Alice Walker ~ Encountering the Horror

Alice Walker, author of "Color Purple", visited Gaza in March, 2009,
with Code Pink, to join with Gazan women on International Women's Day.
The Code Pink group came to Gaza just one day after our US Gaza
Delegation (USGD) entered Gaza on March 6 (USGD: four Greater
Clevelanders, two Chicagoans, a social worker and a doctor from
Northhampton, Massachusetts, and an Iranian doctor from Connecticut.

In this essay, Poet Alice Walker writes of encountering "the horror" (as in
Joseph Conrad's novel, The Heart of Darkness) in Rwanda, Eastern Congo and
Palestine/Israel and finding her voice again after a period of
speechlessness. Part of what has happened to human beings, she believes, is
that we have, over the last century, witnessed cruel and unusually barbaric
behavior that was so horrifying it literally left us speechless. We had no
words to describe it even when we viewed it; nor could we easily believe
human beings could fall to such levels of degradation; we have been deeply
frightened. This self-imposed silence has slowed our response to the plight
of those who most need us, often women and children but also men of
conscience who resist evil but are outnumbered by those around them who have
fallen victim to a belief in weapons, male or ethnic dominance, greed and

OVERCOMING SPEECHLESSNESS: A Poet Encounters ³the horror² in Rwanda,
Eastern Congo and Palestine/Israel
Three things cannot be hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.
© 2009 By Alice Walker, Citizen
Three years ago I visited Rwanda and Eastern Congo. In Kigali I paid my
respects to the hundreds of thousands of infants, toddlers, teen-agers,
adolescents, young engaged couples, married people, women and men,
grandmothers and grandfathers, brothers and sisters of every facial shape
and body size, who had been hacked into sometimes quite small pieces by
armed strangers, or by neighbors, or by acquaintances and ³friends² they
knew. These bodies and pieces of bodies are now neatly and respectfully
buried in mass graves. Fifteen years ago, these graves were encircled by
cuttings of plants that are now sturdy blossoming vines that cover their
iron trellises with flowers. Inside the adjacent museum there are
photographs of the murdered: their open smiles or wise and consoling eyes
will remain with me always. There is also, in the museum, a brief history
of Rwanda. It tells of the long centuries Tutsi and Hutu lived together,
intermarrying and raising their children, until the coming of the Belgians
in the 1800s. The Belgian settlers determined, because they measured Hutu
and Tutsi skulls, that the Tutsi were more intelligent than the Hutu, more
like Europeans, and therefore placed the Tutsi above the Hutu. When the
Belgian colonists left for Europe, over a hundred years later, they left the
Tutsi in charge. The hatred this diabolical decision caused between these
formerly friendly peoples festered over generations; coming to a lethal boil
in the tragedy of genocide.
Though I had done research while in college, and written a thesis of sorts
on the ³Belgian² Congo, where King Leopold of Belgium introduced the policy
of cutting off the hands of enslaved Africans who didn¹t of couldn¹t fulfill
their rubber quota: collecting the latex for the rubber that made tires for
the new cars everyone was beginning to want, in America and Europe, I had
not known these same activities spread into the Kingdom of Rwanda. But
apparently, to the Belgians, it was all one vast ³empty² territory, to be
exploited without any consideration for the people living there. Indigenous
Africans didn¹t seem to exist, except as slaves. While visiting the set for
the film The Color Purple, many decades after college, a sad older man from
Africa, who had been a doctor in the Congo, and was now hired as an extra
for our film, lamented the loss of his country, his people and his land,
telling me that the Firestone Corporation had taken millions of acres of
land, ³leasing² it for pennies an acre, in perpetuity. The people who¹d
lived there since the beginning of humanity, had been forced to tend the
trees planted there on Firestone¹s vast rubber tree plantation. Needless to
say I immediately thought of every car I¹d owned and all the tires that ran
under them.

From Kigali, and meetings with survivors, witnessing their courage and
fortitude, their willingness to move on and beyond unspeakable tragedy, I
went to Eastern Congo. There, I met with women still victimized by the
killers of Kigali who had been chased across the border into their country.
These women had been the victims of rape on so large a scale ­ rape as one
of the cruelest weapons of war ­ it seemed impossible they had not, in their
despair, chosen to destroy themselves. Their villages had frequently turned
against them, because of their abuse; if their husbands were still alive,
they regularly dismissed them, refusing them shelter in their own homes.
One beautiful woman, who came to meet me wearing white and purple, had been
a sex slave in the bush for over a year, forced to carry loads that bent her
double, her eyes repeatedly struck to damage her vision so that she would
not be able to identify her assailants, her whole body beaten until, over a
year later, there was still a discernible limp when she attempted to walk
with what one assumed was her former grace. We embraced each other with
tears, and with joy. I was more thankful to see her radiant resurrection
than I had been to witness anything in my life. She had been raped with
every imaginable instrument, including machete handles and gun barrels.
Thanks to you, my sisters of Women for Women International, she said, I have
come through. Many of us have come through. We will not go back. We will
not be slaves and beasts of burden.
Over four million Congolese have been murdered in an endless war whose
foundation rests on the mineral wealth of the Congo. One of those minerals,
coltan, makes cell phone use possible. Millions of families are homeless
and in ruin, living in the rain and heat. War continues, like a sickness
that has no cure. Infectious diseases are rampant. Weapons flow into the
hands of the young, even into the hands of children. How can she smile, I
wonder, about my just met Congolese sister. But she does so because she is
alive, which means the Feminine is alive. There is the work of The Mother
to do. There is the work of The Daughter to do. This is a source of joy. We
embrace, parting. She will learn how to start a business and longs to take
lessons in computer use.
I found, coming home, that I could talk about this woman, and, indeed, she
would later come to America and talk about herself. She understood the
importance of speech, speech about the unspeakable, and is a source of my
ability to share the following story, which propelled me into a period of
speechlessness. While in Congo we were invited to visit a young woman, just
my own daughter¹s age at the time, thirty-six, who was in a local hospital.
