Monday, April 13, 2009

Meditation in Orange #70

The sun is shining. i am late again, quickly donning the jumpsuit and grabbing a hood as the others are circled up and listening as Carmen reads excerpts from prisoners at Guantanamo. Even the birds fall silent as the cruelties are revealed.

Seventy days of the new administration and men are still being held at Guantanamo, irregardless of innocence or guilt. Men on hunger strike are still being force fed. TV pundits joke about the excellent conditions the prisoners have, and feign worry about the “ticking bombs” who may be “set free”. Seventeen Uighars, an ethnic Muslim minority in China, are still being held trapped in a catch-22. Cleared of all charges 2 years ago, China bars their return. No other country will accept them. They wait, with no end in site.

We bow our heads in silence. We form a straight line and slowly walk toward the White House fence. Mindful of the suffering men impose upon men, i walk. Mindful of self-righteousness and hypocrisy, i breathe. Recognizing i am not separate from the torturers or the tortured, my feet touch the earth. Passerby step aside as we walk solemnly in single file down the Pennsylvania Avenue sidewalk. Walking just beyond the “postcard zone” in front of the Whitehouse, we stop and turn.

It is a spring like day and the tourists and students stream by. Two sons stop in front of us. Their father grumbles, “Let’s go.” The younger son asks, “What are they doing dad?” He replies, “They’re pacifists.” The son asks, “What does that mean?” The father answers, “That means they would rather do this than do something constructive. Now come on, let’s go!”

We stand, silent. i’m curious about the constructive work the father has pursued to bring justice to the prisoners in Guantanamo. The family moves quickly away, the young boy looking back at us as he goes.

A large school group gathers around Carmen, peppering him with questions. The teacher asks questions as well, and allows her students freedom to ask whatever comes to mind. After ten minutes, the teacher reigns in her charges, says, “Thank you” and moves away.

An oblivious man and woman are nearly past us when the man sees us for the first time. Obliquely turning away from his wife and toward us, in a nearly inaudible voice but a voice filled with enough venom and hate to fill all the realms of hell, the tourist in a midwestern snarl, mutters, “Fuuuck Yooou!” Obviously pleased with himself, he turns toward his wife and smiles as they continue on their way.

We stand silent, bearing witness to hatred. It seems polarization is deepening in this country. Elements in the media fuel the hatred in our society. Discourse has become more difficult as we cling to concepts and beliefs that drive us apart. We stand, silent, reminding those who pass by of crimes committed in our name. No matter your point of view, conservative or liberal, Jewish, Christian, or Muslim, how can torture ever be acceptable? Us versus them has come home to America, with right wing elements in the media playing a dangerous game. Just last week, Glenn Beck of Fox News, in a disgusting act of incitement, doused a “guest” in “gasoline”, as he stated, "President Obama don't light us on fire”. “You are either with us or against us” has taken an ominous tone indeed.

A retiree and his wife pass us with a look of disgust on their faces. He circles back and stands silently in front of us and slowly moves down the line. His wife asks Carmen, “Just answer this. Where do you suppose we should send the terrorists?” Her husband, unable to contain himself, says, “Why don’t you all join the military? Do something useful to protect your country.” He circles around, unsure why we stand silent. He repeats himself, this time a little louder, a little more anger in his voice, “Join the military. Do something useful!” Still, he is met with silence. He joins his wife, gesticulating, raising his scornful voice, “Join the military, be a hero!” as he walks away. Carmen follows, and their voices drift away, though the man continues to shake his head in disgust.

i recognize disgust as a mechanism to shield oneself from the painful truth. America tortures. Those responsible must be held accountable.

We fold our signs and solemnly walk to the shade of Lafayette Park. We remove our hoods and jumpsuits and stand in silence, with heads bowed, holding hands. Our little drama completed for the day. We remember those who are less fortunate, whose dramas continue.

The 100 day vigil to close Guantanamo continues Monday thru Friday 11am to 1 pm in front of the Whitehouse.