Reflecting on summer activism, part 1

I’m still processing my experiences responding to the attacks on Gaza this summer. The sense of fight or flight drove me into a period of writing, posting, and on-the-ground mobilization that was only matched by the last offensive against Gaza in 2012, and during Stanford Students for Palestinian Equal Rights’ 2013 divestment campaign. This time around felt different, however, because I knew that more and more people were actually witnessing, acknowledging and admitting that the fate befallen to Palestinians in Gaza was one of inhumanity. This time more than any before, classmates and acquaintances wrote to express concern with what was happening, to ask how to help, to say thank you for the information I provided (and a couple of times to challenge it, too). I am always conscious that many in my networks will one day have the ability to influence policies through various positions of power, and so my primary job during the summer was to raise the awareness of these friends, classmates and colleagues, awaken their conscience, and remind them to look to their conscience in fulfilling their duty to be responsible global citizens. My public writing during this time reflected that goal on a larger level.

But by the end of July, the marches I had been attending week after week in San Francisco began to feel fruitless. What good would marching to Civic Center a fourth week in a row do? And so I appreciated the opportunity to put my body on the line day after day after day during the #BlockTheBoat campaign in Oakland. It was uplifting to realize that even just 40 or 50 people could bring a cargo vessel to a halt. I hope it sent a sign that the days of people tolerating the flagrant disregard for human life and dignity of Israel (and the United States) are numbered.

By the middle of August, I also grew tired of posting about #GazaUnderAttack on Facebook because I knew that no matter how many articles I posted, no matter how many times human rights groups decried what was happening, no matter how many people died, we would not take the necessary steps to end the violence for good. Words were not enough to change the situation and action was necessary. But it was clear (as it has been) that no matter how awful the crime against civilians, the policy of the United States is to take no action beyond reprimanding Israel and to continue to shower it with weapons. The fact that our Congress voted almost unanimously to send Israel additional military aid while people in Detroit languished without water due to a $90 million shortfall cynically speaks volumes to the direction of our official domestic and international agenda.

At the same time, the moments of transnational solidarity and consciousness raising between Ferguson and Palestine in mid August were nothing short of beautiful. The ongoing actions and planning in Ferguson on its own gives glimmers of hope for a resurgent national movement for the respect of black lives. The connections with Ferguson gave glimmers of hope for a resurgent transnational movement for the respect of all human lives. The path ahead of us will be very difficult, but I am confident in the ability of everyday people to overcome these struggles in the long haul.

To recharge, I retreated at the end of August for a few days of solo hiking, rejuvenating my mind by reading (fiction for the first time in years), and relaxing on the beach. One of the things that struck me while I was there was the enormity of the cliffs by the sea. On my final day, I stood overlooking a bluff, washing the surf pound wave after wave against the face of the cliff. It was awe-inspiring to know that over millions and millions of years, this simple repetitive motion of water hitting rock had worn down the cliff face into tiny grains of sand. While I hope that the efforts of our work operate on a much faster and more visible timeline, I am proud to consider myself part of the waves of humans who have been part of these fights long before me and who will come long after me. This time in Kauai (and subsequent time at home in New York) were really good spaces for self-care and to reflect on my intentions for the work that I do.

While I spent most of the summer in crisis mode, now that things have settled down I am switching gears to focus on the long term projects and grassroots work I’d hoped to spend the summer advancing. As my two-week hiatus from Facebook made self-evident, this means I am posting less frequently on Facebook, using this blog as my preferred method of communication, and trusting that those who care are equipped with the tools to do their own self-education and form their own analysis of what’s going on.

For now, I’ll leave with a gentle call for people to act when they are called to do so in the time to come. To ignore a call for action outside a time of crisis is to condone the underlying structure that will create more crises instead of a lasting peace.

Thank you for reading this far and for reading with me throughout the summer.

In peace,

Kristian

A long hiatus

My first summer after graduation has been an interesting one to say the least. Nagging me for most of it was that I wished I had asked my adviser for more time between finishing school and starting work. Finishing Stanford on its own was exhausting, but I’ve been through intense schooling pretty much nonstop since the summer after fifth grade when I began a program to prepare me for the transition to private school in Manhattan. When my adviser gave me permission to take a week off after I’d asked halfway through the summer, I learned a valuable lesson about speaking up and making my wants and needs clear.

I’m returning from a two-week social media hiatus, which included a week of travel for myself and some time with family. My intention is to revitalize my blog and to use it as the primary way for people to keep up with what I’m thinking about and doing. We’ll see how that pans out in practice… For now, welcome to the updated kristianbailey.com and feel free to look around for my older content.