Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Learning to Cast Off Fear

This evening I attended my first peacemaker training session, facilitated by a seasoned Quaker and peacemaker. Did a lot of role playing --not my favorite thing, but it's much more kinetic, that's for sure.

After listing all the things that we are right to be afraid of in participating in nonviolent actions, we practiced what Gandhi called "casting off fear." We each chose a type of tree that we would like to be (if we could be a tree!) and practiced breathing into our
hara (or center) and visualizing ourselves as that tree, rooted, branches spread, and steadfast. We paired up and each one tried to push the other over, first in an ordinary stance and then after having done the breathing and visualizing. It works!

I learned that a peacemaker's mission during a nonviolent vigil/rally is to 1) serve the other participants, 2) maximize the effect of the event, and 3) ensure safety. We do this by fulfilling our role: setting the tone, providing information to the participants, and minimizing conflicts. We learned how to deal with situations such as: hecklers, witnessing a violent scuffle, someone get injured or faint, and having our route blocked by the police.

We learned the 3 nonviolent techniques of intervening, intercepting, and isolating. We also learned when it's appropriate to call for police assistance (when someone has a weapon or when someone is injured), how to guide participants along a route or around a corner, how to direct them calmly away from a potentially panicky situation...and most of all, that it's important to

I feel a lot more reassured and conf
ident now.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Of pots, pans, and parables

The pots and pans have been washed. The good china and special-occasion serving plates wait on the dining room table to be put away. Containers of leftovers crowd the refrigerator... The boys and their friends are watching a comedy and laughing uproariously. Jude, the visiting betta splendens, has survived his first day at our house. Here's what he looks like.

Had a great time watching Godspell again after dinner. Someone put the entire movie --in 12 parts-- on YouTube. Must be a violation of copyright, so if you feel like reminiscing, better get to napoholic's page fast.

"That's so hippy!" exclaimed my almost-20-year-old, as he watched scenes from the movie for the first time on my laptop screen.
Godspell came out 36 years ago ... I was his age, and many of us were filled with a spirit of rebellion but also with an intense idealism. Peace...love...dreams of a better world. So what happened?

I'm reminded of the parable of the sower, which Jesus tells and the ragtag band of disciples act out:

A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. He who has ears, let him hear....

Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away. The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. (Matt 13: 1-9, 18-23)
Many of us heard the message of peace and of a more just world, but then "the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth" caused us to forget our idealism...and now peace on earth seems farther out of reach than ever. As Peters Lems of AFSC once said, peace will come not when we want it badly enough but when we've done enough.

Time to become that good soil. Time to hear the word again and understand it.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving subtext

This morning I came downstairs and felt particularly thankful that Jude was still alive. Jude, a tropical fish, belongs to our older son's girlfriend. He brought Jude home from college over the holiday since his girlfriend Thank God! Last year he was depressed but this year he is happy couldn't take him home on the plane because of security rules...sort of difficult for a fish to survive in the regulation 3 oz of water. Jude's probably wondering why the floorboards are vibrating. As usual,it's our younger son disturbing the peace and quietThank God he's found his passion playing his electric guitar. Though I sure miss my mom who died 5 years ago of Alzheimer's thank God for letting me be at her bedside when she passed on and I miss her companion and also a cousin who used to come on the holidays, I'm glad my husband's parents will be coming Thank God my mother-in-law is mobile enough, after so many strokes, to come here for dinner. There's peace in our household, enough to eat, and we're all together.

Scene from the movie Godspell.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Reigning on our parade

Someone in our peace group was wondering out loud this morning about the success of the surge. She wondered if she was raining on someone's parade by doubting that victory was within sight.

Raining on someone's parade? Yes, of course, that's what it will all come down to for us: a big parade for the "winning" side. Winners who have not lost a loved one. Winners who will have secured their political jobs in this country. Democratic candidates who will breathe a relieved "whew! ... glad I didn't support that bill to defund the war!" And, of course, the pro-victory supporters who stand on street corners chanting "U-S-A! U-S-A!" (Because that's who it is really all for: the USA.)

So...the current "calm" in Baghdad justifies it all? Curve Ball's lies, the suicide bombing of the UN embassy, Abu Ghraib, Fallujah, white phosphorus, financial corruption, and ethnic cleansing...Iraqis who have fled...almost 4,000 American military casualties, and the latest estimate of over 1 million Iraqi deaths, the mortgaging of our children's financial future? How soon we forget in the pleasant glow of being the winners!

The only stories we will hear will be those of families who have managed to survive, thanks to the resilience that the Iraqi people are blessed with, the will that saw them through the reign of Saddam Hussein when it suited us to support him. May God bless them! They deserve it after what they've been through.

