What if you would like to partake in some everday activism with a Halloween twist?

Well, there is pumpkin activism, of course. Here is my contribution:

PUMPKIN ACTIVISM!

PUMPKIN ACTIVISM!

I would love to see a No on Prop 4 with no wire hangers image… This was beyond my carving skill. (For more pumpkin activism, see Harriet’s Daughter’s post with the link to yeswecarve.com here.)

And, there is all sorts of costume activism — I will be out as Rosie the Riveter today, carrying a sign that reads “We Can Do It! Vote NO on 8!”

I hope those of you who celebrate Halloween are finding fun, activist ways to spend the day. Happy Halloween everyone!

What if we woke up and smelled the war? (Bodies of War part 5)

The US military has been falling short of its recruiting goals by huge margins. This shortage is undoubtedly due to the rising opposition to the current war from soldiers and military families specifically, and the US public more generally, as well as to the fact casualties continue to rise despite the promise long ago that this war would be a “cakewalk.”  Of course, this news is  not covered by the mainstream media.  Nor does the MSM cover the rising number of conscientious objectors.

Thus, recruiters have had to ramp up their tactics. This includes visiting elementary schools to sell the war message, putting firing ranges on public high school campuses, and delivering personal calls to likely candidates-who, due to the wealth/race inequality of the US, are often young people of color. As the analysis of Fernando Suarez del Solar reveals, the recruitment and subsequent death of his young son are not an aberration, but part of recruitment tactics aimed at securing young bodies of color to enlist as war fodder.

Related to expanding military recruitment initiatives are the stories and images the MSM sell to the public so that our era of infinite war can continue.  The administration delivers such messages via its mass media mouthpiece, selling its war machine to the US populace by disembodying the war on the one hand and championing ‘macho’ American power on the other. For this infinite war and the accompanying corporatization, militarization, and hypermasculinization it engenders to successfully continue, we need only continue to believe that what the mainstream media offers us as ‘news’ and to buy into the disembodying rhetoric of war that so successfully numbs us to the real human costs.

Should we decide to end this war, on the other hand, we need to start paying attention, to seek out real news in those places it is still being published, and to widely and loudly voice our dissent.  We need to pay attention to the human bodies killed, injured, raped, made homeless and country-less by this war.  We need to pay attention to the ways the MSM attempts to divert us from caring about putting an end to this unjust war. As war theorist Cynthia Enloe reminds us, “Inattention is a political act.”  As such, we must ask ourselves: do we want to continue on our current trend of criminal inattention, or do we want to wake up and smell the war?

If you choose to wake up, here are a few useful authors and cites with which to (further) educate yourself about this criminal US war:

Authors and activists:

Websites and blogs:

These are just a few — please add your suggestions in comments if you wish! And, have a peaceful, peace building weekend!

What if the United States was not wrapped in camouflage? (Bodies of War part 3)

Along with the abstract, disembodied, and dehumanized language of war used by the military, the media, and the administration, we in the US are given comforting ‘bedtime stories’ by our MSM that attempt to lull us off to sleep with images of America as the knight in shining armor poised to save the innocent and oppressed maidens of Afghanistan or battle the evil villains of ‘terrorism.’ Part of this narrative relies on a pro-military media and culture that envisions military might as necessary.

As feminist theorist Cynthia Enloe reveals, contemporary American culture is one of pervasive militarization. From the Hummers that now rule our roads, to the camouflage attire available for all ages at everywhere from Target to Neiman Marcus, to the endless yellow ribbons and ‘support our troops’ bumper decorations that bedeck vehicles of all sizes and shapes, militarized images and commodities are everywhere.

However, the militarization of our culture does not seem to be accompanied by awareness, let alone an analysis, of what this pervasive militarism entails. Teenagers in camouflage t-shirts or suburbanites driving Hummers are not cognizant – nor are they promoted to be – of the realities of militarization around the globe, let alone the contemporary war in Iraq. As a case in point, in a recent survey in a San Diego paper that queried people if they were more worried about rising gas prices or the war, one person admitted they tend to forget a war is even happening while another noted that gas prices were more concerning as “I drive a big truck.”[1] What goes unspoken in these comments is the unblinking belief that the massive loss of life as well as continuing destruction of the infrastructure, culture, and value system of various Middle Eastern countries brought about by the war is on par with what we have to pay at the pump. And, as the comment above notes, trading in that ‘big truck’ is not worth an Iraqi life, let alone an end to war.

Further, that the paper could in good conscience and without public outrage even ask such a question reveals a very worrying amnesiac thought pattern in the contemporary US. The media, this newspaper being an example, does not foreground the war, how it is linked to oil interests, and how all this is linked to the profit driven corporatization of the globe – rather, it asks facile questions about the everyday cost of gas.

This outright failure of the media to address the excessive and continually rising militarization of US culture is criminal, as is its excessively sparse coverage of the war. Other than brief mentions of the death toll, or of superficial stories characterizing Iraqi’s as a crazy, violent people who insist on insurgency, civil war, and self-flagellation, the media does little to incite the American public to be concerned about the war, let alone analyze its root causes and motives. This is, of course, because the media is in the back pocket of those who benefit from militarization – our corporate, conservative, and religious right leaders who see the world as an oyster they can squeeze profit out of right until ‘end time.’