When we first saw Generose she was lying on a pallet on the floor in an
outer passageway, waiting for us. Taking up her crutch, she led us to a
quiet area at the back of the hospital where we sat circled around her, as
she told her story. Her story was this: Her village had been terrorized by
the Interharmwe murderers (presumably Hutu) that had been chased out of
Rwanda by the Tutsi forces of Paul Kagame (now president of Rwanda); the
suffering had been unbearable as people were chased from their homes at all
hours of the day or night; many of them choosing to sleep in the forest or
hide themselves in their fields. She was home with her husband and two
children because among other reasons, such as this was her home, her husband
was sick. One evening, there was a fierce knock at the door, gunmen who
also carried machetes entered, demanding food. There was little to offer
them but the staple diet: a boiled vegetable (that to my eyes, being shown
it in the fields earlier, looked like okra leaves) and a few balls of
steamed millet. The men ate this, but were angry and not satisfied. They
went and found the husband, still in bed, and hacked him to pieces on the
spot. They came back to Generose and her children and took hold of her.
Holding her down, they began to cut off her leg. They cut off her leg, cut
it into six pieces, and began to fry it in a pan. When some part of it
seemed nearly done, they tried to force her son to take a bite of it.
Strongly, beautifully, and so much the son of our dreams, he said: No, I
will never eat my mother¹s flesh. They shot him to death without more
conversation. The daughter, seeing this, watching her mother bleeding to
death, knowing her father had been hacked to pieces, was now offered the
same opportunity. Terrorized, she bit into a piece of her mother¹s body.
Her mother, having crawled away, does not know what became of her. Though
she does know that her assailants went next door that same evening and
murdered a couple who¹d been married that day, raping and mutilating the
bride, and tearing out her eyes.
This was the child Generose was hoping we could help her find. Apparently
she had escaped after this gruesome torture, and now, where could she be?
Generose hoped for only two things from us: that we help her find her
daughter (beyond our capacity, probably, though Women for Women
International would try) and that we help her start a small business so that
when her daughter is found she can provide a safe place for them to live. A
proud woman who reminded me of a young Toni Morrison, she did not once
stammer in the telling of her tale, though those of us around her felt a
quaking in the heart. I have not forgotten this child who was forced to eat
her mother¹s flesh for a moment. Yet it has been almost impossible to speak
of it. Coming home I fell ill with the burden of this story, as I had
fallen ill after reading in the New York Times a year or so earlier, of
similar torture used against the so-called ³pygmies² of Africa¹s
rainforests. That, in order to frighten them away from their homes, to
ultimately make way for lumbering and mining interests located in the West,
mercenaries were indoctrinating their soldiers to believe that killing them
(³pygmies² because in ancient Egyptian the word means elbow high) and the
eating of their hearts, would make them invisible and capable, as these
smaller people seem to be, of evading capture by blending with their
environment. Reading this story I felt as if my own heart had been taken
out of me, and this assault on the planetary human body that I represent,
brought me low.
I was fortunate to have a Sangha (a Buddhist community) to which I could
eventually turn. Sitting around me as I talked, two of our members realized
I needed even more of a healing than simply being able to speak about what I
had witnessed and heard of what is happening to the people of the earth.
They immediately devised a ritual for my care. Placing me on the green
grass of my yard, surrounding me with flowers, stones, photographs of those
who comfort us (I placed several under my blouse: John Lennon, Pema Chodron,
Howard Zinn, the DaLai Lama, Amma and Che among them) and their own loving
words, they helped me shed tears of hopelessness, as I asked myself and
them: What has happened to humanity? Followed by more tears of resolve.
Because whatever has happened to humanity, whatever is currently happening
to humanity, it is happening to all of us. No matter how hidden the
cruelty, no matter how far off the screams of pain and terror, we live in
one world. We are one people. My illness proved that. As well as my
understanding that Generose¹s lost daughter belongs to all of us. It is up
to all of us to find her; it is up to us to do our best to make her whole
again. There is only one daughter, one father, one mother, one son, one
aunt or uncle, one dog, one cat, donkey, monkey or goat in the Universe,
after all: the one right in front of you.
And so I have been, once again, struggling to speak about an atrocity: This
time in Gaza, this time against the Palestinian people. Like most people on
the planet I have been aware of the Palestinian ­Israeli conflict almost my
whole life. I was four years old in 1948 when, after being subjected to
unspeakable cruelty by the Germans, after a ³holocaust² so many future
disasters would resemble; thousands of European Jews were resettled in
Palestine. They settled in a land that belonged to people already living
there, which did not seem to bother the British who, as in India, had
occupied the land and then, on leaving it, decided they could simply put in
place a partitioning of the land that would work fine for the people,
strangers, Palestinians and European Jews, now forced to live together.
When we witness the misery and brutality still a daily reality for millions
of people in Pakistan and India, we are looking at the failure, and
heartlessness, of this plan.
I got to Gaza the way I have gotten so many places in my life: a sister
called me. My friend, the writer, Susan Griffin, with whom I was arrested
protesting the start of the war against Iraq in 2003 sent an email. Would I
be interested in going to Gaza? With CODEPINK, the women¹s peace group that
had gotten us into such soul strengthening trouble six years before. She
would go, she said, if she could sell the book she was currently writing.
This is how so many of us live; I remember this when I look about the world
and want more witnesses to the scenes of horror, brutality, chaos. We all
have to work to feed ourselves, look after our families, keep our heads
above water. I understand this completely; and wasn¹t sure I was free enough
myself, to go. However, it happened that, in the same week that the
Israeli military began its 22 day bombardment of Gaza, a refugee camp that
became a city and is today a mere sliver of Palestine left to the
Palestinians (a city and environs that Israel had laid siege to months
before, keeping out food and medicine and building materials, among other
necessities) my own sister had died after a long illness. Our relationship
had been a good one for most of our lives, and then, toward the end of her
life, it had become strained. So much so that when she died I had not
expected to feel devastation. Surprise. As I was grieving her loss, I
learned of the dropping of bombs on the people of Palestine. Houses,
hospitals, factories, police stations, parliament buildings, ministries,
apartment buildings, schools, went up in dust. The sight of one family in
which five young daughters had been killed was seared into my consciousness.
