El meu insurrecció

It’s The End Of The World As They Knew It

{Reprint from June 2011 Salem-News}

It’s The End Of The World As They Knew It

M. Dennis Paul, Ph.D.

Every so often, I, and others, use these videos to remind people or encourage people to understand why we must never back down to the threats from bully governments and nations and why we must non-violently place ourselves in their way. The first is a strong, dramatically presented video with images that are hard on the heart, the mind and the stomach. The voice on this video, that of its creator, Dahlia Wasfi, delivers a shuddering performance that, even if one turns away from the video, creates mental images which never fail to capture the audience brilliantly. The second video is of Huwaida Arraf from ISM (International Solidarity Movement) and shows a courageousness and conviction that borders on heroic as she, unarmed, faces down heavily armed Israeli defense Forces as they shoot at children who are throwing rocks in defense against the daily harassment they are subjected to by Israel. Truly, the video speaks for itself. The final video is of Ken O’Keefe from 2003 speaking to arrogant reporters from CNN about both his human shield project and the insanity of war and aggression in general. It is an inspirational video demonstrating clarity in thought and action and expresses the genuine compassion that takes one beyond the sense of anger that can so easily overwhelm anyone who is sickened by war, the greed that fertilizes war, and the destruction war produces. It demonstrates someone who regained himself after initially surrendering to the forces of war.

I don’t often talk about, or write about my past as a rebel. I do so, now, for a very strong reason. It is not easy to talk about these times so please bear with me. I, and my friends, were maced and beaten in the late 60’s and early seventies as protesters and organizers against the war in Vietnam, the meddling in South America and the “crises” with Cuba. There was a time we were forced to kneel handcuffed at ages 14 to 30 (I was 14) for hours on end while agents berated us and pushed us around the floor for daring to present Venceremos to curious minds at our coffeehouse. Our homes were bugged. We were harassed daily, arrested and released repeatedly for no reason, photographed wherever we went. All because we asked for peace… for an end to a bloody oil war that took the lives of our friends or turned some of them into deranged killers who came home and destroyed their families and themselves. There were a great many incidences that I could recollect here but they are now just stories. Some, however, are important to retell.

I watched and could do nothing while one friend, my drinking buddy for a time, who had spent his military career, in a place the government claimed he never saw, burning huts and shooting every inhabitant as they scurried like ants into the open. Women, children, grandparents and dogs were no exception. If it moved, his “job” was to kill it. Together, our job was to try to kill the memories.. and we worked hard at this mission. He held it all inside for a while when he came home. Then, one fourth of July, the cracks started to widen and he sat in his father’s attic armed to the teeth and, having dropped 30 tabs of some incredible orange sunshine, proceeded to fire hundreds of rounds through his dad’s roof. He could hear the choppers. The local cops tried to be patient with him and tried to understand the hell he was reliving. He surrendered his weapons and was let go. A few months later, he torched a supermarket and then a school. Police weren’t sure, but they did suspect. Two weeks later, he set an electric company sub station on fire, went home, and while his wife and child were napping, set his own house on fire. Both escaped and after a short hunt, he was found. Still attempting to give him a break (we understood that the military had stepped in, not wanting a trial where info regarding his whereabouts in Cambodia might become open news) he was given a plane ticket to a far away island and hasn’t been heard from since. Other good friends, unable to continue plastering the cracks with alcohol or heroin, either blew their brains out or hung themselves. I have too many stories about then. Too many friends who gave their lives and their minds for the greed of corporations and nothing more.

No Vietnamese had ever tried to harm us. No Laotian had ever tried to kill us. No Cambodian ever attempted to search and destroy our home towns. And why did we bring Venceremos from Cuba? Because people needed to know why we were being taught to hate cane cutters. “Filthy Communists” defending their tiny island from the greedy US sugar manufacturers.. Yes.. a war on sugar! So hell bent on destroying America that they were willing to come here and… teach!!

It is important for people to find out what our colonialist, capitalist country and its partners are doing in the world and why they send us (then) and our children (now) to fight wars in which 95% of the casualties will be unarmed civilians and 1/3 of whom will be children. Where we trade with the enemies by day and fight them at night. Where we take a town and surrender it the next day. Where we are told to drop a strong box full of cash by the side of the road and then drive on where another box explodes and rips us to shreds. And where we bomb a continuous stretch of land leading from oil and gas fields to future ports (saves years of excavation). With all the insanity that surrounds our missions in other parts of the world, with all the insanity that surrounds us in our own country as we try to make sense of a President that pays corporations to steal from us rather than put them in prison, that sentences men to die without fair hearings…. sentences men to life in prison without charges or trial and ignores the daily rapes and assaults and other atrocities committed by another nation claimed to be our “best” friend… it is remarkably hard to envision peaceful resistance against it all. I cannot, however, stress enough how important it is to find those ways toward peaceful resistance and to put them into practice.

