Wednesday, August 31, 2011


"...For I have known them all already, known them all:--
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
So How should I presume?..."
                        T.S. Eliot  from The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

Something in me is loathe to admit that one of my all-time favorite poems was written by a notoriously difficult man musing on his aging; musing on his approaching death.  Still, I confess that I have loved this poem since my high school days:  ah! the rhythm, the phrases, the images...

I never knew what Eliot meant by "I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled."  These days I think he might have meant that he was losing height...shrinking!  I am losing height---but I am not shrinking.  No! I tell myself that I shall not shrink.  I shall not shrink.

It is now late in the year 2011.  I was born even later in the year 1942.  That should tell you something.  A few days ago, I confronted myself in the far-too-big mirror in my bathroom.  I looked closely at my face.  I may have said aloud, "Thank God I don't look like my Mother."  If I said anything aloud, I would have said that--because my narcissistic mother and I shared a lifelong dislike of one another--a definite repulsion of the other.  She was borderline obese.  I am not. PHEW!   I continued to stare at my face and then (all this in the privacy of my over-lighted salle de bain) I clasped my hands to my mouth and garbled out, "Oh, good heavens!  I look like my Grandmother Bailey!"

In that moment, I did.  I looked like my maternal Grandmother!  What an utterly and deeply disconcerting realization.  I may look (a bit) like her but I am not a bit like my Grandmother.  She was a forlorn and lonely woman whose husband abandoned her a few minutes after her prime---to pursue Las Vegas Showgirls and the like!   I, on the other hand, abandoned three husbands in pursuit of a life  I seem compelled to chase!  Grandmother Bailey spent her remaining, self-created tragic decades (She lived well into her nineties) lamenting her lot in life.

I have rarely, rarely, rarely lamented my lot in life!  Oh, I have lightly lamented the fact that I do not play the cello or the piano.  And I frequently lament the fact that I am not fluent in a multitude of languages.  But those are my only real and  recurring lamentations regarding my personal day-to-day, decade-through-decade lot.   Of course, I lament BIG non-personal things---like the ongoing destruction of the ecosystem and the greed of the super rich at the expense of those in need...things like that.  You do too, don't you?

Now, at the extraordinary age of sixty-eight and three quarters, my memory is still excellent (Merci, Dieu!) --save for an occaisonal forgetful moment---like when I walk, with purpose, into a room and then pause to remember the purpose of the walk.  At those times, I pause and in a snap, I remember.  It comes back to me in a matter of a few seconds:  Ah, yes!  I wanted the scissors or a particular book or a phone number.  Surely you have experienced something akin to this.  I am comfortable knowing that I have tolerance for the quirky absent-mindedness of this quirky mind of mine.  This is not Alzheimers, I tell myself.  And then, to assure myself, I remember how much I remember:  hundreds and hundreds of poems and song lyrics; the location in books of particularly important quotes;  my exact location--along with everyone who was with me--when this or that monumental event occurred.  Still, I have friends who talk of "senior moments" and I tell them to STOP using the phrase or the excuse.  It's bad luck.  I might suffer from a soupcon of superstition.

There is one good thing I keep forgetting.  Sometimes I have to remind myself to forget it:  I keep forgetting that I am no longer young.  And when I remind myself that that is so, a whole long list of private do's and don'ts appears:  don't even think about wearing those super short skirts or skinny tank tops or see-through blouses or strapless dresses or spandex anythings ever again and do remember to stand up straight, to drink plenty of water, to do crossword puzzles and to floss...What about a multi-vitamin!

                                "...There will be time, there will be time
                                To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet..."

More and more, I wonder about Botox, facelifts, injections of puffy stuff for my thin lips...but then I remember (see! I remember) that I want to be graceful in my aging...I want to be healthy.  I want to celebrate the years. I want to drink life to the leas---however I don't want to drink foul tasting gooey green drinks with strange powders in them even if they are guaranteed to build strong muscles and make me irresistable to my peers (that actually doesn't seem too appealing!).  Actually, I drank my foul tasting green drinks decades ago.  Peyote. 

Peyote taught me many things.  It taught me to see between the molecules of a leaf.  It showed me my (future) hundred year old face.  It introduced me to the mysteries of the wind.  It gave me a glimpse of my important place in the world.  It instilled in me a sense of safety.  I can definitely live with that.  Until I can't.

This morning I awoke before the sun showed up at my house.  My lower back felt stiff as I put on my slippers and went outside with my dog.  "Good morning", I said aloud to the air.  And then, on impulse, I sat on the dry ground, next to a small grove of junipers.  I closed my eyes and listened...shhh...just a few birds chirping,  preparing for the day.  Like me.  I tried to chirp convincingly.  Nah!  I touched the Earth and sifted some dusty dirt through my fingers.  I felt the small stones, the pieces of twigs...And I felt my precious Earth turning, slowly and surely...eastwards...toward the Sun.  I let the stffness in my back slip into the soft earth.  Gone!  I plucked a berry from the closest juniper branch and rolled it between my fingers... and the earth turned to meet the sunrise.  With the light, I stood and walked to the road and then back to the house.  With each step I marveled at the small pale coral clouds---like an arc of prancing feathers overhead.  Then, in a kind of communion with the sunrise, I swallowed the berry.  I hardly tasted its bitterness.

                                 "Do I dare to eat a peach?"

T.S. Eliot asked.  I do not ask.  For breakfast, I slice a big firm Colorado peach into a bowl of semi-healthy flakes.  I turn on the news.  My right knee creaks a little as I lean down to pick up the dog dish.  Maybe I'll wear that "knee thing" today to strengthen the lazy ligaments.  I touch my hand to my back where the stiffness no longer is...The phone rings.  It must be my daughter who knows that I am an early riser!  I pick up my frothy latte, "Good morning, Pussycat..."

                                 "And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
                                  Smoothed by long fingers,
                                  Asleep...tired...or it malingers,..."

Saturday, August 20, 2011


And throughout all eternity
I forgive you, you forgive me.
                      William Blake  (from My Spector)

All day today I have been reading about friends and friendships---and about the loss of friends and friendships.  I've also been reading about forgiving and forgiveness.  I have been reading on these topics in an effort to come to terms with my personal reality around these remarkable--borderline essential--aspects of Life.  
In the past month or so, some really good, long time friends removed me from their friendship list.  They stopped including me in their social events.  They told mutual friends that I was now persona non grata in their book. Why?  Because we turned up on different sides of an important and volatile socio-political world issue:  The Palestinian/Israeli issue.  I've also been "unfriended" on facebook by a good buddy who e-mailed me--after the fact--and told me that he could no longer tolerate my sympathetic posts about Gaza.  And just tonight, coming out of a movie theater, two staunch and unyielding Zionists---long time friends with whom I have traveled, celebrated, danced and broken bread---saw me, made eye contact and turned away in a snub-like fashion! 

 ...I walk to my car, unlock the door, sit with my head and hands on the steering wheel and cry...not because I feel snubbed; not because I realize I won't be among the guests at their lovely parties anymore but because I am filled with a familiar, yet confusing sense of existential sadness about everything---including the film I have just seen.* 

Perhaps some older, sentimental readers might remember a book from the 60's called  A Friend Is Someone Who Likes You.  I'm thinking of it now.   It is a very small format gift book that one might give to a friend or a child.  It is profusely illustrated with images of sweet-looking people performing kind acts--like smiling or bestowing a kiss on a forehead or presenting someone with a bouquet of wildflowers...Actually, I made that part up.  I don't recall any of the slim text nor any of the illustrations.  I only remember the title...

Is it possible for a "friend" to like you---but not to like what you do or what you believe?  I think the answer is sometimes...some friends...                    

When I returned from Gaza in 2009, I learned that a close friend had called me an anti-Semite.  Ouch!!  I called him immediately and arranged to meet and talk.  He came to the Gallery.  Because we have been friends for decades, we took time to speak and listen to one another.  We acknowledged and explained our feelings, our opposing points of view.  After a brief conversation, my friend--a creative and successful older Jewish man--embraced me.  He said, "I know you're not Anti-Semitic...I know if they come to get me you will hide me."  "Yes!  I will hide you, I will hide you." I told him.

Yes, of course I would hide him.  I would defend him and protect him with all that is in me...if they came to get him...if they came...

I think about his words and I recall the tremble in his embrace.   My Palestinian position had wounded him.  It wasn't so much a disagreement about politics.  It was an absence of understanding about a soul issue.  In the presence of his authentic, marrow-level fear, a piece of my ( perhaps narrow) point of view slipped off my know-it-all shoulder and fell away.  My friend has something I do not have (never have had):  a sense of belonging to something profound.--albeit, in my friend's case, the profound was profoundly painful! 

