by Joan Wile, founder/director, Grandmothers Against the War
and author, "Grandmothers Against the War: Getting Off Our Fannies and Standing Up for Peace" (Citadel Press, May 2008 --available at amazon.com and in book stores)
At 77, I'm supposed to have gained a measure of wisdom. But, funny thing
-- I don't feel a bit wiser than I did at, say, 40. I am absolutely certain about maybe a few things -- I know absolutely, for instance, that it is wrong to discriminate against persons because of their color, ethnicity, sexual preference, or religious affiliations. But, it doesn't take wisdom to recognize this -- only humanity.
I should add Republicans to that list, but I can't quite bring myself to do so, because the Republicans (at least the ones who were in power) caused so much harm not only to our nation but to all people across the globe. Of course, they had a lot of help from the Democrats, I can't deny. I could do without some of the religious fundamentalists, too, if truth be told, but that is discriminatory and really not in keeping with my anti-prejudice beliefs. Still, I'd like to see them vanish from our politics. OK, I'm far from being pure in my ethics. Part of old age is, or should be, the ability to see one's failings, always easier to do in retrospect.
I have a few other certainties, but they have not been formulated from wisdom so much as recognizing the obvious. I try to be kind to children, animals, the poor, the sick and disabled, but it didn't require advancing years to assume these attitudes. I've always had them. Of course, the passing of time has given me a greater sense of responsibility so that I can implement these impulses more effectively.
For the last five plus years I have added a new certainty -- I've learned beyond the shadow of a doubt that our invasion of Iraq was wrong, wrong, wrong, and I have devoted a good part of my time and energy to trying to reverse it. I know now that any preemptive war we launch is wrong. This includes Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, and all the countries we have threatened, or, in the case of Afghanistan, actually deployed troops and bombers to. Again, I can't claim wisdom in this regard. Any half-way intelligent person of any age can see the futility and the wrong-headedness of our military ventures.
Having been a child during World War 2, I must exclude that from my list of bad wars. Let the historians hash out whether we were justified in entering it -- I will always think we had to fight to eliminate the Nazis from our planet. And, speaking of WW2, I'd like to state how fortunate I've been to be an American. Despite all its flaws and mistakes, the fact is that we civilians here have never suffered as the people of other lands have. I never had to confront bombs destroying my home, my family or myself. Haven't we Americans been lucky, though? True, my beloved stepfather went off to Europe and didn't return -- not because he was killed but because the war did something to his head which prompted him to, well, not come back to my mother and me. A heartbreak, but not anywhere near the pain experienced by the children outside North America whose lives were destroyed by both sides of the conflict. Certainly, I can't erase Hiroshima and Nagasaki from my mind.
My belief that our invasion of Iraq was a horrendous misdeed led me to one of the most gratifying segments of my long life. Since 2003, I have devoted myself to organizing anti-war grandmothers to protest the war. Eventually, I put together Grandmothers Against the War, which began a vigil at Rockefeller Center on January 14, 2004, There were just two of us at first, but gradually we blossomed into a group of anywhere from 20 to 50 people standing on Fifth Avenue every Wednesday afternoon. We are by now something of a tourist attraction, which we don't mind a bit. People from all over the world see us and thereby learn that there is valid opposition to the war. Who can doubt grandmothers, after all? This was particularly important in the earlier years of the occupation when people from abroad often had the misconception that ALL Americans supported Bush's ill-advised attack.
We grannies then took more daring action. Eighteen of us, named the Granny Peace Brigade, decided to try and enlist in the military at the Times Square recruiting station. We were denied entrance, so exercised our constitutional right to non-violent dissent and refused to budge from the site. We were arrested and jailed and then put on trial for six days in criminal court for the ridiculous charge of blocking entrance to the recruitment center, something video footage of the event disproved.
Because of the notoriety we achieved through that incident, we began years of spectacular actions and travels in the U.S. and abroad to spread our message. This made for a fulfilling and adventurous old age for all us grannies, some in their late 80's and 90's. True, we've certainly had much excitement and gratification, but we feel great frustration and sadness, too, in that all our efforts as well as those of so many others have not yet brought America's grandchildren home from the war zones. We earnestly hope that President-elect Obama will rectify this. In that regard, please consider signing my Peace Grandmothers Petition to him requesting that we leave Iraq and Afghanistan now. All are invited to sign, not just grannies.
Peace Grandmothers Out of Iraq and Afghanistan
So, being a progressive grandmother has reaped many rewards in terms of allowing me to lead a productive and interesting life at an age when old women are stereotypically depicted as sitting in their rocking chairs knitting baby blankets and watching continuous soap operas. I tried to get this across in one of the many songs I've written about the grannies (hear it on YouTube -- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YXVAsHtitW0).
GRANNIES, LET'S UNITE
words and music by Joan Wile, ASCAP
I WAS SITTING AROUND WATCHING SOAPSJUST A USELESS OLD SAD SACKBUT THEN I HEARD THOSE REPUBLICAN DOPESSAY WE HAD TO BOMB IRAQ
WELL, I JUMPED UP RIGHT OUT OF MY SEATGOT MY BANNERS AND PEACE SIGNS OUT THEN I HURRIED DOWN TO THE STREET AND STARTED TO YELL AND SHOUT
GRANDMAS, GET OFFA YOUR TUSH
WE'VE GOT TO GO AFTER BUSHLET'S TORMENT THAT LYING JERKWIPE AWAY THAT REPULSIVE SMIRKOH, THEY GAVE US THE PATRIOT ACTWATCH OUR RIGHTS DRIBBLE DOWN THE TUBES SEE OUR CONSTITUTION ATTACKEDLET'S KEEP PESTERING THOSE ARROGANT BOOBS
GRANDMAS, GET OFFA YOUR BUTTS
FIGHT AGAINST THOSE MEDICARE CUTS
DEMONSTRATE AGAINST THE WAR
MAKE A STINK THEY CAN'T IGNORE
JUST FORGET YOUR RETIREMENT PURSUITS
AND GET OUT YOUR OLD MARCHING BOOTS
LET’S TELL CONDI, BUSH AND CHENEY
(speak) “YOUR POLICIES REALLY PAIN ME!”
GRANDMAS, GET OFFA YOUR FANNIES
WE NEED MORE FIGHTIN’ GRANNIES
LET’S SHOW ‘EM OUR GREAT GREY POWER
MAKE THOSE EVIL MONSTERS COWER
GRANDMAS, LET’S UNITE
WHILE WE ARE STILL UPRIGHT
LET’S PROTEST THAT PARASITE
WATCH OUT! WE’VE JUST BEGUN TO FIGHT!