As 14, 15 and 16 year old kids, we had seen enough and experienced enough that we began to turn hard and spent many hours and days struggling over whether and when we would pick up the gun. Some of us did. Others, like myself, did other missions.. some of which, in some manner, may have contributed to violence. Still others tried to rein us in and bring us back to the peace movement. The internal struggles were many and the justifications were rapidly becoming thin. For myself, the decision came shortly after an attempted, and obviously failed, suicide. If I wanted to create a place in the world for peace, I had to first create it within myself. Here I am, many years later, still trying to create a place for peace in the world.

When I view these videos, I can feel the urgency and the angst that fueled my younger mind and body and I can feel the burning frustrations that turned my young head in the direction of a more violent revolution. It is so very difficult to not feel the intense anger that is natural witnessing such atrocities day in and day out. I think about how much of my youth was lost to struggles against nations and governments and corporations and then look behind the walls in Palestine and see the loss of so much more… and I am not afraid to admit that I spend many nights in tears for my brothers and sisters there. It is so very hard to not let the anger rule. These videos force me, and others I speak with, to work through our anger.

Today, I look at the work of ISM and IHH and the resilience and brilliance of Huwaida Arraf, Ken O’Keefe and Tim King (all of whom I believe history will note when Palestine is truly freed), and the dedication and hard work of Mazin Qumsiyeh, Alice Walker and Ann Wright, Ray McGovern and Greta Berlin and all the incredible military folks who have created a network of resistance around the world (and they, too, shall be noted as true friends of Palestine). I can’t name them all but each one brings back the faces of the past peace coalition folks, almost all passed on now (Many started with the Ban the Bomb movement). I look at all of them and all of the wonderful writers for and the other journals that have and are emerging and I credit them with stimulating and educating a new generation. And I especially credit Huwaida, Ken and Tim for helping me stay focused so I can view these videos and not react from anger… instead to act from love and compassion. I remember when my master spoke to me about courage and said that it takes a mountain of courage and many weeks to climb it to let go and allow love to guide one’s actions. It takes but a single step and a moment of reaction to anger to destroy the mountain.. and the world.

Videos such as these, so full of raw truth, exist for all of us to view so as to challenge our inner selves. They are tools for bringing the passionate to the point of experiencing that inner conflict and, with the help and guidance of the compassionate (such as those mentioned above), to experience moving beyond reaction to the practice of peaceful action.

Today, we are witness to, and participants in, a massive display of peaceful action. From the roots of the Arab Spring to the yearly growing and now enormous solidarity with the peoples of Palestine, activists for peace are showing that we are capable of moving beyond reaction and we are capable of withstanding whatever assaults the world’s despots attempt to use against us. We are capable of diminishing them, and their illusions of power, in the eyes of the world. We are capable of overcoming.. and all without firing a single shot. That is a power that frightens them more than any weapon.

Please.. wherever you are.. in the coming weeks join us in demonstrating in solidarity with all of the people resisting oppression around the world. Join us in supporting Flotilla II-Stay Human. Bring these efforts to the attention of all your friends and family. Force your local media to report on it by staging protests directly in their paths. Write and Tweet and email your Congressional reps and the Whitehouse every day reminding them that PEACEFUL protesters are speaking to the world right now and they, especially, should stop whatever they are doing and listen. Write letters to the editors, hold vigils, workshops, lectures. Many of the people who will return from Gaza will be available to speak so generate openings for them. Prepare showings for the videos that will be created and are being created. Show these videos and talk about them. Write to networks and studios letting them know you want these speakers on air. Share your ideas with others and help them make ideas into realities. Sign petitions and start petitions. The pen is mightier so write letters, poems, songs, graffiti. Continue writing letters of support and friendship to the people of Palestine. If you genuinely think “Peace”, peaceful ways of action will flood in.

The process does not end when the boats and people return. That is the beginning. The process only ends when Palestine is truly free, when Egypt is truly free, when Tunisia is……


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