To a drone-free 2015!

I got to spend about a month in Iraq with Kathy Kelly (and the rest of our delegation) before the US invasion on the Compassion Iraq Peacewalk. A few years later, a younger Joshua did this short video piece for my denomination as they were helping people navigate political engagement as Anabaptists. I’ve only seen Kathy once since, but we got to re-connect a bit. She and her work continue to shape me. She gets in the mix for peace whether it’s in Chicago, Iraq, or Afghanistan. Her warm smile and imaginative dissent make it hard to not want to be like her. 

Kathy is in the news again – this time not for being nominated for a prestigious award but for going to lock up [again]. Here’s a five minute video about how she is getting three months for bringing a loaf of bread to a Drone Command Center.

http://www.democracynow.org/embed/story/2014/12/29/peace_activist_kathy_kelly_heads_to

I’m still pumped up after 50 of us Pennsylvanians gathered to demonstrate and do some liturgical worship of the newborn Prince of Peace at the Horsham Air Guard Station last Saturday, the proposed future home of a new US Drone war Command Center. Like Sandra Strauss in her piece for Philly.com, many of us question the use of lethal drones. The statistics for drone deaths are hard to calculate, since many are done by the CIA and their stats include lies like counting all men of military age in strike zones as combatants.

One sobering estimate that should haunt Americans is that it takes killing 28 innocent brown people for drones to kill one suspected terrorist – and that without any trials. Most reports don’t include that these murder victims are not white – but I have still not heard of any white people getting killed by drone warfare.

What is the church now that we are a decade into a unmanned military state waging secret drone wars that have now stretched into Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, the Philippines, Libya, Mali, and Lebanon? A year ago, Obama said that 5yrs and 2,400 dead due to drone strikes caused him to wrestle with civilian causalities but it’s really about keeping American people safe. This animation called Out of Sight, Out of Mind show the insanity and a few stories of drone strikes in Pakistan.

Blew shared her moving spoken word piece at the demonstration for peace, here is an excerpt [from the perspective of a mother living in a strike zone]…

We call them “Bangadan”..buzzing of a bee…They hover. All day. Louder at night. No war declared but you bomb my people…I hold my babies tight.

And hope we will see tomorrow together..I hear the wailing of a mother, my neighbor lost their baby before their eyes…All dust. No warning.Wailing all day. Louder at night.Tears find their home on my cheek.Praying for my children, these precious souls that birthed from my womb..”

My prayer today is for a drone-free 2015. Could the Church in the States add one more item to our New Year’s Resolution? Do we have it in our collective heart to stop something that so many know little about? Let’s get loud and put an end to this heinous policy of drone warfare.

Have a good stint, Kathy. Thanks for leading the way.

Immigration/Ethnicity blog #17

The past two class sessions got me thinking about changing roles of women particularly recent movements in Afghanistan and over the past 60yrs in the US. The Elizabeth Rubin article centers around the story of Abada, an Afghanistani woman who was caught up in a nightmare marriage filled with addiction over the backdrop of the climax and fall of the misogynistic Taliban.  Her new found yet tenuous relief from poverty, at least,  is reliant on and perhaps largely owed to a new career-acting on the first Afghan soap opera Raz Ha ye Een Khana, or the Secrets of this House (part 1 of 4 “making of” videos here).

There is much to be said about the power of television and global popularity of the soap opera, however this is a short post so I’ll save it for later.

We explored some of the changing roles of women in the US in class this week, drawing many comparisons of data now to that of 1950.  As the average age a woman gets married increases (22 in 1959 according to Dr. Allen and 25 now), the likelihood of her economic independence also rises.  There is often more opportunity for education, career development, and social networking that provide more options if a situation arouse where a woman with several dependents must rely on her income alone.

Abada was married at 13 and got her high school and college work done without her husband’s consent or knowledge.  She makes a decent living, while her role on the show lasts, while still teaching and tutoring outside of filming.  Her story of overcoming such overwhelming odds to not only survive but thrive is inspiring but also not the norm.  There are still many obstacles to overcome on a daily basis such as her daughter’s liver problem,  her husband’s antics, family backlash (3 of her 4 brothers have disowned her), and economic uncertainty.  The story of Abada, like other women experiencing new opportunities in Afghanistan and around the world, is far from complete.  Change towards freedom is never an easy path, but I’m encouraged she is trying.

Ethnicity/Immigration blog #6

Happiness & Freedom vs. Imagination & Responsibility

(spoiler alert for the film Dirty, Pretty things that we had to watch in class).

I was in full agreement with Dr. Allen when he talked about the antagonist in Dirty Pretty Things, Señor Juan aka Sneaky, being the image of capitalism.  The most telling moment of this is when Señor Juan is trying to get Okwe to join his shady business dealings as he offers…
“You give me your kidney; I give you a new identity.  I sell the kidney for ten grand, so I’m happy.  The person who needs the kidney gets cured.  So, he’s happy. The person who sold his kidney gets to stay in this beautiful country, so he’s happy.  My whole business is based on happiness.”

This lack of imagination and responsibility is at the center of what keeps people perpetuating broken systems of economy, government, poverty, and violence.  This post by Ian Hanson captures a brilliant moment in Haruki Marukami’s Kafka on the Shore when one of the characters is musing about Adolf Eichmann. This Nazi mathematician later defended his lack of moral responsibility for his work not of not ethnic cleansing and enslavement but mathematical efficiency.  Perhaps that is because he lacked the imagination.

One hegemonic notion in the US is that “our whole business” is based on freedom.  The formation of the country, the foreign policy, and economy are based on freedom.  If you don’t like it, you must not like freedom.

How many times in your life have you heard a politician sound similar to Señor Juan,  spouting off about freedom while we spend a trillion  dollars on wars in Afghanistan and Iraq?  When we talk about building a wall across the Mexico-US border?   When we try to move on after centuries of genocide and denial of reparations for the enslavement of Africans and their decedents?

I felt happy at the end of Dirty, Pretty Things because I was surprised by the poetic justice  for the villain and outright victory for the heroes.  I have a similar skepticism for the world we live in.  I carry it along with my hope to be surprised.

Have you forgotten?

Have you forgotten? by Darryl Worley.  I was singing this to some friends the other day and they didn’t believe me that it was a real song, or that it was a #1 hit in 2003.

official video here.

It feels almost indulgent to listen to it.  So rich with the ideology that we are so surrounded by that even people in the resistance don’t often know how to respond.  Here’s the first verse and chorus…

I hear people sayin’. We Don’t need this war.
I say there’s some things worth fightin’ for.
What about our freedom, and this piece of ground?
We didn’t get to keep ’em by backin’ down.
They say we don’t realize the mess we’re gettin’ in
Before you start preachin’ let me ask you this my friend.

if I were reading this for the first time I would have naturally assumed that it was written by Zulu in South Africa or Lakotah in the North American midwest.  So fighting in Afghanistan is actually about fighting for Tennessee?  If anyone questions us about the long-term ramifications about the proposed perpetual pre-emptive war in response to 911 we should then reply with the following?

Chorus
Have you forgotten, how it felt that day?
To see your homeland under fire
And her people blown away
Have you forgotten, when those towers fell
We had neighbors still inside goin through a livin hell
And you say we shouldn’t worry bout Bin Laden
Have you forgotten?

Wow.  Rest of lyrics here.  Wow.