Olympia BDS- Coop Member Forum

I just returned from the Olympia Food Coop’s member forum to discuss its recent decision to join the international Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.  I was at the Coop’s board meeting on July 15th when they decided to join BDS, and they knew then this forum would be necessary to air concerns.  The forum this evening was very tense at times, with many people speaking emotionally both in support and in opposition to the boycott.    The thing that was hardest for me personally was to see so many members of the community I have known all my life, whom I know to be both for and against this issue, and to speak my truth in the midst of all of them.  I was at first very unhappy with what I could muster when I finally got my 1 minute in front of the microphone, but in retrospect I appreciate the fact it was entirely real and true for me.

As a white, owning class, straight, Christian, able-bodied man, I was sure I came to this event prepared tonight.  Despite the fact I am struggling to find work right now, despite the fact I have yet to find a place to hang my hat, despite all the other self-imposed inconvieniences my lifestyle choices impose on my way of life  I thought I had myself and the room under control.  My privileged opinion of myself and the weight of my words told me I could wait to the end of a 2 hour emotionally charged forum and speak pure gold to sum up my feelings and address the loose ends of others.  I have been humbled.  When I reached the mic, much of what came to me as I stood before the Board was my sense of connection to this community, my appreciation for their courage in making a difficult decision and standing by it, and my tremendous sense of fear and personal vulnerability.

I rarely feel truly vulnerable in front of others.  Many of the difficulties in my life are directly traceable to my own ego, hurt or fear.  When I feel pain and trace it back to these sources within myself,  I  seek spiritual comfort and I feel freed of myself and forgiven for my tresspasses.  This is my privilege and I enjoy it quietly.

Eid, who’s bulldozed home I visited in the West Bank, does not have this privilege.  When he calmly looked me in the eye and asked me what Israeli settlers tell their children when they tuck them into bed at night with an M-16 on their shoulder,  I could not answer.  I could not answer his father who asked “what person wants to live on the broken scraps of their neighbors houses?”    These men are so vulnerable they are forced to ask  existential questions of themselves AND of their oppressors every day.  My experiences in Palestine tought me that it is neither useful nor possible to compare pain.  In this case, however, in a very rare instance of tables turning, I as the privileged was forced to sit with difficult questions about someone else’s decisions, and ultimately my complacency in them.  It is the decisions of my government, my culture, and the price tag of my way of life that destroyed Eid’s family’s home.  I truly believe that and it makes me incredible uncomfortable.

People at the forum tonight discussed frustration with the Co-op’s process for deciding to support this boycott, for its “divisiveness in our community.”   These words ring hollow in my ears as I remember themeasured storytelling of a Palestinian woman in Hebron speaking about the Israeli settler who entered the mosque in which she was praying, killed over 50 people in her community, and in doing so forced the hand of the complacent Israeli authorities to divide the mosque in two to make one half a synagogue.  What evil logic supports that kind of “process”, what sick “divisiveness”? How often are we forced to reconcile internal doubts or consider personal process for people that destroy our houses, kill our livestock, burn our harvest, poison our wells, steal our water and humiliate us in front of our families? How do we in Olympia look beyond our own identities and allegiances, our own hurts and fears, to truly get inside the hearts of the people who our foreign aid oppresses?  When we feel comfortable and they are far away, we cannot.

I am made vulnerable and uncomfortable by my decision to support Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel.  I am unsure whether I will lose friends, misrepresent the voiceless in my rush to speak or lose sense of my own needs as I plunge into the fray.  But I believe this discomfort is an act of God in my life, an opportunity to have solidarity in my own community with Palestinians in their struggle for self determination and freedom on their native lands.  Palestinians have offered me a gift today, an opportunity to liberate my heart, if not entirely my mind or my body, from seeing only the pain I stand to feel in my own community today.   By supporting BDS, I have seen my privilege reflected back at me, been asked the difficult questions I might not ask if I wanted to feel comfortable.   I seek only to act justify, love mercy and walk humbly with my God.

Moving Quickly

A postcard from Pendle Hill "Just outside the Beltway"

I sold the boat, this much is true
I quit the Rachel Corrie office too

I bit the bullet, changed my life

My blessings are so many, rife

I’m chilling out in Philly now
Peaceful like a just-milked cow

The city’s warm, it’s late Sobember
A time to visit, love, remember

With little plan but some paper cuts
A show downtown, I love to putz

Life starts coming when I stop and let it
And so far I do not regret it


The end is nigh

I’m sitting on my boat in what will likely be my final hours as it’s owner.  It’s sad.  This place has been my home and all the flotsum I’ve vacuumed up reminds me of something.  There’s still some canary seeds here and there. Quite a few pieces of brass hardware from this or that repair project.  Indistinguishable plastic pelletish things that feel familiar on a boat.  Am I really nostalgic about my dirt?