My friend harbors an indelible fear of something shared by his "tribe":  a deep dread of what might happen to him based upon what happened to his Jewish relatives in Germany, Poland, Hungary...He lives with this  fear and from time to time it flares afresh--unsummoned--triggered by something as seemingly innocuous as  reports of a friend's journey to  Gaza---and her subsequently published  cri de guerre. My quoted words triggered something in my friend, caused him to imagine that what happened in Europe, during the war, might happen again, might happen to him.   The power of the "cry" we all know and repeat and associate with the horror of the Holocaust "Never Again, Never Again" holds no comfort for him.  His truth  trumps my experience... 
I have no deeply imbedded personal, generational family history.  I have never had a particular religion.  I have never bonded with my Scotch-Irish ancestors.  Sadly, in my family there were no stories of our Irish relatives and forebears (except the one about Uncle Buzzie, whom I never met and who was found dead in a Philadelphia flop house---having drunk a can of Sterno).  I never bonded with my "white bread" ethnicity nor with the Protestant-style "Sunday School" I attended where I memorized Bible verses and Jesus songs, nor with my race nor even with my family.  Directly put:  I don't bond well. 
                             "...Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world,
                                  red and yellow black and white, they are precious in his sight,
                                  Jesus loves the little children of the world."    

Until recently, I assumed that I bonded well enough with friends---but now, I doubt it. (dubito ergo sum).  I'm not certain I understand friendship in the way  friendship is meant (?) to be understood.  Solitude and meditation and loneliness (three daily components of my current life) can elicit thoughts of doubt in a person!  On the totally positive side: I am beginning to understand LOVE.

It's only partially true that I don't bond well.  I bond with the disenfranchised and with those who are hurt or stuck or vulnerable or oppressed.  I bonded with the women and children of Palestine for example--and with their sons and brothers and fathers whose frustration leads them--not towards peace and comfort and safety---but farther away.  And I bond with those who stand up to injustice---regardless of the consequences.  I bond with those who work and pray for solutions to poverty, ignorance, powerlessness...wars.  I bond with ideals more than with individuals. 

I love whoever I'm with.  When I'm not with them (not writing to them, talking with them, lunching with them) I file them away.  I hardly think of them.  Instead, I think of how to find cures for the socio/political diseases of our times...and how to mend the broken friendships in our world.  

I confront my abiding sense of loneliness by embracing opportunities for friendships; all kinds, everywhere.  I know that "nothing lasts forever."  I understand that  I am not the "decider" of how friendships should be...and I realize that I am frequently unsuccessful in presenting the true reasons for my search for friendship and acceptance and understanding. 
 I believe that  we ALL are alone...and that "we are one"...and that no man (woman) is an island...and I understand the essence of the statements: "to each his (or her) own"...and don't judge anyone until you walk a mile in their shoes and...and...
and I guess it's true that "a friend is someone who likes you"...And I want to be that someone. 

Every day, I move closer to being one who likes everyone...If I can't like them because of some personal hurt or slight I've experienced from them (real or imagined) or because of some "wrong" they have done or I have done, then...I will  LOVE them.  

I practice a personal love action when I am alone in a public place with lots of people moving this way and that---like in an airport or a market.  I direct my gaze toward them as they pass in front of me...and I project these words at them (without moving my lips) "I LOVE YOU".  It's surprising to discover how difficult it is to sustain the practice.  Pretty soon my mind is wandering into petty judgements about their posture or their weight... 

I struggle in these difficult times to find a meaningful place for myself--a meaningful and positive way of being in this world.   

What kind of friend am I? 
I wonder.  Is there any friend to whom I would give a kidney?  What do I do to make friends, support friends, love friends? 

As I write this, I realize I'm not certain what I mean by friend or friendship...I notice that I really want to get away from this keyboard...make some tea or watch something on television and not think about people I've hurt or people who have hurt me and what--if anything--can be done about it. In fact:  I'm going to save what I've written so far and go outside for a few minutes.  It's raining here in the desert and I want to get wet...

