Friday, June 25, 2010

Candlelight vigil for Palestinian Prisoners - and major changes in my life and blog...

Well, my life is changing and so this is blog.

A couple of weeks ago, I ended three years of full-time(ish) work in At-Tuwani. For the first time in five years, I'm actually not sure when I'll be going back to Palestine. I'll admit it - I'm still grieving over this shift in the way I spend my time. It's a tough transition.

But just because now I live in Chicago (that still feels strange to say - and stranger to live) doesn't mean that I'm done working for a free Palestine or done blogging. I'll be writing just the same, but instead of writing about my work in Palestine, I'll be writing about what it's like to work here in Chicago. Exciting, right? I had wanted to give this blog a makeover and make this announcement with all the fanfare it deserves. But, I live life faster than I blog. I wanted to record one of my first adventures in state-side solidarity: last night's candlelight vigil for Palestinian Prisoners.

Here are the details: the vigil took place across the street from Federal Plaza - where zionists were holding an event calling for the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. We wanted to raise the plight of the thousands and thousands of Palestinians, including children, who are imprisoned in Israeli jails and ignored by the international community and media. And I think we did a pretty good job.

As I said on twitter, here in the windy city candlelight vigils are part political theater, part extreme sport. Luckily, the folks at Students for Justice in Palestine did a lovely job of organizing and brought beautiful signs, a ton of candles, and cups - which are the magical solution to the wind problem downtown (hey - I'm from the Pacific Northwest. I know all about demos in the rain. This wind business is a new logistical wrinkle). As we were facing the street, unlike our Zionists counterparts, we got our message out far more effectively than they seemed to. Thanks to the great organizing job of SJP, I walked away feeling like it was a good use of an evening.

I also walked away musing about the people we surround ourselves as activists (or should I say, ethical people trying to make the world a better place. I've been thinking more and more that "activist" isn't really the best paradigm for understanding who we are, but that's another blog post). See, I'll be honest, I'm actually not really into demonstrations. I think they're effective once in a blue moon, usually when they're huge, when there's a direct action component (think Seattle WTO demos), and they're coming out of a major grassroots organizing effort. Weekly, small, 'viability' efforts? Not my thing. I think grassroots efforts to get information out are crucially important. I just think demonstrations are one of the least effective and efficient ways to do that.

But honestly, I've been demonstrating regularly since I was 6 years old. 20 years later, I find them kind of boring - or outright depressing. And often what depresses me is *that* activist. You know the one. That activist who's depressed themselves, who complains all night, who demonizes their opponent, who yells at passers-by, who's self-righteous, who tells you how you *should* have organized it, but isn't about to organize it themselves. Yeah, that one. That activist is usually loud, they're usually in a position to have a lot of time to demonstrate (i.e., they've got them some privilege, yo.) and they've got a lot of time to talk about themselves and how hard their lives are. Yeah, you might be getting the idea that I find these people really frustrating. I think a lot of us do.

And you know, *that* activist was there last night. There were dozens of them. And I ignored them. I found myself the people who still had energy for what they were doing, who who understood the issue in a deeper way, who we're willing to have some fun while we stood their on the street for two hours. And it made all the difference in my little world.

Last night, the organizers put effort into making it look good, into getting people involved, and into a communication strategy. And they were enjoyable to be around. Those are the kind of people I want to work with.

Okay, enough of this. More about the new focus of this blog (and maybe, you know, a new header and such). For now, I've got things to do, yo.

No comments: