Iran, Pulling Teeth and Wrestling with the Violence Within

After months of preparation for my 5th of November 2010, trip to Iran with FOR: Fellowship of Reconciliation, I learned this morning I need a 'special' visa to meet with Media and I erupted-lost my temper with one of the coordinators.

Only a few hours prior, I published on my site:

Because I am married to their Grandpa John, these two call me Granny E; and although neither is interested in pursing a career in dentistry, they imagined and implemented a new way to pull teeth.

1:48 Tooth Fairy vs. Jetski

I imagine a world of nonviolence, but am challenged by my own simmering rage over injustice and hypocrisy which always erupts over willful ignorance and my own blatant stupidity.

Case in Point was illuminated during a Fleming family annual fishing vacation that included four grand kids ages 5, 7, 9, 11, their folks, a son-in-law, our daughter celebrating her 25th and a same aged niece from Washington State.

As we waded to shore in thigh high water, I asked my husband if I could walk around the island and John replied, "Sure you can".

We walked together in silence as my mind wandered and my gaze transfixed on sea and sky. I walked for some time before I turned around to look for John, but he had disappeared from view. I thought he was hunting for shells, so I just kept walking thinking I would soon come to the end of the isle across from Boca Grande.

The only other people I ever saw on the isolated island had been a young couple with a rented boat from Sanibel Harbor who had dropped anchor near to where we had and shortly thereafter, a woman my age who was missing more than a few teeth and playing fetch with one of the three ugliest mutts I have ever seen.

One dog ran for drift wood, one played in the surf and the other dug a tunnel so deep into the sand, all that was visible was it's tail. As I passed by, I commented, "They are just like kids" and through her gap-tooth smile she murmured, "Yes, they are."

Just as the end of the island came into view, I crossed paths with a middle aged couple searching for shells and I soon regretted resisting the urge to ask if they knew how long it takes to walk all around the island.

As soon as I turned the corner of Caya Costa that led into Pelican Bay, all I could see were mangrove trees in front of me. I wondered why my husband said I could walk around an island without sand on one side, and I was still clueless to the fact that I had treaded into brackish water-where salt and fresh unite. For a fleeting moment I entertained the thought of swimming, for I was thirsty and hot and the mangroves were so thick that the cool breeze by the sea did not penetrate.

I had no idea how deep the water might be and as I only imagined that a shark might happen by, I nixed the swim and continued to wade around the cove remaining close to the mangroves. Not until I had made my way through half the area, did I notice what I imagined was a root from a mangrove tree stretched out in a straight line twelve feet from the edge of the tress. The furthermost end appeared eerily similar to a gator head, and I stopped and stood still and counted to thirty. As the image remained stationary, I figured my imagination had only conjured up a gator for I know alligators live in fresh water and not salt.

I resumed walking and keeping my eyes on the 'root' which remained still, until I was less than a yard from it and only then did it rapidly descend beneath the water line. I turned and fled as fast as I could all the while imagining a submerged gator grabbing my foot and dragging me out to sea to drown me before it devoured me.

I also had a fleeting thought that most writers do indeed have to die before people begin to read them.

By the time I reached dry land my heart was pounding like a Yamaha motor stuck on fast and I could not catch a deep breath and a headache had kicked in, my knees were weak and my hands shook as if I had come down with an acute onset of advanced Parkinson's Disease. I concentrated on slowly inhaling through my nose and fully exhaling to calm myself down and then I realized how intensely thirsty I was.

A surge of gratitude filled me moments later as heading towards me was the couple who had been shelling. As we crossed paths, I said, "Hi, my husband told me I could walk around this island, but I almost stepped on top of a huge gator around the bend and I am wondering now, if my husband of twenty years was trying to off me!"

The wife laughed as she handed me a bottle of water and the man replied, "Well, it certainly could have for that's a ten foot gator that lives in the cove and this island is over five miles long. Where did you begin walking from?"

"Directly from the opposite end!"

"The only way back is the way you came, there is no way you can walk all around this island."

The bottle of water revived me and as I walked back the way I came, I encountered my violent side. I was angry with myself for not turning back as soon as I realized I was all alone, but then my rage turned on my husband for telling me I could walk around an island that was five miles one way and a gator habitat on the other. As I was fuming I spied my husband's boat and three people waving at me.

I lunged into the surf and swam towards them, still holding onto the empty water bottle, but I was too weak to fight the surf and I let go of it just before I reached the boat and crawled up the ladder. I was too weak to move anything but my mouth and exploded, "John, you could have f-----g killed me by alligator!"

He yelled back, "Get in the damn boat before you kill us all" just as a wave pushed me over and filled the bottom of our boat.

I was absolutely clueless as to the danger I had put us all in and demanded that John go back so I could fetch the empty water bottle. He gunned the motor, shook his head and shouted, "This water is too rough and we could flip over!"

Within a few minutes we were out in calmer seas and John stopped the boat and calls, "Time out. We all tried to signal to you to stop swimming and get back to shore. I needed to pick you up at the end of the island where the water was calm."

"Calm my ass! I nearly stepped on top of a ten foot gator in a mangrove cove! Why did you tell me I could walk around this island?"

"I meant, walk around where we were at. What you didn’t know was that I turned back when I realized that the honeymoon couple had no idea what they were doing when they dropped anchor and they needed a lot of help getting their boat back out. By the way, you were really lucky you didn’t encounter the herd of wild hogs-especially the boars- that inhabit Cayo Costa."

I was more than lucky and I also learned that no matter how hard I try to maintain a nonviolent attitude towards everyone, that the Hitler within me will always do battle with the Christ.

As I want Jesus to win the war within, I swiftly apologized for losing my temper and I began to wonder what good could come of such an event; for experience is not just what happens to you- but what you do with it.

A few days later as I drove home doing 80mph on I-75 with the BOSE blasting in my Infiniti G35, I was forced to a sudden and complete halt just as Jimi Hendrix wailed;

Well, I stand up next to a mountain, and I chop it down with the edge of my hand. Well, I pick up all the pieces and make an island; might even raise a little sand… If I don't meet you no more in this world then I'll meet you on the next one...

Jimi Hendrix - VooDoo Child (live)

At least fifteen minutes passed before all north bound traffic began to roll again, but only a few yards at a time before stop and go for the next three miles as all lanes of traffic were funneled into one. I didn’t want to look at the why for; but I did anyway and saw the skid marks of the van that had careened off the highway and into a thicket of eighty feet high pine trees and oaks.

At least nine flashing cop cars surrounded the site and I caught a glimpse of what appeared to be two white sheets stretched out on the ground.

There was no stemming the tears that erupted as I recollected the goodbye hugs from my family about an hour prior, and most especially the one in unison from the 5, 7, 9 and 11 year olds who call me Granny E.

I wondered and hoped/wished/prayed that all involved in that morning's violence on 1-75 had parted from family and friends on the highest ground: with hugs all around.

I also realized as never before that every good bye; could be one's final one.

Eileen Fleming,
Founder of
Staff Member of
A Feature Correspondent for Producer "30 Minutes with Vanunu" and "13 Minutes with Vanunu"

Author of "Keep Hope Alive" and "Memoirs of a Nice Irish American 'Girl's' Life in Occupied Territory" and BEYOND NUCLEAR:Mordechai Vanunu's FREEDOM of SPEECH Trial and My Life as a Muckraker: 2005-2010

Only in Solidarity do "we have it in our power to begin the world again."-Tom Paine

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