How to Join "The Other Reality"
By Linda O'Brien
Though the signs aren't apparent yet, there's something like an alternative universe growing right in the midst of the "reality" that's stretched tightly like a dark, silencing veil over the land.
The energy of the country reminds me of an abuse victim smacked in the face by a raging sociopath--still needing to protect that space for healing, and unwilling or unable to respond to anything else in the meantime. But that space keeps being violated by warnings about things we're helpless to control and by other fears we're not allowed to speak. Even so, there must be a memory growing of what it's like to be without fear, and a longing for something to enable a return to power.
Beneath the veil, there is a movement, a self-organizing coalition of movements that are spontaneous, heartfelt, and aligning something true in individuals to the same truth in many others. If it weren't for these voices, I'd be totally hopeless. Because of them, I don't believe that the soul of the nation is lost yet; as a matter of fact, there are signs it's getting a whole new life.
These movements have tremendous energy, the energy of awakening. Individuals are saying they are surprising themselves by becoming activists for the very first time because, they believe, we are talking about the survival of humanity. One spoke of it as an "acute clearness": "I am surprised, even, at myself, as if having taken a giant leap in understanding how things really (really) are. . . the veil is gone."
We know we are many, but appearances deceive. My awareness of what is happening started when Sue Skinner wrote me about the Post Office Peace Gathering she started in Astoria, Oregon, population 10,000. They meet each week by the side of a busy highway in front of the post office (they had to fight for that right). Anyone is welcome to attend, and the group may include mothers, office workers, midwives, teachers, a postman, a lawyer, children, a doctor. In conjunction with another local group, the North Coast Peace Coalition, they invited Helen Caldicott and a representative of Peaceful Tomorrows to speak, and drew hundreds. Sue says that people passing by are mostly enthusiastically supportive, sometimes stopping to thank them and even give them flowers. The rare antagonistic responses are used as an opportunity for dialogue.
I was moved by the purity of this democratic exercise and by the courage in their openness: We'll stand right here by this busy highway, and if you don't like it, talk to me; and if we are intimidated, we'll stand our ground.
Sue granted permission for me to use her name. This is a key element of what is happening in this alternate reality, and it stands in stark contrast to the anonymity of the veil. The Not in Our Name Statement of Conscience published by the Guardian of London on June 14 and reported on Common Dreams (but not reported in U.S. papers, though surely its strong statement of dissent was newsworthy) was signed by over 60 artists, authors, educators, and activists. While the Statement was signed by the well-known, the NION organizers have been overwhelmed by requests from people all over the country who want to add their names to the related core document, the Pledge of Resistance. The pledge, though, isn't meant to be signed, but used as an impetus for action by individuals and groups who align with it.
Not In Our Name Pledge to Resist
We believe that as people living
in the United States it is our
responsibility to resist the injustices
done by our government, in our names
Not in our name
will you wage endless war
there can be no more deaths
no more transfusions of blood for oil
Not in our name
will you invade countries
bomb civilians, kill more children
letting history take its course
over the graves of the nameless
Not in our name
will you erode the very freedoms
you have claimed to fight for
Not by our hands
will we supply weapons and funding
for the annihilation of families
on foreign soil
Not by our mouths
will we let fear silence us
Not by our hearts
will we allow whole peoples
or countries to be deemed
Not by our will
and Not in our name
We pledge resistance
We pledge alliance with those
who have come under attack
for voicing opposition to the war
or for their religion or ethnicity
We pledge to make common cause
with the people of the world
to bring about justice, freedom and peace
Another world is possible
and we pledge to make it real.
NION's first national day of protest on June 6 (surely you heard about it on the news?) was enormously creative and well-received, attracting crowds in the hundreds in some locations; reports of the events, wonderful reading, are posted on their website (www.notinourname.net). NION is planning a larger action in the fall.
Global Exchange, too, has announced plans for hundreds of peace events throughout the country the weekend before September 11 and on September 11 itself, to be tied together through a common name, purpose, website and media strategy (www.globalexchange.org). Peaceful Tomorrows, the group
composed of relatives of people who died in the attacks (www.peacefultomorrows.org), is going to be part of those events. They've issued a call to "honor the death of our loved ones by creating September 11, 2002 events that move us towards a future of peaceful tomorrows." This group is particularly powerful because they make it clear that it is possible to acknowledge the sacred reality of people's pain and still move forward. Speaking straight from the heart of the attack, they are saying yes, the damage was all too real; and no, we will not use it to cause similar pain. We choose not to.
On the rights front, Nat Hentoff has written in The Village Voice of another spontaneously arising movement, this one of citizens' groups that are getting their city councils to do what the Northampton, Massachusetts council did: pass a resolution to "defend the Bill of Rights" against threats by the USA Patriot Act and other orders of the administration. And writers like David Cogswell (www.davidcogswell.com) and Rebecca Knight in her regular column for BuzzFlash (www.buzzflash.com) are issuing calls for a return to our democratic ideals that would make the founding fathers proud. And should make our elected representatives bow their heads in shame for not saying it first.
The appearance of a nation apathetic and afraid is superficial. Sometime soon, something is bound to happen that will create a small open window to new thinking. Then, those looking for alternatives to fear and rage and a way to return to their own power will find there is one. When the numbers of like-minded people reach a critical mass and become self-aware, there will be a quantum shift. The circles within circles of autonomous groups aligned to a common purpose are expanding, and the ripples are beginning to overlap.
As we become immersed in creating this reality right in the midst of the oppressive and hopeless one that has been imposed, we find we are less afraid. It is sweet medicine for our isolation and fear and anger and frustration and feelings of helplessness.
I wonder when those still waiting to heal, waiting to speak, waiting for an alternative, will notice these thousands of lights, like fireflies in the dusk after a summer storm, and realize there is an alternative, and choose it.
Then, a veil will part.