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.


Mrs. Micah said...

When I saw this blog post in my blog reader I thought "Why does this person know Keren' poem?" Then I realized "Oh, it's J-Fred."

God post, I remember seeing that poem pasted on your computer. :-)

Anonymous said...

Great posts!! Neato!! Nice to meet you I am Annette. Oh about the Bus stations beware of some of the people there. Some ex-cons get magazine sales along with people who are ill who will not seek treatment and they are hyper sensitive about what people say. They have it very rough. If they can't do thier job they get sent home on a bus. I had seen Forenic Files on the law channel where one attacked an innocent woman. Be sure to have protection such as tear gas or something. Good luck. I like your sight. Have a nice weekend. Annette I better go organize too.