Monday 28 November 2016

Train Transitions, My Octagon Mug, Fancy Cocktails, and Stable Fluidty.

I like my octagon mug
and my stomach feels queasy
as I eat my eggs 
and process you.
Digesting the news,
it's not me, 
it's true.

We talk like women,
pissed at the system.
Strong in our sadness
we laugh about the
naked chicken in the window 
across from Hello Darling!
and talk loud about the
lack of female orgasm -
an epidemic 
not aired on the news,
in case you haven't heard of it.

I feel the city come into me 
as I leave it.
When I breathed it in
as the portals of streetcars rocked me,
trains swaying my aching a little more gently
and Sufjan reminded me "we're all gonna die" and
I drank coffee in Riverdale,
the place that conceived 
a quarter of me.
It's all news to me, this family history.

Fuck you and your feelings for me.
Fuck my grace and understanding.
You tell me you liked the memories 
we made the same sentence 
you said we had to stop making them.
Candy from a babe -
a beautiful poet of a babe -
she'd have been your friend and made you cookies,
and you were sweeter than candy.
Why should a filmmaker stop filming or a poet stop poeting -
we're good at it - memory making - so why should we stop 
and start remembering?

You sang me goodbye
while I kissed your ear softly (in my head), 
and took in the moment while I was there on the couch 
beside you, knees touching, hands resisting.

Her painting of the rocks
was about stability and fluidity.
Funny, I thought in the church pews,
That's what I had already written 
about me and you when we watched the waves over stone 
from a cliff on our stomachs, living in the edge.
We took pictures,
like her.
It was her painting.
You were rock,
I was water,
and Grandma Gray painted it on paper
before I was born and I never knew her.
Life's a game of chance
and timing.

She was probably beautiful
but maybe annoying or stuck up or 
maybe she snored too loudly. 
But I'll never know, 
and now I'm moving to her home,
where she learned love.

Love in my stomach,
might puke it up.
Gin in my veins, 
dreams on my sleeve,
ideas unborn on pages
with lavender tea,
home somewhere else.
But I feel it growing.
All this hospitality, making me swoon for humanity.
I'm ready for 
and stability.
In the city of trees,
in the wild,
with the lights.
and I miss you.

Mom passed me Aunt Olive's inheritance 
tears in her eyes 
another stranger's kindness.
I pass out my Body of Work in secret,
relieved to be rid of him,
relieved by the kindness in your lens,
even though 
you had a woman in each eye
and when you blinked
I was gone -
but don't you worry I'll take care of my own...
But I'd still paddle the river with you,
if you were alone,
and wanted my company.
If I'm not off and hitched by then.

I was gonna by you a record,
but I didn't.
I bought myself fancy cocktails with 
the ladies instead, with colouring pages and names of dishes we have to google,
cuz we're adults and that's what women do.

You didn't choose me and my laughter,
and I bought myself fancy cocktails with the ladies instead.

Friday 7 November 2014

"Cleanse" is a Dirty Word

Tactic: Low Standards

I have been at a loss for words for what to write about next - hard to know what topic to land on, with so many things that need to be said and shared.

Remembrance Day is coming up, and posts are popping up in honour of the past and myth that past conflicts justify present day destruction. It is devastating.

We got called one night this last week at 7:30pm to a house demolition where a bulldozer and many army trucks rolled into a village nearby. As we were rushing out the door, we received another call to inform us that “It’s okay! False alarm! The army is only doing a training exercise raid on the village - phew!” - phew...? The military is so often terrorizing or finding ways to make life hard in the West Bank: their colonization is slow, deliberate, and carefully controlled randomness.

Tactic: Normal

Last Thursday, as a friend and I were driving in the car on the way to Jerusalem from Ramallah (from West Bank, Palestine to Israel/1948 borders), we passed through one of the largest checkpoints along the apartheid barrier between the West Bank and East Jerusalem, called Qalundia. Here are some photos I took of the wall three years ago (I will be taking more informative ones in a couple of weeks). Clashes there between the army and the Palestinians either trapped on the West Bank side or going in and out have been increasing since the siege on Gaza, and in a wave of clashes again with the closing of the Dome of the Rock (called the 'Al-Aqsa' mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem, one of the major holy sites in the world). Our car was second in line to get through the checkpoint, and it was nothing unusual to notice the fire that landed just beside our car window from a Molotov cocktail, which was followed by another,and subsequently stones being thrown towards the checkpoint gates.  

These clashes are so normal, it scares me that most of the time I am not scared but used to it - expect it even. But then again, I can come and go as I please, because I hold the right passport and my skin colour is not of concern to anyone. I could talk about these checkpoints and how they are not for security but for control and oppression and harassment.  I could talk about how they do not prevent bombers, they prevent families from going to the ocean, they prevent people from going to the hospital, they prevent brothers from going to each other’s weddings, they prevent students from going to university, farmers selling their produce, kids going to a soccer game, and on and on. You are allowed to pass based on the colour of the paper you are given (green, blue, orange, red), based on your race, and based on your religion [1]. If you do not have the right equation, you remain “inside.” And “inside” is not free, but full of obstacles, fear, frustration, humiliation.

