Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Fueling constructive pesky-ness. . .

Bob Bersson and Mohammed Hijjah both ate lunch at Harrisonburg's Clementine Cafe last Monday. In the basement lounge. In the company of about 25 people.

Mr. Bersson is Jewish and has lived in a Kibbutz in Israel. Mr. Hijjah, who was born in Palestine, was severely beaten by Israeli soldiers who were part of the force that occupied his home in 1967. In a conversation hosted by Harvey Yoder, each man said he was pro-Israel and pro-Palestine. Each man said the two-state solution was the only viable solution.

Bob Bersson attended the controversial inaugural JStreet Conference, held last month in Washington. He said that what has going on in Clementine's lounge was what had gone on there: a group of people had come together to take a stand that being pro-Israel doesn't mean being con-Palestine and vice versa. And then to start figuring out what that means in practical terms. Mr. Hijjah agreed.

Ruth Stoltzfus Jost brought up the House of Representatives' condemnation of the U.N. commissioned Goldstone Report, which found evidence of war crimes by both sides of the Gaza conflict. This was, she suggested, hard evidence of the power over our government of a conservative and entrenched pro-Israel lobby in Washington.

Sandra Rose then pointed out that grass roots forces (among them, those eating lunch with her in Clementine's basement) operate independently of any forces leaning on our lawmakers. "If we want [the two-state solution and peace in Gaza] to become real," Ms. Rose said, "we must make absolute pests of ourselves to our government."

The situation in Gaza, whatever one's politics, needs to heal, for it is generating well-documented crimes against humanity. The government hasn't seen fit to do much; so doesn't that leave it up to the pests?

Over the course of my life, I've taken part in lots of grass-roots pesky-ness; groups of citizens working on changing destructive situations into constructive ones. I started early, taking part in the Woolworth sit-in in Greensboro, North Carolina, when I was twelve. Nothing in my own personal experience has made me feel a force for constructive change in Gaza could not be legitimately energized over lunch in Clementine's lounge.

As long, of course, as that energy fuels some practical pesky-ness.

NOTE: here's what Andrea Seabrook had to say about Going Rogue, Sarah Palin's just-out book:
Going Rogue starts off flowery, with slow descriptions of Alaska's frozen, crystal beauty. The story of her family and childhood is a standard American romance — hardworking, salt-of-the-earth people who raise their children and help their neighbors. But the book very quickly bares its true soul and purpose: It's full of anger as Palin lashes out at everything from the Alaska GOP to John McCain's campaign staff. In the end, Going Rogue comes off as a long (400+ pages), pent-up and resentful tirade from a politician who's angry with the spotlight that (she seems to believe) was forced upon her. — Andrea Seabrook, NPR Congressional Correspondent

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