(The Agape Community published an earlier version in The Servant Song, summer 2021)
When passion can’t flow easily into policymaking, it congeals as angry protest, growing wilder and more paranoid.Daniel Immerwahr
Climate justice or justice for Palestine? Which for me will take precedence in my activism? With limited energy and time remaining in my life (I am 80 years old), should I choose one or stretch between both? Should I watch for the intersections and concentrate on them? The two issues strain and squeeze me.
Outrage is my key motivational word—and what can flow from it. I am deeply troubled by how rapidly our planet is broiling, the recent ongoing heatwave thruout the western part of our continent and much of equatorial Africa, and the flooding in Germany and Belgium. I am equally troubled by the oppression forced upon the Palestinians by Israel. In particular, how some Palestinian friends of mine are threatened with evictions by Israeli settlers from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah (a Jerusalem neighborhood).
Climate troubles my mind, Palestine my heart. Thinking about the climate crisis, I understand that life on earth is threatened by the extraction, transportation, and use of fossil fuel; the production, shipment, and consumption of food; by destroying green spaces thru clear-cutting Amazonian rain forests for mining and cattle and paving with impermeable asphalt, etc. I understand that, I think about that, and I imagine the utter destruction of life on earth. I am outraged by how we humans destroy our earth—and by the lack of informed, committed, universal action for climate justice.
I feel Palestine thru the lives of people I know, photograph, and write about. For nearly 20 years working in Palestine, I’ve explored hydropolitics, nonviolent resistance, the Matrix of Control (checkpoints, barriers and walls, permit system, etc), and the situation in Gaza, among other themes. My current Palestine-Israel photographic project is titled “The Ongoing and Relentless Nakba.” (Nakba, the Arabic word for catastrophe) For the past 3 years, I periodically return to Palestine-Israel to locate, interview, and photograph Palestinians forcibly removed from their villages and towns when Israel created its state in 1948. I find those ancestral locations now in Israel and make photographs, a privilege the Palestinians don’t have.
I feel their removal as I consider my own precarious housing situation. And reflect on how my parents forced my own removal when I was 14 years old from what I consider my ancestral home on Chicago’s South Side, without discussion that I recall between my sister and me about the move. I feel something of Palestinian removal in my own body. I am outraged by the impunity of Israel. And I am outraged by the lack of informed, committed, universal action for justice in Palestine.
My outrage is central to why I struggle with climate justice and justice for Palestine. An incident like a heat wave or flooding or a major storm temporarily lights up the horizon and gains attention. Similarly with Palestine-Israel when violence erupts as it did in May 2021 leading to Hamas rockets into Israel and Israeli attacks on Palestinians worshipping during Ramadan in Jerusalem. Then the lightning subsides and we all tend to forget and ignore the threats.
My outrage is the spark, the pivot point, the heart attack, that frees me from my quotidian seduction—food shopping, laundry, even family and friends—for what I hope is useful political-social justice witness. I fight my own confusion, hopelessness, and despair.
There are problems with sustaining and enlarging either witness, let alone both. Two examples: several of us at Friends Meeting at Cambridge have for the past year attempted to organize a climate justice working group. I believe we’ve failed to find committed coworkers and a solid direction. We express concern about climate, but few in our congregation seem to do anything about it, to walk the talk, to live what I feel is the truth of Hampshire College’s motto: to know is not enough.
The second example portends poorly for my Nakba photographic project. To complete this I need to find venues and a publisher. Here’s the possible rub: Linda, a close Jewish Israeli friend and colleague, now highly critical of Israel, has nearly completed her book about growing up in Israel during the Nakba. So far she’s not been able to find a publisher or an agent. Reason? She believes not the volatility of the issue or the quality of her writing but, as some agents tell her, no one will buy your book, few are not interested in this topic.
How will I find an audience for my photographs and stories? How will we Quakers and others create significant movement toward climate justice? How can people be enlisted in the great army of nonviolent justice and peace activists to truly struggle for justice? How long and how meaningful will my own activism be? Will I find the energy for both themes? How far can outrage carry me?
Transform your heartache into action.Glennon Doyle
Rage on National Public Radio, July 8, 2021