Windchime Walker

Windchime Walker <$BlogRSDUrl$>

Friday, June 30, 2006

Splashes of color 

Thursday, June 29, 2006

new directions 

Tonight I had a real treat. My sweetie joined me at an outdoor jazz concert! If you know Ed, you will know how unusual that is. It just kind of happened, and he said he really enjoyed it. This was a fabulous free concert in our community with the Alvin Waddles Quartet showcasting music by Fats Waller. Charlie Gabriel joined him on sax, vocals and clarinet. Marion Hayden on bass, and Alex Trujano on drums. Such professionals! And you couldn't listen to them without smiling.

It feels like I'm shifting gears in my life right now. I'm finding myself drawn to more creative pursuits. Maybe the sad state of our country and the world is getting too much for me to focus all my attention on. Whatever the reason, I'm exploring new options and they feel good. Photography is one.

I've been salivating over Kim Antieau's most recent photos of flowers on her blog, "The Furious Spinner," and have emailed her to find out what camera she uses. So now I'm waiting for the brand new Pentax K100D digital SLR camera to come into the stores in July. It has the option of using the automatic features that I've gotten used to with my old Fujifilm FinePix 2800 Zoom, but also allows for the use of manual controls, including special lenses. I feel that I'm ready to take my interest in photography to the next level, and this camera will let me do that.

The other creative avenue I want to explore is singing...and with a group that is more professional than anything I've yet tried. In the last two days I've met two women who sing professionally--one was at Leesa's hair salon in Windsor where I get my hair cut, and the other was at tonight's concert. Both were women I'd met one other time, but this time we really talked about their lives as singers. Katherine in Windsor is a mezzo-soprano who is a soloist with the Windsor Symphony Orchestra, as well as other venues in Canada and the United States. She teaches voice at the University of Windsor and privately, and was on her way to the Berkshires Music Camp in Massachusetts where she will teach for five weeks. Cyd sings with the Rackham Symphony Choir, one of Detroit's most prestigious and musically diverse choruses. Believe it or not, I have just filled out and sent in an online audition registration form to the Rackham Symphony Chorus! There is little chance that I would be accepted, but I'd like to give it a try anyway.

There are lots of ways to be a peacemaker; bringing joy and healing through art and music are two of the best I know.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

my favorite dreams 

Back when I could run and walk with ease, I'd have flying dreams. There I'd be, sometimes under my own power, other times on the back of an eagle or one time it was Big Bird from Sesame Street, flying through the air, always delighted to be doing so. Now I have running dreams, and these give me the same sense of delight as my flying dreams used to do.

In this morning's dream I was running through the streets of Detroit, often sprinting ahead of the men and women who would try to keep up with me. I must have run at least ten miles in that dream--it seemed to go on forever.

When I dream like this, my body memory kicks in so that I find myself moving with the effortless rhythm that used to be my running style. I was a good runner in my time and my body doesn't forget. I finished my second marathon (26.2 miles) in 3 hours and 44 minutes, just 14 minutes shy of qualifying for the Boston Marathon. That was in 1980 when I was 38 years old. I loved to run then...and I still do today.

Monday, June 26, 2006

our trip to Hannibal, Missouri 

Nan looked and felt wonderful. In fact, even with the chemo, she says she hasn't felt this well in ages. That was such good news! Our visit was a success in every way. Yes, it was a long drive--10 hours going and 11 hours coming home--with patches of road construction along the way, but Jerry, Sr. Mary Francis and I turned out to be compatible travelers. And we were fortunate to find terrific restaurants for lunch in Joliet, Illinois--soul food on Thursday and Mexican on Sunday--so even our tummies were happy. Jerry and I shared the driving so no one felt overburdened. Once in Hannibal, Missouri, Jerry and Mary Francis shared the house of a friend of Nan's who was in Italy, and I stayed in the downstairs bedroom--Nan's space before she had gotten sick--in Ann's house where she and Nan live together part of the year.

During our three nights and two full days in Hannibal, we made time for individual visits with Nan as well as lovely times of community sharing. Ann offered us southern hospitality--she's originally from North and South Carolina, and Atlanta, Georgia--with delicious food and and large doses of kindness. Nan was her usual loving, spiritually wise, funny, intelligent self: one of our planet's great human beings. She looked quite dashing with her shaved head, so much so that I encouraged her to keep this look even after her course of chemotherapy is done.

And I fell in love with the Mississippi River! I couldn't stop humming "Old Man River" every time it came into view, which was often. Ann's house is in a neighborhood perched high upon a bluff overlooking the river. Illinois in this region west of Springfield is flat-to-rolling fertile farmland. That's what you see on the other side of the river.

At least once a day I'd scoot from Nan's house to a small park beside the lighthouse. From there were found dozens of flights of steep stairs that would take you into the heart of downtown Hannibal. Sassy my scooter and I didn't try the stairs, but instead would sit happily enjoying the sight of the riverboat, tugs and barges make their way up and down the Mississippi River. The toots from the riverboat coupled with the frequent whoooooo, whoooo of the trains that rolled along the shoreline, made you feel that you'd gone back in time. It was like something from a storybook.

