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Key Note Speech, 2nd Encuentro Continental
Mexico City, Mexico, April 4, 2008
By Cindy Sheehan
First of all I would like to thank the International Labor Council and the Electrician's Union for such a warm welcome and I would like to assure you all, my brothers and sisters that I represent millions of North Americans who are in solidarity with you, because we are also plagued with an illegitimate President!
Once, a couple of years ago, I was getting a pedicure in the deep south in the USA, of all places, and my pedicurist was a Latina from Mexico. She lived two hours from where she and her husband owned the shop and she left her young son home with her mother-in-law for six days a week, while she and her husband toiled at the shop. She was very sweet and sympathetic to my situation as a mother whose son was killed in Iraq, but she looked up from my feet at one point and asked me: "Why do you Americans have to have everything. If you all weren't so greedy, I could still live in my country with my family." Greedy? Hmm? Her earnest and passionate comment gave me much to think about.
Dictionary.com defines greed as the rapacious desire, especially for wealth or possessions
Greed is also one of the seven deadly sins and I know more than most Americans that the same twisted drive for, not just a fair share of prosperity, but ALL the prosperity is what caused my son's death and, similarly, my nail persons' need to have to leave the beloved country of her birth.
Greed is not what drives Latin Americans to try and cross the border to go north, existential necessity is; but corporate-capitalist greed is what makes the dangerous journey necessary. Building walls on the border is not the way to solve the immigration "problem" just as invading two countries and killing innocent civilians was not the way to solve the terrorism problem. Healing the systems of oppression that cause immigration is the way to solve the "problem." People in Latin America want the right to not have to emigrate. Like my pedicurist, they want to be able to make a good living in their own countries.
In a study done by the Economic Policy Institute in 2004, it was found that 5% of the US population owns 58% of the wealth and only 1.2% of the wealth is owned by 40% of our citizenry. I am sure if a similar study were done, this disparity would be much wider in these days of irresponsible corporate bailouts while Americans are losing their homes at the rate of 250,000 a month and the war economy has made the fat cats astronomical profits while robbing our communities of essential services and needed infrastructure improvements. The Milton Friedman model of disaster capitalism, which Naomi Klein exposes so well in her book, Shock Doctrine, is responsible for economic disaster from New Orleans to Baghdad and the basic underlying root sickness of this is greed.
Statistics can be easily manipulated as we know the statistics reporting the "success" of free trade agreements such as NAFTA are. Facts, numbers and experiential data cannot be so easily manipulated, though. In the years since the Clinton administration (with the support of my Congressional opponent, Nancy Pelosi) foisted NAFTA on our continent, both Mexico and the US have lost farmland and good paying jobs. Many of our manufacturing jobs have gone overseas to Indonesia or China and the Wal Martization of our cultures creeps up on us unchecked and corporations such as Wal Mart have been the main beneficiaries of NAFTA to the detriment of working class people in both countries.
What can we do to improve the situation and reclaim our prosperity from the control of the 21st Century Robber Barons and slave-traders?
First of all, "free" trade treaties should be replaced with fair trade agreements. Small business owners and workers should be protected from being crushed under the heels of multi-national corporations. Any agreement should have protection for workers. A worker who makes shoes, computers, cars, or grows crops should make the same livable wage in Mexico or China, as they would in America. There would be no incentive for off-shoring jobs or relocating manufacturing plants if workers in China made the same wages as workers in America.
All workers should be guaranteed the basic human right of being able to belong to a union. Unions elevate the conditions of workers and families and should remain a strong political force for good and not allow them selves to be beaten into submission or weakness by governmental or corporate pressure. (But aren't the corporations and governments so intimately linked these days in their fascistic oppression of us average citizens?)
The fragile ecology of our planet must be protected in these agreements and the same standard of sustainability and environmental protections should be uniformly recognized and practiced globally.
Small farmers should be protected from the encroachment of "agri-giants" and their lands protected from the eminent domain of greed.
I know there are many more solutions and a comprehensive platform of "No human left behind" would guarantee the rights of all humans to safe and plentiful food and drinking water; shelter; good and free education; sustainable employment; security and safety from US corporate-militarism; and the basic rights that were guaranteed of: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
For far too long, the United States of America has greedily gobbled up too much of global wealth and resources and our chickens of greed and violence are coming home to roost. As alarming as these trends are, we North Americans are only slightly beginning to feel the ravages of what we have been manufacturing and exporting for years: death and destruction. A new paradigm of global sharing and caring must be implemented and today is the beginning.
Today, as we commemorate and mourn the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr who was assassinated 40 years ago in Memphis, Tn; and as I mourn the murder by the war machine of my son Casey, who was killed in Sadr City, Baghdad 4 years ago today---we must renew our commitment to peace and justice to honor their sacrifices and the sacrifices of others who have also gone before us. We just celebrated the birthday of Cesar Chavez who dedicated his life to the most marginalized and exploited of workers and I am constantly inspired by the devotion of people like Dr. King, Casey and Cesar Chavez andI hope that we all take inspiration to rededicate our lives to peace and justice.
We must build upon the coalition that we have gathered here in this beautiful and historic place to include every group that we are a part of. We can no longer say that we have to focus on "one" issue, because all the issues are the same. My country is waging deadly and lost-cause occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and so many groups in my country say that we have to focus on bringing our troops home and not become "distracted" by other issues. Profound economic inequality and unchecked greed is the root cause of these occupations as it is the root cause of the occupation of Palestine by Israel and all the violence in the world's hot-spots today.
In our coalition, we must educate our brothers and sisters that equalizing prosperity and neutralizing greed are the solutions to these acute problems.
I also stand here in solidarity with my brothers and sisters who are working in the Legitimate Government of Mexico to prevent the illegitimate government from privatizing PEMEX. The oil of Mexico belongs to the people of Mexico, and if I can't be here with you all to block the crimes with my body then I will definitely be with you in spirit.
Thank you for allowing me to speak. It has been an honor to be here.
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