Burning in the Belly

by Carol Sue Rosin

(This essay first appeared in the Spring Equinox 1997 issue of Crone Chronicles: A Journal of Conscious Aging.)

I am sitting in an all-male Òprivate clubÓ in Washington, D.C., with two tall, handsome, pin-striped, corporate executives. As two uncomfortable young women in bunny-like outfits with push-up bras bend over to serve me, I both hide my embarrassment for them and have a strange sensation that I represent all the wives who donÕt know their husbands frequent such places. I am drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes (I donÕt drink or smoke), laughing at the menÕs stupid dirty jokes, and ignoring their subtle attempts to fondle my body and their blatant attempts to look up my mini-skirt. I seem to be a double personality: this scene makes me nauseous, yet I am self-important, flattered. I attempt to maintain my composure, act cool.

They have called me to meet them for a drink, to discuss a news article about my Spaceship Earth teaching unit, in which my 6th- grade students are pretending to be living in a space-based habitat. The article attracted a lot of phone calls from teachers and students to their office at Fairchild Industries, an aerospace defense company, which is publicizing a satellite theyÕre preparing to launch. People were thinking that my students and I were on the satellite, and wanted to be launched on one themselves or become penpals. The men said they wanted to know more about what I was doing so they could answer the calls. Actually, they were interviewing me for a job. My first experience with corporate deceit.

My first experience trying to be one of the boys.

Little did I know it then, but this one encounter would change the direction of my life forever, leading me from the relatively sheltered world of a teacher in a loving classroom with 12-year old children who were open and eager to learn, to my own world of deceit and corruption in the smoke, booze, sex, and dead meat filled belly of the military-industrial complex. Little did I know that being swallowed into the belly of that beast would make my own belly burn. Throughout those years of complicity, my body would be assaulted regularly by the disjunction between what was presented as truth, and the reality it was picking up on. I mostly ignored my body, of course, to live in my mind Ñ just like one of the boys.

I believe it was my great legs that qualified me for the job. Disgusted as I was at myself for not walking out of this first nauseating scene, I proceeded to accept their next invitation, a day touring Fairchild, as a ÒgiftÓ for meeting them. My fiery Aries ego, my curiosity, my sense of adventure, all were aroused. I was hooked.

I met them in a huge red-carpeted lobby to be escorted on a guided tour through quiet corridors of office buildings with female secretaries sitting outside of offices that were filled with men. I saw assembly-line workers, engineers hovering over huge blueprints, a Disney-like graphics department, and the high bay where giant space technologies were being built.

Interesting as it was, I couldnÕt wait to get out of that surreal, sterile, corporate world and back to my students. Even though everyone seemed nice enough, the vibration was so incredibly unfamiliar. The tour was giving me a greater appreciation for my chosen career and the life it gave me, my summers high at the beach or traveling.

As my final gift, I was taken to the office of Dr. Wernher Von Braun, Vice President of the company, the father of rocketry, and a brilliant scientist who once worked under Hitler. As he entered the room, telling his secretary to cancel all meetings so he could talk to me, I froze. CouldnÕt talk. What was I doing in the same room with a Nazi?! But he quickly put me at ease, warmly taking my hand and joking that heÕd be in shock if he had to teach a classroom full of 6th graders. He sat down at his desk with me opposite, facing him, and immediately launched into how important human evolution into space is for human survival. He told me that my Spaceship Earth teaching unit had brought me to FairchildÕs attention because they needed to hire a woman to fill an executive seat (an EEOC requirement) and they wanted me, because they thought I was interested in space. I said I had no intention of quitting teaching, especially in the middle of the school year.

He kept talking, mesmerizing me with his intense energy, his evident sincerity, his brilliant articulation of a magical vision of outer space and humanityÕs role there. It turned into a three-hour meeting, and it was like he touched my head and I woke up to what seemed like a stashed memory: that space was the key to peace on earth.

He startled me. He reached towards me and tapped the desk and looked deeply into my eyes: ÒYou vil come to Fairchild. You vil be here in three weeks. You vil not listen to any doctor reports that say IÕll be dead in 3 to 6 weeks, as I intend to live 3 to 4 more years to teach you about the real space game. You must be responsible for keeping the weapons out of outer space.Ó

As he spoke it felt like a cannon-ball had lodged in my stomach. Not for a split second did I think that I could get away from him. I had no choice. His essence was connecting with my spirit. I had never felt anything so powerful. Despite my commitment, I was compelled to quit teaching.

As I had been abandoned by my father, who had committed suicide only a few years earlier, so now I was to abandon my 6th- grade children. I was crushed. So why was I doing this? Maybe this was where I began to turn off my feelings. Because thatÕs what I did.

Or maybe this was just the final curtain. After all, IÕd been squirreling away feelings all my life hoping IÕd remember where IÕd buried them.

If I couldnÕt afford to feel my own abandonment when my father killed himself, could I stop to feel the pain I and the children felt as I left them? I did what I had always done to stifle those feelings. I kept moving.

Much of my life up to this point had prepared me to handle a lot without showing emotion. But no matter how prepared I thought I was for this leap from being a nurturing, empathic teacher to a world of ignorance an denial, where stockholdersÕ reports and war games were mostly what was nurtured, nothing could have prepared me for the rest of the voyage.

I entered Fairchild with a rather exciting job, to coordinate a national, motivational educational program. Feeling somewhat safe as along as Von Braun was alive (which turned out to be four years), I walked into my new gray corporate office with fluorescent lighting, glossy pictures of bombers on the walls, my secretary sitting outside of my door, and a graphics department at my disposal. I was in shock. They told me to trade in my Mustang for a ÒprestigeÓ car. My lessons in how to talk, write, dress, and behave in the patriarchal corporate world began.

The program I created received lots of awards and got me quickly promoted. I became the first woman manager of an aerospace company with an office in 13 states. The first woman to eat in the executive dining room at Fairchild and to travel with the men to conference

I was in the system. I bought into it. I loved it. It was intoxicating and stimulating. I can understand how these men get sucked into the vortex, as the insulated olÕ boy network takes such good care of them, makes them part of the club, provides them with security, camaraderie, and gives them a game in which they can vent the rage they donÕt know they have. I include myself in this. I rationalized that I was working to enhance education, and for Ònational security.Ó And I also believed I would lose my own security if I blew the job.

I liked most of the men I met. I even felt the sense of humor in men like Edward ÒHydrogenBombÓ Teller, who was gentle to children and played excellent piano. Some became my friends, many still are. I began to understand that these were grown up little boys, still playing with war toys, who could be given something else to play with, and theyÕd be just as happy. I thought I could educate them, use their money to create global education, for example, with the same satellites they targeted as Òforce multipliersÓ (to enhance the war game), and still make big bucks for myself.

Yet I always felt a sense of emergency, of urgency -- to get out, to undo the game to which I was contributing, to remember myself as the soul I once knew.

On the other hand, I loved Von Braun. And someday I will tell the story of this much maligned and very great spirit. I never showed how it hurt me to watch him continue to work with a tube hanging out of his body to drain his fluids, in pain from cancer and treatments, but refusing to die. I was constantly amazed that he encouraged me, a 6th grade teacher, to help organize, for example, educational and telemedicine satellite programs in over 20 countries and in 5000 villages in India.

I learned that the system defense industries employed, geared towards building our Òsecurity,Ó included combat, competition, winning, and were really about profits and power. Peace activists knew this and protested, but they knew virtually nothing about what our evolution into space could mean to us Ñ that it could end the war game on earth. It seemed no one I met in the industry, except Von Braun, knew it either, or they werenÕt talking about it if they did.

Von Braun taught me that I was hired as a Òfront,Ó to make the company look good as it fulfilled its Òsocial responsibility,Ó and that this complex of men would use any excuse (terrorists, asteroids, crazy leaders, aliens) to get funding to get weapons into space. Von Braun was not the only prominent man who said we should build peaceful worlds in space, but he said it must be done in a new way, without weapons.

