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Created on Wednesday, 06 February 2013 10:42 Last Updated on Wednesday, 06 February 2013 10:42 Published on Wednesday, 06 February 2013 10:42 Written by Renee P. Aldrich Hits: 1377
WAR PANEL—Panel speakers from left: moderator Fred Logan, Chris Moore, Rev. Thomas Smith, Father David Taylor, and James Stewart. (Photo by Rossano P. Stewart)
“If Martin Luther King was alive, he would be in Barack Obama’s behind because of his use of drones to kill; his having run a campaign and never once even mentioning poverty; and his taking care of the business sector before rebuilding America’s ghettos, barrios, infrastructure and putting people to work.” This statement by Rick Adams, Co-convener, W. Pa Black Political Assembly, was one of the pivotal points of discussion at the “Cost of War” forum, hosted by the Black Voices for Peace.
The event, held at the East Liberty Branch of the Carnegie Library, was convened in commemoration of the Martin Luther King weekend, and leadership thought it would be fitting given King’s anti-war sentiments, which he readily expressed in the last years of his life. But also because the group’s leadership wanted the local African-American community and all people of conscious to join in its campaign to end U.S. wars around the world.
To this end there was first a panel discussion whose speakers were Chris Moore, a Vietnam vet, himself, and talk show host for WQED-TV, KDKA Radio and PCNC-TV; Rev. Thomas Smith, pastor of Monumental Baptist Church; James Stewart, PhD, Professor Emeritus, Penn State University; and Father David Taylor, St. Charles Lawanga Parish. Each speaker took 10 minutes to discuss their perspectives on where they believed the overriding cost of war lies and how our community has been negatively impacted.
“For me, it is not only the vast financial cost of the war, but also the human cost,” Moore said. “When you look at the fact that 1/3 of the homeless in the United States are vets, and when you consider the tremendous nature of the complex injuries of veterans and what they are costing this country, and for those who manage to make it home and have no physical wounds but are wounded from the inside out, how do you quantify the damage to these soldiers? Add to this the ongoing suffering of the indigenous civilians living in war torn countries, who are just going about their daily lives and suddenly find themselves running for shelter from a dropping bomb.
“When I think of that, I can only say that from my perspective, when someone says ‘thanks for your service’ to a vet, it’s just lip service and doesn’t mean that much. The human cost is insurmountable.”
Reverend Smith spoke of how war creates psychological and spiritual damage to individuals and therefore on our community.
“Whenever a person is trained to kill, and does kill it does something to their psyche—and it dehumanizes them,” Rev. Smith said. “This cannot continue to happen to human beings without some type of mental and emotional toll. If you add this to the fact that the consequences of slavery have never been dealt with and we subsequently daily face the structure of oppression that exists in this country—which King fought against always; the cost of war is psychologically and spirituality devastating.”
Father Taylor spoke about seeing the biggest cost of war as the trickle down effect that translates into the increase of crime and the total lack of respect for life that seems so pervasive on our streets; this as a result of glorifying the validated and celebrated government ordered assassinations.
Stewart shared his prospective from that of a political economist—he shared quotes from Martin Luther King’s anti war speech “Time to Break the Silence”; which exemplified King’s strong opposition to the war and to America’s willingness to participate in the kind of destruction that only war can render. Stewart also shared startling statistics that supports some of the concerns shared at the forum. Just some of these statistics reported that there were 12,793 Afghan civilians killed in the past six years, U.S. military deaths in Afghanistan 2, 175 and other military deaths in Afghanistan 1,083. He also explained that while African-Americans were disproportionately represented on the front lines in the Vietnam War—and we know they did not return to the glory and loving embrace as in previous wars. This was drastically different during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars in terms of African-American recruitment, where the numbers were lower due to greater numbers of incarceration among African-American men.
“I believe that in 2013 as we celebrate the King Holiday, his cautions are even more necessary as is his call for alternatives to war are even more important,” Stewart said.
Following the panel discussion, a lively discussion ensued with the audience of approximately 40; most calling for some type of ‘new agenda’ to deal with the negative impact of war. Gail Austen, one of the group leaders asked the audience to spend time discussing a strategy for attracting more youth in the anti-war movement. Tamanika Howze, an advocate for youth, advised that it was very important to meet the youth where they are like college campuses, in neighborhoods, and in rec centers; and that the group must incorporate use of social media which is going to make a big difference in connecting with them. The leaders of Black Voices for Peace indicated a clear commitment to targeting youth and getting them involved.
An overriding theme out of the audience conversation was that in order to make a change in the dynamics of war, the devastating results, and the negative impact and astronomical cost of war on individuals, within the African-American community who seem to be most gravely impacted; that within this country there would need to be a total change of paradigm, shifting from an approach that lends itself to corporate gain, capitalistic processes that feed the greedy, responds to selfishness, and special interests groups, to one which boasts a Human Rights approach. This would be where the people are considered and recognized as key actors in their own well-being rather than passive recipients of what the government dictates.
The meeting closed with a call from Fred Logan for more suggestions and ideas on what the next steps should be; there was clearly more conversation to be had around this topic.
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