by Joe Courter
As we’ve been planning this edition of the Iguana, the over-riding question has been “What are we gonna do about Syria?” In a country that is a mess, in a region that is a mess, Syria exhibits all the problems so many others in the area have: decades of authoritarian rule, a legacy of international power games, stockpiles of ever more potent weaponry, a rise in social media and technology both within the country and out to the world, destroyed infrastructure, inflamed religious rivalries and now, with all the death, injuries and refugees, enough bad blood and bitterness that peaceful resolution seems impossible. So tragic.
NPR’s series “Back Story” on Aug. 31 had a show devoted to the impact of ethics and technology on conflicts over time, and it is a depressing commentary on what humans are doing in our time on the planet. Ever more powerful weapons affect not only the devastation but also the distance at which conflict is carried out. That distance also allows for a dehumanization of the “enemy,” with distance not only meaning proximity but cultural, too; a particular characteristic of white Europeans fueled with a religiously based sense of superiority. In the show they talk about a conflict between two Native American tribes in the New England area, and how one of the tribes allied with some English colonials. They went on their raid and were horrified when their white allies just devastated the other tribe with firepower. It talked about how Germans justified using poison gas in WWI as more humane than leaving enemy wounded and dying slowly in trenches.
I feel what Obama has done by putting the potential attack on Syria to Congress, and theoretically, the people, is a good thing. That public opinion is running so strong against the Syrian attack is encouraging. Country after country has had to endure U.S. military solutions in their lands and in most cases come out worse for the experience. As Michael Franti sings: “You can bomb the world to pieces, but you can’t bomb the world to peace.” We citizens have had enough of the destruction and corruption of the military industrial complex and the policies that enrich them. They are the ones who win at war, they win at our expense, stealing our tax money that should be going to education, healthcare and infrastructure.
No to war, yes to diplomacy. Andrew Bacevich nailed it on the head on the Sept. 6 Bill Moyers show. It is U.S. foreign policy over the past 30 years that has led to where we are now. This must change.
Closer to home, there is a rise in labor organizing among lower income workers. From Walmart workers to the fast food industry, people are starting to stand up to exploitative labor practices and low pay. Here locally workers at the northwest Tasty Buddha location went on strike July 20 and were able to successfully negotiate their grievances and return to work. Key to their success was knowing their rights and acting within the laws that protect the right to strike. Their article can be found on the Iguana website at www.gainesvilleiguana.org. Additionally, Labor Daze was a great success thanks to Trish Ingle and all the people and businesses she was able to organize. Represented there were Alachua County employees seeking their first pay raise in six years who seemed thrilled to see such support coming to their table. And that’s what its about, and why we do this paper: while we may focus and worry about bigger and distant issues like war and climate change, we roll up our sleeves (okay, poor metaphor for this hot summer), organize with others and work locally to have positive impact in our community.