Speaking of storybooks, Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, Becky Thatcher and Aunt Polly are names seen all over Hannibal. Whether you're drinking a root beer float in Aunt Polly's Ice Cream Parlor, or seeing the fence that Tom Sawyer was said to have tricked Huck Finn into painting, or visiting Mark Twain's boyhood home or the Mark Twain Museum, it becomes clear that this American icon of wit, wisdom and storytelling is Hannibal's prize resident.

On Main Street we even encountered a boy who looked like Tom Sawyer. He didn't want us to paint his fence, but he did hope we'd take his 4-week-old kitten and give it a loving home. This boy and his kitten weren't an official part of the tourist scene but they sure added to the ambience.

But what surprised me the most were the hills that marked this part of Missouri. I guess I'd always thought of Missouri as rolling farmland, not a place where you'd have to shift gears to climb hills as high as those found in San Francisco.

When we went up to Lover's Leap on our Saturday afternoon excursion--Jerry, Mary Fran and I would always give Nan 2-3 hours rest after lunch--we could see for miles around. From up there Hannibal looked like a jewel set in a pendant of green hills and blue water. It was easy to see why Mark Twain chose to immortalize this town and its people so many years ago.

If I were to choose a favorite moment of our Hannibal explorations, it would be the hourlong riverboat ride we took on Friday afternoon. Such a lovely way to relax. Even the tour guide was non-obtrusive. His stories were interesting and he allowed enough silence for us to hear the waves lapping against the wooden hull of the boat. It was hot and muggy during our days in Missouri, but out on the river there was a refreshing breeze. Both Jerry and Mary Francis took little catnaps while I took pictures. We all fell under the spell of this mighty river.

Hannibal, Missouri isn't the exact center of the country but it's close. And we city folks agreed that we were seeing Middle America in the flesh. Lots of stars-and-stripes, not one person of color on Main Street, no ethnic restaurants, just mostly Midwestern and Southern folks taking the kids to see a bit of history. On the highway into town we saw signs posted in sequence about how crooks have guns and how law-abiding folks need their own guns to protect themselves from these crooks. The final sign said, "" That's when we realized that we lifelong advocates of non-violence were entering a part of the country where our views were probably not shared by many--by Nan and Ann and their friends to be sure, but not many others.

But as politically conservative as they may be, we found the people of Hannibal, Missouri to be friendly and helpful. And we will never forget the river and our hour spent within its embrace. But more than anything, it is those precious hours with our beloved Nan and her friend Ann that will stay in our hearts.

May Nan be given all that she needs to continue feeling strong and healthy. May our world continue to benefit from her loving wisdom. And I offer special thanks to all of you who have been holding her in good strong healing energy. It appears to be working!

Two of Nan's books are available through "Psalms For Praying: An Invitation to Wholeness", and "Meditations and Mandalas: Simple Songs for the Spiritual Life". "Lumen Christi: Holy Wisdom" can be ordered through the Contemplative Bookstore online. Her most recent book, "Peace Planet: Light For the World," is self-published and only available through Nan and her co-author, Barbara Taylor. If you'd like to order it, contact me and I'll pass your request on to Nan.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Happy Summer Solstice! 

Early tomorrow (Thursday) morning I'm off to Hannibal, Missouri to see my dear friend Nan. Three of us will be driving my minivan the ten hours to get there.

Sr. Mary Francis, Jerry, Nan and I met back in the mid-80s at St. Agnes Church on Rosa Parks Blvd. in Detroit. Sr. Mary Francis was on the staff, and both Nan and Jerry lived in community with others in the parish house. When St. Agnes was closed in 1989, Nan bought a home on twenty acres of land an hour and a half north of Detroit. During the five years that she lived there, she was generous about letting Eddie and me use her home whenever she was out of town, which was often. Those were idyllic times for us and our dog, Timmy. In 1994 Nan moved to an apartment in her son's home in Jericho, Vermont. We've stayed in close touch through phone calls and letters, but have not seen one another since 1996.

About two years ago Nan and two friends bought homes in Hannibal, Missouri. Their intention was to form community to work on Nan's labor of love, Friends of Silence. Nan had begun Friends of Silence at St. Agnes, and had seen it grow into a monthly newsletter that she created and mailed to more than 5000 readers worldwide. She's also had three books published by Continuum Press about spirituality, and has given countless retreats across the country. She, Ann and Barbara were intending to open a Friends of Silence retreat center there on the banks of the Mississippi River. Two more books were almost ready to be published when Nan was diagnosed with advanced uterine cancer in March.

Even with Nan's ongoing chemotherapy treatments, she and Barbara managed to publish their beautiful book--"Peace Planet: Light for the World"--that features a prayer and photograph for each country in the world. The other book is currently on hold. We planned our visit around Nan's chemotherapy schedule so she'd feel well enough to see us. When I talked with her today her voice sounded strong.

We intend to return home late Sunday night. Tonight I'll be putting up Photographic Peace Quotes Calendar entries for the days I'll miss. I'm not taking my laptop, so there will be no updates to this blog while I'm gone.

