A Turkish performance artist who says he is “nothing” has become a symbol of Turkish protests. Erdem Gunduz has been dubbed the “Standing Man” after he stood motionless in Taksim Square for eight hours, between 6 p.m. and 2 a.m. local time, when he and other silent protesters were dispersed by the police.
With this interview from the BBC:
The Russian punk band Pussy Riot have been found guilty of religious hatred for their protest inside the Cathedral of Christ the Savior today. The Interfax news agency translates the Khamovnichesky Court verdict as such:
“The Pussy Riot singers colluded under unestablished circumstances, for the purpose of offensively violating public peace in a sign of flagrant disrespect for citizens.,” the court said in a verdict being pronounced on Friday.
The women were motivated by religious enmity and hatred, and acted provocatively and in an insulting manner inside a religious building in the presence of a large number of believers,” the court said.
The court also has found that the Pussy Riot activists realized that their actions during the “punk prayer” in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior were insulting and intended to communicate information on the stunt to a broad range of believers.
“Intending to make the planned actions public and ensure that they drew public response, to draw the attention of the public to their illegal actions, and to communicate the expressed disrespect not only to the clergy and people in the church, but also to other citizens who were not present in the church at the time [of the punk prayer], but shared Orthodox traditions, Samutsevich, Tolokonnikova, Alyokhina, and their unidentified accomplice informed various media assistants and active bloggers on their action,” the sentence read in the Khamovnichesky Court on Friday says.
Up top is the video of the Pussy Riot “protest-as-prayer” performance for which three members of the band have found guilty.
~Trent Gilliss, senior editor
Grace Lee Boggs on the Challenge and Responsibility of the Occupy Wall Street Participants
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
“This enemy of ours is not just Wall Street; it’s a whole culture.”
Who better to turn to about Occupy Wall Street and all its other offshoots than Grace Lee Boggs. Born to Chinese immigrants in 1915, the philosopher has seen and thought deeply about issues of social justice, racial and gender equality, and the resurrection of community for more than 70 years now — not from within the halls of academia but from the pedestrian malls and streets of the United States.
“You’re going to have to be thinking about values and not just abuses.”
She offers a historical, sideways approach to OWS and provides a long view of constant questioning. Not only does she think on the grand, larger scale of social values, but she also is embedded, rooted and dedicated to a place — the city of Detroit.
In the video above, she addresses all the people participating in Occupy Wall Street with a note of encouragement and a call for contemplation and reflection. She embraces the movement but also challenges the protestors too, asking them to examine their own minds and hearts about whether they’d happily be part of the culture their against, if they were given the opportunity. She also calls for deep introspection and intellectual rigor as part of the effort.
For a good introduction to Grace Lee Boggs life, check out this two-minute introduction from the documentary film tracing her life, American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs. It’s definitely worth watching.
(Photo of Grace Lee Boggs by Photo by David Schalliol/Flickr)
Tuesday Evening Melody: “Going to a Town” by Rufus Wainwright
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
Rufus Wainwright performs in KEXP’s studios in 2007. (photo: Laura Musselman)
What do you do on a 16-hour family road trip to Montana with two sons under five and a wife riding shotgun? Play a lot of music — and sing badly. But, there are certain songs, certain performers that bring on the quiet. And this live performance from Rufus Wainwright is one of them.
Fumbling around my pickup’s floorboard pickup while cruising down I-94, my fingers serendipitously happened upon an unlabeled compilation CD I had burned in 2007. Etched with grit and gravel, it actually started playing. The opening track: Rufus Wainwright’s live version of “Going to a Town” that he performed at KEXP’s studios in Seattle while promoting Release the Stars.
Trying to conjure up meanings of the song’s lyrics would require too much exegesis, if you will, for this humble post, but Wainwright’s melodic challenging of America and its brokenness is valid four years later. Through this song, he forces us to remember what we once were as a nation — even if it’s a dream — who we’ve become, and what kind of people we might aspire to be again.
When I hear a ”Daddy, daddy. Play it again!,” I know he’s the right notes.
