Today, in the short space of one hour, I was cursed, yelled at and repeatedly shown the finger. One man pulled down his pants and stuck his rear out of a car window.
because, together with seven other women, I donned all black
clothing and a veil and stood silently on a sidewalk in Flagstaff,
Ariz. We held no signs. We did not chant, sing, or shout back. We
stood, hands folded in front, looking straight ahead.
"Support our troops!" yelled someone as he roared by, angrily
giving us the thumbs down sign. That's exactly what we were doing.
I do support our troops and I also happen to be the wife of a
former military commando, so I understand better than many that
soldiers do not choose their marching orders. I believe it is
possible to support our troops -- to fervently hope and pray for
their safe homecoming -- and, at the same time, to oppose the
policies of our administration which have put our troops in such
peril. That is my right.
I broke no laws today by
participating in this silent, non-confrontational vigil, but I
can't say the same for those unable to control their angry
responses. The man who "mooned" could, I suppose, be charged with
indecent exposure, and those who cursed and tried to intimidate us
could possibly be charged with disturbing the peace or inciting
acts of violence. But let them have their right of expression,
however crude or lacking in respect. Yet, simply for standing
silently alongside the road dressed in black, we somehow became the
Women in Black is a loose-knit
international peace network, started jointly in 1988, by grieving
Israeli and Palestinian women and since spread worldwide. The
movement was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2001, and
received the Millenium Peace Prize for Women from the UN
Development Fund for Women. There is no formal organization or dues
to pay; it is simply an opportunity for expression, as well as
A truck cruises up, slowing down just in
front of us. "Flatten 'em all. Kill 'em all," screams a young
woman. Is this the spirit of democracy our government intends to
export in the name of the United States? There were also several
thumbs-up signs, smiles and friendly horn honks, but we counted 61
hostile responses during this one hour, almost all of them from
young, white males.
And that makes me wonder: Why do so
many feel provoked by a non-threatening, silent vigil? Does the
sight of women dressed in symbolic mourning confront them with the
image that war actually kills and maims people? That it makes
widows of healthy women in their child-bearing prime and orphans of
young children? That war leaves strapping, young men and vibrant,
young women in wheelchairs, or sterile? That war leaves parents
with nothing but photographs and a folded flag for comfort in their
We wear black because we are mourning all
victims of war -- men, women, children, infants; our casualties as
well as others. We remain silent, because words cannot express the
tragedy of war.
My first impulse was to write this
anonymously because individual egos are not important here. But I
also feel threatened. In late March, after 21 people were arrested
in Flagstaff -- the largest mass arrest in the city's history, for
civil disobedience -- the local paper received e-mails suggesting
that demonstrators should have been run over.
sending these threats confuse patriotism with fascism; they even
feel threatened by a few middle-aged women standing on a public
sidewalk wearing black. But why should bullies who don't have the
guts to sign their names to their emails hold the power to
intimidate me into silence?
War, particularly when forced
upon us the way this one has been, compels us to have opinions; I
believe in the right to express mine, and will defend other's
rights to express theirs. That is what American democracy is
supposed to be about.
We have the right to be seen, to be
silent, and to convey a message that resonates.
bless you," calls a male voice from a car, as he gives us the peace
sign. "From Veterans for Peace," he adds, as he drives on.
If, in your downtown, you see women like us wearing black
and standing quietly, you might think about our message; it is one