On October 17, shortly before CPT’s Hebron team sat down to dinner, I checked my Twitter feed. I saw that something was happening in Elsipogtog—a community in Maritime Canada that CPT’s Aboriginal Justice team is accompanying as it resists fracking by SWN Resources on its traditional lands. When I checked the #Elsipogtog hashtag, hundreds of comments began streaming out about arrests, snipers, rubber bullets, teargas, and vehicles on fire. I realized that thousands of miles away in Occupied Palestine I was watching live, via Twitter, an attack by the Canadian police on the Elsipogtog blockade in New Brunswick. And so as we sat down to eat, in the relative quiet of Hebron that evening, we prayed for Elsipogtog—and our tweets about the ongoing attack on the encampment were later retweeted by some of the Palestinian activists who follow the Hebron team’s account.
The blurry red hat is on the head of one of my CPT colleagues. The policeman with the attack dog is very unhappy about her videotaping him.
Because of the chaos caused by the attack, even now, some of its details are unclear, but what basically happened is this: Canadian police, some heavily armed and in military-style camouflage, arrested Chief Arren Sock and dozens of other protesters, while they ransacked the camp and dispersed protestors using teargas and rubber-coated metal bullets. Some of the protestors responded by setting the police cars on fire and throwing things at the police. What had been a nonviolent witness until that moment fell apart.
In the aftermath of the incident, the KAIROS coalition (of which MCC Canada is a member), Amnesty International Canada and the Canadian Friends Service Committee published an open letter to David Alward, the Premier of New Brunswick. In the opening paragraph, the organizations noted, “it is our view that this clash could have been avoided had the province acted in a manner consistent with its obligations to respect the human rights of Indigenous peoples under Canadian and international law.”
The letter then highlights four areas in which the province of New Brunswick could do more to rebuild just relations with Indigenous peoples:
Acknowledge that Indigenous peoples have rights to their lands, territories, and resources that predate the creation of the Canadian state. International human rights bodies, including the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights have repeatedly condemned Canada’s failure to protect these rights.
Stop ignoring the land rights of Aboriginal peoples in day-to-day operations of the government. Canadian courts have decreed that governments must consult with Indigenous Peoples before making decisions that affect their rights. “Accordingly,” the letter says, “our organizations urge your government to retract statements indicating that the province is already committed to shale gas development, regardless of opposition.”
Acknowledge that the province must obtain “free, prior and informed consent” (FPIC) of Indigenous peoples when a proposed project has the potential to affect their cultures, livelihoods, health, and well-being. “Our organizations call on New Brunswick to acknowledge that shale gas exploration and development on or near the traditional lands of Indigenous peoples is clearly an example where the safeguard of free, prior and informed consent is appropriate and necessary.”
Deploy police with the understanding that they have a clear responsibility to respect and protect human rights, including the lives and safety of those involved in protests. “Use of force must always be a last resort and the scale and nature of the force deployed must be in proportion to the need to protect public safety.”
“Unless the province adopts an approach consistent with these obligations, further clashes may occur,” the letter notes.
Chief Arren Sock released a written statement on October 18, saying “Chief and Council of the Elsipogtog First Nation wish to state clearly that guns and bombs, if any, have no place in our peaceful efforts.” On October 21, Justice George Rideout denied the request by SWN Resources to extend its court injunction to prevent the Elsipogtog protesters from blocking its storage facility. But on November 18, the activists suffered a setback when Judge Judy Clendenning dismissed an application from the Elsipogtog First Nation for an injunction to stop seismic testing for shale gas.The story is still unfolding, streaming, and tweeting.
Haven’t blogged because, as usual, I’m entering seven months worth of bank statements into Quicken instead of having set up a time on the calendar to do it monthly. I’ve also spent about six hours in the last couple weeks with Jim Loney getting his feedback on my novel, which I wrote about in my last blog entry, and there’s been a trip to Boston and the garden, so actually, no, I don’t feel guilty about not blogging.
But I thought I’d note here that I’m getting better at Twitter, and it’s not through the account I started because sources told me it’s mandatory for authors, especially self-published authors to have one. It’s through my work with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), which, to save time, I’ll call a human rights organization.
I edit the releases that come in from our field projects in Iraqi Kurdistan, Colombia, Palestine and with Indigenous communities in North America. Our interim director, who formerly was our Outreach Director and guided our communications, suggested that I could start reposting our releases, which automatically appear on our Twitter account, with hash tags.
