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March 4, 2014

Praying for Peace

Filed under: Uncategorized — by maggiec @ 1:51 pm
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The situation in Ukraine seems to be about to blow, or it was the last time I checked the news today.  Although I’ve never lived in Ukraine, I have had a soft spot for the country and it’s people since 1988 when the Ukrainian Church made me an honorary Ukrainian to thank me for a series of articles I wrote on what was then the “Church Underground” in the USSR.  They meant it as a gesture, but I’ve taken it quite seriously over the years.  

 

I pray for peace and sanity every day.  I hope that international pressure will check Putin’s plans for invasion.  But as Nelson Mandela once observed, “Intervention only works when the people concerned seem to be keen for peace.”  Of course, Putin would most likely object to my choice of verbs, but last I checked, Ukraine was still an autonomous nation.  I don’t trust Putin or his intentions.  Who does?

 

Much has been written about the political ramifications of the crisis in Ukraine, and that’s not my intention here.  I don’t actually think it’s the US’s business to “intervene” either.  Theoretically, the UN should be taking point here, or even the EU.  Of course the US needs to be aware of what’s going on, and sending the Secretary of State to show support isn’t a bad thing, but I don’t see this as the president’s “responsibility” at all.  That’s the kind of attitude that gets the US in trouble all the time.

 

Of course, this is never an easy choice for the US.  We get slammed for intervening, and then we get slammed for not intervening soon enough and saving lives.  Basically, whatever the US does will be “wrong” in someone’s book. So I have better things to think about right now.

 

But I just want to send some words of support and let the people of Ukraine know that Americans are aware. We’re praying and advocating for pressure on Russia. 

 

Бог з тобою і відправити вам миру і безпеки (thank you Google Translate)

August 30, 2013

And So We Sit and Wait

“War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.” ~George Orwell, 1984

The events in this prescient novel written in 1949 were to have happened almost 30 years ago.  While the dystopia of the novel is not yet fully blown, I read these words, and I want to weep. In my country, ignorance has become strength and war may as well be peace for so many people appear unperturbed that we’ve been in a constant state of war since 2001.

I remember exactly where I was when news of the first airstrikes against Afghanistan broke. I was in a church. It was in Switzerland, and I was with a room of mostly women from many different countries, predominantly American and British, but from all over the world.  “Viet Nam” was muttered by more than one person, and I thought, “No, not again. It couldn’t.”

Just a month earlier we’d faced 9/11. Many of my students were seriously frightened that they had just seen the start of WWIII. But when the Afghanistan War started, they were no longer afraid. They were angry.

Just two years later, I was in a different country, Sweden, when the Iraq War started. Let’s just say that reaction in Sweden was far from positive. I don’t have pleasant memories of that time. Sometimes when tempers flared, people would forget that I am not the US government, nor am I even a representative of the government. Water under the bridge.

But again, WWIII was mentioned in passing.

And now we wait and watch what will happen in Syria. More than one person has mentioned WWIII, as if another World War is inevitable. As if “the war to end all wars” never happened. Oh wait. Never mind. Not counting the Cold War, the US was embroiled in another war five short years after WWII ended.

My tone is may sound bitter today, but I’m actually not feeling bitter. I’m feeling sad. I’m an unrepentant child of the 60s and early 70s. I do believe all that peacenik stuff people called “Commie”.  It’s out of fashion now, but as John Lennon, a powerful voice in the peace movement, said, “If someone thinks that love and peace is a cliche that must have been left behind in the Sixties, that’s his problem. Love and peace are eternal.”  But we seem to have lost our way, John.

These days, I teach many vets and even active service people. I have nothing but the utmost respect for them.  They don’t start the wars. They just fight them. As Gen. Doulgas MacArthur said, “The soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.”  I mostly agree with him, of course. My soldiers write things to me that break my heart. They tell me what they’ve seen, what they’ve done, what they’ve experienced. I can not even imagine, but I am privileged to carry their stories. If I can relieve their burden one iota, I will do it gladly.  One student wrote to me: “I like reading poetry in your class because it’s the only time the guns in my head stop.”  I would read poetry with him for hours if I could.

But of course, it’s the civilians I worry about. War is cruel. A student this morning told me of a bombing near a Syrian school.  Children.  But children have always had the worst of war.  Still, things have been insane and dangerous in Syria for too long now, and something has to change.

So this compounds my sadness. The peacenik, the mostly pacifist, can’t see a way to calm things. Do I think attacking Syria will help? No.  But this is too big for me. I can’t think.  But I can pray, which is what I seem to do best these days.

