War and Peace
It is August, 2002, a year after 9/11 and the US administration is threatening to invade Iraq. The reasons were the horrible weapons Saddam had and the fact that Iraq harbored and aided terrorists. Never mind that not one single Iraqi was on any one of those planes, and that Osama Bin Laden HATED Saddam Hussein because he was not a devout Muslim – 70% of Americans believed that Iraq was involved with the September 11 attacks. I heard Scott Ritter, an UN inspector in Iraq and a Republican military man, speak. He said there were no “weapons of mass destruction” of any sort in Iraq, that the inspections process after the first Gulf War, during the 1990’s, had eliminated all of Saddam’s biological and chemical weapons capabilities. I believed what he said, because he had been in Iraq, because he had voted for George Bush and therefore had no political agenda to undermine him, and because he was a lifelong military officer who was against the United States invading Iraq. The next week, I joined the anti-war vigil outside the federal building in Los Angeles, and for the last 3 years I have gone to that War Is Not the Answer Vigil every week with Alice, Harriet, Steve, Jerry, Vietly, Shirley, Ron, Lucy, Cele, Milly, Orpha, Vita and others. Sometimes our numbers dwindled to six, other times there were 200 people on the sidewalk. With our signs and our candles and our enthusiasm for and belief in peace and nonviolence, we stand there as thousands of cars drive by, waving to the (growing number of) drivers who honk in support.
I also joined the Catholic Workers in downtown Los Angeles on Wednesday mornings in a silent protest walk around the federal building there. It was there that I did my 2 civil disobediences that resulted in my 6 day incarceration. I am not Catholic and I disagree with many of the Pope’s doctrines (especially on no birth control and against homosexuality), but I greatly admire the Catholic Workers, and was honored to be able to protest with them. They supported me during my trial and when I went to jail, and I, in turn, supported them at their trials.
My friend, Jason, once asked me if I thought we make a difference, protesting on a street corner. I believe that we do. At a time when President Bush insisted that anyone who was spoke out against the invasion of Iraq was unpatriotic, it was vital that Americans stand up and speak out publicly. And it still is, because there is still bloodshed and chaos in Iraq. Vigiling, marching, making signs and banners, doing civil disobediences, are all ways to non-violently disagree in a democracy. I also continue to call my senators, my congressperson, and the White House daily, to let them know that I believe the American military needs to withdraw from Iraq immediately.
I feel it is my duty to protest the war in Iraq, the detentions in Guantanamo, and the erosion of civil rights in America under the guise of “national security”. And I will continue to do so, even if it means being out on the street with my anti- war sign for years.
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
Read Alexandra’s account of the 5 days she spent in jail, protesting the war in Iraq.