As some of you know, I was able to attend a conference in Washington, DC, at the end of March, thanks to some Kossacks and other wonderful and generous family and friends. The conference, Ecumenical Advocacy Days http://advocacydays.org, was a gathering of people of faith working for justice and peace issues.
My issue is torture, because, as many of you know, my husband, Dan, was a US Vietnam vet who survived being tortured. Dan’s physical and psychological injuries were still with him 30 years after leaving Vietnam. He was still waking up screaming a week before he died almost 9 years ago. Dan left me a mission, to stop torture as the law, policy and practice of the United States, and to push to ensure that those responsible at the highest levels for the torture inflicted by the United States since 9/11 are held legally responsible.
This conference was one I had hoped to happen for many years.
Having now recovered from the trip, I wanted to let you all know about my adventure, because you helped make it happen.
On March 19th, I flew from Ottawa, Ontario, where I make my home (yes, I’m a Canuck ) to Philadelphia, where I had hoped to, at long last, hug my dear and beloved ridemybike in person. Alas, that will have to wait for another day, not too distant, because a client required his attention. From there to DC in the blink of an eye, or so it seemed. The truly generous and intelligent and funny mimi met me at the airport. She had offered me a room to stay in, and ended up deciding to chauffeur me around. I am beyond grateful to her for her generosity and wisdom and good humour. As Boggie said, “this is the start of a beautiful friendship.” We had dinner that night in a lovely little café near her home, and talked until way too late.
The next day, Thursday, was a day before the conference began, so I took the opportunity to lobby the members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who were, at that time, considering whether to release the 6,000 page report on the CIA and the torture its members have inflicted, and with whose approval, since 9/11.
As someone who has watched the issue of stopping torture, and accountability for torture, slip off the national agenda, I think it is extremely important to release the entire report, because all adult Americans are entitled to, and dare I say obliged to, read what has been done, and by whom, and authorized by whom, in their names.
So, I went from office to office, introducing myself to staff members and explaining why I was there, giving them my card, and doing “the ask” (which is the specific action you would like the Senator they work for to do). I had a lot of great conversations, and learned that the Democratic members were on board. The highlight of the visits was when I was in the office of Tom Udall (Dan was born in New Mexico) and a gentleman heard me and, after I was finished with the staffer, said he was very impressed and offered to introduce me to the Chief of Staff of the other Senator from New Mexico, Martin Heinrich, which he did. VERY cool !
When I looked at the list of Senators who are on the Intelligence Committee, it seemed like the only Republican who might be open to voting in the affirmative was the Republican from Maine, Susan Collins, so I also met with her staff. It was a busy and very enlightening and educational day.
Fortunately, when the vote was held, the next week, they did vote to release a version of the report. Unfortunately, they voted to release an executive summary of the report, as opposed to the full report, so we still have work to do. There are also other hoops we have to jump through before we can actually read that executive summary. SIGH !
In between office visits, I fulfilled another hope for the trip, which requires explanation. Since I was about 10 years old or so, I have been researching the lives of children during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, very seriously since I was about 15. This became another mission: to write a book on the subject, one aimed at re-enactors. When my dad’s cancer was declared terminal, he made me promise to work on it every day. I discovered about 8 to 10 years ago that there was in the National Museum of the American Indian a wheeled toy from what is now Mexico, made between 800 and 1250 AD. Unfortunately, when I contacted the museum all those years ago they were at the beginning of transferring their collection, including the toy, to a new building in DC, and so it was unavailable. That process took five years. Then, on the next occasion when I had time to roam in DC, I neglected to bring the sheet I had from the book with the collection number, so they couldn’t find it. THIS was the day, however, that I would actually see it! It took some false starts, but I finally managed to find it get some photos of it. I apologize for not including them; they are still waiting to be processed at the end of the month. I have a custom on trips like these, or on occasions that seem important, to purchase a permanent souvenir of the moment, so I stopped by the gift shop and found a lovely pendant that had been designed by an Ogibway artist, of a tortoise, for patience. It seemed appropriate After lunch at their First Nations café, it was back to the salt mines of lobbying
That evening, mimi and I had a delightful Meet Up dinner, with several Kossacks, including Ollie Garkey and his wife, Kim, and webgenie. Lots of excellent discussion and plans were made
Of course, mimi and I stayed up much too late, yet again, talking into the night Yes, there is a pattern to this …
Friday was the start of the conference, so mimi dropped me off on the way to work. I had the great opportunity to meet the folks who lead the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, and other inspiring folks working for justice and against torture. We had an excellent discussion on strategies to push our cause forward and to mark June, which is Torture Awareness Month, and especially June 26th, which is the International Day in Support of the Victims of Torture.
I will have more to say about my idea/plan for Torture Awareness Month in my next recap diaries, which I will post tomorrow and Wednesday. I need to post this now, so I will have time to respond to comments and questions before I need to leave for a meeting this evening.
Thank you to ALL of you, for all you do that supports my mission, and for all you do for justice.
Standing for justice and accountability,