About this Blog

"Ordinary People" is something of an intentional misnomer. I live and work with Palestinians practicing nonviolent resistance to the Israeli occupation. They are doing things that are hardly "ordinary": committing themselves to active nonviolence and to loving their enemies -- following the commands of One who was anything but ordinary. And yet, the Palestinians with whom I work are also very ordinary -- they are not some kind of spiritual superheroes/superheroines who do things most folks can't do. They are simply ordinary people daily committing themselves to living a higher calling -- a calling of love and active nonviolence.

Friday, September 7, 2007

On "Objectivity" and Active Peace Work

I've been spending a lot of time organizing the last few days: organizing my room from the past four years of using it as a launching point between college, home, and wherever I was spending the summer; organizing what is staying in at my home in New York, what is coming with me as I move to Pennsylvania, and what is coming with me when I go to Hebron; trying my best to keep my scattered thoughts organized as they constantly fly about in a dozen different directions at any given time (that is perhaps the hardest task.)

In any case, in the midst of all this organizing, I came across a poem a good friend sent to me this past spring. A friend of hers wrote it. I thought it was very powerful and eloquent, so I printed it out and taped it to my computer at the time. I came across it once more during the course of all this recent organizing. I thought it was appropriate to post in a blog about nonviolence, active peacemaking, and work for social justice. My hope is that is provides food for thought in a culture that crowns "fair and balanced" as an ultimate virtue. Of course, a level of objectivity is vital and necessary for critical thinking and situation analysis. Yet that objectivity should be a tool to aid us in making moral decisions guiding how we live in relation to our brothers and sisters in humanity, and how to live as followers of Jesus. The poem is as follows:

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.” ~Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Both Sides

“Both sides,”

they argue,

“I try to see both sides,” –

as if uttering those words

wraps them in the furs

and purples

of automatic and indisputable


as if their non-committal stance

raises them

to new and exclusive heights


a superior breadth of view

and bequeathing a 3-D vision


to those who say

that taking sides


Both sides –

as if the elephant and the mouse are equal:

Colonist and Native American

Turk and Armenian

Nazi and Jew

White Afrikaaner and Black South African

Rapist and Raped

American and Iraqi

Israeli and Palestinian.

Both sides –

as if the violence of resistance

weighs ounce for ounce

the same

as the violence and murder

carried out in the name of the State

and the powerful.

Both sides –

as if

in the realm of Legitimacy

victim and victimizer

rule co-equally.

And I have to wonder –

if they were the mouse –

just how quickly

they would rush to remind us

to be sure to see

Both Sides.

Interesting, n'est-pas? I find it to be like a breath of fresh air, a window thrown open in a stuffy room of "fair and balanced" morality that avoids naming the imbalance and abuse of power where it exists.


"Housekeeping" note: This blog, like me, is a work-in-progress. So I figured out how to change my "comment" settings so that anyone can post a comment -- you don't have to be a Gmail or Blogger user to comment now. Now, regardless of your e-mail or blogging persuasion, you can comment away!

This is just in case you folks without Gmail or Blogger were losing sleep over the fact that you couldn't comment on my blog of epic proportions -- all three posts of it. :o)

Thanks for your patience as I learn this newfangled blog technology.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

I like Arabic Music.

For the folks who are interested in hearing some of the sounds that fill the market in the Old City of Jerusalem, I thought I would share this site with you:


This will take you to the music of Nancy Ajram, a Lebanese pop singer. I enjoy her music. My favorite on this site is track 16, "Ya Salem." From my really limited Arabic skills, I think she's singing about peace -- at least, "salaam" means "peace" in Arabic.

But then again, I could be wrong -- my Arabic is pretty much limited to "Hello", "Good morning", "Good night", "How are you?", "I'm good, praise God", "Goodbye", "God willing", "yes", "no", and "maybe".

Oh, and I can count to ten.

Anyway, this site has a whole bunch of Arabic music, with musicians from all over the Middle East: Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, etc. I will forever associate some this music with the Old City of Jerusalem, where music stores would play it loudly, filling the marketplace with their enchanting sounds.

