The Air is Humming

In March, while attending Camp Out Now in DC, I went with other peace advocates to protest torture attorney John Yoo who was speaking at the University of Virginia. ON the return, we decided to stop at a restaurant for dinner. The entire time I’d been in DC, I’d walked from our peace camp on the Washington Monument grounds to my rental in the 2000 block of 16th St. NW to compose dinner and, then, head back for evening activities. You see, I prefer my own food preparation, or the magic of a five-star chef.

Truth is I appreciate finery—the first-rate, top-notch, well-made.

I decided not to conceal this and, so, I suggested we look for a place that was Zagat rated. “Cause, look, I’m kinda, sorta a princess.” Debra Sweet, National Coordinator of World Can’t Wait, was among our group. I’ve known her about four years, so she’s aware of my proclivities.

We were caravanning, five of us in one car and four in another.

Someone spotted a strip mall and, as we approached the restaurant of choice, I noticed a Zagat sign in the window. Praise to Goddess Edesia, I thought.

Lately, I’ve been considering some options. “The air is humming.”

I’m not young. Yet, often, I think of my life and situation with an exquisite feeling of anticipation—almost as if there’s a laugh developing, approaching full term, and soooo ready to emerge. The word “something” is full of possibilities, as if it’s wrapped around question marks and exclamation points. This “something” could be big or it could be very small. If it’s large, great. If not, I won’t be disappointed. That’s what I mean about not being young. “Something” may be wonderful but if “something” is nothing, then, it really doesn’t matter.

I hope I’m making sense.

A little history might be helpful. When my oldest son was a child, he told me he wanted to be a freedom fighter. No, no, no, no. I didn’t like the word “fighter” and all that it implied. I’d take my children and leave the country before they were forced into military slavery, warriors of the state. This son’s hero was Che Guevara. “Mom, he was a doctor, and he left his doctor bag and picked up ammunition to fight for what he believed.”

These are Che’s words:

Perhaps this was the first time I was confronted with the real-life dilemma of having to choose between my devotion to medicine and my duty as a revolutionary soldier. Lying at my feet were a knapsack full of medicine and a box of ammunition. They were too heavy for me to carry both of them. I grabbed the box of ammunition, leaving the medicine behind.

For years, I thought my gifts to society were my children and the values they’d been taught. At some point, I realized they were their own gifts to the world and that my contributions couldn’t be defined by their kindnesses.

When George W. began his “you’re either with us or against us,” I added another role to that of wife, mother, and writer. I became a peace activist, intensifying my determination when Bush said, “WMD in Iraq.” At every opportunity, I attended antiwar rallies and walked the marches. The political op-ed writing began a week after my brother received the military message that his youngest child had been killed in Iraq. Compared to many, I’ve done little. Compared to most, I’ve done plenty.

To what end?

Here we are, approaching the nine-year mark in Afghanistan. Iraq is an environmental disaster with over a million civilians dead. There’s an increasing likelihood of full-blown war in Pakistan because drones aren’t accomplishing what the Military Industrial Complex intended, unless you believe, as I do, that there’s method to this madness. Consider the Patriot Act, the travesty of the 9/11 Commission, the threatening rhetoric to Iran and North Korea, US imperialism, Zionism, and the craven attack by Israel Defense Forces on humanitarians delivering aid to the people of Gaza. Pile on greed and BP’s Earth-damning petroleum flood. Add corporate personhood and private industry lobbyists. These don’t cover the mayhem.

Because each death or maiming of a troop and each death or maiming of a civilian in the countries we occupy are tragedies for every family and community. And every soldier who returns with post-traumatic stress disorder is a tragedy for a family and community.

This is the why of my “real-life dilemma”—the why that’s whispering it’s time to enter the realm of the revolutionary, far from my original values of pacifism.

Maybe I don’t have to put down my Chanel handbag to arm myself with a different attitude. But holding hands, singing peace songs, and chanting “Troops Out Now” at marches aren’t going to end the violence finger-painted on the vast canvas by diabolical egomaniacs like George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Barack Obama. It shouldn’t be necessary to watch V For Vendetta for inspiration or listen to Muse, performing Uprising. We are bearing witness to atrocities. At home and abroad. In our names. This should be enough motivation for revolution.

MISSY BEATTIE has a feeling.

“With a click, with a shock,
phone’ll jingle, door’ll knock,
Open the latch!
Something’s coming, don’t know when, but it’s soon;
Catch the moon, one handed catch! ~~Something’s Coming

And she’s still waiting to hear from Larry David.

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Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail: