What a good thing that I didn’t sink into this past Friday eve’s peaceful, r&r mode to “chill.” Instead, abandoning the chance to settle into my favorite chair with a book and glass of cool sangria in hand, I “hele’d on down” to the Kapaa Public Library meeting room. I was drawn to hear retired Col. Ann Wright speak on global politics and peace-building missions. Again — I’m so glad I did — and my thanks to the Kauai Alliance for Peace and Social Justice sponsoring organization.
This citizen was not the only one to have this program take precedence over any other plan. The meeting room was already packed when I arrived. It’s not every day one can attend such a comprehensive talk — a true, live “podcast.”
There was no pink pussy hat to decry. Her straight talk was impressive. It’s not often that a person of rank such as Wright achieved within the U.S. Army warns that signing up to join is something that should be researched and considered very carefully. One young person’s question about enlisting prompted Wright to say what she tells all enthusiastic potential recruits: think about killing and being killed, especially at this time. She also revealed the shocking statistics that one of every three service women is raped by someone in their company.
Wright was quick to inform that, for herself, her career had been a good choice. But there was a cost: although she was “one of the lucky ones,” she still underwent sexual harassment every single day.
The presentation carried us along to Iran, where Wright was one of 28 women who went in February as private ambassadors to Iran. The purpose was to meet people and their American-educated foreign minister in a show of solidarity.
She brushed in how Persian culture is ancient, the art and architecture so fine. Wright visibly blanched when talking of how innocent people would be killed and maimed, how the antiquities of Tehran and beyond might be lost, as were those of Iraq, if our current administration “found an excuse to jump in to attack.” Those relatively few of Iran’s approximately 80 million people that the American women’s delegation met, she said, were dejected about the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear-arms treaty Iran had signed. Backing down as they did, and now, with more sanctions in place, they expressed their frustration at “being put in a corner by the U.S.,” she said.
Her talk moved on, similarly, through North Korea, with its 25 million people. Wright feels that what we hear is but a fraction of the real news of this country’s fear of U.S. attack and the forward economic and social movement announced annually by the country’s Swiss-educated leader. She passed around a photo booklet entitled “2015 — Women Cross the DMZ,” the project of a N. Korean born woman desirous of peace between our countries.
Likewise, Wright touched on Cuba (and problems in Venezuela); how we (the U.S.) continue “to bring other governments to their knees;” the victimization of Pacific Islanders affected by nuclear testing; the ongoing war activities occurring at the U.S. Navy Pacific Missile Range Facility at Barking Sands; the severity of U.S. border problems she recently witnessed with desperate people seeking safe harbor; and individuals in leadership she views as a “snake in the grass” regarding U.S. foreign policy — this from a respected peace activist who freely tells of her “arrests” in the Senate many times for speaking out against appointments and decisions she and her Veterans for Peace group deem as going against the grain of peace and justice, if not the democratic principle.
No doubt peace has been on your mind with countless others around the world this past week, on the June 6 anniversary of World War II’s Battle of Normandy. This past Thursday’s The Garden Island carried a sobering front page feature on D-Day of that compelling Normandy beach landing, the “24 hours that changed the world.” As we know, with that turn in World War II, the Allied troops would then advance and successfully halt the storm of Nazi aggression, occupation and control. According to the Associated Press writers John Leicester and Raf Casert, “that single day cost the lives of 4,414 Allied troops, 2,501 of them Americans. More than 5,000 were injured. On the German side, several thousand were killed or wounded.”
The terrible cost of lost and altered, if not ruined, lives, was paid toward the final surrender and peace that came to the European front in May 1945. Some historians believe Adolf Hitler’s master plan included the eventual overtake of the American continent. However, the result of that last rush of the Allied troops to control as much German territory as possible in the final battles resulted in a division in Europe: the decades-long face-off between the west and the Soviet-controlled east. Aptly named the Cold War, it was still war, “cold” as it was deemed to be. We inherited the results of it to this day — disharmony, disunity, and outbursts of life-taking aggression.
The scary part is that we American citizens can’t honestly wear white hats, that our honor and integrity have been blotched to the point where other nations, as Wright said in her talk, think of us as “capital ‘I’ Imperialists.” Scary.
My husband had loaded the peace pole we are making to erect in our garden into the Camry before I left because I was hoping to invite the honorable speaker to sign and/or draw a symbol on the smooth length of driftwood to “set” with woodburning. But this peace-keeping lady activist was besieged with audience who wished to meet and greet her personally after the two-hour program, so I let that idea go. However, her words and actions remain with me.
It’s not enough to play peaceful action into our everyday lives in our personal circles. It’s not enough to pen, present and publish poems and articles and books on peace themes. It is, as Wright says, about “people-to-people” action, about traveling to meet supposed “enemies” and reveal our desire for peace, face to face. For a chance to travel to Tehran for just such purpose this fall at an “unbeatable price,” check out Veterans for Peace, CODEPINK: Women For Peace.
Dawn Fraser Kawahara, resident author and poet, has focused her supportive interests within the Kauai community since the early 1980s. She and her husband, a retired biology teacher, live in Wailua Homesteads and share a passion for books and travel. Kawahara’s books are available through Amazon and other outlets. For information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.