Leaving Home - People of Peace Stand Together by Ness Mountain
"There are a great number of us who would prefer peace, who do not consider the deaths of children to be 'unavoidable collateral damage'... "
…Hear this! While these men diagram the next war into which they will drag us using our fear as gasoline, using our grief as lubricant—Wake up!
…Eric, who had a brother on that planeload of people who refused to be used as weapons and says if he can be that brave so can I. I will not be hurled at anyone's home…
…Hear oh people, this is our hope and our hope is one.
—from “Shema”, by Aurora Levins Morales, www.judorican.com
It is particularly hard for me to be an American today.
As I write this, my taxes are paying to bombard one of the poorest countries in the world with weapons costing millions of dollars. Many innocent people are dying, a fact complacently ignored by our news media, which speak with absurd resolve of “a war on terrorism”. Water pipes, sewer lines, electricity, phone lines, hospitals, and roads are being destroyed. Whatever hopes for a decent life, enough food, education and medical care, a safe place to raise a family—what hopes might have remained a few months ago, are gone now. Those who can leave are leaving for life in a refugee camp.
Of course, there are some with plenty to eat, whose needs are met even in wartime. The men with the guns, the Taliban. We helped put them there. We paid and trained the muhajadin (the word is derived from “Jihad”) to expel the Soviets. Mr. Bin Laden was a CIA darling in those days. We gave them $8 billion in arms and Ronald Reagan called them “freedom fighters”. In the century before this American campaign, international Pan-Islamic religious extremism was rare. Now they’re running Afghanistan.
What are we hoping to accomplish there? Are we trying to overthrow the Taliban? Is this just a bloody “extradition”? Our current strategy seems unlikely to have these effects. But if we are trying to create the conditions in which terrorism thrives, I can’t think of a better way. Extremism grows where people are poor and brutalized, with little to live for, and someone to hate.
I know that a lot of readers share my feelings. Those who do will surely share my frustration that our point of view is invisible, inaudible in our clamorous media world. No doubt it’s more comfortable for some to believe that our leaders are doing what is necessary, and the media do not wish to alienate an angry public. But we do not “stand united”—not by a long shot.
There are a great number of us who would prefer peace, who do not consider the deaths of children to be “unavoidable collateral damage”, who would rather honor our dead with sober diplomacy… who have witnessed a quarter of a million people massacred in Iraq as direct result of Desert Storm and its immediate aftermath, but wonder what, exactly, did we achieve?
One “achievement” was an important advance in the modern technique of public relations for war. Only a small minority of Americans have any idea how many innocents died in the war and the sanctions which followed it, so, to the country at large, damages were considered acceptable. Only about 400 Americans died, many of them in training accidents—fewer than those who have since died of Gulf War Syndrome.
Good PR is simple: the spotlight goes to the Evil Madman, contrasted with the Benevolent Leader. Our fear of the Madman is encouraged, so we will look to the Leader, and his armies, for protection. This technique effectively brings people together while discouraging clear thought and open discussion.
The media is saturated with it, creating an environment in which the word “peace” is as dirty as “fuck”. They exclude the peace movement from the debate, while the supposedly united political climate is used to ram through all kinds of repressive legislation, notably the USA Patriot act, in which we sell our constitutionally guaranteed civil liberties to the FBI in exchange for the illusion of security.
For those of us who want peace, it’s easy to feel isolated. We speak to each other, but quietly. It’s not completely safe to express dissenting opinions. We may feel alone with our thoughts and feelings, but stay strong, friends. We’re not going away, and they can’t keep us quiet. As this miserable war drags on, pacifism will surely become a mainstream position again. Let’s make it happen soon. We need to be seen—and there is safety in numbers. The Earth Flag is sold out, but put a sign in your window, a bumper sticker on your car. Show up on Fridays at Portland’s Pioneer Square. Write in, call in, let’s make a noise!
Ness Mountain is a counselor and urban shaman living in Portland. Comments on Leaving Home are welcome. Email Ness at <[email protected]>.