Please hold my friend Nan in your heart. Our world needs her loving, peace-filled spirit now more than ever.

Do unto others 

My most recent letter to the editor of the New York Times:

To the Editor:

Re: U.S. Says 2 Bodies Retrieved in Iraq Were Brutalized

The deaths of Pfc. Kristian Menchaca, 23, of Houston, and Pfc. Thomas L. Tucker, 25, of Madras, Ore. are tragedies. Unnecessary tragedies, I might add. Tragedies that had no business happening.

But when I hear the cries of outrage over the nature of their deaths voiced by the same members of the government and military that put these young men in harm's way, my stomach turns. Whatever do they expect? After authorizing the torture of untold numbers of prisoners in this so-called war on terror--some of whom died in the process--how can our American leaders expect their adversaries to do any less when given the chance?

It is the highest form of hypocrisy to decry the actions of those who are doing what you are doing yourself. We must end torture by our own people NOW.

Patricia Lay-Dorsey

Monday, June 19, 2006

quick healing 

Since all my pre-tattoo research had said to expect the healing process to take at least 1-2 weeks, I was pleasantly surprised this afternoon when my tattoo finished its peeling phase, signaling that its healing was complete. And it only took five days! What a good body I have.

Now I can swim again, but my tattoo will be like a baby that I protect from the sun. No open-air scoots or swims without goodly amounts of 30-50% sunblock covering the earth on my arm. That will be a rule of life from now on. Ultraviolet rays are a tattoo's worst enemy.

I am utterly delighted with how my tattoo turned out. It is even better than I'd hoped. My deep gratitude goes to Caryl Cunningham of Eternal Tattoos in Taylor, Michigan. What an artist!

I'm happy to report that Eddie has also healed quickly from his second cataract operation. Today he had his one-week follow-up appointment with the surgeon and things are going so well that he doesn't have another appointment until late July.

Good news!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

It's always the women... 

When I get discouraged about the state of our world, I want you to remind me of the women I met this weekend. Women, old and young, who are working for peace in cities, towns and villages across the globe. Women who are not giving up or giving in to despair or the numbness that war and suffering can bring. Women who sing and dance in the middle of chaos, who organize and empower others to claim their rightful place on the stage of life. Women who run for office and sometimes win, who teach children how to resolve their conflicts nonviolently, who risk imprisonment and even death as standard-bearers for truth. Women who reach their arms across oceans and cultures to create bonds that no war can break.

These women are Raging Grannies from across Canada and the United States, some of whom were recently brought to trial for "trespassing" in the military recruiting offices where they tried to enlist so they, instead of our nation's young people, would be sent to fight in Iraq. At this weekend's UnConvention in Windsor, Ontario, there were sixty Grannies, among them one from the UK, and another who was 93 years young. They came together to share strategies, songs and stories so they can go back home and continue raging for peace and justice. They also laughed A LOT. Humour is the Raging Grannies' special gift to the movement.

Then yesterday at the Inspire Peace conference, I met and heard from women from Nigeria, Kenya, the Ukraine and our own city of Detroit. The courage and passion of these women filled me with awe. I see them as shards of light piercing the darkness of lies, corruption, violence and despair. Together their light was blindingly beautiful.

After the conference I had the unexpected pleasure of spending time with an activist originally from Kenya who wears many hats, among them founder/director of a theatre project called Balosi, program coordinator of the Washington Peace Center, and recently-elected president of the Kenyan Community Abroad. Mkawasi Mcharo was also celebrating her birthday yesterday. But it had not been an easy day. She'd left her apartment in DC at 5:30 AM to take a plane to Detroit that should have gotten her to the conference well before it started at 11 AM. Instead she spent the day in a black hole of airports, only arriving at the Inspire Peace conference minutes before it ended at 3:30 PM. But it was that chaos that led to our connecting with one another. As she said later, "I now see I came to Detroit not so much to receive the Beacon of Peace award as to meet you."

We had dinner together and then I drove her to the airport for her 7 PM flight. During those 2-3 hours we became extended family. Talk about kindred! We found that we share so much in how we approach life and what meaning it has for us. Our work as activists defines who we are, and our spiritual awareness gives that work its meaning. We both take difficulties--like her crazy day of travel--as clues to be deciphered rather than things to whine about. And it was a kick to discover that she knows Concepcion and Thomas who have kept the anti-war vigil going in front of the White House for the past 25 years. The Washington Peace Center supports their work. Mkawasi and I look forward to a long friendship. We're already talking about visits both in DC and here in Detroit.

I feel full to overflowing, and oh so grateful for all that I have experienced in the past week. It has certainly been a week to remember.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

tattoo, school, Grannies & peace 

My tattoo is now going through the healing process exactly as predicted--the skin around the tattoo is a bit swollen, reddish in color, and hot to the touch, but obviously not infected. As I understand it, my body is doing its best to get rid of this foreign substance--the ink--while at the same time trying to form a scab. Neither of which I want to happen.