There’s actually some dirt I’m rather proud of:  All the the junk throughout the fuel lines that I cleaned out with Dad.  Here it is, pretty impressive eh?

the spoils of warter

A perfectly good illustration of why boat ownership is not really the best option for me right now.  It took 10 hours of very tight manuvering to get all that out, but the engine running really well now.   I just don’t have the energy.  And my jobs finishing.  And I don’t know what I’m doing with myself.

So the Drifter’s likely to drift along here, headed to a new owner who plans to live aboard.  I wish him the best and know that this little champ will treat him well.

No Wake Zone

I tried to take Federica out for a sail yesterday in a last ditch effort to get the boat out and impressing women as it is intended.  No go.  As the starter ground and my newly ripped shorts flapped in the ample breeze, I would not be defeated.  I decided we would try to sail off the dock…..into the wind.  Desperate measures only succeeded in rousing all the neighbors from their vessels to anxiously ask if “they could help” [me return to my slip like a sane person, I gathered]  I was defeated.


Having Federica see my life for the last three weeks, including the delightfully exotic (hiking through tropical rainforest munching on strawberry guavas) and the painfully mundane (fretting over whether the Y will grant a FOURTH guest pass in its limited unlimited “special offer” plan,  just wanting a damn shower)  I have felt honored to have her see everything  and apparently accept it all with a remarkable calm I couldn’t imagine mustering.  How is it that some people are so collected, grasping the tiller firmly and staring down their future with a genuine smile?  It may be that we’re all still just tied to the dock anyway, or that the mussels are slowly sinking us from the bottom up, but I just can’t help FRETTING all the time, whigging out over the tiniest things.


Last weekend she and I did two events about Israel and Palestine on Whidbey Island.  People listened politely and asked good questions but I realized at the end of it all I feel so tired getting righteous about injustice these days.  As I’ve bucked and tossed and rolled myself at the helm of some kind of vessel plodding through Israel and Palestine, I’ve burnt myself out.  My starter’s gonna fail if I don’t watch it.  I know very well why I don’t have the tireless energy of some or the uncanny good cheer of others.  I’m just not yet running with everything full ahead yet.  It’ll happen though, and man I’m hoping it’ll be impressive when it does.

My Boat is Famous

Drifter in the 1979 issue of "Sailing" magazine

A fellow yelled at me from the Percival Landing Boardwalk the other day, saying his name was Chris and that I was on his boat.

He introduced himself  and it turns out his father bought Drifter new in 1977 when she was still a sleek racer.  He had recognized the lettering of her name on the transom which has stayed exactly the same for 32 years.  This all jogged MY memory to the pile of papers I got when I picked up the boat from Jim.  Amongst rotten manuals and yellow charts was a letter from the Canadian government dated sometime in 1978.  It was a response from the Canucks to a certain Charlie Snyder who wanted to know about operating procedures for his brand new VHF marine radio in Canadian waters, where he hoped to travel with his brand new baby (Chris!) and wife. Trippy.

All these years later, Chris’ wife was also along for this venture and they’re expecting a baby of their own. Chris was super stoked to see the letter, his dad lives in town and I suggested he take it for show and tell.

And then he told me the coolest thing of all.  In 1979 Sailing Magazine came to Olympia to cover the Toliva Shoal Race, an annual event still going on to this day at the mouth of Bud Bay and near reaches.  It happens in February, the month I moved aboard.  I’ll be straight with you, February 2009 was not a high point in this Skipper’s life.  But February 1979 was when Drifter spread her sails and rocketed to international superstardom…… or just had her picture featured in a magazine.  The stuff of legend, all cataloged on the Toliva Shoal office website to this day for your viewing pleasure.


I’m writing out corporate discerment

Been doing a lot of writing these days but not much of it’s made it up here. Suddenly the internet doesn’t seem so private when people are reading and making comments. I’m just a bit more delicate these days. I’m packing up the emotional angst, demon wrangling and struggles with myself in the box “Fragile” and carrying it under my arm.  It’s a shame you don’t live in Olympia because long distance postage is killer

Sometimes I think the constellation of my contacts here enjoy the honesty of the package, the fact I thought of them to share. We sent out 200 appeal letters from the foundation the other day and so far only 3 have come back undeliverable.  It’s not that people aren’t able to receive, it’s just their not always ready to do something about it.  I’m certainly not, I don’t think it’s always as rosey as all that. My best packages arrive more carefully done far far away from here where I’m shielded from the immediate consequences.

Bare legs and aftershocks

It’s been beautiful in Olympia.  Splitting wood behind Rohan’s house, I could almost pretend that the drama had blown over with the clouds.  It was not so.  But I am more comfortable admitting my struggle is personal, individual, inexplicable. And the sunburn left over from yesterday’s sail with my lovely cousin beside me in the cockpit could not be diminished.

The weird nieghbor who communicates mostly through a system of grunts and constantly wears a leather cowboy hat and jacket passed by the boat today with the familiar tops and shorts on the bottom.  Jacket and hat untouched.  I’m really really curious about what his boat looks like.

I also probably would not have worried about a earthquake in Italy 6 months ago.  Now I do.  I’m checking the maps and feeling silly for it. What does it matter whether I know the people being hurt around the world? What difference could it make?  Am I really obligated to tell the Greek women on the phone intending to play Rachel in a play that I actually have absolutely no relation to the Corries? Am I?

The R C for P and J

breakfastinthesecuritybuilding This is breakfast in the little coffee shop I pass every morning on my way down the granite hall and up marble-trimmed stairwell to the office.  While the rest of pre-Washington Washington was building everything EVERYTHING  out of old growth timber, Olympia’s fat cat Insurance executives decided they would sit finest European minerals on the shaky infill beneath downtown. (After much circling and pawing, of course)  Always a sucker for anachronisms, I’ve thought a lot about the heavy weight of the financial structure on a foundation of questionable premises these days.

But this building houses the future of my little slip of water for the time bein.  I’m working on the 3rd floor in the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice as the Operations Manager (Office manager, Project Manager, Budget and Financial Manager, Managing to Manage Manager).  It’s amazing work, an incredibly lucky and meaningful gig to land in tough economic times and so close to the work I’ve been doing lately.

Our board president and spiritual mother Cindy came back from her delegation to Gaza today.  She and her husband Craig, the parents of a 23 year old woman killed in 2003 by the Israeli Defense Forces while protecting a Palestinian home from a bulldozer, recently returned to the Gaza Strip and the site of Rachel’s death with a group of Americans on International Women’s Day.  As Cindy sat in our warm office today, my morning’s coffee still tickling my nerves and my full breakfast filling my belly, she told of the devastation, trauma and intense human tragedy she just witnessed.

Cindy is an incredibly kind person, always eager to see the good in people and loathe to speak ill of anyone.  As she unloaded some of the horrors laid at her feet, little girls who had witnessed bodies of policeman flying around, families suffering the indignity of 7 years of peeing with their bathroom doors open so the IDF soldiers occupying their house could monitor them, piles of rubble full of children’s shoes, I felt I had to acknowledge her hurt and devestation.  Perhaps we as outsiders are not meant to fully take on or understand the depth of suffering far away, but what if we are meant to try?

An interesting interview with the Corries:


Live from the background

A strange transformation has taken place.  I am now no longer in  Palestine but still have so much of my attention pointed towards it.  It as if I am looking at the pictures of myself there like the part of me that still is walking across the desert, still is eating warm bread and saged tea, still meeting inspired and incredible people full of passion and love and conviction and pain.  Why can’t I feel them as I did just a few months ago?  Why did Israel have to go and attack the people of Palestine and my ghost of memory left behind, there among them like a like a penguin in the San Diego zoo.  I’m bewildered however I look at it.

But now I live in Olympia.  I have a small boat I live on here in the harbor.  It rocks me to sleep, those nights I can, and floats amdist an amazing community of new people.  A single mother and her child in the Brigadoon, my slipmate Tim headed on his newly purchased Vasiliki to Alaska this summer, Vince  the signpainter on Anna, a beautifully finished memorial to his late wife.  Vince helped us put the lettering on the Olympia Rafah Mural last year, whipping out a beautifully lettered title for our work only caught up in Olympia governments red tape later.  It’s funny now that he is my neighbor and with my new job at the foundation I’m ready to hire him again  to help paint our organization’s mission on the office wall.

And that organization is the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice, where I now am the opertaions manager working with the Corrie family, parents of Rachel Corrie, a young woman killed in Gaza in 2003 while trying to stop a Palestinian families home from being demolished by an Israeli bulldozer.  The Foundation is where Rachel’s life is turned into a model for social change, such as we left living can manage to do that.  It’s a beautiful and difficult and thought-provoking mission.  Especially difficult today,  as a part of me wached the Corrie leave the office today to go on a delegation to Gaza to provide relief and aid after the recent devestation there.  The thought-provoking side of me is still over there expecting them, waiting for them to help me make sense of it all from that side of things.

I’m home

And perhaps you all noticed, due to the steep drop in viewership. (I’m also allowing for the possibility the dead sheep might have had something to do with it.)

Anyway, returning has brought me a reminder of the good and beauty that is friendship, the challenge of little nagging beefs that just won’t resolve themselves and the sharp relief of these things against a “world away”.

It’s good to be home, I am immensely thankful to all of you for your thoughts and prayers, and you should not expect to see much new content here soon.