Arrested for trying, but never actually got to do it. Until a few weeks ago, that was my experience with the Genocide Awareness Project. I have had a bizarre relationship with the Genocide Awareness Project. Since I came to understand the importance of graphic images and since my introduction to the Genocide Awareness Project, I have been a great supporter of the strategy. As I sat in my Holocaust studies class in my last year of university, I was frequently hit with the glaring similarities between the Holocaust, other genocides and abortion. As Jonathon Van Maren has said, "The language of genocide rarely changes." I often left the class wondering, how are we so blind? Although I had never participated in a full GAP, I knew it was effective.
My last two weeks in Florida confirmed that my previous conclusions about GAP were wrong. GAP is more than just effective. It is unbelievably effective. I knew it was powerful, but never knew how powerful. Cliche or not, one really has to see it in person and participate in it to experience and know how effective it is.
As the multimedia director I was primarily in an observational setting looking for different pictures or video opportunities. As I observed and captured conversation on my camera, I was struck with how many conversations were happening at once. A team of more than twenty people was often not enough as most volunteers were occupied in conversations at all times.
There are far too many stories from the road to share; however, there were two great stories that came from the road this year that I had the privelege of telling through video. During our first week, a student at Florida Gulf Coast University shared her story of being in a crisis pregnancy. During our second week, a student shared how GAP changed her mind.
Aside from the plethora of beautiful stories the one thing stood out to me the most was the love and care that every volunteer put into every conversation. Our volunteers and staff were caring, compassionate and loving. Our volunteers were not out to win arguments, they were out to win hearts.
This was most clear in our interactions with pro-choice activists. Because I was taking pictures and video, I was never explicitly associated with the display. This gave me an opportunity to listen in on the conversations the pro-choice activists were having with each other. As I eavesdropped in on their conversations many spoke of us as radical, ignorant woman haters. However, even the most angry, rude, and aggressive pro-choice activists spoke to our volunteers with respect, politeness, and kindness by the end of the day. Stone cold hearts were warmed and softened simply because our volunteers strove to love above all. Perhaps they did not turn pro-life on the spot, which did happen quite often, but they did leave changed. They did leave with a new perspective and a new attitude.
A year and a half after my arrest at Carleton University, I finally got the opportunity to go GAP. A year and a half later, the events at Carleton have finally been put into perspective and given new meaning. Given the choice between being arrested for lawfully trying to set up GAP, or not trying at all because of the chance of arrest, I would choose being arrested. GAP is simply too good not to try.