Monday, January 18, 2010

A letter to Federalist Society friends from the John Yoo event

Lindsay is a great young Catholic Worker. She has already impressed me with her always cheerful demeanor, and quiet and strong spirituality. I thank her for this powerful letter, which reminds me what it's all about.

Lindsay Hagerman
, New York, NY
Friday, January 15, 2010: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday

Dear Roman, Simone, Greg, Phil, David, and the rest of the people who shared a table with me at John Yoo's talk this afternoon:

I wish I had enough foresight to hand you a note when I left our table. Since I did not, I am left to pray that this letter reaches each of you.

This afternoon at twelve o'clock, I joined your table in the center of the banquet room for John Yoo's book signing and luncheon/talk. We chatted for about a half an hour until the speaking began. Soon after John began to speak, my friend Bob stood up by his table behind us. Some of you looked back and saw him standing silently with a black hood over his head, holding a sign that read "Indefinite Detention = Torture = Illegal." After about two minutes, a security guard asked Bob to leave the room and Bob complied. I waited a few more minutes then I excused myself from our table and stepped into the center aisle. I made sure that I stood directly in John Yoo's line of vision. I pulled a black hood from my purse and put it over my head. I silently stood holding a large piece of paper that read: "Legal arguments cannot mask torture." I silently prayed for you, for me, for John, for the victims of torture around the world, and for all of our families.

Before I had time for much else, a security guard grabbed my waist. With the guard behind me, I very slowly processed with hood and sign until I left the room. During that slow walk, I prayed for forgiveness. I prayed for forgiveness from God and from torture victims throughout history. I prayed for all of us in that room, including myself, who are or have been complicit with the sin of torture, whether in our presence or in our names.

In the stairwell as I was leaving to join the outside demonstration, I sent up a prayer of gratitude for Dr. King's life, for his work, and for the opportunity I had today to express my love for all of God and Her creation.

Even though we clearly disagree in our opinion of John Yoo's work, I genuinely enjoyed our conversations and would love to have more opportunities to share back and forth. Unfortunately, there were times in a couple conversations where I was not able to be forthright with you, especially when some of you asked me questions to which honest answers may have "outed" me as a protester. I regret having "deceived" you and want you to know that the vast majority of information I shared about myself was truthful.

My name is Lindsay Hagerman. I am 26 years old and was raised in Dallas, Texas. I graduated from Highland Park High School (an elite public school in a very white, very Republican community). I graduated from Washington and Lee University in Lexington, VA and then did my graduate work in American history at the University of Delaware. It is true that I have relatives that have urged me to go to law school. I do live and work at a House of Hospitality for homeless women and children in the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

Roman, I was moved by something you shared with me from your years at Stanford Law School during the Vietnam War. You spoke with resentment about protesters who repeatedly called you a "fascist." I mourn how name-calling from all sides undermines our ability to understand one another. I have continued to reflect on your story, as well as conversations I had with others of you, and here are a couple more things I want you to understand about me and what I did today:

I am like you. No matter how much you may want to lock me away in the neat and tidy "protestor" stereotype, I feel "at home" with you. Sitting at that table, even I was taken aback by the ease with which I slipped back into the "polite" social norms of "my past." You reminded me of members of my family, people in my neighborhood growing up, classmates and friends of mine. Despite Yoo's joke about his students (caricatured as Jon Stewart-watching liberal activists) not doing their homework, I did mine. I did it well in "good schools" with a large percentage of conservative teachers and professors. But the more I tried to understand the experiences of poor people and people of color, the more I questioned basic fundamental "truths" I'd been raised to believe. Before long James Baldwin's words rang true with me:

"People who imagine that history flatters them (as it does, indeed, since they wrote it) are impaled on their history like a butterfly on a pin and become incapable of seeing or changing themselves, or the world. This is the place in which it seems to me, most white Americans find themselves. Impaled. They are dimly, or vividly, aware that the history they have fed themselves is mainly a lie, but they do not know how to release themselves from it, and they suffer enormously from the resulting personal incoherence."

