It was wonderful to be part of a crowd of people for the Peace March on Tuesday, June 24. These days, those of us who wish and strive for peace in our tumultuous world have had to suffer through being labeled as unpatriotic. It's a sad world in which others can't see beyond the conflicts in our world (and there are too many to count) to realize that the simple desire for peace cannot ever be considered unpatriotic.
It was an honor to be reminded that we live in a country where freedom of speech is a cornerstone of our democracy, and to utilize that freedom is a celebration of patriotism.
A focus of this march and gathering was how economic globalization, which is driven by corporations, continues to play a large part in the perpetuation of human rights violations worldwide. If you look hard enough, you find corporations behind almost every political decision made here.
In many Third World countries, you find corporations holding more power than the governments themselves. It's shameful enough here, but at least we can remind ourselves that we did elect our politicians knowing that they will spend most of their time in office repaying their contributors with votes. Yet, in many other countries, people have little knowledge of what the corporations will do and often no choice in the matter of their government.
A corporation close to home, Unocal, has profited from the slave labor of the people of Myanmar (formerly known as Burma). When we hear local Unocal complain about the expenses of cleanup, labor, building, etc. here in Alaska, we can remember that they turn an enormous profit from their gas pipeline that travels through Myanmar and point that out to our politicians before they bend over backward for Unocal in the midst of Alaska's budget woes.
If you ever wondered how a tiny, Third World country was connected to you, Unocal is an excellent example.
What does economic globalization have to do with peace? For decades, we have allowed corporations to operate with impunity, legally obligated only to their shareholders. As we have recently seen here, the obligation to shareholders isn't even respected.
We can feel blessed to live in a country where we are not gunned down or hanged for protesting corporate developments that destroy land and endanger human health.
Currently, economic globalization is helping corporations and governments to profit while ignoring the rights of the people whose labor, land and resources make their profit possible. In the race to find profit in all corners of the world, human rights are trampled, leading to unrest and sparking conflicts between governments and their citizens.
Peace is impossible if we are to continue to allow profit to be placed ahead of human safety and health.
We may not want to see it, but the way the U.S. wields its financial power worldwide, the number of U.S. corporations that behave atrociously in other countries and our government's and our own willingness to allow our comfort and safety at the expense of others is the seed that fuels so much anger toward us. Being aware of this does not make the violence committed against us right. We cannot expect others to assume responsibility for their actions, nor to change them, if we continue to refuse to do so ourselves.
If Sept. 11 woke us up to the ferociousness of the anger directed at our country, perhaps we can begin to look at why. In sharing the pain and fear invoked by the events on that day, perhaps we can see to alleviate not just our pain, but the pain of a world in conflict. As we see to feel safe in our own country, we cannot forget the safety of everyone. In praying to stop the violence directed at us, we cannot turn a blind eye to the violence everywhere else.
Shayne Croy and Jeanne Davidson
Just Earth! Network/Amnesty International USA