The daily vigiling in front of the White House continued today. Fortunately, the air wasn't as biting cold and the wind wasn't as sharp as it had been . Since Friday, we've had a contingent from Buffalo, consisting of Vicki Ross, Jim Anderson, Tom Casey, and me. On Friday, the four of us, along with Cynthia Banas from Vernon (near Utica) went to Senator Kirstin Gillibrand's office. At first, we were told that the foreign policy aides were unavailable and that we could write down our concerns. We really didn't want to do that. Fortunately, one of the staff members (the aide who focuses mainly on financial issues) was able to get two foreign policy aides to see us. We expressed our concerns about these wars in Iraq and that seem to have no end. We also shared our concern about the damage to civilian populations that is caused by drone attacks. It was good to see that the staff members were both listening and taking notes.
Apparently, to get a full meeting with a staff member in Senator Kirstin Gillibrand's office, there is a protocol. One calls the "scheduling aide," and this person gets out the calender and sets up the appointment on behalf of the staff member. I suppose that staff members are given their schedules somewhat in advance of their appointments so that they can be prepared. This is good to know for the future, when delegations go to Washington, D.C., so that they can get the most out of their visit to this senator's office.
Anyway, back to the vigils. We have found that people from foreign countries love to pose with us and have their pictures taken. Earlier last week, I had posed with a number of people from the Hunan region of China. It is good that people from other countries can see that there are voices for peace in the United States.
After today's vigil, the group, consisting of the New York folks as well as people from the Voices for Creative Nonviolence's Peaceable Assembly Campaign, went to the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum. We wanted to check out reports that drones were on display at that museum.
The Air and Space Museum is a huge museum that depicts the history of air transportation, from the earliest pre-flight days (Leonardo da Vinci's designs for flying machines) to the present. I found the earliest attempts at flying to be funny (people strapping wings onto themselves and jumping off of high places) and fantastic (the earliest biplanes that traveled distances). Unfortunately, it seemed to me that aeronatics was taken over by the military and used for violence, rather than to keep satisfying our human need to be as free as the birds. The museum was filled with all sorts of military planes and pieces of military planes.
And, yes, the drones were prominently on display at the museum. I took photographs of them. They were much smaller than I anticipated. Nevertheless, they are deadly things and civilians in both Afghanistan and have been killed by drone attacks.
So, what do we do to stop the drone attacks?
I'm sure that there will be more discussions about this later.
The last stop for our Sunday adventures was the Council for a Liveable World, where we heard a talk from Josh Stieber, who became a conscientious objector after experiencing war in Iraq in 2007 and 2008. He talked about his personal journey, from a middle school student on 9/11 to enlisting in the Army after graduating from high school to his deployment in Iraq to his return home. After Josh was granted conscientious objector status and he lef t the army, he continued his personal journey, which had become a journey of peace, by walking and biking across the country. Halfway through his journey, Josh met another veteran, and the two completed their journey. Josh said that he talked to many groups about his transformation from warrior to peace advocate.
Josh related this story: he and some other soldiers went to search a house. They kicked in the door and starting ripping apart the possessions in the house. Josh went outside to the garden, which was beautiful and well tended. He began to dig it up, in search of explosives. As he was in the middle of the process, the owner of the house came outside with a tray. On the tray was tea. Even though the soldiers were trashing the man's house and destroying his precious garden, he still served tea as an act of hospitality.
Apparently, that unexpected act of kindness was the start of Josh's transformation from warrior to advocate for peace.
Please call or write to your Congressional representatives and ask them to say yes to peace and to human rights and no to war and violence.
Oh, and take a look at Josh's blog: Contagious Love Experiment