Guantanamo> Hunger Strike Getting Harder

By Tarak Kauff  July 26th, 2013  www.popularresistance.org
 July 26, Friday. 49 days into hunger strike. Days are getting harder.

Yesterday was not a good day. I was upset and angry for a good part of the day – mostly at the enormous evil perpetrated since the beginning by this country.  Was reading about the horrific conditions of many human beings who are kept in solitary confinement, 80,000 or more right here in the U.S.

My friend, Jay Wenk a WWII combat vet, still very strong, intelligent and solid at 86, came over to sign some papers we are getting to NYC City Council members to push for 24/7 access at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and then we were talking about the 13th amendment – the one ending slavery – sort of.  It says “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States .” 

“Except”?  The idea infuriated me and I became so upset at the injustice of it I started to sob. I got myself under control but was so infuriated that human beings in prison were still treated so cruelly, as slaves, as subhuman objects. What Michelle Alexander calls “the new Jim Crow” exists and has existed and is perhaps worse than ever but somehow talking about it with Jay on the 47th day of my hunger strike, got me enormously upset.

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Am somewhat hungry all the time. So looking forward to eating again. I love food, love eating with friends and loved ones but identifying and empathizing with the suffering of other human beings, initiated this fast and keeps me going. When it gets tough I remember them and what they go through. Eating regularly, I don’t overeat, normally weigh around 160 and stay pretty fit but now I am somewhere around 135, very lean, feeling strung out, tense much of the time, short-tempered and emotionally volatile both in how much my heart feels empathy towards the suffering and conversely, explosively angry at whatever I perceive as any injustice anywhere, or even an insult to my person.

My wonderful partner, Ellen, suffers because of my state of mind but remains supportive and loving despite how difficult I am to be with during this time. Finally had a blood test last week, it came back mostly within normal range, there were a few things a bit lower than normal but physically I am still okay, even strong enough to go to the gym and work out moderately.  Yesterday, I had planned to go as soon as I drove back from DC where I was for 3 days, but just didn’t have it. It’s my state of mind that is sapping my energy. The day was also cooler than normal. I think the temperature dropped into the sixties. I wore a sweater but was still cold – shaking – so I built a fire in the wood stove. After a while the house and I warmed up.

I am also trying to get ready for July 30, when I plan to be back in DC with others to demand that Congress actually do something before they go on their ill-deserved vacations. I will never, never forgive Obama. I know that he has the power as Commander in Chief to, at the very least, end the force-feeding torture, make sure conditions for the prisoners are humane and respectful and can close Guantanamo and resolve the entire issue if he had the will and the humanity — but he doesn’t.

Sorry to be so unspiritual, if that’s what it means, but I do not feel compassion for him, no more than I would for Hitler, Stalin or Mussolini. Brian Wilson, someone who knows his history and the why of our addiction to war, torture and the like, called Obama a totalitarian monster no less than the worst monarchs and dictators in world history.”

I do feel a kind of disdainful pity for people who continue to cling to the illusion that he is really a good person at heart. No, this is a man who has gone further into destructive evil than his predecessor, G.W. Bush, in every way. The prisons, drone strikes, the NSA surveillance he approves of and backs, what he is allowing to be done to the environment – he is the smoothest-talking, most double-dealing hypocrite we have ever had as President. Dr. Cornel West, a wonderful, soulful and brilliant man,exposed Obama’s huge hypocrisy around the Trayvon Martin case on Democracy Now the other day.  Please watch it. You won’t be sorry.  Send it to friends who still cling to Obama’s hypocrisy of “hope they can believe in.”

As bad as he is, it’s much more than Obama, it’s our whole self-centered, unsustainable, materialistic way of life since the beginning, since Columbus landed. Indigenous people respected the earth, lived for the most part in accordance with it and their way of life has almost been totally wiped out. Their elders, who still hold the ancient wisdom may be our last hope.

Yesterday, I think I had more than 300 calories. At one point, because I felt so crappy, I ate a small banana and then felt guilty. Maybe because of that indiscretion I was over 300 calories for the day. Sue me. I want so much to eat and relieve this struggle within mostly my mind and emotions, but still have 8 or 9 days to go until Aug. 4th, when I break the hunger strike in the evening at the mosque in Albany with Elliott. The Imam has welcomed this and the Peace and Justice community is also warmly invited. I am looking forward to this profound occasion for a number of reasons besides being finally able to actually eat again. Two U.S. military veterans, who are against war, against torture, a Christian and a Jew, will be breaking bread with Muslims during Ramadan. It will be 58 days then for me — much more for Elliott.

My 21-year-old daughter, now in California, always an inspiration and dearer to me than the world, said a few days ago, “Dad, you can make it. It’s only ten days.”  Just those few words of encouragement meant a lot. Always, she has been supportive and proud of my social justice activities. Blessed is anyone to have such a daughter.

It was just great to see Elliott in DC at the Hart Senate House for the hearing. The man is thin as a rail but still so committed, solid, upbeat and strong. It also was wonderful to be with another good friend and inspiration on many levels, Diane Wilson. Art Laffin also, who was there at the Hart and read and spoke soulfully, told me his group of Catholic Workers were praying regularly for all the hunger strikers. That meant a lot.

Am trying so hard to keep from flying off the handle – the toughest element of not eating for me. The physical part is not as difficult. I still have to get through July 30, where I will almost certainly be arrested, as will others as we take a stand for the prisoners.  Had planned to break the fast after that but now will wait until the evening of Aug. 4.

Please try to be there on the 30th,  at least in support outside if possible and inside if you are willing to not carry ID and stand firm representing a prisoner.

I am on hunger strike for/and in solidarity with all prisoners in Guantanamo, Bagram Prison, other U.S. “Black Site” prisons still in existence around the world and also with the Palestinian people and the almost 5,000 Palestinian prisoners currently held and tortured in Israeli prisons. My heart and solidarity go out to all of them. I am with Eugene Debs who said, “While there is a soul in prison, I am not free.” 

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