It has been two months on the road now, sleeping in the guest rooms of friends and relatives (blessings on their heads) and seeing my native land. From Rhode Island to North Carolina, the cars on the road were strangely devoid of bumper stickers, an unusual silence for such a traditionally opinionated populace. Even here in Asheville,high in the mountains of North Carolina, there is a strange silence.
I sat yesterday on the porch of my friend Clare Hanrahan,a dedicated community activist. She has disconnected her land telephone line and does not give out her cell phone number so we are now forced to come and sit on the porch - an ongoing meeting. The local of the Green Party arrived and we spoke of how to envigorate the dissent: what could be done other than standing in the public square in protest every week, carrying on with the petition of impeachment, generally voicing opposition? It has been six years of steady public dissent now and even the diligent dedicated pacifists are frustrated and discouraged. What could be done?
It was good to learn that now 70% of the population of Western North Carolina is against the war. When we first started standing, both the WNC Peace Coalition and Women in Black, the number was only 15%. Yet six years into any war, the opposition will rise. It does not mean that we have tired of war - only of this war.
We spoke of a recent even in one of the mainline churches, organized by the local chapter of the Network for Spiritual Progressives and 40 local groups, at which Clare was a speaker and recieved a standing ovation. The participants, she noted, were mostly white, mostly affluent. Clare is one of the few who travels between communities, from the projects to the park to the Council chambers. There is great diversity here but the pieces of the pie try very hard not to touch each other, not to find common ground.
Although I certainly respect the work of Rabbi Lerner and his community, I wonder how much real peace building we can do if one of the basic tenets is "To Challenge the misuse of God & religion by the Religious Right and religio-phobia on the Left." It does not seem to be a peace building position, to begin by setting up opponents and then saying that they have misused God and Religion. It seems polarizing and divisive.
How, indeed, do we become the change that we want to see? What if the affluent Christians started feeding the homeless in the park (now closed from 10 pm to 6 am - and there are not enough shelters - but, alas, if you build shelters, one friend said, they will come. Homeless are already shipped to Asheville from other cities as we do have some services)? What if the Right and Left formed a circle around the returning veterans and said to them, "we are greatful that you answered your nation's call, even though there are those of us who object to the war. We want to help you heal and return to us whole. Tell us of what you suffered, tell us of how you still suffer, let us help heal you and perhaps you can heal us."
Perhaps we can indeed break this cycle of the endless war.
It is certainly important work. It is sad for me to see my fellow Americans so bowed down in fear.
My friends in Haiti ask for $75 a month for the salary of a teacher. That is all it will take. Two are needed for the little school.
I am looking forward to going to the Island and seeing the school upon my return.
It is odd to me that it seems an easier project to heal Haiti now than the United States.