What I Meant to Say

Wendy Babiak's Visions and Revisions


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All I Want for Mother’s Day

I know I’m jumping the gun a little bit, but I just received confirmation in email of my reservation for Mother’s Day brunch (I got my request in early because this place fills up…local, scrumptious, organic food creatively prepared), and I thought this year I might have time to finally commit to memory Julia Ward Howe’s Mother’s Day Proclamation so I can declaim it at the table, though I’m not sure I could do it without crying. My son turns 18 the week before Mother’s Day, and we’ll have to register him for selective service. Not that the thought of other mother’s sons going to war doesn’t also bring me to tears. Do you know the poem? We all should:

Arise, then, women of this day!

Arise, all women who have hearts, Whether our baptism be of water or of tears!

Say firmly: “We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies, Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”

From the bosom of the devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own. It says: “Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.” Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession. As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war, Let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel.

Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead. Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means Whereby the great human family can live in peace, Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar, But of God.

In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask That a general congress of women without limit of nationality May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient And at the earliest period consistent with its objects, To promote the alliance of the different nationalities, The amicable settlement of international questions,

The great and general interests of peace.


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Open Letter to President Obama

Mr President:

I write not because I think you will listen, but because I can’t live with myself if I don’t give voice to my objection to your position on using force in Syria. I am sickened that we find ourselves, as Americans, in this position again, watching our government try to make a case for military action in a country that is not threatening us.

I’m not going to detail here how our foreign policy for decades has benefited an economic elite and caused the very unrest our military actions are allegedly intended to quell. Such knowledge is out there for anyone to discover, who cares to look.

I am going to appeal to your humanity, because, despite your actions that illustrate the contrary, I feel you must still have some, somewhere. You seem to love your wife and daughters, at least. So remember, when you order another batch of bombs or drone strikes, that many of the men you’re striking at have wives and children, too. Like the children you killed at that birthday party in Pakistan.

I have sometimes wondered if you’re not a hostage in that big house, unable to do anything but the bidding of the warlords who run this country, the industry heads who profit from our endless wars, the munitions manufacturers and dealers and Big Oil representatives. That if you don’t do what you’re told, you’ll end up like Kennedy. It must suck not to be a free man, whatever the perks.

But then I think that maybe you do have a choice, but have simply been blinded by the glitter of Washington, by having your ego stroked, by having so much smoke blown up your rear end. The leader of the free world, and all that. Pffft.

Let me tell you, Barack Hussein: your soul is in peril. Wake up. No one knows when we go to meet our maker. I suggest you put your own house in order. Do not keep murdering innocent people. There is nothing you can say from that Oval Office that will convince me that what the people of Syria need is more violence.

I’ll pray for you at the table tonight, that you see the light. That you might strive to deserve the prize the Nobel committee awarded you.

very best wishes for a more peaceful tomorrow,

Wendy Babiak


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Oh, So Americans Really ARE That Stupid, AND Lazy

Talk about a Pyrrhic Victory...


Ok, so maybe not ALL Americans are. I’ve been seeing more and more folks out on bikes, and that’s awesome. It shows that some people are really thinking, linking our dependency on oil to the catastrophe in the Gulf. It’s not boycotting BP that will make change (especially since there are just as many people willing to line up at BP stations to make sure that local businesses aren’t punished for the actions of the corporation they’re franchised with), but ACTUALLY REDUCING OUR USE OF THE STUFF. This seems so simple to me that it shocks me that it’s apparently opaque to some people. Instead we’ve got folks boycotting BP but filling up their Hummers at the Exxon and idling their engines in the kid’s carpool line. Protest and such is just ego-stroking theater if it’s not backed up by effective action.

But no, the rather harsh title above was inspired by this little gem: Back to the Future robotic shoe laces. I shit you not. When we should be trying to find ways to use less energy, along comes this moronic item. Please tell me this is not going to be the next “must have.” And I thought Silly Bandz were stupid! At least they don’t involve a computer chip and an energy source.

Still, a million idiots using robotic laces for a year probably won’t throw the carbon into the air that one day of war does. My book focuses on war because it’s the number one way we’re making the planet uninhabitable. (There’s also the social-justice issues involved: killing civilians, recruiting our own military from among the poor and dispossessed, spending all our tax money on arms instead of education and health care, for starters.) Here’s a great essay by William J. Astore, a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF), posted at Common Dreams, about why in America war seems to have become a way of life: Hope and Change Fade, but War Endures. The whole thing is worth reading, but I won’t quote it all. He lists seven reasons WHY we insist on making war, but then, in a move that endears him to me (I like positivity!), he offers suggestions for how to cap each of those “wellsprings.”

1. Let’s reject the idea that war is either admirable or good — and in the process, remind ourselves that others often see us as “the foreign fighters” and profligate war consumers who kill innocents (despite our efforts to apply deadly force in surgically precise ways reflecting “courageous restraint”).

2. Let’s cut defense spending now, and reduce the global “mission” that goes with it. Set a reasonable goal — a 6-8% reduction annually for the next 10 years, until levels of defense spending are at least back to where they were before 9/11 — and then stick to it.

3. Let’s stop privatizing war. Creating ever more profitable incentives for war was always a ludicrous idea. It’s time to make war a non-profit, last-resort activity. And let’s revive national service (including elective military service) for all young adults. What we need is a revived civilian conservation corps, not a new civilian “expeditionary” force.

4. Let’s reverse the militarization of so many dimensions of our society. To cite one example, it’s time to empower truly independent (non-embedded) journalists to cover our wars, and stop relying on retired generals and admirals who led our previous wars to be our media guides. Men who are beholden to their former service branch or the current defense contractor who employs them can hardly be trusted to be critical and unbiased guides to future conflicts.

5. Let’s recognize that expensive high-tech weapons systems are not war-winners. They’ve kept us in the game without yielding decisive results — unless you measure “results” in terms of cost overruns and burgeoning federal budget deficits.

6. Let’s retool our economy and reinvest our money, moving it out of the military-industrial complex and into strengthening our anemic system of mass transit, our crumbling infrastructure, and alternative energy technology. We need high-speed rail, safer roads and bridges, and more wind turbines, not more overpriced jet fighters.

7. Finally, let’s banish nightmare scenarios from our minds. The world is scary enough without forever imagining smoking guns morphing into mushroom clouds.

Amen! He adds, though, “Nonetheless, if we as a society aren’t willing to work hard for actual change — indeed, to demand it — we’ll be on that military escalatory curve until we implode. And that way madness lies.” The same can be said of our dependence on oil. As I mentioned in my statement accompanying my poem, “Pallinode,” at Poets for Living Waters, the two issues are inextricable.