Sunday, March 18, 2007

Meeting the "Other Reality" Face to Face (part two)

Walking to a sandwich shop for both warmth and food, my family talked about what we had just witnessed. Raw anger and hatred directed squarely at us. It was frightening and startling, something new for us as white middle class Americans. We had done nothing in our estimation to warrant such a response, something like what recipients of hate crimes and prejudices experience.

As we ate our chips and subs, three burly leather jacket men with eagles on their backs sat by the window. We instinctively wanted to cover our small peace buttons. We talked about how mean-spirited it was. In our minds, we bunched them in to a group of fat, bald headed, uneducated, middle age, white men who believe all the propaganda of the Bush regime.

We had taken in their anger, intensified it and sent it right back to them while they sat with their backs to us drinking their coffee.

The day before we had a training on civil disobedience taught by the Christian Peace Witness for Iraq.

We had taken the non violence pledge including:
-We will be open and respectful toward each person we encounter
-We will not use violence, verbal or physical toward any person, especially those who we disagree
-We believe all people hold at least one truth to which we can connect.

Yikes that last one was hard for us to stomach! I had taken my adult children to a worship service at the National Cathedral last night to help to "spread the light of Christ’s peace to our world."

Later as we waited in line for our plane tickets to return to Chicago, a large bearded man with an eagle on his leather jacket rolled his luggage past us. I couldn't help but say out-loud, "Dear God, please do not make me sit next to that man!"

Bob in his protective mode said, "If you do, do NOT talk about the antiwar rally!"

Our family had been scattered throughout the plan and as I walked down the aisle, my empty seat was waiting, right next to eagleman. Testing, testing, remember my training, Each of us has a truth to which I can relate----

I had to just listen and learn to understand his "alternate reality". That was my challenge; to step into this man’s reality.

I told him I had just visited my daughter in a very cold DC. He proceeded to tell me how cold he had been while participating in an "anti-anti" war rally. I listened and kept my mouth shut.

What motivates us to be activists? What could possibly propel this man to travel by himself from southern IL to go to DC and harass antiwar protesters? So I listened. He said he traveled to DC to protect the Viet Nam war memorial from the peace activists. (I did have to interject that they would never harm it). Why would he believe such a thing? Listen, listen to understand why he transferred his anger and suspicion to us.

Yes, he is a Vet and served in Viet Nam. He is a marine and "they are my brothers forever." He counseled returning serviceman. " There is too much head trauma,…The veterans hospital mistreats veterans and knows of at least 3 hospitals that do."

Yes—I was hearing a truth I could relate to. But, why did he feel such anger and why was he so protective of the Viet Nam memorial? I asked him if has had a reunion with the marines that he had served with. He paused and I looked sideways at him from my airplane seat.

His eyes teared over. "No, I haven't. You see they gave us all new M16 rifles. We didn't know they were no good, defective. The bullets would get stuck in the barrel from the mud and moisture of the swamps, but I liked my old M 14 so I had kept mine. We were sent into a big battle (and stated the name of it). We lost over a thousand marines that day. My marine buddies.

And all that was left of them was the names on that granite wall.

It was displaced anger and I feel someone has taken advantage of it, but I can understand him a little more.

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