Don’t Wanna Study the Geography of War No More


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.

This latest atrocity illustrates the tragic necessity of continuing to study the in map of U.S. intervention, mobilizing and repainting our protest signs.

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.

20150813140104959_1#Enough Campaign.

Day of Atonement

Eid  Adha,  Yom Kippur, and the Pope’s visit to the United States all happening at the same time.  The Pope has reminded us we have a much work to do to bring about a world where we treat our neighbor as we would be treated ourselves. He also talked about atoning for past sins, against Native Americans, against immigrants, against mother earth. (His canonization of Junipero Serra  puzzles me as it is so incongruous with everything else he is saying. The only good he is doing with this decision is  thrusting the limelight on those Native Americans who oppose his decision.

I spent the day of atonement – Yom Kippur – not fasting but – due to a dizzy spell — contemplating, thinking about accepting and changing. Angela Davis said she wants to change what she can not accept. I agree. But first I have to accept myself where I am, my students where they are, the world the way if is before I can change anything.

Maybe  accept is the wrong word. I have to be willing to start the process of change from where I am and where we are and not from where I wish we were.

I’m not for atoning, but I am for repairing. Personal wounds and those facing a nation and a world.  Reparations — for slavery for example — don’t require personal responsibility for the sin, just a realization somethings been torn and needs repair. that makes sense to me.

Without repair  we face reckoning, no matter what god we do or don’t pray to.

Pope Francis referred with reverence to Dorothy Day, who – Code Pink tells us once said:

“Our problems stem from our acceptance of this dirty rotten system. “