Tag Archives: war

A New Decade

Photo by Allie Smith on Unsplash

Here we stand, waiting for the old year to dissolve beneath our feet and for the new one to arrive with all its breathless uncertainty.

2020!  It’s hard to imagine a number like that.

I remember sitting in an elementary school classroom where the teacher was, for some reason I can no longer recall, talking about the distant day when we would make the turn into the 21st century.  I don’t remember why she was talking about it, but I do recall what I thought in response.

“The 21st century!  I’ll never live that long!”

I don’t suppose I did the math to support my musing.  I was, after all, only sixty-one when the 21st century descended upon us, an age that seems young now, though it wouldn’t have seemed young when I was sitting in that classroom.  I just know that the idea of moving into a new century seemed extremely unlikely.

And so today we stand on the doorstep of the second decade in the 21st century, and I find myself thinking that entering the decade that will follow—2030—seems about as unlikely as the 21st century did when I was a child.

It’s not that I’m planning not to be here.  This past year when I was offered a mortgage with a ten-year balloon I said, emphatically, “There’s no way I’m going to sign something that tells me I have to die by the time I’m 90!”

Rather I’m acutely aware these days of the fragility of my existence, of all existence really, but especially that of a woman who has a firm hold on her eighties.

I’m also aware, and more so every day, of the deep, deep privilege in which I have lived my life.  The privilege of my white skin.  The privilege of growing up in a home in which the importance of learning was so taken for granted that I absorbed learning with the milk I drank and the air I breathed.  The privilege, the amazing privilege considering the wars my country has been involved in all my life, of living a life virtually untouched by war.

Concerning that last, I have come to understand that my life has been played out in a golden bubble.  I . . . have . . . been . . . untouched . . . by . . . war!

My father received his notice to report for military service in World War II on the day after the birthday that made him too old for the draft.  My former husband was in Korea, but only after the “conflict” was no longer being played out with bombs and guns.  My son was a toddler when the draft closed on the Vietnam War.

And, most miraculous of all—read Daniel Ellsberg’s The Doomsday Machine:  Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner to see just how miraculous—we haven’t yet been decimated by one of the nuclear bombs we ourselves brought into the world!

A golden bubble and an unlikely one!

Every time I look back and muse on the privilege of my life, I can’t help but also look forward to the lives my grandchildren have yet to live.  How can I not feel responsible for the world that is waiting for them?  Yet, like most of the adults of my generation, I have cared, I have always, always cared, and I have never stopped trying to make a difference.  And my caring and my trying have never been enough.

So here I stand at the doorway of 2020, acutely aware both of my lifetime of privilege and of a world crumbling in too many ways to count.  I despise those messages too often handed down to the young.  “Well, guys, seems like we messed up.  Now it’s up to you to fix it!”

It was up to me to fix it, too, and I could not, no matter how hard I tried.

My grandchildren are such valiant souls.  Every one of them.  But I don’t expect them to be able to “fix it,” either.

So what is the message for a new decade in a century I never thought to see?  A message mostly for myself, because my grandchildren, I know, are too busy with their lives to be listening.

Maybe just this.  This day, this very day, is sacred.  Live into it.  Live into the day and the day after that and the next decade, too.  And, if it is granted, the decade after that.

Because the deepest privilege of all is life itself, a privilege even when we are not able to live up to it.

A blessed New Year to every one of us!

Our Bluegreeen Globe

Photo by NASA on Unsplash

If from Space not only sapphire continents,

swirling oceans, were visible, but the wars –

like bonfires, wildfires, forest conflagrations,

flame and smoky smoulder – the Earth would seem

a bitter pomander ball bristling with poison cloves.

And each war fuelled with weapons: it should be visible

that great sums of money have been exchanged,

great profits made, workers gainfully employed

to construct destruction, national economies distorted

so that these fires, these wars, may burn

and consume the joy of this one planet

which, seen from outside its transparent tender shell,

is so serene, so fortunate, with its water, air

and myriad forms of “life that wants to live.”

It should be visible that this bluegreen globe

suffers a canker which is devouring it.

 

Denise Levertov

The Insanity of America

stop killing our children“Only in the insanity of corporate America can nonviolent animal rights activists be charged as terrorists while a white supremacist who gunned down African-Americans in a South Carolina church is charged on criminal counts. Only in the insanity of America can Wall Street financers implode the global economy through massive acts of fraud, causing widespread suffering, and be rewarded with trillions of dollars in government bailouts. Only in the insanity of America can government leaders wage wars that are defined as criminal acts of aggression under international law and then remain, unchallenged, in positions of power and influence. All this makes no sense in an open society. But it makes perfect sense in our species of corporate totalitarianism, in which life, especially the life of the vulnerable, is expendable and corporate profit alone is protected and sanctified as the highest good.”
−from “A Haven From the Animal Holocaust” by Chris Hedges,
posted August 2, 2015 on Truthdig

In my last blog, I wrote about war. I’m against it, in case you didn’t guess. But even as I wrote the blog, I found myself thinking, What’s the point of saying this?

Most people are against war. At least war as a concept. And we’re quick to say we are because, frankly, the saying is easy. But while you and I are condemning war our government girdles the earth with its weapons, its troops, its secret agents, it covert operations. War and near-war and the bloody aftermath of war, all of it is as constant as the weather. All of it merely something to complain about.

Chris Hedges, whose words I borrowed to open this piece, was once a war correspondent for the New York Times. When the U.S. invaded Iraq, he refused to maintain the official “neutrality” demanded of a journalist and was forced to leave his coveted position. (Somehow it’s considered neutrality when reporters repeat the official government line on such matters.) Now he speaks his truth through an Internet site called Truthdig. Unfettered, he talks of war and much more.

Chris Hedges is one of my heroes. When he speaks, people listen. Lots of people listen.

I am a children’s writer who has been around for a long time. My voice reaches a few folks.

But here’s the question I keep asking: What changes when either one of us speaks, Chris with his big voice, me with my small one? Not one cache of carefully aimed nuclear weapons will be shut down because of our words. Not one child sent into the world with a gun to “defend our freedom” will come home early. No person of color incarcerated for a petty crime will be released. No corrupt, self-serving bankers prosecuted. Our polluted planet will find no reprieve because we have spoken.

Chris has named it correctly. Corporate America and the government owned by corporate America is insane. Consumed by greed. Blinded by power. Lost in a vision of profit that obliterates all in its path.

And even as I speak, repeating Chris’s words and adding my own, I have a vision of our voices disappearing into cyberspace, floating out there somewhere between here and the moon, gone . . . gone.

Is the pen truly more powerful than the sword? Or do we simply soothe ourselves, Chris and me and all the other “truth tellers,” with words? Suckle those words like a baby with a pacifier. Do we believe in change? Truly?

I’m no longer sure I do, and I’m not sure the world around me does either. I have a sense that we have lost hold on that most American of all dreams . . . a belief in the future.

Yet I find myself saying it, needing to say it, and carrying in my heart other voices that say it, too: This blue-green earth is so precious. All who share it with us so precious, too. We must name the beast intent on destroying us. Name it and name it and name it!

And once we have named it, we must turn and bless one another.

What If?

If from Space not only sapphire continents,
swirling oceans, were visible, but the wars –
like bonfires, wildfires, forest conflagrations,
flame and smoky smoulder – the Earth would seem
a bitter pomander ball bristling with poison cloves.
And each war fuelled with weapons: it should be visible
that great sums of money have been exchanged,
great profits made, workers gainfully employed
to construct destruction, national economies distorted
so that these fires, these wars, may burn
and consume the joy of this one planet
which, seen from outside its transparent tender shell,
is so serene, so fortunate, with its water, air
and myriad forms of “life that wants to live.”
It should be visible that this bluegreen globe
suffers a canker which is devouring it.
−“It Should Be Visible,” Denise Levertov

children and tank
What if we believed out loud the words we whisper to our children . . . that war is bad, evil, an irredeemable sin?

What if we refused to see war as inevitable—every war past and present and future—what if we refused to see war as something to sigh over, to prompt a long, if temporarily sad, face?

What if instead of hinting at the badness of war in our children’s books—as though by saying it to the very young we can pass on responsibility for all our failures—what if instead of making sweet-but-sad stories for the very young we spoke to one another? And spoke in voices meant to be heard?

What if we truly believed that the nuclear arsenals scattered around the world, each watched over by power without conscience, by another fallible, hair-trigger finger, what if we truly believed that they were meant to explode, by accident or design, today . . . tomorrow?

What if we, each of us in every corner of the globe, held back the money we give our governments to wage destruction? What if every one of us refused to vote or had the courage to vote for one who is destined to fail, one who dares speak peace?

What if we believed our own words, that war is a game old men send children out to play . . . a deadly, deadly game?

What if we considered supplying our children with toy guns as shocking an obscenity as handing them toy dildos?

What if we eliminated from the face of the earth the phrase “fighting for our freedom”?

And quit saying to our poor, “This is your way into a secure life. Put on this uniform and we will then—after we have flayed your body, your soul—agree to educate you”?

What if we refused to watch any film, read any book that turns war into high drama, into heroism, into the answer.

What if we declined to feed our children on the profits made from selling bombers, Agent Orange, the flags of our superiority?

And what if we let ourselves see the canker devouring this bluegreen globe—and us—from within?

What might we do then?