We are all refugees

I wonder sometimes how my uncles and aunts felt when they left the land of their birth in search of a new land to call home.

India was no longer a welcoming place for them. Their passports, language, customs were French with a melange of Indian culture thrown in. Their father and his father had all been born in India, as had many centuries of their maternal line. Raised in the then French protectorate of Pondicherry, none of them had ever visited France.

When India reclaimed its independence, they had to make a choice – stay and give up their French citizenship. Or leave. Most of them left for the next closest French protectorate, Vietnam.

At first, Vietnam was a safe haven. But then, war broke out and they were forced to flee.

Like many refugees around the world who run grasping battered suitcases and broken promises, they wanted peace. Not war.

Eventually, they mostly settled in France. Even though their skin was a beautiful blend of white and brown, it was easy to ‘fit in’. French was their first language. Their schooling had followed the French curriculum and even though they blended cultures into a beautiful Euro-Asian tapestry, they were Catholic. They knew the rituals and the faith of their new ‘home’ land. Few questioned their pedagogy, though some of my relations, particularly those whose skin was darker than their neighbours, faced discrimination at times.

Some struggled. Others thrived. Others, like my mother, never let go of their love for India, her Shangri-la as she called it.

The heat, the smells, the vegetation, the food, the singsong of Hindi and Tamil voices, the raucous chattering of monkeys in the yellow neon palms and bougainvillea that surrounded their home, ran through her blood like a strand of DNA that could never be altered.

In some ways my mother lived her life as a refugee yearning always to return to the land of her birth if only to hear the sounds of the ocean lapping against the shores she loved so much.

As news of more refugees fleeing Eastern Ukraine fills my newsfeeds, I am reminded of the stories I heard of my mother’s family’s flight from Inida to France. They faced an uncertain future. They endured bombs falling and lives crumbling before finally reaching ‘home’.

And though a few have remained in India, few of those who left returned to take up residence in the land of their birth, the land where both my maternal and paternal grandparents are buried. My cousins in France all return to India for visits. They all have a deep connection to the beauty of the land. But they always return home to France.

I think of the refugees fleeing their homes, carrying their children in tired arms, fearing that each step could be their last. Fearing they might never be able to return as they race ahead of the bombs into an uncertain future.

And my heart breaks and my mind swirls with thoughts of when will we ever learn? When will this destruction of our humanity, this killing of our fellow human beings stop?

And I cannot find an answer.

There is no answer in war. Just as there is no peace. For, with every mother’s son or daughter killed we risk seeding germs of hate and anger that will grow into endless branches of conflict and unrest.

And so, to no longer be a refugee of my own heart, I return to the origin of it all. To Love. For while there is no peace in war, there is always love. Waiting… Patiently. Steadfastly. Always.

Love for our humanity is all that will save us now.

Let us all remember love is present. Love is always the answer even in war.

Namaste.

I Do Not Want To Read Of War…

I Do Not Want To Read Of War
©2022 Louise Gallagher

I do not want to read of war
I do not want to hear the stories
look at the photos
watch the videos
see the bodies
lying in the streets
the animals left behind and killed
the homes destroyed
the buildings demolished
I do not want to know of its power
to desecrate
diminish
and destroy
Dreams. Hope. Life.

I do not want to look away.

To look away is to deny
the horror of what is happening
to people
just like me
who live and work and love and play
who walk their dogs 
and hold the hands of the ones they love
and caress the faces of their children and grandchildren
who go to work
and drive to the grocery store
or walk to their favourite coffee shop 
to spend an hour or two visiting with friends.

I do not want to cry
for the fathers, sons and daughters
who put down the tools of their trades,
their studies and their work
to don battle dress and guns.
I do not want to weep 
for the children and their mothers 
and the elderly and disabled 
with whom they huddle
in bomb-shelters and barns and basements
waiting for release
waiting for a time when bombs
do not desecrate
diminish
and destroy
Dreams. Hope. Life.