The mother, wounded and unconscious, was
alive. Who would tell her? I waited to hear some word of regret, of grief,
of compassion, from our leaders in Washington, who had sent the money, the
earnings of American taxpayers, to buy the bombs destroying her world. What
little concern I became aware of from our ³leaders² was faint, arrived late,
was delivered without much feeling, and was soon overshadowed by an
indifference to the value of Palestinian life that has corrupted our
children¹s sense of right and wrong for generations. Later our government
would offer money, a promise to help ³rebuild.² As if money and rebuilding
is the issue. If someone killed my children and offered me money for the
privilege of having done so I would view them as monsters, not
I consulted my companion, who did not hesitate. We must go, he said. The
sooner we reach the people of Gaza, the sooner they¹ll know not all
Americans are uncaring, deaf and blind, or fooled by the media. He went on
to quote Abraham Lincoln¹s famous line about fooling the people. You can
fool some of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of
the time. Americans, we know, are, for the most part, uninformed about the
reality of this never-ending ³conflict² that has puzzled us for decades and
of which so many of us, if we are honest, are heartily sick. We began to
It¹s a long way to Gaza. Flying between San Francisco and Frankfort, then
from Frankfort into Egypt, I kept my mind focused by meditating as much as
possible, reading Aung San Suu Kyi and Alan Clement¹s book THE VOICE OF
HOPE, thinking about Desmond Tutu and his courageous statement earlier in
the month about the immorality of the walls Israel has built around
Palestinian villages as well as the immorality of the siege itself.
President Jimmy Carter¹s book PEACE NOT APARTHEID, I had read before leaving
home. I also ate a good bit of chocolate. And slept. Arriving in Cairo at
three-thirty in the morning, my first task, assigned by the beautiful,
indomitable and well loved co-founder of CODEPINK, Medea Benjamin, was to
meet with her and the U.S. Ambassador to Egypt, Ambassador Scobey, at
ten-thirty a.m. to ask for assistance in crossing the border into Gaza from
Egypt. After a few hours rest, I appeared early for the meeting (concerned
that Medea had not arrived yet) which, though cordial, would yield no help.
Even so, I was able to have an interesting talk with the Ambassador about
the use of non-violence. She, a white woman with a southern accent,
mentioned the success of ³our² Civil Rights Movement and why couldn¹t the
Palestinians be more like us. It was a remarkable comment from a
perspective of unimaginable safety and privilege; I was moved to tell her of
the effort it took, even for someone so inherently non-violent as me, to
contain myself during seven years in Mississippi when it often appeared
there were only a handful of white Mississippians who could talk to a person
of color without delivering injury or insult. That if we had not been able
to change our situation through non-violent suffering, we would most
certainly, like the ANC, like the PLO, like Hamas, turned to violence. I
told her how dishonest it seems to me that people claim not to understand
the desperate, last ditch, resistance involved in suicide bombings; blaming
the oppressed for using their bodies where the Israeli army uses armored
tanks. I remembered aloud, us being Southerners, my own anger at the
humiliations, bombings, assassinations that made weeping an endless activity
for black people, for centuries, and how when we finally got to a court room
which was supposed to offer justice, the judge was likely to blame us for
the crime done against us and to call us chimpanzees for making a fuss.
Medea arrived at this point, having been kept circling the building in a
taxi that never landed, and pressed our case for entry into Gaza. While
appearing sympathetic to our petition, our ambassador emphasized it was
dangerous for us to go into Gaza and that her office would be powerless to
help us if we arrived there and were injured or stranded. We were handed
some papers telling us all the reasons we should not go.
Next we were at a strange ministry whose name never registered, to fill out
forms whose intent escaped me. Several CODEPINK women were already there,
waiting their turn for the bit of paper we needed to move a step closer to
the Egyptian border crossing at Rafah, the only one available (maybe) for
us. There I met a CODEPINKER who instantly made me happy to be with
CODEPINK again. She¹d been waiting for hours, felt she was growing into her
chair, and we laughed at the absurdity of bureaucracy everywhere, which
keeps you waiting interminably for some bit of paper that you feel sure is
thrown into the trash or into a creaking file drawer as soon as you leave
the room, never again to see the light of day. I also reconnected with Gael
Murphy, who reminded me we had shared a paddy wagon after being arrested in
front of the White House a few days before George Bush started his ill-fated
war on the people and animals, rivers and dwellings, mosques and libraries
of Iraq. She handed me an illustrated postcard that showed plainly what the
situation between Israel and Palestine came down to: in 1946 the
Palestinians owned Palestine, with a few scattered Jewish villages (picture
one); some years later, under a United Nations plan for partitioning,
Palestine and Israel would each own roughly half of the land (picture two);
from 1949-1967 the Israel ³half² grew by about a third; after the 1967 war,
Israel doubled its land mass by virtue of the land it took from Palestine at
that time. The last picture shows the situation in 2008: Palestinian
refugees (in their own country) live in camps in the West Bank and Gaza, and
the whole land is now called Israel. On the back of this card are words
from former Israeli president Ariel Sharon, known as the butcher of Sabra
and Shatila (refugee camps in Lebanon where he led a massacre of the people)
where he talks about making a pastrami sandwich of the Palestinian people,
riddling their lands with Jewish settlements until no one will be able to
imagine a whole Palestine. Or know Palestine ever existed.
No one can imagine a whole Turtle Island, either; now known as the United
States of America, but formerly the land of Indigenous peoples. The land of
some of my Native ancestors, the Cherokee, whose homes and villages were
obliterated from the landscape where they¹d existed for millenia, and the
Cherokee forced ­ those who remained ­ to resettle, walking ³the trail of
tears,² a thousand miles away. This is familiar territory. As is the
treatment of the Palestinian people. On the bus ride through the Egyptian
desert, toward the Rafah gate, which leads into Palestine, I think about
this particular cycle of violence humans have made for themselves. Hitler
learned from the Americans how to ³cleanse² Germany of the Jews. Even to
the use of Jewish hair to stuff mattresses. Indian hair had been mattress
stuffing long before. Indian skin made into various objects. Indian
children and families, massacred. Not because they were ³savages² ­ one
glance at their art told anyone who they were, but because the European
settlers who came to America wanted their land. Just as the Israelis have
wanted, and have taken by force, Palestinian land. Like Americans they have
attempted to hide their avarice and cruelty behind a mountain of myths: that
no one lived in Palestine, that the Palestinians are savages, that there¹s
no such thing as a Palestinian (Golda Meir¹s offering), that the Israelis
are David and the Palestinians Goliath. Which is ridiculous, if you haven¹t
been indoctrinated against the Palestinians for centuries from reading the
Bible where, as the Philistines, they are forever causing trouble for God¹s
children, the Hebrews. And then, there¹s Hollywood, which has a lot to
answer for in its routine disregard for Arabs, generally, but which, where
Palestine and Israel are concerned, projects Israel as always in the right,
no matter what it does, as American politicians, for the most part, have
learned to do. This is not good for Israel, or the United States, just as
always praising the regrettable behavior of one¹s child, or of anyone, can
only lead to disaster. A disaster, where Israel is concerned, that is
happening before our eyes, even if the media in America refuses to let
Americans fully see it.
I had not been on a bus with so many Jews since traveling to the 1963 March
On Washington by Greyhound when Martin Luther King, John Lewis and others
spoke so passionately of Black Americans¹ determination to be free. I went
with a half-Jewish young man named, not so ironically when I later thought
of it, David. He was not considered really Jewish because his mother was
Irish, and you can only be a real Jew if your mother is Jewish. I didn¹t
know that then, though. I thought his behavior, coming to the side of the
oppressed, very Jewish. It was fairly Irish, too, but at the time the Irish
in Boston, except for the Kennedys, seemed far from their tradition in this
area. They were regularly stoning and /or shouting obscenities at black
children who tried to attend ³their² schools. It was moving to hear the
stories of why the Jews on our Gaza bound bus were going to Palestine. Many
of them simply said they couldn¹t bear the injustice, or the hypocrisy.
Having spoken out against racism, terrorism, apartheid elsewhere, how could
they be silent about Palestine and Israel? Someone said her friends claimed
everyone who spoke out against Israeli treatment of Palestinians was a. a
self-hating Jew (if Jewish) or anti-Semitic (though Palestinians are
Semites, too). She said it never seemed to dawn on the persons making the
anti-Semitic charge that it is Israel¹s behavior people are objecting to and
not it¹s religion. As for being self-hating? Well, she said, I actually
love myself too much as a Jew to pretend to be ignorant about something so
obvious. Ignorance is not held in high regard in Jewish culture.
One story that particularly moved me was this: A woman in her late Fifties
or early Sixties stood at the front of the bus, as we passed donkey carts
and Mercedes Benzes, and spoke of traveling to Palestine without her
husband, a Jewish man who was born in Palestine. Several times they had
come back to Palestine, renamed Israel, to see family. To attend
graduations, weddings, and funerals. Each time they were held for hours at
the airport as her husband was stripped, searched, interrogated, and
threatened when he spoke up for himself. In short, because his passport was
stamped with the place of his birth, Palestine, he was treated like a
Palestinian. This Jewish husband sent his best wishes, but he could no
longer endure travel in so painful a part of the world. By now most of us
are aware of the dehumanizing treatment anyone not Jewish receives on
crossing a border into Israel. Especially brutal for Palestinians. I
thought: even our new President, Barack Hussein Obama, were he just anybody,
and not the president of the United States, would have a humiliating time
getting into Israel. The poet, and rebel, in me instantly wanted him to try
it. To don the clothing of an average person, as truth seeking people do in
Wisdom tales, and travel into Israel. To learn what is real and true, not
by traveling through the air, but by walking on the ground.
Riding on the bus, listening to the stories of people drawn to the side of
the Palestinian people, I leaned into the landscape. Mile after mile of
barren desert went by, with scatterings of villages and towns. The farther
into the Sinai we went the more poverty we saw. One sight in particular has
stayed with me: the Bedouin, formerly the Nomads of the desert, attempting
to live alongside the road or on the barren hills, without their camels,
without mobility. Sometimes in dwellings made of sticks and straw.
Occasionally lone women in flowing black robes walked along a ridge in the
heat, going someplace not visible to the eye. Hundreds of tiny white brick
houses, most unfinished, studded the hills. I asked my friend: What do you
think those small white buildings are? He said: bunkers. Mausoleums? But
no, seeing them appear in all manner and stage of construction, over
hundreds of miles, I saw they were poor peoples¹ attempts at building
housing for themselves. They looked like bunkers and mausoleums because no
one was around them, and because they were so small: some of them barely
large enough to lie down in, and often with no windows, only a door. I
realized people who worked far away and were able to return to build only
sporadically were building them. This is true in many places in the world,
and I was moved by the tenacity of people trying to have a home, no matter
how uprooted or displaced they have been. Creating and having a home is a
primary instinct in all of nature as well as in humankind; seeing these tiny
dwellings, with no water sources, no electricity, no anything but white mud
bricks, made me remember my own childhood feelings of insecurity around
housing, and the preciousness of having a home, as we were forced to move,
year after year.
I came out of this reverie to hear the story of Cindy and Craig Corrie, the
parents of Rachel Corrie. Rachel Corrie was murdered when she tried to stop
an Israeli tank from demolishing a Palestinian house. I was struck by her
parents¹ beauty and dignity. Cindy¹s face radiates resolve and kindness.
Craig¹s is a study in acceptance, humility, incredible strength, and
perseverance. Rachel had been working in Palestine and witnessed the
ruthlessness of the deliberate destruction of Palestinian homes by the
Israeli army, most surrounded by gardens or small orchards of orange and
olive trees, which the army consistently uprooted. No doubt believing the
sight of a young Jewish woman in a brightly colored jumpsuit would stop the
soldier in the tank she placed herself between the home of her Palestinian
friends and the tank. It rolled over her, crushing her body and breaking her
back. The Corries spoke of their continued friendship with the family who
had lived in that house. Everywhere we went, after arriving in Gaza, locals
greeted the Corries with compassion and tenderness. This was particularly
moving to me because of a connection I was able to make with another such
sacrifice decades ago in Mississippi, in 1967, and how black people became
aware that there were some white people who actually cared about what was
happening to them. The ³three civil rights workers² as they became known,
were James Cheney, a young African American Christian man, and Andrew
Goodman and Michael Schwerner, both white Jewish men from the North. The
Northerners had been called to the Civil Rights Movement in the South by
their conscience, having watched the racist and sadistic treatment of black
people there. The three young men were riding through the backwoods of
Neshoba County, Mississippi when their car was firebombed. They were
dragged from the car, bludgeoned and shot to death; their bodies were buried
in a dam that was under construction in the area and would not be found for
months. While America waited for the bodies to be found, black and white
people working for black liberation in the South discovered new ground. Who
could not love these young men, all three of them, for risking their lives
to change ours? And so, in every church, every Sunday, prayers went out for
James, yes, but also for Michael and Andrew. They became ours, just as the
Corries have become family to the Palestinian people. This is one of the
most beautiful passages for human beings. It is as if we enter a different
door of our reality, when someone gives her or his life for us. Why this
should be, is a mystery, but it is the mystery, I think, behind all the
great myths in which there is human sacrifice ­ not on an altar but on the
road, in the street ­ for the common good. At a meeting of the Veterans of
the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement held in Jackson, Mississippi last
year, I saw the widow of Michael Schwerner. There she was, over forty years
later. There she was, still belonging to her own people, and still, also,
one of us.

We arrived in the Gaza strip in the afternoon, after being kept at the
border crossing for about five hours. Long enough to become accustomed to
the bombing someone informed us is a constant just inside the Palestinian
border, reminding the Palestinians of the Israeli presence during the cease
fire. I had never been so close to bombs being dropped before, and I took
the opportunity to interrogate my life. Had I lived it the best way I
could? And so forth. A young Palestinian man, Abdullah X, a student of
video at a school in Egypt, had come on the bus with us. His story was that
he had managed to leave Palestine on scholarship to go to school in Cairo
three years ago. Because of the siege, and all borders being closed, he had
not been able to see his family. He had not seen them for three years.
Because of Israel¹s bombardment of Gaza he feared for the lives of his
family and was determined to see them. Abdullah might have stepped out of
ancient Assyria. With his large dark eyes, olive complexion, and hair in
curly dark ringlets, he is a striking young man. Between Cairo and the Gaza
border, he had, without doing anything special, made many of us on the bus
care about him. Sure enough, the Egyptian border patrol gave him a hard
time. When I was told of this by a woman who had stood next to him until
ordered away by a patrolman, we decided to stand some distance from him,
while he seemed to be pleading to be allowed to visit his parents, and to
send the mother force, the universal parent force, to speed his liberation.
We stood together, closed our eyes, and sent every ounce of our combined
energy to Abdullah¹s back. When he was given his passport and allowed to
join us, we cheered. We could only imagine what going back into Gaza meant
for him. It was his home, and much of it had been obliterated. We could
not know at the time that, coming out of Gaza, Abdullah would be kept at the
border crossing, not permitted, as he had feared, back into Egypt with us.
We would wait for him, but ultimately we would leave him there. He had
realized his education, his future, were at risk. But the love of his
family, his home, his land, was very strong. Later we would also have a
glimpse of his father, and his relationship with his father. We were moved
by the love and affection expressed between them . For what could it mean
to know from day to day that you could easily lose each other to the madness
of war? A war brought to your door by people who claimed everything you
had, no matter how little was left, was theirs¹?
Rolling into Gaza I had a feeling of homecoming. There is a flavor to the
ghetto. To the Bantustan. To the ³rez². To the ³colored section.² In some
ways it is surprisingly comforting. Because consciousness is comforting.
Everyone you see has an awareness of struggle, of resistance, just as you
do. The man driving the donkey cart. The woman selling vegetables. The
young person arranging rugs on the sidewalk or flowers in a vase. When I
lived in segregated Eatonton, Georgia I used to breathe normally only in my
own neighborhood, only in the black section of town. Everywhere else was
too dangerous. A friend was beaten and thrown in prison for helping a white
girl, in broad daylight, fix her bicycle chain. But even this sliver of a
neighborhood, so rightly named the Gaza strip, was not safe. It had been
bombed for 22 days. I thought of how, in the U.S. the first and perhaps only
bombing on U.S. soil, prior to 9/11, was the bombing of a black community in
Oklahoma. The black people who created it were considered, by white
racists, too prosperous and therefore ³uppity.² Everything they created was
destroyed. This was followed by the charge already rampant in white
American culture, that black people never tried to ³better² themselves.
There is amble evidence in Gaza that the Palestinians never stop trying to
³better² themselves. What started as a refugee camp with tents, has evolved
into a city with buildings rivaling those in almost any other city in the
³developing² world. There are houses, apartment buildings, schools,
mosques, churches, libraries, hospitals. Driving along the streets, we
could see right away that many of these were in ruins. I realized I had
never understood the true meaning of ³rubble.² Such and such was ³reduced to
rubble² is a phrase we hear. It is different seeing what demolished
buildings actually look like. Buildings in which people were living.
Buildings from which hundreds of broken bodies have been removed; so
thorough a job have the Palestinians done in removing the dead from squashed
dwellings that no scent of death remains. What this task must have been
like, both physically and psychologically, staggers the mind. We pass police
stations that were simply flattened, and all the young (most Palestinians
are young) officers in them killed, hundreds of them. We pass ministries,
bombed into fragments. We pass a hospital, bombed and gutted by fire. If
one is not safe in a hospital, when one is already sick and afraid, where is
one safe? If children are not safe playing in their schoolyards, where are
they safe? Where are The World Parents of All Children? The World
Caretakers of All the Sick?
My companion and I are assigned to the home of two sisters who share their
space with friends and relatives who come and go. One morning I get up
early to find an aunt sleeping on the floor in the living room. Another
time, a cousin. In the middle of the night I hear one of the sisters
consoling her aged father, who sounds disoriented, and helping him back to
bed. There is such respect, such tenderness in her voice. This is the same
place that, just weeks earlier, was surrounded by rocket fire, a missile
landing every 27 seconds for 22 days. I can only imagine what the elderly
residents must feel, as, even in their old age they are subjected to so much
fear. Each morning we are sent off to learn what we can in our four days in
Gaza, well fed on falafel, hummus, olives and dates, sometimes eggs,
tomatoes, salad and cheese. All of it simple, all of it delicious. More
delicious because we realize how difficult it is to find such food here; the
blockade keeps out most of it. Delicious also because it is shared with
such generosity and graciousness. Always the culinary student, I try to
learn to make the especially tasty dish that consists mainly of tomatoes and
eggs. I learn the tea I like so much is made out of sage! On International
Women¹s Day we leave for the celebration for which we have come, a gathering
with the women of Gaza.
Gael Murphy, Medea Benjamin, Susan Griffin and I, along with twenty or so
other women had been arrested for protesting the war on Iraq on
International Women¹s Day, 2003. If the world had paid attention we could
have saved a lot of money, countless sons¹ and daughters¹ lives, as well as
prevented a lot of war-generated pollution that hastens globe-threatening
climate change. How doofus humans are going to look -we thought as we
marched, sang, accepted our handcuffs - still firing rockets into apartment
buildings full of families, and dropping bombs on school children and their
pets, when the ice melts completely in the Arctic and puts an end to our
regressive, greed sourced rage forever. That had been a wonderful day; this
International Women¹s Day, of 2009, was also. It was the kind of day that
makes life, already accepted as a gift, a prize. Early in the morning of
March 8th, we were shuttled to a Women¹s Center in the North of Gaza City,
to meet women who, like their compatriots, had survived the recent
bombardment and, so far, the siege.

This center for women was opened under the auspices of the United Nations,
which has been administering to the Palestinian people since 1948, when
thousands of Palestinians fleeing their homes under Israeli attack, became
refugees. It is a modest building with a small library whose shelves hold
few books. It isn¹t clear whether most of the women read. The idea, as it
is explained to us, is to offer the women a place to gather outside the
home, since, in Palestinian culture the mobility of most women is limited by
their work in the home as mothers and caretakers of their families. Many
women rarely leave their compounds. However, today, International Women¹s
Day, is different. Many women are out and about, and women who frequent this
particular center are on hand to welcome us. After arranging ourselves
around a table in the library, we, about thirty of us, sit in Council. I
learn something I¹d heard but never experienced: Arabs introduce themselves
by telling you they are the mother or father of one of their children,
perhaps their eldest: then they tell you how many children they have. They
do this with a pride and joy I have never seen before. Only one woman had
one child. Everyone else had at least five. There is a feeling of
festivity as the women, beautifully dressed and wearing elegant headscarves,
laugh and joke among themselves. They are eager to talk. Only the woman
with one child has trouble speaking. When I turn to her, I notice she is
the only woman wearing black, and that her eyes are tearing. Unable to
speak, she hands me instead a photograph that she has been holding in her
lap. She is a brown-skinned woman, of African descent, as some Palestinians
(to my surprise) are; the photograph is of her daughter, who looks European.
The child looks about six years old. A student of ballet, she is dressed in
a white tutu and is dancing. Her mother tries to speak, but still cannot,
as I sit, holding her arm. It is another woman who explains: during the
bombardment, the child was hit in the arm and the leg and the chest and bled
to death in her mother¹s arms. The mother and I embrace, and throughout our
meeting I hold the photograph of the child, while the mother draws her chair
closer to mine.
What do we talk about?
We talk about hatred.
But before we talk about hatred I want to know about headscarves. What¹s
the deal about wearing the scarf? Why do so many women wear it? I am told
something I¹d never considered: in desert countries most of one¹s hydration
is lost at the back of the neck, which can quickly lead to heat stroke, so a
headscarf that wraps around the neck is essential to block this loss. The
top of the head is covered because if a woman is living a traditional life
and is outside a lot, the sun beats down on it. This causes headache,
dizziness, nausea, stroke, and other health problems. In Gaza, one of the
women pointed out, there were many women who did not wear scarves, primarily
because they worked in offices. This was true of the women in whose home we
were sheltered. They seemed to own a lot of scarves that they draped about
themselves casually, just as my friends and I might do in the United States.

Because I had shaved my head a week or so before going to Gaza, I understood
exactly the importance of the headscarf. Without a covering on my head I
could not bear the sun for more than a few minutes. And, indeed, one of the
first gifts I received from an anonymous Palestinian woman was a thick black
and red embroidered scarf, which I wore everywhere, gratefully.
Our host told us a story about the uglier side of the headscarf business:
On the first day of bombing she was working downstairs in the basement and
wasn¹t aware that her apartment building was next to one that was being
shelled. When the policemen came to clear her building, and she stepped out
of the elevator, one of them, a political and religious Conservative, was
taken aback at the sight of her bare head. So much so that instead of
instantly helping her to a shelter, he called a colleague to come and
witness her attire. Or lack thereof. He was angry with her, for not wearing
a headscarf, though Israeli rockets were tearing into buildings all around
them. And what could we do but sigh along with her, as she related this
experience with appropriate shrugs and grimaces of exasperation.
Backwardness is backwardness, wherever it occurs, and explains lack of
progressive movement in afflicted societies, whether under siege or not.
One of the triumphs of the Civil Rights Movement is that when you travel
through the South today you do not feel overwhelmed by a residue of
grievance and hate. This is the legacy of people brought up in the Christian
tradition, true believers of every word Jesus had to say on the issue of
justice, loving kindness, and peace. This dove-tailed nicely with what we
learned of Gandhian non-violence, brought into the movement by Bayard
Rustin, a gay strategist for the Civil Rights Movement. A lot of thought
went into how to create ³the beloved community², so that our country would
not be stuck with violent hatred between black and white, and the continuous
spectacle, and suffering, of communities going up in flames. It is
astonishing, the progress, and I will always love Southerners, black and
white, for the way we have all grown. Ironically, though there was so much
suffering and despair as the struggle for justice tested us, it is in this
very ³backward² part of our country today that one is most likely to find
simple human helpfulness, thoughtfulness and impersonal courtesy. I speak a
little about this American history, but it isn¹t history that these women
know. They¹re too young. They¹ve never been taught it. It feels
irrelevant. Following their example of speaking of their families, I talk
about my Southern parents¹ teachings during our experience of America¹s
apartheid years. When white people owned and controlled all the resources
and the land, in addition to the political, legal and military apparatus,
and used their power to intimidate black people in the most barbaric and
merciless ways. These whites who tormented us daily were like Israelis who
have cut down millions of trees planted by Arab Palestinians; stolen
Palestinian water, even topsoil. They have bulldozed innumerable villages,
houses, mosques, and in their place built settlements for strangers who have
no connection whatsoever with Palestine; settlers who have been the most
rabid anti-Palestinian of all, attacking the children, the women, everyone,
old and young alike, viciously, and forcing Palestinians to use separate
roads from themselves.
It feels very familiar, I tell them, what is happening here. When something
similar was happening to us, in Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama, I say, our
parents taught us to think of the racists as we thought of any other
disaster. To deal with that disaster as best we could, but not to attach to
it by allowing ourselves to hate. This was a tall order, and as I¹m
talking, I begin to understand, as if for the first time, why some of our
parents¹ prayers were so long and fervent as they stayed there, long
minutes, on their knees in church. And why people often wept, and fainted,
and why there was so much tenderness as people deliberately silenced
themselves, or camouflaged atrocities done to or witnessed by them, using
representative figures from the Bible.
At the end of the table across from me is a woman who looks like Oprah¹s
twin. In fact, earlier she had said to me: Alice, tell Oprah to come see us.
We will take good care of her. I promised I would email Oprah, and, on
returning home, did so. She laughs, this handsome woman; then speaks
earnestly. We don¹t hate Israelis, Alice, she says, quietly, what we hate
is being bombed, watching our little ones live in fear, burying them, being
starved to death, and being driven from our land. We hate this eternal
crying out to the world to open its eyes and ears to the truth of what is
happening, and being ignored. Israelis, no. If they stopped humiliating
and torturing us, if they stopped taking everything we have, including our
lives, we would hardly think about them at all. Why would we?
There is, finally, a sense of overwhelm, trying to bring comfort to someone
whose sleeping child has been killed and buried, a few weeks ago, up to her
neck in rubble; or a mother who has lost fifteen members of her family, all
her children, grandchildren, brothers and sisters, her husband. What does
one say to people whose families came out of their shelled houses waving
white flags of surrender only to be shot down anyway? To mothers whose
children were, at this moment, playing in the white phosphorous laden rubble
that, after 22 days of bombing, is everywhere in Gaza? White phosphorus,
once on the skin, never stops burning.
There is really nothing to say. Nothing to say to those who, back home in
America, don¹t want to hear the news. Nothing to do, finally, but dance.

The women and I and everyone with us from Code Pink went across the hall to
a big common room where music was turned up full volume. At first I sat
exchanging smiles and murmurs with an ancient grandmother who was knitting
booties, and who gave me two pairs, for my own grandchildren. Sitting
didn¹t last. Without preamble I was pulled to my feet by several women at
once, and the dance was on. Sorrow, loss, pain, suffering, all pounded into
the floor for over an hour. Sweat flowing, wails and tears around the room.
And then, the rising that always comes from such dancing; the sense of joy,
of unity, of solidarity and gratitude to be in the best place one could be
on earth; with sisters who have experienced the full measure of disaster and
have the heart to rise above it. The feeling of love is immense. The
ecstasy, sublime. I was conscious of exchanging and receiving Spirit in the
dance. I also knew that this Spirit, which I have encountered in
Mississippi, Georgia, the Congo, Cuba, Rwanda and Burma, among other places,
this Spirit that knows how to dance in the face of disaster, will never be
crushed. It is as timeless as the wind. We think it is only inside our
bodies, but we also inhabit it. Even when we are unaware of its presence
internally, it wears us like a cloak.

I could have gone home then. I had learned what I came to know: that humans
are an amazing lot. That to willfully harm any one of us is to damage us
all. That hatred of ourselves is the root cause of any harm done to others,
others so like us! And that we are lucky to live at a time when all lies
will be exposed, along with the relief of not having to serve them any
longer. But I did not go home. I went instead to visit the homeless.
Coming out of a small grouping of tents, with absolutely nothing inside
them, no bedding, no food, no water, were middle ­ aged and elderly people
who looked as if their sky had fallen. It had. An old, old man, leaning on
a stick, met me as I trudged up a hill so I might see the extent of the
devastation. Vast. Look, look! He said to me in English, come look at my
house! He was wearing dusty cotton trousers and an old army great coat. I
felt dragged along by the look in his eyes. He led me to what had been his
house. It had obviously, from the remains, been a large and spacious
dwelling; now he and his wife lived between two of the fallen walls that
made a haphazard upside down v. She looked as stunned and as lost as he.
There was not a single useable item visible. Near what must have been the
front entrance, the old man placed me directly in front of the remains of
bulldozed trees: They broke my house, he said, by bombing it, and then they
came with bulldozers and they broke my lemon and olives trees. The Israeli
military has destroyed over two and a half million olive and fruit trees
alone since 1948. Having planted many trees myself, I shared his sorrow
about the fate of these. I imagined them alive and sparkling with life,
offering olives and lemons, the old man and his wife able to sit in the
shade of the trees in the afternoons, and have a cup of tea there, in the
You speak English, I observed. Yes, he said, I was once in the British
army. I supposed this was during the time Britain controlled Palestine,
before 1948. We walked along in silence, as I did what I had come to do:
witness. Code Pink members and my companion and I walked through the rubble
of demolished homes, schools, medical centers, factories, for half an hour.
After the bombing the Israelis had indeed bulldozed everything so that I was
able to find just one piece of evidence that beauty had flourished on this
hillside; a shard from a piece of colorful tile, about the size of my hand.
Someone in our group wanted it, and I gave it to her. They had taken pains
to pulverize what they had destroyed.
Coming upon another grouping of tents, I encountered an old woman sitting on
the ground in what would have been, perhaps, the doorway of her demolished,
pulverized home. She was clean and impeccably dressed, the kind of old woman
who is known and loved and respected by everyone in the community, as my own
mother had been. Her eyes were dark and full of life. She talked to us
freely. I gave her a gift I had brought, and she thanked me. Looking into
my eyes she said: May God Protect You From the Jews. When the young
Palestinian interpreter told me what she¹d said, I responded: It¹s too
late, I already married one. I said this partly because, like so many Jews
in America, my former husband could not tolerate criticism of Israel¹s
behavior toward the Palestinians. Our very different positions on what is
happening now in Palestine/Israel and what has been happening for over fifty
years, has been perhaps our most severe disagreement. It is a subject we
have never been able to rationally discuss. He does not see the racist
treatment of Palestinians as the same racist treatment of blacks and some
Jews that he fought against so nobly in Mississippi. And that he objected to
in his own Brooklyn based family. When his younger brother knew he was
seeing me, a black person, he bought and nailed over an entire side of his
bedroom the largest Confederate flag either of us had ever seen. His
brother, a young Jewish man who had never traveled South, and had perhaps
learned most of what he knew about black history from Gone With the Wind,
expressed his contempt for black people in this way. His mother, when told
of our marriage, sat Shiva, which declared my husband dead. These were
people who knew how to hate, and how to severely punish others, even those
beloved, as he was, of their own. This is one reason I understand the
courage it takes for some Jews to speak out against Israeli brutality and
against what they know are crimes against humanity. Most Jews who know
their own history see how relentlessly the Israeli government is attempting
to turn Palestinians into the ³new Jews,² patterned on Jews of the holocaust
era, as if someone must hold that place, in order for Jews to avoid it.
Lucky for me, my husband¹s family were not the only Jews I knew, having met
Howard Zinn, my history teacher at Spelman College in 1961, as my very first
(secular) Jew, and later poet Muriel Rukeyser, at Sarah Lawrence College,
who like Grace Paley, the short story writer, raised her voice against the
Israeli Occupation of Palestine and the horrible mistreatment of the
Palestinian people. There are my Jewish friends of the planet: Amy Goodman,
Jack Kornfield, Noam Chomsky, Medea Benjamin, and Barbara Lubin, who are as
piercing in their assessments of Israeli behavior as they have been of
African or African American, or Indian, or Chinese, or Burmese behavior. I
place my faith in them, and others like us, who see how greed and brutality
are not limited to any segment of humanity but will grow wherever it is
unchecked, in any society whatsoever. The people of Israel have not been
helped by America¹s blind loyalty to their survival as a Jewish State, by
any means necessary. The very settlers they¹ve used American taxpayer money
to install on Palestinian land turn out to be a scary lot, fighting not only
against Palestinians, but against Israelis, when they do not get their way.
Israelis stand now exposed, the warmongers and peacemakers alike, as people
who are ruled by leaders that the world considers irrational, vengeful,
scornful of international law, and utterly frightening. There are differing
opinions about this, of course, but my belief is that when a country
primarily instills fear in the minds and hearts of the people of the world,
it is no longer useful in joining the dialogue we need for saving the
planet. There is no hiding what Israel has done or what it does on a daily
basis to protect and extend its power. It uses weapons that cut off limbs
without bleeding; it drops bombs into people¹s homes that never stop
detonating in the bodies of anyone who is hit; it causes pollution so severe
it is probable that Gaza may be uninhabitable for years to come, though
Palestinians, having nowhere else to go, will have to live there. This is a
chilling use of power, supported by the United States of America, no small
foe, if one stands up to it. No wonder that most people prefer to look the
other way during this genocide, hoping their disagreement with Israeli
policies will not be noted. Good Germans, Good Americans, Good Jews. But,
as our sister Audre Lorde liked to warn us: Our silence will not protect us.
In the ongoing global climate devastation that is worsened by war
activities, we will all suffer, and we will also be afraid.
The world knows it is too late for a two state solution. This old idea,
bandied about since at least the Eighties, denounced by Israel for decades,
isn¹t likely to become reality with the massive buildup of settlements all
over what remains of Palestinian land. Ariel Sharon is having the last
word: Jewish settlements exactly like a Pastrami sandwich; Palestinian life
erased, as if it never existed, or crushed under the weight of a superior
Israeli military presence and a teaching of Jewish supremacy sure to stunt
Palestinian identity among Arabs living in Israel.

What is to be done? Our revered Tolstoi asked this question generations ago,
speaking also of War and Peace. I believe there must be a one state
solution. That Palestinians and Jews, who have lived together in peace in
the past, must work together to make this a reality once again. That this
land (so soaked in Jewish and Palestinian blood, and with America¹s
taxpayer dollars wasted on violence the majority of us would never, if we
knew, support) must become, like South Africa, the secure and peaceful home
of everyone who lives there. This will require that Palestinians, like Jews,
have the right of return to their homes and their lands. Which will mean
what Israelis most fear: Jews will be outnumbered and, instead of a Jewish
state, there will be a Jewish, Muslim, Christian country, which is how
Palestine functioned before the Europeans arrived. What is so awful about
The Tribunals, the generals will no doubt say. But both South Africa and
Rwanda present a model of restorative justice in their Truth and
Reconciliation Councils. Some crimes against humanity are so heinous nothing
will ever rectify them. All we can do is attempt to understand their causes
and do everything in our power to prevent them happening, to anyone, ever
again. Human beings are intelligent and very often, compassionate. We can
learn to heal ourselves without inflicting fresh wounds.
Watching a video recently about Cuba¹s role in the ending of apartheid in
South Africa, I was moved by the testimony of Pik Botha, once a high ranking
official of white South Africa. He talked about how liberating it had been
when South Africa was forced to attend talks prior to negotiating Nelson
Mandela¹s release from prison and a change from a fascist white supremacist
regime to a democratic society. He said the feeling of not being hated and
feared and treated like a leper everywhere he went was wonderful. The talks
were held in Egypt and for the first time he felt welcomed by the Egyptians
and took the opportunity to visit the pyramids and the Sphinx and to ride on
a camel! As a white supremacist representative of a repressive, much hated
government, he¹d never felt relaxed enough to do that. His words
demonstrate what we all know in our hearts to be true: allowing freedom to
others, brings freedom to ourselves. It is true that what one reads in the
papers sometimes about the birthing pains of the New South Africa can bring
sadness, alarm, and near despair. But I doubt that anyone in South Africa
wishes to return to the old days of injustice and violence that scarred
whites and blacks and coloureds so badly. Not just citizens of South Africa
were demoralized, oppressed and discouraged by white South Africa¹s
behavior, but citizens of the world. Israel helped keep the racist regime
in power in South Africa, giving it arms and expertise, and still the people
of the world, in our outrage at the damage done to defenseless people, rose
to the challenge of setting them free. That is what is happening today in
The world has found its voice and though the horror of what we are
witnessing in places like Rwanda and Congo and Burma and Israel/Palestine
threatens our very ability to speak, we will speak. And we will be heard.
Suggested reading, listening, viewing.
A Letter to the Editors of Ms. Magazine, in my book In Search of Our
Mothers¹ Gardens, Womanist Prose. 1983.This is an essay/memo written a few
weeks prior to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and a few months before the
Beirut massacres; in response to an article by Letty Cottin Pogrebin:
³Anti-Semitism in the Women¹s Movement² which appeared in the June issue,
1982. I am writing about my refusal, as a woman of color, to be silenced.
And how black history supports this stance.
My interview in Gaza with reporters from Democracy Now, on YouTube.
³Sister Loss,² an essay about the bombing of Gaza that appears on my blog:
Peace Not Apartheid, by President Jimmy Carter.
One Country, by Ali Abuniah (probably the most important book to read on
Israeli/Palestinian issues at this time). Abuniah gives a remarkably
balanced account of the Palestine/Israeli history, as well as a convincing
argument for choosing a one state solution.
A People¹s History of the United States, by Howard Zinn. Israel learned a
lot of its behavior from America, this vital resource illustrates this.
Also: On YouTube: A wide selection of Noan Chomsky¹s teachings on Israel and
The writings and taped lectures of Edward Said.

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"I do not want peace which passeth understanding, I want the understanding which bringeth peace." ~ Helen Keller

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