With all due respect to T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land,” February has been “the cruelest month” (so far this year). I could start with the Florida high school shooting on love’s feast day. I could go on with the evil, bigoted Attorney General’s lawsuit attack on California and his insanely cruel crackdown on undocumented residents. I could note the close-to-home upshot of 16 years (and counting) of the U.S. undeclared war in Afghanistan—the murder in Yountville of three care-giving women by a “product” of military marksmanship training and victim of post-traumatic stress.
Feeling helpless and distressed myself, I decided to go back to the moment in 2003 when the George W. Bush administration invaded Iraq with “shock and awe” in spite of record world-wide pre-war protests. I started to host gatherings at my home to watch political films and share a meal with like-minded members of my community. I called them “Peace Potlucks” and continued these sharings for years until attendance began to wane.
Perhaps it was because Obama had been elected that I could only get one person to respond to a film exploring the official policy of torture, which clearly showed that the Abu Ghraib human rights abuse scandal was only the tip of the iceberg. Compassion fatigue? Or the “audacity of hope” in the changes that started to take place, in spite of fierce Republican opposition?
On a daily basis in the news, we see Federal reversals of almost everything good that was accomplished between 2008 and 2016. I felt I had to do something. However small.
I recently received (as a thank-you gift for a donation to community-powered radio KPFA) a French-made film called Trumping Democracy. I decided to revive my Peace Potlucks and sent an invitation to my email list for potluck, film screening and conversation. At first I received eight responses; after a second email, RSVPs doubled. People do want to do something, however small.
In preparing this blog entry, I took my first ever look at Wikipedia’s entry on “Abu Ghraib Torture and Prison Abuse” and was shocked and sickened to see photos I’d never seen before. Photos that made it easier to understand how war culture makes its participants depraved, callous and un-empathetic, sort of like Donald J. Trump. He who thinks torture is a good idea, that kindergarten teachers should be armed, that lifetime presidential terms which are now possible in China might be “worth a shot,” that death penalty for drug dealers would solve our opioid crisis. Does that apply to the makers of OxyContin? (See weekend demonstrations at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.)