are almost never wrong," Morris wrote. "They eliminate the two major potential fallacies in survey research by correctly separating actual voters from those who pretend they will cast ballots but never do and by substituting actual observation for guesswork in judging the relative turnout of different parts of the state."

He added: "So, according to ABC-TVs exit polls, for example, Kerry was slated to carry Florida, Ohio, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, and Iowa, all of which Bush carried. The only swing state the network had going to Bush was West Virginia, which the president won by 10 points."

Yet a few hours after the exit polls were showing a clear Kerry sweep, as the computerized vote numbers began to come in from the various states the election was called for Bush.

And Thom Hartmann isn't the only one noticing problems with George W. Bush's "win."

The Associated Press put out an article over their wire services on November 5 that reported, "An error with an electronic voting system gave President Bush 3,893 extra votes in suburban Columbus, elections officials said. Franklin County's unofficial results had Bush receiving 4,258 votes to Democrat John Kerry's 260 votes in a precinct in Gahanna. Records show only 638 voters cast ballots in that precinct. Bush's total should have been recorded as 365."

But it was Cecil Bothwell who first got me seriously questioning the election results that plunged me and millions of others into the depths of depression on November 3.

I've been on Cecil's Soupletter e-list for over a year, and have consistently found him to be a well-informed critical analyst of current events. I'm going to share his entire November 7 edition of the Soupletter here because I think it brings up information that needs to be considered. If you choose to quote any of it in writing, please be sure to give Cecil Bothwell proper attribution.

Soupletter Volume 9 Number 16: 11/7/04
The Soupletter
Volume 9 Number 16 November 7, 2004

"Trust but verify."
-- Ronald Reagan

Duck Soup
412. Reason to believe

No one will ever convince me that the 2004 election was not stolen. I know I might be wrong, but proof either way is, for all practical purposes, unavailable. Barring a co-conspirator's confession or discovery of damning memos or e-mails, there is little reason to imagine that we can ever be certain.

I am an investigative reporter and one of the stories I wrote during 2004 was the result of a yearlong examination of electronic voting machines.

Roughly one third of U.S. votes are now cast on machines that create no paper record.

Because this was a news story, I necessarily adhered to the rules of fair and accurate reporting and could not inject opinion. But at the conclusion of my study I was convinced that our modern voting system is ripe for fraud on a massive scale.

Following the Nov. 2 general election it appears beyond question that such fraud occurred. False electronic vote tabulation almost certainly delivered the presidential election to George Bush. The signs are widespread and appear incontrovertible. There is no reason to believe this fraud didn't extend to congressional races as well.
In fact, one Florida congressional candidate now says he knows how the vote in his district was hacked and knows who did it. He has called in the FBI. Check out Thom Hartmann's excellent report at:

The principal circumstantial evidence for fraud lies in exit polls. During the course of Nov. 2, the news media reported that exit polls indicated a Kerry landslide in the making. By midnight those polls had been proved "wrong" by the "actual" vote totals in state after state.

How is it that exit polling has become so inaccurate in recent years? Following World War II, as computers became available to pollsters, the techniques and analysis of exit polls gradually became very sophisticated. By the 1990s it was spot on. In Germany (which uses only paper ballots, by the way) exit polls are reported to be accurate within .1 percent.

Suddenly, in 2000 the models failed. The immediate assumption was that exit polling had somehow proven unreliable, with various explanations offered -- principally revolving around the supposition that voters lied to pollsters or that pollsters somehow became confused about how to process their results.

This year the failure was more widespread -- and alert bloggers have reported that major media outlets are now retroactively adjusting their exit poll numbers to make them appear more accurate.

Furthermore, in every case the difference between the exit polling and the final tabulation broke for Bush. That is statistically nuts. How could it be that all of the mistakes were made in Kerry's favor? Are Bush's supporters, for whom self-defined "family values" are supposedly very important, more likely to lie to pollsters?