And yet, people's survival with pride includes so much innovation, laughter, poetry, dancing, singing, sports, art, academics. My next post is on this ever-inspiring AMAZING Freedom Theatre [2] from the Jenin Refugee camp, where 17,000 people still live waiting for decades in violent limbo in a space of 2km squared.

Tactic: Slow Suffocation

Road closer put there by the military
at the entrance to the village
we work in, with no given "reason."
This closer also halted the construction
being done to create a new
town entrance structure.
The government of Israel has done a horrifyingly successful job at “cleansing” out a population slowly over decades, instead of quickly over months (this comment is made without discrediting the many lives - mostly civilian - that are and have been lost due directly to the occupation). The way that they have done this is through a constant and incessant and relentless squeezing of daily life, that suppresses resistance even of the non-violent nature (though it keeps happening!), through removing rights, or taking over natural abundant water sources and charging 5x more for water than Israelis, blocking key roads and highways to cities and places of work, preventing loved ones from attending one another's weddings, funerals, or going to the ocean, hospital, or work.  Through night raids into people's homes, through demolishing this house here, and that house here, over and over and over again through the years. It seems that taking life before death is something that the State of Israel, funded by its brother The United States, has become quite skilled at. And on top of that, hasty killings are frequent, even when there is no major threat or reason.

Tactic: Distraction

It is awkward trying to place oneself in a system of apartheid, when you can slip in and out and around the system. My skin colour avoids me harassment on the segregated busses as the two guards with Assault Rifle’s walk up the aisle asking those with darker complexion and not as westernly stylish clothing for their ID cards.  My passport lets me walk through the wall - I can visually witness this giant manifestation of captivity, but my passport does not let me know what captivity really feels like. My ability to just pick up and leave after dreaming of home, where I prefer to be, makes me angry, because for some reason decided by governing bodies of people, my constructed worth lets me go almost anywhere I want.  Perhaps this wouldn’t be so troubling if the same governing people made decisions that let all people have a try at freedom.

I have tried many times to write over the last two weeks, and have failed to put together a coherent post, as we encounter stories and circumstances from all over the map.  Apartheid is complex, is's segregated experience oppression on many levels. It squeezes and chokes life from all sides, waiting for the imprisoned to lash out, so that she can be wiped out completely.

I do not want to paint a picture of Palestine as “one” however, in the same way that Israel is not “one” side. Even Israel has not decided who is a ‘Jew’ (though they have decided who is a more superior Jew), but they are making it clear who is not a Jew - with factors that range from faith to skin colour to country of previous residence. Palestine is also not "one," stereotype, experience, belief, as opinions and life circumstances are as colourful and diverse as Toronto. What a middle-class young woman experiences going to university in Ramallah is different than a young boy growing up in the refugee camp in Jenin, where 17,000 people living on top of each other in 2km sq have been amoung some of the worst communities to experience violence and collective punishment by the Israeli military over decades.  There is no justification for walling in and creating an apartheid system because of fear of a specific stereotype of "terrorism." In fact, the more Israel suppresses, violates, and humiliates, the more they are creating their worst fear in the population they have tried to control. What a formerly semi-nomadic Bedouin grandfather experiences in the Negev desert is vastly different than a young girl losing her family to a Gaza bombing, and living with their dead bodies for days while the Red Cross tries to access her:

“10-year-old Mona Samouni. The girl was hiding in one house with nearly 100 members of her family during the bombardment, when it was hit by Israeli fire. Twenty-one members of her family were killed in front of her, including her mother and father. She is wearing a matching hat and scarf and a pink purse. Qishta asks her how many people were killed in her family. “My immediate family?” she answers. “Not many, just my mother, my father, both my sisters-in-law and my nephew.” [2].

Tactic: Fake Democracy is the best kind of Dictatorship

Many of the Israelis I have met talk about their State’s severely controlled media and lack of democracy, despite the portrait that is painted in the western world. It is truly hard to wrap my mind around how someone can live right in and around such a deeply unjust system, and not see it, yet when one’s eyes are opened here, the intentionally controlled cleansing is everywhere.  But I suppose it is like that with so many injustices... The present injustices get more muddled with those of the past being used to justify injustice of the present (i.e. the horrors of the Holocaust). Though it is a process of “sterilization,” apartheid is messy, dirty, filthy, rotten, disgusting.  Cleansing here is a process of soiling humanity and the earth to the utmost degree.  Let us stop glorifying war, colonization, and justified racism - this is ugly and yes, unnecessary, barbaric. And perhaps I can relate more than I realize - the amount of people in Canada that think we are no longer in a process of colonization - if they even admit that we ever were - is astounding to me.

Tactic: Apartheid

My team is staying in the middle-west side of the West Bank, Palestine, and a few nights ago a number of us went into Tel Aviv (on the Mediterranean coast in Israel/1948) for a course on expulsion and displacement and the Nakba (the 1948 initial takeover of Palestine when dozens of towns were moved out or destroyed) by Zochrot, and amazing Israeli organization [3].  The easiest and most inexpensive way for us to get into Tel Aviv is on a Settler bus, at a bus stop on the edge of the largest illegal Israeli settlement in Palestine, called Ariel, just across the street from a Palestinian village that we live close to. The coach bus, (like a Greyhound or Go bus), only takes an hour to get into Tel Aviv, only kilometers away, if you hold the right ID card.  