Does anyone read the blogs that are written from within Iraq? I mean, besides the one written by Michael Yon? Here are a couple:

Baghdad Burning: Riverbend
Authored by a young Iraqi woman since August 2003, the blog entries have since been published in book form. She and her family have been forced to flee to Syria.

Inside Iraq

This one has multiple authors, Iraqis who work as reporters for the McClatchy group. They too attest to the current "calm" ...but read on.

It's easy to cheer the winners on...when we're safe over here. These Iraqis who are in the middle of it, they're the ones who will tell us, years from now, whether the dying and destruction was all worth it.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Accidental ruminations of a peace activist

Haven't had much time for blogging these past few months. I would never have suspected, back 30 or so years ago when I became a librarian, that the job could become so hectic and stressful. Sometimes I look back over my day --or my week-- and wonder just what I've accomplished. Do I produce anything? Do I perform a service? Am I really an educator? Not so sure anymore.

Anyway, my job is not what I want to blog about tonight. Though I may have been too busy to write much these past months, that hasn't kept me from reflecting ... ruminating might be the better word...

A few weeks ago I wrote about some counter-demonstrators --they prefer to be called pro-victory advocates who hold "victory rallies" -- who had joined us peaceniks ("moonbats" the pro-victory crowd calls us) in front of the county courthouse on Saturday mornings. I mentioned a young, attractive, articulate pro-victory woman who blogs, takes videos of us that she uploads to YouTube, and regularly ridicules us. Although the young woman has lately taken to befriending us, approaching some of us, asking our name, trying to make small talk, she remains obsessed with our group's coordinator and demonizes her relentlessly on her blog. Her associates post comments calling our coordinator all sorts of obscene names, and during the vigils they shout accusations at us through a megaphone from across the street. "Every time you march you get another American soldier killed..." I was letting all this upset me.

Didn't help any that some of those who stood on our side of the street were unable to keep their composure and chose to yell back at the pro-victory crowd. "We're working for peace, you s.o.b.!" -- Wow! Now there's something that emanates from a genuinely peaceful soul :-)

I'm also our Quaker meeting's FCNL contact (Friends Committee on National Legislation). I get various emailings from them concerning proposed legislation related to the war and the issue of torture, with information on Congresspersons to contact. Oh, and did I mention that a few of us started a local anti-torture organization affiliated with the National Religious Campaign against Torture? NRCAT launched a campaign to get churches in the U.S. to show Ghosts of Abu Ghraib during the week of October 13. I was in charge of getting publicity out to local newspapers, and I also attended several of the local showings to participate in the discussions. (Seeing that film multiple times is devastating.)

Ah yes, and then last weekend was Veterans Day. I really don't know what got into me, but I posted a comment to an editorial that appeared in
America. I still can't get over my own brazenness. I mean, talking back to the Jesuits! I must really be losing it. However, I made a new cyberfriend along the way. It was his response to the America editorial that prompted me to write mine. We've had a few exchanges, and he introduced me to the Center for Christian Nonviolence, and the teachings of Rev. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy, a Catholic priest of the Eastern (Byzantine) rite. I've listened to a few of Fr. McCarthy's talks and have been really inspired and strengthened by them.

So, I've spent a lot of time ruminating on things, such as :

  • respect for our flag and country raised to the level of idolatry
  • our national defense devolved into a policy of national vengeance
  • the natural, healthy desire for security that has morphed into almost hysterical fear, even leading to the justification of torturing "high-value" detainees (and quite a few prisoners being held for no good reason)
  • our democratic republic that has become rule by the military-industrial-congressional complex
...and wondering if we're not really crazy after all, we moonbats, who try to touch at least some of this with the spirit of Christian nonviolence.

However...all in all, amid all the work and stress at my job and the antics of the pro-victory folks, the Spirit has managed to deepen my own inner sense of peacefulness and my understanding of what Christian nonviolence means.

Must be what Jesus meant when he promised us peace, "not as the world gives it."

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Crescent Moon

There's a beautiful cream-colored crescent moon out tonight. Made me think of this poem that I learned when I was little:
The Moon's the North Wind's cookie
He bites it, day by day
Until there's but a rim of scraps
That crumble all away.

The South Wind is the baker
He kneads clouds in his den,
And bakes a crisp new moon that ...
greedy.... North.... Wind ....eats....again!

by Vachel Lindsay
Instruction sessions have wound down. Life at work is quite a bit saner. Gee, maybe I'll even start blogging again!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Photos of my recent trip to Monterey

...we even got to experience the San José earthquake of Tuesday evening, October 30!