But I must
look and see and bear witness
I must acknowledge
what is happening
so that I can hold
this hurting world
in arms and words and thoughts
that do not 
desecrate
diminish
or destroy
Dreams. Hope. Life.

So that perhaps,
one day,
the children and their mothers
the grandparents and disabled,
the fathers, sons and daughters
can return
home
to rebuild their lives
in peace.

Heidi Baumbach – Making a Difference in Ukraine

Image by jplenio from Pixabay

In the still quiet of dawn not yet broken, I awaken. With a rush, images of war run through my mind. A nightmare I cannot escape.

I turn over. Check the time on my phone. Not quite 5.

I close my eyes but the images awaken in the darkness.

I open my eyes.

In my dream, I am running from a battle. A tank rolls into view. I want to stop it. I put up my hands. Fire flashes from its snout. A blast of hot air washes over me as a tree falls.

I wonder about its survival. Will it ever be able to grow again? Will its family miss its sheltering branches joining with theirs, offering protection from the sun, cover from the rain, a home to nest in for forest animals?

Will it survive?

I turn and run. And awaken.

For a moment, I think it is my nightmare. And, as dreams have meaning, I wonder, ‘what is this dream telling me? Where in my life do I need to make peace?’

And then I remember.

I roll over, grab my phone, scroll through my newsfeed.

It wasn’t a nightmare only I could see, trying to awaken me to peace.

This is the nightmare millions of people are living right now. A nightmare from which they cannot awaken because the war has come to them. The war has arrived in hundreds of tanks rolling across their land destroying homes and roads and bridges indiscriminately. A war where soldiers fire weapons that kill and harm and maim and destroy everything in their line of sight.

The war where missiles fired from jets streaking across a smoky sky tear into a maternity ward killing all hope of peace before it is even born.

_______________________

Heidi Baumbach

If like me you desperately want to do something, Heidi Baumbach is in need of support. Upon hearing of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Heidi, from a small central Alberta town, packed up suitcases of supplies and headed to Warsaw to help. She rented a car, and an apartment, drove to the border and picked up a family. She provided them support until they could arrange to move on to meet up with family in another country. And then, she welcomed in another family.

Heidi is doing this on her own. Any financial help she receives goes to supporting refugees. Not just the families she is sheltering, but also at the refugee camps. As she writes on a recent FB post:

The math is simple.

  • $120 CAD buys $400 of toiletries—enough for me to stock the 3 stall bathroom supplying the entire Przemysl refugee camp for an evening.
  • $25 CAD buys enough for a nice meal for everyone
  • $100 buys what would cost $300-$400 back home for groceries.

If you would like to support Heidi and all she is doing, she has set up a GiveSendGo fund — she is trying to raise $10,000 to buy a van to help bring refugees to Lviv from other areas of the Ukraine and to pay rent on an apartment for refugees.

I heard of Heidi’s mission through a co-worker. His daughter and Heidi grew up together. When Heidi emailed me she told me she thinks of my co-worker as her second father. My co-worker, a CPA, is helping Heidi track donations and ensuring her financial records are beyond reproach.

If you can help, please do.

For me, giving directly to someone on the ground, someone who is on her own making a difference helps me feel less helpless.

You can learn more about Heidi’s story at these links:

Lacombe County News

Global News (Heidi’s interview begins at around 4:50)

Heidi on Facebook

Heidi’s GiveSendGo Fund

_________

This post is also in response to this week’s prompt at Eugi’s Causerie.

The prompt is ‘survival’.

The photo accompanies the prompt on Eugi’s website.

Blindspots

When I first got my car two years ago, I discovered something I’d missed during the test drive – there was a significant blindspot over my left shoulder. Uncomfortably so.

I was paranoid about that blindspot. Changing lanes, I’d twist and turn again and again, fearing I was missing an oncoming car. In all my twisting and turning I was a bit of a road hazard and had to consciously train myself to stop the paranoia and trust that I knew how to use my mirrors as aides.

