Thursday, September 20, 2007

Reflecting back on the DC Code PInk week

Greetings all!
First, a bit about my last night in DC, then some reflections on the adventure as a whole.

I offered the women at the house an evening of healing and supportive music, a thank you for all the hard work, and an offering of something much needed and in short supply- down time and nurturing.

As an aside before telling of the evening, here are some impressions of the women whoe gathered at the Code Pink house to devote their time and energy to action.

We came from Ohio, Florida, Indiana, Arizona, NY, Oregon, and more. We were mostly over 40, tho two of the main staff organizers are DYNAMIC young women in their 20's. Many left families and jobs behind to come. One brought her infant with her and marched with him in a backpack. We slept 3,4, 5 to a room, and on sofas, and cushions in the basement. We cheerfully cooked, cleaned, made banners and signs, did web research, blogged, wrote chants and songs,and walked and walked and walked as we made our rounds of the capitol.

I've never seen a group work so hard and have so much fun. I think the key to Code Pink's magic is the playful, creative fun that weaves through the planning and the execution of what we do.There was little sleep, no privacy, no down time. it is not sustainable of course for long haul activism, but for a burst of emergency presence at this crucial time of deliberation in Congress over another round of funding, it was great and doable. With all this stress, I heard no harsh words, flare ups etc among the women (could have missed them, but I wasn't there for the fireworks if there were any). This in itself is remarkable. It speaks to a level of devotion to the hig picture, the absolute necessity of doing everything in our power to influence policy in our government, that subsumes ego and more petty self-centered jockeying.
I saw numerous instances of courage and dedication in the rooms and halls of congress, and on the street. Speaking truth to power, undaunted by the suits, the flags, the oak panelled rooms, the Capitol security guards. I was impressed by the breadth of knowledge and savvy on the part of the seasoned Code Pink organizers as they locked verbal horns with Leglislative Aides the likes of Mitch McConnell (minority whip), Dana Raurbacher (sp) (about as right as you can get), Ike Skelton (he of the "Get those assholes out of here" quote during the Petraeus hearings-see 9/18 posting for more in this).
I couldn't help but be tickled to see their tactics in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing (around FISA the wiretapping laws that are being reviewed and possibly strengthened yet further). One of our members would be on her cell phone in the hearing texting back and forth to the Code Pink house where someone was watching the live coverage (CSPAN I think) and telling her where the camera was focused on the witnesses (then the person in the room would glide over to someone in our group and whisper in their ear- before you know it, a sign was raised, or a hat covered with no war buttons put on the head- on camera! Security would immediately eject them, but our numbers were many and there were several moments like that. Mosquitos! Gadflies! Guerilla peace work! You gotta love it!

I said on the last night together something to this effect:

"You women of Code Pink have opened up a space for women to feel and epereince their own power! You open the door, drive in the wedge to open the space, but then We, the women, act. You guide and give resources, you model how to talk with the "powers", we are learning so much; this is an empowerment project as much as a governmental change project." I KNOW that those who came go home infinitely stronger, more sure of thier voice and their strength, more able to imagine bigger deeds and more lively and creative direct action.

As one of our chants on the march went :
"TELL me what Democracy looks like"
"THIS is what Democracy looks like".

So- back to the final evening. We crammed into one of the tiny living rooms in the house, 20-25 people. I had set up a small altar area with candles, some simple objects, and invited anyone who wanted to add something to the space. It was a bit hard to get everyone into the room and focused and QUIET. The pace of work is so unstoppable, the laptops clicked on as I sang- (we who believe in freedom cannot rest...NOT a great song for this group!).

And it was wonderful. You who have come to the Womansong Circles know how it is. The slow sinking into your heart, the deepening of breath, the realization of how much yo've been needing this and didn't realize. There were tears, laughter, much harmonizing, and exuberance as well. We ended by inviting all the key organizers into the center of the room, sitting ina circle, and we others formed a standing circle around them, and we sang "we are sending you light" over and over. it was a beautiful moment, to see people who have given their all and more surrounded by this healing a harmonious energy, see their smiles and tears, the hugs and outstretched hands and high fives- the finale was
"May you walk in your life as a warrior
Clear and loving and strong
May you walk in your life as a warrior
Trusting the path you are on".

