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Fast for Peace

September 23, 2008 at 5:37 pm by Marcia Hopple

The Waging Peace blog appears three times a week and is being sustained by a succession of women volunteering to write once a week for a month. Each month there are three of us, and the new October team is probably starting to jot thoughts down, decide among many important peace issues, and maybe confer with one another. It is collaboration typical of Women Against War.

Our earliest activity was a team effort that set a high standard. For 90 days, from December 2002 to March 2003, women fasted for peace one at a time, showing up at The Women's Building in Albany to spend 24 hours as testament to an individual - and shared - commitment to peace. Each woman spent the night alone in the big building, after the offices and meeting rooms were empty, and woke up in the morning with no one to distract her from the hunger that was starting. I was a weekend faster, and by mid morning, with no coffee and no one working in the building, I started to feel a little melancholy. But I had brought good reading, and I was interested in the street scene outside, so the day didn't drag much. A friend who was not a faster, and has never gotten involved in Women Against War, came to spend a couple hours with me in the afternoon, just chatting about our usual interests. But she must have a lingering notion of the seriousness of Women Against War, and a feeling that she helped me with my oddball exercise in protesting the march to war.

More than 100 Women made it to the fast through snow storms, children's illnesses, work crises, and holidays including Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year's Eve, New Year's Day, and Martin Luther King Day. Not a single day was missed, with only an occasional shuffle of a substitute faster for someone who could not make it at the agreed upon time. One faster had to get permission from her doctor to fast, because at age 80 she is to take medications with food.

The press was very interested in our serial fast. They covered the December start of the Women's Fast for Peace with photos of a gathering of many of the fasters who had signed up early. The media, and we, had no idea we would continue to sign up enough women to make it through International Women's Day in mid-March. The press coverage of the start, and of occasional fasters after the start, brought us to the attention of women who often said they were relieved to find out that other people felt as strongly about avoiding war with Iraq as they did.

It is satisfying to remember the spontaneous and strong show of concern about invading Iraq, even though the US did invade. We never faltered, we continued to oppose pre-emptive attack and failure to negotiate peace in the years since. In fact, we did just that on Sunday with a vigil in support of Iranian peace advocates at the Tehran Peace Museum. For them it is dangerous to demonstrate against a belligerent and reckless government, while for us it is a people to people message of encouragement from our democratic society, to seek peace in the world.


Some Selected Journal Entries From The Women's Fast for Peace

Drea Leanza, written on December 9. 2002

I am opposed to war because I am opposed to the use of violence - against anything or anyone: women, children, elderly, the poor the environment, animals...

War is the ultimate in male violence; it is sanctioned, encouraged by society and government, given a cloak of heroism. This war against Iraq that is in the process of being manufactured by the un-elected president is being engineered by men (white, rich men who wil profit from it) and paid for by us - through our tax dollars, through our ever-increasing use of oil to power our frivolous playthings. This war is not about Saddam hussein - it is not about the millions who are suffering due to our "sanctions" against Iraq - it is not about democracy, human rights, the plight of women or children. It is about money and power.

Baby Bush's big oil business buddies can't wait to get their hands on the oil under the Iraqi desert - imagine the money they will make! Imagine how cheap it will be for us to drive our huge, over-powered SUV's from our huge, well-heated suburban homes to our jobs. The U.S. LOVES oil and we are willing to commit any atrocity to ensure a plentiful, cheap supply.

This war is also a family feud - daddy Bush (Mr. CIA) wasn't able to unseat Saddam Hussein, so now it's Baby Bush's mission to do so. The U.S, has no conceivable right to depose the leader of another country, but the Bush boys can't stomach their previous lack of success in unseating Hussein, so, like a schoolyard bully trying to assert his dominance, they are creating another war to try and get rid of Hussein again. And this war is a classic "Wag the Dog" diversion. Why now for war? Because Baby Bush's big business buddies were squirming under the spotlight of scrutiny caused by their sleaze and greed, in the economic Enron-style scandals. How neat for the Bush bully.

Except that there are some - an increasing global percentage - who can see this trumped up war for the farce it is. We are not alone. We cannot stop this alone. But try to stop this we must. As I listen to the news on NPR, I hear about the preparations for war. But also I hear of others, also appalled at the impending war, who are determined not to let the war happen.

Lisa Pelcher, written on January 5, 2003

I have been thinking, thinking, thinking and feeling. Feeling, feeling. I have come here to fast for reasons my soul cannot yet express fully. I suppose the underlying theme would be that we are all connected and that, if I want to see peace in the world outside myself, I need to vigilantly cultivate peace in the world withing myself. This is no easy task.

We humans are full of judgements, conflicts and contradictions. From where did they/do they come? Are we willing to take responsibility for the elusive, the intangible, for things unseen? Thoughts and feelings are like that. They are unseen...yet they hold great power. Power to create or power to destroy. So when I think of peace, I think of every human being aware of and responsible for her/his inner world - every thought, intention, motivation, action - and its impact on the outer world.

When I think of peace, I also think of using understanding, discernement, and acceptance in place of judgement, defensiveness, and fear in our relations with ourselves and each other. I believe that when we become aware of and heal our inner worlds (all the pain, fear, anger, shame, grief, etc. we have unconsciously stored away), peace will naturally follow.

Judge not I
For I am you
We are each other
Cruel thoughts, harsh words
Flung casually, unmindfully
or inflicted purposefully, methodically
Burn and wound and slice and sear
Psychic shrapnel
Our souls disfigured
Wounds intended erupt, explode
Fists, knives, guns
Judge not I
For I am you
We are each other

Mabel Leon, written on January 16, 2003

I was pregnant during the Vietnam War, and I had a recurring nightmare that my unborn cuild was born napalmed. The nightmare has always represented the horror of war to me and the awareness of how horrible it must be to be a parent unable to protect your children from bombs falling from the sky. The government and media do not show us the horror of war, but rather depict war as a video game in which the US planes (the good guys) hit strategic targets (bad things) and never target civilians. This is double speak! Bombs falling on Iraq will kill large numbers of civilians - real children, and women and men of all ages.

I am fasting for peace in solidarity with my sisters in the chain of fasters with my sisters struggling for peace in Israel and Palestine and with my sisters in Iraq. I am fasting as a personal, spiritual and concrete action to oppose the war against the people of Iraq, the erosion of our civil rights, and the targeted oppression of Muslims. My action joined with the collective strength of all the fasters becomes a powerful statement.

I anticipated a quiet meditative but had quite the opposite experience - one filled with excitement - lots of people and action, action, action. Channel 9 was going to tape a story focused on the Washington march and the coalition to end the war. The taping at the last minute was moved to the Women's Building. A young reporter interviewed a group representing different groups in the coalition. He first spoke to us as a group then interviewed each of us individually. Overall I think each individual did a great job. It was a stimulating and challenging experience.. and I want to urge all of us to attend workshops on how to deal with the media. To bed at 11:50 PM and up at 8:00 AM.

I read the journal and was inspired and proud to be a part of such a committed group of women. At 10:00 AM, the Women's Building comes alive with activity. I feel that all of us who have witnessed the vital work at the Women's Building need to find ways to increase our support.

I took on some tasks to assist the Women's Building. I vacuumed the livingroom, took bags of clothes and toys to a storage room, arranged a room for a meeting, and other things. I chose to fast on my 62nd birthday, and co-workers visited me.

4:00 PM - Have to write some letters and write in the journal before my time is up, and orient the next faster. Time flies. I was joined in this fast by two women who fasted at home - a difficult thing to do. We spoke during the day, and each woman was doing fine.

I'm personally grateful for the opportunity to fast and look forward to the growing strength and numbers of our movement to carry out new peaceful actions to redirect the priorities of our government. In struggle, Mabel

Mickie Lynn, written on February 11, 2003

Drawn to the experience on a deep level. Felt the pull of connection to other women doing healing work for a peaceful world. Was a little scared while preparing my things for the stay at the Women's Building but was immediately put at ease by the warmth of the room and the welcoming energy of Marge (the previous faster) and of JoAnn, the video documenter.

Settling in was easy with the books, plants, warm colors, passionate signs - all saying: ?No to war - yes to life!" Meeting of Prison Families made some of the connections for me about the oppression of others at home and in the rest of the world. Violence against others takes many forms.

During this rush to war by our illegitimate government, Marvin Gaye's song of the 60's "What's Going On?" has become an energizing theme for me.
"Mama, Mama, we don't need to escalate. War is not the answer, only love can conquer hate. You know we've gotta find a way to bring some lovin' here today..."

The experience of reading the journal entries of all the passionate and diverse fasters who came before me helped to connect me to a physical and spiritual force for peace and justice. Some of that same energy wraps around me within this beautifully charged space. Time to go to bed. More tomorrow.

The Earth Speaks

Who are you? Why do you want to destroy your mother?
Don't you feel your roots, your home, the ground on which you stand, My breath and tears that nourish you?

Your bombs crush my bones, created over eons.
They pulverize tiny creatures who prepare the soil for life to grow.
They murder the mycelia of huge fungi.
They replace life with death.
They seed my flesh with depleted uranium and other poisons.

In your search for wealth, fame and power, you forget your recent history.
Remember slavery,
Remember the holocaust.
Remember Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Remember drugs and violence brought home to stay after the horrors of Vietnam.
Remember the Gulf war, your people cursed with violence, rage, numbness and disease.

Your arrogance and greed stunts your society,
Unravels the very DNA that codes for life.
You drain my life-blood to fuel engines of death and destruction.
Low frequency sonar ruptures the eardrums of gentle, wise inhabitants of my seas.

When seven gifted astronauts died a fiery death within my skies, you mourned.
Why don't you tear your hair and howl your grief
For the children perishing in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Palestine.
For the unique souls starving in Africa, threatened with nuclear war in Asia,
For the keepers of the future haunted and maimed by poverty in the United States?

Wake up.
Take a look around.
Do you think you stand outside the web of life?
Hiding in underground bunkers won't keep you safe,
From the devastation that you plan to unleash.
This time you go TOO FAR!
Stop your war before it's too late,
When patriots for peace chant "The whole world is watching."
They don't just mean people!

Thanks to Women Against War and all the other fasters with whom I feel so connected. Thanks to Becky for all the cards and the moving letter. Thanks for the bed and teakettle and all the support. With love and respect, Mickie