The UK House of Commons voted to not support a military intervention in Syria, and I’m wondering whether the US Congress will have the same opportunity.  According to an article on CNN, “More than 160 members of Congress, including 63 Democrats, have now signed letters calling for either a vote or at least a ‘full debate’ before any U.S. action.”  But Congress is in recess until September 9th. Yes, I can see the White House waiting till they are all back. Yes. Sure.

This situation is changing rapidly.  So we sit and wait and see. And nothing is worse than waiting.

July 14, 2013

National Anger

I’m watching the maelstrom of anger, sadness, disappointment and frustration on social media since last night’s verdict in the Zimmerman trial. The reaction was expected, of course, especially by anyone who remembers the response to the Rodney King beating trial verdict and the fear following the OJ Simpson verdict.

I’m glad to see that things are peaceful–well, perhaps peace isn’t the proper word, but non-violent.

My comment on Twitter last night was to repeat the old Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr quote, “this is a court of law…not a court of justice.”  In his address to the nation today, President Obama said something similar: “we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken.”

That’s what they do. Was it overt racism, bad prosecution, good defense? Who knows? I didn’t follow the trial testimony for the same reason I don’t follow many of the sensational trials splashed on television and the news outlets.  While the death of a teen is lamentable, while vigilante justice is wrong, in the big picture, the US has worse things to worry about. Teens get killed every day for stupid, stupid reasons. Most of the time, the rest of America doesn’t notice.  But every once in a while, a trial will catch the nation’s attention.

Deep in my heart, I believe that when this happens, corporations and government heave a sigh of relief. Another weapon of mass distraction to help keep people from paying attention.

It’s not that I’m callous. In fact, it might be a little too close to home. I deplore the entire situation, and as a mother, as someone who teaches and loves the many young black men (and Latino, and Asian, and White) I teach, my heart breaks.

In my own family I’ve seen the anguish of the mother, grandmothers and aunts when the woman who killed my cousin and damaged his brother so badly he lives with pain every day got off with a slap on the wrist. It broke their hearts once again.  His father, grandfathers, brother, and uncles were shattered as well, but it’s the mother love that speaks most closely to my heart.  But the entire family felt stripped of justice.  It’s been years and there’s still anger.

I pray that Trayvon Martin’s family will find peace in their hearts, because I have seen the damage done to a family like his up close.

George Zimmerman will have to live with his actions for the rest of his life. I also pray that he realizes the enormity of what he’s stolen from the world. I pray that he turns his evil to good somehow. But that’s for time to tell.

In the meantime, I just feel sad and hope is hard to find. The fact that the streets are not burning is a good sign, I think.

But perhaps this is one more straw in the camel’s basket.

 

May 27, 2013

We Must Remember

Filed under: heroes,military,New Broads,soldiers,war — by maggiec @ 10:20 am
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It’s Memorial Day in America, a day to honor those who fell fighting for America. When I was growing up this was a solemn occasion, and most of the time I was marching in a parade with the Girl Scouts, laying a wreath at one of the many memorial sites dotted through my town.

My family was full of veterans, but we were a lucky family. The last one to die was my grandmother’s fiance, killed in France in 1918. The man she ultimately married was torpedoed more than once during WWII but lived to tell the tale, as did all the uncles, aunts and cousins who have served all the way through Afghanistan and Iraq.

But all those who had served had lost someone, and as children we were not allowed to forget that. Yes, there would be a barbecue later in the day, but not until the solemn rites were fulfilled.

I don’t march anymore, but I do remember every year.  These days, our society has a troubled relationship with our armed forces and war in general. There are good reasons for questioning some of America’s latest wars, but never have I doubted the sacrifice of those who did go, who heeded the call and paid the ultimate price.

But as long as there are wars and our men and women are dying, I can not forget. I hope that in the future, generations will forget the horror of war and the war dead will be nothing but lines in a history book like the dead Peloponnesians are to us today.

But until then, I believe deeply that we must remember. It is only by remembering the sacrifice and the dead that people will remember the reality that is war. It’s not just like the videos. There are humans involved in the battles, not just avatars.

The day will come, someday in the far distant future, perhaps, when humans will stop fighting and realize that war is not the answer.  I tell myself this, and sometimes I actually believe it.

But as long as days like Memorial Day and Veterans’ Day are seen only as times for fun or shopping, this will never happen. The dead mean nothing to too many. And that is one of the most important reasons we must remember. So that those who died will not have died in vain.  So that there will finally, ultimately be a “war to end all wars” that doesn’t mean we destroy each other in a nuclear or biological disaster.

A time when we realize that peaceful engagement can and does work.

***

The first half of this essay is self-plagiarized from my other blog, Patchouli Haze, but I wanted to expand the themes here.

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