My frequent application of A & D ointment is intended to keep scabs away because, if formed, they would remove much of the ink. That is a definite NO-NO. In addition to A & D ointment, I'm going through antibacterial soap like there was no tomorrow. As they say, getting the tattoo is 50% of the deal; the aftercare is the other half. I intend to do everything I can to help the healing along. All going well, the process should be complete in about two weeks time.

Today was our last day of art classes for the year. Tomorrow at 10 AM our fifth graders will graduate; I plan to be there. Susan always laughs at me around this time of year because, where all the teachers and students are counting the hours until summer vacation begins, I generally want the school year to go on longer. I SO miss the kids during the summer. But I know we all need a break. They're just so full of love, especially at this time of year. I bet I got six hand-drawn cards today saying how I was the BEST and that they would miss me. The feeling is mutual, I'm sure.

Tomorrow is my official 64th birthday but with everything that's already happened this week--especially my hair-do by Osadia on Saturday and the tattoo yesterday--I feel totally celebrated already. And it isn't over yet.

After tomorrow's graduation celebration followed by a few hours' rest at home, I'll be heading across the river to the University of Windsor, Ontario where Raging Grannies from around the world are coming together for their biennial UnConvention. Even though I'm no longer an active Raging Granny, I'll be joining them for dinner tomorrow night. I anticipate reconnecting with Grannies I've sung with at national rallies in Washington, DC, and others I only know by reputation and/or emails. Such fearless women!

Saturday is the day-long Inspire Peace Conference in downtown Detroit where I will be one of the Beacon of Peace awardees. It should be a wonderful day where peacemakers from around the world--including the Ukraine, Pakistan, Ghana, Kenya, Algeria, the Netherlands and all across the U.S.--will gather together to inspire and be inspired by one another and our shared commitment to peace. This first-of-its-kind gathering is the fruit of two women--Dr. Carolyn Crocheron, Founder of Peace of the World International, and Rev. Tia Taylor, Founder of Destiny Bound Community Development Organization--and their passion for children and work for peace. I am honored to be part of it.

So if you don't hear from me for a couple of days, I'm sure you'll understand. But even when I'm busy, I try to stay up-to-date with my Photographic Peace Quotes Calendar.

May this last weekend of spring be full of joy and life. And please don't despair: peace IS possible.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

64 Year-Old Tattoo Queen 

Well, I'm now part of the Inked Community! And I am absolutely delighted with the tattoo that has brought me into this circle of adventuresome folks. What an unexpectedly pleasant experience it was too. I'd recommend Caryl Cunningham of Eternal Tattoos in Taylor, Michigan, to anyone who wants a professional, artistically creative and gentle-spirited tattoo artist to turn their body into a work of art. Whenever you're going to do something that will forever alter your body, you want the best, and, in my humble opinion, Caryl is the best. And I'm talking about process as well as product.

I was also the recipient of the loving companionship of my goddess daughter, Emily Kolon, and her boyfriend, Jonathon. Emily even took the day off work so she could be there for me. Jonathon has two tattoos himself so he was not put off by any of the process. What a comfort they were to me. Not just a comfort either: Emily was my archivist, taking photographs every step of the way.

She and Jonathon also helped by going out to a nearby Burger King and getting me a veggie burger. I must admit I generally steer clear of fastfood restaurants, but today I was happy for whatever came my way. I'd been too nervous to eat before my noon appointment, so that veggie burger really came in handy. As you can see, by then I was feeling comfortable enough to chow down while Caryl was tattooing away.

OK, so I know what you're wondering--how much did it hurt? Not much at all. Oh, there were moments, especially when Caryl was tattooing the outline of the vine on the soft parts of my underarm, but for the most part, it was no big deal. I never even felt the hot burning sensation people had told me about. Now it helped considerably that I'd chosen to get my first tattoo on a part of the body that was already toughened by the sun and had no bones near the surface

It was simply like someone was scratching my skin, more bothersome than painful. When she got to the inside of the globe where there were larger areas of color, there was even less discomfort. Caryl worked for a solid two hours and I never got tired or wished it was over. In fact, when she said, "We're done now," I was shocked. I felt like I could have gone on quite a bit longer.

Here is our final portrait together. I know my readers have one more question--how did Eddie react? Amazingly well. After fussing for weeks, when he saw my tattoo for the first time, he said, "That looks good!" I think he was as surprised by his response as was I. During the healing process I expect he will not like what he sees, but I know that in about two weeks time, the swelling and peeling that is to come will be gone. All that will remain is a colorful depiction of Gaia, our beloved home.

As I said to Caryl before we began today, becoming tattooed has a deep spiritual meaning to me, one that I have yet to articulate, even to myself. I will need to grow into it. I feel the elders who have gone on before at my side, leading me into a mystery that has been unfolding for millennia. A door is opening, to what I do not know. But, by taking this step today, I have said yes, I am ready.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

adventures galore 

At the library yesterday I was reading The Nation magazine, a favorite. In it I saw an ad for their December cruise in the Bahamas. I'm not much on cruises per se--never been on one in my life--but when I read the list of progressive writers/speakers who will be participating in daily panel discussions onboard, my attitude towards cruises did a 180 degree turn. Oh my gawd, they listed just about every woman and man I read and admire in my never-ending search for truth about what is happening in our country and the world. Check out The Nation Cruise home page and you'll see what I mean.