I was enjoying finding ways of drawing in audiences to our work that might not think to follow it. For example, a lot of environmentalists and animal rights activists are concerned about how palm oil corporations are decimating old growth forests and killing orangutans. I thought they might also be interested in how the corporation Aportes San Isidro was attacking the community of subsistence farmers, Las Pavas in Colombia, in an effort to drive them off their land, so I used the hashtags #PalmOil and #PalmOilKills for our Colombia team releases. For our work with the Elsipogtog First Nation in New Brunswick who was resisting the SWN corporation doing seismic testing on their traditional lands, I knew the #fracking hashtag would draw in the wider anti-fracking crowd and the #IdleNoMore hashtag would group the resistance of the Elsipogtog nation with a much wider Indigenous resistance movement across North America.
Then my interim director told me that a more media-savvy CPTer told him that I shouldn’t just repost titles with different hashtags; I needed to repost something a little different with each link to the team’s release. And once I knew that, it began to get fun.
#SOUTHHEBRONHILLS URGENT ACTION: Ask U.S. Secretary of State Kerry to heed Israeli jurists’ and writers’… http://dlvr.it/3lY9G7
#JohnKerry’s probably not listening to the right Israelis. Ask him to listen to these jurists: http://dlvr.it/3lY9G7
#JONESBOROUGH,TN: Activism, War, and the #MilitaryIndustrialComplex http://dlvr.it/3kWTxb #DepletedUranium #Aerojet
Why are those working against #DepletedUranium in #Jonesborough TN area having tires slashed? http://dlvr.it/3kWTxb
#ALKHALILHEBRON REFLECTION: A better than usual Friday (8 August 2013) http://dlvr.it/3nkg6N
“#TGIF” said no Christian Peacemaker Team member in #Hebron EVER. http://dlvr.it/3nkg6N #AlKhalil #IsraeliOccupation
When I first started on Twitter, I was told that I should put out at least four tweets a day and following each other was one way independent authors could support each other. I began to notice that my twitter feed was deluged with tweets by some of these authors, including one of my self-publishing “mentors.”
Here’s the thing. I have an eye condition that makes reading normal size fonts painful. I have to zoom everything to 300 percent on computer, so I will never follow twitter on a cellphone. And on an average page I only see about 12 tweets at a time; so if someone is touting their novel over and over, or zealously retweeting “tips” as they’ve been told to do, it really clutters up my feed.
Neil Gaiman wrote about this Twitter phenomenon in the last Poets and Writers (crude language alert):
I do it because I like it and it’s fun. And the fact that I like it and it’s fun communicates itself…People who are interested are going to sign up and stick around and follow me because I’m obviously enjoying it. If you are not enjoying it, for God’s sake don’t do it. There is nothing worse—sadder, more bleak, and more pitiful—than somebody who signs on, follows a hundred people, then sends out fifty to sixty tweets saying, “please read my book.” It’s like a sad little mouse, peeping in the corner… If you want to do it, you join. Talk to people. Talk to your friends. Talk to famous people. Talk with anybody you’d like. Twitter is completely democratic. If you’re a dick, people will notice you are a dick. If you’re nice, people will notice you’re nice. If you’re funny and smart, people will respond to the funny smartness. And if you want to get something read: Establish, be there first, and then say to people who are interested and like you, “By the way I’ve got a book coming out,” and people will go, “Oh, we’ll go and check it out then.
So I’ve started to unfollow the people who hog my feed. I tend to keep the ones who make me smile. I’m interested in literary agents of course, but I drop the ones who reject me unless their tweets make me smile.
I thought that once I started unfollowing, my follower-ship would also drop steeply, but it hasn’t. I currently stand at 318 followers. I am following 857 people/ entities. I figure that means I am a good listener—or whatever the word for tweet receptor is, tweetor? To be a good listener has a better connotation than to be a good follower, right?
I think my first true literary passion was Johanna Spyri’s Heidi. Like other U.S. first graders of my generation, I learned to read on the Dick and Jane series, and I enjoyed learning to read, but I remembered thinking that Jane was kind of useless. She would drop a sack of flour on the floor and go to pieces and then have to wait for big brother Dick to make it all right by bringing her a broom and helping her sweep it up.
I picked up Heidi because I liked the picture of the little girl with the dark curls on the cover and with my limited vocabulary began picking my way through the novel.