Walker Art Center Honors Silenced Voices with Public Sit-In
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
This week the Walker Art Center organized a silent demonstration outside its doors. Inspired by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s 2007 installation “Fairytale: 1001 Qing Dynasty Wooden Chairs” and commemorating what would have been his 100th day of detention this week, the Minneapolis-based cultural institution invited the public to bring a chair of one’s own to their Hennepin Avenue terrace to acknowledge the many artists around the world “who work under oppressive conditions where artistic freedom is compromised.”
After people from Ai Weiwei’s studio heard about the effort, they sent a desk chair from his Beijing studio, which was placed among the other chairs. Guess which one it is.
More photos of the turnout can be seen on the Walker’s Facebook page.
All photos courtesy of the Walker Art Center.
We are not going to enter a dialogue as Shi’ites. They try to put the issue in this frame. The dialogue should be with all people who were protesting. Some are liberal, non-Islamic. Some are Sunni and some Shi’ite.
It’s an Honor to Watch Your Truth Stand Up
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
Although many of us may not fully understand the political and social circumstances or ramifications of the demonstrations in Egypt, we’re heartened by the steadfastness and assured nature of the protesters. This magnificent post from Erica at beenthinking captures the sentiment I think many Americans are experiencing as we watch the protests from afar:
“There are four things you must do in life:
Speak the truth.
Do what you do with intensity.
And do not get attached to the results.”
One night almost two years ago, probably right before I most needed the advice, my friend Sally shared this Buddhist philosophy with me over a good beer. All morning, I’ve been following the developments in the Middle East with a sort of rapidly worsening infection of interest.
I heard a BBC correspondent on the ground in Cairo excitedly report that in two decades covering this region, this is the most noteworthy, remarkable development he has ever seen. Another reported that the protesters are ebullient. Ebullient. Think of the wonder of choosing such a deliberate, incongruous word to describe a demonstrating mass. On the radio, the journalists all testified to the surprising joyfulness of the crowd and even in the undeniable face of such uncertainty; this is something worth sitting down or rising up to consider.
So yes, who knows where it all goes from here. Who knows what becomes of their moment and government or whether their situation betters or not. But what is stunning me, in a sort of unexpectedly emotional way, is the incredible, wildly hopeful power of people who show up and speak their truth. What is remarkable is their power to ignite a revolution. To spark truth in the perceived dark that surrounds them, even across national borders.
I always struggle with that last line of this guidance. Frankly, I don’t always choose to respect that particular instruction, and, if I were a young activist in Egypt, I might happily eviscerate it from the rest of the instructions. I’ll be dammed if I will not be attached to my fate, I might think. But the rest, the rest I think is the marrow of the Egyptian story over the last week.
A few years back, I spent a couple of weeks in Egypt, amongst some of the most reasonable, intellectual, and welcoming citizens I’ve ever met in any country. A Muslim driver helped me decorate his classic car with balloons and drove me to the airport to fetch my parents, whom I had not seen for months and who were traveling to join me for an Easter holiday. He held the other half of my sign that greeted them in a crowded airport and later, when we spoke of politics and the temper of international relations, he said “Muslim or Christian, we all worship the same God. We are so much the same. And you are welcome here.” By which I suppose I mean to say they have earned an esteemed spot in my heart.
The sophistications of Egypt’s political and civil rights situation surely elude me, as they probably do most Westerners whether we realize it or not. I wouldn’t begin to assert a judgment on where they were or the rightness of where they are headed. All I mean to say is this: They know what they are ready for and they are showing up to ask for it. I will always believe that we are better for having more voices around the fire. And it was a strange mix of conviction and honor to watch The People of Egypt show up in a way we do not, maybe do not have to. It is an honor to watch your truth stand up.
Strategic Pamphlets for Civil Disobedience in Egypt
by Susan Leem, associate producer
Alexis Madrigal’s latest story for The Atlantic features instruction cards from Egyptian activists translated into English. He describes them as “primer to Friday’s planned protest.” This is one of a 26-page pamphlet.
What Stories Do We Tell?
by Pádraig Ó Tuama, guest contributor
Last year, while working with a primary school class here in Belfast, a child said:
“Pádraig, let me ask you a question. God loves us right?”