When we embrace "torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment" as acceptable methods for dealing with any human being, we embrace incoherence. I don't see any of you or John Yoo as evil—to the contrary, you are my brothers and sisters. I love you too much to stand by while you continue to impale yourselves and destroy the lives of our other brothers and sisters. I had a moral obligation to act as I did today precisely because I can "pass" in settings like a Federalist Society gathering.

Please, please feel free to contact me next time you're in New York City. I would love to take any of you out for coffee or tea. Either way, my prayers are with you.


Sunday, January 10, 2010

Do you agree with these?

Ecological Wisdom
Whatever we do to the web of life, we do to ourselves. We advocate stewardship of our resources for the continued health of our communities and our planet.

Social Justice
Everyone should share in the fruits of our society regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, class, age, or disability. We work for a world in which all can live free of fear and discrimination

Grassroots Democracy
Citizens have the right and responsibility to participate in the environmental, political, and economic decisions that affect their lives.

We reject violence at all levels of society, from the family to the nation. We promote peace by working for justice and by advocating non-violent resolution to conflict.

Concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the few contributes to social and economic injustice as well as environmental destruction. We call for the return of local decision-making so individuals and communities may act in their own best interests.

Community-Based Economics
We support the strengthening of local communities by encouraging economic self-reliance in all ways practical.

We call for cooperative ways of interacting to replace the cultural ethics of domination and control. We actively promote equal rights for all citizens.

Respect for Diversity
We support the cultural, ethnic, racial, sexual, religious and spiritual diversity among all people. We also cherish and encourage the preservation of the earth's biodiversity.

Personal & Global Responsibility
As individuals, we strive to be mindful of our interconnectedness, to consider the effect of our actions and lifestyle choices on the earth and all its inhabitants.

Future Focus & Sustainability
For love of our children, we consider the long range consequences of current actions. For the sake of future generations, we seek to create a society which meets the needs of everyone within the natural limits of the earth.

If you do -- Then join the Green Party! Be true to yourself, and do something good for your community, your state, your nation.

These were taken from the Green Party of Virginia's Website: (

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Recent Reports from Cairo -- Gaza Freedom March

By Jean Athey

Gaza Freedom March
Fourth Letter: December 31, 2009

Over 1300 people came to Cairo this week from all over the world, hoping to join Palestinians today in a nonviolent Gaza Freedom March to end the blockade. Since we were prohibited from going to Gaza, we decided to march in Cairo today instead. We hoped to step off at 10 a.m., the same time as the march in Gaza was to begin.

Many people managed to make it to the location selected for the march—near the Egyptian Museum-- but they were quickly and forcibly removed from the street; a few were injured and some had their cameras destroyed. Once off the street and onto the sidewalk, protesters were surrounded by riot police, and there they remained all day.

I was one of those who didn’t manage to get to the march. Egyptian police surrounded the Lotus Hotel early this morning, where many people are staying, including me, and they prevented us from leaving. The government also cut off Internet access to the hotel. We were able to go outside directly in front of the hotel, which is on a busy street, but we could not cross the police line. So, we set up a demonstration on the sidewalk, chanting, waving signs, singing, and talking to passers-by and to the police.

We finally stopped the demonstration at about 3 p.m.

A lovely French woman named Delphine is my roommate, and tonight we went together to eat dinner. We saw a young couple going into the same restaurant as us and speaking American English. Assuming they were with the March, we invited them to join us, which they did. But it turned out that they were simply in Egypt on vacation. We began to tell them about the March, which they found interesting. Both were well-educated, but neither knew anything at all about Palestine, Gaza, or the issues we are trying to address. Nothing. Nada. Rien.

It was disheartening to see the level of education that is needed in the US if American policy is ever to change. They were a very nice couple and highly supportive of our actions, once they understood what they are about.

There is so much work to do in the US.

Tonight we will ring in the New Year in Tahrir Square, altogether. We hope, we pray, that 2010 will bring some relief and some hope for all Palestinians and, especially, that the siege of Gaza will end.

*** ***
Gaza Freedom March
Fifth Letter—January 1, 2010

Hedy Epstein, 85-year-old Holocaust survivor, has stolen our hearts. At four feet-ten, she is a giant. Her gentle smile lights up every room that she enters, and yet if you saw her on the street, you might not immediately sense her power. Unless you paid close attention, you would just see a sweet little old lady.

When she came to Cairo, Hedy decided to undertake a fast in support of the people of Gaza, a particularly apt form of protest given the inadequacy of both the supply and type of food the people there have access to. Malnutrition is endemic in Gaza, and children’s growth is stunted; people frequently go hungry.

Inspired by Hedy, thirty others joined her fast, beginning on December 28. Today, the fasters held a press conference on the steps of the building housing the Egyptian journalists’ union. Some of the thirty will continue to fast, others will stop now. They released this statement:

We are thirty activists from around the world, inspired by Hedy Epstein, the 85-year-old Holocaust survivor, who initiated a hunger strike in Cairo for the opening of the borders of Gaza to the outside world.

We recognize that the Palestinians of Gaza continue to hunger for food, shelter, and most of all for freedom.

We continue to hunger for justice for Gaza and all of Palestine. At this time, we announce that we will feast when Gaza feasts.

Until that time, each of us will choose the time to end her/his fast and again take food.

Our pleasure in that food will always be mixed with the pain of Palestinians.

We call on all people of conscience from around the world to renew their resolve for peace and justice in Palestine.

My friend Keren, Jewish like Hedy, has talked about how personally difficult it is to work for justice in Palestine when your dearest community will not support you, even actively opposes you. Hedy, too, has struggled with this problem, Keren told me, when members of her own family rejected her. And yet, she takes this strong, brave action, risking her health and accepting shunning from loved ones in order to stand up for those who are oppressed.

On this final day of the Gaza Freedom March, I have reflected on the experience—did we accomplish anything? We have all been inspired--by individuals of conscience like Hedy, by the sense of international friendship and solidarity that has pervaded these days here, even by the observable impact of our practice of nonviolence on the young policemen. There has been media coverage of our multiple protests here, and so we have raised up the issue of Gaza around the world, although coverage in the mainstream media has been limited, especially in the U.S. We have made lasting connections with one another, and so a nascent international movement, initiated by the South African delegation, is forming to combat the apartheid system in Palestine, a system with many similarities to what once existed in South Africa.

Most people will leave Cairo either tomorrow or the next day, returning home to their various countries. A few of us are staying on, however, hoping that we can, in a few days, get into Gaza after all--not to participate in a march but rather to offer our service as volunteers. If we are successful and cross into Gaza, we know that we will be greeted with love by the people there. We received this e-mail yesterday, written a few days ago, from the youth of Gaza:

We are still waiting for everyone to cross and share his/her feelings with us, but even if Egypt keeps you out, your work in Egypt is critical. Egypt is one of the perpetrators of the blockade, and we so appreciate all the solidarity protests you have conducted at great personal risk throughout the great city of Cairo, at every important "nerve center." You showed your support of Gaza and Palestine loud and clear, waking humanity up to the 1.5 million persons in Gaza who have been suffering for the past four years.

So please don't stop fighting, no matter what happens. With your help, we will achieve peace and justice. We are marching for freedom together.

We are still waiting for the Gaza Freedom March to cross from Cairo and we are against the Egyptian government’s decision! Welcome to Gaza and to a Happy New Year without blockade, settlements and occupation!

As for me, I have never spent a more memorable New Year’s Eve than last night, when I went to the French Embassy where the 200-strong French delegation was still camped out. Marching on the sidewalk between rows of small tents, with a couple of hundred riot police standing guard at the curb, the French, wearing paper New Year’s Eve hats, chanted, “Ga-za, Ga-za, on n’oublie pas! Ga-za, Ga-za, on n’oublie pas!” Gaza, Gaza, you are not forgotten! And, “Gaza, bonne annee, oui! Gaza, bonne annee, oui!” Happy New Year, Gaza.

May 2010 be the year that the blockade ends and freedom comes to Gaza and all Palestine.