I write this from my home in Seattle, having come home for a few days to attend to commitments. I will return to Crescent City, my tent and Bryan by week's end.
This weekend was a blur to me... it was racing by time wise, but it seemed to move slowly. There were reporters doing interviews and I did some radio call in shows. It was encouraging and exhausting at the same time.
Saturday, Bryan was quiet but rallied as the visit went on. He is most interested in negotiations, is there any movement? But, when I told him that "they are sometimes at the same table, the lips are moving, words are coming out...but that's about it", he nodded and seemed to expect it.
Bryan is strong as a rock and has not wavered in his commitment to seeing this all the way through. We talk of the body digesting its own organs, DNRs, refusal of force feeding. I am on board to carry out his wishes to the letter should it come to that.
Our conversations are very intimate and strengthening. We speak of beliefs, family dysfunctions, the phases of our personal growth. I am Bryan's witness as he talks of his humanity, something that the Pelican Bay SHU has striven to destroy for almost 20 years. He is a beautiful and gentle man, thoughtful and caring, intelligent and brave --- he is a human being who does not deserved to be subjected to the tortuous conditions of PBSP SHU.
Next weekend, Bryan said that they can wheel him to visit if he is unable to walk...I am making arrangenents today so there is no "confusion" or "gosh, if we had known we could have had something ready" when I show up on Saturday for our visit.
We spoke of his family a lot this weekend. As I am their link to Bryan, I am getting to know his family members and am able to carry their messages of love into him.
I had some time to reflect on issues involving this hunger strike, and spending time with a variety of people gave me new perspectives.
Did I miss the miracle?
I grew up in a small rural community in SE Minnesota of about 2000 people. It was near Rochester with the Mayo Clinic and an IBM plant about 15 miles away. Our community was the typical mix of people whose families who had been there generations and of the professionals who commuted to work - townies and farm kids.
The first ethnic variation in our school was when Don joined our class as a Senior...he was Jewish. The only change I remember his presence causing was that we couldn't sing Christmas Carols of a religious nature at our choir concert. He was/is a great guy.
Growing up, my father was the college football coach at Rochester. He recruited black young men from Washington, DC, to play at the school. I remember talk about them dating the local white girls (1978) as there were "no black girls to date"..;, more of concern that they might leave the team and go back home than racial fears. I had been around these black player as they often lived in the apartment in our basement...they were the stars of the team. I can sum up my childhood feeling towards them in one word...they were GODS.
The 1980's found me in Seattle, WA which has a large Asian population. I may have been unexposed to the racial tensions of the era, but neither was I predisposed to having negative feelings to people of other races. I just met people and judged them on their individual merits.
So, the whole importance of "the hunger strike is a show of racial unity" just didn't resonate with me in the beginning. During my time in CA, I have visited with other families about what their lives ares like in So CA where race determines so much. Bryan tells me about prison life and over time I have begun to see that, truly, the unity that this hunger strike has created is almost a miracle.
The more I ponder this new understanding, the more I have come to believe that the hard part is done. The unity and faithfulness between the prisoners on strike is an example to all of us that only when there is combined effort toward the defeat of a common enemy can there be success.
Or in the words of Benjamin Franklin...."We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately."