Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Jill Carroll is back at work

Update August 24... Welcome new readers. When I put this rambling piece together there was no way to know that Jill Carroll's captors would be apprehended in a few weeks. That makes the story even more compelling.
For those who are interested, I put up a brief post this morning with a few more links to the backstory. The Jill Carroll Narrative Continues.

[This is longer than I expected when I began writing. Be patient. Jill Carroll comes later, but she is the link to it all...]
This disturbing, sad report from YAR gets to me.

Sunday afternoon when I got word that my friend Joel Gulledge had been attacked by Israeli settlers in At-Tuwani. Joel was escorting some Palestinian children home from summer day camp when they were threatened by a masked settler with a slingshot. Jan Benvie, a friend and CPTer from Scotland, rushed the children away while Joel filmed what was happening. The settler caught up with Joel, grabbed his video camer and began beating him around his head with it while he punched him with his other hand. Joel didn’t fight back, but yelled for help.

This sort of thing has happened before to CPTers in Hebron and At-Tuwani. These have long been the regions where CPTers are most regularly the target of physical violence. Colleagues of mine have had their arms broken and lungs punctured and been stoned by Israeli settlers from the Havot Ma’on settlement.

So the attack itself is nothing new, but this attack hit closer to home for me. Just two weeks ago I said goodbye to Joel near his home on the north side of Chicago. Joel and I hung out together this summer at PAPA festival where he did a workshop on the situation in Israel/Palestine. And now I have the image of him being beaten in the face with his own video camera in my head.The threat of violence in CPT work has always been theoretical for me. The last time in my life I was actually physically assaulted was in junior high by a bully. How would I deal with getting punched in the face? I’d probably get a shot of adrenaline. Then I’d cry. Or at least I hope so.

This is the second time this week that I’ve had a friend get beat up. For the last two weeks I’ve been helping to facilitate training for 15 new CPTers here in Chicago. On Tuesday during an action at representative Rahm Emmanuel’s office, eigh trainees and one CPTer were arrested during a die-in calling attention to Emmanuel’s continued support of war funding. Andy, one of the trainees, chose to stay limp when police arrested him. In response, they swore at him, dropped him on his face in the concrete and kneed him hard in the back in front of the 8 other arrestees. It was extremely traumatic for everyone involved.

After the men in the group were released, I picked them up at a CVS parking lot near the police station. We stood in the parking lot for a few minutes while they had a piece of pizza and talked about their experience. Any compares his experience to a domestic violence situation. "I felt like a failure because the ones with the power told me that if I would just comply they wouldn’t have to hurt me," he said.

The situation for the Palestinian children is similar. As they are attacked time and time again they are told that the violence against them is their fault. If they would just leave Palestine they wouldn’t have to face the daily verbal abuse and taunts on their way to school or day camp. It is the message of the abuser to the abused. [The same shame-based argument was used in the civil rights fight to blame outside agitators or the local blacks themselves for anything negative that came from a demonstration. "The problem would not have happened if ya'll hadn't been demonstrating."]

Andy told us how ashamed he felt when he cried in the police wagon. I commented that when we’re physically attacked it connects us at a deep level with previous experiences of violence. In dealing with the intensity of both the current moment and the depth of our memories of violence, tears are a gift.

Joel will be coming home in a few weeks. But the Palestinian children will remain. Each time they are threatened by the settlers, each previous experience must come to the surface. As they grow older, will they still be able to cry? Will they maintain the nonviolent commitment of their parents? I pray for Joel and for the Palestinian children as they sleep in their beds tonight. May their bodies rest and may their dreams be filled with healing tears and laughter.

Remaining non-violent in the face of violence is the ultimate Christian challenge. Been there, done that. And yes, it can make you want to cry first and pray later.

His mention of CPT brought back the memory of Jill Carroll, the CS Monitor reporter
kidnapped two years ago and released after an extended, publicized ordeal.

Jill Carroll is persuaded that her captors had close ties, if not direct involvement, with the kidnappers of the Christian Peacemakers Team.

"Since my captors viewed all mujahideen as part of the same worldwide movement... it is unclear how many of these kidnappings were carried out by the same individuals who took me, and how many were carried out by separate but allied groups," she says.

It seems likely that Ms. Carroll's captors and those holding the Christian Peacemakers, including American Tom Fox, were at least communicating with one another.

After a quick search I came across a couple of timely links relating to Jill Carroll.

One was an
appreciation for Richard Bergenheim who died last week. He was the CS Monitor editor when Jill Carroll was taken hostage and was materially instrumental in working out details of her release.

Richard presided over the searing experience with the spiritual strength and practical compassion that characterized his three-year term as editor of the Monitor.

During Jill's captivity, Richard wheedled information out of often-warring US government agencies, negotiated with international celebrity journalists who claimed to know influential Iraqi sheikhs, upgraded the security provided to Monitor correspondents, and dealt with constant media attention.

"He was the steward of the decency and global engagement that the Monitor showed when the whole world was watching," said managing editor Marshall Ingwerson, a key ally in the battle to win Jill's freedom.

A very impressive legacy indeed.

And almost as a tribute to this man's efforts, Jill Carroll is back at work. Her piece at AlterNet is a must read report on how combat experience plants the destructive seeds of PTSD in returning veterans. Here are the opening paragraphs.

"We're Going to Be Paying For This For a While": Soldiers Bring the War Home

When veterans of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan bring their troubles home, police and judges often are the first to deal with them.

During 21 years in the Marine Corps, Jeff Johnson saw young adults walk into his recruiting office and newly minted marines walk out of boot camp just a few months later. Now working at the other end of that pipeline at the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs, he sees far different, troubling changes in those coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan.
"The changes were dramatic. I'd never seen these kinds of changes in people," says Mr. Johnson of those wrestling with the mental and physical trauma of war.
The once upstanding service members were getting arrested for domestic violence and bar fights, and being pursued by police as they raced along streets at 100 miles per hour -- often with drugs or alcohol involved -- seeking to replicate the adrenaline rush of combat or to commit suicide by motorcycle or police bullets.
He was moved to action, creating a presentation about the mental injuries of war for police and other first responders, usually the ones called when a veteran hits bottom.
A year later, he's delivered his message more times than he can count and he's been in demand from police departments across the country, hungry to prepare for what they worry is a coming surge of mentally injured veterans.
"A lot of them were getting in trouble with police. If [the police] know what resources are out there then they can funnel them into that," says Johnson, who has one son who is an Iraq veteran and another entering the service.
Police departments, veterans groups, and individuals from California to Colorado to Massachusetts are taking similar steps. At the other end of the criminal justice system, a "treatment court" in Buffalo, N.Y., dedicated to veterans opened this year.


I'm glad to learn that Jill Carroll is back to work.
So here's where I stop preachin' and go to meddlin'.

Posts that may be distantly related to the violence theme here are Intermittent Explosive Disorder (which is sometimes connected with combat experience but may well be just a bad case of a garden-variety nut with a bad attitude) and Virginia Tech Killings -- a Minority View (in which the perpetrator was a card-carrying nut for which the system was unprepared).

The larger question is how best do we as a society come to terms with violence and it's consequences? And what are reasonable measures either to prevent or ameliorate the violence to which we as human beings seem prone?

I have ideas but none of them stand up to reasonable arguments. For the moment I leave the reader who may have made it this far to think about it. I doubt anyone but me has read this long, rambling post, but in case someone has, feel free to leave a comment. Whatever you do, DON'T call your best idea a silver bullet.

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