It feels like a different world altogether: after getting dropped off by our Palestinian taxi driver who is also our next-door-neighbor (and who got harassed by six soldiers as we were exiting the car), we quietly got into an illegal settler bus alongside a bunch of soldiers and western-style-looking young people, and then after making up a story that we all agreed upon as to why we were there, in case anyone asked - God forbid they find us legally living in a Palestinian village!  In silence, we drive passed the illegal settlements and factories and construction through Palestine, past Palestinian towns, onto a Settler/Israeli-only road, up to the check-point along the apartheid wall that is our exit or entrance into Israel. The bus stops here as per routine, two soldiers enter the bus and do not ask any of us white hipsters for ID, as we fit the desired profile for Israel just perfectly.  I could have easily been carrying a bomb - they don’t seem so concerned with ‘security’ as with a keeping a ‘clean’ society.  Passing the walls that snake around the West Bank, we are quickly transported into another world, where the big flashy concrete jungle of Tel Aviv was all around us within minutes.  With all the distraction and colour of a big city, one could start to understand how easily a person could live their lives in total distraction from the injustice that is their foundation.

Snap of our fingers - *apartheid* - we just joined in your very well planned game!  I am still trying to determine who is the winner...

Tactic: The Past

I met an Israeli Jewish woman at the course we went to who is 62 yrs old, strong spoken, and only 5 years ago started to learn about “the other side,” as she calls it.  She lives on the far side of West Jerusalem, is very wealthy, and lives on top of a formally Palestinian village Der Isseen (I believe it’s called). When she first found out about the true injustices her country was instigating and moving ahead with at full-speed, she could not stop being sick to her stomach - the lies of her life having been born and raised here in Israel were unraveling with her still tangled up in them. Her parents and grandparents were survivors of the Holocaust... her shame at sending her own children to fight in the military with pride, to go forwards in working in a system of war crimes, human rights abuses, and an illegal and unjust occupation and apartheid system built on expulsion and displacement has left her horrified at how to move forward with a family and society that predominantly will not accept what she is learning to be the reality.

I would like you to ask “why?” Simply ask it. Give me a good answer.  There are complex reasons, and there are some answers - but I want a legitimate one. And please do not give the same answer as Mr. Harper on such a subject.

All the tactics listed above are common all over the world - and most likely wherever you find yourself now... let us see these tactics for what they are, and challenge them and face them with eyes wide open and hands ready to work for change. So many of you already are in the little things - baking cakes, writing songs, advocating in court, gardening, researching, and exposing your lungs to gas thrown at you by the powers that be - thank you all for the work you are doing... keep moving, you are so inspiring to me, wonderful people!!!

Despite their root meanings, 'sterilization policies,' 'apartheid,' and 'ethnic cleansing' are not going to clean up the mess of the past, but continue to create a giant WTF mess... Separation here is not Kosher.

“Cleanse” is a dirty, filthy, disgusting word - let’s try extracting the wound and cleaning up the blood, shall we?

What you can do:

For those who are Christian (or just interested!), Kairos Palestine, who also does a lot of great work with Indigenous friends in Canada, has put together a Kairos Christmas Alert for you and perhaps your churches, small groups, or pastors to read through and understand.  This conflict is not because of religion or god, but faith is a massive contributing factor and tool.  Understanding the theology and interpretations of scripture in relation to this conflict will be an essential part of the political fabric of not only Israel-Palestine healing, but our world and the powers that dominate, still under the guise of "in God's name we..."


Watch this! Hold a film night or Kitchener/Waterloo attend the November 26 Screening of this at Princess Twin!! Support WPIRG :)

[1] Uneven Borders, Coloured(Im)mobilities: ID Cards in Palestine: Uneven Borders Coloured Im-mobilities ID Cards in Palestine Israel
[2] Freedom Theatre:
[3] Racialized Detention Detention Centre Israel Migration
[4] Where Should the Birds Fly Film:
[5] Zochrot

Thursday 30 October 2014

Define "Terrorist"


A photographic journey to and from a Farmer's Land surrounded by wire, through tunnels under segregated roads, and beneath the watch of threatening illegal settlers. Many of the farmers we work with do not like their photograph's taken, or at least published, so most of them will not be photographed here, but you will see in-between blinks of what they see...

Stolen land by an infamous settler named Yitzchak 

Palestinians now forced to take a tunnel to their land, under a Settler-only road.

One of the farmer's we worked with on the right, and Yitzchak's house in the middle of the farmers valley.

This river never used to exist in this valley, until the sewage began flowing directly down from the settlements.
The Settlement above the Palestinians farmer fields. Our role in the harvest is to accompany farmers who harvest in the dangerous spots known to be under threat of violent settlers.

If interested in a video on Uprooting and Displacement, check this video out from a great organization here in the West Bank: