Windchime Walker

Windchime Walker <$BlogRSDUrl$>

Monday, July 31, 2006

Day 12 of my Lebanon Peace Initiative 

Every spiritual mistress/master I've ever read or encountered calls for the seeker to live in the present moment. That is where one finds the Divine, they say. Well, all that seeker would have to do is come out in front of a global crossroads like the White House, and living in the present would not be hard. It's all you can do. From one minute to the next, often before you can catch your breath, your reality shifts, sometimes dramatically. The Present is no respecter of consistency.

An example: Yesterday afternoon, after having taken a midday break to add more specific messages to my signs, I was parked--happily under the shade of a tree on this scorching hot day--holding my sign in front of the White House fence. A young man--turned out he was 30--stopped and asked in a soft voice, "Are you Jewish?"

"No," I replied, "Are you?"

"No," he answered. But something prompted me to delve a bit further.

"Are you any religion?"

"Yes," he said. "I'm Buddhist."

"And what country are you from?"


What followed was one of the most amazing conversations I've experienced in 12 days of amazing conversations.

Pablo, who asked that I not take his picture but said I could tell his story, responded to my next question--"So what do you think about what's happening between your country and Lebanon right now?" by saying with deep sadness, "Israel always has to win, and they won't stop fighting until they do."

My next question, "So how do you feel about the fighting?" was met with the firm answer, "Violence always breeds more violence. It is an unending cycle."

"Were you raised Buddhist?"

"No. I chose to be Buddhist."

"Does your family support you in this choice?

"My mother is now Buddhist as well."

I wonder if any of us can begin to imagine how Pablo's choice has separated him from his countrymen and women? How much alone he must feel in his views that war is NEVER the answer, as he said later in our conversation. To be a believer in non-violence in a country that seems to believe they are never safe from outside threats, that they must fight and fight and fight to defend their "homeland", well, I can't imagine it.

Although maybe I can. Maybe my attitudes towards war are as much out of sync with my country's attitudes as Pablo's. Maybe that's why I'm here in front of the White House. But I still think that if Pablo were to take a solitary stand in front of his country's house of government, he would be putting himself at risk of arrest, injury and maybe death. At least here in the US one can still stand up publicly against war and be protected by law while doing so. I've seen that enacted here by the US Park Police who position themselves not too far away from me in case things go bad. I know they'd protect me if need be.

Would that be true for Pablo in Israel? Somehow I doubt it.

He told me something else that helped me better understand the Israeli collective psyche. He said, "When you're inside Israel, you feel so safe."

This statement, coupled with statements I've heard all week from Israeli citizens about the need to defend their borders, how they're surrounded by Arabs who don't want them there, helps me see that Hezbollah rockets hitting inside their borders day after day, night after night, have so traumatized them because they've always trusted that they ARE safe inside their borders, that their strong military will always protect them. And now it can't. Each Israeli man, woman and child feels at risk of personal injury and death every minute of every day. The fact that only 17 Israeli civilians have been killed so far makes no difference. If even one civilian is killed inside their "safe borders" then everyone is at risk. And that brings back horrible memories of the Holocaust.

The Israeli collective consciousness I describe is VERY different from that of the Lebanese, the Palestinians and residents of other Middle Eastern countries where war inside their borders has been a fact of life off and on for hundreds of years.

As I've said so many times during these past 12 days, I am learning more than anyone.

Immediately following that beautiful oasis of peaceful dialogue with Pablo, my reality changed. A woman who identified herself as being from Israel--I always ask people their country of origin--came up wagging her finger and saying in broken English, "No! You don't know! You don't know!" She was with a large group of Isrealis, apparently none of whom had much English, but whose feelings were obvious as they passed very close in front of me. I did my best to send them love.

My only other difficult moment came maybe an hour later when a man who had just passed me with his wife and child in a stroller, came back to ask, "Did you have a sign last week for the Israeli children who died? Did you?"

I did as I'm learning to do and invited him to make just such a sign and come stand beside me. He waved that off and kept repeating his question. I asked if his family in Israel was safe. He shook his head. I just said I hoped thy would be safe.

On a day when the temperature rose to at least 98 degrees F., encounters like this did not make one feel very cool. But, thankfully, there was a breeze, and often the most refreshing breezes came from the people I'd meet who joined me in wishing that Israel would pull out of Lebanon so talks could begin.

I have photos of some of these individuals, and snippets of their stories posted below.

Photo #1 is of the Capitol from behind the fountain in the park where I take breaks during my Senate Office Building vigils. I'd started my day over there but soon discovered most Senators had already left for their summer recess, so I left after an hour or so.

Photo #2 is of today's addition to one side of my sign. The other side is seen in later photos.

Photo #3 is of Angela and Eduardo from Madrid, Spain. They were riding by on rented bikes and stopped to talk. As so many Europeans do, they thanked me for bein out there with my sign.

