New York was fantastic. I share the experience described by Tony and the great thankfulness for the organizers and the special guest dr. Lafayette for the inspiration and the energy transmitted between us on those moments. Nothing to add about that first day.
On the second day, a group of marchers walked through the clear, sunny and cold streets of Manhattan from Skyline Hotel to Times Square, populated by yellow taxis and massive screens. We also visited the shore in Battery Park to take a photo with the Statue of Liberty in the background. It was freezing and windy, and the statue seemed to be far away (someone should correct the photo a bit with Photoshop so that it looks more interesting), but then we could walk directly from there past Wall Street and other sights to the World Trade Center site, also known as Ground Zero, where we held a ceremony for reconciliation. In the heart of the ceremony was a common call “upon our brothers and sisters around the world to seek resolutions to conflicts that go beyond revenge” and a recognition that we “do not seek to forget nor to forgive, but to understand and to reconcile, so that together we may move forward.” Forgiving is better than revenge, but even in forgiving there remains a judgmental attitude. In true reconciliation and understanding, all such attitudes and dramas fade away and deeper learning takes place.
After Ground Zero, we split in different directions, as on the following day events would take place in various cities of the United States. Others left towards the airport, while a small group of marchers and local organizers headed to the United Nations. We were to meet with General Secretary Ban-Ki Moon. There was ten of us who wanted to go, but place only for nine, so I volunteered to stay behind. Instead of the protocol meeting with the General Secretary, together with our local helper Carlos from Maryland I explored the UN building, where especially interesting was the meditation room established by Gen.Sec. Dag Hammarskjold in 1957, a space of peace dedicated to the builders of peace. And how did the meeting with Ban-Ki Moon go? Click here to watch the video-report.
Then, half of us traveled to Washington by train and half by car, on an American highway with a sea of cars around us, through the states of New Jersey (called “Garden State”, but actually very industrialized), Delaware and Maryland.
In Washington we stayed in William Penn House, which is a house of the Quakers, “the Society of Friends.” On the way from New York in the car Carlos told us some historical facts about the Quakers, who are liberal Christians – actually so liberal that one doesn’t even need to be a Christian to be a Quaker or to participate in their activities..! William Penn is the founder of the State of Pennsylvania, whose capital Philadelphia means “the city of brotherly love.”
William Penn House was a cozy place to stay, like a mixture of a Center of Work (as we Humanists call our places where we do our internal training) and a social center – a group of schoolkids passed by there as we were having breakfast and at the same time downstairs an adult group was having some kind of a conference.
The main event in Washington DC took place on a rainy day – just as in New York, but without big crowds of participants. We had the rare opportunity to enjoy a free morning, and in the afternoon we gathered at the Lincoln Memorial, where Martin Luther King kept his famous “I have a dream” -speech. The event – mostly with speeches, but also with a beautiful version of the song “We will overcome” – was exactly a tribute to King. See video
The theme of the historical continuance of the work of MLK went on also on our last day in Washington, with a visit to the office of representative John Lewis in the U.S. House of Representatives. Mr. Lewis, who is a veteran of nonviolent struggle in league with Dr. Lafayette, was unfortunately not present, but we had a long discussion with the charming Jamila Thompson, Sr. Legislative Assistant, who wrote extensive notes of the encounter for Representative Lewis. In the walls of the office we found several photos of the civil rights struggle with young John Lewis marching with Dr. King and also with Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. I guess this was the closest to Obama that we got during the visit of the Base Team in the USA – we were laughing about this in the breakfast table: “we’re not going to meet someone who knows Obama, but someone who knows someone who knows Obama!”
On the evening before, President Obama had announced the sending of over 30.000 more troops to Afghanistan. While we need to support him in the positive steps that he is taking, we also need to continue the pressure on the issues where we want changes that he has not delivered. We also met two other assistants of politicians – the assistants of Congressman Keith Ellison (the only Muslim Congressman, by the way) and of Congresswoman Maxine Waters; and all of these Democrat politicians agreed on this point. Finally, our adventures in the labyrinths of the buildings of the House of Representatives and the Congress also resulted in a short meeting with Congressman Dennis Kucinich, who not only signed the Charter for a World Without Violence, but also gave us copies of his Bill to Establish a Department of Peace in the US; dated February 3, 2009, being processed at the House of Representatives.
In Washington, the Base Team members (including Tomy Hirsch), members of the USA WM team (Dennis, Chris, Nicole, Carlos and Yelena) and other friends participated in a dinner with diplomats from the embassies of Switzerland (the host of the evening), Panama and Colombia; and some also participated in a meeting in the Organization of American States. The OAS visit took place at the same time that we were meeting Kucinich, and afterwards we met only very shortly as we all had to rush to our respective airports, so I don’t know how that went.
Now I’m in Minnesota, keeping a little pause from the Base Team and participating in a couple of events of the Finnish community in the Twin Cities of St.Paul and Minneapolis, where my cousin lives. I’ll join the Base Team again in Brazil, in two weeks. Until then, certainly Tony and others will take care of keeping you (and me!) up to date!