* The Help

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

FIGURING THINGS OUT (while stumbling)

What can I figure out today?  I wake up with that question in front of me.  I wrap the question around my morning routine...and my morning routine embraces the question.  Think: yin/yang
Every day, my dog and I take a walk with the rising sun.  This morning our first view of the sky showed a flock of small silver-y clouds to the northeast.  Overhead, a comforting coverlet of soft grey clouds holding some promising raindrops.  As we reach the foot of the winding, gravel driveway, pink and coral edges begin to surround the small clouds.   I stand on the quiet road and watch the sky fill up with a new sunrise---a totally original once-in-a-lifetime, perfect sunrise.  I breathe this high desert air--deeply.  I listen to the conversations of the birds and the hum of the distant highway getting up to workday speed.  I break off a tiny twig from one of the still-dormant chamisas that lines the driveway.  I turn it in my fingers...
Another Good Morning. 
I begin to review my tasks and appointments for this day.  The review takes me on side trips, tangents, dead ends.  Many times I linger a bit too long at the dead ends.  I have a need--a crazy need--to resurrect them.  (A dead friendship; lost through carelessness or hastiness or thoughtlessness.  A self-sabotaged opportunity; missed through laziness or forgetfulness.)  
These admissions of failure prompt me to re-group; and I resolve (once again) to be more diligent, more present, more aligned with an open, unbiased bias (as if that is possible or makes sense; as if one could have a bias towards being unbiased?  Or could one?)
What do I mean?  What do I mean to say?  To do? To figure out?
I'm searching for Truth.  I'm yearning for it.
When I discover it--if I discover it--what will I do with it or about it?  I wonder.
I reach into my store of thoughts and experiences---into the coincidences and accidents and happenstances contained in my past and present days.  I do this in a never-ending (borderline naive) effort to figure out my destiny---my true purpose---my Life:  My Life's Purpose.
"Is it possible?" I ask the day?  Is it possible to know, with any certainty, my Life's Purpose---right now, while I am still here---somewhere between the beginning and end of this mysterious life span of mine?  

For a long time, I have been conducting an ongoing informal survey among friends and acquaintences in which I pose the question:  What is your Life's Purpose?  Many people respond by saying, "to be happy".  This strikes me as too vague---not enough, not a big enough answer.  No, to be happy--just happy---is not enough for my life.  At least not this morning!  I'm already happy in most every sense of the word or concept of happiness.  That's not to imply that I'm content!  I keep telling myself, "There's something more to do, to be."  And then I sing my own version of that famous Peggy Lee song, "Is That All There Is."

...In a remote area of Myanmar, in the Southern Shan State,  I asked a young English-speaking Pa-o (ethnic minority) woman guide my question.  Her answer:  "To end the cycle of suffering".  I couldn't quite relate---but then, I'm only a fair weather Buddhist.  Many of my responding friends simply (and I don't mean "simply" in the simplistic sense of the word) want to be good parents or a great musician or a successful doctor, lawyer, painter...Sure, all well and good...but is that your Life's Purpose---your purpose in this mysterious world of ours?  One friend said, "To be."  That's it...for him his Life's Purpose was "To be."  Ah, yes!  A wonderful my world.  Of course you want to be...but simply (?) Be?  Don't you want to "Do"?  Perhaps my question needs "to be" re-stated so I can get some new answers.  I know how important properly phrased questions can be with regard to figuring things out; getting to the so-called crux of the matter.  What is the crux?  What is the matter?
When I began asking the Life's Purpose question (which was originally posed to me, by a man named Nicolai, long ago at a Peace meeting in Russia) I drafted my own response: My Life's Purpose is the search for and rescue of Truth and Beauty
 Lofty, huh?  "Well, why not have a lofty pupose to one's life!" I say aloud, straightening up in this chair, making myself a bit taller...puffing up.  Wait! Lofty is not the same as it?  Recently I asked myself, "Well, Durham, how are you doing with that searching for and rescuing of Truth and Beauty thing?  Tell me, did you just tap into your rambunctious super ego to formulate such a (ahem!) lofty-sounding purpose?   You may have made up a phrase that could mean anything?  Or nothing?  Did you, Linda Durham, make a conscious choice to be so unconscionably vague!  So SAFE!?"  

