It is September 2005. The war in Iraq is in full swing.
We join a Code Pink* candle light vigil in front of Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington D.C. The message is: Restore medical benefits to veterans. Bring the troops home now. Honor the dead, Heal the wounded.
Across the street stand counter protesters with huge signs saying “Code Pink is pure evil, “Walter Reed vampires, what is your exit plan ?”, “the blood of the soldiers are on your hand” etc.
Cars passing by honk their horn in solidarity. Those honking in solidarity with the counter protesters, tend to open their windows and scream profanity about women. I wonder how the women on the other side justify the vile language about women expressed by their supporters.
The group we join is lovely. Their signs are small and lack a concise message. People hold candles but they chit-chat endlessly and what seems missing, is the ability to hold a scared space. My friend J. in her good nature tries to go around and suggest to people that it would be more effective if we all chant or stand in reverend silence.
She is told: suit yourself. Do what you want.
So she and I step into a reflective space, grounding ourselves in our spiritual practice.
Can We Heal “this”?
There is so much hate in the air… it’s really challenging to stay open and present with it.
For the first 10 minutes I feel utterly like an infant in a new world…
As if I am shown something I have never encountered before and don’t understand.
Then, my default program kicks in. My ‘default program’ always says: How can we heal this?
I think that when I inquire about ‘healing this’, I want to know what is the system that produces this hate and why? I want to understand how a person becomes so susceptible to such illogical indoctrination, what are the conditions and/or circumstances that permit it and ultimately, what is the remedy… I am in the healing profession after all…
There is Something Familiar about This…
For a while, I cannot seem to warp my mind around it.
The inability to understand causes me anguish.
I sense in this encounter something familiar and unresolved for me. The memory is amorphous but the feeling, palpable. So I slip into my meditation practice of observing and giving myself full permission to FEEL! It is the practice of being fully present with whatever is without denying, suppressing, reacting or distracting. I focus on my breathing.
Suddenly, it occurs to me that I am triggered because I am a Jew and because I a woman.
It’s as if I have receptors for this type of an experience that alert me to its dangers.
I realize that I associate the people on the other side of the street with those who would eagerly joined the SS and/or would be first in line in the lynching mob during the civil rights movement. This feels like the SAME energy rooted in a militant, sexist, white male supremacy.
And what’s most frightening to me is that they look so normal and well sustained by a legitimized ideology!
I came here to speak up for the veterans and against the war however, in this moment I know that my greatest contribution is my own personal practice—my self purification.
I understand why the people in our group chit-chat; why they tell us to ignore “them”, why they categorize them as crazy, uneducated, ignorant etc.
It is difficult to admit that one feels so threatened and frightened. It is easier to remain distracted. As for the other camp. I believe that they try to hold on to what gives them a sense of identity and power.
What a Nightmare, Literarily
I thought I did pretty good at the vigil. I thought I was anchored.
That notion was put to the test when I awoke at 3:30am out of a nightmare.
In this very graphic dream, I am a witness to some horrific violent crime against innocent civilians. I feel that I must report this but then I notice that the people who carry it out are officials in uniforms. I keep thinking that I need to make this known but I realize we live under siege and I am actually operating underground.
Suddenly, my male friend who has been there with me and I become keenly aware that our lives are in danger and that we need to hide.
We begin to run in the night realizing we have already been detected and are being chased.
I experience the most visceral memory of jumping into the bushes in a ditch by the side of the road when I hear the vehicles coming behind us and see their flashing lights.
I manage to escape their detection but my friend gets caught.
I watch how they grab him and then continue to drive for just a few hundred yards forward.
The trucks turn off the road and stop at a clearing.
From my hidden place inside the bushes, I can see the clearing very well surrounded by shrubbery and trees and a fire in the center.
The guys in the uniforms pull my friend out of the track and begin to torture him.
Eventually, they cut his limbs off while he is still alive, mutilate his genitals and then shoot him several times while laughing and drinking.
I lose consciousness (in the dream).
I have no idea how much time elapsed.
When I wake up (still in the dream), I am no longer in the ditch and I figure I must have been found but I don’t know by whom and no one seems to tell me.
I feel very strange and my mind is foggy. I try to think but there is a deep conflict in my mind as if I am unable to have my own thoughts.
One moment I remember everything and feel completely lucid and the next moment I feel as if my thoughts are manipulated.
In a moment of clarity, I realize that I must have been psychically attacked, brain-washed somehow and manipulated.
In the next scene, I find myself in a courthouse.
Either I am on trial or I am trying to prove what is happening.
I experience myself fluctuating between remembering what happened and speaking about it and losing my coherent thoughts not being able to control what I say.
I fight it inside of me trying to remain conscious and true to myself (it can be taken straight out of a StarTrek episode….).
Finally the judge gives me last chance to prove my point and I gather all of my strength. . .
I notice a man in the audience. He is slim, lacks facial expression and wares a grey suite.
He looks down. Suddenly I just know he is the one. He is responsible.
I approach him. I feel internal forces that resist me pulling me in the opposite direction but I don’t give up. When I get to him, I point my finger to a small device in his hand.
I demand that it be shut off. Then I faint and when I wake up I know I have won this time. I have regained my freedom and my self-identity.
The evil has been exposed.
I wake up (this time in reality) in a sweat… realizing my psyche has been deeply triggered.
That’s what happens when you ask: How can we heal this…
I should be asking, Where is my power? How do I anchor myself in the Truth? How do I set boundaries in such circumstances? How can I stay present with feeling so exposed?
And I thought Civil Disobedience was going to be challenging….
That was a piece of cake compare to this.
Evil Enters Where Love is Void…
What causes evil? we ask.
Is there evil? ask others.
Some say, there is no evil.
I believe evil exists.
It exits in the form of extreme cruelty, violence and unstoppable, bottomless greed.
Yes. Evil exists yet it is NOT the opposite of GOOD.
Good is whole, Good is love. It is complete unto itself.
Indeed we live in a world where evil is possible however, not as a power which stands against love but as a force that enters the space where love is void.
MLK said: “the success of communism in the world today is due to the failure of democracy to live up to its noble ideals and principles inherent in its system”.
Is it possible then, that the success of evil in the world is due to the failure of love to fulfill its potential through human conduct?
If this is so, then the remedy is clear.
Rather than fighting against evil, we must learn love.
We must love ourselves.
We should nurture our vision, build beloved communities, honor the worth and dignity of every human being.
Rather than fighting evil, we must purify our own consciousness.
Increase our capacity to love and strengthen our resolve.
Ultimately, going even deeper into the core of my disturbance, I ask myself what is it that is so difficult for me to accept?
What does my mind so desperately resist?
And beyond the obvious, what feels so threatening?
That remains an enduring inquiry.
I wonder if my deepest fear is accepting that if we are all one, sourced out of the One Life, then, this evil must also be a part of me.
The idea is so repulsive, so inconceivable that my ego-self refuses to look at it.
I am not ready and yet I feel as if I am touching the hem of the Mystery.
Not having the capacity to resolve this tension, I must remain anchored in it.
I must tolerate the discomfort until I am ready to s e e.
* Code Pink is a women activist organization
© Michal Golan, October 2005