Friday, March 14, 2008

War Is Not Healthy

March 19 is Iraq blogswarm. Bloggers all over will be blogging against the war in Iraq. I'd sign up, but I worry what to say, and whether I'll actually do it. So this post is sort of a practice piece.

Politics isn't my forte. I generally abhor violence, but it's also difficult for me to imagine a near future without armies and navies. That stipulation never seems enough to the many who think that even trying to imagine a world without war is naive and foolish in the extreme.

In this political season here in the USA talking about how the country under my flag got into this war is strictly off limits. Only proposals about what to do know are allowed and any deviation from the status quo is deemed surrender.

Since this is my blog, I'll revisit the taboo subject of how we went to war, if only to point out that many Americans were against it.

The picture is from Labor Day 2002, president Bush came to Pittsburgh to speak. I'm not a terribly political guy, and tend to be pretty shy. My experience with street protests are very meager. But in the summer before the war, I believed it was possible that American's could register their displeasure with going to war and avert it.

The night before the Labor Day event I went to a gathering of friends. When the hostess opened the door and saw that I'd arrived with poster board and markers, she said to me sharply: "You are not going to talk politics all evening."

It was a lovely late summer evening and we most of us sat outside and talked politics. People seemed very resigned to the situation, and nobody promised to join the protest. Even coming up with slogans to scrawl on the poster board was like pulling teeth; that is, for everyone except the daughter of a friend who was ten or eleven at the time. Her father is a marble sculptor and had lived her years up to that point in Italy where the marble is. Unencumbered by thinking too much about American politics, she felt free to come up with one protest sign masterpiece after another. We all loved "Monkey the Bush" and none of us really had a clue why or what it meant.

I did go and discovered what "free speech" zones are all about. Bill Neel was handcuffed and arrested for refusing to get behind the fence--and the phalanx of police and security. You can see from these pictures that people who heart Bush were allowed on the public sidewalks with signs, so only those citizens seeking to weigh in against the rush to war were to be isolated. The irony was too that Bill Neel had actually served in elective office as a Republican.

I was certain after seeing the president's motorcade go by and hearing the heckling of the crowd as they left the speech--one thing fences like that do is make it feel safe for hecklers to hurl insults--that the die had been cast and we were going to war. But by January 2003 many of my friends joined with thousands of others in Pittsburgh, on a brutally cold and snowy day to march against the war.

When I see that sign "Monkey the Bush" it makes me sad. That lively little girl is now a young woman. Last autumn I joined a bunch of social networking sites to look around. I do like to look at pictures people put up. And on social networks you can see people from all over. We put up all sorts of pictures on these sites, but very often we put up pictures of our dear ones. Pictures of big-eyed children with birthday cakes, teens hugging their mothers, girlfriends and boyfriends. Lovely pictures all. Across the whole round world there are somethings we share in common.

When I think of the millions of Iraqi's displaced, and the terrible air war the surge has wrought, I'm gripped with grief. I see the faces of loved ones, just like the photos I see posted online on social networks. On the PBS Newshour pictures and brief biographies of soldiers killed in Afghanistan and Iraq are posted in silence. I'm saddened. I aam also curious how they die. So many in the middle management ranks and I wonder, but the news never seems to tell. Juan Cole provides some context and points to reporting. Without Informed Comment I'd really be in the dark. Last week he posted an AP video up at YouTube about the five soldiers killed in Baghdad on Monday. Cole made this observation:
Why don’t bloggers do more posting of pieces like this AP video, below, about the 8 US troops killed on Monday. We are after all a tv network if we want to be.
It's a good point about being a TV network if we want to be.

I did not post in time to post notice of the live broadcast of Winter Soldier Iraq and Afghanistan, however I can still point to the liveblog of the event. The War Prayer is a short story by Mark Twain which was published posthumously in Harper's Monthly, November 1916. Last year a film version was made, and on our TV network, it's worth watching.

That summer back in 2002, my hostess was very kind and sat with me for a while talking about the prospects of war. She wanted nothing to do with the poster making, except said that the line she always liked best was
War is not healthy for children or other living things.
Another Mother for Peace owns the copyright to Lorraine Schneider's famous poster and image. They use the proceeds to fund their peace activities. When I was a teenager I had a patch of that sunflower image on my Sunday blue blazer. I've always liked the slogan too. Schneider created the poster in 1965. Two years later fifteen friends met at her house to discuss "doing something" about Vietnam. They decided to send Mother's Day letters to Washington and used the image that Schneider had created for the cover of the card. The card read:
For my Mother’s Day gift of this year,
I don’t want candy or flowers.
I want an end to killing.

We who have given life
must be dedicated to preserving it.

Please talk peace.
I'm not sure what to write on the 19th. I am sure that talking peace is not foolish. We must find a way to do so.

Now playing: Geoffrey Oryema - Lapwony
via FoxyTunes


libhom said...

If what you write on the 19th is half this good, it would be important. I hope you do sign up.

The 27th Comrade said...

Thanks for the story! Sweet. Twain was a genius.

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