When he died, I was devastated. Von Braun was my mentor, my protector, my teacher. Then suddenly, to my horror, my job description changed. No more educational and community relations projects. I was now supposed to market the A-10 bomber. I got a call from an executive who had been at Fairchild and moved to TRW. He offered me a job in California working on the MX Peacekeeper missile. I slammed down the phone. No MX for me! But he soon convinced me the MX was Ògood for national security,Ó a Òbargaining chipÓ that would help lead us to peace. Besides, the truth is I loved my expense account, the travel, and the work challenge.

I started to commute as a consultant to TRW in Redondo Beach from DC, working on a five man team (and me) that conceived, designed, developed and helped sell the MX, as well as other programs. I was doing some really sleazy work for them, lying to everybody about what I was doing and for whom, under the guise of Òsecurity.Ó None of us really ever thought the MX was needed. It was a job creator. And it was the practice run for how to sell space weapons to the public and the Congress. I was hooked on the adventure, like being in a spy novel, live. I couldnÕt quit.

After three years, however, I couldnÕt take it anymore. To make myself feel better about what I was doing, I began to risk my job, posing as a ÒMrs. Green,Ó to pass information in a brown envelope on to SANE/FREEZE. Though it fulfilled my addiction to excitement, and taught me about the insider game, this double agent role started to eat at my guts. Even now, thinking back, my heart thuds in my chest.

This was a dangerous game. These men were about to slide a space-based weapons system into budgets and above all our heads before anyone knew what happened. SAME AS TODAY. I had to snap out of it and do something. I quit.

I found Konrad Dannenberg, a former German scientist associate of Von BraunÕs, joined the board he was on and became the National Chancellor of the International Association of World Peace, a UN-NGO. I published papers, talked in the media, marched, testified before Congress and Presidential Commissions, advised high level officials and consulted to industries and organizations about the space weapons issue. I gave speeches to reps from over 100 countries. I was desperate.

My life was threatened. Literally. I looked over my shoulders for years, maybe a little scared, but mostly angry. But finally, I didnÕt care! ÒFuck them. Kill me,Ó I thought. The more I went public the more angry I became. I started to hear horrific stories from women in developing countries about what we were doing to the people of the world. I felt ridiculous talking about space weapons when people were suffering on earth. Still, this issue had to surface, because I understood that the only chance of ending the war game was to prevent its expansion into outer space. Money and energy could then be diverted from the old destructive game into the new, creative and life-affirming space game I have been describing.

I was hysterical. Pushy. In peopleÕs faces. And the more people didnÕt get it, the more I screamed at them. I turned off a lot of people. I was focused more on the protest than the vision. Some didnÕt believe me when I said the plan was to place battle stations in space with thousands of weapons pointed, not at missiles, but at us. The Union of Concerned Scientists said they wouldnÕt work on this issue because it was Ò50 years away.Ó Most peace groups thought I was with the CIA; the military-industrial complex thought I was with the KGB. Some people probably still believe that crap. But others in the belly smuggled facts to me so my speeches would be accurate. However, many activists were working on other protest issues, and space seemed to Òfar outÓ to integrate. It was an awful period in my life, filled with rejection and false rumors about me. I was so hurt and frustrated, I nearly burst.

I traveled internationally to warn people not to be tempted to participate in the Star Wars game, and to thereby deplete their resources, as our U.S. boys were so successfully seducing the Soviets.

Some understood: zero funding for space-based weapons R&D, but support for other military space applications (radar, sensors, satellites, etc.). I gathered a group together to found the Institute for Security in Outer Space (ISCOS). I figured if no one listened to me, maybe theyÕd hear it in the title.

I never wanted to run an institute, to have a ÒletterheadÓ of people involved, or to suddenly be regarded as Òthe original political architect of the move to stop the SDI and the ASATs.Ó DidnÕt sleep much. Stayed up all night writing, preparing articles, testimonies, speeches. People told me if I didnÕt eat right and get some sleep IÕd burn out.

All I ever wanted was to be married, have children, be a teacher. But I saw my dream life being washed away. I was caught in a flood and could do nothing but swim, stay afloat. I drank a lot of Pepsi and ate chocolates late at night with the staff. We all worked overtime. Slept in the office. I had this new family of friends who, thank Goddess, worked together as though our hot blood was circulating together in one body.

