But try to hide our “representatives” will. My representative Jared Golden was not present in his Bangor office this week when eight people were arrested trying to deliver a letter demanding he support a ceasefire in Gaza. And plans for a second group to try again were thwarted when staff closed his Bangor office early on Friday.
Maine’s 1st district rep Chellie Pingree was not present in her Portland office last week when Jewish organizers with If Not Now turned out 200 or so. A handful of them were led out in zip ties after office staff refused to accept the letter they were trying to deliver.
I consider several people who took part in these actions friends, and I got to speak with one of them about his experiences in Bangor. Rob Shetterly, who has worked in refugee camps in the West Bank on trips sponsored by Veterans for Peace, reported: “We wanted to do our little piece of the international actions to support the Palestinians and stop the genocidal actions continuing in Gaza. And to encourage other people to take a stand.”
The group failed to disperse after being blocked from delivering a message that said in part:
As residents of Maine, we are here today to demand that Rep. Jared Golden and all of Maine’s congressional delegation support House Resolution 786, a congressional resolution that calls for an immediate de-escalation and cease-fire in Israel and occupied Palestine.
Calling for a cease-fire is not support for Hamas, and criticizing Israel is not anti-Semitism. As Mainers, we can no longer stand by and idly bear witness to this slaughter of innocent civilians.
We would no more bomb our beloved brothers and sisters in Palestine for the actions of some than we would bomb our beloved friends and neighbors in Lewiston for the actions of one man. Enough. Stop the killing. Stop it now.
Shetterly told me,
Just before we went in we got the news about the censuring of Rashida Tlaib which affected me more strongly than Golden’s support for bombing. To pick out a Palestinian person in our Congress who’s simply speaking out on behalf of humanity reminds me of collective dehumanization like the Nazis did to Jews or like White Americans do to Black Africans or Native people.
A person in a position power has a particular responsibility to know the history of the things they talk about. A whole series of genocidal actions are taking place on the basis of wildly false information. There’s a history here of ethnic cleansing and violent military occupation that was inevitably going to lead to resistance.
He said that he plans to reach out to Tlaib to see if she will agree to be painted as he would like to add her portrait to his ongoing series Americans Who Tell The Truth.
Shetterly and the others were released on their own recognizance after paying a bail bondsman $60 each to process their paperwork. If they did not pay, they were told that they would be jailed over the four day weekend. Their arraignment date is January 10.
I’m old enough to remember when our elected representatives in Maine at least pretended to hear from constituents. They held town halls and would also schedule time for constituents to call on them when they were back in district.
These days the only way to get their attention seems to be civil disobedience. Thus more than 100 congressional staffers walked off the job last week to protest U.S. support for genocide in Gaza. Many of them are undoubtedly the young voices we hear when we call to express our opinions. I’m always courteous because the staffers are in a tough place and possibly on the verge of their own awakening from the delusion of American exceptionalism. One young woman in Sen. Angus King’s office sounded on the verge of tears as she responded to my call, “I hear you, Lisa.”
In related actions last week, writers occupied the New York Times demanding truthful reporting on Palestine following writer Jazmine Hughes being forced to resign after signing a letter of support for Palestine; and both Brandeis and Columbia suspended the group Students for Justice in Palestine. Columbia also suspended Jewish Voice for Peace.
Bottom line: the people aren’t having it, especially young Jewish people. And you cannot hide from an idea whose time has come.