Friday, December 08, 2006

Three Deaths... (on social activism)

Most people have memory of a few significant news events that changed their view of the world forever. In my own case, it was the death of John Kennedy, the death of Bobby Sands and a seemingly insignificant newscast in Los Angeles 26 years ago.

A woman by the name of Wanda (mentioned here previously) was dying from cancer. She had to get on television and beg for money to buy medication. Without the medication, she would die in excruciating pain. I can, to this day, remember her words. I can remember her clothing. I can remember the desperation in her voice. It has never left me. I still think about Wanda. She should never be forgotten. The day I forget her will be the day I've lost my humanity.

My determination to fight for freedom and human rights began with those three events. John Kennedy's death taught me about the senselessness of murder for political reasons. On a larger scale, his death taught me about the senselessness of war.

Bobby Sands is the man who, along with several other IRA members, starved himself to death in Britain's Maze Prison. He taught me about the seeming senselessness of zeal. he also taught me about courage and the courage of one's convictions. He taught me that one can die for a cause and sometimes that makes sense. His death led me to think about those causes I would die for ~ and those I would not.

Wanda is dead by now. She taught me something with the process of death rather than her death itself. She showed me first hand the cruelty at the bowels of this society. I began to see the hypocrisy at the roots of a society that claims to have the cornerstone on human rights yet would allow an old woman to die because she committed the unpardonable sin of being poor. She had to beg and plead on television for the right to die with dignity. She had to depend on the good will of others to allow her that honor.

Wanda's situation made me angry to my very instinctual core. That anger has transformed me as I've come to understand that anger only begets more anger, just as violence begets more violence. Given that understanding, my anger has taken a different form. I am still sickened at the thought of living in a society that values the Money God above all else. I am disgusted by a society that would find the invasion of other countries for financial benefit to be acceptable. I am appalled that we continue to allow an erosion of our freedoms in the name of "homeland security". It is horribly sad that we are so immune to information analysis that cultural hegemony is considered a good thing. Importing consumerist values to Asia, Southeast Asia, Russia, Eastern Europe and an assortment of countries that had based their culture on other values is euphemistically called "promoting freedom" when it is easily understood that it is a buzz-phrase for "exploitation".

I am horribly shamed by the fact that in countless ways, my small life may have contributed to this larger picture, perhaps by action or inaction, ignorance or inertia.. perhaps a combination of all.

When this country declared its freedom from the British Empire, it was supposed to free us from political and religious tyranny. Yet what have we chosen to do with that freedom and independence? Are we satisfied? Can we look at our creation, this fledgling ideology of participatory republicanism, and say it has grown into a compassionate and wise maturity? Is it truly a model for the world? These were the lofty goals of the founders.

We failed.

May we find and restore the soul of this nation ~



Anonymous said...


Z said...

The British National Health Service has its faults, but thank goodness it is there to be taken for granted.

The sight of Soviet tanks rolling into Prague in 1968 was a big shock to me. I really admired Alexander Dubček and the realisation that the USSR would not allow for the reform of corruption and needless repression was quite an eye-opener.

Sevenwinds said...

Failure is a very hard word, maybe the best words might be "lost and not even knowing we are lost". I believe deep down, many want the freedom and choices our type of government gives us, but special interests and the greedy have overwhelmed the "democratic" process making it into more of a government that serves a few rather than all. With the media taking sides, the propaganda tells the public what the political and media spinsters want us to know. We are like how the old China was in the Tiananmen Square photo you have in the intro of your blog, where the government controls everything we do, see, hear, and lastly believe. Unfortunately here, the sole protestor here gets run over by the cold blooded political machinery.

By the way, one of the actions and deaths that affected me most was of the man in the photo. It shows how one man can make a difference in history. Although the government claims he was never killed, he was never identified nor found afterwards take, he was killed to make sure he could never resurface and be a hero again.

But brave actions of individuals like this man and those killed that night made a more "democratic" China possible. Where are the brave in America?

Ginnie said...

The part of your post that really got to me was "promoting freedom" to the rest of the world. What unmittigated gall for our nation to think that we need to impose our way of living on others. It makes me sick. We need to clean up our side of the street...tend to our urban blight and drug infested areas, make health care and higher education more affordable and show by example, not by force. What a bunch of hypocrites we've allowed ourselves to become.

Anvilcloud said...

It's a bit of a paradox: a land of opportunity for some and a land of despair for others.

jen said...

amen, sister. amen. i agree w/ sevenwinds about being lost. and also how we have the responsibility to use our resources for good.

and yet folks are in despair.

Gobody said...

Today I feel that we are sharing the same feelings!