Remarks on accepting the Peacemaker Award from Peace Action Maine
at the University of Southern Maine, Portland, October 29, 2016
by Lisa Savage
Thank you, Michael Cutting, for that warm introduction. It’s been a pleasure to collaborate with you over the years on communicating about the pressing issues of our day.
I’m honored to receive this Peacemaker award from Peace Action Maine. When I make the effort to stand for peace and justice it's not usually as pleasant as a pot luck dinner among friends. There can even be a bit of physical suffering. How many times have I clutched a sign with icy fingers as the buffeting winds of Portland tried to snatch it away?
Probably fewer times than you think, actually. Something I’ve discovered about being present for peace is that people sometimes give me credit for being there even when I wasn’t! Witness the power of suggestion!
My husband and I have kept a weekly vigil for peace and justice in Skowhegan, the biggest town near where we live in Solon. It’s every Sunday from noon to one and a group of us began standing there every week when the Abu Graib torture scandal broke. I was in despair about the photo evidence of what my government was doing to people in Iraq, and communicating about the wrongness of that war to the thousand people who pass by our bridge in an hour was the only thing I could think of to do.
As a result my students often mention that they saw me on the bridge as they drove through town. My hope is that they see the ghostly images of our presence even on the other six days of the week.
The audience that gets me out to the bridge even when it’s uncomfortably hot or freezing cold is the child in the back seat of a passing car who is just opening her mouth to say, “Mom, what are those people doing there?” No matter what answer she receives I am content to know that we have sparked a necessary conversation.
My baby granddaughter joins us from time to time, too, as her mom also loves to stand for peace and justice. I think my granddaughter is convinced that we are there to celebrate the ABC’s -- since we all have signs with great big alphabet letters on them. She’s a fan, too. Sometimes she’ll grab one of our signs and toddle with it for a while.
Communication comes in many forms. I started my blog Went 2 the Bridge basically in order to keep my head from exploding. The news of the day was so grim and distressing. Even more distressing -- the silence of my peers.
The people I went to Bowdoin with became the banksters who crashed the economy in ‘08, or they became artists or entrepreneurs or psychiatrists. Most did not follow through on the idealism of our youth.
They have enjoyed affluence built on the backs of the invisible slaves of late stage capitalism, the children in sweatshops who make our clothes. They have ignored the mothers who are killed by Obama’s drones, the grieving elders who are bombed while attending yet another funeral.
They have not been willing to give up the “get out of racism free” card they believe they earned by supporting the first African American president.
Elevating a charismatic, eloquent person of color to the job of celebrity spokesman was a brilliant move on the part of our corporate overlords. It silenced dissent and let mass incarceration of black people, and mass deportation of undocumented immigrants, and the militarization of police, and extrajudicial execution of people of color roll on. It created space for fracking and pipelines enabled by the executive branch of government, a government that has never respected the territorial rights or the wise environmental leadership of the native peoples of this continent. It has allowed the Pentagon to become the enforcement arm of corporate control of the planet, establishing 1,000 military outposts outside the U.S.
It has allowed the Pentagon to continue burning the most fossil fuel of any organization on the planet in the quest for control of ever more fossil fuel. If we are talking about climate chaos and the threat of the collapse of life on Earth without talking about the Pentagon, there is an enormous elephant in the room.
|Image: Anthony Freda|
Controlling the narrative is the thing that the violent patriarchy we live under has been most brilliant at. As another example, pretending that Israel is a democracy and not a violent apartheid state has dominated corporate media messaging for my entire life. Equating disapproval of the crimes of Zionism with anti-Semitism has been one of the most successful big lies of my lifetime. U.S. taxpayers fund the vicious occupation of Palestine and most people don’t dare to speak up about it. Indeed, most people don’t even know about it. The chair of the history department of one of Maine’s city high schools once told me he had never heard of the term al-Nakba. I was once lucky enough to hear Dr. Alice Rothchild speak right here at USM about her important work to bring forward these truths.
Corporate media continues pretending that our government represents we, the people, has become increasingly absurd in the 21st century, but it’s built on the foundation of teaching schoolchildren a lie about how a bill becomes a law. Corporate lobbyists write the law, then wine and dine and otherwise bribe lawmakers until it becomes one. But what textbook says that?
That’s why I think the work of citizen journalists like the stellar crew at Democracy Now! Is vitally important. Bringing the truth into the light is an uphill battle when corporations control the flow of information to the masses. General Electric built the reactor at Fukushima that is still spewing nuclear pollution into the Pacific Ocean for years and who is reporting on that? Certainly not the many corporate media channels owned by General Electric.
I think of the martyrs of information sharing in our day, and how they’ve suffered: Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, Julian Assange just to begin that list. I think of how journalists everywhere are under threat of violence or detention just for doing their jobs: Amy Goodman threatened with arrest for covering the water protectors in North Dakota opposing pipeline construction. Laura Poitras detained and searched at airports in the U.S. and the U.K. over and over again as she travels to do her valuable work as a non-corporate journalist.
I’m honored to be able to do my small part as an information worker in the 21st century. If my unpaid work as a blogger attracts nearly 8,000 views a month across the planet, I’m thrilled to be able to participate as a citizen journalist. There are days when I appear to have more readers in Russia and Europe than I do in the U.S. Of course in my fevered imagination, Edward Snowden is not only reading my posts but sharing them. Every once in awhile Brazil lights up in the map in my blog stats and I think, maybe Glenn Greenwald will tweet about me!
Then the sun comes up and I get ready for school.
Maybe it’s just because I’m getting old and was a history major, but I believe we are standing at a great turning point in history. When I was young the essential question for historians was, How could the German people let the Nazis seize control of their country? Now that I’ve lived for 60 years in the U.S. I’m sorry to say I know exactly how such a thing can happen.
I’ve watched corporate media elevate the demagogue with the bad hair to candidate status, and the outpouring of racism and hate that has resulted.
I’ve watched my peers defend their support for the warmonger from the other corporate party with the explanation that they are scared of the demagogue. They say they don’t dare to vote their conscience with Jill Stein of the Green Party -- even in a state like Maine with its whopping four electoral votes awarded by congressional district.
Much of what happens next hinges on access to real information.
|Nermeen Shaikh of Democracy Now! was the keynote speaker on October 29 on "What is the measure of progress?"|