After numerous phone calls requesting more details, especially about wheelchair-accessibility, this afternoon I registered online and paid my deposit. If I change my mind before July 14, the most I can lose is $75. But I don't think that's going to happen. I think, come December, I'm going to be in a progressive peace activist's form of heaven, listening to and learning from the interchange of ideas by intelligent, informed women and men who share my views of our world as a global community.

We are in crisis times, in my opinion, and must come together to try to determine new and creative ways to move forward into more respectful relationships with one another and our earth. I think this cruise is just such an opportunity and I want to be part of it.

There's one more piece of news that has me in a tizzy. Tomorrow is Tattoo Day, and I am, as the kids say, psyched! Yes, I'm a bit uneasy about the pain, but my feelings of excitement outweigh any anxieties. Hold me in good "tat" energy come noon EDT, OK?

Sunday, June 11, 2006

For your viewing pleasure... 

Here are some more photos of Osadia and the results of their wizardry at the Detroit Festival of the Arts on Friday and Saturday. I took all of them except those in which I appear. One was taken by my artist friend from Windsor, Ontario, Elaine Carr, the others by gracious passersby. If you want to see a portrait of my hair sculpture against the late afternoon sky, check out my Photographic Peace Quotes Calendar.

Saturday, June 10, 2006


It's late and I'm exhausted but I MUST tell you, even briefly, about today. If you are a regular reader you know how I adore Detroit's free festivals. We're now in the season where live music, dancing, community interaction and great food turn this city into a veritable wonderland of delights. And this weekend is one of my favorites--the Detroit Festival of the Arts. Covering about ten blocks of the Cultural Center plus all of Wayne State University's campus, this festival brings together art, music, a children's fair and surprises galore. You can't go there without smiling.

OK, that's the background. But for me personally, this festival will be one I never forget, for it will go down in my herstory as the time I volunteered for the Spanish performance artists, Osadia, to make me over into a figment of their imagination.

It was a leap of faith for a couple of reasons: 1) just getting up onto the stage looked impossible; and 2) deconstructing their magic would probably be a big fat pain (literally). But after spending hours at the festival last night with my friend MorganRose--both of us mesmerized by the theater of Osadia's presentation and the wonder of their creations--this afternoon, I decided to go for it. When I asked their festival assistant if he would carry me up on the stage, he said yes. So then I just had to be chosen.

One of the two artists and I had forged a bond last night without a word being spoken, so when I mouthed to her this afternoon that I wanted to volunteer, she asked her assistant the same question I'd asked him, and before I knew it, I was in the arms of two strong young men who deposited me in the hairdresser's chair onstage. From then on, I was in a state of bliss.

Wires were twisted into my short hair by means of rubberbands and hairspray. A sculpture was constructed upon these wires using colored straws, plastic flowers and tassels. Then green hair paint and make-up with lots of glitter finished it off. At one point I said to the artist, "I feel like magic." She smiled and whispered, "You ARE magic." And, you know what? She was right.

Not only did I adore what she created, but from that moment until I left the festival six hours later, everyone I saw greeted me as if I were bringing them magic too. No matter who it was, they smiled and laughed like children whenever they saw me. Children related to me as if I were a character in their own personal fairy tale. Can you imagine how this felt? The only thing to which I can compare it is how I felt when the women at the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival gave me that mosh pit ride many years ago. I felt washed in love.

When I returned home tonight about 10 PM, Ed got so tickled he called Jan, our neighbor on one side, to come over and see me, and then took me over to the neighbors on our other side, the Police, to do the same. Yes, it was pretty painful while that sweet man removed the wires from my hair, but it was worth every "Ouch." And then some. The make-up and green paint came out way easier than I'd expected, so now all I have are glorious memories and lots of photos, many of them thanks to my Canadian friend, Elaine Carr.

I will always have the deepest gratitude to the artists who call themselves, Osadia. They gave me the courage to be unself-consciously silly, and that silliness opened people's hearts so that love poured out. How I wish EVERYONE could have this experience.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Our shared responsibility 

Occasionally we read something that hits us where we live. That's what today's New York Times column by Bob Herbert did to me when I read it this morning. The fact that I'd awakened with Naba's words echoing in my head--Naba from Iraq whose June 3rd Bridges to Baghdad bulletin I'd reread before going to sleep last night--made Herbert's words hit even harder. In her emailed bulletin, Naba had said, in essence, that she was tired of hearing our apologies to her people and longed to see evidence of our concern through tangible actions taken on their behalf. Add to that, my being with Iraqi children today at school and I think you'll see why I'm rethinking how I live my life.

Long and short is that I can no longer go on as if everything were OK. It's not. My country is causing unimaginable suffering to the innocent people of a country that had done us no harm. The suffering is now so horrendous that events like the U.S. Marine massacre at Haditha are but the tip of a very bloody iceberg. And anyone who says it's now the Iraqis' fault that their country is self-destructing is full of it, excuse my french. Iraq is in chaos for one reason and one reason only--because the U.S. attacked it preemptively and has maintained a violent occupation for over three years with no end in sight. The Sunni vs. Shia violence is a direct result of the American attacks and occupation. It would not have happened without us.

