Friday, September 14, 2007

Singing and dancing in front o f the White House

Greetings- Day two in DC. Seems a lifetime already.

Last night we Code Pinkers and others gathered at the front sidewalk of the White House to protest before and during Bush's speech on Patreaus recommendations. It was a colorful and theatrical group- we had a huge GWB head which one of our women wore and strutted about, danced, and eludded the "pink police", CP women in pink police hats, shirts and badges declaring themselves pink police. They did lots of fun and really mood-lifting antics about arresting this character, putting her/him in handcuffs, wrapping yellow caution around her/him, and the 'actor' was very adept at showing arrogance, devilish humor, sometimes remorse, sometimes fear, in the face of all this pink energy. The use of humor in these times is so valuable! Helps break the paralysis aof fear and discouragement.

There were many "impeach" signs, and some warning of possible attacks on Iran.
There was a lot of NOISE- noisemakers, shouting, chanting. Capitol police linbed th White House fence - they had cordoned off the sidewalk with caution tape- tho it is a public sidewalk, turns out THEY got a permit to occupy that space and protect it- lest our exuberant and fesity crowd got to close to the fence. NB: the cap police are the ones who ISSUE permits of this nature, so I guess they issued themselves a permit! (Very consistent with the convoluted patronage insider tone of this administration).

For me, the evening had its highs and lows. At times the energy veered into the realms of unfocused anger and finger pointing, name calling, and such that I don't choose to participate in. Not only does it create a general tone of antagonism and potential violence (as the violent tendencies in others gets triggered) but I do feel it weakens our power as a movement, casting us into simple "we're good- all the rest of you are evil" simplistic dichotomies.The art of peacemaking and "being peace" as Thich Nhat Hanh teaches is not easy matter, but if we are going to this much trouble to put our bodies and personal security and safety a little more on the line, I would want us to really rise to the highest level possible of personal attitude and intention. What this looks like would be different perhaps for heach person. For me, I stood in silence, sometimes sending "metta" (lovingkindness practice) to the police, the President, the demonstrators, myself. And I initiated singing together whenever I could either be heard, or the energy felt so volatile that I knew something need to change.

Wonderully, the music did accomplish a change in energy, over nad over. Singing together brought a unity, harmony and groundedness that that I know helped many people (who said so). So the tone would shift for awhile, the power of song claiming us all and evening out our ragged spirits and energies. Then another upswell of shouting and anger, then more song. So I guess all the ways of public speech were covered!

Most moving was a group of young adults/late teens who have completed a cross country walk for peace, and were in the crowd, singing, drumming, and later, planning to be arrested as a culmination of their journey. With support from some seasoned jailbirds (pink and otherwise) the youth were guided toward a form of civil disobedience (crossing the yellow tape and sitting on the sidewalk) that would garner the best media attention and the presence of many witnesses to protect them.

At one point they all sat on the curb, the crowd closed in yelling and jostling, the police began to push the young people- it looked like a bad moment.

I was upset and scared, and all I could think to do was sing! (Never a bad idea). SO I began singing "We are a gentle angry people" alone, and a few other voices joined, then a megaphone materialised, and in a few seconds we were all singing this beautiful Holly Near anthem of heartbroken and hopeful peace. It completely changed the mood- the police backed off, we protesters came together in beauty and harmony, we sequed into Down By The Riverside,. the police took down the yellow tape, we occupied the forbidden sidewalk and danced and sang joyfully for quite ahile. I approached one of the police who seemed to be a leader, and just spoke personally about my reason for being there, and appreciating him for patience, a tough night, and just saying we were all there doing what we were meant to do, trying to be the best people we can be. He smiled- he had a very gently face- and basically said- "its all good- no problems". The eventual arrest of the young people was done with great care, coordination between this Sergeant and Meda Benjamin and the youth, more singing, and a very peaceful conclusion to the evening.

Never underestimate the power of song! Al Jazir English TV interviewed me- the cameraman was great, stayed the whole evening, got everything- and I had the opportunity to speak about the role of civil disobedience in movements in America (including Suffrage, labor, Civil Rights), and how song and singing was a vital part of every social change movement we know.

Now, off to visit congresspeople this morning, and hbe part of Code Pinks' farewell party for Gonzales this afternoon. Thanks for reading, and do write me back!

In Peace-


At September 14, 2007 at 7:18 PM , Blogger MOS said...

Sounds so great, Betsy! So wonderful that you are being so effective in bringing your music and having an effect with it already. Congrats!

- Maryann (from Donald's circle)

At September 16, 2007 at 10:53 AM , Blogger Joanna said...

MANY thanks for telling us both the "highs" and "lows" of being in D.C., for bringing your highest level of personal intention, and using your music to change energy just at the needed moment! Loved your singing "we are a gentle, angry prople" as youth were getting arrested! I'm with you in spirit. Keep telling us what's happening and your response to it all. Joanna (womansong circle)

At September 16, 2007 at 9:20 PM , Blogger Tina said...

Betsy, I've been away from electronics this weekend and am just catching up now. I can just see - AND HEAR - you assessing the situation and bringing the power of song and your voice to the moment. YOU GO GIRL. As I was leaving for Tahoe on Friday, I stood and watched a large "V" of geese fly overhead and sent you my love and prayers for taking on the role of lead for this part of the journey..."we are a strong and powerful circle, and we are sending, sending you our love”... Keep up the great work and know we are there in spirit....Tina


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