FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Thirsting for Justice

At Maryhouse Catholic Worker, in New York City, word arrived, on a hot August day that, due to street construction, the water would be cut off for four hours the following day.  The Catholic Worker community serves scores of guests each day, and the water shortage would have to be dealt with practically.  Catholic Workers are legend for being practical in their approach toward problem solving, and in this matter a decision was quickly made:  fill the bathtubs on each floor with water, post a sign that none of the toilets could be used, and quickly make one hundred or so egg salad sandwiches which could be served to guests at the door since it wouldn’t be practical to invite people indoors when there wouldn’t be any running water.  How could they wash the dishes?  What about the women who were accustomed to coming in and taking a shower?  And how could you close off the toilets to the usual flow of guests?

I smiled to myself, remembering an invitation I had just received to experiment with using only 6.3 gallons of water, per person, over the course of an entire day.  The experiment would be nearly impossible for most U.S. people to fulfill.  The invitation came from the Middle East Children’s Alliance, who are coordinating the 2012 Thirsting for Justice Summer Challenge, in the US, which calls on supporters worldwide to live on 6.3 gallons in one day, in solidarity with the average allotment of water available to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

A quick look at a chart supplied by the campaign website showed that just by flushing the toilet, washing the dishes and taking a shower an average North American consumer of water would use up far more than the allotted 6.3 gallons!  However,  I was so jet lagged after having just returned from Afghanistan that I knew I would barely leave my room at Maryhouse Catholic Worker, –no problem foregoing a shower and no need to be troubled over using too much water to wash dishes and, well, if the toilets were closed, there must be another way to “make do.”

Truthfully, I’ve learned plenty about “making do” in Afghanistan where people are familiar with water shortages, especially during harsh winters when the pipes freeze and, if the electricity is “off,” and wells are dependent on electricity, people face several days in a row with no water.

But once I’m back in the U.S., my usual levels of consumption kick back into full gear.  I might remember to use less water for washing dishes, but I would never fill and haul large plastic basins, in advance of doing dishes, because of lacking tap water.  I might take a shower as quickly as possible, but I wouldn’t do so by dipping one small bowl of water into a larger bowl and pouring that overhead.  As for whether or not I’m over consumptive if I boil water to make myself a cup of tea or instant coffee…well, the question never occurs to me.

For Gazans, practicalities related to water consumption constantly nag people who never will know of the luxuries taken for granted by people who presume upon endless supplies of water.  A particular irony, in Gaza and the surrounding region, is that there actually is enough water available for all…or there could be, if the available reserves of water were shared equitably.

And so my friends at MECA and the Thirsting for Justice Campaign have invited us all to become more sensitive to the plight of Gazans and Palestinians throughout the West Bank, as they try to believe that we are all part of one another, that we all have the same blood and water running through our veins while experience tells them that they are rendered less eligible, less deserving, less equal when it comes to their basic human right to clean water.  The Israeli consumption of water to fill swimming pools, power nuclear reactors and match western levels of consumption forbids life-giving availability of water for Gazans and people in the West Bank.

My ideal day for participating in the experiment has come and gone and now I must sign up for another day when my usual patterns of consumption are in full swing.  I feel humbled, troubled.

Please visit MECA’s website and join me in evaluating myself, on a normal day, in relation to people in Gaza and the West Bank, people who mean us no harm but whose lives are affected every day by the warmaking and war profiteering practices of the Israeli government, an occupying government that relies, every day, on U.S. governmental support.  Let’s look forward to the withering of any support for war and a time when our tolerance for imperial control over subjugated people will dry up, becoming as bereft of sustenance as, say, the Jordan River is bereft of water….another image for another day of considering practical resistance to water wars.