Photo #4 is of Mike and Gail. Mike is a second-generation Lebanese who has given a lot of thought to the situation there. We had a stimulating discussion of the issues, even getting into Israel's political influence here in Washington, DC. We both agree it's all about money. Later in the evening I received a long email from him continuing our disussion. I'm going to see if Mike would be comfortable with my sharing it here. He has some interesting ideas.

Photo #5 is of Meghan from Poughkeepsie, New York and Naomi from Stratford, Ontario. They are in DC as part of an international youth leadership training called HOBY (Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership). They were the only members of their rather large group who took the time to come over and see my sign. I always appreciate that.

Photo #6 is of Tonia Young, a volunteer coordinator for a Veteran's for Peace retreat in Los Angeles for returning vets who have fought in Afghanistan and Iraq. She was meeting Ray McGovern, the dear man who gave me back my Dad, in front of the White House at 5 PM.

Photo #7 is of Ray McGovern and me. Although Ray and I are about the same age, he reminds me of my Dad with his sense of integrity and gentle spirit.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Day 11 of my Lebanon Peace Initiative 

"Get a job!", the middle-aged white American sneered as he walked by me with his family.

"This IS my job," I said in reply.

And so it is. Hour after hour, day after hot muggy day. My job. To sit in my scooter holding a two-sided sign with "Israel OUT of Lebanon!!!" on one side, and an enlarged photo of my Lebanese family with the question, "Who suffers in war?" on the other. In front of the White House some days, the Senate and/or House Office Buildings the others. To make eye contact as people pass by. To keep turning my sign so they can read both sides. To smile and try to be a presence of peace. To refuse to respond to hostility with anger, but to do everything I can to open a path for dialogue.

My job.

Today's most challenging moment came when a fellow activist/organizer was visiting with me at my "post" in front of the White House. He responded poorly to a woman's shouted, "You have NO RIGHT to say that! No right!", referring to the "Israel OUT of Lebanon!!!" side of my sign. He started shouting back at her. My attempts to get him to stop fell on deaf ears, so I left his side and scooted farther down the block.

After about ten minutes he came to find me and apologized for his behavior. He said, "I'd heard that you don't like confrontation, and I'm sorry I didn't respect that." I accepted his apology and asked that he promise not to do that again while sitting with me, otherwise I would have to ask him to leave. He agreed.

I then told him how I would have handled that situation if I'd been allowed to do so. I would have responded to her accusation that I had no right to call for Israel to leave Lebanon by turning my sign around to the picture of my family. I would have said calmly, "This is my family in Lebanon. I'm here for them." If she had kept on ranting, I would have smiled and kept quiet. I've learned it doesn't pay to engage with angry people. I expect she would have gotten tired of yelling and moved on.

I feel deep compassion for people who "lose it" like this. I don't know their story or how they have suffered. It is my job not to respond in kind. That would just add to the cycle of violence I'm trying to stop...on a macro and micro level. My job is to remain a presence of peace no matter what.

My activist/organizer friend and I then went on discussing how to deal with our own personal anger that's triggered by people like George W. Bush. Strangely enough, that had been our topic of conversation when the shouting match interrupted us--how to deal with our anger. We picked up right where we'd left off. My friend admitted that he sometimes thinks his anger at Bush is so strong because it is connected to childhood issues. I understand that because I've been there too. But, you know, I'm not there any longer. I don't seem to harbor much anger anymore, at least not since I've been here. It takes too much energy simply trying to be a person of peace for me to want to waste it on anger. May it always be so.

Otherwise, it was a quiet day. No dialogues with people from Israel or anyone who disagreed with my signs. One American man made a negative comment as he passed by, but when I asked if he wanted to talk, he just kept on going. A good number of Europeans gave me the thumbs up, wanted to take pictures with me and my sign, or just thanked me for being out there. I got LOTS of thank yous today for simply being out there. Maybe because of the Qana Massacre.

I met one man early in the day, and then a couple later on who had recently gotten out of Lebanon. The man--Ryad--had escaped into Syria, then to Jordan, into Turkey, then someplace in Europe--I forget where--and finally to the US . His seven year old son, mother and father, sister and brother are still there in the north of Beirut. He looked haunted. The couple had been evacuated on a ship to Cyprus, gone to Portugal, London (I think) and on to the US. This was the third time they'd had to escape from Lebanon--the first in 1982, the second in 1989, and the third last week. The man kept repeating how complex the issues were. He also told me the southern suburbs of Beirut are constantly under attack.

I also had an interesting talk with Charlie, a translater/interpreter who lives in DC and is currently translating at a large conference nearby. He very much agreed with my sign but has been frustrated with the lack of support by both his progressive and more conservative Jewish friends. Even his mother, a longtime organizer for peace, is ambivalent about Israel's right to "defend" itself against Hezbollah. We agreed that what they're doing to Lebanon goes WAY beyond self-defense. He said he'll come back to visit me again. I encouraged him to make a sign and bring it with him.

One of my favorite encounters was with Nick, a 13 year old boy from Hawaii. He asked me why I was there. I gave him a thumbnail history of what's been going on in Lebanon, the US place in it, and then asked what he thought. Nick said, "I think the United States should stop sending bombs to Israel, get out of it altogether, and let them work it out themselves." I told him I wished he was in the White House instead of the current president. He smiled and said, "So do I." Who knows? Maybe he will be someday.

I finished up about 4:30 PM and scooted over to the Code Pink/Troops Home Fasters' tree to check in with my friends. Martha and I got to talking. She told me that she hadn't been home to Portland, Oregon in four months, and on Tuesday when the Code Pink/Troops Home Fasters close camp here in front of the White House, she'll be off to Crawford, Texas to join Cindy Sheehan at the new Camp Casey. For three months before coming to DC to start the Troops Home Fast on July 4th, she was in New Orleans as a volunteer working with the reconstruction efforts. Her primary job was as a cook in the tented volunteer headquarters. According to Martha, ten months after Katrina, New Orleans is still a disaster zone, with devastation everywhere. She said she still cries when she thinks about it. By the way, Martha is my age--64. She was also one of the four fasters arrested on Friday when they sat down and blocked the White House driveway so Tony Blair couldn't leave. An amazing woman.

Today's photos are:

Photo #1 is of Ryad who had escaped last week from Lebanon.

Photo #2 is of a US Park Mounted Policewoman and her horse trying to find some shade.

Photo #3 is of the CodePink/Troops Home Fasters at their camp under a tree.

Photo #4 is of the couple who had just been evacuated from Beirut.

Photo #5 is of Martha, my new shero.

Why I must stay...part 2 

The numbers of those massacred by Israel in Qana have risen to at least 56 dead, 34 of whom were children, and 12 of whom were women. There were also as yet uncounted, elderly and infirm.


"The Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, told the visiting US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, that the army needed another 10 to 14 days to finish its campaign in Lebanon.

"The US president embraced the Israeli position and sidestepped calls for an immediate ceasefire - although he did urge Israel to take more care to avoid civilian casualties." [my bold]

...excerpt from "Annan dismay at UN inertia"


From University of Michigan Professor Juan Coles' blog, "Informed Comment":

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Qana Massacre part II

Israeli war planes scored a direct hit on a building in the Shiite village of Qana where destitute farming folk, including old people, women and children, had taken refuge in the basement from Israeli bombing raids. At least 60 are dead, as bodies are pulled from the rubble. 19 children are confirmed dead and another 11 are thought still to be in the basement. The Israelis say they had pamphleted the region demanding that all civilians leave, and high Israeli officials have openly said that anyone who remains is fair game (low civilianity index, and maybe low humanianity index, too). The Israelis don't say, however, how desperately poor hardscrabble farmers including the aged and infirm and children are supposed to travel to Beirut over the roads and bridges that the Israelis have bombed out, and on what they are supposed to live when they get there.

The Israelis had launched 80 air raids on the village of Qana overnight, with large numbers of buildings flattened, according to CNN.

The Israelis appear to be engaged in a concerted campaign of ethnic cleansing in the Shiite towns and villages of southern Lebanon, and are indiscriminately bombing all buildings in the area south of the Litani River. They have chased hundreds of thousands of residents out, and are destroying the property they left behind in a systematic way, rather as they destroy the houses belonging to the family members related to suicide bombers. In other words, the Israelis are engaged in collective punishment on a vast scale. They maintain that rocket launching sites are embedded in these villages. But since Hizbullah keeps firing large numbers of rockets, it does not actually appear to be the case that the Israelis are hitting the rocket launchers. They are demonstrably hitting civilian houses and apartment buildings in a methodical way. There is no independent evidence that this civilian building in Qana was used for any military purpose. Prime Minister Fouad Siniora has called for an international investigation and an immediate ceasefire, and he summarily sent Condi Rice away until she brings such a proposal. To read more...

Why I must stay...part 1 

I dedicate today's vigil in front of the White House to the memory of the 50 innocents murdered by Israel early this morning in the southern Lebanese village of Qana. Inside that pristine white dwelling on Pennsylvania Avenue, with its carefully tended gardens and green green grass, lives a man whose hands are red with the blood of these 50 innocent villagers, 27 of them children. It was his bombs, his financial and official support of Israel, and his refusal to call for an immediate ceasefire that killed them. Because this man represents us--the American people--we are all to blame. The Massacre of Qana will not be forgotten.


Sunday 30 July 2006 10:41 AM GMT

Western and Arab leaders have condemned Israel's attack on a village in south Lebanon which killed at least 50 civilians, among them children, as protesters stormed the UN headquarters in Beirut.

Sunday's strike, the bloodiest since Israel's showdown with Lebanon's Shia group Hezbollah began on July 12, prompted the Lebanese government to cancel a visit by the US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice.

Lebanon's premier, Fouad Senioria, said: "There is no place on this sad morning for any discussion other than an immediate and unconditional ceasefire as well as an international investigation into the Israeli massacres in Lebanon now."

Hezbollah threatened to retaliate, saying that "this horrific massacre [at Qana] will not go without a response".

Rice 'deeply saddened'

Rice said she was "deeply saddened by the terrible loss of innocent life". She also urged Israel to take "extraordinary care" to avoid civilian deaths in Lebanon.

And while calling for a ceasefire, she said that a truce could not mean a return to the position before the war, which was triggered by Hezbollah's abduction of two Israeli soldiers in a raid out of south Lebanon on July 12.

Israel and the United States have said they want to ensure that Hezbollah can no longer carry out raids and rocket attacks and that it is eventually disarmed under a UN resolution.

Israel said it had attacked Qana on Sunday because Hezbollah was launching rockets from that area.

An Israeli foreign ministry official, Gideon Meir, said: "We deeply regret the loss of any civilian life and especially when you talk about children who are innocent.

"One must understand the Hezbollah is using their own civilian population as human shields. The Israeli defence forces dropped leaflets and warned the civilian population to leave the place because the Hezbollah turned it into a war zone."

'Unjustified action'

France and Britian condemned the attack.

The office of the French president, Jacques Chriac, said in a statement: "The president learnt with concern about the act of violence which cost the lives of numerous innocent victims, notably women and children in Qana.

"France condemns this unjustified action, which demonstrates more than ever the need for an immediate ceasefire without which there will only be other such incidents."

And Britain's foreign secretary, Margaret Beckett, described the strikes as "absolutely dreadful" and "quite appalling".

"We have repeatedly urged Israel to act proportionately," she said.


Arab and Muslim leaders said international law had beeen violated and spoke of "crimes".

King Abdullah of Jordan said: "This criminal aggression is an ugly crime that has been committed by the Israeli forces in the city of Qana that is a gross violation of all international statutes."

Abdullah, a close US ally, repeated his call for an immediate ceasefire.

Iran, accused by Washington of backing Hezbollah, also condemned the raid.

"I think Israeli officials and some American ones should be tried for these sorts of crimes," said Hamid Reza Asefi, the foreign ministry spokesman.

And the Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak, called the air strike "irresponsible".

"The Arab Republic of Egypt is highly disturbed and condemns the irresponsible Israeli attack on the Lebanese village of Qana, which led to the loss of innocent victims, most of which were women and children," a statement from the presidency said.

Egypt, which has already called for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire, stressed "the need for a serious international effort to issue an urgent Security Council resolution to stop military attacks immediately".

You can find this article at:

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Day 10 of my Lebanon Peace Initiative 

On this steaming hot day in front of the White House, I again met interesting people from around the world.

First it was Megda and her daughter Amy who had just been evacuated from Beirut a few days ago. Their husband/father had stayed behind in the mountain home where they have lived for years. Up there, Megda said, they could see all the bombing and destruction, but, so far, they had not come under direct attack themselves. When I shared that I help teach art at a school in Dearborn, Michigan, Megda said there were many people from Dearborn with them on the ship to Cyprus. I asked if that included children. She nodded her head and said, "Lots of children!" I got teary-eyed thinking maybe my kids are safe. I've been so worried about them.

Waiting to talk to me while I was with Megda and Amy was a young Israeli family. Fortunately they waited to speak until my new friends from Lebanon had left. I say "Fortunately" because their perspective on Israel's bombing of Lebanon is very different from Megda's and Amy's. Even though they identify themselves as "leftist Israelis" who have been supporting the return of Gaza and the West Bank to the Palestinians, including the elimination of Jewish settlements there, this young man and woman with their two beautiful small children, wholeheartedly support their country's attacks on Lebanon, which they see as "self-defense." The man likened it to responding to a burgler who has come into your home and killed your child. "Would you just sit back and let that happen?", he asked, "No! You would fight the intruder!"

We talked for quite awhile and were able to agree that we want our loved ones safe, but we couldn't seem to get much beyond that. However, as they turned to leave, the woman said, "I hope your family will be safe." I said the same to her.

Not too long after this rather exhausting encounter--such dialogues are not easy--a woman stopped to have her say about my "Israel Out of Lebanon" sign. She said she has family in Jerusalem and things went downhill from there. I tried to find a common place for us to meet, but she couldn't stop ranting. Finally I gave up on the thought of any dialogue and just kept repeating, "I'm sorry you are suffering." Finally her friend literally pulled her away. So sad.