I go to this site whenever I need my Arabic music "fix."


Monday, September 3, 2007

Salaam Alaykum! ("Peace be with You!", in Arabic)

Hello friends, and welcome! I'm new to this whole "blogging" business, but an important part of Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) work is telling the stories that CPTers see and experience -- to be an alternative voice, telling stories that otherwise wouldn't be told in America. (For example: oftentimes people are shocked to hear that, in Israel/Palestine, there are roads, called "bypass roads", on which Palestinians are not allowed to travel. The roads for Palestinians are not as direct or as well made, and oftentimes have checkpoints on them.) I thought blogging would be a helpful way of telling these stories. Also, some of you folks expressed interest in reading what I'm up to via blog, rather than (or in addition to) e-mail -- so this will be another way for me to keep in touch with you beautiful folks back home while I am "in the field" in Israel/Palestine. I have a little less than a month before I leave, but I established this blog now so that I can get in the habit of writing in it every now and again before I am "on team" -- I'll have enough to get used to when I first arrive, I'm sure, and I'd rather not have blogging be one of them.

Oh, and for those of you who haven't yet seen any photos from my training with CPT this July/August, I thought I would share a few of them (I took these photos myself! You don't understand how rare this is. It is hard for me to view life through a camera lens. I would much rather be present and engaged in the moment than capture it in a picture. Yet picture-taking is also an important part of CPT documentation work, so here I am, learning to take -- and enjoy taking -- pictures.):

This was a cloth/tapestry that hung in my room at the Darst Center -- the urban Catholic retreat center where we stayed during our month in training. I loved this cloth; I spent many a night looking at and meditating on it. I thought it was beautiful to see Mary and Jesus portrayed as not white, and I thought a lot about Mary's risky and radical obedience to God. To be pregnant out of marriage -- that would have been dangerous for her, given her culture, but she said "yes" anyway. What does her modeling mean for my life of faith? Mary's courage so inspires me and encourages me to say "yes" to God when I feel God's guidance, even if that guidance leads me to places and situations where I'm less than comfortable.

The red "flowers" hanging around the tapestry were lights, actually, courtesy of Rachel, whom I love dearly, and who was my amazing roommate for duration of the training. The artificial flowers that surrounded these lights were supposed to replicate the flowers that were from the tree where the Buddha -- found? sought? -- enlightenment.

One day, we talked to the Bible, as one would talk to another person. Ask me about it sometime. Or maybe I'll write about it later; I think folks should do it more often. It was such a freeing and profound experience, I took a picture. This was the Bible we talked to. And the Bible talked back!

This was at our training's graduation. These are some of the fantastic people who make up CPT's Support Team. Someone said, "Make a silly face!" So they all did.

While playing with my camera, I've learned I do much better taking pictures of inanimate objects than of people. I'm working on getting better.

I didn't take this picture -- because I'm in it! That's me giving Kryss, our training coordinator, a big hug after she gave me my diploma at graduation. (How about that -- I had two graduations in one year!)

This picture amuses me, because -- I don't know if you can see it clearly when the picture is this size -- I'm definitely up on my toes as I'm hugging Kryss. This is how I hug everybody, unless, of course, the hugee is someone else who is short, or if I am hugging another person around his or her waist.

This is my CPT diploma, mug, and shirt (in the lower left corner) I received at graduation.

This is me in my new, bright red CPT hat that serves as CPT's "uniform." I took this picture of myself as I was packing to leave the Darst Center and Chicago. Emotionally, I was excited and completely exhausted. I've never worked so hard for a hat before in my life! ;o)

Speaking of exhausted, that's what I'm going to be if I don't make myself go to sleep pretty soon. So with that, my friends, I will bid you good night. As they say in Arabic: Masalaamei! (Goodbye, or literally, "peace go with you")

Note for those less used to computers/the internet: Anything in this blog is underlined, and written with white lettering, is a link. If you click on it, it will take you directly to the website of the organization. For example, you can click on this: Christian Peacemaker Teams. It will take you directly to CPT's website. Anything else in this blog that looks like the above link works the same way.