Decade of Dissent
The Indian Hill Blvd. “Peace Activists” speak
Sunday September 11, 2011 marked the ten-year anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York. In 2001,* American troops were deployed in Afghanistan to begin the ‘War on Terror.’ On May 1, 2011, President Obama announced that 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden had been killed by American troops. Today, America is planning to remove its troops from Afghanistan. The Port Side spoke with the group, known as the Peace Activists, to understand their aims and ideas
The reasons why countries go to war are complicated. But, when thousands of lives are at risk, we must ask: is war ever worth it?
Every Friday afternoon for ten years, men and women have stood with placards just south of campus, on the corner of Indian Hill and Arrow Boulevard, advocating for peaceful negotiations with countries instead of war. The Port Side spoke with these demonstrators – known as the “Peace Activists” – to understand their aims and ideas.
Jim Lamb: Organizer of the Peace Activists
Claremont Port Side: What triggered these peace demonstrations ten years ago and what is your aim?
Jim: We came out when there was a possibility of invading Iraq to alert people to certain things. More than 50 percent of the American budget goes to the defense department and war. When they say we are cutting teachers it is because we have no money. It has gone to war. More and more Americans need to stand up. We are not here screaming about this or that politician. We are involved or culpable if we allow our government to make these decisions against our interests.
CPS: What do you think America can do to reduce its defense budget?
Jim: One of the things that people need to understand is what the control of oil and petrol resources means to this country. This is why the United States Defense has control of bases all over the world, and they should reduce all that because of one reason: it brings terrorists. They want America out of their country; they want jobs. In reality, there is such a thing as the American Empire and that’s why the country does not want to remove its bases from the countries it has occupied. We are exploiters; we are colonizers.
Teresa Wilson: Peace Activist
CPS: How long have you been here?
Teresa: I have been a peace activist for about 25 years. I represented two groups at the United Nations in peace advocacy, and went to Beijing on the fourth World Conference on Women and Peace. I went to the U.N. every spring for ten years and monitored what the government said they would do.
CPS: Did the government do what they agreed to?
Teresa: Mostly not. They might begin… it was easy to sign but implementing did not work. Once the needed a budget, they just let go of it.
CPS: Did any of the wars America fought have a direct effect on you?
Teresa: Well, my brother fought in the second World War. But more importantly, there is the general consensus that women bear the brunt of war. A lot of the brutality of war falls on women. Wars cause refugees and women are the primary ones.
Dan Kennan: Vietnam War Veteran
Dan: The biggest reason is that there is a dichotomy between the thought of war and the reality of war. We are raised to be patriotic American kids, and there is a romantic view of war: good guys, bad guys. It is not like that.
CPS: How old were you when you were drafted for the war? What was Vietnam like?
Dan: I was 19 years, and I was there for 14 months. I got back on January 23, 1973 and I was here the next day, January 24, at 4 p.m., on this corner, protesting. It is a lot of death and it’s also a situation where you get closer to some people than you will ever be with anyone as long as you live.
CPS: I assume that before you went to Vietnam, you thought it was an honorable duty. At what moment did this change for you?
Dan: The first time I saw a little Vietnamese kid that we had killed, I realized it had nothing to do with what they were saying. We killed a little kid about three years old. He wasn’t the enemy.
CPS: Any final words?
Dan: The way to end the war would be to send the politicians’ and the rich people’s kids to it. Not just the poor ones. And the war would be over by next week. Just Black, Latino or White-trash…No senator’s or C.E.O’s kids are there.
Ted Darlan: Vietnam War Veteran (1968-1969)
Ted: We have had war for thousands of years and it has not gotten any better. We have the Department of Defense, we should also have the Department of War, where we can meet with other countries and talk and not decide to blow up their countries just because they are different. I was in San Antonio College when the war was ongoing and it was so bad that people began to call them ‘baby-killers.’
Our unemployment rates are at about 12 percent or even more. A lot of kids want to go to college, but they cannot afford it, so they join the military, hope to survive it and then go to college. The military says, ‘we’ll pay your tuition, but you’ve gotta do this for us.’ A lot of people claim that they are for peace, but they do not do anything about it. If you believe in something you have to stand up for it. You MUST talk about it.
Wars clearly damage, destroy and affect more civilian lives than we would like to admit. But our leaders think that war is the answer to aggression. The Peace Activists who have stood on the corner of Indian Hill Boulevard and Arrow Highway every Friday for ten years beg to differ. To them, and many more Americans, war is a terribly inappropriate way of dealing with issues. It costs billions of dollars – and worse, thousands of lives.
Our generation was raised during wartime. Do we think war is the way to go? Will we care more about waging war than about making sure that every American can afford to have food on their plate? Most importantly – will we be willing to stand up against it, like the activists on Indian Hill
*This year is corrected from the print edition. The Port Side apologizes for the mistake.