This encounter happened as a policeman was trying to get my identifying information, so he was witness to it. After the woman had left, I turned and said, "That is how I try to respond peacefully towards those who disagree." He just said, "I hope you can keep doing it that way."

By the way, a policeman usually comes up every day to ask how long I plan to stay and to ask my name. The first two days I gave them my name, but I have since learned from my Code Pink sisters and brothers, that, by law, I do not have to identify myself. So yesterday, I didn't. The policeman was very respectful of that. "You don't have to identify yourself," he said. He then asked if I had a permit, but my friends had also told me you only need a permit if you have 14 or more individuals standing on the sidewalk. Any number of people can stand on the street. So I reminded him that I didn't need a permit to stand there by myself. I also know exactly where I am allowed to stand still with my sign and where I must keep moving. If you stand between the two lightposts directly in front of the White House, you must keep moving. Otherwise, you can stand still for as long as you want. It helps to know the lay of the land, so to speak.

Luckily, my tough "assignments" in nonviolent dialogue came early in the day when I was fresh, as it was a hot one. But I always wear my hat, try to stay in the shade--I'm beginning to know the time of day by when certain of the trees at the fence begin to offer shade--and drink lots of water. I also drink a Gatorade a day to keep my "electrolytes in balance."

The rest of the day was made up of more encounters with amazing people.

Like Carlos Duguech, the director of Paz En El Mundo, a peace organization in Argentina. His English--although somewhat limited--was better than my Spanish so we did our best to communicate in my language. He taped my answer to his question, "What do you think about what is happening between Israel and Lebanon?" I guess he'll have someone translate it.

And M. Khorasani, a friend of the Dalai Lama, stopped and spoke with me for quite awhile. He is an imam at a mosque in Northern Califiornia, and apparently knows people in high places. Yesterday he'd met with the ambassador from Saudi Arabia. When he was asked if he wanted to meet Mr. Bush, my friend said, "No." He said to me, "I couldn't bear to shake that man's hand." His companion took a picture of M. Khorasani and me together.

I also met a group of young women from the Middle East--I can't recall which country--who were deeply appreciative of my being out there.

I can't tell you how many times a day I receive thanks from people from around the world for my being there with my sign. And not just those from the Middle East either. A lot of Europeans agree with me too; Asians as well. And so do some Americans. Not many, to be sure, but enough to give me hope. Of course I still hear the "Why doesn't your sign say, 'Hezbollah out of Israel'?" But if they want to talk, I just encourage them to make their own sign and stand here beside me. I tell them I'd welcome their presence.

My day ended on a very high note. Sahar, Marian's friend from Iran, came to meet me at my vigil and we walk/scooted over to my favorite restaurant for an early dinner. Again, Yared, the host, refused to let me pay! What a dear man.

I could write a book about all that I learned from Sahar.

She is a feminist in Tehran, where being one is extremely dangerous. Her companions were beaten badly and some of them imprisoned after a recent demonstration in Tehran. Her heart is there even while she is here. Sahar was practicing as a medical doctor in Tehran when she found herself drawn to the field of Medical Anthropology. There are very few such programs around the world; one of them being at Columbia Univiersity in New York City. After having to jump a lot of official hoops--in order to get a visa she had to travel to Istanbul--she arrived in New York to start the doctoral program in January. She is currently in DC for two weeks working with a program that focuses on AIDS protection--another area of interest to her--for the homeless and prostitutes of this city. Apparently AIDS is a huge problem in Iran, particularly because of the substance abuse epidemic. Did you know that Iran has the largest percentage of people with narcotics addictions--mainly injected heroin--in the world? This was news to me.

We had a long talk about my family in Lebanon. As a feminist in an Islamic fundamentalist country like Iran, where all women's heads must be covered at risk of imprisonment or lashing--Sahar was surprised and upset that I would carry a sign where the women are not only scarved but--in Sana's case--have their faces covered as well. Her question was, "How could I, a feminist, hold up a picture of women who epitomize Islamic repression of women?" My response was one I have often had to give to my feminist sisters: This is my family and I do not judge their personal choices. I may not agree with them, but I try not to judge.

Our conversation--as our walk/scoot after dinner--was wide-ranging and honest. Sahar and I meet on a deep level and I feel honored to be in her company. She is a couageous, committed woman who is making a difference in the world. We hope to spend more time together before she returns to NYC next Friday.

And now for the pictures:

Photo #1 is of the CodePink/Troops Home Fasters & friends at their usual spot under the tree.

Photo #2 is of a group of exchange students from Algeria and Morroco being shown DC by their hosts from a university in southern Virgina. They very much supported my message.

Photo #3 is of Carol who had just returned from picketing in front of a synagogue with her signs. As a Jewish woman she has been focusing on trying to influence Jewish opinions.

