Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Spirit of Egyptian Revolution: Revisited

To Egyptian Revolutionaries:

Warning, it is imperative to not run out of the spirit of unity

It is not terribly often that I want to shake anybody for anything. No matter how disturbed I get. But yesterday an exception occurred. So today I think I sound a bit like I am preaching. So be it

If I appear to you, too, as if I am pontificating, please do be patient, I just had a birthday last week. Perhaps, already this week signs of my approaching dotage may be ready to appear.

Excuses aside; a picture yesterday of a group of Egyptian protestors in a CNN story made my blood run chill, evoking the kind of preachiness from me that follows.

Admittedly, it was only one young man’s face though front and center in the feature photo, contorted with ugly anger and defiance that must have been the trigger. Nevertheless, his face spoke to me of violent rage not far off. I was, thus, quite disturbed to the point of reactivity, unusually so for me. (I must admit the rest of the crowd, overall, looked rather peaceful and orderly.)

Quite possibly, given the remnants of stored memories in me, the intensity of my emotions may have had no small amount of projected angst entwined with its more realistic aspects. But I was certainly stirred by what I saw and read.

The article, Egypt's revolution at 6 months: 'We can't go back'” rapidly moved me to compassion, fear and revulsion. Strange combination the latter two, fear and revulsion, with the first, compassion, you might rightfully be thinking. I thought so myself. Nonetheless, this is how I thought it.

In the 1960s, ‘70s and even into the early ‘80s the thrust for social justice, personal risk taking and ecstatic transformation was in full force in many young American adults. Today that same generation of which I am a member is frequently dispirited regarding the social and political climate of our nation. .

We have not lived up to our ideals as a force for political and societal transformation. Our collective, perhaps rather adolescent, dreams for a revolutionary change in values for our nation’s practices lie trampled in dust heaps; hopes for their resurrection fleeting at best.

Though, correspondingly, we have also made great strides, much remains to be done. Unfortunately, we have lost much of our vision, our unity and our spirit. We often fail to treat one another as respected compatriots. And, most disturbingly, we are, often, quite disparagingly at odds with one another. Many of us have become the “silent majority,” feeling as if we are without representation on issues of the greatest importance. Take a lesson from us.

While it is true you cannot go back to the way it was, nor should you, especially with the extremes of tyranny under which you have lived, it is crucial now that you develop a strong unified vision of where you are heading.

“Mubarak ruled Egypt for nearly three decades. His regime was toppled by a groundswell of popular protests….” A mighty groundswell of activists with a unified vision is what it took to topple that power at the top.

Hold on to that unity. Hold tight to the power of ”we are all in this together.” Do not allow your differences to divide you.

Take a look, if you will, at those of us who have gone before you. Look at the price we are paying now for our own lack of unity and vision. And, we already had a democracy.

As noted in yesterday’s CNN report yesterday, Fawaz Gerges, director of the Middle East Center at the London School of Economics, was quoted as saying about your present conditions, “My worry is the cleavages are much deeper than we think.” Of course, he is right!

Be alert to this pitfall!

Egyptian revolutionaries, you are no longer simply “dating”. You are wedded to a massive societal upheaval and transformation. And, as Gerges also stated, “If you do not have a consensus on what the future is, you won’t be able to govern.” Consensus is hard, gut-wrenching work. It is not a dress rehearsal or a party!

The world is looking to you to carry forth your ideals. We are behind you. So please hold onto to your spirit of unity. And, don’t let it falter and fall by the wayside amidst the polarization of opposing ego-bound agendas and mis-aligned priorities.

This I send you as prayers for your continued success.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Where Was THAT Light You Said I Could Follow?

Washington, D.C. and Me (1961 – 2011)

Spring Into Summer, 1965

The year, 1965, had started off as a promising one. Lyndon Johnson, inaugurated now for the second time, with full presidential festivities, had lifted our depressed spirits. And, I had attended one of the inaugural balls.

A dressmaker friend had hand-crafted an elegant ball gown of bright pink brocade with light pink satin lining for me. The matching long-trained coat gave me the feel of being a foreign-born royalty as my date and I made our way through the inaugural ball at the National Guard Armory.

Though truth be told, the crowds were so massive and my stepped-on-feet so sore I never aspired to repeat such a celebration as this again. Still there was, in this instance, the optimism that had, originally, brought us to Camelot.

Then, if memory serves me, I was back at my desk at the office of the Women’s Strike For Peace, never settling it, for myself, whether or not they were of the Light or the Dark. I had other interests on my mind.

