Photo: Code Pink Alert.
When I was a child — up until about eight, I thought the world consisted of two countries. In my mind Germany sat right below the U.S. where Mexico is, only bigger. I had a globe and I had heard my Dad’s stories of crossing the ocean to escape Hitler, still my image of the world ignored these facts to reflect my reality.
Until I turned nine.
My Dad was drafted when I was nine. During the period between draft and deferment we had family conversations about moving to a military base, and Dad going to somewhere called Vietnam . My cousin Ronnie was there and I received a letter from him on the thinnest paper. I tried to image where he was – somewhere on that S shaped country spooning Laos and Cambodia.
In 7th grade the social studies teacher drew a map of Vietnam, slashed a line in the middle, and told us how were fighting for “peace with honor” – (Nixon’s slogan). I jumped out of my chair shouting “That’s not true!” and my grade went from A to D.
After seeing the movie El Salvador another Vietnam? In 1981 I went home and found El Salvador on my world map. So tiny! Why would the United States think it so important to support and train death squads and covertly deploy U.S. troops there?
Over the next 10 years I became intimate with the Central America map, dragging it to speaking events to build opposition to U.S. intervention in the region.
The U.S. military industrial complex continued to lead my geography lessons. The invasion of Grenada forced me to get out a magnifying glass to find the tiny Caribbean island and U.S. support for Indonesia’s genocidal policies in East Timor required another squint at a small tip of an island in Southeast Asia.
On-going U.S. support for apartheid regimes in Israel and South Africa extended my knowledge of two more regions. When I learned that these three formed a triangle that covertly supported dictators in Guatemala and Argentina, the world grew smaller and more sinister as my map filled in.
In 1990 the United States invaded another nation “because it invaded a nation, ” and I learned how to find another tiny place on the map — a kingdom flush in oil.
When the U.S. under the first George Bush went to war with Iraq, “for Kuwait’s freedom,” I purchased a map of the Persian Gulf region. I still refer to it a quarter century later. It centers Iraq, surrounded by Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Jordon, but on the eastern and northern quadrant, between Pakistan and Iran is also Afghanistan.
Yesterday was the 14th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. My country marked the week in the most horrific manner and I learned about a town not before in my consciousness. I had to google it. Kunduz is near the Tajikistan and Uzbekistan borders. It looks from photographs like it is rich in farmland — a verdant oasis in a land known for its sandy deserts and rocky mountains.
In Kunduz my tax dollars were used to bomb a Doctors with Borders hospital, killing 12 medical staff, 10 patients, and wounding 37 other people.
But simultaneously we need to study and sing those spots on the globe where peace and justice is blossoming, taking our geography lessons into our own hands.
We can start with Kabul, Afghanistan, where activists have initiated a global campaign to say #Enough to war.