A whole new world opened up to me. I mean, here was a girl with real problems. She was an orphan with a craven aunt and a scary grandfather and yet she arose to meet these challenges with a positive, life-embracing attitude. And when she was separated from her beloved Alps and sent to Frankfurt, to be abused by the cruel Fraulein Rottenmeyer, I wept. I read Heidi thirty-seven times between first and second grade; I think it would be fair to say I learned to read by reading Heidi.
Other books that have inspired that sort of rereading passion over the years have included C.S. Lewis’s Narnia series, J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, and Jane Austen’s novels. And it is that literary passion that I associate most closely to how I feel about Joss Whedon’s pre-Avenger’s work. I did not watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel until after they were in syndication and after I had been doing Christian Peacemaker Team’s work for a while, but when I did, they struck a deep chord. In 2004, I wrote the following letter to Whedon:
Dear Mr. Whedon
I have worked in the field of human rights since 1993, serving on assignments in Haiti, the West Bank, Chiapas, Colombia and South Dakota. I worked in the West Bank City of Hebron from 1995 until Israel denied me entry into the country in October 2002.
I had watched Buffy sporadically (because I don’t have cable and have been out of the country a lot) for the last several years and had admired the way you combine humor and pathos. An opportunity to get a copy of season 6 on VHS came my way in September. I am watching the episodes for the second time in a month and have watched the musical episode three times. After I got over being irritated with myself for being so moved by a TV show, (given the actual human misery I’ve witnessed) I began to examine the feelings of yearning and grief that the Buffy episodes seemed to be roiling up inside of me.
There are actually a lot of similarities between the work of the human rights teams and the work of the Scoobies. A special camaraderie develops between human rights workers, and for some reason, most people attracted to human rights work have really good senses of humor (the ones that don’t, don’t last.) A good solid team is way greater than the sum of its parts. People’s weaknesses and strengths are balanced, and sometimes perceived weakness can actually get the job done better than perceived strength. On the negative side, the intimacy on a team and within the human rights community can (and often does) lead to ill-advised romances. Worse, you can never unwitness what you have witnessed or unknow what you have known. You come and go knowing that oppression will continue to grind down people you love, that these people—Haitians, Indigenous, Colombians, Israelis, Palestinians—cannot leave, as you can, that often, oppression and violence win.
After I was deported by Israel in October 2002, all my loved ones at home and abroad were very solicitous of my feelings and anxious to commiserate with me about not being able to return to Israel/Palestine, since that has been a big part of my life. They thought I was being brave when I told them I was happy to be able to catch up on some writing projects, but here’s what I didn’t tell them: I was glad the Israeli government wouldn’t let me return. I was tired of being around suffering people. I didn’t think I could care for one more person, whatever his or her need. I was tired of being assaulted and spit on and called a Nazi. I was tired of providing encouragement to Israeli and Palestinian friends who have worked so hard for peace and reconciliation only to see their work destroyed. I was tired of being a representation of a Christian, an American, a peace activist, etc, instead of a real human being.
So I guess you can see how Buffy coming back from heaven into this earthly hell struck a chord. But, as I’ve thought about Season 6, I realize that it also confirms some deep truths that I have known and repressed: Some forms of sadness are more worth having than some forms of happiness. The fellowship of true minds and true hearts is the engine that will keep you going; you’re never really alone. God can use you along with all your selfishness and fear and despair to accomplish good—even if you’re not a superhero. Love is stronger than the forces of death. And, maybe most importantly, Season 6 made me realize it’s time for me to finish up my writing projects and go back into the field—Iraq or Colombia, if not Israel and Palestine (I’m engaged to an Israeli guy and we’re hoping that may get me back to Hebron, but we’re not sure it will.) Frankly, I would have preferred to get this revelation via prayer or Bible study, but I also know from experience that God often chooses to speak to people in unorthodox ways. So anyway, thanks for what Buffy has given me, even if you didn’t intend this particular outcome.
I have enclosed a Reuters photo and a Christian Science Monitor article to show I’m not making all this up. (See other side of this page.)
Whedon wrote back, telling me that he also had friends who worked for human rights organizations and he had wanted to do a TV series about it, but in the end he couldn’t sell it, so he had just added vampires.
I am embarrassed to admit it took me years before I realized he had been joking.
Anyway, this week, I stumbled across a contest on Twitter that was looking for a mashup of Shakespeare and Whedon’s work as a promo for Whedon’s new film rendition of Much Ado About Nothing, starring Amy Acker, Alex Denisof, Nathan Fillion and some other familiar faces from the previous collected Whedon oeuvre. And it became one of those things where I couldn’t stop thinking of jingles and puns—while I was gardening, in the bathroom, over lunch, and, frankly, when I should have been working.