(Investigated by HUAC (Joseph McCarthy’s House Un-American Activities Committee, according to wikipedia, the Women’s Strike For Peace, founded by Bella Abzug and Dagmar Wilson, “played a crucial role, perhaps the crucial role, in bringing down the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC).

They were, also, acknowledged by both U Thant and John F. Kennedy as a factor in the adoption of the Limited Test Ban Treaty (signed August 5, 1963), and (in early 1964), were among the first Americans to oppose the Vietnam War.)

Working in the same office building (actually a former elegant row house just off Dupont Circle) I made my first D.C. friend. Dale Schwartz (??), an aide of Senator Richard Russell of Georgia. Dale, who had a part time job in another of the offices here, and I soon became fast friends.

I wish I knew where Dale was, now, that I have learned to cherish every friend I make. He was a dear to me in those early days. But I was still a good twenty years, at least, away from truly getting the lesson of honoring friendships. And, D.C., as I knew it then, was not a haven for developing lasting, loyal bonds.

Did I communicate to Dale how crazy my job scene was for me? Certainly, he would have known about the HUAC charges. But I probably said nothing. I didn’t know how to think about things in those days, much less speak of them.

Besides I was just learning about social life in D.C.  Living near our office in a guy’s group house, next door to a “girls” group house, Dale, generously, invited me into their crowd. Back and forth they went, day and night, from one house to the other.

Here I learned the art of all night dancing and drinking parties. And, for the first time since my marriage, I met a guy I really liked. The girls were incidental. Having no real set of morals yet, guy #2 soon, unscrupulously, replaced Dale (as I had also done with my inaugural ball date) without a blink of an eyelash. Ooh. I am so sorry I did that.

Before long, summertime came and the “P Street parties” were transported to the beach and its bars. I was now doing things I’d only started to sample at Ohio State. Too early for the adventures yet to come of being a hippie, or its most extreme version, a flower child, we still did manage to bring a sense of light to our lives; partying all night, sleeping on sand dunes and waking up to the morning sun in someone’s arms.

Growing up with frequent Santa Monica beach days and “early evenings,” with my parents not far off, I was used to the beach part; small bonfires and cookouts, watching the grunion run along the shore. But “partying” beyond fraternity parties was a brand new thing to me, especially without supervision.

I had come to Washington, D.C. for the light. With JFK’s assassination and a divorce, it had become blocked to my eyes. Now I no longer even looked for it.

The Dark Side; my Dark Side, that of others and the D.C. fast track scene in general, would soon overtake me

More “Finding Light Inside The Darkness” to come.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Where Is The Light: Self-Immolation, A Way To Peace?

Washington, D.C. and Me (1961 – 2011)

Spring, 1965

Now it is Spring, 1965 and I have, with guidance from my ob-gyn left my abusive marriage. I am on my own for the first time in my life, outside of college, A single, very inexperienced, mother of a two year old. Beyond my few high school jobs, I’ve never even really held a job. But I am determined, somehow, to make it on my own.

I don’t know how to tell my parents about the abuse. Awesome as are my parents in California, able to talk about almost anything and everything, somehow this topic is something about which I have no way to speak. (My mother in Ohio is a person I have never had a single, real conversation with. So this would not be a time to try.)

A neighbor woman in my apartment building where formerly my husband and I had been living together, apparently, sees my plight to survive. She arranges a part time position for me as a receptionist at an organization of which she is a member, the Women’s Strike For Peace. They have an office right in the business center of Washington, D.C. in the Dupont Circle area.

The office of the Women’s Strike For Peace is a circus everyday. But, frankly, everything in Washington is all kind of the same for me. Excitement charges the air everywhere. Having spent much of my adolescence in Hollywood, "excitement" is kind of the norm for me. At this stage I don’t even notice it much.

And, I am not yet experienced enough to distinguish one type of person from another. That will come much later; too late, actually, for me to avoid the very typical pitfalls of Washington’s fast track lifestyle.

Nonetheless, one day at the Women’s Strike For Peace becomes a circus beyond my wildest imaginings.

A member of the organization has set herself on fire, right on the campus of Wayne State University. Later I hear the term “self-immolation” to describe this event, a form of protest. In this case protest of a political nature. Excited people in a flurry of activity are in and out of the office all day. They seem happy with the course of events.

I do not yet know how to think about things, happening to me or around me. Nonetheless, I know what has occurred is BIG!

After awhile, someone in the office sends me to the florist to buy an arrangement for the woman. Several days later they are disappointed and sad. The woman has died.

Was this self-immolator supposed to be the light?