More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.
—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, Letter from the Birmingham City Jail
From my journal while on the road, 6 weeks in October and November 2008, Alaska to California and back to Portland Oregon, then home to Cambridge Massachusetts—with 3 new slide shows about Palestine/Israel, “My Trip to Gaza,”, “Bethlehem the Holy,” and “The Hydropolitics of Israel-Palestine.” In early December and again in February 2009 I’ll be touring with these and other shows in the southeast section of the US. You can find more information here.
Juneau Alaska, part 5:
Bob ambled into my room yesterday morning to talk to me about the impending economic collapse. (As big as Mt Roberts behind Juneau, I note.) He’d been reading stock market reports; they are dire; he claims he and Elaine have lost a significant portion of their stock value overnight. “I hope I’m wrong,” he said, “but this is big, bigger than anything in our lives to date.”
And I do hope he’s wrong. Even tho I have no stocks, virtually no savings, little in the way of retirement cushions (only a paltry life insurance policy), I will be affected dearly if the market should collapse. Fewer students, fewer grants, fewer donations. Yet others with wealth in stocks and bonds—and real estate—could be ruined. Analysts are writing that the $700 billion rescue may not be enough. I suspect no one knows what will be enough. Or exactly why this is happening.
My savings, my wealth are in my work—what I’ve done, who I am. As far as I know, this is secure. I harvest and invest my talents, my compulsions, and pray what I lay up for the hereafter—the mounds of photos in my basement, on my website—might last awhile after I’m departed for richer grounds, might serve others in some small way.
Could the financial crisis be yet another harbinger signaling to us the fallacy of our economic system? Time for a massive change, not merely a bailout or rescue (possibly benefiting the perpetrators more than the victims)? As the nuclear fear has provoked some positive turn, the environmental fear might also; perhaps this economic fear is part of what Joanna Macy calls “The Great Turning.” It might also be part of “The End of the US Empire.”
Yesterday was sunny and cold, inspiring Elaine and me to walk downtown, pick up Eve, eat lunch in the Wharf complex. A dull breakfast burrito for me, huge pancake for Elaine, minimal conversation with Eve, which is par, animated conversation with Elaine about Ireland and the upcoming Irish music family, Tommy Sands with his daughter and son, who we will host on their tour.
Elaine and I are so close, growing closer on each visit. I appreciate her flamboyance, chutzpah, verve and vigor. Some might find her overbearing, I don’t. Perhaps we share this energy (and reactions to it).
On our walk home we discussed our respective survival techniques when faced with disappointment, rejection, loss, despair, suffering. For Elaine they amount to her Buddhist practice: meditation, teachings, the half smile she’s learned from Thay (Thich Nhat Hanh), service (especially for those nearby, immediately, as with M who had breast surgery, as well as longer term, as thru her therapist practice), magnanimity, wishing the best for others even if jealous at what they have. In Elaine’s case envy arises when hearing about the success of others’ kids, comparing her kids to them. Ah, yes, I know this well, since when I hear about the success couples have in loving forever, I am envious and prone to dejection.
For me, I could also say Buddhism is a major factor. As is walking, journaling, photographing, and community. I meditate, I exercise, I try to do for others as I’d wish they do for me.
~A plane is landing thru the perfectly clear sky, odd timing since it is only 6:55 am and I thought the first plane in or out of Juneau was at 7:3.~
Steady editing of Hydro, at the phase of filling it out and needing to trim it down. Lots of attention to the current drought. Inserting Israeli perspectives as best I can. Adding the recent photos from 2007-08. Wondering how can I scale this down? Finding the answer is: don’t, until absolutely required. That is, let it expand to its natural length, then show segments of it according to audience and time slot. Thanks to the jump technique I can easily do this. With film it might have been more complicated.
Eating crab last night, the crab Nathan caught, I photographed, completing the series on crabbing by photographing Elaine eating. Now to add this to the earlier photos and install them on my website.
~It is now 6:26 am, Tues, the SW sky slightly illuminating. So lovely, soft, gradual, encouraging. No matter what my mood, the sun rises, even if I can’t see it directly. This is hopeful. Why despair?~
—October 7, 2008, Tuesday, Juneau, Elaine & Bob’s home
A night of dreams, a morning of forgetfulness, nothing recalled. How mysterious.
