BRING OUR WAR $$ HOME speech for rally at VFP 25th, Portland 8/29/10
Thank you. I feel grateful to Veterans for Peace for their 25 years of organizing, and for bringing us all together here today. I feel grateful to all of you for making time and space in your life to be here today.
I am the daughter of a veteran, granddaughter of two veterans. My grandfather who was among the first troops to enter Nagasaki after the nuclear attack on that city and its civilian population never spoke of it. My other grandfather who lay injured on a battlefield in France in November of 1918 told my father, who passed it on to me and my siblings: “There are no good wars. Don't believe them when they say so. War is not the solution to anything.” No one in my generation of my family enlisted; no one in the next generation of my family has enlisted either. Thank you to the veterans with the courage to tell the truth.
I feel compassion for all the hurting, confused citizens who know there's something wrong and don't know what to do about it. That's what I'd like to speak to you about today.
I think the U.S. as a whole is suffering from traumatic stress disorder. How can we attack and destroy whole countries without feeling the effects? We are traumatized by violent video games, gunmen attacking school children, domestic violence. We're all trying as best we can to cope, many by looking away.
Here in Maine a coalition of activists responded to our collective trauma by adopting the Bring Our War $$ Home campaign. Nearly every active peace group in the state has contributed energy to this effort by now. The campaign was originally planned to last 3 months, but by tax day in April it had already gathered so much momentum that we saw that we should carry on.
Many similar efforts are underway to call on Congress to stop funding wars and instead fund education, jobs, health care, green energy and infrastructure repairs. Let a thousand campaigns bloom! Ongoing budget crises at the national, state and local levels afford us a special opportunity to reach out to our fellow citizens.
I speak to you as fellow activists. I love to march with you and it always lifts my spirits. But the job ahead of us is to reach out to our neighbors and co-workerswith a message that speaks for them.
The central strategy of the BOW$H campaign is the local resolution. The City of Portland passed one 7-1 this year, calling on their representative in the House to redirect funding. Other towns voted the resolution up or down, or voted to table it – but in every case, the effort to bring a resolution opened a space for conversations.
My husband Mark Roman and I traveled around Maine this month photographing some of the many elementary schools that were closed this year due to budget shortfalls. Most closings saved between $200,000 and $400,000 for the school district in the coming year. That is between 5 and 10 minutes of the cost of war and occupation in Afghanistan.
Nearly all the schools had new, colorful playgrounds built with primary school children's needs in mind. Parent organizations raised the funds to build them, knowing the cash strapped school districts never would. Now the kindergarteners are bused almost an hour each way to attend larger schools in the district, leaving their playgrounds behind.
In some towns the schools are shuttered. The town that owns them can't afford the heating and insurance costs to keep them open for the many community activities that have been held there for years.
These harsh conditions create an opportunity for us, activists. A person whose 5 or 6 year old grandchild now rides the bus far away each day knows there is something wrong. A parent who worked to build a playground that now stands idle knows there is something wrong. In the barrage of mass media disinformation, they are bewildered and confused about where exactly the problem lies, and what the solution might be.
Here's why I think the BOW$H message is so powerful at this point in history.
“Bring” is an active verb. It's a demand aimed at the branch of Congress charged with minding the purse strings. It's a demand that can be made by anyone: a child who lost her school, a voter who writes to her representative, a school board trying to make ends meet.
“Our war $$” is a noun with two modifiers. The money IS ours, because we pay it out in income taxes. Maine taxpayers have now contributed over $2.5 billion to fund the wars in Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The lie that we have exited from Iraq is spun by the mainstream media a hundred times a day. 50,000 combat troops are renamed, and private contractors will guard an embassy the size of Vatican City. Does this sound expensive?
“War $$” means money that is used to kill people. It does not mean money that we are morally obligated to offer for the rebuilding of infrastructure we destroyed in our scramble to control global energy resources.
Yesterday I saw an article by Adil Shamoo, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine who was born and raised in Bagdhad. He cited a report on world cities published by UN-HABITAT, an agency of the United Nations. Prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, the percentage of the urban population living in slums in Iraq hovered just below 20 percent. Today, that percentage has risen to 53 percent. Half the population in Iraq who want to work are unemployed. Iraq today – America tomorrow?
War $$ have made us all poorer.
“Home” is the best word in my message today. "Home" is where the grandmothers have nurtured the human race for millions of years. Home can be temporary or last a lifetime. It is mobile. It's where we are fed. It's where the heart is.
Finding words to communicate with our neighbors is the opportunity I leave you with. Simple, direct words that refute the lie of mainstream media that war makes us safe, and that building weapons of mass destruction makes good jobs and prosperity. It's a teachable moment right now, my peaceful friends. Let's make the most of it. Please join me in raising our voices so loud they will hear us all the way in Washington:
Bring our war $$ home!
Bring our war $$ home!
CODEPINK Maine Local Coordinator