So when I read Bob Herbert's words, it simply strengthened feelings I was already having. I mean how can I continue to act as if nothing is happening? How can I ignore the suffering of these people? I can't. So today I began a discipline that may seem small but at least it's something. Knowing that the people of Baghdad only have electricity for about four hours a day, meaning, even with generators, they cannot use air conditioners on these sweltering days and nights, I am cutting back on my use of electricity and air conditioning.

Except for my upcoming trip to visit my friend Nan in Missouri, I will not use the air conditioning in my mini-van. Nor will I use the radio or CD player. When at home I will not use fans, lights (except the bathroom light I can't reach), the radio or the internet from 8 AM until 6 PM every day. I am going to allow myself to listen to Amy Goodman's "Democracy Now!" on National Public Radio (WDET-FM 101.9 in Detroit) from 11 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday, but only because she offers news and interviews that open my eyes and heart to what is really happening in our nation and the world. I will also allow myself to use my computer to continue writing the book I'm calling "The Making of An Activist." Hopefully, this work will benefit others, including those in Iraq. And, of course, our refrigerator will stay on, as will our hot water heater.

As I say, this is small potatoes, but maybe it will help me stay conscious of my sisters and brothers in Iraq. It's about time I did something that cost me a few of my personal comforts. If I feel no personal cost, how am I going to find the passion to come up with creative ways to stop this war?

So here is the column that got under my skin:

The New York Times
June 8, 2006
Op-Ed Columnist

Other People's Blood


For the smug, comfortable, well-off Americans, it doesn't seem to matter how long the war in Iraq goes on -- as long as the agony is endured by others. If the network coverage gets too grim, viewers can always switch to the E! channel (one hand on the remote, the other burrowing into a bag of chips) to follow the hilarious antics of Paris, Britney, Brangelina et al.

The war is depressing and denial is the antidote. Why should ordinary citizens (good people, religious people, patriots) consider their role in -- and responsibility for -- the thunderous, unending carnage? Enough with this introspection. Let's go to the ballpark, get drunk and boo Barry Bonds.

The nation is in deep denial about Iraq. For years the president and his supporting cast of arrogant, bullying characters have tried to put the best face on this war. They had no idea what they were doing when they ordered the invasion of Iraq, and they still don't. Many of the troops who were assured that the Iraqis would welcome them with open arms are now dead. And there's still no plan.

Paul Wolfowitz, who fashioned the phony intellectual underpinnings of this catastrophe, told us that Iraqi oil revenues would cover the cost of reconstruction. He was as wrong about that as the president was about the weapons of mass destruction. (And as wrong as Dick Cheney was last June when he said the insurgency was in its last throes.)

Here are the facts: The war so recklessly launched by the amateurs in the Bush White House has already taken scores of thousands of lives, and will ultimately cost the United States $1 trillion to $2 trillion.

No one has been held accountable for this. While Mr. Bush's approval ratings are low, the public has been largely indifferent to the profound suffering in Iraq. This is primarily for two reasons: Because most Americans have no immediate personal stake in the war, and because the administration and the news media keep the worst of the suffering at a safe distance from the U.S. population.

The killing of American troops is usually kissed off with a paragraph or two in the major papers, and a sentence or two, at best, on national newscasts. (Imagine if someone in your office, sitting at a desk across from you, were suddenly blown to bits, splattering you with his or her blood. You wouldn't get over it for the rest of your life. This is what happens daily in Iraq.)

The many thousands of Iraqis who are killed -- including babies and children who are shot to death, blown up, or incinerated -- remain completely unknown to the American public. So not only is there very little empathy for the suffering of Iraqis, there is virtually no sense among ordinary Americans of a shared responsibility for that suffering.

Despite the frequently expressed fantasies expressed by President Bush and some of the leading politicians of both parties, the idea of a U.S. victory in Iraq is an illusion. The nightmarish violence is rising, not receding. Iraq is not being pacified. A suicide bomber blew himself up in a bustling market in Basra over the weekend, killing 27 and wounding scores. On Sunday, 20 people were stopped and pulled from their vehicles on a highway near Baquba and shot to death.

John Burns, writing in yesterday's New York Times, told us: "The death toll in one of the most grisly recent attacks, in the village of Hadid, near the Diyala provincial capital of Baquba, rose to 17 on Tuesday when the police delivered nine severed heads to the Baquba morgue in the fruit boxes in which they were found in the village."

Eight other heads had previously been found.

Instead of beginning to pull our troops out of Iraq, we are sending more in. The permanent Iraqi government, which was supposed to be the answer to everybody's prayers, is a study in haplessness. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Al Qaeda's man in Iraq, remains at large. (As does Osama bin Laden, somewhere in Pakistan.)

As was the case with Vietnam, the war in Iraq is a fool's errand. There is no clear mission for American troops in Iraq. No one can really say what the dead have died for. And yet the dying continues.

When it all finally comes to an end (according to President Bush, on somebody else's watch) we'll look around at the hideous costs in human treasure and cold hard cash and ask ourselves: What in the world were we thinking?

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Molly Ivins at her best 

Published on Tuesday, June 6, 2006 by

Flag Burning and Other Dubious Epidemics

by Molly Ivins

Thank goodness the Republicans are around to tell me what to worry about. The flag-burning crisis--here in Austin, there's that pall of smoke rising from the west every morning (it's from an area called Tarrytown, where they burn hundreds of flags daily).

You didn't know hundreds of flags were being burned daily? Actually, you can count on your hand the number of incidents reported over the last five years. For instance, there was one flag burned in 2005 by a drunken teenager and one by a protester in California in 2002. This appalling record of ravishment must be stopped. You're clearly not worried about what matters.

Gay marriage, now there's a crisis. Well, OK, so there isn't much gay marriage going on here in Texas. None, in fact. First, we made it illegal. Then, we made it unconstitutional. But President Bush is all concerned about it, so I guess we have to alter the U.S. Constitution.

Gus and Captain Call (of "Lonesome Dove" fame) will be an item--with who knows who waiting in line right after them.

Also of great concern to Republicans is God Almighty, who, rather to my surprise, has been elected chairman of the Texas Republican Party. That's what they announced at the biannual convention in Fort Worth this week: "He is the chairman of the party." Sheesh, the Democrats couldn't even get Superman.

Also weighing down the nation with a heavy burden is the estate tax, which the Senate will try to repeal this week. The estate tax applies to around 1% of Americans, and I have yet to find any record of it costing anyone a family farm or business. It affects only very, very, very rich people, of whom you are probably not one. And they don't, actually, need another tax break.

These are the things we are supposed to be worrying about, and you notice that it frees us of quite a few troubles we might otherwise fret about.

The war in Iraq? No sweat.

War with Iran? We're carefree.

The economy? Hey, did you see that employment report? Well, ignore it.

Budget out of control, shipwreck ahead? Never mind--Bush doesn't. Worst class divisions since the Gilded Age, rich so much more enormously richer than everybody else, country starting to get creepy? Don't worry, be happy. Torture, massacre, extraordinary rendition, hidden gulag of prisons in foreign countries, Guantanamo and massive violations of international law, American law and the Constitution? Well, you can see why gay marriage is a far greater menace.

Wipe out for the environment; hundreds of regulations and laws changed to favor those who exploit and damage natural resources; all so common no one is keeping track of them all? Let her rip.

Global warming? In the first place, it's Al Gore's issue. In the second place, it's a downer. In the third place, who cares if it's too late in a few years?

Homeland security/war on terror? With the highly excellent disposition of anti-terror funds once more judiciously applied by the Department of Homeland Security, we truly have nothing to worry about. We're ready to stop terrorist attacks in Wyoming, and there are no important cultural sites in New York City, so let's rock.

Oil crisis? Ha! What oil crisis? You want a $100 rebate you can then give the oil companies? Hey, we're going to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and that should see us through ... oh, about nine months.

Windfall profits? You think the oil companies are ripping us off for windfall profits? Who? ExxonMobil? Why, they would never!

I believe what we have here is a difference over moral values.

The Republicans are worried about the flag, gay marriage and the terrible burden of the estate tax on the rich. The rest of us are obviously unnecessarily worried about war, peace, the economy, the environment and civilization. Another reason to vote Republican--they have a shorter list.


Molly Ivins is the former editor of the liberal monthly The Texas Observer. She is the bestselling author of several books including "Who Let the Dogs In?'

Copyright 2006 TruthDig, LLC

Saturday, June 03, 2006


At school we often remind our young friends of the importance of seeing the possible consequences of an action before they take it. On Thursday this reminder came after the fact when a boy turned on the key to my scooter and pulled the accelerator lever causing me to bolt forward unexpectedly. Fortunately I didn't fall off and no one's foot was crushed, but it certainly set my heart to racing and my blood to boiling. My unthinking friend had his share of discomfort when he saw my reaction to what had happened.

As it turned out, we both made bad choices: his was to mess with my scooter without getting permission, and mine was to talk with him about it before I'd had time to calm down. He later gave me a handwritten apology note, and, in return, I offered him my own verbal apology. Hopefully, each of us came closer to learning the importance of refraining from acting/speaking until we'd examined the possible consequences of our actions/words.

Nationally and internationally, we're seeing this issue acted out in ways large and small. But, more often than not, the consequences we'd imagine would follow certain actions, are nowhere to be seen.

A U.S. Army dog handler at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq is photographed using his dog to terrify and abuse nude detainees to such a degree that they defecate on themselves. It is alleged that the dog bit one detainee. Two years after a public outcry over the photos, he is brought to trial by the military and accused of crimes that, if proven, could result in his spending sixteen and a half years in prison. He is only found guilty of the lesser charges, but that could still send him to prison for three years. Instead, he is sentenced to 90 days of hard labor, no prison time, and a temporary reduction in pay.

From the BBC:

A report filed by Iraqi police accused US troops of rounding up and deliberately shooting 11 people in the house in Ishaqi, including five children and four women, before blowing up the building.

The US military report, issued on Friday evening, said four bodies including that of an insurgent were found after the raid in March and acknowledged there were up to nine "collateral deaths".

However, it concluded the US soldiers had behaved correctly.

The outcome of the Pentagon investigation emerged a day after the BBC released video footage that appears to show the aftermath of US action in Ishaqi, about 100km (60 miles) north of Baghdad.

The video shows a number of dead adults and children at the site with what our world affairs editor John Simpson says were clearly gunshot wounds.

In December 2005, the New York Times reported that President George W. Bush had authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to secretly wiretap the telephone conversations and monitor the emails of tens of thousands of Americans for four years without obtaining the necessary warrants from the FISA Court. This action was in blatant disregard of the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1976. At first President Bush denied it, but then said he would continue this practice for the "safety of the nation" in its War on Terror. There has yet to be any real investigation by Congress or the Judiciary of this obviously illegal operation.

Consequences? What consequences?

Friday, June 02, 2006

tough times 

Oh, friends, it doesn't get any easier to live in this country called the US of A. If anything, it gets harder and harder, day-by-shameful day.

Haditha, Iraq. Twenty-four innocent persons shot and killed execution-style in a three-to-five hour rampage, among them girls and boys aged 14, 10, 5, 4, 3 and 1, a grandmother dressed in her nightclothes, a 76-year-old amputee in a wheelchair holding his Koran, a mother and child bent over as if in prayer. "I pretended that I was dead when my brother's body fell on me, and he was bleeding like a faucet," said Safa Younis Salim, a 13-year-old girl who survived by faking her death. Four young men in a taxi who happened on the scene were also shot to death. All killed by U.S. Marines from Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division based at Camp Pendleton, California. No investigation of the "incident," as Mr. Bush referred to it yesterday, was begun until four months later when the story was finally reported in a U.S. magazine.

Samarra, Iraq. Two unarmed young Iraqi women, one about to give birth, shot and killed by American soldiers at a checkpoint.

And today the Toronto Star reports another massacre:

The U.S. military said last night it would investigate allegations of a second massacre of Iraqi civilians by American troops after being presented with a video of what appeared to be the bodies of 11 people killed by gunfire in a town north of Baghdad.

The video, obtained by the British Broadcasting Corp., showed five children and four women among the dead in a March 15 incident in Ishaqi, which the U.S. military originally characterized as a shootout with an Al Qaeda operative that killed the suspect and three civilians. It said heavy gunfire caused the house to collapse, killing the Iraqis. The BBC said Iraqi police alleged U.S. troops rounded up and killed 11 people in the house, then blew it up.

As long as America has an occupying army in Iraq, these massacres will continue. Even Washington's friend, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, said yesterday that violence against civilians had become a "daily phenomenon" by many troops in the American-led coalition who "do not respect the Iraqi people."

"They crush them with their vehicles and kill them just on suspicion," he said. "This is completely unacceptable."

At home we learn today that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and officials from the Justice Department called a meeting yesterday with senior executives of the top Internet companies--including AOL, Microsoft, Google, Verizon and Comcast--to discuss the government's plans to ask these internet providers to keep detailed records on the web-surfing activities and emails of their customers to "aid law enforcement." Meaning every Google search I make, web site I visit, email I send or receive, could be tracked by the Justice Department without my knowing it. It was real clear that if these Internet giants don't go along willingly, Gonzales and the Justice Department will get their henchmen--the U.S. Congress--to pass legislation making it against the law for them to refuse.

Is it just me or are others wondering where this all will end? I fear I already know.

I could go on and on about the abuses at home and abroad that are commonplace in these, the darkest days in my nation's history. But I won't. Not now anyway.

I try to stay informed even though it can be painful, do what I can to sound the alarm here on my blog/web site, get out there on the streets when necessary, join with justice-seeking people whenever possible, and live as rich and full a life as I can. Today that meant exercising with Matt at the gym this morning, and preparing to drive with Pat to Ann Arbor for jazz--the Pat Martino Quartet at the Kerrytown Concert House--tonight.

May you find truth, beauty, strength and hope. And may our efforts turn the tide towards peace.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Inter-generational dance 

On Monday I was the eldest among thousands of persons, most of them in their teens and 20s, at Detroit's Electronic Music Festival in Hart Plaza (Click here and scroll down to see me chair-dancing at the Fest). On Wednesday I was one of the younger celebrants at a 91st birthday party for Detroit peace activist icon, Sr. Elizabeth LaForest. From 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. today I was surrounded by children aged 5-11 at the Dearborn, Michigan school where I'm unofficial artist-in-residence every Thursday.

Nothing pleases me more than doing this inter-generational dance. I learn so much from those younger and older than myself. Maybe it's because Ed and I never had children that I don't identify too strongly with one generation over another. Or maybe I'm just lucky. Whatever the reason, may this dance continue...

This gif is freely copyable. Just right click, save
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