Yesterday evening, 6 of us with CodePink Austin held an hour vigil along the Cesar Chavez side of City Hall Plaza, marking the sad passing of the 1,000 mark in the number of US OEF troop deaths, mostly in Afghanistan. The figure doesn't reflect the number of troops who have died as a result of suicide. The number of Afghan civilians killed since October 2001 is an unknown number probably greater than 28,000.
As we stood with our signs, the flag-draped coffins, civilian shoes and pair of combat boots, motorists passed us from 3 directions. Most seemed to look on without much expression. Some honked. I noticed only two give us the thumbs-down.
It's a strange and sad feeling to mark a certain number of deaths when every human life is of equal value, soldier and civilian. When will this end?
While we were there, a reporter and photographer from The Daily Texan came by to talk with us and take pictures. See their story in today's issue.
A word about local food. I love shopping at farmers markets and my food co-op just down the street, eating foods grown or made as close to home as possible. We're fortunate to be able to do so. But, even better, when we can, is growing some of our own edibles right outside our front and back doors.
Last fall, I planted three tiny beds with some salad greens: kale, romaine and oakleaf lettuces, cilantro, arugula, spinach and a few other varieties. Thanks to our winter rains, the beds have produced enough for a salad a day for a household of two. And, even the hard freezes we've had this winter have not damaged the plants.
Let me stress that these are just a few square feet worth of greens, and they require practically no tending through the winter. There have been almost no problem bugs (possibly one residual benefit of the prolonged drought ahead of the rains). The front yard bed gets good winter sun, and the plants have already produced yellow flowering seedheads about 3 feet high that are attracting many bees. The backyard beds are shaded part of the day, so the plants have grown more slowly, but that has been good for us, as they grow just fast enough for snipping leaves each day without going to seed as quickly.
My favorite salad is composed of the mix of greens with cut apples (Pink Ladies are especially good), shredded carrots, toasted sunflower seeds and our favorite salad dressing: SASS garlic-sesame. Now, it's true, the apples, carrots and sunflower seeds all must come quite a distance to land in our food co-op. We've gone only part of the way toward being part of the solution. But, it is rewarding to use the small amount of garden space we have to produce at least some of our own herbs and vegetables most of the year in our temperate climate. When the world's problems seem so large, even just a few minutes spent in the garden help to restore my faith in the power of creation.
Per the previous post, seven of us congregated on SoCo on the afternoon before Valentine's Day to distribute fliers and "Make Out Not War" stickers to folks on the sidewalks. The fliers contained the info below, stressing the ways that family relationships are hurt by war and military life, and asking people to phone their Congresspersons to weigh in on misplaced budget priorities.
People were fairly receptive to the fliers and stickers, and there were lots of smiles in response to our entourage. When we stood in one place and handed out the fliers, I noticed that people seemed more reluctant to take them than when we strolled along and passed them out as folks passed us. Some people were eager to see the info and wanted to have their photos taken with us (especially with Heidi in her Valentine costume!). A couple of my favorites were the child above and a man who asked us to put a sticker on the back of his wheelchair.
We distributed 400 fliers and about 500 of the stickers.
Special thanks to Hart with IVAW for joining us!
Here's the flier content:
• Military divorce rates are on the rise. The divorce rate in the armed forces edged up again in 2009 despite many programs to help struggling couples. (Source: http://www.wivb.com/dpp/military/Military-divorce-rate-edges-higher1259359250732) • Military families and partners are at high risk for domestic violence. In one study, it was determined that the military rate of domestic violence was three times higher than civilian rates. (Source: http://www.civicresearchinstitute.com/dvr_military.pdf) • Prolonged deployments are associated with increased rates of depression among U.S. Army spouses. Studies show that many soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer mental health problems. This new study shows that long and multiple deployments also take a toll on the families. (Source: http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/full/362/2/101 • The rate of child maltreatment in families of enlisted soldiers increased by 42 percent when military spouses were off at war. The child maltreatment rate in military families doubled after October 2002, while civilian rates remained the same. (Source: http://pn.psychiatryonline.org/content/42/17/8.1.full) The Obama administration plans to ask Congress for an additional $33 billion to fight unpopular wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, on top of a record request for $708 billion for the Defense Department for 2011. At a time of high unemployment, when 12% of Americans rely on food banks due to hunger, spending so much to fund war is tragic. PLEASE call your congressperson to say: Freeze Pentagon spending and support real family values by funding job creation, health care and education. Congressional switchboard: 202-224-3121
photos by makingpeace (the sign, "Peace &" read "JOY" on the other side)
This Saturday, Feb. 13, some of us Austin CodePinkers plan to be out on South Congress Avenue to pass out fliers and stickers to folks out shopping for their sweethearts. Our message is serious, although tempered with some humor. The pink stickers read, "Make Out, Not War." The fliers, which contain the graphic above, list a number of ways that deployments are hazardous to the health of military couples and families.
Valentine's Day is one of my favorite days of the year. But, it's a day with a lot of pressure and strain for many couples and families who are not only separated because of war, but face increased emotional and financial hardship because of combat-related PTSD. Wars come home in many ways.
The mainstream press in the US has been placing greater emphasis lately on the need for better mental health care for veterans and military family members. This coverage has been helpful, I think, and has led to an increase in resources for military families. But, as long as soldiers continue to face long, multiple deployments, the problems continue. The only real cure for combat-related PTSD is to stop sending soldiers into combat in the first place.
The original "War is Not Healthy for Children and Other Living Things" design that I've riffed on above was conceived in the 1960's and promoted by the group, Another Mother for Peace. I have a pendant with the graphic on the front, and on the back is engraved, "Another Mother for Peace, Beverly Hills, CA, 1968." The pendant was given to me about 15 years ago by my mother who was, in the 1960's, and is, at age 84, still active in peace and justice efforts in my Wisconsin hometown. I remember my mother wearing the pendant when I was young, and I pondered the message. Why would adults wage war if it was so unhealthy that it actually killed children? Wouldn't they decide, for that reason alone, that war was completely unacceptable?
When my mother passed the pendant along to me, I began wearing it almost every day. It has drawn a lot of comments. Most people my age remember the slogan and design. "Oh, I used to have a poster of that." Or a pin, or a patch on their jeans. The design has made a reappearance in recent years, mostly because the message is still true. In fact, that is the most frequent comment I get, even from people who approve of some wars: "It's true." When will the consequences of war be considered so costly for children and other living things that every alternative will be pursued by adults in the world? I would have thought we'd have reached that point long before now.
I am co-coordinator of Sustainable Options for Youth (Nonmilitary Options for Youth) in Austin, Texas. The Sustainable Options for Youth blog describes activities of SOY in the schools and includes information about other work like ours around the country. Wage peace!