Written by Mike Saltz, posted on various independent media sites
I am not an American. I'm a human being. The concept of "American" is constructed in the minds of people, but the reality of life is there for all to see. The misguided label of "naivety" directed at those that oppose war on Iraqi people is surpassed by the ignorance of those that narrow-mindedly see "us" as superior to "them". Beneath the rhetoric of liberating the Iraqi people is overt racism, not carefully hidden. Some Americans allow the government to whip up this hysteria to divert attention from the field of slaughter that will occur in Iraq.
There is a sign we often see at pro-peace demonstrations nowadays. It's the picture of a young Iraqi girl, a symbol of hundreds of thousands of children there that have died as a direct result of the US sanctions. Thousands more people have died because of bombing. Ten thousand American troops have died because of the Gulf War Syndrome. And, for what? For a world and a country that is even more unstable than the year we "liberated" Kuwait? For a world that is massively polarized between those that have and those that have-not? We shut our eyes to the reality through our incessant fear of terrorism.
As with every war, the forces destruction label us as "unpatriotic". We must laugh at such statements and continue with our struggle. For me personally, if patriotism means unquestionable support for the US administration, then I am completely unpatriotic. If it means supporting the indefinite detention of innocent Arab and Muslim people, unknown in number, then I am also unpatriotic there too. And, if it means supporting a war machine that will slaughter thousands of innocent people-- men, women, and children, then I say, hell yeah I'm unpatriotic.
To me, patriotism means to see yourself connected to all living beings on the planet. I do not understand how even after 9/11, some of our fellow brothers and sisters in the US cannot empathize with the deaths of thousands of innocent people in other countries. Iranians, considered part of the "axis of evil", turned out in the thousands after the 9/11 attack to express support for Americans. Yet, when thousands die elsewhere some people cheer and laugh as though it were a comedy sitcom. As though, the explosions brought to you by the military via CNN was a video game. But, it is real blood, real tears.
Millions of people protested for peace today around the world. In the US alone, 200,000 marched in Washington, DC (although the media claims only 30,000) and tens of thousands in cities around the country. Here in Orange County, hundreds turned out in Yorba Linda to march for peace. It was probably the largest protest ever in Richard Nixon's hometown. The majority of the response from Yorba Lindans was actually positive--it amazed us how many honks of support came from every walk of life. Never have I seen that many peaceniks in Mercedes. Blew my mind.
Except for one off duty LAPD officer that attacked a protester, people showed their support for us. It's certainly the case that Bush's war on Iraq does not have the support that is claimed. People are scared, of course, and sometimes quick to accept Bush's justification for war. September 11 is still etched strongly in our psyche and anything can be used to drum up fear once again. I have hope though that people will wake up and be courageous. For every person that comes out to march against war there must be thousands that are unable, or afraid, or intimidated to openly speak their minds. Yorba Linda is a great example...I grew up in that town and it's not a place that a dissenter would feel comfortable expressing their opinion.
Nevertheless, we must speak out. It may seem inevitable that we are headed for war, but it is critical for us to try and stop it. I have heard it say that even if we should be given the chance to speak out now that we should support the war once it starts. This is completely wrong...dangerously so. We should support the poor that fight it, but we must oppose Bush every single day. He is dangerous, he is a world menace. He will do whatever he thinks he can get away with--take away our constitutional rights, create a dictatorship. But, he must understand that we see behind his mask.
I can tell you what my dream would be to see. Bush impeached and put on trial. All of the billions that are diverted toward undue military aggression put toward human and social welfare in the United States. All of the money that's earmarked for stationing our troops in other countries funneled to those that are need around the world because of easily treated diseases and AIDS. I want to see a world where supposedly the most intelligent species on Earth can come up with more creative solutions than slaughtering innocent people (Bush can be creative with North Korea but not with Iraq?). I want to see a world in which wealth is not in the hands of 500 Americans, but in the hands of the entire world. My hope is not an unrealistic one. It is one that is simply disregarded by those that hold power and defended by those that are unlucky enough to believe that they have a stake in it.
The vision we have is much different from theirs. Their vision does not have a light at the end of the tunnel. All the President sees is dollar signs. If nothing else, he could consider the lives of Iraqi children. If he even considered their lives he would try every alternative possible. But, no other alternative has been offered by this man. I can't relate to a monster like this and I doubt he can relate to me. If Bush met me, he'd think I'm too soft, that I think too much and consider the consequences too deliberately. But, this is because I feel what it is to be human. I hope above all else that someday he will too. In the meantime, keep fighting for justice and peace because we have no choice. Peace is not an alternative, it's the only answer if we are to survive another day.