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