Photo #4 is of Amy with her mother Megda, both of whom had just been evacuated from Lebanon last week.

Photo #5 is of M. Khorasani, the Dalai Lama's friend.

Photo #6 is of Carlos Duguesch, the director of Paz En El Mundo in Argentina.

Photo #7 is of the young women from the Middle East who supported my vigil.

Photo #8 is of Sahar and me at the Washington Monument.

becoming a Friend of my Lebanon Peace Initiative 

It has been suggested that I invite my readers to do more than support my work here in Washington, DC with good thoughts and prayers; I have been encouraged to ask you for money. This goes against my grain, but I now realize that if you are allowed to give tangible support for this peace effort, you will have the satisfaction of knowing you are doing something worthwhile to try to protect the innocent civilians in Lebanon, 600 of whom have already been killed in 18 days of violence.

ALL of the money donated--sorry to say it is not tax deductible--will go towards paying my hotel and parking expenses here in Washington, DC.

I'm staying at the most reasonably priced hotel I could find in this expensive city--$113.37 a day including taxes, and $10 a day for parking--but that is still going to add up to $2220.66 by the time I leave on Monday, August 7 after having stayed for 18 nights. Unfortunately my need for a wheelchair-accessible room and shower prevents me from staying in a private home, even if one were available. Another advantage of staying here at the Hotel Harrington at 11th & E streets NW is that it is within scooting distance of the White House and Capitol Hill where I spend 4-5 hours every day holding up my sign and entering into peaceful dialogue with passersby.

If you would like to become a Friend of my Lebanon Peace Initiative by making any donation, large or small, please email me and I'll send you my snail mail address to which you can send a check made out to Patricia Lay-Dorsey. If good wishes and prayers are all you can afford right now, please know they are deeply appreciated.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Day 9 of my Lebanon Peace Initiative 

So much happened today--in both my inner and outer lives--that it's hard to know where to begin. But I'm going to start with the most significant: my father was restored to me.

Now that might seem like a strange thing to say, especially since he's been dead since 1987. But if you've followed my life through my blog or web site, you've probably heard me speak of my father's career as a founder of the CIA and Executive Secretary of the National Security Council under Presidents Truman and Eisenhower. What I might not have mentioned was that he left the NSC in 1960 shortly after John Kennedy became president, and went to the CIA where he was the Executive Secretary of the United States Intelligence Board until his retirement in 1971. The CIA was very important in our lives. I worked there for one summer during college, and the Director of the CIA at the time, Richard Helms, came to Ed's and my wedding in 1966.

All this as background for what happened today.

The Code Pink/Bring Troops Home Fasters organized a street theater-type of demonstration to welcome Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair to his meeting this morning with GW Bush at the White House. The theme was "Pink Poodles" because the media in the UK refers to Blair as Bush's poodle. I decided to join them. So I got to their spot under the tree across from the White House at 9 AM. Martha and others prepared the poodle-decorated pink parasols while Ann gave us an introduction to the day's actions. Among those attending was Ray McGovern, the former longtime CIA analyst who has been writing and speaking about how the Bush administration doctored the CIA reports prior to attacking Iraq to make them look like they supported his assertion that Saddam Hussein was a threat to the US. Ray has become a well respected voice in the antiwar movement.

So I introduced myself and told him how much I appreciated all he was doing to replace the lies we'd been fed with the truth. Ray is a modest fellow who quickly turned the conversation from himself to me, so in no time at all we were talking about my father and his connection with the CIA. He remembered having seen my Dad's name on many documents he'd received in his work as a CIA analyst. The conversation then turned to the disillusionment Id felt when I'd awakened to all that my Dad must have been party to during his years both at the NSC and the CIA. Ray asked what had triggered my disillusionment and I said the first Gulf War. I described the three weeks I spent in solitude during that war, at which time I finally faced the demons of my Dad's complicity in such horrors as the assassination of Lumumba in the Congo and others.

That's when Ray gave me back my Dad. He took the time to describe the ideals under which the analytical branch of the CIA--the branch he and my Dad had been part of--operated, and how different, and actually cut off, it was from the operative side of the Agency, the undercover agents who can commit pretty horrible crimes. He assured me that, even when my Dad was working with the NSC, he would never have even heard about plans for any assassinations. Such things would have been spoken to the president in private and never written down.

Do you have any idea how it felt to hear this from a man who obviously knows what he's talking about? It was as if the weight of the world had been lifted from my shoulders. I think I'd felt that I had to expiate my father's guilt by the strength of my own commitment to peace. Now that work can be free of past agendas and be MY work not my father's. It's like I can breathe again. And I can also respect my Dad again, which means the world to me.

So that was the inner shift that occurred today; the outer shifts were less profound but still had meaning.