In one precinct in Columbus, Ohio, where only 620 voters cast ballots, George Bush was credited with more than 4,000 votes. This "error" was revealed, but one necessarily wonders how often this mistake was repeated and not reported. In a similar "error" during the 2000 vote, one county in Florida ran up a 16,000 vote margin for Gore which suddenly melted as 10,000 votes were shifted to the socialist presidential candidate -- with no explanation.

Last week, 30 percent of voters in one precinct in New Mexico apparently did not bother to vote. About 700 voters waited in line, signed in, went into the booth and left without casting a vote in a single race -- or so we are expected to believe. In fact, 7000 voters statewide did not vote in New Mexico, primarily in Democratic strongholds like Taos. Does any rational person really believe that people with no intention of voting make the effort to go to the polls?

Perhaps those 7000 forgot to push the final button. In that case, knowing that a paper receipt is supposed to print -- an action completely familiar to anyone who purchases groceries -- would have made it more likely that such voters would complete their transaction.

In Florida, almost 1.4 million more voters cast ballots this year than during the 2000 election with almost 80,000 less votes cast for third party candidates. The vote was notably heavy in Democratic strongholds. Polls reported on Nov. 1 and exit polls conducted on Nov. 2 showed a Kerry majority. (And remember, the statewide recount of the 2000 results conducted by major news media showed that Gore won in Florida.)

How did that translate into an electoral advantage to Bush in the final results this year? For those counties voting on paperless systems, there is no way to conduct a recount because such machines only store totals. Mistakes or fraud in registration of individual votes are unavailable for examination.

In other counties which use computer-based optical scanners, the ballots can be recounted by hand -- if a recount is ordered.

And, note that media attention to possible vote problems -- to the extent that attention is paid at all -- focuses on those few states where the election was supposedly decided. Fraud in 40 other states could easily slide by without fanfare.

What can you do?

It is time to demand a voter verifiable, auditable, paper trail for all electronic voting machines and non-proprietary tabulators for optically scanned ballots.

Here's how a voter-verifiable paper record for an electronic voting machine works.

After a voter is finished voting, a printer attached to the voting machine prints the results on a tape, just the way a modern grocery store cash register prints a receipt naming all of the items you have purchased. The voter can read the results and confirm that the paper printout is accurate. If it is not, the voter can demand a chance to revote and the previous paper record is invalidated. Once the voter is satisfied with the paper record, it is stored in a secure container. If there is any question about the election results, the paper records can be scanned and tabulated.

Experts recommend that every jurisdiction should routinely conduct random recounts of the paper record to verify that the electronic system is working. For extra security it would be useful to require that the system and computer program used to scan the paper ballots not be manufactured by the same company that manufactures the voting machines. This applies to optically scanned paper ballots as well. See the Hartmann article cited above for a shocking demonstration of how easy it is to hack the computers that tabulate scanner results. There is no reason not to use open source software that any computer expert can examine for the recount.

A bill to mandate this simple fix has been introduced in Congress and has many cosigners. Republicans in the House of Representatives blocked a vote on this bill and will presumably continue to do so with their new, larger majority. A bill to mandate this change at the state level is in the works in North Carolina. (Nevada and New Hampshire already have such a requirement, and Maine?s elections are still all-paper.)

But there is no reason to wait for national or state action which can be blocked by politicians who are more than happy with the status quo. In most states, voting equipment is purchased county-by-county. Every voting machine company makes add-on printers which can be fitted to existing machines. We can demand that our local officials create voting systems we can believe in.

We can and should make this change before the 2005 election, in order to test such systems before the next national races in 2006.

Copyright 2004 Cecil Bothwell
All rights reserved

Monday, November 08, 2004

"Goldenrod, Late Fall" by Mary Oliver 

My friend Penny's mother is dying. She sits at her bedside every day, and says she is enjoying the solitude of being quietly with her Mom.

I know just what she means. Today is the second anniversary of my mother's death and I remember with gratitude the long quiet days I sat by her bedside, content to be with her whether she was asleep or awake. Just being in her presence was enough.

This morning a Mary Oliver poem reached out and took my hand. It made me think so strongly of what Penny and her mother are experiencing now that I emailed it to her. I then sat down to try to paint what it had touched in me. Although I like the vibrant layers of color in the first painting, I feel painting #2--which "just happened"--better reflects the poem. See what you think...

Goldenrod, Late Fall

This morning the goldenrod were all wearing
their golden shirts
fresh from heaven's soft wash in the chill night.
So it must be a celebration.
And here comes the wind, so many swinging wings!
Has he been invited, or is he the intruder?
Invited, whisper the golden pebbles of the weeds,
as they begin to fall

over the ground. Well, you would think the little murmurs
of the broken blossoms would have said
otherwise, but no. So I sit down among them to
think about it while all around me the crumbling
goes on. The weeds let down their seedy faces
cheerfully, which is the part I like best, and certainly

it is as good as a book for learning from. You would think
they were just going for a small sleep. You would think
they couldn't wait, it was going to be
that snug and even, as all their lives were, full of
excitation. You would think

it was a voyage just beginning, and no darkness anywhere,
but tinged with all necessary instruction, and light,

and all were shriven, as all the round world is,
and so it wasn't anything but easy to fall, to whisper
Good Night.

Mary Oliver
From "Why I Wake Early" (Beacon Press: 2004)

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Take time to grieve 

Americans tend to scurry through periods of grief as they scurry through everything. Two days after we'd learned that George W. Bush was claiming his "mandate" from the voters to push ahead with his neo-con agenda, Molly Ivins was exhorting her readers, "Don't Mourn, Organize."

For those of us who have been organizing since 2001 to oppose Bush's disastrous wars on Afghanistan and Iraq, and since 2000 to get Bush out of the office he shouldn't have occupied in the first place, her rallying cry fell on ears deafened by defeat. And it wasn't necessarily the defeat of our "party" that knocked us out, but the defeat of our hopes for the immediate future.

I don't know about you but since I first learned of Bush's win on Wednesday, I've had my good days and my bad days. On the good days, I make creative responses to the painful realities: I paint, write poetry, gather with friends, sing, and try to offer helpful perspectives in my online journal/blog. On bad days, it's hard to find enough beauty--even in golden leaves shining in the sun--to soothe the beast in my belly.

I'm not fond of wallowing in seas of sadness, being paralyzed by premonitions of destruction, or harboring judgemental attitudes towards my neighbors, but these have taken up residence in my heart. On today's scoot through my neighborhood, I remembered the location of every Bush/Cheney lawn sign, and found myself thinking ill of the people who had put them there. So much for my commitment to peace.

They say time heals all wounds, but now time is our enemy. The more time he is given in a position of power, the more damage George W. Bush and his people will do. In Fallujah it has already begun.

Poets are who I turn to today: Mary Oliver with her unblinking gratitude, Adrienne Rich with her piercing truths, and an anthology of 20th century poets from across the globe who wrote their way through times every bit as unjust and violent as these.

It is only the poet who can distill hard truths into bite-sized chunks, difficult but not impossible to digest. I eat as much as I can, savoring the strange flavors that mingle in my mouth, and get up from the table before I take in more than I can stomach. Five small meals a day are better than three big ones. Poet's truths are not to be binged and purged; they must stay in your body long enough to nourish, challenge and change your assumptions. It is no wonder that governments like ours do everything in their power to trivialize art and demonize the truthtellers in our midst. If we were given the recognition we deserve, we would bring down their regime. And they know it.

But whatever happens within the human community on this planet, the cycle of nature continues to turn. And here in Michigan that means that autumn is reluctantly giving way to winter. These photos I took today tell the story:

--A stand of trees, leafed and unleafed.
--The street I scooted down on my way to the bookstore.
--A birch tree, ready for winter.
--The last signs of Halloween.
--A pile of leaves ready for pick-up by the city.

Ten ways to feel better after a disastrous week 

1. Go to a country where George W. Bush is not and never will be President. (Thank you, dear Windsor, Ontario for being only a half hour from my house.)

2. Gather with your beloved community of women, ALL of whom--whether Canadian or American--understand and share your pain about Bush having won the U.S. election.