I used to think the "purpose" was profound and noble.  I want to be........noble!  (This speaks to my personal and abiding loneliness trait of wanting to do something astonishing and beautiful and real).  Maybe I could simply (I clear my throat) BE astonishing, beautiful and real.  Nah!  That's so fake!
I can't stop wanting to make a positive difference in the world.  I want to wake up filled with kindness and forgiveness and clarity.  And curiosity!  Who, pray tell, am I meant to be?  Is the answer from the Universe "Nothing"?Is the answer to it all "humility"?  No, I cannot find my way to humility.  Not now; not yet.  (Aye, there's the rub!) 
 Humility seems so boring to me at this stage of my life.  I equate it with a kind of surrender---one that will catapult me into failure and disappointment and expendability.  My darn ego is not ready to be expendable although I understand that we are---all of us---expendable.  But, please don't expend me yet, I tell myself.  I have a feeling that I have some purpose that I have not yet approached; a purpose I have neither achieved nor understood and I am stretching to find it, to figure it out.  I search. 
This search takes me to far away places on the planet and in my mind.  I stretch toward those an effort to make my life worthwhile---not merely to me, not to those who know me or like me, not to those I've helped or haven't harmed, not to those I've hurt...But to our World...
In the question is the answer/in the answer is the question.  (Think: yin/yang again) In the wrong space, the profound becomes trite and the trite...I am profoundly stuck...Still, I am moving through remarkable, opportunity-filled days, losing time and choices with every moment and choice. 
I am recalling a phrase from a child's prayer, one my mother taught me to say before going to sleep... "if I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take."  Really?  Is that a nice thing to teach a child!  How many times did I recite those words before I figured out that I didn't want to assume my death might occur that night.  In fact I wanted to assume the opposite.  One more day, one more opportunity to figure it out.  One more chance to hold the world as it holds me.  One more day to begin to be...Or?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Following Orders

"These, in the day when heaven was falling,

 The hour when earth's foundations fled,

 Followed their mercenary calling

 And took their wages and are dead."
               ---A.E. Housman from Epitaph on an Army of Mercenaries

I've been thinking about the pros and cons of following orders...actually, I've been thinking more about the "cons" of following orders.  This thinking has a lot to do with the interactions I had with Police and Coast Guards and U.S. Embassy Staff during my recent time in Athens as part of Freedom Flotilla II.

I think it's true that following orders can be a most dangerous step on a path leading--slowly, insidiously, perhaps inevitably--to the loss of personal honor, to the decline and fall of civilizations, to the perpetuation, crystallization of fear and loathing.  Following orders cows people.
            --from The papers of Mahrud ad Nil, 2006

The Greek Coast Guard Captain, whose vessel forced The Audacity of Hope to end its intended voyage to Gaza, yelled across an expanse of water to the Captain and Passengers standing on the bow of our boat that he was not in disagreement with our political views.
He was just following orders. 

The Greek Police who forced nine "fasters" to end our peaceful demonstrations in front of the U.S. Embassy in Athens explained, as they half-carried and gently dragged us into waiting patrol cars, that they were just following orders

The Police, in battle gear and gas masks, who used tear gas and batons to quel the People's Demonstration in Syntagma Square were only "following orders." 

Not all orders are worthy of being followed.  This is my strong belief. 

An anti-terrorist task force member, who paid a visit to the Police station where six of us were being detained for making an unscheduled visit to the home of the United States Ambassador to Greece, told us that, if he were given orders to kill, he would kill.  Oh, there was the caveat that he would not follow an illegal order.  What is an "illegal order"?  When someone--say a member of an anti-terrorist task force--is given a "legal" order to kill, does that killer know or care who is killed? What sort of person or target is killed?  A terrorist?  Can you imagine a context in which "terrorist" is just another name for "freedom fighter"?  
What part does fear play in these scenarios?

In some people, fear of not following orders, is worse than following certain orders--orders that one knows are wrong.  Sometimes the individuals giving orders are not honorable individuals.  Sometimes they have sacrificed their honor out of fear and intimidation and are "just following orders" from some higher order-giving authority.  (I am not suggesting God nor spirits nor even intuition.  Although from time to time we read accounts of people who, having "heard voices," feel compelled to obey the orders they are given and to commit some uncivilized act).  Sometimes "order givers" are afraid to fail to give the orders that they were ordered to give!  Order-givers, although often feared by order-takers are frequently fearful of their superior Order Givers.  What are the fears?  When are orders good?  When are they not?

Usually we don't know the true purpose of an order---for example: an order to fire on a group of peaceful unarmed or rock-throwing people.  We don't know why the orders are given to drop bombs and white phosphorous on an already debilitated community.  We justify.  We pass the buck.  Or, if we know, we don't know what to do or to say about that knowing.

Who gives the orders to the Members of The United States Congress? (...and we know that "orders" are given--along with consequences and threats.)  Is it fear or plain old intimidation that causes elected officials to vote against the best interests of their constituents?  Who instructs formerly decent men and women to cast their votes straight into the pockets of those who have the greedy goal to disempower the American citizenry? 

