Sunday, July 11, 2010

Peace through play

This weekend, members of Iraq Veterans Against the War organized and held their first independent convention since their founding in 2004, and they chose Austin as their host city. Lucky for us! Our CodePink group provided the childcare for the convention, and I enjoyed the opportunity to be part of the convention in this way.

I spent most of my time at the convention with the children. We did free play, with a sort of "Adventure Playground" approach, where the children had basic materials with which to build and create things of their choosing. The convention was held at Huston-Tillotson University, and we had a standard classroom as the childcare room -- bare linoleum floor covered with about 20 heavy student chair/desks. Provided with sheets, blankets, paper, yarn, tape, clothespins, markers, paper blocks, books and a few other basic materials, the kids made use of the desks to create an inviting "fort" area that expanded throughout the weekend and led to various other projects they dreamed up. As always, with some basic adult guidance and support, kids will weave a world of marvelous invention.

Perhaps this is the underlying philosophy that leads me to reject militarism, occupation and war. If people have their basic needs met -- adequate and healthy food, water, health care, creative outlets -- then, generally, they (we) will thrive. Most people know what is best for themselves and will grow in healthy ways if given half a chance. Human powers of creation and invention are great. Why channel any of our inventive resources into such hugely destructive things as predator drones, cluster bombs, landmines, IEDs, automatic rifles?

In addition to the time with the children, the weekend was filled, for me, with meaningful, if brief, encounters with several of the veterans and invited guests to the convention, all of whom seemed to reinforce this essential message. As longtime friend, nonviolent activist, author and teacher, Kathy Kelly, said during her panel presentation, "If you want to counter terror, build justice." Justice begins with the building blocks of simple, elemental conditions that children need to grow and prosper.

Photos: IVAW member, Joe Wheeler and his daughters, Lily and Ivy (with one of the paper outfits she designed)

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