Kathy Kelly (Kathy@vcnv.org) is a co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence (www.vcnv.org)  When in Afghanistan, she and other Voices activists are guests of the Afghan Peace Volunteers (www.ourjourneytosmile.com)

COMING IN SEPTEMBER

A Special Memorial Issue of CounterPunch

Featuring recollections of Alexander Cockburn from Jeffrey St. Clair, Peter Linebaugh, Paul Craig Roberts, Noam Chomsky, Mike Whitney, Doug Peacock, Perry Anderson, Becky Grant, Dennis Kucinich, Michael Neumann, Susannah Hecht, P. Sainath, Ben Tripp, Alison Weir, James Ridgeway, JoAnn Wypijewski, John Strausbaugh, Pierre Sprey, Carolyn Cooke, Conn Hallinan, James Wolcott, Laura Flanders, Ken Silverstein, Tariq Ali and many others …

Subscribe to CounterPunch Today to Reserve Your Copy

More articles by:

KATHY KELLY co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence and has worked closely with the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers. She is the author of Other Lands Have Dreams published by CounterPunch / AK Press. She can be reached at: Kathy@vcnv.org 

Weekend Edition
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Jake Johnston
Haiti by the Numbers
Binoy Kampmark
No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit
Victor Grossman
Red Flowers for Rosa and Karl
Cesar Chelala
President Donald Trump’s “Magical Realism”
Christopher Brauchli
An Education in Fraud
Paul Bentley
The Death Penalty for Canada’s Foreign Policy?
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Not to Love NATO
Louis Proyect
Breaking the Left’s Gay Taboo
Kani Xulam
A Saudi Teen and Freedom’s Shining Moment
Ralph Nader
Bar Barr or Regret this Dictatorial Attorney General
Jessicah Pierre
A Dream Deferred: MLK’s Dream of Economic Justice is Far From Reality
Edward J. Martin
Glossip v. Gross, the Eighth Amendment and the Torture Court of the United States
Chuck Collins
Shutdown Expands the Ranks of the “Underwater Nation”
Paul Edwards
War Whores
Alycee Lane
Trump’s Federal Government Shutdown and Unpaid Dishwashers
Martha Rosenberg
New Questions About Ritual Slaughter as Belgium Bans the Practice
Wim Laven
The Annual Whitewashing of Martin Luther King Jr.
Nicky Reid
Panarchy as Full Spectrum Intersectionality
Jill Richardson
Hollywood’s Fat Shaming is Getting Old
Nyla Ali Khan
A Woman’s Wide Sphere of Influence Within Folklore and Social Practices
Richard Klin
Dial Israel: Amos Oz, 1939-2018
Graham Peebles
A Global Battle of Values and Ideals
David Rovics
Of Triggers and Bullets
Elliot Sperber
Eddie Spaghetti’s Alphabet
January 17, 2019
Stan Cox
That Green Growth at the Heart of the Green New Deal? It’s Malignant
David Schultz
Trump vs the Constitution: Why He Cannot Invoke the Emergencies Act to Build a Wall
Paul Cochrane
Europe’s Strategic Humanitarian Aid: Yemen vs. Syria
Tom Clifford
China: An Ancient Country, Getting Older
Greg Grandin
How Not to Build a “Great, Great Wall”
Ted Rall
Our Pointless, Very American Culture of Shame
John G. Russell
Just Another Brick in the Wall of Lies
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers Strike: Black Smoke Pouring Out of LAUSD Headquarters
Patrick Walker
Referendum 2020: A Green New Deal vs. Racist, Classist Climate Genocide
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Uniting for a Green New Deal
Matt Johnson
The Wall Already Exists — In Our Hearts and Minds
Jesse Jackson
Trump’s Flailing will get More Desperate and More Dangerous
Andrew Stewart
The Green New Deal Must be Centered on African American and Indigenous Workers to Differentiate Itself From the Democratic Party: Part Three
January 16, 2019
Patrick Bond
Jim Yong Kim’s Mixed Messages to the World Bank and the World
John Grant
Joe Biden, Crime Fighter from Hell
Alvaro Huerta
Brief History Notes on Mexican Immigration to the U.S.
Kenneth Surin
A Great Speaker of the UK’s House of Commons
Elizabeth Henderson
Why Sustainable Agriculture Should Support a Green New Deal
Binoy Kampmark
Trump, Bolton and the Syrian Confusion
Jeff Mackler
Trump’s Syria Exit Tweet Provokes Washington Panic
Barbara Nimri Aziz
How Long Can Nepal Blame Others for Its Woes?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail