This spring both the Easter message of the triumph of life over death and the associated bacchanal of candy and consumption have been eclipsed by the Fifth Anniversary of Bush's GWOT - the most costly, most brutal war in history.This year, when our president celebrates his expensive orgy of devastation in Iraq with "no regrets," when waterboarding is hailed as a tool to manage terrorism, and spying on citizens is praised as patriotic, when 20 children die every minute for lack of food or medicine, when our nation is on the brink of a serious financial crisis, when our profligate use of fossil fuels is threatening the very planet we live on, just how should we celebrate the triumph of life over death?
It's hard not to be discouraged. People in Portage County have been resisting Bush's war for years:
- After the bombing of Afghan civilians in December 2001, Kent musician Sue Jeffers started holding weekly anti-war vigils. At first only one other person turned up; by the fifth anniversary of the Iraq war nearly 50 people were participating in the vigils.
- In 2003 neurobiology professor Ted Voneida organized Portage Citizens Against the War and placed a "No War in Iraq" billboard on Rt. 59 in Ravenna Twp. Ted has continued his campaign with 43 letters to newspapers and counter-recruitment activities in schools.
- In 2005, following the atrocities at Abu Ghraib and Fallujah and the dubious re-election of Bush, some hundred and fifty Portage County Democrats, formed the Portage Democratic Coalition to work for change within the political system.
- A few months later Kent Quaker Karl Liske painted the word "Truth" on the sidewalk in front of a military recruitment center and was charged with criminal mischief. Karl stood by his rights, and the charges were dropped.
- In August of 2005 a hundred people gathered on the steps of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent for a Candlelight Vigil in support of Cindy Sheehan's effort to bring home our troops.
Yet for all these activities, there is no end in sight to the war in Iraq or the injustices, domestic and global, that beset the human family. Somehow, we need to break out of repetitive celebrations of past events and create new beginnings. There are some hopeful signs:
- In 2007, after Kent teacher Kevin Egler put up "Impeach Bush" signs on a public highway and was charged with littering he went to City Council and won a change in the littering law so that political speech was protected.
- This past week presidential hopeful Barack Obama took a firm grasp of the poisonous and paralyzing issue of race and held it up to the nation to deal with as adults - non-violently and creatively. He challenged us to put aside trivial religious pursuits and engage with one another about the inequalities and injustices of race in our society, and about the savage punishments visited on the poor by wars and capitalism.
- Friday March 28 the Unitarian-Universalist Church of Kent will offer an anti-war program of readings and music. Highlight of the concert will be a performance of a 2004 work by Cincinnati composer Rick Sowash: "Trio #13 in E-flat Minor: Passacaglia and Fugue Dedicated to the Victims of Bush and bin Laden". Sowash explains:"Trio #13 is one of my most passionate outbursts. I am OUTRAGED by the very idea of war, any war. As a Christian-in-the-making, a regular choir-singing member of Cincinnati's famously liberal Mt. Auburn Presbyterian Church, I deplore the hypocrisy of our self-styled Christian president and our Congress who so easily shunt aside the central teachings of Jesus, to wit: Blessed are the Peacemakers, Turn the Other Cheek, Do unto Others
"The piece is furiously angry, but there are also places of tranquility and even humor, my way of saying, "It doesn't have to be this bad, the world is a beautiful place after all, and life is good, worth preserving and protecing."
"At the center of my artistic creed lies the notion that the very best art gives us a reconciliation of opposites. In this piece, I set up E-flat minor and A major as opposites and then structured a reconciliation between them."
At Easter 2008 we don't have to invent oppositions or opponents. But we must start structuring reconciliations. If life is once again to triumph over death we must resolve our differences and end the domination of society by war, deadly weapons, torture, hunger and injustice.
Perhaps our affluence and the influence of obscene wealth on the global economy has made us deaf to the miseries of our neighbors, blind to alternative visions for the future, and resistant to any hopes for a better world. But I don't think so, nor do my neighbors here in Portage County. Voices are rising all over our nation, all over the world, saying "No More War: "It doesn't have to be this bad, the world is a beautiful place after all, and life is good, worth preserving and protecting."