The mainstream media has become a huge propaganda machine, keeping Americans fearful, dumb, and shopping. It prompts them to be frightened of ‘terrorist attacks’ and be in a tizzy over ‘homeland security’ in order to allow the administration to enact neo-conservative domestic policies while simultaneously urging them to forget about the realities of the war we are waging and the extreme bodily, environmental, and monetary costs of our growing war machine. In fact, the sedatives offered by the media are so powerful that many fail to realize what the Hummers populating are streets represent-a militarization so ubiquitous that camouflage has become the new black, that driving a tank has become as common as sliced bread. Yes, the peace sign has made a comeback and adorns t-shirts, mailbags, and bumper-stickers as well-but, unfortunately, it is not backed by the same might (or money) of camouflage-there is no peace army, at least not one that can stay out of jail long enough to foment revolution or garner enough media attention to wake up a sleeping, camouflage wearing populace.


[1] Poway News Chieftan, May 18, 2006

What if we asked what we could do for other humans rather than focusing on what other humans can do for us?

Cindy Sheehan’s new proposal for the twentieth century, “Ask not what humanity can do for you, but what you can do for humanity” has got me thinking. What if we, as humans, focused on how we can help other humans, how we can collectively move everyone up the proverbial ladder, rather than how we can better our own individual lives via the new house, car, vacation, ipod… Better yet, what if we gave up the ladder paradigm and re-envisioned society not hierarchically but holistically?

In her piece, Sheehan critiques what she calls “USA have to War, Inc,” noting that the so-called “peace candidate,” Barak Obama, recently opined “I will call on a new generation of Americans to join our military, and complete the effort to increase our ground forces by 65,000 soldiers and 27,000 Marines.” Sheehan, to counter this argument, argues as follows:

“Instead of increasing the Pentagon’s already bloated budget, a true peace candidate would be calling for immediate withdrawal of forces from these countries so our military can begin the healing processes that need to occur to rejuvenate our broken military so we can have a true defense force and not an imperialistic ready response team to be on constant alert to storm any country at the whim of the emperor to spread corporate imperialism (what politicians call: Democracy) at the end of an M-16 or bombs bursting in air.”

If our military were, as Sheehan calls it, a “defense force” rather than an “imperialistic ready response team,” it could feasibly focus on helping humanity rather than on waging war in order to amass more power and wealth for the USofA. Such possibilities have presented themselves most recently here in California with the spate of fires. With disasters such as these, as with flooding, hurricanes, earthquakes, epidemics, etc, the military (if it were available as a national defense force rather than being spread thin across the globe fighting to spread imperialism) could help defend people’s lives, homes, and livelihoods.

Last Tuesday, July 1, Governor Schwarzenegger ordered the California National Guard to provide ground support to aid in fighting the California fires. According to The Environment News Service, “they are mobilizing at least 200 soldiers to fulfill this mission.” 200? That seems like a small number in comparison to the call to increase the ground forces of the army and marines by 92,000. So, despite all the lip service paid to a big military as necessary for reasons of “national defense,” when areas of the country actually need defending, the military is by and large unavailable due to being otherwise occupied in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. The same was true during and after Hurricane Katrina. Moreover, these so called “natural disasters” are at least partly the result of failing to fund our infrastructure and make needed repairs to levees, to fortify fire departments with the needed equipment, etc. Rather than spending money on keeping things running smoothly to the benefit of all humanity (you know, on things like roads, schools, social services) we funnel trillions to a fictitious “war on terror.”

This perpetual war goes against not only Sheehan’s directive to focus on helping humanity, but also Kennedy’s earlier call to “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” As Sheehan points out, this proclamation was followed by the lesser-known statement, “The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life.” Unfortunately, as humans we have chosen to abolish human life rather than to abolish human poverty. Moreover, by choosing the latter, we are exacerbating the former.

When I think about the call to focus on what we can do for humanity, I am reminded of going camping at the beach the other night. Seems that somehow camping brings out the best in people. They offer flashlights or give batteries to others who need them, share water/ice/food and other necessities with fellow campers, offer to help putting up tents, lend a hand collecting firewood, etc. And, my favorite, the campfire serves as a communal place of laughter, storytelling, and shared warmth. For those who forgot or run out of supplies during S’more-fest, others offer up their marshmallows or roasting sticks, and flames illuminate the faces of happy, marshmallow covered smiles deep into the night. Perhaps it is because when you are camping supplies are limited and the benefits of sharing are put into stark relief. The same limitation of supplies is true, of course, in every day life. There is only so much earth to go around. However, many forget the benefits of sharing the planet and all its wonder as they go about their daily lives. When you live here, in the heart of empire, and you are able to turn on lights with the flick of a switch, flush your toilet, go to your sink for running water, it is too easy to forget how many people do not have electricity, plumping, or clean water privilege.

If, as when camping, we were put in close proximity with other humans and prompted to realize their lack of supplies, we might be willing to share our plenty. Yet, once cocooned back in our private homes or big honking SUVs, we live lives sequestered from the needs of others. Sadly, we too often forget that we should focus on what we can do for other humans. So, how about those of you reading try this experiment: for today, focus on how you can help the other humans you come into contact with. Perhaps it might be a small act, like offering to take an elderly neighbor to the grocery store, or perhaps it might be larger, like purchasing a tank of gas for someone who has been priced out by big oil. Perhaps it might be pointing out the racism of a particular advertisement or the sexism of a co-worker. Perhaps it might be writing a letter to the editor of your local paper or sending an email to a senator. Perhaps it might be being kind to a child or babysitting for a mom who needs a much needed break.

By raising each other up in ways both small and large, we could work towards a paradigm of shared responsibility as well as shared pleasures. So how about today, we ask not what others can do for us, but what we can do for others? Heck, it just might catch on and, before we know it, Cheney will be asking how he can use his trillions to help the world rather than stashing it in his Halliburton pocket. Or, George W. Bush will donate his oil fortunes to the children of Iraq and Afghanistan and join the Save Darfur movement after retiring from his stolen terms in office. Maybe Schwarzenegger will give up his Hummers and use his muscle to end wealth inequality. One can dream, one can dream…

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