Tuesday, June 5, 2007

"When did you Wake Up?"

My last missive mentioned wake up calls and the greater population of Americans “hitting the snooze” when it comes to the war. People often ask, “When did you realize you wanted to be an activist?” or “What makes you do this? Why are you here?” And believe me there are times when I ask myself much the same thing. But I have a different answer for myself than I do to everyone else.
When asked about “When?” I say, “Before the invasion.” I was a military journalist and yes, in a way that is an oxymoron. While you are active duty military you do not have the luxury of free speech or free press to the degree that civilian Americans have those rights. However, my experience in the military, covering base news and writing tons of feature stories about service members, their families and their missions, brought their stories close to my heart, which answers the question of “why?” It also gave me a perspective on how the military controls and spins information. I know what I have seen and written, and I know what was allowed to be aired or printed. I have also worked as a civilian journalist, my recruiter should be glad to know that I actually took my military skills directly into the “real world” job market. He might not be so excited to find out that the combination of my military and civilian experience made me hyper-aware of the lies and spin tactics used in and on major media in the run-up to the Iraq War. I have friends that served in Desert Shield and Desert Storm and a few who were still active duty for this war. I was never really asleep, but making a conscious choice to act is a different matter.
When I question myself, “What makes you do this? Why are you here?” I usually stick on… If I don’t, who will? If I don’t will more die? If I don’t will my children have to continue the fight or keep paying for it? If we won’t say what we think is right, aren’t we complicit? I participated in the strengthening of the American Military Machine. I already bear responsibility in a way. Speaking out, standing up, supporting the truth and the troops is an act of ablution, cleansing for me.
Although I believe that I was never asleep, my own wake-up call, my self-affirmation of intention, came in the form of a poem in January, 2003. When was yours?

Living in a New World
By Lori Perdue

I’m living in a New World
Gotta have a new life
Tired of crawling through
This universe of strife
Wanna tell the man
He can’t pigeonhole me as wife
Cause I’m living in a New World
And I’m gonna have new life

I’m living in a New World
Gotta redefine sin
Need to shape my mind to giving and heart to love
And stop seeking only for the win
Wanna to stand up for the truth and
Not let the terror soak into my skin
Cause I’m living in a New World and
I’m gonna redefine sin

I’m living in a New World
Gotta practice a new idea of right
We watched the towers fall
And in our anguish we lost sight
Wanna let the world know
We must be justified to fight
Cause I’m living in a New World
And I’m gonna practice a new idea of right

I’m living in a New World
Gotta search and hope and live for peace
We find ways to deal with the loss
And live our lives everyday with the grief
Wanna say that while we will never forget
Violence leads us into a cycle without release
Cause I’m living in a New World
And I’m gonna search and hope and live for peace.


Thorne said...

I read this blog nearly every day and want to let you all know I applaud and support your work!
I have a question that is only marginally off topic. How does one start a grass roots movement?
More specifically, the following article:
"Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley signed a law that would award the state's electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote. As long as others agree to do the same. "Actually, Maryland will drop out only if a lot of other states do, too. Maryland's new law will go into effect only if enough states pass similar laws to total 270 electoral votes -- the number needed to elect a President," O'Malley said.

Those states would agree to appoint presidential electors who would vote for the winner of the national popular vote, no matter who wins the vote in each state. It would be a way to turn presidential elections into a nationwide popular vote without having to amend the Constitution."

has me thinking that if this was implemented in alot of states we might have some hope. Can you point me in the right direction? Thanking you all in advance and for all you do!

Randgrithr said...

Like you, the seeds for my discontent were sown in the military (and as you know it was just down the road from you for part of that time).

We both saw serious disparities between the ideals we had initially enlisted to serve to protect, and the realities of what rules we were forced to follow and what we could and couldn't talk about. They always tell you in a classified environment "not to care about the data", but to successfully attain that level of dispassion would quite simply make me something less than human.

One profound experience that affected my own decision was the extended tour I did at Ramstein, as the Wall fell and the Cold War came to a chaotic but abrupt end. During that time I was exposed to the long and short term results of the collapse of two different totalitarian ideologies - fascist Germany and socialist Russia.

Over time and travel spent in Germany I saw firsthand the very deep scars Hitler's government had left on the land. Five decades were not enough to lessen the impact. Two entire generations of German men were just... nowhere to be found. I was walking around behind my house and fell into an old machine gun emplacement, cutting my hand open on 50-year-old barbed wire. I went on a Volksmarch and off the beaten path was the result of a clearly ferocious WWII battle in the woods. It had been so terrible that most of the bodies were buried with the nationality of either German or American and the word "Unbekannt" - Unknown - the only things on the gravestone. Bomb craters dot the forests and centuries-old homes bear bullet holes. I saw these things and the enormity of what happened hit me, and it redoubled my resolve to see to it that such things would never happen on my native soil.

As for Soviet Russia, my eyes were thoroughly opened on a trip to Berlin to see the Roger Waters "The Wall" concert. "Let them go to Berlin" indeed... and I can still remember when I would turn to people and say "Wow, they had machine gun towers in a major city!" like it was something unusual.

I no longer have to "go to Berlin" to learn about the difference between a totalitarian state and a democracy. Berlin has come to me. I live an hour outside of New York City.

I cannot even begin to describe the heartsickness and rage this causes me. Like the creeping encroachment on our rights and freedoms, resistance to same did not come about all on a particular day, but one day will always stand out for me in the history of my activism.

On June 1st, 2004, I swore that I would not cut my hair while George W. Bush remained President of the United States. I wrote as much in my livejournal.

The following day, I was fired from my job as system administrator for the American Institute of Physics, an organization that took the official policy that exploding planes are what brought down Towers 1 and 2 of the World Trade Center, and 7 WTC was brought down by, um, sympathy vibes or Saddam Hussein's tight undies or something.

I guess that was the beginning of my going all officially radical n' stuff.