A morning of rain and wind. Plus chatting with Nadia Hijab who arrived yesterday for her Juneau World Affairs talk this afternoon. She’s asked me if I’d be willing to coordinate some of the activities in the US on Gaza that would strategically raise awareness and inspire action about this gross human rights violation within the broader Israel-Palestine conflict. Perhaps she, Nancy M, and I would either have a conference call or Nadia might meet us in Boston for an initial discussion of a call to action, something that would inspire the formation of this group. I feel honored.
Born in Lebanon of Palestinian parents (father from Nablus, mother from the Triangle) she is maybe in her mid 40s, dark skinned, with black curly hair, and slim build. Currently she serves as senior fellow of the Institute for Palestinian Studies, while writing and speaking.
Perhaps this is the beginning of a working friendship.
Yesterday began sunny, an unusually clear morning sky, so I could observe the waxing light as I wrote. Clouds appeared, so by 1 pm it was overcast, and by 3 pm rain fell, and seemed to continue thru the night. Bob, Elaine and I made use of the early clear weather by walking in the wetlands before picking up Nadia from the airport.
My radio interview with Billy D (or Eddy D or Danny D, I forget) went well enough, a jolly fellow, relatively interested in my topic. Before we began he asked me if I had any questions I’d like to be asked. I responded, “Please surprise me, challenge me, let’s have some fun.” He asked about danger, troubles about entering Israel, whether I use digital, and read the quote I’ve used in my blurb from Martin Luther King Jr, that those with nothing they’re willing to die for are not fit to live. I did not expand on this theme, simply happy he referred to it.
Nadia followed me. Elaine and Bob and I sat in the studio with her. She spoke about conditions and possible solutions. I photographed.
The 3rd presidential debate was utterly boring, and it turned out far fewer Juneauites than the first 2. Unfortunately and even tho the producers changed the format to town meeting, showing the audience, slightly encouraging interaction between participants and between them and the audience, the messages were familiar. We’ve heard all this before. Obama and McCain simply rehashed their earlier messages: change, competence, experience, blah blah blah. A definite turnoff. I feel badly for PBS who organized this, creating a dud.
Nadia and I noticed McCain looked wizened, injured, puffed up, limping. Not the image of an excellent candidate for the long haul position of president. Bob wrote a humorous Op Ed about McCain’s age and physical condition, examining the rate of death in office among presidents, some 10%.
—October 8, 2008, Wednesday, Juneau, Elaine & Bob’s home
A metaphor occurred to me about the economic collapse: swirling ocean currents, over an irregular ocean floor, the tides and the major currents interact in ways impossible to predict. First the flow seems to be going westward, then southward, then eastward, and eventually northward. Or, like the conveyor belt of water, the warming Atlantic Current that prevents apocalyptic cooling of the Northern Hemisphere. At some unfathomable moment that conveyor belt might reverse, plunging North America into the next ice age. Do we head toward total economic collapse?
I’ve already made a few sunrise photos—a sunrise such as a Juneau-in-October sunrise might be, occluded, little sign of sun. Being so near the water in Juneau—and now on a ferry as I write this—my long held passion for water is reawakened: I can imagine myself a 28 year old. I’m a Chief Petty Officer on board a destroyer in the Pacific, heading out to meet the slant-eyed enemy. Will we survive, prevail, will American values remain supreme? So I might have thought in my young adult years. Different now.
We’ve dropped off Nadia at the airport, Elaine asked me my opinion of her, “Well Skip, what do you think?” My opinion of her character and personality: honest, authentic, compassionate, caring, intelligent, dedicated to Palestine rights, hard worker, geo-rootless (meaning minimal strong connection with any homeland, including Palestine), without much active family (altho Elaine and Bob have heard her talk about siblings on the east coast), probably single. I can imagine working with her. Stops there. Most likely, but who knows?
Nadia asked me to photograph her for promotional purposes, I gladly acceded, wondering how this might work, since: I detect chemistry and electricity by photographing potential close friends. After a series of trials I’d say it worked well, shifting clothing, backgrounds, frames, expressions. She seemed pleased, even tho complaining from time to time, “I don’t photograph well, I’m not photogenic.”
On a walk we took with Bob up the first part of the Perseverance Trail, she mentioned how I might spice up my offerings. Answer: pair with someone like an Israeli.
I’m not sure. Earlier she’d confided that she also is having problems finding venues. She wrote to the national World Affairs Council, heard only from Juneau, and only thru her suggestion did they offer Anchorage. She’s suggested I present at the next national conference of the US Campaign to End the Occupation. Another good suggestion, because thru such presentations I become more known and perhaps sought.
This is just the sort of interaction I seek with a potential partner, as I had to a great extent with Louise—mutual suggestions, support, dedication to similar objectives. Never really had this with L1, did with Louise (which proved not sufficient to sustain a relationship), thought once in my innocent period I’d have with F, and doubtful that I’d ever have with M.
The Unitarian Universalists have canceled the Bethlehem show scheduled for next Wednesday because the time line for public relations is too short. I have no idea what to expert in Tenakee Springs concerning my shows, since Linda is now incapacitated due to her auto accident.
Meanwhile, my little life as a photographer creeps along, now more as editor of 1000s of images into some sort of coherent visual story. I bear down on one theme at a time, most recently Gaza, since the Gaza show is next on the list, first on the list for this tour. I’ve added the tunnel section, a piece about Belal’s depression, and the international FreeGaza boating excursion.
I continue to wonder about the assumed time limit for such shows, 60 minutes max for a presentation, 30 more minutes for discussion. Whereas concerts, plays, films usually run between 1 and 2.5 hours. Some say, “Well, who will listen to someone speaking for more than 1 hour?” Of course, some might linger on long past that limit if the speaker is ML King, or Malcolm, or Castro. Can I ever interest a crowd to sit beyond 1 hour?
Furthermore, I’m not giving talks, I’m giving a multi media presentation.
Nadia’s talk went well, some 15 showing up at the KTOO studio, the show recorded for later broadcast and her use (this is my task, to follow up on the copy), her theme what the next president can do to foster peace in Israel-Palestine. She cogently laid out the history of peace efforts, along with the development of the occupation, spoke to several factors impeding peace making, and then offered a few points or suggestions about what the president can do.
“Which of the 2 candidates do you think is more likely to foster peace?” someone asked.
“Obama, of course, but only if the populace maintains pressure on him.”
“What does Palin’s remark during the debate about siting the US embassy in Jerusalem mean (Bob’s question)?”
“Recognition of the annexation.”
“How do you suggest we deal with the fear factor? Many Jews, such as the ultra orthodox, fear their personal and societal annihilation, and some Palestinians, such as Hamas, believe Israelis will, if given the chance, wipe out all Palestinians (my question)”
“Build in safeguards, consider an international peace keeping force.”
Which led me to think: fear is a major wrecker of any peace process. Fear drives the soul, eats the soul. And without a concomitant growth in international security, equivalent to what happens when warring parties form greater entities, coalitions, city states, confederations, such as the USA and the EU, all peace plans are doomed. This growth could come in a strengthened or renovated or scrapped and rebuilt UN, the international court system gaining more credibility so no nation can opt out of accountability, more awareness that all is inter-related, all connected, and an interlinked economic system which adds self-serving motivation to the mix.
Perhaps the current financial problems will help encourage some of this development, at least in the economic sphere. Nadia just published an Op Ed that suggests if the markets continue to fall and credit is reduced, and the US has less money available for international aid, Israel might be among the first to feel the cut.
Reading Nadia Abu el-Haj’s book, Facts on the Ground, (not this Nadia), the last section about the rise of the ultra orthodox and their resistance to archeological work, I’m reminded of the strong role played by the extremist groups in Palestine/Israel. The radical Jewish group Orthodox Union can block excavation of burial sites, such as at French hill and Mamilla, with the argument that these are sacred sites: the body is intimately related to the soul, we’d no more dig up or destroy a soul than we would a body. A reasonable argument, but what are its consequences? These excavations are often sought to further science, history, and infrastructure construction such as roads.
Extremists drive policy not only in Israel-Palestine but elsewhere, including the US. How to deal with this, understand it, accommodate some of the more worthy objectives of these groups? After all, if American Indians had more power, they too would strive to protect their sacred sites, burial sites, the Black Hills, various monuments.
—October 9, 2008, Thursday, near Juneau, on the ferry to Tenakee Springs