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This Minute and Then the Next

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May 10, 2007

The big deal is today and tomorrow morning. Just this minute and then the next determines whether you or I do what we can to stop the injustice and the tyrannies surrounding us, and inside our hearts. Right now is the only time we own!
— June Jordan, poet (1936 – 2002)

Right now. Some days my right now, my big deal is a sink full of dishes, the homework not done, my 9 and 11 year old sons whining about what they really, really want (some latest electronic gizmo). On such days my goal of raising conscientious sons in this materialistic, militaristic, and patriarchal culture seems a distant possibility. I need to be reminded what a gift, what a responsibility it is to live this minute and then the next to stop injustice and tyranny.

But what of those who have borne decades of affliction coming from circumstances over which they have no control, who find themselves isolated and seeing no light at the end of the tunnel, who wryly comment that if there is a light at the end of the tunnel, it is likely a raging locomotive coming directly toward them? I think of mothers in Iraq. And when I reflect on their reality I remember that just this minute does matter, and that I have incredible control over this time I own – control that is denied them.

Here, a short excerpt from one of the most recent in a steady stream of stories that come our way at Voices for Creative Nonviolence.

Haifa, a mother, writes to us from Baghdad:

“Dearest, I’m now exhausted because I can’t stop my children thinking of our situation. Hamid went to a shop: they want to hire him as a seller, selling silly things, and I want to stop him because he will be in front of the shop putting out goods to sell on the street and this is the most dangerous thing. He want to work because he said if we don’t get to school then I must work to be useful for myself and for my family… Yesterday there are 200 persons killed in Al Karada neighborhood, most of them sellers in the street. I worry so much about Hamid. And little Saif is so dirty playing in the street. No water since three days. I can’t keep him in house for long time; he is child, he want to play. Sometimes he forget if he get his meal or not. Huda, she want to walk and see everything. I can’t manage anything here. I’ll be full crazy. No home, no water even, it is so dirty. I can’t buy bottles because it is expensive to buy. Everything here is bad and I can’t be heavy person on people I love them. My sisters busy for their families — they search for place to be safe till now. I’m loosing my personality and my children, and even they don’t listen to me. We are all lost and don’t know what the solution is…”

Haifa signs her letter “Love and peace.” In the only time she owns, possibly the last time she will write to her friends in the States, Haifa writes of the tyranny and injustice that typifies daily life in Iraq. And then, in closing she blesses us, with wishes of love and peace.

Just this minute and then the next, whenever we feel defeated, or bored, or tired of the struggle to end tyranny and injustice, let us remember Haifa. Remember her daily struggles, her fears for her children, her desperation. Remember that, in spite of all, she sends wishes of love and peace. And remember, “Right now is the only time we own!”

Let us work, let us battle, nonviolently, for just this minute and then the next to ease the anguish of our Iraqi brothers and sisters. Now, as yet another supplemental spending bill will soon be presented to the U.S. Congress, seeking $145 billion additional dollars for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, our voices are more needed than ever. Obscenely expensive projects which the U.S. Congress will be asked to fund will procure weapons and weapon systems due to arrive in Iraq no sooner than 2009 and 2010. Please join our efforts to oppose any further spending for war. Not one more dollar, not one more life.

Please see our website, www.vcnv.org, to read “Iraq and Afghanistan Supplemental Spending 2008: A comprehensive analysis of the 2008 Iraq war funding request” by Jeff Leys. A must read! Call or write to us at Voices (773-878-3815/info@vcnv.org) to get involved.

Just this minute and then the next determines whether you or I do what we can to stop the injustice and the tyrannies surrounding us, and inside our hearts.

Laurie Hasbrook, , is a Co-coordinator at Voices for Creative Nonviolence in Chicago