By James O'Donnell
I've been in the Code Pink DC House for just over a week now, and so far it's been... well, wonderful! (...approaching miraculous, actually)
It really says something extraordinary about this organization -- their trust, warmth, openness, and the strength of their convictions -- that they practice what they preach and take into their home a virtual stranger, like myself, who has come to them from miles away (the Pacific Northwest) to join them in their mission to End War and champion the cause of Peace.
Upon entering the Code Pink DC House, I was immediately struck by the atmosphere: something akin to the feeling I've had in the most relaxed college dormitory nooks in which I've ensconced myself (usually for an hour or two of reading, music, and coffee); also reminiscent of some of the more inspirational and uplifting Art spaces I've haunted: the walls and shelves decorated with various products of the past loves and labors of the liberated human spirit, expressing itself, hoping, vying, always seeking the fulfillment of our heart's greatest wish: PEACE (Love, Justice, Joy)!
This house is the living expression of that common -- universal -- dream.
The women and men of Code Pink take seriously their responsibility (ours, as well) to serve that Dream. The leaders of this house: Medea, Desiree, Liz (to name a few) make certain that we do not shirk, we do not relent, we do not neglect our duty to serve that dream... because it is a dream that transcends -- that comprehends -- all of our values, religious and secular, and knows no boundaries, geographical, cultural, or national.
This dream is so powerful, in fact, that it brings people here, to this house in DC, from every corner of the globe and from every demographic of our society: Becky from Ghana, Isis from Spain, Jason from Puerto Rico, and Elie Painted Crow and her sister, Deborah -- two Native American women with a powerful message about the need to connect with the Peace that exists within us all... as well as those of us -- outwardly -- more “generic” Americans (“Generic-ans?”): more or less White, politically Left and Right... mellow and uptight? The Many, the Proud, the Privileged. (As a White male in America, the beneficiary of 40 years of better treatment, jobs, etc., I know of what I speak.)
Thus, I am enormously grateful for the opportunity Code Pink has given me to meet these extraordinary fellow travelers in Peace.
Thanks, Code Pink, for introducing me to Becky! Becky shared her perspective from the African continent, telling me the story of political developments in Ghana over the past 30 years (mostly positive, I'm happy to report).
She told me of her peaceful country -- and what it took to bring that about (what it always takes: the People's will correcting a venal, militaristic, and unimaginative political leadership -- sound familiar?). She told me of Ghana's free -- and complacent -- press, filling the airwaves with half-truths, propaganda, and nonsense (now, I know that sounds familiar).
As with all who (are unfortunate enough to) engage me in conversation for any length of time, I shared with Becky much that I have learned about her continent through my habit of extensive daily newspaper reading: the political backstory underlying recent conflict in Kenya, South Africa, and Somalia, Chad and Sudan, the Congo, etc. I spoke of the Kikuyu and Luo, of Zuma and the ANC, of the Government of the Islamic Courts versus that of the TFG, of conflicts spilling from one country into the next (Chad and Sudan; Rwanda and Congo); and of cassiterite and cobalt, Western exploitation, piracy and plunder: The depredations of Empire.
Overall, ours was an astonishing exchange: What I knew from reading -- that the corporate trawlers of the Industrialized World had virtually “fished out” the coastal areas of Northwestern Africa -- Becky knew from living there. It's really something to have a human face to put to a story I've seen only in black and white print on my computer screen... especially when that face is as pleasant as Becky's.
Actually, I had a related experience this past January when I shared a plane with a former Special Ops soldier and private contractor who was chatting with a freelance journalist two rows behind me: Once he and I started to converse, I found that I had learned from reading what he had learned from years on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan: America is failing in its missions in both countries -- missions of exploitation and empire ("No question, it's about the OIL,” he said); America's military leadership is politicized and weak; the equipping and training of our soldiers, especially in terms of cultural sensitivity, is poor, at best.
The only subject we differed on was how to respond -- as individuals -- to what we both saw as the end of the American dream and the unraveling of our society: I aim to resist the current trend, whereas he is seeking (by his own admission) a way to “make a profit” as the nation goes down the toilet... which is why he's a mercenary, and why I'm at the Code Pink DC House.
Thank you, Code Pink! Thank you, Desiree, Liz, Medea, Tighe, Alicia, Sarah, Julie, Jason, Jess and Leslie, and all of Code Pink's champions for Peace I have yet to meet.
Thank you very much.
You have given me the opportunity to share a magical space with some incredible people, advocating (and agitating) for our shared vision of a better world.
My special thanks to Elie and Deborah, Becky, and Isis, for the special time you gave me, sharing the gifts of your personal stories, songs, and unique (and vital!) perspectives.
You all have touched my heart.
I am NOT alone.