sitting out the Super Bowl

veru2_3_19I admit it. I find the Super Bowl disturbing.

It’s a night when seemingly all of America drops everything, comes together, and focuses all of their attention on … football.

At a very basic level, I find the game itself disturbing. It is an undisguised metaphor for battle – for war. It’s an event where the participants suit up with helmets and pads in preparation for physical assaults – which often actually do result in injuries. All of the language of the sport is war jargon. The teams play offense and defense. The crowds participate in fight songs and chants.

Worse, into this war mentality, we interject nationalism and militarism. Football, the flag, and the anthem go hand in hand – by design. And, as we know, woe be to anyone who exercises their right to dissent or simply chooses not to participate in these rituals. The militaristic marching, the flyovers, the honoring of veterans – this is somehow football.

Inequality, too, is so integral to this whole Super Bowl tradition, we see right past it. The game puts a massive rubber stamp on class issues, demonstrated through a spectrum that ranges from inherent sexism and racism to sex trafficking and the fantastic disparities of wealth so blatantly on display.

And then, there’s the famous commercials. Now, the audience doesn’t just sit passively under the onslaught of advertising – they eagerly lap it up.

On the bright side, the Super Bowl is proof positive that United States citizens really can be motivated to act as one, throwing parties across the nation and watching television – everyone at exactly the same time.

Just imagine if we put that kind of synergy toward a truly worthy effort, like, say, peace and justice.

I get it that the Super Bowl is a distraction, that it’s a fun time-out for people, especially during these worrisome times. Sad to say, though, this distraction is an artifact of the bigger worrisome game – and I’m not talking about football.

Call me a party pooper, but, no, thank you, no Super Bowl for me.

make it about peace

veru11_11_18a100 years ago today World War I ended with the signing of an armistice agreement ceasing hostilities.

Although the numbers are imprecise, over 16 million people died and about 23 million were wounded in the conflict.

Stop and think about that. It is unimaginable, isn’t it? But it really happened. And no one wanted it to ever happen again.

So, November 11 was remembered after that as Armistice Day.

The original objective in singling the day out was to reflect and to focus on peace.

In signing the 1919 proclamation, President Woodrow Wilson noted that “… the victory of arms foretells the enduring conquests which can be made in peace when nations act justly and in furtherance of the common interests of men.” 

Armistice Day became a legal holiday in the United States in 1938. The Congressional Act described it as a “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace.”

And yet, as we all know, World War II happened, with over 60 million killed – staggering numbers and truly incomprehensible devastation.

veru11_11_18bIn 1954, in the United States, Armistice Day was renamed Veterans Day.  In that proclamation, President Dwight D. Eisenhower called upon citizens to remember the sacrifices of those who fought, and he urged, “let us reconsecrate ourselves to the task of promoting an enduring peace so that their efforts shall not have been in vain.

And yet, war has become pervasive.

After numerous conflicts, even now, the United States is at war in seven countries, continually creating more veterans. The nation maintains about 800 military bases in more than 70 countries, and secured a mind-boggling $717 billion defense budget for 2019. Worse, we must question the very purposes in the military actions taking place.

If we truly wish to honor veterans on Veterans Day, we should be talking about peace. By focusing on peace, we do the highest and best we can to honor those who have served and seen firsthand the horrors of war.

Veterans for Peace observes, however, that Veterans Day has evolved into something different, noting, “Honoring the warrior quickly morphed into honoring the military and glorifying war.”

The group seeks to Reclaim Armistice Day in order to keep the focus on the pursuit of peace. It’s a worthy goal.

We must seek peace among nations and within our nation. We need to stop accepting, normalizing, funding, and promoting ever-increasing militarism and militarization.

We must seek peace for our veterans, too.

We lose about 20 veterans a day to suicide. That’s 20 people a day who served in our military forces suffering and choosing to end their lives.

Then, there’s all the veterans who suffer with injuries, disabilities, PTSD, substance abuse, homelessness, and poverty.

If we are to really honor veterans, we should make it a goal to stop creating more of them, and we should look to better support them in their struggles in the aftermath of their service. 

Let’s make it about peace.

Antiwar/Peace initiative gears up this weekend

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Peace. What a concept.

This weekend, anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan and many other peace-minded souls are participating in the Women’s March on the Pentagon.  The event brings focus to the wars and militarism that we fund and in which we participate around the world. It shines a light on the many ways our rampant militarism negatively impacts us, others, and the earth.

It’s time to rethink all that. It’s long overdue, even as our Congress has yet again just recently funded those operations to the tune of $700 billion with bipartisan support. And for so many folks, the media circus prevents us from even really noticing that mind-numbing budget or all that is going on in our name and with our tax dollars.

The Women’s March on the Pentagon hopes to raise the visibility of destructive militarism, and to turn our heads towards peace. On their website, they describe their genesis:

In response to the continuing march of military aggression by the USA and to put an antiwar agenda back on the table of activists, we are calling for a Women’s (and allies) March on the Pentagon on the 51st anniversary of the 1967 big antiwar event in Washington D.C. and subsequent march on the Pentagon that had 50,000 people!

The initiative seeks to end the wars abroad, close foreign bases, and dramatically slash the Pentagon budget to fund healthy social programs at home.

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I checked to see if there might be some local events held in concert with the one in DC. Here in Michigan, crickets. (And I didn’t get my act together in time to organize anything.) Nor was it easy to find mention of the event.

However, here in Michigan, we do have the Michigan/Michigan State football game today. The Ann Arbor stadium averages over 112,000 people in attendance for one of these autumn matchups.

Imagine if 112,000 people got together to raise their voices for peace.

Instead, that throng of people will watch as the padded and helmeted players take the field, playing offense and defense in a startlingly obvious metaphor for military battle. The marching band with its militaristic drumming, formations, and flag-waving waits in the wings for halftime. People cheer for the fight, singing what’s aptly known as a fight song.

“Hail to the victors valiant. Hail to the conquering heroes….” as I recall from my days there.

Similar scenes play out in stadiums all over the United States, over and over again.

If only we could generate that kind of enthusiasm in the name of PEACE!

You go, Cindy and the other peace leaders in DC today! I hope that this weekend’s event gets some visibility and traction, and that more and more people wake up and hop on the peace train. I am on board.