Here’s what I came up with:
For a vamp is a knobbly thing, and this is my conclusion.” (From Much Ado’s “For a man is a giddy thing, and this is my conclusion.”#buffybard
Refers to the bumpy foreheads of Whedon vampires. Not my best effort.)
Sigh no more Joss sigh no more,
Networks were clueless ever –
Titillation’s blowsy whores-
To erudition constant never #buffybard
(A reference to Whedon’s history of canceled TV shows and a take off from the song in Much Ado: Sigh no more, ladies,
sigh nor more;
Men were deceivers ever;
One foot in sea and one on shore,
To one thing constant never
I thought it was a little bit suck-uppy, but one of the winning participants, who is an actual Shakespearean scholar favorited it.)
Behind Whedon’s new
of Much Ado
are Two by Two
(GASP) Hands of Blue #buffybard
(I think this one was probably my favorites. The Hands of Blue are from Whedon’s series Firefly. According to Firefly.wikia.com they “were a pair of mysterious men, who wore suits and blue gloves. They were contractors to the Anglo-Sino Alliance and were in pursuit of River and Simon Tam. Anyone who had any form of contact with River, even Alliance personnel, was killed without mercy with the use of a sonic device that induces massive bleeding from every orifice.”)
“Buffy/Spike, Darla/Angel, Dr. Horrible/Penny, Echo/Paul” are too wise to woo peaceably” said no one EVER #buffybard
(From what Benedick says to Beatrice in Much Ado: “Thou and I are too wise to woo peaceably.”
Bad Horse! Bad Horse! My kingdom for Bad Horse! #Buffybard
(Bad Horse is the head of a crime organization in Dr. Horrible’s Sing-along blog. He is an actual horse.)
Fairest Cordelia, that art most rich, being poor; Most choice, forsaken; and most loved, despised! #BuffyBard
(This is actually just a quote from King Lear but seemed to describe well the character of Cordelia Chase, who appears in both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel.)
There is no evil angel but Love–or Angelus #BuffyBard
(Angelus is the evil demon that the vampire Angel turns into when he loses his soul.)
For ’tis the sport to have the slayer hoist with her own Mr. Pointy #BuffyBard
(This was my first, and probably weakest effort. It comes from Hamlet’s “hoist with his own petard” quote, and for some reason, I had imagined that weapon to be something pointy, but it was actually a bomb. In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series Mr. Pointy was a special stake given to Buffy by another slayer.)
The winner? “Scooby or not Scooby.” Of course.
URGENT INVITATIONS from Colombia and Elsipogtog First Nation in New Brunswick
Now back to my real job: In the last seven to ten days Christian Peacemaker Teams has received urgent request for accompaniment from Colombia and Elsipogtog that we don’t have the people to fill.
On May 30 a member of Las Pavas community in Colombia had been attacked with machetes by workers for Aportes San Isidro, the palm oil company that has been trying to push the community of Las Pavas off their land for many years:
Tito, the man who was attacked, is wearing a red shirt and holding a camera. The man on horseback is a security guard who has ordered attacks on the people of Las Pavas
My colleague Tim Nafziger visited Las Pavas community and wrote here about the destruction of their crops and cattle that he witnessed last year. This attack is an escalation on the pressure on this community that is deeply committed to nonviolence. It comes three days after a breakthrough in the high level peace talks between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and the government of Colombia.
In response, the community has asked CPT to provide more frequent presence on the ground as part of our accompaniment of them. Our team on the ground is already stretched thin and they’ve made an appeal to CPT reservists to support them.
On June 8, our Aboriginal Justice team sent a group of reservists to New Brunswick, Canada in response to an invitation 48 hours earlier from Elsipogtog First Nation. Mi’kmaq and Maliseet peoples have been using creative Nonviolent Direct Action to stop shale gas exploration on their traditional lands, including peacefully blockading a truck hired by the exploration company, SWN Resources Canada. “They broke the law a long time ago when they started this fracking in our traditional hunting grounds, medicine grounds, contaminating our waters,” Elsipogtog chief and protest leader John Levi told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
Tim notes, “As we’ve seen in Syria most recently, violent actors and arms dealers are right around the corner, ready to step in. If we truly believe that the cross is an alternative to the sword, now is the time to step up: cpt.org/participate.”
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