Avoiding the complexity of anthropomorphic projections of human experiences onto God, I answered, from the heart of me, with what I hope.
“Yes,” I said.
“And God made us all didn’t he?” she continued.
I avoided discussions of “made” and “He” and said:
“Tell me this,” she said, “why did God make Protestants?”
When I asked her why she was asking me this, she said:
“Well, they hate us and they hate Him.”
I had been amused at the start. Now, I was not amused. I wondered what stories were educating this funny, witty, engaging, and lively child.
This child understood some human lessons and had learnt them well. They hate us. They hate our God. They are unknown, and the hollow story we tell is that they are also unknowable.
Another child that I was working with once drew a picture of a big boot, kicking a small figure. The boot was labeled “Catlichs” and the boot “Purdestints”. He could not yet spell, yet he knew the rules of the story he believed.
There is an Irish saying that I love: ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine. It translates as “it is in the shelter of each other that the people live”. Krista’s interview with John Paul Lederach reminds me of the intentionality we must incarnate when working with our lives to create avenues out of violent conflict. We must nurture unpredictable relationships. We must share shelter with people whose shelter we would rather not share. We must share stories with people whose stories we would rather not share. This may not be popular, but it may just save us.
Last week, I watched from my window as a band parade made its way from commemorations in the city northwest up the Crumlin Road. My flat is about 300 yards from the place where a sit-down protest was underway to stop those parading. The history of both groups, one mostly Catholic-Nationalist and one mostly Protestant-Unionist is important.
What is also important is that each was saying to the other “We belong here”.
“We belong here” has often been coupled with “And you don’t”, a point which we’ve proven in Ireland with grief and grieving. The slow, slow antidote to this story of not-belonging has always included something that is older than language — a positive encounter with a person who represents the thing that we think we should hate. There are stories from here that make me cry and hope every time I hear them — stories of bravery, honesty, truth-telling, sheltering, and embrace across every possible barrier to belonging.
Part of my work is facilitating discussions between people who are interested in building relationships with those who are perceived to be an “other”. Earlier this year, one group spoke of their neighbourhood’s trauma following a shooting on a Friday afternoon in the 1990s. Seven men left dead. One of the women said “and there’s many that died whose hearts kept beating”. She spoke of a Protestant paramedic who tended the bodies of Catholic dead who was so traumatised that he could never return to his work. While we speak of 3,700 people who lost their lives from our 30-year conflict, we all know someone who kept their life, but who felt like they’d lost it. There are stories within stories that are desperate to be heard, and when they’re heard, they bring us to the place of encounter and empathy, which is the essence of hope and humanity.
The riots that brought attention to Belfast last week are localised. This doesn’t mean that they are ignorable. They are not. They speak to a deep wound in our capacity to remember. A mostly-ignored government funded “Report on the Past” was published last year. Its recommendations are brave and I hope we can pay attention.
I am thinking now of Anaïs Nin who said: “We do not tell stories as they are. We tell them as we are.”
And who are we in this part of Ireland? We are people who all know stories of hurt, pain, division, separation, fury, and prejudice. We are people who have loved the land we live on. We are people who have done and spoken and created and given beautiful things and terrible things to each other. We must be educated by the stories that gave rise to last week’s events. We must engage in Lederach’s vision of the moral imagination to hear, include, and transcend these events.
And, we must tell different stories. Not necessarily new ones, but deeper ones — stories of remembering, belonging, safety, and shelter.
Pádraig Ó Tuama lives in Belfast, Northern Ireland where he works in reconciliation and chaplaincy initiatves, primarily with the Irish Peace Centres’ Faith in Positive Relations programmes. Part of his community work involves writing poetry to encapsulate some of the stories of living and dying in the context of the Irish conflict. He posts occasional poetry at Hold Your Self Together.
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Photo Caption: Nationalist protesters block the route of Loyalist Protestant Orangemen in the Ardoyne area of North Belfast, Northern Ireland as they return home from their traditional Twelfth of July celebrations in the city center on July 12, 2010. (photo: Stephen Wilson/AFP/Getty Images)