I marched with the Pink Poodles for awhile and was enjoying the sense of solidarity. At least I enjoyed it until the chants turned sour, for me anyway. There's a chant that often comes up about "How many kids did you kill today?" that just doesn't sit well with me. I know there's reality to it, but, in my opinion, it feeds into the violence it's decrying. So I did as I'd done when that chant was started at the big rally in front of the Israeli Embassy on Tuesday night: I scooted away from the crowd. In this case, I scooted farther along the White House fence and began another of my solitary vigils.

That meant I wasn't there when four of the Fasters sat down blocking the White House gate, and were subsequently arrested. By the way, this was an intentional act of civil disobedience, not police brutality. I gather the police--with whom they've developed a good relationship during their weeks in front of the White House--treated them fine. I just hope they were released within a couple of hours instead of having to spend the weekend in jail. Some of our weakest Fasters--Diane and Fr.Louie--were among them.

Soon afterwards, the police not only blocked off the sidewalk and street directly in front of the White House as we've become accustomed to their doing when someone special enters or leaves the White House, they also closed the sidewalk on the park side of the street and even that half of the park. This was new.

I saw it as a success for the Pink Poodles because it seemed clear that they were embarrassing Blair, but my views were not shared by some of my sister activists. They actually looked at me like I was crazy when I said it. They just saw it as another example of their right to protest being taken away.

You know, my own personal ideas of effective activism are changing dramatically here. I'm coming to believe that one-to-one dialogue is where it's at. When individuals take the time to speak and listen to their own and another's truth, that's when minds and hearts can change. I'm now less inclined to see marches, rallies, chants, even being arrested, as the most effective ways to promote change. I know many would disagree, but all I can go on is my own personal experience.

For nine days I've held up a sign that has provoked both positive and negative responses from all kinds of people. And sometimes these individuals have stopped to share their thoughts and feelings with me. If I can keep my mind and heart open to what they are saying, then there's a good chance we can find a place where we can meet. Isn't that what we wish our world leaders would do? Isn't that a path to peace? Whereas when we chant or make speeches AT people, how can we expect them to hear us without getting defensive? Especially if they disagree with our position.

Now, you need courage to do this solitary work for peace. And I do think it's more effective if you can be out there on your own rather than in a group. People feel intimidated if there are even two people, much less a crowd. But if you can have a peaceful demeanor, then folks feel safe approaching you. I'm finding that I am being changed more than anyone, not necessarily my opinions but definitely my way of being in the world. Could it be? Am I finally becoming a peacemaker? Oh, may it be so.

The day offered wonderful opportunities to get to know people like Joan, a spiritually evolved woman who is currently staying in a shelter here in DC. We spent a good long time talking and she told me the story of when she was 12 and met Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. here in her hometown of DC. Do you know her first question to him? "How are your children?" He really warmed to her then. She took him by the hand and walked him a block away to meet her parents. She described him as having a deeply spiritual aura. Well, so does she. I'm hoping she'll come back so we can get to know one another better.

I also met Jill of the UK while the park was closed. She'd come over during her lunch hour to see Tony Blair whom she describes as being terribly out of touch with what the people of the UK want. She said they'd had such hopes for him at the beginning but that he'd turned into a bit of a monster, especially in relation to Bush.

My final new friends of the day were Marian and her Iranian friend, Sahar. We met and went to an excellent bellydance perfomance together at a performance space near Chinatown. Marian is the woman who had contacted me in response to my wanting to sell my Michigan Womyn's Music Festival ticket. She tickled me by saying she's going to make a T-shirt to wear at festival with "DARTPatricia's ticket" printed on it. When womyn ask her about it, she'll tell them about my vigils here in DC for peace in Lebanon.

And now I must go to bed. But first, here are today's pictures:

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Day 8 of my Lebanon Peace Initiative 

People are so kind. Yared, the Ethiopian host at my favorite restaurant here in my DC neighborhood--The Elephant & Castle--wouldn't let me pay for my dinner tonight. While I was eating my fish & chips, we'd talked about my work here in Washington to raise awareness of the plight of the Lebanese people. I guess my story touched him because when I asked for the check, the waiter said my dinner was free.

I'm finding this kind of family-feeling everywhere I go in DC. Whether it's the police checking to be sure I'm OK, strangers offering to get me water, people helping me open doors and getting out of the way so I can use the curb cuts, or simply being met with smiles even when I suspect they're not real fond of my message, I am feeling taken care of wherever I go. Although I'm alone most of the time, I do not feel lonely. Besides, I feel very strongly the support and loving thoughts of you, my faithful readers. Your support means more to me than you can imagine.

I got a late start this morning after needing to catch up on my sleep. The only trouble with having an evening activity like yesterday's film at the Women's Museum, is that I still need/want to put up my blog before going to bed. Last night that translated into a 3 AM bedtime! So I let myself sleep in this morning until 10:30 AM.

