Who amongst us has done so much to stop war?
Such a womon, young and white, approaches me today as she walks past my truck, expressing her enthusiastic approval and her loud frustration with how hard we’ve worked to end war with such little results. I probably disappoint her greatly when I tell her I feel like we have all done VERY LITTLE to stop war.
Before she can decide to agree or not, I ask her to “think about the 168 hours there are in a week and the number of those hours you spend doing all the things you do in life & how many of those hours you commit to ending war?”
Many folks even complain about the number of emails we have to READ about ending war, let alone actual hours committed to WORKING to end war!
As she nods slowly, I tell her I feel like we do the lazy, privileged approach to stopping war - whenever it fits within our busy schedules, whenever we don't have anything 'better' to do, like our daily lives, whenever we aren't busy with family or loved ones or enjoying hikes, refurbishing our homes, shopping for new shoes or getting a great hair cut, whenever we’ve planned far enough ahead and have been given enough ‘notice’ - then we have a moment to participate in a demonstration.
But “Washington doesn’t listen to us” she begins to complain. I tell her “Maybe not, but WE ARE NOT TALKING LOUD ENOUGH - why should they listen?”
She agrees that most people are not talking loud enough and begins to point the finger at youth, people of color, students.
I interrupt and ask, “How loud are you talking, Lori?” She protests that she’s a Mom with 2 kids in school and her husband works long hours to support them. She has to garden, cook dinners, keep the house running, and take care of her physical health. She doesn’t want to lose her home or jeopardize her kid’s education, let alone quality of life.
I tell her everyone has those things to do, even young people, even womyn in Iraq. I say we have all kinds of excuses, reasons, justifications why we are the ones who cannot sacrifice to end war - we might lose our jobs, we might lose our home, we might lose our lives - and quick to point the finger at those who should be the ones to sacrifice.
I tell her it feels like such a tragic farce, such a part of the fear syndrome that prevents (and excuses) us from doing anything that should be the ordinary sacred way to live our human lives. And if we do live our lives trying to end war, it suddenly becomes noble because of what we've embraced as "ordinary life-styles" in our fucked up society.
She tells me she or her kids might starve to death, might die if her husband didn’t have his job. I tell her maybe this is true for her & her family, but I feel for most of us, such fears are a farce.
The real truth is, it is the womyn, children, and men of Iraq who ARE losing their jobs, their homes, their lives while we continue to be afraid that we'll lose something, should we REALLY commit to ending war.
For the truth is, we may have some privileges to risk losing, but we only have our humanity to regain should we commit to ending war.
She stares at me, wavering like a telephone pole in the desert’s scorching sun, and then mentions all the poor Americans who cannot possibly be expected to risk their lives to end war. I don’t point out the U.S. ones risking their lives to fight in a war, we already know that.
I ask her if any of those people live next door to her or occupy her house? I ask her if they will be at the park she’s heading to or the restaurant she was just at? I ask her if these poor people work along side her husband or shop with her?
We always like to pull out the poverty card and hold up all those people living in the U.S. – not in OUR neighborhoods or in OUR homes of course, or attending OUR churches or eating in the restaurants we frequent or shopping where we buy our makeup or rubbing shoulders with us at work (altho we might be the ones providing services for 'those' people) – the people in this country, if we are honest, we barely give thought to during most of the minutes of our days... we like to hold those people up and talk about how so many really can’t ‘afford’ to take the time to end war.
I let her know I’m not talking about those people, but the people who live in her neighborhood, who shop in her stores, who go to school with her children, who work with her husband.
She admits there are quite of few of these people, most likely more than the poor folks she was holding up.
I tell her I know that when enough U.S. Americans decide that ending war is the MOST important thing to do in life, more important than going to school, to work, to yoga, to career advancement, to all the steps for maintaining a middle/working/upper-class life-style – whenever enough of us are willing to momentarily put aside those things & devote our time & energy to ending war, war will be over and the next war will be prevented.
I don’t believe we can do a half-assed job with a handful of activists on one or two days every few months of the year and expect Congress to hear us, especially above the clamor of wealth.
But we can expect that we will be able to continue shopping, living in our homes/neighborhoods, keeping our jobs, going to restaurants & New Seasons, filling up 24/7, taking trips, doing whatever our life-styles encompass for the next little while at least, as long as we are occupying an oil-rich country and supporting if not instigating turmoil in other oil-rich countries as Sudan and Venezuela.
Even though I’m not a Christian, Lori is and I find myself reaching back to my biblical knowledge - I ask her if she remembers a story about the devil taking someone, maybe Jesus, up a mountain and showing him the town below in the valley. The devil promises him the riches of the town as long as he gives the devil his soul.
She peers at me, nodding slowly, maybe recalling or maybe suspicious of the lesson.
I continue with a modern-day interpretation of this story: I feel like we, U.S. Americans, are being promised the rich rewards of living in this country – water at the opening of a spigot, stores filled to overflowing with boxes and cans and crates of food and supplies, electronic devices of every imaginable kind, electricity without a thought, houses/apartments with 4, 5, 8, 10 rooms, careers and talents and pleasures to pursue – all these things as long as we allow our corporations, our armies, our government freedom to exploit and occupy other peoples, other countries.
I want to add “And don’t forget CHEAP! We’re so entitled, we rarely have to choose to go without but we even get to choose stuff for ‘cheap’ or ‘expensive’ stuff that is environmentally and human conscious!” But that’s a whole nother rant.
She finally asks me, “what can I do?”
I tell her, join us be in DC for the MONTH of September. She frowns so I say or in the streets here. I emphasize that we once again have the opportunity to END WAR NOW by compelling Congress to vote NO MORE FUNDS for Iraq.
I feel so strongly that we can’t allow this opportunity to pass. Over 1,800 people have been killed this month in Iraq and almost 100 US soldiers. Pretend those dead people in Iraq are your children, your husband, your mother – and commit to spending September in the streets.
Or at least seriously consider it. She promises she will, she really will.