I was listening to a Bob Dylan song earlier today: "You're Gonna Have To Serve Somebody"  He's right.  But who, whom do we want to serve?  Those who would diminish our opportunities to live a life of peace...who would deny us the opportunity to drink clean water, breathe fresh air, eat untainted food?  Or to receive needed medical care?  Who is making these rules and making other people follow them?  Yes, we are "gonna have to serve somebody" but not just anybody! 

Not long ago, I refused to go through the "Naked X-Ray" security machine at the Albuquerque Sunport. "Why?" the guard asked.  "It's not dangerous...there's almost no radiation," he told me.  I was far less concerned about the radiation than I was in the invasion of my privacy.  For my safety?  Really?  I wanted to say---but didn't---"You think, because a few misguided/deranged people have succeeded in terrorizing or harming a few innocent people, that it's okay to make EVERYONE endure the demeaning, cattle-prodding treatment that is now an accepted everyday occurence for people needing to get from one city to another...people visiting their grandchildren, people going on their honeymoon, people on business?" 

Instead, I "moo-ved" on to the groping procedure:  A short, stocky matron was charged with the assignment of patting me down while two uniformed men watched.  She was nervous as she put on thin plastic gloves and recited the procedure we were about to share. "I will be touching your whole body, starting with your hair...I will use the back of my hands to..." I started to cry. "WHAT IS MY COUNTRY COMING TO?"  I exclaimed, as I held my arms out to the sides while she felt my breasts and my inner thighs.  "I'm a sixty-eight year old grandmother," I continued.  And then, while I reassembled myself, the matron said, in a very small voice, "I'm sorry. These are just my orders."

Who creates the system that causes everyday sensitive beings to perform acts against their better judgments?  I felt sorry for the matron...and I wondered, as I made my way to the gate to board a plane to some unnamed destination,  just how those Homeland Security employees felt about following orders...orders that turned innocent people into sheeple? Are these procedures really (I mean REALLY) about protecting travelers?  Are these rules and regulations put in place to save lives?  Or to sell Naked X-Ray machines?  It seems we are always ordering new machines to tamp down, discourage or end the free expression that once was a basic tenet of These United States. 

For many, in these difficult political and economic days, "following orders" is a two-edged sword.   For the officers on the Police Force and the Coast Guards--who forced our boat back to a US and Greek run Military Compound--following orders is simply (?) their job.  Sadly, these officers follow orders against their better political and philosophical judgement.  They cannot afford to lose their jobs. 

When The Audacity of Hope was forced to return to shore, our Captain and crew were arrested.  The Passengers couldn't leave; we were required to remain in the compound. When our ground team showed up that evening, at the big metal gates of the compound, they were prevented from joining us on the boat.  The guards were "just following orders."  Whose orders?  That night, we slept on the decks and in the lower cabin of our beloved boat.  All night it rocked ever so gently, moored (locked up) in the Coast Guard Compound. 

The next morning, I woke up early.  My fellow passengers were still sleeping.  I slipped off the Boat and wandered around the secure compound.  When I walked past one of the imposing Coast Guard boats, a door opened and a man appeared.  "KalimEra", I said.  He returned my greeting.  "You wouldn't happen to have any coffee would you?  Yes, he said.  A second passenger joined me and we gave our coffee preferences to the Coast Guard.  In a few minutes, he returned with coffee in two dainty china cups with blue, Picasso-esque peace birds on them.  We talked.

Syntagma Square

He acknowledged that he was one of the men on the Zodiac who participated in the forced return from our intended destination.  He drove the Zodiac that delivered the black clad "Ninja" warriors who then boarded the Coast Guard vessel and aimed their big guns at us.  He said he was on duty, following orders.  When he was not on duty, he said that he spent time in Syntagma Square in solidarity with those who were demonstrating against the harsh austerity measures being imposed on the Greek People by their government.  He "confessed" that he was "with" the people of Gaza in spirit---but he had to follow orders.  He had a wife and a mortgage and a child and his salary was being cut by "thirty-five to forty percent." He didn't know what to do.  He felt helpless.  He shared a painful personal incident with us:  While he was taking his four year old daughter for a walk, she saw a small toy in a store window. She wanted her Daddy to buy it for her.  He was ashamed, to the point of tears, because he couldn't afford it. 

He needs his job.

He has to follow orders...