(This was a letter written to friends and organizers who participated in the civil disobedience in Washington, DC on Sept 26th and 27th in support of the Declaration of Peace.)
Dear Max and June and Caterina and my dear Cynthia (as well as each and every participant in the Sept 26, 27th actions),
i don't know quite how to express my gratitude for all you do. In the Buddhist tradition, we bow to each other. So, i offer you nine bows of gratitude. i am sorry i was unable to change my ticket and join you yesterday, but i am happy that i was with you on the 26th.
The action at the Senate sounds very powerful. Our action at Congress was as well. For me, the action had quite a few memorable moments that are still with me this morning.
i stood in silence in front of a young woman as well as a young man, both members of the Capital police, holding the line, barring our progress to the steps of the Capital. I held the white rose i had been given in the park close to my heart. Giancarlo (a poet and gardener from San Francisco) stood next to me, holding the cardboard coffin over his head. The entire time, the young male officer in front of me, eyes hidden behind dark shades, stood tensed, ready for confrontation. The young woman officer stood tensed as well, but over the course of the "negotiations" she visibly relaxed. She was short and the white rose i held was very near her face (we were toe to toe, like dance partners). Her face was freckled, she wasn't wearing sunglasses and her eyes were beautiful, green and clear...So in this tableaux, we stood, silent- and the earth roared! For a moment, i wondered where they were at, what they were thinking, but I did not ask. Together, we shared the scent of a rose (what does a rose mean but love, beauty, delicacy, and care) and i loved them.
After a short amount of time, and several arrests, Giancarlo was left holding the front of the coffin by himself, and actually put it over the heads of the 2 big cops in front of him. He said, "Can you feel it? We are all in this coffin together. Can you? Can you feel it?", he implored, "This coffin is the Iraq war and we are all in it together." He words blew me wide open. Me, a white rose, the police, their arms linked barring our way, freckles and clear green eyes, a coffin with the photos of dead children and soldiers, the names of the dead scrawled across it. The edifice of Congress, like an unattainable Oz, or the great city on the hill (equally unattainable), maybe one hundred yards distant. Yet the truth right at hand (God bless the poets). "Can you feel it?", he said.
Meanwhile, the arrests continued, there were 4 or 5 of us left. The officer in front of me, tensed like an offensive lineman, hands up, ready to defend the line, seemed unmoved. i looked at him closely, leaned towards him, and nearly whispering, i said, "No one is going to try to push past you." "We have to be ready", he replied. i said, "Yes, but we are here non-violently. i am holding a rose". He smiled briefly, "Yes, I know", he said. "i will not break through the line", i replied. After several moments i noticed he relaxed, and unlinked his arm from the officer next to him. Giancarlo was led away, but before he moved, he asked the policewoman next to him if she would hold the coffin for him- and she agreed. She took the front of the coffin and held it over her head, and became part of our action! When it was time for the person holding the rear of the coffin to be arrested, they placed the coffin gently on the ground, as if they were laying someone to rest. As they looked at each other, he said, "These pictures represent the hundreds of thousands who have died in this senseless war".
As i was handcuffed and led away, i noticed the tourists who had gathered, particularly a father and his two young boys, who watched me carefully and i thought of my son, his kindness and understanding (as much as a 7 year old can grasp these things), as well as his fear of what i do, and i wondered how this young father would explain these events to his sons. Walking to the police van, a supporter said, "God bless you" and i felt blessed. Waiting to enter the police van, i asked the cop holding my elbow how he was doing on this morning, staring straight ahead, he replied, "I'm ok." "That's good", i said, as i broke into a big smile, "Here we are together, both doing what we need to do, what could be better?" He said, "Yeah... I guess so." I continued smiling as I climbed into the van and the doors slammed behind me.
This morning, the white rose is fading to brown, though its fragrance is even stronger than yesterday. i sit with it and embrace my soul mates on the other side of the line; freckles and the lineman, the cops in the coffin, and the beautiful police officer who agreed to hold the coffin as Giancarlo was cuffed and led away. i think of all those who work for peace and justice, and what you are willing to give, and i recognize a beauty that is indescribable, but sustains me like food and water, like breath. And i contemplate a Rumi poem: "In the driest, whitest stretch of pain's infinite desert, I lost my sanity and found this rose."
May this dreadful war end. May all beings be at peace.
May all beings enjoy happiness and the root of happiness.
May all beings be free from suffering and the root of suffering.
May they not be separated from the great happiness devoid of suffering.
May they dwell in equanimity free of passion, aggression, and prejudice.
Blessings, Peace and love, Johnny
ps: i think it is imperative that we do an action close to the elections. Are the baltimore folks planning anything? i would be willing to come to DC again at the very end of Oct, if this is possible...what do you think?