Sunday, December 12, 2010

Kitchen Table Politics

In this huge runaway world, it is rare that one small person feels like she can make a difference. This past week I sat at my kitchen table, surrounded by friends, and we did just that. Dec. 10 was Amnesty International’s annual Write for Rights Day. I have been an AI Freedom Writer for over 30 years. One of my favorite AI stories, which occurs rarely yet consistently every once in a long while, is that story of an abused and tortured prisoner of conscience, locked away in a dark place filled with despair, who is miraculously released and subsequently relates that one year at Christmas a guard opened the cell door and dumped bags and bags and bags and bags of cards on the floor of the cell. The cards read “Do not lose hope, you are not forgotten.” And they came from all over the world. From the kitchen tables of people like me.

It has been a year and a half now since my friend Liz started our “Code Pink Book Group,” made up of a handful of women like myself who have written, marched, been arrested, spoken out, and in some small way tried to protest injustice and violence. At first we read books by and about people in countries the U.S. was bombing the shit out of. But then we wandered off into other territory, reading both fiction and nonfiction (mostly nonfiction) about all sorts of politically charged issues. We meet once a month, have a potluck dinner, some of us now bring our spouses, and we have a lively discussion about the state of the world as well as whatever book we have read together. It took me a long time to find the right book group for me. But this one is it. And this past week I printed out the letters for the AI Write-a-Thon and my book group signed and addressed 65 letters at my kitchen table. From our hands to the desks of powerful officials. From our hands a tiny drop in the ocean, to be met by other drips and drops, to grow into a wave, that will perhaps save the life of a good man or woman on the other side of the world.

This is how lives are saved and how the world is changed. At the kitchen table.

A big shout out to the Nobel Committee for awarding this year’s Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo (imprisoned outspoken literary critic). Last year I shook my head in bafflement when they gave the award to Obama, a sitting U.S. president who was waging a war against the Afghani people. What has he done to promote peace? I wondered if the Nobel Committee was on crack or something. They have restored my faith in their judgment and the real purpose of the Nobel Peace Prize. Shame on China for squandering its best and brightest. (Go to the Amnesty International website to sign a petition for Xiaobo's release.)

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