Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Setting the Terms With Everyone Around Us

by Emma Kaplan
posted at worldcantwait.org

Throughout the last two years, the more that is exposed about the cruelty of the Bush program, the more sharply it rests on those of conscience to speak the truth at the top of our lungs. The times of being polite or speaking in reasoned tones to those around us who are not acting was over yesterday. If we don't do this, we don't stand a chance. Sometimes this can mean ruining family dinners and risking friendships. Sometimes this can mean being unpopular or losing a job. For me, the contradiction of wanting to be polite and wanting to change things politically became polarized in about five minutes. As people have probably heard, down in Tacoma, WA, World Can't Wait – Drive Out The Bush Regime, along with other groups, shut down a military recruiting center. The scene was very heated. Pro-war fascists stood waving their flags, yelling at us and calling us terrorists. We held graphic pictures of the truth, of wounded children and Iraqi parents holding the bodies of their dead babies killed by U.S. military forces.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a woman in our group holding up a picture and talking to a guy who looked familiar to me. I walked up to them. She said, "Don't talk to that guy. He is totally for the war."

But I went up to him as I had immediately recognized him as Andy. We went to high school together and traveled in some of the same circles. When we knew each other we never talked politics or, honestly, about anything really of any substance.

I asked him what he thought about the people protesting the recruiting center. He said, "Well, I respect people's right to protest but we don't need to be getting down on the military. I was over in Iraq. People should blame the government. We don't need people spitting on us or calling us baby killers."

I said, "Look, we don't believe in name calling or spitting on people. But let me ask you, did you guys kill any babies?"

He said, "Well yeah, but we were just following orders. We had to do what we were told. It’s part of the job." This took me aback and my stomach dropped. How could somebody I know actually be a part of mass murder? How could somebody I know not even take responsibility for putting a stop to this?

I said, "You are telling me that you were a part of killing people and somehow that is justified because you were just following orders? I'm sorry man, but I think that is kinda bullshit. Come on, man, I know you know how horrific this war is. I mean, we have all seen the pictures, Fallujah, Guantánamo, denying medical aid, bombing hospitals. Can you understand why people wouldn't want to support that? I mean do you look at the Nazis who committed atrocities against the Jewish people as just following orders and so it was OK?”

He said, “No, I guess not. Iraq is a huge mess right now. We shouldn't even be there. But it’s not up to us, it’s really up to the government. That’s who sent us over there."

I said, "What would it mean if hundreds of thousands of people in the military refused to carry out these crimes anymore? You should watch “Sir, No Sir” because it talks about how when people create a situation where people don't go along with this anymore, they can really change things. Have you heard of Ehren Watada? He is a lieutenant in the military who recently refused to fight. More and more people are going AWOL. There was a Winter Soldier event in D.C. where Iraq veterans testified to committing war crimes and crimes against humanity. You need to check it out and you need to get with this. I support those people, the ones that resist. I can't support people who go along with this."

I gave him a flier about Winter Soldier. He asked where he could find the testimony. I pointed to the website. When I turned around he was still reading it pretty intensely. Our conversation was very non-antagonistic, no raised voices, no yelling. He was very much thinking about what he said and what I said.

I don't know if he will become an activist. I don't know if he will speak out against this war.

I do know that if we don't have these conversations that challenge people's "conventional wisdom" we are by default capitulating to the terms that have been set by this illegal monstrous Bush Regime and the complicit Democratic Party. The world, Iraqi families, and even the people carrying out these crimes, need much more from us and in many ways are counting on us, whether they know it or not. If veterans come home, and, on some level they know what they did is fucked up, and they have people patting them on the back saying "We support the troops" we are not going to give them a chance to become part of a movement that can truly bring all of this to a halt and ultimately bring them forward as emancipators of humanity, capable of bringing into being a far better world. This is what a movement of resistance needs and this is what we must still fight for as the character of our movement.

Emma Kaplan is a young organizer with World Can’t Wait, Seattle chapter.

No comments: