Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Blogging for Peace

By the time we got to woodstock
We were half a million strong
And everywhere there was song and celebration
And I dreamed I saw the bombers
Riding shotgun in the sky
And they were turning into butterflies
Above our nation

I've been working for peace for as long as I can remember. I remember as a child watching the news with my Dad and every night there would be stories about the Vietnam war. They didn't sanitize the news in those days. They showed you the body bags being loaded on the planes. The network's foreign correspondents weren't kept at an arm's length from the action and many a freelancer talked their way into accompanying the units on their missions. Some died. Those that lived through it came back with Pulitizer prize winning photos and stories that showed war in all it's grimy glory and indescribable horror. We lived that war right alongside our soldiers.

Many Americans believed that war to be a just cause at the time and just as today, those of us who wanted to wage peace were ridiculed and even vilified as unpatriotic. But history proved the hippies and the peaceniks to be right. It was a bad war, poorly planned and basically unwinnable by any definition of victory. Our government lied to us about the dangers - think Gulf of Tonkin, about their operations - think the invasion of Cambodia, and tried to cover up for stressed to the max soldiers who commited war atrocities -- think My Lai. It doesn't really sound so different from Iraq does it?

The big difference is in Vietnam, people cared about the war. We were glued to our TV sets, wanting news. Of course there was a draft so everyone had a stake in it, and the body counts pre-modern technology, were much greater so it touched more families. But the other big difference is the media. Vietnam occurred before the 24/7 news cycle, before infotainment and celebrity obsessions, before cable and satellite and the internets offered a thousand alternate distractions. There weren't video games then that simulated war and violence so well that the line between reality play and real life became so blurred as to become indistinct. Thus we now find ourselves in a war that few pay attention to and even fewer grasp the impact or understand the import of it.

The world was a simpler place when my generation formed the Woodstock nation. In retrospect, it was easy to spread our message, with our clothes, our hair, our VW buses, our flowers and our idealism -- then untainted by the decades that followed. We thought we could build peace by getting back to the land, sharing what we had with each other and cherishing the earth.

But the world is a much different place now. Communal life often turned out to be less than idyllic and the acroutrements of progress caused many to succumb to the rat race after all. We learned to like our stuff. Traded in our Boone's Farm wine for champagne and our brown rice and beans for fancy fusion restaurants. We became as comfortable and complacent as the parents we rebelled against and our message is lost in the garble of a million competing voices.

And so the challenge for those of us who would still wage peace is to not so much to sway our government but to break through the public apathy and convince those who feel no stake in this current war to care enough to read past the misleading soundbites of the war hawks and remember that this is truly a small planet and the brotherhood of man includes everyone, not just Americans. We need to remind our fellow man all over again, that war is not healthy for children and other living things.

Can we do it in an age when consumerism trumps conservation and the prevailing mantra of society seems to be, I got mine -- too bad if you didn't get yours? I don't know. But I do know, we can't stop trying. So today, while we celebrate the freedom our forefathers fought so hard to win for us, with picnics and fireworks, take a moment to reflect on those that sacrificed for the cause before us and as we often said in the 60s --- visualize peace. It couldn't hurt.
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Blogger Mary said...

You made great points in this post. I believe there is a lot of disconnect w/Americans and this war and that is half the problem. War is never the answer. It's just so simple.

11:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Libby said...

Indeed Mary.

2:50:00 PM  

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