I felt truly that my mission was accomplished and I could go home happy.

So now- some reflections.
As I rode the clouds east to west home to Berkeley, I jotted down my thoughts and feelings looking back over the week. Here are some excerpts:

Jon Stewart's dis of Code Pink's legislative disruptions- "You're not helping" begs the question- well, Jon, what IS helping (and what risks are you taking to confront this government?). Those who dismiss CP's tactics (not all of which I support or participate in, as you know) deserves the same response- what better idea do you have? We've actively pursued ALL the more conventional approaches (By "we", I mean the peace movement in general),--We've voted(and had those elections blatantly stolen), we've petitioned on line and hard copy, protested, committed non violent civil disobedience, gone to jail, hunger struck- lobbied , talked reasonably to congress people...And the death toll mounts, and even the most reasonable of legistlative proposals, such as today's Webb et. al proposal to at least have troops be given as much time on leave as they have spent in Iraq, down to defeat...
So ANY group that engages in something heartfelt, brave, non violent and persistent deserves nothing but applause and gratitude. If you have a better idea, do it!

My motive and intention in joining Code Pink this week was to push my own envelope. get out of my comfort zone, take some risks, and LEARN through trial and error what direct action feels like to me. The inner difference between watching (and critiquing) from the sidelines, and being engaged, a participant, an agent of action rather than reaction, has been profound for me. Life changing. I recommend it to all of you! I learned so much about myself, how I react, how I work with others under pressure, where I'm tempted to hold back (and why), different ways that leadership takes form and arises, and how important it is to OFFER the music, not wait to be invited, to trust its power enough to bring it open handed and eagerly, as the gift that it is. it's not about me- its about the age old power of song- a tool for social change and human empowerment for millenia. I get to be a channel for this timeless and universal language, and I am deeply grateful for that.
In other blog entries I've described initiating song at crucial moments- in the demo outside the White House, in Mitch McConnell's office, and that experience of trusting one's deep knowing of what is needed, and risking stepping out to offer it- is truly a life changing experience.

In a later entry I want to reflect more specifically about how this experience relates to my Buddhist practice, especially including the practice of wise speech and wise action (skillful means). It's something I pondered and struggled with both before and during the trip and for those of you who are interested, I'll pass on some of my thoughts and conclusions (for the moment, always subject to further update).

Thanks to you all- its been good to get your emails and comments-stay tuned. I'll be active in other CP actions here in the Bay Area and will occasionally add some entries here FYI.

Peace to all- Betsy


At September 22, 2007 at 1:12 PM , Blogger William Rose said...

Betsy, I loved reading your accounts of experiences in DC. The visit wit the Senate aide is especially powerful. It's hard to imagine how the system of government has grown so impervious to the voices of the people; and how far removed the values and priorities are of those in power and those who put them there (in theory?) Anyway, I'm proud of you for bringing your amazing gifts of music, healing, conflict resolution, and peace-making into "the belly of the beast". You are a hero: one of many, but one who I am especially proud and happy to have as a sister of the flesh as well as the spirit. Thanks be for our parents who taught us to think for ourselves and to trust our hearts and our dreams; to honor justice, community, and equity more than money, prestige, and material possessions. Lots of love from your brother Will.

At September 23, 2007 at 11:23 PM , Blogger Tina said...

Betsy, Will said it all as eloquently and heart-wise as I ever could. It has been an honor to witness and support your risk-taking and to know, as you have shown, that we can trust our hearts to lead us where we need to go. I love my country and it pains me deeply to see where arrogance and greed have taken it. If there is grace in it - and grace there must be- it is found in the response of people like you who have been willing to put themselves and their beliefs into action to show, once again, the power of conscience and to remind all of us that this is a country of the people, by the people and for the people only as long as there are people who actively demand that it be so. Thank you for sharing your story and for the courage you have shown these past weeks as you have offered your powerful musical and heart gifts to those on the front line and been willing to put yourself there as well. Life changing for you and a blessing for us.


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