By Nick Braune…
I was pleased to see an article in The Monitor — and it was front page in the Sunday Mid-Valley Town Crier — about the Caravan for Peace which stopped in the Valley for a rally last Thursday. The Caravan was founded by a Mexican poet, Javier Sicilia, whose son was murdered by one of the outlaw cartels in Mexico.
Composed of two large busses and a contingent of cars, the caravan crossed the border into California and has been traveling east, holding local rallies and planning for a major rally in Washington, D.C. upcoming. I attended the rally in Alamo, which was spirited and drew about 100 people. (ARISE and other concerned groups in the Valley got out the word and organized a reception for the travelers.
One part of the event was sharing stories of lives lost due to the violence of the cartels and particularly the drug trafficking. Sicilia himself spoke. But another part of the event was an expression of hope: If enough people reach out on both sides of the border and reach out for other solutions, this may inspire change, particularly since current policies have failed so noticeably.
A woman traveling with the caravan explained to me that she represents an inter-religious group in Mexico City, although she made sure to clarify that the caravan had many non-religious participants too. She said that obviously the caravan has goals in mind: for instance, stiffening America’s commitment to stopping gun trafficking into Mexico but also rethinking the total “prohibition” of drugs approach. (The “militarization” approach to the problem, the current Mexico/U.S. “war on drugs” approach, has simply failed.) But the articulate woman was also eager to explain that the goal of the caravan was not a blanket “decriminalization of marijuana” or any other panacea. The caravan simply intends to open dialogue on these issues.
I definitely agree it is time for dialogue on new approaches, and in fact the July Mexican elections were unusual in that all three candidates were for re-conceptualizing the “war on drugs” mentality, which many see as one-dimensional and originating in U.S. military circles.
Military music has never been good music; and military solutions have never been good solutions. Despite its thousands of officers, myriad bases, sophisticated technology, military colleges and massive Pentagon (with its connections to think tanks, big industries and academia), the military mucks things up, repeatedly.
A small example: A young woman just back after serving in Iraq was one of my students three years ago. She was upset about the war, saw no real reason for it, and had seen things she didn’t want to see. When she returned to the Valley, she was still a reservist and the military told her to take “anger management” classes. She told me that she thought that was OK until she learned that the classes were in San Antonio. She got so angry on the regular four hour drive up there that she stewed angrily during the classes, and she was even angrier driving the four hours back.
A larger example: The war in Afghanistan has now seen 2,000 Americans killed. Others have been physically and emotionally injured — news reports say military suicides are up — and the ten-year war is going poorly. Newspapers this last week expressed concern that Afghan soldiers paid by NATO are sometimes targeting NATO soldiers.
More news this week: Blimps, used “successfully” in Afghanistan to monitor large swaths of land, are now being tested for use on the Tex-Mex border to help keep illegal drugs and undocumented immigrants from entering the country. (Glance upward, watch for ballooning military solutions.)
(Update, the Caravan for Peace is arriving this week at Fort Benning Georgia, where it is planning a rally and meeting with leaders of SOA Watch. This organization exposed the School of the Americas, an inter-American military training operation, which was probably lurking in the background when the current Mexican cartels were gaining strength.)
[First appeared in “Reflection and Change,” Mid-Valley Town Crier, 8-26-12]