The Mural got up, we got home, and I’m feeling recovered enough to reflect on the whole trip now. Let me begin by thanking each and every one of you who followed the blog with love and good intentions for us. Looking back it is kind of amazing that I was never afraid for my safety. We had this idea that the worst thing that could happen to us would be arrest and deportation; both of us were OK with those consequences. This last week reading the news about the violence faced by the Viva Palestina Convoy has been especially disturbing, I now believe that we were really lucky.
The mural is up. Rejoice in that. Was it worth it? I don’t know, I want to think so...
1. I was bringing a community made mural
2. to a community of women
3. in Gaza
4. for the purpose of making connections with people
5. on a personal level,
6. to let them know that there are people out there (Santa Cruzans Specifically) who know and care about their situation.
What Happened when we met up with Reality:
1. YES, I brought a community made mural
2. NO, there was no access to the community of women
3. YES, Wow, it is in Gaza!
4. YES, I made connections with people
5. YES, I made some profound personal connections
6. yes, I think so… The people who helped me, and the UN officials know my intent, they have the book of photos, and they have promised a plaque to let the public know. So eventually this will be a big YES
When looked at objectively this way, we were able to fulfill our basic intention.
Then there are side consequences to look at. How was the mural co-opted for other people’s purposes, and do those purposes align with ours? CODEPINK, and Medea Benjamin specifically were the initiators of the project; it was always going to be fine for them to use the Mural in publicity and to further their message/cause. There has been some criticism that my going was going to benefit Hamas. Hamas officials wanted the mural on one of their buildings. It went on a UN building, so they did not win that battle. The only international press the mural has received has been through CODEPINK, so I don’t believe it has benefited Hamas for the mural in any international press. The mural was well received by the local people even though it depicts some western women in western dress and some Palestinian looking women in non-traditional dress. In that it is in direct opposition to Hamas policies. I think that this one fact alone makes it all worthwhile. The mural will be there for a long time, speaking to the local women, it is reminder, a glimmer of hope for return to a day when fundamentalists ideals were not being forced upon individuals by their elected officials. And it is a gift from us, we know about their suffering, we are thinking about them, and we are working on their behalf 1/2 way around the world.
Back here, 1/2 the way around the world in Santa Cruz. Birthplace of Hippies and the Peace movement, and now I get to feel more hate and unease than I did on my 14-day adventure. The phone calls from Arabic speakers who want to reconnect with me at 2 in the morning, while difficult to deal with are sweet. The 4,5 and 6 a.m. hang-ups are just mean. Free speech in the on-line forums of the newspaper allows people to post hate anonymously. Anonymity allows people to send hate mail in the mail with no signature and no return address. This turns my stomach more than squaring my shoulders, keeping my head high and walking through a line of secret police intent on preventing me from leaving. At least the not-so-secret police were people, I could look in their eyes and smile with my eyes, and we could reach an understanding without words.
“We do not agree, but we do not hate each other”
“We do not agree, but I understand that you feel strongly about your position, and I am going to push against that”
“We do not agree, but we are human, more than that, we do not agree, but we are brother and sister, I cannot hate you”