Gandhi’s and King’s successors in the twenty-first century have carried out further experiments in the power of nonviolent truth to achieve justice and peace in every corner of the world—including, in the last two months, Gaza. The Free Gaza Movement has succeeded in breaking the siege of Gaza by nonviolent direct action.
—Father Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann
Tenakee Springs, Alaska
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.
First a dream: a ship had caught on fire, I was part of the emergency crew but did little myself, I watched as men battered open a door of part of the ship which was burning, out flew about 10 very red screaming men, nude, who’d been trapped for hrs in the heat. They were saved.
Last night was very cold in the house, mild outside, maybe because Bob had turned down the heat. He’d complained about the high cost of heating oil.
This may be the last night I’m alone on the first floor. Linda is due today or tomorrow. After a discussion between Bob and Elaine I think they’ve decided to house her in the mid room, Eve’s old room, for 10 days or so as she recuperates. A new era will soon unfold in the Schroeder household.
Yesterday morning in Tenakee Springs I again availed myself of the gift of the bath in the hot spring. As I entered the changing room I noticed a mid age nude man lounging, apparently happily after the bath. I was alone in the water for about 15 minutes when in strolled a younger man, well built, who did not acknowledge me. He concentrated on washing himself, first dousing himself with buckets of healing, cleansing waters, soaping up, first his skin, then his hair, uttering sounds of pleasure, oohs and ahs, and finally dipping briefly into the bath, submerging himself totally while holding his nose. When I saw a break in his total devotion to the ablution, I said, “Good morning.” Without looking at me he replied, “Good morning.” Nothing more.
After throwing more buckets of water on the stairs, chairs, floor, he departed.
The walk with Elaine and the ferry ride, until it darkened (4 to about 8 pm) provided more opportunities for photos—the back of a house filled with junk, thru the outhouse hole onto the beach, the outhouse itself, a “public toilet,” more sky and sun thru clouds, and a single interior shot of the ferry. Nothing of the people riding it, wanting this but not finding a way.
As the ferry docked in Tenakee, extremely slowly, the pilot hanging over a flying bridge to clearly see the relation between looming ferry and relatively fragile dock, I watched in awe: this great weight and bulk, gliding in on water, without brakes. How do the propellers function? Can they be turned to drive the ferry sideways? I’d like to know this.
For most of the ride home I reworked Gaza, finding new images in my stash, adding and deleting notes (one of the most useful features of Keynote, the slide show software I’m using), making the font of the notes consistent, re-arranging some of the slides, and changing a few transitions. I’ve only shown this publicly once, in June to Friends Meeting at Cambridge. How will it go?
I must confess to some envy when I read about films that have created buzz. Constantine’s Sword for one, which plays this weekend at the Nickelodeon in Juneau. We’ll miss it, I’ve heard much about it when in Boston, I intend to see it on DVD thru the library. It deals with anti Semitism among Christians, and James Carroll’s personal odyssey thru Christianity. Will such a buzz ever accompany anything I make and show?
It is the long weekend of autumn, marking the beginning of winter. Some call it Columbus Day weekend, others Indigenous People’s Day. I might refer to this tonight in my intro and in the talk to Quakers.
—October 12, 2008, Sunday, Juneau
A partly cloudy sky this Juneau morning, with clouds lazily drifting past my front window. The cloud shrouds occasionally open to reveal mountaintops with fresh snow. A still mild morning, without dreams to report.
A bipolar experience yesterday: the Juneau Friends Meeting a down and the Gaza show an up. First the Meeting: D had only offered the prospect of a brief informal talk after meeting about Quakers in Israel-Palestine, no photos. No big show. I was prepared, planning it that morning, thinking about it during meeting, fully expecting after the obligatory schmoozing following meeting, someone would say, “Now let’s sit down and hear from Skip about Quakers in Israel-Palestine.”
Didn’t happen. At rise we stood near each other in the sanctuary, L giving a long report about her upcoming trip to Seattle with an elderly friend so that friend could attend a cat show.
We finally got to the reception room and coffee. Then P updated us with news of her young man who’d she’d sort of foster cared many years ago, how he’s been thrown from one agency to another. And did she know of an on line group that might discuss this situation?
And then it was time for me to move over to the Northern Light church for the Gaza show. No discussion with Jun friends. My feeling: revulsion. A vow, for now, to never attend another Juneau meeting unless there are significant changes in personnel and policy.
Elaine reads this as inspired by some Quakers’ distress over any discussion of Israel-Palestine. D couldn’t say, “No Skip, we don’t want to hear about our brothers and sisters in Israel-Palestine, tho they are of our family.” He could say, “Sure,” and then act in opposition. Not exactly living the Quaker testimony of honesty. I might talk with others in meeting informally, ask their view.
Once again, in my view, the inward trumps the outward; cats and kids rub out Palestine.
Should I write a letter like this to the meeting? I doubt it, maybe to myself, maybe to a few cohorts like Nancy R and Anne. I’d like also to outline the presentation I was planning to make, should another opportunity arise—a meeting which would like to grapple with problems outside its narrow purview.
The Gaza show went splendidly well. Good turnout, some 25; responsive group, most staying thru the 1 hour-20 minute show; generous, raising $140 in donations and sales, about covers my train trip between Oakland and Seattle; decent conversation after. I’ll list some of the questions later; technology worked well; I used all the sections, not jumping, maybe the hospital section needs shortening; reading the D’Escoto quote about nonviolence at the beginning, before the show, also worked; dedication good, but might add a few more details to who Rachel Corrie is in her first appearance in the show; Mona’s titles can’t be seen in the back, Elaine reading them helped, Bob reading Belal and Elaine reading me in our interchange seemed powerful; music is excellent but needs lengthening, it ran out about 2/3 the way; and most importantly I think some of the experiences of Gazans came thru.
I am fulfilling my obligation, trying to fulfill my obligation. I hope my friends stuck in Gaza would be pleased. Don remembered my Hydro show from 2 years ago, how worried I was about the sewage lagoons overflowing. He connected this year’s section about the burst lagoon in Beit Lahiya with that earlier worry and complimented me on follow up.
Elaine introduced me superbly, giving important context for my presentation, namely, the other major social justice photo projects I’ve completed, Wounded Knee, Auschwitz to Hiroshima, Middle Passage, and now—doesn’t it follow?—Palestine/Israel. This is strategic, helps to defuse arguments about me singling out Israel.
Questions raised at the show: history of isolation, rocket attack frequency, why Arab countries don’t give more support, where Gazans are from, secular vs. fundamentalist proportion, how does money enter the Strip, what is happening to unemployed Fatah governmental workers, what commerce, is the show available on DVD (someone asked me this before I’d even finished setting up),
Here’s some of what I was planning for Juneau Friends about Quakers in Israel-Palestine:
Either the frame of testimonies and how they manifest in Israel-Palestine
The introduction of 3 stories, Jean Zaru, Yussef Bashir, and Ibrahem Shatali.
Then not necessarily in this order: context, school, American Friends Service Committee youth program in West Bank and Gaza, AFSC in Israel, history, Friends International Center in Ramallah and Cathy Bergen, and the Ramallah Friends School.
I’d use some prints (I don’t have many from the school, or do I, at home?) and possibly my website (which also doesn’t have a section on the school). I do have several slide shows.
All this is for the future, since my only opportunity so far was effectively denied.
—October 13, 2008, Monday, Juneau
Dreaming and recalling dreams but on half throttle, not full bore as when I first landed in Juneau. These then: with a group of kids and adults I was making masks. One girl had used a pole to mount a scary-funny mask. I thought this a good idea. I might make a companion pole and mask, carry it in some sort of parade. I couldn’t locate the girl who’d made this.
Secondly, I was telling someone like my mother about missing the last day of classes, all the tests I’d have to make up. The most challenging was math, I hadn’t studied at all for it, yet felt confident I could cram and produce a good grade. This was high school. This person, my mother, not looking like Pearl at all but playing her role, told me that the gym teacher had told her how much athletic prowess I had.
These are just more of the same mundane bland simple dreams, or so they appear. I long for something more profound—to wake me up.
Linda moved in, for 10-14 days, recovering from her car accident, her broken right leg. She laughs well, knows exactly what she needs for her health (organic, low fat, Lindor truffles, etc), talks articulately about her accident, her fears, is constantly on the phone and computer with family and friends, fits right in here, and deftly shifts attention to herself, partly by necessity and design, partly by the fact of her recent experience. Bob and Elaine are generous. I slip in around the edges, doing what I can, like getting the Tylenol.
She told us stories of her schooling, learning square dancing at the behest of one of her grade school teachers, wining competitions, and of her brother, a star trumpet player who broke his hand shortly before a big concert, played magnificently anyway. All this was in the context of meeting old school mates.
Earlier Elaine and I had attended a political fundraiser in a nearby home, for Ethan Berkowitz, running for the US house. If he wins it will shift the traditional Republican dominance of the state slightly or largely to the Democratic Party. We arrived at the end of his talk, he was declaring that Obama probably will lose Alaska but only lose by some 10%, rather than the usual 20-30%. In a conversation with him later he opined that the Democrats are doing so much better in Alaska because of Obama, and not so much from a reaction against Palin, altho there is much anti Palin sentiment, especially among traditional Republicans.
Elaine introduced me to Art Peterson who graduated from Caldwell, our elementary school on Chicago’s South Side, 2 years before me. He claimed to know who I was, knew me as Butch, (a name that disappeared, as I recall, at the age of about 2. Elaine doesn’t ever remember anyone ever calling me this.). He didn’t say in what context he knew me or what he thought of me then. He remembers me as being more bulky than I am now.
We, with Elaine, thought this confluence remarkable. His family remained thru 1970, living across Stony Island Ave on Blackstone St, whereas ours fled black immigration in 1955. He’d gone to Hersh high school, I to Bowen, I didn’t inquire why Hersh. Like me he’d experienced excitement returning to his old home, now lived in by black people.
We discussed Israel-Palestine, after he’d asked me what I did—he’s a retired lawyer, lives long periods in the UK, has a girl friend there, invited me to visit— and he expressed great interest in visiting Israel-Palestine. I gave him some leads, and will send more later by email.
Joining us on this topic was Eric, a lawyer, and Margot, another lawyer. She is incensed by the Palestine/Israel conflict; Eric, who had a Jewish sounding last name, was relatively quiet. When I met Mr. Berkowitz I avoided the temptation to raise the issue with him, altho it might have been an ideal opportunity to do so, to ask a federal candidate, who probably is Jewish, not only what he thinks about Israel-Palestine but how this will play in his campaign. Off the record, so to speak. I hope to track his campaign, and his record if elected.
I’m watching part 2 of The Lord of the Rings, the Two Towers, at the behest of Katy. I find it strewn with corpses, thus violence, pinning its narrative on violence, strife, suffering, battle. Because of this I find it repulsive. However, I don’t have to force myself to watch it since it uses cinematic techniques so cleverly. A smartly made film expressing a stupid and obsolete worldview? One character in particular stands out, the synthesized Gollum, a skulking, nearly naked, skinny, at times slimy, at other times lovable creature who appears to help the 2 lost Hobbits. One of whom carries the magic ring with untold—and unknown to me—powers. Had I read The Lord of the Rings, been up on it as many, knew the stories, I might appreciate the movie more.
The film, in my view, also suffers from overstatement, hyperbole, near histrionics, not so much the acting as the filming. Instance: music, signaling the audience what to feel, worry, fear, elation. A manipulative approach, characteristic of this genre. The love scenes: great close-ups of longing lovers. And the scale, huger than huge, gargantuan, everything: the castles, landscapes, soldiers, weapons, walking trees, the entire kit swollen with excess.
I failed to see the resonances with larger issues, the universal. Two towers = twin towers? Desire and loss? Conflict? Fear? The brush was so broad, the colors used so gaudy, that I was bewildered by the craft, lost the meaning.
I realize I’m in a minority of critics. Checking the Rotten Tomatoes site I find the critics give it a 96% favorable rating.
I’ve commiserated with AR about my Juneau Friends story, she dutifully and wisely responded nearly instantaneously with these remarks:
Much as you are focusing on your work as a photographer. It’s who you are, as you’ve noted. So you are giving what you can give to people who will receive. And doing your thing as context and anchor.
On my mind: Jean Zaru at Sabeel/Michigan used the phrase “Structures of Domination.” Laying it out more openly than before. Ilan Pappe talked about how clearly and deliberately the takeover of the land and the driving out of the Palestinian Arabs was planned, planned, planned by the Zionist movers and shakers. The project simply faltered because the troops ran out of steam, after the first 750,000 had been expelled. Pappe used the word “crime” and “criminal.”
So this taxes my attempts to think of ways to talk about the situation that may reach new pro-human-rights movers and shakers without totally freaking out Jewish folks, like the Quaker lady you’re working with/around.
I’m rambling. A sucker for requested personal reflections. And, Skip, I totally empathize with your frustration and identify with your being in a different place. My Boulder trip — leaving, being there, returning — makes me see so keenly how travel opens repeatedly the imperative for re-thinking, re-envisioning, as you say, “who you are.” and “what to do” and “how to connect.”
…Thinking onward, from Jean and Ilan and into your Alaska dilemma, I still believe that the Jewish fear-reflex calls for acknowledging, for stating openly and early, that Jews have suffered fantastically much through history, laying it on even: Christian bloody hands o’er the centuries, scapegoating that naturally is still lurking in some people’s psyches. The NY Times today has an article about the man who is nationally spreading the false word that Obama is a dangerous Muslim. The guy is an energized paranoiac who lodges endless lawsuits as a way of life and whose verbal hatred of Jews is colorful and shocking and also seemingly endless. It brings to light again that that anti-semitic mindset, like the anti-black hatred of Obama, –finding “others” to hate and fear–is a dangerous, awful part of the bewildered, chronically frightened human condition.
SO seems to me that just has to be verbalized and lamented and fully acknowledged when one is addressing Jewish Friends.
And surely then there is a segue to the danger to Jews in Israel and even in the US of Israel reacting to that fierce history by seeking relentlessly to crush, to dominate another group of human beings. People are not crushable. It’s not working and it’s making enemies for Jews throughout the world and it needs to stop.
And then perhaps then one can show and tell the reality of the domination and misery and resistance.
She closed with a note about her “beloved mate of over 5 decades,” F, she learning to accept foibles. Hers was a long profound letter, I value our correspondence greatly, wish I had the equivalent with a few others, notably X, Y, and Z, and I shall try to reply in kind.
Elaine claimed Congress = the US house, I that Congress = House and Senate. I will send her this:
1 the national legislative body of a country.
• ( Congress) the national legislative body of the U.S., meeting at the Capitol in Washington, DC. It was established by the Constitution of 1787 and is composed of the Senate and the House of Representatives : changes in taxation required the approval of Congress.
• a particular session of the U.S. Congress : the 104th Congress.
2 a formal meeting or series of meetings for discussion between delegates, esp. those from a political party or trade union or from within a particular discipline : an international congress of mathematicians.
3 a society or organization, esp. a political one : the National Congress of American Indians.
4 the action of coming together : sexual congress.
ORIGIN late Middle English (denoting an encounter during battle): from Latin congressus, from congredi ‘meet,’ from con- ‘together’ + gradi ‘walk.’
—October 14, 2008, Tuesday, Juneau
Remarks to commemorate the Second International Day of Nonviolence By Father Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, President of the UN General Assembly