Friday 09 June 2006
If public opinion would frown against violence, it would
lose its power.
- Leo Tolstoy
Our American culture is permeated with violence. I don't think anyone would
dispute that fact. A recent tragedy that occurred in a family who is close to
my family in Vacaville, California, is horribly bringing this fact literally
home to many people in that community.
My friend, who was one of my first friends in Vacaville when our family moved
there almost 15 years ago, gave her 11-year-old daughter an overdose of prescription
medication, killing her. I have known the mom since before she became pregnant
with her daughter and celebrated with her when she finally had the baby. By
all accounts, and the last time I saw her, the mom seemed healthy and whole.
The daughter was a popular honor student at the same elementary school that
my younger two attended years ago.
Why? We have all been asking ourselves why. There are wild speculations going
around of course, but none of us know for sure. The mom also allegedly took
an overdose of pills. Was it a murder-suicide; or a murder with a pretend suicide?
I saw a picture of my friend at her arraignment in the local newspaper. She
is lost. She is haunted. She was not there. She is without hope. Small wonder.
I know this feeling of being without hope. There were the long days and the
endless nights that I was in a black pit of despair and hopelessness, the days
when the only thing that stopped me from taking my entire bottle of sleeping
pills was the fact that I would hurt my family even more. No matter how much
agony I was in (a broken heart is not just a metaphor) I could not bring myself
to commit that easy, ultimate act of selfishness. But, oh how I wanted to. How
I longed for that permanent sleep that would free me from pain.
Even without the added stress of burying a child, when I think of the violence
that can start early in the morning when we switch on the TV and attack us all
day with one image and experience or another until we fall into restless sleep,
stressed-out and exhausted from another day of hatred, it is easy to dismiss
what is going on in our society as "normal." When we realize that
violence is not normal, and not give the cop-out excuse that we as humans are
somehow "hardwired" to be violent and non-violence is abnormal, then
our society and culture will change.
Violence begets violence and killing begets killing. All we have to do is notice
how our leaders consistently use their votes or their signatures or their orders
to beget and condone violence, and we shouldn't be shocked when our soldiers
in the field commit acts of atrocity that I am sure go against their very fundamental
core of humanity. Our soldiers are just copying their leaders and fulfilling
their training, which dehumanizes them and the "enemy." Violent is
as violent does.
However, I believe that using violence is not like opening a Pandora's Box
where the evil escapes and cannot be stuffed back in. Violence is a cycle that
can be broken. Violence is like that proverbial can of worms that slither and
roil, but any 2-year-old with basic motor skills can control the can of worms
and put the lid back on.
I often have to ask myself why we, as Americans, so blindly follow our leaders
down this path of violent destruction, and it has always been so. From the genocide
and virtual extinction of our native population to dehumanizing black people
so that they could be used as human chattel and still be oppressed, even today,
to still be the only so-called "civilized nation" that executes people.
Why do we allow our leaders to kill and oppress people in our names? Is it so
we won't have to look at our own destructive behavior?
Are we as a nation so devoid of hope that we are ready to live our lives in
"quiet desperation" watching BushCo destroy Iraq, destroy the USA
and destroy the world for their own wicked ends? Do we see any difference in
jumping in our huge, gas guzzling and polluting SUVs to go to a job we hate
to be able to buy things we don't need in contrast with invading a country to
control its oil reserves to give the people who run companies that profit from
death and destruction more money so they can buy their jets and build palaces
that they don't need?
Are our visions of a future that is one endless war after another in competition
for resources and for a dwindling planet so bleak that we are condoning the
destructive behavior of the Bush administration because we are competing with
our neighbors to have the best and brightest new thingamajig that Madison Ave
tells us that we need?
Before we can change the world, we have to look in our hearts and change ourselves.
Before Casey was KIA in Iraq, I led this life of rampant consumerism that wreaked
havoc on my soul and the environment. I had a mortgage (death pledge) and I
couldn't leave the anchor of my home for long, because something might happen
to it or my stuff! However, I did leave my home every work day before 7:00 in
the morning, fought traffic and cussed out other drivers and extravagantly used
my middle finger to ward off the evil eyes of my fellow commuters who were also
trapped in their encumbered and heavily insured mini-prisons. Then I would arrive
at my job, work all day in a solitary office, listen to the constant bad news,
skip out of work at the appointed time, then fight the same battle going home,
in reverse, that I had so frustratingly fought on the way to work. This was
no way to "live" and I had little to show for it except a healthy
sailor's vocabulary and neck spasms. Things changed after Casey was killed.
Priorities sharpened and came into better focus.
Since I have been traveling all over the world for peace, I have discovered
how little a person can live on. I have a teeny-tiny aparment in Berkeley and
I carry my belongings from airplane to airplane in one suitcase and an obscenely
heavy shoulder bag (ask anyone that has had to shlep it for me) that contains
the computer I am writing this from and other essentials for a life on the run.
I don't have to worry about my stuff in my apartment, because I don't have that
much stuff there and it is replaceable anyway. Despite the personal attacks
against me and the exhausting travel and loneliness, I am a much happier, freer,
and less-stressed person.
To lose hope is so devastating and destructive that we follow the path of least
resistance, which has led us and leads us to this place in history where our
leaders are such destructive and devastating forces themselves. No one is asking
anyone to be a nomadic, practically monk-like person for peace; however, we
can all change a little something in our lives that can have an enormous impact
in the world. How about coming to Camp Casey in
The Camp Casey experience has given so many of us back our hope. Veterans who
fought in Vietnam and in Iraq said that coming to Camp Casey restored their
hopes of living a near normal life. Families who, like mine, tragically have
had a loved one killed in war found hope in the fact that so many Americans
cared about our sons and daughters and were willing to sacrifice something to
come out and show solidarity in our struggle to ask: "What Noble Cause?"
Many Americans who haven't had personal experience with loss had their hope
restored seeing that the naked Emperor was exposed and there are people working
for peace. The Camp Casey movement led us all (over 15,000 visitors to date
and thousands of supporters all over the world) to what Gandhi called "heart
unity" with our fellow human beings, who deserve enough, if not the comparatively
opulent lifestyle of most Americans.
It's time to join us to stop allowing our government to give those orders to
kill innocent Iraqis in the name of fighting a "global war of terror"
- which is just another name for "corporate colonialism" (honestly,
instead of patriotic emblems on their uniforms, our troops should have corporate
logos all over them, like NASCAR drivers. Tanks should have a big "Exxon"
symbol painted right on their sides, this would make more sense!). It's time
to look at our country's knack for arming and training dictators and terrorists
like Saddam and Osama and oppressing other countries for profit and demand that
this violent behavior stop.
When and only when we frown, protest, yes demand that our leaders quit committing
acts of violence on our heart family members and change our own personal wasteful
lifestyles, violence will stop and then we will have something to live for:
a hopeful future.
Like Martin Luther King Jr. said, we can't wait for our leaders to change their
beatitudes. They won't. It's time we make them live up to ours.
This article for peace and hope is dedicated to my little friend:
Jennifer Elizabeth Corral
October 19, 1994 to June 3, 2006
May she Rest in Peace
May her family find comfort and hope.
Jennifer passed away unexpectedly on June 3, 2006, in Children's Hospital in
Born October 19, 1994, in Vallejo, she was a lifelong resident of Vacaville.
She was a student at Browns Valley Elementary School, was student of the year,
and was also a writer for the school's newspaper and took an award for her interview
with Andy Sheehan regarding his brother, Casey Sheehan, killed in action in
Iraq. She was a lover of music and enjoyed playing the viola, was a great drawer
and loved to write.
Cindy Sheehan is a
co-founder of Gold Star
Families for Peace and the mother of Casey Sheehan,
who was killed in Iraq.
Voters for Peace is a joint
project of Gold
Star Families for Peace, Democracy Rising, Peace
Action, Code Pink,
United For Peace and Justice, and more, working to
bring the peace
movement together to think and act as voters this
election year. Please
join me and sign the Voters Pledge and spread the word
far and wide. Our
goal is to get 2 million voters to sign the pledge -
so we can go back
to these legislators and candidates and say "We will
no longer tolerate