Friday, June 26, 2009

We have the power to choose this and to make it so

Finally getting my feet on the ground here... jet-lag and insomnia are NOT a great combination. The past 2 nights I have been awake until AFTER the first "Call to Prayer", which happens at about 4:30 a.m.

1st 2 days in Amman: stark contrasts, poverty/wealth, a whole new culture to learn, great and profound sadness at the horror people are living while we do not know; humanity in the streets and in the city, new music, calls to prayer; rock, dust, spices, amazing food and outrageous music. All is different. All is the same.

I am well. I am safe. I am being alert. It seems appropriate, as I am still lost all the time. Sasha feels totally safe here, wandering the streets by herself, walking home at 11 pm through dark streets. She says she has done this alone for two years, and feels safer here than she did in Spain. I just got here, so of course it is all alien, still. Not to mention the chicken being one of my totem animals.

Yesterday we met a woman who the CRP had helped in the past. She was with her 10 year old nephew, and became very emotional when she saw Sasha.. We were in the grocery store at the "Mechtal Mall," a large conglomeration of stores and kiosks of varying types. Her nephew was a shy young kid, trying not to cry in public, while his auntie fell apart and told us that this kid's family all got killed in a 2006 bombing in Baghdad. One parent gone, disappeared off the face of the Earth, and both siblings, killed. Wars destroy innocent people's lives. I imagine this kind of story is just the beginning, just a taste of every refugee's nightmare story.

We went downtown to the main markets-- the same thing as the N. End markets in Boston, the open markets in NYC, the Porte Portese in Rome, only bigger and more of it than little Boston; the same things, with the vendors hawking and shouting, wanting you to come into THEIR shops, all highly organized chaos, new smells, mounds of spices in open barrels, tons of cloth for texture and color, all new things to see. The open markets have a universal feel.

It is really the same humanity, just a totally different culture. There is a lot of money here, smacked right up against intense poverty. We went and visited 2 families today-- absolutely stark nightmares being lived out by people who could easily be us, if we were unlucky enough to be in the way of our government. One teacher, a woman, with her leg blown off, a bad prosthesis, her 81 year old mother, crying through the nights with her broken daughter, with her brother, the only male left alive, an agricultural engineer who cannot even find a job cleaning the streets or toilets... the other family blown apart by this insane war we have orchestrated in the Middle East... I am crash-coursing on my history of this area (I know nothing)... all the people inCREDibly challenged-- imagine your most prosperous friends and family losing EVERYTHING and most of their family, then being displaced and then not allowed to work. It is crushing for these proud people. The few humanitarian aid workers I know find it difficult, at best, to find peace in themselves, maybe ever. They work tirelessly for the refugees. They will never stop, as long as there is a breath left in them. It is a testament to the nature of their beings. Powerful. Wrenching.

We also met today with 2 different local agencies that are giving "parties" for "World Refugee Day," which is Sunday, the 21st of June. The CRP was asked to donate something to these gatherings. They donated me. Music. What can singing a song do? I do not know, but I came here to help Sasha as she sees fit. She sees fit for me to sing, and so I shall. It is all beyond the fringe of my wildest imagination, yet clearly not that, but Real.

My job tonight? I am supposed to write a song about building bridges between Iraqi's and Americans, for the CRP and for a woman who works for an agency in London and travels around the world getting private donations from Iraqi's to help all these discarded people. My God.

Can a song change anything? Can it heal anything? Outside, a man in a mosque singing the 3rd of 5 Calls To Prayer. The timing is perfect in this, yes? PRAY. Then, ACT.

Me? None of the awfulness, the "collateral damage," is a big surprise to me, I have always KNOWN that wars rip and tear people to shreds, normal people, average people, doctors, lawyers, and Indian chiefs. Experiencing it THIS way, hearing story upon story of complete devastation, brings another whole set of emotions. I am all over the board, here, and not really answering even myself. How DO I feel? Sad. Impotent. Empathetic. Powerless but for compassion and small kindnesses given.

I am steady inside myself. My core is solid. I know who I am. I know what I can give and what I cannot. I am clear about my role. I do not make myself important. All I can give is myself, so I will give myself. If I cry every single day (I am sure I will), then so be it. I brought some of my mom's and grandmother's handkerchiefs. I carry kleenex and water. I will need to sleep more. I think I already said this but will plow on.

I can hardly believe I am here. Then I look around, and I AM here.

The difference between last week and the last two days? The pain here is visceral. We have allowed our government to destroy millions of innocent people's lives. For what? We need to change.

Imagine: we know NOTHING of the realities of life in Iraq before us. Imagine: thousands of years of Shiites and Sunna living together in peace in Iraq. They have a saying here: "The Daughter of the East Marries the Son of the West." That is the reality before us. The rest is smoke and mirrors. We are dazed. They are dying while we dream an ugly dream into reality. Wake up. Then, ACT.


Imagine: your beautiful life in an ancient and diverse culture. Imagine: monumental violence perpetrated, total manipulation. Imagine: massive loss, devastation, shock, death, mutilation. Imagine not a terrorist in the group, only teachers and doctors and engineers and mothers, fathers, orphans all, ripped from Home and no income now. Crushed by bombs and ignorance and passivity. Weep. Then, ACT.

While we are waking, weeping, praying, and then acting, could we please all stand up and ACT FOR PEACE? Peace. What a concept. NO MORE WARS. NO more participation in wars. NO funding for wars. We have the power to choose this and to make it so. DO IT. People are dying while we just forgot or never knew. PEACE NOW PEACE NOW PEACE NOW PEACE NOW

by Annie Tanner - CRP volunteer in Amman