Luckily I was with someone who, though she thought I was slightly mad, was willing to go along for the ride. That night of the day when we first talked about it I didn’t sleep a wink. I tossed and turned all night long. I kept getting up and leaning over onto this night table and scribbling notes onto scraps of paper all night because I was dreaming of this thing the whole time I was lying there trying to sleep, sort of half awake half asleep. It was rolling through my mind like a movie. All I could think about was ‘what if we do nothing? I mean, what if we just sit here and talk and do nothing and all these people are getting killed every minute of every hour?’
The next morning I was exhausted from not sleeping but also energized. Princess Little Tree made a comment over coffee “Boy when you do stuff you really do stuff, huh?”
“Well, uh, yeah, I mean, that’s how stuff gets done.”
“But this was just an idea you had and now it’s turned into this giant thing… and you’re really going to go for it?”
“Yeah I know. Sorry about that. But look, it’s either this, or we’re jumping on a plane and heading to Israel today to see what we can do. Cause I don’t think we can just sit here. I think I’ll go freaking mad if we do.”
Miraculously she agreed. She was actually the one who had made the comment “I just don’t think it’s appropriate to go to parties and celebrate on a night just because that’s what we’re supposed to do and try to pretend that this isn’t happening in Gaza. It feels wrong.” That comment shook me to my core. It was like someone was calling me to walk my talk.
Next thing we’re guzzling coffee and heading out into the city to go shopping and I’m carrying this giant shopping list I made that night in my sleep of all these things we would need. Posters, markers, balloons, flowers, candles, pajamas, flags of all the countries where there was conflict, food to keep us alive for four days… wine, tea, chocolate, extra batteries, film, it went on forever.
As with all things that seem providential or fated, it is hard to even remember the original impetus for the project, that singular moment of discovery… Looking at it now, seeing the footage, and remembering that we spent four solid days and nights doing nothing but working on this project to create peace in the world in whatever little way we could, that seems like an odd thing to say. But it’s true. It was certainly not planned.
There was the moment when we both had this realization that a night spent party hopping just didn’t seem right. And then another moment when we both discovered that recently we had seen something about the 40th anniversary of John and Yoko’s infamous first Bed-In for Peace. We were in a car or something. “WE could do a Bed-In you know,” I casually mumbled without looking over. Just staring straight ahead watching the hills and giant fir trees pass us by. “I mean, not invite the press or anything, it’s your home and all, but just make a shit load of calls, voice our concern, film it, learn as much as we can, share it with the world…” My mind began ticking from there… “We could pray a lot. We could meditate on peace a lot. We could take every action that we take for peace for a few days. Even celebrate peace… It’s better than not doing anything…”
What we did know was that the world was already starting to go a bit mad from these sudden attacks on the people of Gaza and we could see both sides. Smack dab in the middle. Plenty of Jewish friends who lived in Israel and plenty of Muslim friends who live in what will one day be called Palestine. There was no SIDES except the human side… and there was a lot of bloodletting happening on the human side. And people were going to get pissed. That was a given.
This was going to manifest as hundreds of angry tirades on YouTube and GoogleVideo and Facebook and MySpace and the news. Angry tirades never got anyone anywhere. It usually just leads to more death and violence. As angry as I was there was going to be no angry monologue into that YouTube camera. Not this year. We needed to rise above the whole thing. Attempt to transcend it without losing sight of the fact that it was really happening. That was the key. Oftentimes when we feel helpless around something, we do nothing. That’s too bad.
But the times they are ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-changing…. more and more of us are doing things now. Taking action. Whatever it is. Young and old. The world has changed. People have changed. Humanity has changed. Busy or free, rich or poor, people are taking action. Barack and Michelle worked their asses off. But the people got them into the White House. I think that was a pivotal moment for much of the planet. I’ve got a whole roll of film I took of the freaking TV screen the night he won the election. I was in the recording studio. I didn’t know what else to do but just snap pictures of the TV as if aliens had just come down to earth from Mars or something. So I just took a ton of pictures of the television. Yes. That was a moment.
Things had been bubbling up for years from the underground. Activism had become hip again. Volunteering had become cool. Giving had become cool. It’s funny. This was the nature of a blog post I had written back in 2002. In fact it was the very first blog post I ever wrote here. It was about precisely that. http://www.tuneinturnonhelpout.org/about-us/
The theme of it, the reason I wrote it in the first place, was to say that we must find a way to make giving and volunteering and activism cool and to make people in the public eye feel foolish or ashamed if they didn’t partake. It isn’t enough just to live here anymore. We need to attempt at least to make it hip to do good things and to encourage — especially people of note and celebrity — everyone to do it. Regardless of what they have going on in their personal lives. I was tired of people coming on TV pitching their newest product. The magazines and tabloids all about what so and so was wearing to some gala or event. For what?
Well I obviously wasn’t the only one. Bono turned pitching products into an actual way of giving back with his RED campaign. One elegant bastard with that move. Bill Gates tells the story of witnessing Bono receive this epiphany over ten too many pints in a bar one night. And he then turns around and donates 20 billion dollars to various charities with his Gates Foundation. A few years later, in fact quite recently, Warren Buffet promised the Gates Foundation an additional thirty billion dollars of his own personal stock pile. Being rich and successful is no longer enough. In fact its downright dishonorable if practiced solely for fame and fortune. Giving has now become the in thing. The impetus for that original blog post back in early 2002 was my reading about Ted Turner giving away ONE BILLION dollars to the UN for humanitarian aid. One billion dollars. That seemed like a lot back then. Ted is a crazy old coot. But he’s a good hearted one. That was seven years ago. I’m still blogging in the same place. Same URL. And Ted Turner has now given away literally billions more dollars to charitable causes.
And yes things have changed. Immensely. As I was about to close, for whatever reason, the Bush-Cheney administration came to mind. “So where exactly do these buggers come into the picture if things have changed so much?” was the thought. I mean they don’t exactly fit with the picture we’re talking about do they? They seem almost shadows of an old world that most hope to forget about for a long, long time. But it reminded me of this theory that floats around in consciousness… it is something about the need for the opposite extreme to play itself out before we can boomerang back to a more balanced enlightened middle. Sort of that old adage “You’ve got to make a slight mess if you’re really going to clean things up.” This is just about the only thought that kept me sane the last eight years.
The idea that there were still a few people who actually needed to see some people really foul things up before they got on the bandwagon and we set about to really making the world a better place. So that takes care of that. It can’t get much worse than it is now. They certainly did their job. We’re left with one foul mess. But we have hope. Real hope. And we have a world, however tattered and torn and frayed and battered, that for once appears to be ready to unite to create real positive change for everyone from every nation. BED PEACE 2008 was nothing in a larger scope. We know that. But it was an action. Perhaps at this point that is all we can ask of ourselves… just to do something…. anything. Little by little we’ll get there.