At 1:30 a.m. last night I sent out an email blast to all the people
who signed up to fast with us in their hometowns on the 4th of July.
One way I offered to help individual fasters was to connect them
with people in their area who also signed up to fast on the www.troopshomefast.org
website. The email went out to over 2,500 people, and within a few
hours, when I awoke at sunrise this morning to check my email, I
already had dozens of emails from people around the country who
want to be connected with fasters in their communities. Locally,
people in San Francisco are really intrigued by our rolling fast
action outside Senator Feinstein's office, which will begin tomorrow.
The fast is already touching people's hearts and igniting a deep
desire to connect, to act, and to do more than protest on a Saturday
or email a Congressperson (which are both important actions, but
are not enough, solely, to stop this war).
Parades and Picnics
Bay Area CODEPINK decorated a convertible
car with "Troops Home Fast" banners, flowers, and lots
of pink, and took part in the largest Bay Area 4th of July parade,
in Alameda. Our contingent was sandwiched between the Alameda Peace
and Justice Coalition and the Network of Spiritual Progressives
in front of us, and a large truck with big "Impeach Bush"
signs behind us. The whole way along the 2 ˝ mile route we
received peace signs and applause from kids, adults clad in red,
white and blue from head to toe, and elders; and people were jumping
out of their seats with appreciation for the impeachment truck.
Kat, the CODEPINKcontingent coordinator,
said that she could not remember so much anti-war sentiment in any
of the parades over the past 12 years, and Alameda tends to err
on the conservative side of the Bay Area political spectrum.
It felt really good to start out this 4th of July in the company
of my CODEPINK sisters. I have been
struggling with how to observe the 230th birthday of our nation,
as it has deep roots of celebration for my immigrant family, and
a strong association with pride and joy in being in the USA, regardless
of current politics. But this year, the third year of the US occupation
of Iraq, my family and I found little reason to celebrate; we cancelled
our annual festivities, and instead chose to protest and spend the
day in deep reflection. I wrote about my family's relationship with
the 4th of July in an op ed piece that was published today in the
San Mateo Times, which is online at here.
At midday I attended a Network of Spiritual Progressives 4th of
July picnic where we sang "America the Beautiful," "Imagine,"
"We Shall Overcome," and a version of "This Land
is Your Land" with an alternate ending about Katrina and housing
injustice. In the evening I joined my parents and our family friends
in Fremont. Our friends are from Northern India, and most of our
conversation focused on the occupation of Iraq, the injustices committed
by Bush's administration, and the seeming apathy in many Americans.
We also discussed the ways that Gandhi's nonviolence tactics can
be used today, which I will blog more about in the coming days.
The long road home
On my way home to San Francisco, I got stuck in heavy traffic, and
then all of a sudden fire works started exploding very close to
the freeway. The sparks even dropped on the road beside my car.
The sky was at once transformed into a Light Brite-little neon color
dots burning the twilight blue sky. They were erupting in three
directions-Alameda, Oakland, and over the bay towards San Francisco.
Each firework left a smoky trail that hung in the air in the wake
of the glittery falling embers. My shoulders twitched and I jumped
with the close eruptions. A line from an Ani Difranco song instantly
came to mind: "We drove the car to the top of the parking ramp
on the 4th of July…and watched the fireworks explode in the
sky. And there was an exodus of birds from the trees, cause they
didn't know, we were only pretending. And the people all looked
up, and looked pleased, and the birds flew around like the whole
world was ending."
The Iraqi women-who came to the US to speak about the US occupation
during our Women Say No to War campaign-brought photos of the bombings
in Baghdad and Haditha and showed them at their speaking events.
Those photos are engraved in my mind and my dreams, and tonight,
they were superimposed on our Bay Area skyline. What if the fireworks
were indeed the "rockets red glare" that they aim to recall?
What would it be like to actually witness our city being bombed?
When people see photos from Iraq of the post-bombing rubble, there
is little context for what stood before. How can we understand the
gravity of this destruction if we don't know how to visualize what
once stood-the magnificent city of Baghdad, the lush rivers, the
wealth of libraries and museums, the ornate mosques, the private
Fireworks have become an annual custom as American as apple pie,
and I enjoy a good display just as much as anyone. There's something
magical about the unordinary and the colorful. And, I'll admit,
I can be a sucker for cheesy holidays. But this year it was just
too much. I hope that I never know intimately the horror of seeing
my city bombed repeatedly; I pray that those streaky smoke spiders
remain the shadows of amusements, and never become the imprints
of destruction. The traffic clears. I cross the bridge and arrive
at my home, which is still standing, and find my cozy bed. I plug
in my laptop to write, and I drink water from the tap. I cannot
even begin to truly imagine what life is like for Iraqis now, without
any of these basic provisions that I cannot help but take for granted.
There is no question in my mind about whether we should declare
independence from war, whether we should take up stronger nonviolent
tactics to wage peace, or what will happen if we don't take action.
I do no yet know what the Troops Home Fast will yield, as this network
of fasters emerges, but I know that the fast will have an intrinsic
value, and I will join with my whole heart.