UNITED STATES REFLECTION: A breath before speaking

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CPTnet
19 September 2012
UNITED STATES: A breath before speaking

by Peter
Haresnape

“This is the
problem with CPT. You only take one side! You polarise the issue.”

I nearly dropped
my water-pistol in surprise. Most people who tried to pass through my
checkpoint responded with amusement or bafflement. Several obediently showed
proof of identity, or waited patiently in line. Others snuck around or tried to
reason their way through. This woman had no intention of playing along.

 

I
have written previously
about an experimental role-play at the 2011 Wild Goose Festival, celebrating
justice, music, spirituality and art in North Carolina.
This year’s scenario, inspired CPT’s Hebron project, involved
two soldiers in camouflage and sunglasses stationed at the entrance to the main
stage area, checking IDs and arbitrarily detaining a few pre-selected
volunteers. Another participant interpreted the scene and distributed CPT
literature. People could accept our command to walk the longer route around or
submit to waiting. We drew a Star of David on a box and pulled a rope across
the road to block passage.

In an
unforeseen development, a swarm of curious children – initially disturbed by
our treatment of a detainee – started to play along, and I found myself with
half a dozen new soldiers demanding IDs from passers-by and interrogating our
poor volunteer. I wondered how I might explain to their parents how I had
accidentally made soldiering look fun.

Then came the
encounter. I took a breath, dropped my role, took off my sunglasses, and
listened. Angry and frustrated at CPT taking the side of the Palestinians, she
claimed this supported violence against Jewish people. I tried a response, but
she had said what she wanted to say. Looking at the checkpoint, she said “Well,
I’m Jewish, so I’m going through!”

I couldn’t
help but smile at that. I called after her, “I’d like to talk about this more.”
She turned and smiled. “That would actually be good,” she said, then continued
on her way. It was an unexpectedly positive ending, but it was the festival’s last
day and I wondered when we might talk.

God makes a
way. I sat down near the front during the evening concert next to an empty
blanket. After a few moments she came, sat down and introduced herself. She didn’t
recognise me in civilian dress, so there was a slight pause after I mentioned where
we had met. She asked my name, and when I gave it, another pause…. “Oh,” she
said, “I think we’re Facebook friends.”

Indeed we
were. That evening we enjoyed the concert, shared our stories, talked politics
and faith, and played silly games with other believers committed to seeking
God’s peace and justice and walking these difficult roads together. She shared
how it felt to be a Jewish Christian at this festival where the only recognition
of her culture was our role-play; a crudely drawn Star of David and two
ridiculous-looking soldiers oppressing passers-by. I trust I honoured that
truth by being willing to hear how our actions affected her. Through this
process, we demonstrated that we are not divided as thoroughly and
antagonistically as mainstream opinion might suggest. Wild Goose and CPT delegations are two
places to explore this divide and work toward its healing while working for
peace and justice everywhere. 

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