- 2/22/06. Today is day eight of our 34-day fast for peace at
the U.S. Capitol, the Washington component of the Winter of Our
Discontent campaign organized by Voices
for Creative Nonviolence.
of us in D.C., Maureen Foltz, Jeff Leys, Ed Kinane, and I are
doing a liquids-only fast. Maureen and Ed are drinking juice;
Jeff and I are trying the water route. So far, everyone reports
they're in good shape and not feeling any serious side effects.
between 11:30 am and 2 pm, we take our banners and signs to the
sidewalk bordering the Capitol Building, near the corner of Independence
and First St. We distribute flyers explaining what we're doing,
and try to engage anyone we can in conversation. Here is the reaction
I've observed so far.
the overwhelming percentage of people, maybe 80 per cent, we rate
a quick glance or are completely invisible.
nattering nabobs of negativity, actually quite a small portion
of the total, shake their heads, or glare, or protectively pull
their children quickly toward them, or try to come up with some
snappy remark to let us know our presence is not appreciated.
in number than the nabobs, although still a small part of the
total, actually take a flyer if their path happens to intersect
our location, or give us a "thumbs-up" from a distance,
or blessedly, actually make a point of stopping, reading our banner,
and come over to chat. I shudder to estimate what percent of total
passers-by are in that last category - and keep in mind that not
a small number of those good souls are tourists from other nations.
think our spirit is overwhelmed by apathy and nabobbery, let me
reassure you it is not. We are veteran activists, accustomed to
such responses and used to keeping up our morale with conversation
of describing what we see each day outside our nation's Capitol
Building is not to depress or solicit sympathy. Nor is it to simply
report the facts of the case; nor even to move you to action if
you consider yourself in that last category above - the blessed
good souls. My guess is, if you consider yourself in it, you have
already been moved to action.
No, the reason
I'm describing what is shall we say, a less than inspiring picture,
is this. If you place yourself in that group of and have done
something to make noise against this war, you must look into your
heart, think, and determine what you can do that is more than
you ever thought you could.
what any of us has done, there is something more that we can do.
If we believe this war is a criminal abomination, an ongoing atrocity
in which we are each complicit, we simply must do more. For if
this period of our 34-day fast, determined by the third anniversary
of the February 15th demonstrations - the first time our world
mobilized to stop a war before it began, and the March 20 anniversary
of our government's invasion of Iraq doesn't qualify as the time
to pull out all the stops, what ever will?
We are fasting
with the realization that at best we may get a few members of
Congress to think briefly about what they're doing; with no real
hope we can actually get them to stop funding this war.
We are primarily
fasting to let you, our friends, our colleagues, our comrades
in the peace movement know that we are trying whatever we can
think of to up the ante. We are doing our very best as individuals
to throw a mighty wrench into the gears of the war machine. But
our effort will be nothing more than a small, noble gesture if
you don't stop... and look into your heart... and think what it
is you can do that is more than you ever thought you could.
If you do,
I promise we will not get discouraged at the overwhelming number
of people we see, kids and cameras in tow, as so many tourists
ogling the whited sepulcher of democracy, oblivious that people
are hard at work in that building, making decisions, spending
somebody's money, and killing people.
we will not be deterred by the nabobs who swear at us almost under
their breath, or the ones who laugh, or the ones who pull their
kids protectively toward them. That we know comes with the job.
That we can stand. What is not tolerable is to think that the
blessed, good souls in our nation, of whom I'm convinced there
are a few million, will think once more about this war and say,
"Well, I did wear a button... I did write my letters... I
did make some phone calls... I did march... I've even been arrested
already. What more can I do?"
for those truly wonderful efforts. I am proud to consider myself
a fellow peace activist with you. But there are lives in
literally. We must do more - each one of us - and we can. If we
will but think with our hearts and understand that now is the
Note: Mike Ferner
traveled to Iraq with "Voices" just prior to the U.S. invasion
and again a year later. His book, Inside the Red Zone: A Veteran
For Peace Reports from Iraq (Praeger) is due out in August.