3. Find comfort in knowing that most of your American sisters volunteered their time as phone-bank workers, neighborhood canvassers and/or poll monitors in Election 2004.

4. Sing together songs that speak to your heart and soul, especially new songs based on the Earth Charter that one of your gifted sisters has brought to the community for the first time today.

5. Share the bounty your community has received through the sale of your CD, with Canadian and American organizations and communities that are dedicated to preserving the land and waters, species and plants of which you sing. (Photos #1, #2, #3, #4, #5 & #6)

6. Meet grade twelve students who care enough about the earth to take an Environmental Studies class and to join an after-school club dedicated to learning about and helping to sustain a protected habitat area three blocks from their school.

7. Be reminded after hearing and seeing these inspired and inspiring individuals that change ALWAYS happens from the ground up, NEVER from the top down.

8. Give and receive lots of hugs, and indulge yourself by overeating chocolate chip cookies even though you don't normally eat chocolate. (Then stay up until the wee hours as a result of the caffeine!)

9. Walk together through the woods, then read poetry and sing to the geese, swans and ducks at a wildlife preserve behind a primary school on this sunny November afternoon.

10. Join with a dozen of your sisters for dinner at a favorite Chinese restaurant where you not only share wonderful food but lots of stories and laughter.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Mary Oliver meets George W. Bush 

Three days after the
election, I sit naked on
the toilet reading

The owl on her
plush and soundless
rises above
the heads of old women
and young children
who will die in
door-to-door combat
in Fallujah.

The rain, smelling
of iron,
drops on the
oil drills that replace
old growth trees, and
dusty roads that cut off
migratory paths used
for centuries.

Big-chested geese, in
in the V of sleekest
fly over
children whose asthmatic
lungs struggle to breathe
polluted air while the
polluters take control
of the EPA.

The tin music of the
cricket's body
where cries of
tortured prisoners
fill the air in
secret prisons
across the globe.

The soft toad, patient
in the hot sand,
Minuteman missile sites,
home of the potential
destruction of
the world.

Fat, black, slick,
dolphins galloping in
the pitch of the waves

try to avoid the US Navy
sonic blasts that can
blow out their
ear drums.

The carrot, rising in
its elongated waist,

is pulled from fields
owned and operated by
business men in corporate
board rooms, not the
farmers who planted

The blouse of the
grows apace
with my friend's uterine
cancer, diagnosed late
she has no
health insurance.

White six-pointed
that pile higher and
higher as day follows
night and four more years
stretch endlessly
before us.

Mary Oliver with
her keen eyes and
articulate heart
George W. Bush,
a man bent on the
subjugation of
people, places and

Reverence for
power over.

What elastic minds and
hearts we must have
to stretch between these
two polarities.

And what comfort
it is to know that
Mary Oliver will
touch humans
far longer than
George W. Bush
will kill them.

Patricia Lay-Dorsey
November 4, 2004

Poetry fragments from "What Do We Know" by Mary Oliver
(Da Capo Press: 2002)

Thursday, November 04, 2004

It's sinking in... 

The children get it, at least those at my school do. Of course, being Muslim and of Arab heritage helps. I'm sure they hear their parents talk about Bush and how he's deported this uncle and that neighbor, not to mention Iraq and the danger many of their grandparents are in over there, or the threats of war against Iran and Syria.

In the school election, Kerry took 92% of the vote. And a teacher's aide told me today that two six year-old first grade boys who have lived in war zones--one from Palestine and the other from Yemen--were terribly upset yesterday that Bush had won. They're afraid he's going to start another war.

Yes, the kids get it.

I had trouble sleeping last night. As much as I'd tried to prepare myself for the possibility of Bush winning, the reality still hit me hard. I can't even let myself contemplate what it means for the future of our country, the world and the planet. But I gather he's more arrogant than ever, ordering media around during his press conference and bragging about his "mandate." Since when is winning by two percentage points a mandate?

