Thursday, July 23, 2009

Catching up...

So much world to little time!

Occassionally I run into folks who thrumb on about the death of the anti-war movement. Some of these folks declare, simplistically, this is because it is called The Anti-war Movement, rather than The Peace Movement. They believe that avoiding the "negative" word "war" would allow hoards of middle-the-roader, aka fence-sitting or "centrist", Americans to do more to end war IF it were framed in "positive" language.

While I agree that framing and language is important - I'm a writer and author, after all and love words -- I also find this belief system to lack basic understanding about human nature. Folks who worry about how to "reach the masses" - frankly, I am one of them - also need to understand that the masses are, fundamentally, out of reach. And not only because of the niceties of language but because "the masses" don't recognize that the world, the planet, is an integrated environment...and that they are already involved. The masses aren't convinced yet that, when the s**t hits the fan, they will be cleaning it up, that their kids will be recruited to fight and die in matter what it is called.

It matters to say, Sec State Hilary Clinton if what is going on in Honduras right now (prez thrown out by right wing coup) is called a "coup" or not because the US has military forces, training, weaponry, and $$$s invested down there. If she named it what it is, a "coup", the US (in the best case scenario, that is a scenario in which integrity ruled) would be politically obligated to pull out its various interests.

In the same vein, it matters if a killing spree is called "genocide" or not.

Bill Clinton utilized smoke screen diplomacy during the non-genocide in Rwanda, did nothing about the actual genocide (despite the US had few resources invested there...we'd have been obligated to try to prevent the killing and no politicians wanted to invest US troops down there) Close to a million people died in a matter of months.

The Armenians are still struggling to set their history straight - that is, receive recognition for that genocide...and it sometimes seems they might succeed but not so far. Not because it wasn't genocide - the term, after all derived from this massacre - but because it is not politically expedient - yet - to call it what it was.

"Coup" "genocide" and so on are political charged terms attached to diplomacy and international law and so on. It is a lot easier, for politicians, to simply avoid the reality and paint these event as something else.

While "anti-war" or "peace" are not political terms of the same ilk...they're used in the same way: as smoke screens. The level of abstraction in which the smoke screen terms "coup" or "genocide" are used is higher than the level of abstraction in which the smoke screen term "anti-war" is used...but both have the same effect: to confuse the issue, to muddy the water, to avoid looking at the absurdity, and to prevent anyone else from looking at, naming, and acting upon, the absurdity.

Next time I hear someone raise this languaging smoke screen I will remind her or him that real live people in war zones -- civilians, troops, "militias", know what war is: death, killing, blood, crying for your mother as you blood drains into the dust, rape, looting, and mayhem, homelessness, starvation, and more.

Be against that, that is be "anti-war" and understand that peace is not simply an absence of war.

On a related topic, listen to Terry Gross' show today, "A Mass Grave in Afghanistan Raises Questions." It is well worth hearing....

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