IÕd go to meetings. IÕve heard the boys talking about bankrupting adversaries, starting with the USSR. I heard the Gulf War planned in the mid-Õ70s. IÕve heard a lot.

Only now, reflecting back, do I realize my feelings during that time were in my head. I didnÕt allow myself, didnÕt take the time then to feel. I weep as I write this. I now see I was enraged. And really scared I wouldnÕt be heard. Scared these men would never get it. I felt desperate.

In the past few years I have been exhausted; even my tremendous energy finally burned out. My immune system broke down and I suffered to the point of near death twice Ñ first, from mercury poisoning from my teeth and then from radiation poisoning on one of my trips to Russia.

I didnÕt realize how deeply I feel until my 17-year-old shitzu, my child, died last February. I held him in my arms for weeks as he suffered. He yelled, ÒOH NOÓ just before he died in a voice that sounded so much like mine that the veterinarian ran in to see why I was yelling. His name was Lafia, a Nigerian word meaning Òpeace.Ó His death and dying were a gift, releasing my tears. Now, I cry so much, I used too hide my own feelings, because I related so deeply to the women and children and animals who suffered then and suffer now. Had I allowed myself to feel then what I feel now, I could not have persevered.

IÕve been feeling alone, lonely, even though it appears that I have everything I could need or want. I canÕt even read the paper or watch the patterned newscasts on TV anymore. ItÕs all a repeat. The same games, over and over. I am so fed up with it all.

I dreamed of that perfect love relationship, of a place where we all lived happily ever after. I dreamed that children and animals played in peace all over the world, and where the older kids put their weapons down.

Just when I thought the dream was dead, I started meeting groups of women at the end of 1994. I was lifted up with joy because for the first time I felt buoyed by the power of their love and their spirits. I began to feel that as we emerge as individuals and together -- we could adopt the world, including the conscious, loving men in the belly (oh, they exist!) and nurture her back to health. We can excite the peoples of this planet with our space vision.

Remember, itÕs not a matter of whether or not we should go into space to build or explore, itÕs a matter of how itÕs going to be done.

Spacecraft and hundreds of satellites are already built, with plans for bigger and better space stations. There are also plans for numbers of space-based battle stations with thousands of weapons (including nukes), to control earth from space. We donÕt have much time to get a ban on space weapons, and we wonÕt getÊa secure ban on nukes on earth unless we do ban space weapons, because these same guys think that we need nukes in space, so they have to keep testing them here. Space, without weapons, presents a new perspective for transforming R&D, technology and services of the military-industrial complex and stimulating cooperation on earth as we plan to explore and develop space together.

When IÕve been in my most unlovable state, IÕve needed and yearned for love the most. IÕve recently received love when I least deserved it, from the women I met whom my Òinner patriarchÓ initially rejected and resisted. My soul has fallen in love, finally, with the spirituality I feel in and through women. WomenÕs love is healing my depression, my anger, my hurting. This is the formula, the light we can shine on currently unconscious, uneducated, unevolved, abusive, self-absorbed, egotistical and hurtful men who are at the helm, who may not be aware that they, too, yearn for our love. It is our alchemical secret formula.

I know we Crones, we women can have an impact the world has never seen. That the wisdom spring from our heartfelt understanding of things is the greatest untapped resource the world has ever known. Will we tap into and activate it? Will we grok the significance of the space issue and how it applies to life on Earth? I donÕt know.

So, I cover my nail-bitten fingers with acrylics and let my hair grow white and wild while I struggle to stay in my highest place. I pray with all my love that you and I will connect and emerge together in order to:

1. Contact the worldÕs decision makers to obtain their agreement to ban weapons from space. (Adopt-A-Leader kits will soon be ready. Each woman will adopt, first, a leader of a nation-state, then a leader in military, industry, laboratory, university, government sectors. Our first goal will be to obtain a signed agreement to ban space weapons. Easy instructions to include sample letters which we will mail simultaneously. We can change the world Ñ if we act together. Contact me for further information.)

2. Promote an alternative transformational view of space.

3. Take the rudder and sail this spaceship for awhile.