Taking a Stand for Peace in
On March 20th, over
550 people came together in Lansing -including some 200 from Detroit-
to make a non-violent stand against war and occupation. The event, a
year to the day from the beginning of the last intensification of the
13 year long war against the people of Iraq, was in tandem with 100’s
of other similar events taking place in over 50 countries and
including at least 250 in the U.S. alone. Over 100,000 people marched
in New York City, spanning 45 blocks. Organizing groups include
ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and Racism):
and the Greater Lansing Network Against War and Injustice (GLNAWI):www.peaceforiraq.org
The two marches in Lansing
merged at the State Capitol: one, (Direct Action!) without a
permit, that took over Michigan Avenue with about 110 people; and the
other, (GLNAWI): a permitted march that stopped at the 9-11 memorial
for a moment of silence, leaving a wreath in the shape of a peace
symbol. Both marches included drumming, chants, and a joyful sense of
strength and solidarity. Speakers at the steps of the Capitol
included Representative Reverend Michael Murphy, Abayomi Azikiwe:
Michigan Emergency Commission Against War and Injustice (MECAWI) in
Detroit, Arnold Stieber: Veterans for Peace, singer Pat Madden-Roth
and representatives of Greater Lansing Youth For Peace and Justice,
Direct Action!, and GLNAWI, and myself alongside three amazing
drummers from Sankofa Shule. Energy and hopes remained high even
through the brief but cold rain.
Following the rally, about 160
people walked the block to Lansing Community College to take part in a
series of educational workshops. Many, many topics were discussed
including: the USA Patriot Act, economic costs of war, effects of
globalization, U.S. involvements in Haiti, Iraq, Palestine, Columbia,
Afghanistan, Cuba, Korea & Vietnam, U.S. military recruitment of
youth, women activists, U.S. weapons of mass destruction, and the Free
Trade Area of the Americas ministerial meeting in Miami, resulting
protests, and the chilling accounts of police violence that happened
there. Children worked on music and creative art projects expressing
visions of peace. The day ended with a group forum focused on
state-wide organizing esp. in regards to the next presidential (s)election
( i.e. electronic voting) and the need for peaceful solutions to
global conflicts. A decision was made to claim the Mackinac Bridge
annual walk/run on Labor Day as a ‘bridge over troubled waters’ peace
So what does it all mean? Did
George and friends notice the pleas for peace coming from around the
world, take heart, and decide to lead this country to a place of
healing and creation, vs. hurting and destruction? To spend our
resources on the needs of the people, rather than on corporate gains
and the military industrial complex? To decide that war really does
cost too much, not only economically, but in the immeasurable cost of
the 10,000 deaths of Iraqi civilians in the last year… the nearing 600
American soldiers lost there…all the wounded…the loved ones left
behind… the unborn victims of our depleted uranium (nuclear waste)
ammunitions that remain radioactive for billions of years (www.cadu.org.uk)
that our military has scattered in Iraq, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia…
and that has also claimed the lives of 10,000-12,000 American Gulf
War Veterans already, and landed 300,000 on disability? Stop building
new nuclear bombs? End 'star wars'? Will Bush and company
at the very least decide to stop cutting veteran’s benefits???
I admit I have my doubts. However, my hopes rest more-so in the
people, and not the people in power, anyway. Someone, somewhere said
that you cannot have a war if the soldiers refuse to fight, and they
are right. “If you have to hurt someone to solve the problem, than you
are the problem.” (Arnold Stieber)
VIETNAM VETERAN - SPEAKING MARCH 20th - WASHINGTON
Thank you everyone for being here today,
this beautiful day, this first day of spring.
America, look at us. Look at all of us. Your being here today is a
courageous gift to every American soldier, to every Iraqi child, whose
mothers and fathers have the same dreams and passionate yearnings for
their children as we have for all our children in this country.
America, do not tell us we are not patriotic.
America, do not tell us we do not care.
It is because we do care so deeply for the future of our world, for all
of the children all over the world, that we are here today.
Veterans often feel a little crazy, clinging to the truths of their war
experience of so many years ago. We have a very special responsibility
to tell others what we learned in war, and what we saw there. We are a
part of the conscience of this country, and we must continue to tell
America that war is wrong.
What I learned in Viet Nam was that life was so painfully real. It
seemed so plain and simple, the suffering of others was real, and the
maimed remain maimed, and the dead forever dead. And I learned that war,
no matter how necessary or justified by our government, is immoral. And
I learned that our terrible and powerful American wisdom is engraved
over 58,000 times on the face of the Viet Nam Memorial in Washington,
and now on the 576 crosses here before you today.
I wonder today still if the President and Congress and the American
people, if they could have been with me the night a landing zone was
overrun, and I carefully and sadly and incredibly painfully put one
young son in a body bag to be sent home to America. I wonder if they
could have touched their young hands and stroked their young faces and
said goodbye as I did if they would have ever have allowed this to
happen again. And I wonder if they had to send their young sons and
daughters first, if there ever would have been this war.
America, I was your daughter.
I was the girl next door.
Remember when I was 13, America, and rode on top of the fire engine in
the Memorial Day parade? I'd won an essay contest on what it meant to be
a proud American.
And it was always me, America, the cheerleader, the Girl Scout, who
marched in front of the high school band . . . carrying our flag . .
.the tallest . . . the proudest . . .
And remember, America, you gave me the Daughters of the American
Revolution Good Citizen Award for patriotism, and I was only sixteen.
And then you sent me to war, America, along with thousands of other men
and women who loved you.
It's Memorial Day, America. Do you hear the flags snapping in the wind?
There's a big sale at Macy's, and there's a big parade in Washington for
But it's not the American flag or the sound of drums I hear - I hear a
helicopter coming in - I smell the burning of human flesh. It's Thomas,
America, the young Black kid from Atlanta, my patient, burned by an
exploding gas tank. I remember how his courage kept him alive that day,
America, and I clung to his only finger and whispered over and over
again how proud you were of him, America - and he died.
And Pham. He was only eight, America, and you sprayed him with napalm
and his skin fell off in my hands and he screamed as I tried to comfort
And America, what did you do with Robbie, the young kid I sat next to on
the plane to Viet Nam? His friends told me a piece of shrapnel ripped
through his young heart - he was only seventeen - it was his first time
away from home. What did you tell his mother and father, America?
Hold us America . . .
Hold all your children America. Allen will never hold anyone again. He
left both his arms and legs back there. He left them for you, America.
America, you never told me that I'd have to put so many of your sons,
the boys next door, in body bags.
You never told me . . .
America, we have sent another generation of children to see life through
an M-16 and death through the darkness of a body bag.
America, my wish today, this first day of spring, is for a seed to be
planted in every child's heart, a seed that produces courage to walk
unarmed and refuse to hate and kill. A seed that will flower and bloom
as wars and guns and hatred are
Peggy Tuxen-Akers (firstname.lastname@example.org <mailto:email@example.com>)
Viet Nam 1970-1971