I guess what scares me the most is that for the next four years Bush & Co. will have free rein to do whatever they want. No longer will they have to worry about being re-elected. And with his party dominating both the legislative and judicial branches, checks and balances will be practically non-existent. This is true even before he loads the Supreme Court with more of his right-wing colleagues, which we all know is coming.

But it helps to look at history. Imperialistic regimes like Bush's do not last. And no one on the outside has to take them down: they destroy themselves. So it's just a matter of time before the whole thing crumbles. But what havoc they will wreak on the way down!

I haven't been able to tolerate reading international news since the election results came in. To be honest, I am mortified that the country of my birth has re-elected this man knowing what he did in his first term. I'm sure persons in other countries can hardly believe that the American people are so foolish as to give him another four years of power. And in doing so, we've put everyone and everything at risk of further environmental disasters, threats and intimidation, corporate control and privitization, torture and wars. As long as these men and woman are in power, nothing and no one is safe.

Sorry to be such a downer, but this is how things look to me tonight. Yesterday I could stand back and view things more dispassionately, but not today. I feel rubbed raw as a carrot in a grater.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

some encouraging thoughts after the election 

After I'd written and posted today's entry (see "The elephant in the room" posted below), I checked my emails. There was a welcome message from my dear friend Jeff Golden; its subject was "some encouraging thoughts after the election."

This wise man has given me a lifeline of hope more times than I could count. And today he outdid himself. When you read it I think you'll see why Jeff was nominated for a Pultizer Prize back in his former life as an investigative reporter.

Please feel free to share his words with whomever you think needs a compassionate yet realistic pick-me-up after receiving the news of Bush's win. Of course, be sure to give proper attribution to Jeff.

This is what he wrote:

A Minority in America

If you're like me, you feel sick over the results of the national election.

And if you're like me, this isn't the first time you've felt this way.

I've been voting for more than 30 years, and the national candidates I've supported have almost never won. Each time I hope they will, but after so many losses I really don't expect them to. And when lightning strikes and my candidates do happen to prevail, they too often turn out to be smug, dishonest, greedy, or just ineffective.

As I've explained to my 4-year-old son Noah, in our family we always vote for sharing instead of selfishness. We vote to protect animals and plants and beautiful places. We vote for being part of a team, where we each do what we can to help everybody inside the group and even outside the group.

We vote for being friends with all kinds of people, rather than just those who are exactly like us. We make sure we're safe, yet we vote for talking and listening whenever we can, instead of hitting.

We vote for love. We resist voting from fear.

And so we are part of a minority in America.

It's sad to us, but most people don't vote the way we do and never have. They don't because they're too busy or self-absorbed or isolated or ignorant or greedy or worried or just too stressed to listen, learn, help out, and vote with compassion.

Mostly they are just too afraid -- afraid of people they don't know, and afraid of any change from what they've known.

History tells us there haven't been many times or places where governments have acted out of compassion. Encouragingly, there are some countries right now where that does seem to happen. Many Americans ridicule those places, doubting that things really could be so good there. Lots of us almost hope their attempts at generosity and compassion will fail, to prove that our fears were right.

Yes, the American majority disappoints our American minority. Yes, this election result will bring some horrific consequences in individual rights, international relations, healthcare, education, and protection of our planet. An American Ice Age has come, and it may be some time before it goes.

Yet still something wonderful has happened. More than 48% of the American electorate voted the way we did. Not 10%, not 20%, but nearly half. More than 55 million people voted for a less bellicose, less greedy, less fearful, more open-minded and empathetic America.

That's a lot more than I would have expected a year ago.

I am thankful to every Democratic Party volunteer who worked so hard to bring about that impressive number. We didn't win the vote, but we touched the hearts and minds of a staggering number of Americans.

And to those volunteers who burned out on this or other campaigns and no longer have the stomach for continuing the battle, realize this: Somewhere along the line your selfless work inspired a younger person. That person will pick up the fight and inspire others. And eventually those people will turn our current American minority into a majority.

We haven't won everything yet, but the progress we've made is in itself a victory.

Jeff Golden
November 3, 2004

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