Watching Over The Fasters: A Guest Post From Melinda Tuhus

374401_origby Melinda Tuhus, reposted from

It’s instructive hanging around people who are fasting; one can focus on what’s really basic about life. It saves so much time, not cooking or eating. And you realize how absolutely central food is to any culture, so these folks are denying themselves not only nutrition, but social interactions that come with sharing a meal.

I’m at the Beyond Extreme Energy (BXE) fast at FERC (the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) for No New Permits for fracked gas infrastructure. A dozen members of BXE began a water-only fast Sept. 8 and will break their fast Sept. 25, the day after the pope speaks to Congress. I am in awe of these people – aged 19 to 72 – who are now two-thirds of the way through it.

Most have good days and bad days – nausea, headaches, dizziness and extreme fatigue, as well as fuzzy thinking, indicating that this is serious business – but they carry on out on the sidewalk in front of FERC in DC. The young people are having more trouble, most likely because their metabolisms are so much faster, so they experience the lack of food more acutely. What’s really surprising is how

It’s a wide sidewalk, and despite a lot of foot traffic, no one has objected to us sitting in folding chairs, placing a big banner and various posters around (one of the Pope holding a sign “No al Fracking”); also a map of the U.S. pinpointing some of the FERC-regulated projects seeking approval or already approved; there are lots. Last weekend when it threatened rain, a security person even suggested putting up a canopy, which has come in very handy to keep the blazing sun off of us all week. That now takes up more than half the sidewalk.

I told my fellow BXEers I wasn’t going to fast (the very idea sent me into a depression) but I would help in other ways. So I’m doing media work and am having mild success. I’m trying to prime the pump of places like CNN and the Washington Post so they’ll be more likely to cover our big closing event on Sept. 25.

I’m also doing other general support, like driving the van (those of you who know me know that this is the least favorite of my duties) and getting flyers printed, facilitating our meetings as others get too tired to focus. What’s astonishing to me is how at different times these folks – who have had nothing but water and electrolytes for almost 300 hours – have the energy to walk back and forth to the Metro, or, like one day this week, the energy to walk across the Arlington Bridge into DC with the NAACP’s Journey for Justice.

Some of them talk about food constantly, but not in a whiny way, just reminiscing about what they love to eat. In fact, I haven’t heard anyone whine at all, or get more than a tiny bit impatient with each other or anyone else, except for one brief interchange, after which the person quickly apologized. Hell, I get grouchy if I miss one meal!

Many people going by have taken our various leaflets, others not, and then usually with a polite gesture or a smile. The worst is when someone totally ignores me, like I’m not there. I find it very hurtful. Made me think of how homeless people must feel most of the time. Some famous person said the opposite of love is not hate; it’s indifference. My fave comment (recounted to me, not experienced directly) was when someone angrily yelled, “Eat food, asshole!” I’m going to try to never ignore homeless persons again.

We’ve also had some incredibly wonderful conversations with a lot of people. They often thank the fasters for their commitment – even the chairman of the FERC Commission said he respected our commitment when he engaged one of our folks this week.

We don’t know what impact the fast will have on FERC’s policies and practices, but we’re pushing forcefully to make it harder for them to carry on business as usual. I hope anyone reading this or hearing this will join us for our breaking fast ceremony on Friday, September 25, from noon to 1:30 p.m. at FERC, 888 1st St. NE. Spread the word to anyone you know living in the DC area.

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