« 226 | Main | This Week In Utero: 22 »

Friday, June 19, 2009

On The Importance Of Clowning

I was preparing to do a post on how clowning is an effective tool in the peacemaking kit, because as I saw in action a clown can break down barriers and thus enable bridge building. 

Clowns disarm.  They provide stark relief to the absurdity of things like banning pencils and paper.  They speak an almost universal language that can communicate across the gulf between protesters and police.

So I was preparing.  And in preparing I found my post was already written much more eloquently than anything I could muster by my friend Anna Brown:

It was Nasser Ibrahim, the Director of the Palestinian-Israeli Alternative Information Center in Beit Sahour (West Bank) who provided a way for me to see the necessity of the work of clowning, with its love of joy and of fun, in the context of a disaster. According to Ibrahim, political resistance is an “effort to hold on to your humanity. It is the work of being human.”

Ibrahim’s insight certainly came to life during our three attempted crossings into Gaza. During our first attempt, we were joined by “Kassamba,” an Israeli anarchist band whose name roughly translates into “sound rockets,” and a troupe of clowns. Kassamba, Patch and the Israeli clowns had all of us dancing, laughing and smiling in an area that was filled with miles of fences, guard towers, military vehicles and M-16’s. When our passports were returned to us and our entry denied, Patch took the passports and started a game of poker with them just underneath the checkpoint booth, a move that had the Israeli guards looking on in amazement and amusement. When Patch reached out his hand to one of the guards, the guard reached back and clasped Patch’s hand with a strong grip. In this case, the hand that clasped the other had to first release his hand from a gun. “Score, humanity!” at least for this moment.

Our second and third efforts to cross were enriched by balloons, kites and flowers as well as by a three-hundred person strong demonstration by Gazans just across the crossing from us. Our kites and balloons embodied our soaring spirits and the desire to connect with the people of Gaza. Our flowers were placed in the fence of the Erez crossing along with handwritten notes. Prior to placing our notes in the fence, we were able to speak with a few of the Gazans who had made it through the crossing and who were on their way to the hospital. Be they elderly women or small children held by their mothers, the pallor of sickness was quite evident, particularly in the sweltering heat of the day. Most were suffering from heart ailments and were in need of serious medical attention. In order to get out of Gaza, where medical supplies are in short shrift and hospitals are barely functioning, they had to wade through an onerous bureaucratic permit process only to wait—if they were among the fortunate few—for hours before being allowed out. The festive atmosphere we had created in this desolate and inhuman space brought forth smiles and hugs from our Gazan friends. “Score, humanity! Once again.”

Though the gates to Gaza were not opened for us, the gates around my heart were opened. Far from being dispirited, I know that the roots of my peacemaking practice are stronger and more deeply rooted than ever before. Once again the words of Nasser Ibrahim came to mind: “Never give up!” I will not give up; I have only just begun.

I should just let my photos and other people speak for me, it appears...


June 19, 2009 in Pax Americana, Viva Palestina | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference On The Importance Of Clowning:


I hate to break away from the topic, but I don't have the email for the Liberal Coalition anymore, and I think this is important:

Andante of Collective Sign passed away on Tuesday, June 16th, 2009, after a long battle against cancer.

Posted by: Rook | Jun 19, 2009 10:50:24 AM

I should just let my photos and other people speak for me, it appears...


hey, that's what i say. of course you are a much better writer than me. keep on keep'n on.

Posted by: charley | Jun 19, 2009 10:55:25 AM

Post a comment