I started out at the Code Pink/Troops Home Fasters' tree across from the White House. I'd read on Democracy Now! that Code Pink's founder, Media Benjamin, had been able to get into the joint session of Congress for yesterday's speech by the Iraqi Prime Minister, and had interrupted it by standing and yelling, "Iraqis want the troops to leave. Bring them home now!" She'd been arrested for disturbing the peace, and she and Diane Wilson, who's in her 24th day of a water-only fast, had been interviewed by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez on today's Democracy Now! show. I wanted to hear the story from the source.

Well, Media wasn't there, but Diane was. And so was Fr. Louie who had his own stories to tell.

A number of Code Pink/Troops Home Fasters were doing their best to get into the hearings on Captiol Hill being held to consider renewing John Bolton's nomination as US representative to the United Nations. In everyone's opinion that I know, Bolton is a disaster, a one-man promoter of ever more anti-American attitudes worldwide. I have my own personal issues with him. It was John Bolton who single-handedly squashed any attempts to pass a UN resolution censuring Israel for "disproportionate use of force" against Lebanon. And he, with the help of Ms. Condi Rice, also destroyed any international calls for a ceasefire. John Bolton is an enemy of peace, in my humble opinion.

But the Congressional police apparently saw not John Bolton, but Franciscan priest Fr. Louie Vitale, as a "dangeous enemy" this morning. Louie has spent up to six months at a time in federal prisons for civil resistance actions against nuclear weapons at the Nevada Test Site. They held and questioned him for an hour after he'd tried to get into the Bolton hearings, which were supposedly open to the public. The only way he got free of them was to ask that they call Congresswoman Pelosi's office where he had an appointment, and have her OK him. After meeting with an aide in Pelosi's office, Father Louie walked over to the Korean War Memorial where he'd heard VP Dick Cheney would be speaking. He managed to yell out a few words about bringing the troops home before he was ordered to leave.

Now, I don't know how Louie had the energy for all this--he's been on a juice-only fast for 24 days and is a skinny as a brown-robed serpent. What a sweet, deeply commited man of peace.

After checking-in with the fasters, I scooted up to Capitol Hill to do my work. I chose to spend the day in front of the House Office Buildings because there seems to be more activity over there. Besides tomorrow is their last day in session before the August summer recess.

As I said to my friend Dorothy in a phone call during a break, holding a sign for hours at a time is quite meditative. It becomes timeless time, but the key is to stay totally present and engaged. I try to catch people's eyes and smile, so that even if we don't agree, we've made a connection.

The vast majority of responses today were positive. I sense people are waking up and not liking what they see. Of course there are still those who see Hezbollah as the #1 Enemy, but their numbers are decreasing day-by-day. Rarely do these folks stop to speak to me, so I just smile and let them go on their misinformed way.

As always, I had wonderful conversations with passersby. Andrew Bestor was the first. He is focused on the CIA's role in just about everything and has a web site that you might find interesting.

Next it was Eva from Toronto and Tenzin from Connecticut. They've been in DC for months working with the International Campaign for Tibet. Tenzin is Tibetan and was born in a refugee camp in India, so this is work about which she feels passionate. And Eva impressed me as a deeply compassionate woman, one who longs to bring peace and justice to the world. She offered to help publicize my work for the Lebanese people, and asked me a lot of probing questions. Our time together was like a cool shower in the middle of this hot muggy day.

And for me it was a special delight to reconnect with Tammara of the Miltary Families Speak Out whose Operation House Call was set up not far from where I parked with my sign today. I'd gotten to know Tammara when the Midwest Bring the Troops Home Now Bus Tour came to Detroit last September. I was their driver/liason from Camp Casey Detroit. Earlier today, Al and Stacey of the MFSO group had given me fresh cut-up fruit. A real treat!

As I say, I received lots of positive feedback for my cause today. More thumbs up--literally--than ever, even one from a high-level Navy officer dressed in his whites. Many people thanked me for doing this, often God-blessing-me too. I appreciate all forms of blessing, especially when I know it goes directly to the people for whom I stand.

I took a different way home and found a hidden treasure along the way: the Bartholdi Park at the corner of Indpendence Avenue and Washington Street. It's run by the Botanical Gardens and offers an oasis of peace in the midst of the city. It soothed my soul just to be there. Like yesterdy when I realized how much I'd missed music, toay I saw how much I've missed flowers. But now I know where to find them again.

So, here are today's photos:

Photo #1 is of Andrew Bestor.
Photo #2 is of Eva and Tenzin of the International Campaign for Tibet.
Photo #3 is f Tammara of the Military Families Speak Out.
Photo #4 is of a number of the MFSO volunteers who are keeping Operation House Call going.
Photo #5 is to show you the monstrously big guns the Congressionsl Police now carry.
Photos #6-12 are of the Bartholdi Park.

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