Friday, November 23, 2007

Safe, Un-arrested, and Full

(Fr. Roy Bourgeois, founder of School of the Americas Watch movement, and me at Saturday rally outside Fort Benning.)

(One of the three fences protecting Fort Benning... Saturday, the day before the procession, as the military police watch over the crowds.)

(Margaret as part of the drumming circle on Saturday after the rally.)

(Ignatian Teach-In... thousands of students and young adults gathered to learn from and teach each other about the SOA, the Iraq War, poverty and justice.)

(Beginning of the procession on Sunday... these are participants of a die-in that took place in front of the gates.)

Margaret and I returned on Monday from our cross-country trip to close the School of Americas. It's difficult to describe every demonstration, emotion and experience of the weekend, so please allow the photos to explain some for me.

We stayed at the Open Door Community in Atlanta for three nights during our visit. This incredible community is a "Protestant arm" of the Catholic Worker movement. The ODC serves breakfasts and lunches out of their own home, inviting in men and women from the streets to eat in a warm and comfortable kitchen. They also provide showers weekly to their patrons, as well as clothing and medicine that they might need. The Atlanta community welcomed us so warmly and fed us so well that it was difficult to return to Los Angeles.

During the weekend at SOA, Margaret and I trained for the role of "Peacemakers." Essentially, the Peacemakers are the SOA Watch version of a line watcher: we were responsible for squelching conflict, and maintaining the pacifist atmosphere of the weekend. There were about 36 of us to cover a crowd of 25,000; yet there were no serious conflicts that needed to be addressed. How incredible that thousands of people can gather together and keep to a vow of non-violence!

All weekend, music was everywhere--in the puppetista demonstrations, on stage in front of the Fort, at the Catholic mass, while walking down the street, and at concerts at the local hotels. The movement would not have been the same without the beautiful songs accompanying it.

Most of all, I was struck by the reality of this school. I was able to watch people cross by the fence and lay crosses, flowers, banners and other memorabilia; and during that time a woman passed through, barely able to walk because she was so grief-stricken. She was not mourning over strangers, as many of us were. She was mourning over five of her close relatives that had been "disappeared" in Argentina by a military controlled by SOA-taught soldiers. Her life, her family, her reality were destroyed in part (if not completely) because of the teachings of the SOA.

I talked with a friend of mine before I left for the SOA, and he asked if it was even an issue anymore. This school and the ideology it represents is why there are millions of homeless, less money towards education, deteriorating quality of life in some Latin American countries, conflict around the world, and the rampant spread of the use of torture. This school is not only still an "issue," but it is a cancer of which we must rid ourselves before it takes control and kills our neighbors and ourselves.

Yesterday, we celebrated Thanksgiving as a community, inviting over 50 people to our house to share an afternoon meal. The turn-out was great, and there was so much food! (13 turkeys, 10 gallons of stuffing, gallons of mashed potatoes, many cakes, more pies, and all the fixings!) It was a beautiful day, and while I couldn't be with my family on Thanksgiving, I felt that I had found a very close second.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Back to Benning

Tomorrow Margaret and I head off to the SOA Watch via Atlanta, where we'll be staying with the ever-so-kind Open Door Community for a few days before heading down to Columbus to peacefully vigil in front of the School of the Americas/Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.

If you have no idea or little background with the SOA Watch, visit the link to the left. Feel free also to look at my blog from last year (or just the pictures). Also, there is a caravan traveling from San Francisco to Columbus, Georgia. Their blog is also up and running, and definitely worth at least a peek.

Keep us in your prayers, but especially for those whom we are standing in witness: the victims of torture, violence and hate; the populations whose homes have been destroyed through the teachings of the School of Americas; those who still live with the traumatic physical and emotional effects of the acts of war the SOA education helped to wage.

Thank you all for your support!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Age Is Just a Number... Right?

I am one of three 20-somethings in the Catholic Worker community of 21 people. The average age of the volunteers/community members living at the house is 43.1 years. This is not said with disdain by any means. Living with people who are older than me and dedicated to, what I believe to be, an amazing movement gives me hope for my continued dedication to the issues of homelessness, war and violence.

While we are connected by our beliefs and passions, the age gap does factor in to the challenges of living in community. Sometimes, in the minds of older community members, the young person is equal to the person with the most energy to spare. I'd like to point out that this assumption isn't really true...if any of you have met Faustino, you will understand my point.

At other points, the "we've been doing this for longer than you've been on this planet" spat, or the "my life experience is double yours" defensive rears its ugly head--most often, they are raised in joking manners.

And being a single young woman at the Catholic Worker isn't always that great either. Each young man who passes through is always seen, again in the eyes of the older community members, as a potential match for poor, single, lonely Allison. While most of this is in jest, it's also strongly persistent. I have actually said, "I'm not as desperate as you think I am," to a few people.

The technology gap also accompanies the age gap. I am helping one of the guests get comfortable with cutting, copying and pasting on the computer. Jeff, now in his sixties, is just hopping on the Internet and signed up for his first e-mail address a few weeks ago. Catherine, in her seventies, is learning to "Google" search. All three are amazed by the vastness of the Internet and continually confused by applications, programs, websites and capabilities outside their normal Internet/e-mail routines.

Despite the age difference between me and the majority of the community, I have found it quite easy to begin conversations, build relationships and enjoy time spent with everyone. I can't imagine having an experience like this later in my life, so I am embracing this gap as just another unique quality to the life at the Catholic Worker.

In other news, Margaret and I are leaving for the SOA Watch next Wednesday (November 14) for five days. We will be staying with our sister community in Atlanta, Georgia, before heading down to Columbus, Georgia, to participate in a weekend of vigiling, prayer and peaceful protest. Please keep us in your prayers, and I look forward to sharing my experiences (and photos!) when I get back!