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City Mouse Country Mouse

March 17, 2008

Yesterday morning when I left my hotel, I noticed that the Chinese Embassy had been the victim of a paint ball attack. There was red paint looking very bloody and purposeful dripping from the front of the building. Men with a pressure washer were doing their best to wash it away and but were not overly successful. This picture was taken after their cleanup efforts. As part of my saying Yes! to what is working in the world, I often engage in news fasts and am unaware of what is being reported by the media. I suppose this is why I didn’t think much about the paint.

After my morning session I returned to my hotel. Halfway across the bridge, I began to hear the sounds of an angry and passionate mob. As I got closer, I saw a peaceful but determined group of people protesting China’s recent violence towards Tibet and its citizens. I listened for a bit, then I walked on to my hotel. As I passed a group of law enforcement, I noticed that many were wearing mirrored sun glasses. I had a flash back in time to every CHP officer who ever intimidated me as an adolescent. As I pondered that need for authority  to hide their eyes, and not be seen, I noticed an officer with not hiding his soul. I caught his gaze, held it, and said “This is what I love about my country – freedom of speech and the right to peaceful protest.” He replied. We made a connection. In that moment I had such a rush of emotion – my head was still in my conference, my heart was bridging both the protesters and the law enforcement officers, and my conscience was asking me to step outside my narrow existence and inviting me to think more globally.

As I returned after to my session – the third time in five hours that I walked past this scene, things had really heated up. I decided to cross over to the other side of the street – not because I was told to – but because I didn’t want to be in the middle of the action – I wanted to see the larger whole from a distance. Perhaps I was distancing myself? On the opposite side of the street, young teens were handing out flyers. I took one.  As I paused to read it, she said to her friend – “I just have to give out two more and then I am done!” I smiled to myself – thinking that perhaps she was bridging her identities as a young person wanting to hang out with her friends on a beautiful Sunday afternoon and her duty or perhaps desire to take a civil and social justice stance. As I walked across the bridge over Rock Creek Parkway, I noticed people streaming towards the demonstration. One family was carrying a flag and was dressed in colorful and traditional clothing. Our eyes met – a moment of connection.

I live in a small town in a rural area of the Shenandoah Valley. Although we have several universities, our few protests and public demonstrations tend to be calm and contained. I feel gratitude for both my quiet country existence and my passionate city experience. There is a buzz, and energy, a restlessness in large metropolitan area that has an allure.

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