Hold It All

Philosophy/Poetics/Politics

Month: June, 2011

The Right of Jim Crow to Defend Itself

“We do not believe the flotilla is a necessary or useful effort to try to assist the people of Gaza,” [Hilary] Clinton told reporters at a news conference with the visiting foreign minister of the Philippines. “We think that it’s not helpful for there to be flotillas that try to provoke action by entering into Israeli waters and creating a situation in which the Israelis have the right to defend themselves.”

–reported by Matthew Lee, Associated Press, Thursday 23 June 2011

Increasingly, a political-moral link is being made between the soon to embark Gaza Flotilla and the 1961 Freedom Riders.

Imagine a local or national politician, Southern or Northern, for that matter, saying the following in 1961:  “We do not believe that the so-called Freedom Ride is a necessary or useful effort to assist the Negroes in the South.”  Back then, paternalistic politicians would object to direct action being taken by mere citizens, black or white.  “Necessary” and “useful” action, by definition, would be that taken by elected officials, who know better, know more, and ought to be trusted by the people they represent. Read the rest of this entry »

Palestinian Identity

Sharifa,

Apropos of our conversation today, here begins the opening paragraph (and after) of chapter 1 of Rashid Khalidi’s Palestinian Identity: The Construction of Modern National Consciousness

The quintessential Palestinian experience, which  illustrates some of the most basic issues raised by Palestinian identity, takes place at a border, an airport, a checkpoint: in short, at any one of those many modern barriers where identities are checked and verified. What happens to Palestinians at these crossing points brings home to them how much they share in common as a people. Read the rest of this entry »

For Hedy/By Mev/Via Mark

Dianne and I drove Hedy to the Missouri Scholars Academy in Columbia at Mizzou on Sunday, where she spoke for the 17th straight year to 300+ gifted students from across the state.

She shared her experiences growing up in Nazi Germany, and then in Britain, where she went as a result of the Kindertransport before the beginning of World War II.

She read from her mother’s last two communications to her, a long letter, and a postcard indicating that she was “heading to the East.”  Both Hedy’s parents and several other family members died at Auschwitz.

The next day Hedy was to leave for Athens, Greece to begin the preparations for boarding the U.S. Boat to Gaza, as part of the Second International Freedom Flotilla.

During a period of silence in the car, late at night as I drove us back to St. Louis, I recalled the following journal entry from Mev shortly before the beginning of the Gulf War in January 1991.

Yesterday, I printed out Mev’s reflection, and walked it over to Hedy at her condo on Waterman.  I wrote on it, “You and Mev are two of the bravest people I’ve known.”

 

… and I think that our world, primarily at the instigation of “my” country, is on the brink of war – nuclear potential, no less – and I am in the process of conversion. This is a significant moment. The convergence of hearing daily the words, stories, laughter, challenges of people who have made an option and are paying the cost, are reaping the grace — I am called. I am called forth to say no to injustice, war, the preparation for war. I am called forth to yes to life, yes to diversity, yes to the stepped-on ones standing up and claiming what is theirs.

This is a turning point in my life. I was an activist in college, engaged in various ways. But the Middle East situation has told me that my life as usual can’t continue when such massive bloodshed is being planned, discussed, prepared for! It makes me sick. There is not a moral indignation, but a moral revulsion, nearly physical, that impels me to move, to do, to deepen my reflection, to put my body out there on the line. Enough. Stop the bloodshed.

God, empower us to strive and struggle with integrity, love and humility for a better world, to strive and struggle courageously, willing to risk, willing to be inaccommodated, placing our freedom on behalf of others’ unfreedom — empower and inspire us to act creatively and justly and lovingly and disruptingly. Life as usual cannot go on, as it grinds the poor into the dust and sand – sick, sick, sick.

God, heal this sick world and let us be your hands. Condemning no one and afraid of no one. Putting our bodies before the wheels of the great machine that crushes the bones of the poor, blacks, gays, PWAs, elderly, children, orphans, strangers, Jews, Palestinians, Latin Americans, Iraqis, U.S. soldiers – no more. No more. No more.

–last chapter, The Book of Mev

 

Hedy to Athens

packed and ready to go to Athens;
in front of her home on Waterman Boulevard;
Monday 20 June 2011; photo by Dianne Lee

To Be Radical Is Habitually To Do Things Which Society at Large Despises

1.

I have seen the victims.
And this sight of the mutilated dead has exerted such inward change upon me
That the words of corrupt diplomacy appear to me more and more in their true light.
That is to say—as words spoken in enmity against reality.

2.

Instructions upon return.
Develop for the students the meaning of Ho’s “useless years.”
The necessity of escaping once and for all the slavery of “being useful.”

On the other hand; prison, contemplation, life in solitude.
Do the things that even “movement people” tend to despise and misunderstand.
To be radical is habitually to do things which society at large despises.

3.

An adequate peace movement could not satisfy itself
With assuaging the sufferings of the victims
By medical help at the point of impact.
The radical work consisted rather in staying with conditions at home
Trying as best we might to work changes upon a society
In which military victims were the logical outcome
Of a ruinous, power-ridden national ethos in the world at large.

 

–In 1968 Jesuit priest Daniel Berrigan and historian Howard Zinn traveled to North Vietnam to accompany back to the U.S. three U.S. pilots who had been captured by the Vietnamese. Berrigan gives an account of their journey in his Night Flight to Hanoi, which contains the above passages.

 

Dan Berrigan

Continuation

I just finished reading the beautiful memoir of Sister Dang Nghiem, Healing: A Woman’s Journey from Doctor to Nun.   Here is one passage…

When we love someone, it’s not because we live next to the person that we love him or her. We love because we can see the beauty in that person, and we learn to love him in a way that he lives inside us. We can see the suffering and shortcomings not yet transformed in that person, and we practice wholeheartedly in order to transform those things for him. That is true love. We can continue that person. Whether that person is still alive and near us, or whether his body has already disintegrated, he is always in us–we are one, and not two separate entities anymore.

Sister Dang Ngheim