On January 27th an old woman named Concepion Picciotto died in Washington, D.C. Most people probably do not recognize her name, but if you ever visited the White House in the last 3 decades you probably saw her camped outside on Pennsylvania Avenue, even if you don’t remember.
About two weeks ago I went to DC for the day, my second visit to the capital. This time, I noticed the transparent tent opposite the White House, a stark contrast to the large, white mansion that symbolizes the “free world.”
Day in and day out, Concepcion Picciotto peacefully protestedagainst nuclear weapons. It was literally her life’s sole mission and work. The day I went, a couple of handsome Kurdish men in traditional dress were milling about with a banner; a man with a TV camera was questioning them. I walked up to her and she handed me a flyer. This weathered, withered old lady could barely speak. She looked like she couldn’t move. She reminded me of the homeless people in NY, and for one second I thought that she seemed like a crazy.
The thought of doing what Concepcion did every day is crazy. But she was passion and perseverence exemplified. Maybe she seemed crazy, but she was no different than a monk or nun giving up their life to God. Her methods might have been quite unorthodox, but her views were not crazy: nuclear weapons need to ve destroyed. War needs to end. Palestine needs to be restored. Peace needs to prevail.
And yet, despite decades of protest, the US government never once acknowledged Concepcion. No White House representative ever spoke to her and let her speak her mind. This is depressing, simply put. What is the point of being able to protest against one’s own government if they won’t even acknowledge your demands? Perhaps Concepcion didn’t care, as long as change came. But it didn’t.
Ironically enough, Concepcion died on January 27th, theInternational Holocaust Victims Day. This day has been set aside by the United Nations to remember the victims of the Nazis. Never mind the fact that no other tragedy in human history is marked specially by the UN; rather than denote victims of ALL holocausts around the world, the daybis to remember Jewish victims who died because of hatred and racism.
And what of the people of Palestine, who suffer every day thanks to the Jewish nation of Israel, which Concepcion protested against? When Iwalked up to her she handed me a pamphlet about the Hasidic Jews protesting Zionism and Israel’s actions. A nation made up of survivors of the Holocaust in turn has tried to exterminate a whole country. This nation sowed the seeds of discord in the Middle East, prompting the endless series of warand conflict in the region that so occupies American foreign politics and indeed the American way of life. Israel has brought nothing but discord to the world, instead of peace. It has perpetuzted atrocities not unlike the Nazi regime, the latter of which it has managed to enshrine in the international sphere’s collective memory.
Concepcion protested against the belligerent nature of American foreign policy and our hypocritical support of a nation which grossly, blatantly violates human rights. She protested for peace with peace. Perhaps that is why she was never acknowledged: because she did not threaten the US govenment. But one does not protest for peace with weapons or violence, only words and patience.
The question is, how long can we wait for peace? Is there an expirztion date on peace? How long can we protest for peace?
For Concepcion, peace is worth waiting a lifetime for. Rest in peace.