And then one cloudy day when I wasn’t wearing my sunglasses, I realized the blindspot wasn’t there!

What? That’s when I realized it was the arm of my sunglasses, which was attached midway down the frame, that was blocking the view out of the corner of my left eye, not a blindspot in my car.

I bought new glasses, ones with the arms attached at the top of the frame and Voilá! Problem solved.

Blindspots are like that. We use the same set of eyes, with the frame we’re most comfortable with, to view the world. In our comfort, we cannot see the places where our view of reality is blinding us to the reality of others.

Like racism. It has always been amongst us. It’s just many of us were blind to its pervasive presence as well as our contribution to its presence, until the conversation could not be avoided any longer because it was marching right before our eyes and could not be denied.

For those of us for whom the colour of our skin has seldom given us cause to question or even talk about our privilege, nor our inherent biases, it can feel stressful, uncomfortable, disorienting to face our own, as Robin D’Angelo calls it in her same-named book, “White Fragility“.

What if we change our glasses?

What if instead of seeing our discomfort of our ‘white fragility’ as something to be ignored or pushed away or angrily denied, we decided to embrace it and say, “Bring it on. I’m willing to feel this so others do not feel ‘less than’ around me. I am willing to break open my privilege, along with my mind and heart, and be vulnerable to change because what’s happening in today’s reality for so many is not good for anyone. And I do not want my privilege to undermine the well-being of others any longer.”

As a person who fits within the context of being ‘white skinned’, it is easy for me to say, “I don’t see colour.” I haven’t had to. My life is founded on a cultural belief that has survived centuries of life on earth that insinuates (and at times blatantly states), ‘white has more value than black.’

In the world of colour, white actually has no value. It is the reflection of light and gains value through the reflection of other colours. Like rainbows. Sunlight shines through water molecules in the air after a rain and is refracted so that we can see it dancing in a rainbow of colour arcing across the sky.

Without voices of colour speaking up about their experiences, informing those of us without colour about what it means to be devalued in this world because of the colour of your skin, we would not understand the totality of our whiteness in today’s world.

We have that chance. Right now. To listen. To hear. To understand. To learn. To grow and to see the world in all its beautiful colours.

We have the chance to change our glasses.

For real, lasting change to happen, we must stop seeing racism as ‘someone else’s issue’ and see it as ours too, because our whiteness blinds us to the truth about colour. In that discomforting place of recognizing our own culpability in creating the world in which we live, we have the opportunity to refract light differently.

And when we do that, we get to see the world is not black and white. It is a beautiful dance of colour creating rainbows everywhere. And in that light, the world is a much kinder, equal and just place for everyone to shine for all their worth.

Namaste

Acceptance in Every Peace of My Heart

Ahh. Acceptance. Of self. Beauty and the Beast. Yin and Yang. Light and Dark.

Sister Joan Chittister writes:

Self-knowledge gives us perspective, and self-esteem gives us confidence, but it’s self-acceptance that gives us peace of heart.

One of the most challenging things I have ever done is to accept myself as a mother who once was so lost she believed the only path to peace of heart was to desert her daughters.

It’s a long story.

The short version is, I got lost in an abusive relationship and lost myself. In that dark place, I held no mercy for me. I was beyond saving.

I believed the only way to save my daughters was to leave them. Because without me in their lives, I believed they would be free to live their lives without the pain and shame of me and all I’d done to hurt them.

Learning to love and accept myself as that mother was not easy. Especially when the question I asked myself everyday was, “What kind of mother would do that?”

And while the answer was wrapped up in the pain and trauma of being abused, I had to practice self-compassion and mercy every single day — for a long time, whether on some days I wanted to or not —  to get to a place where I could look at that woman who was, and is, me and say, “I forgive you. I love you.” I had to be willing to give up beating her up with my anger, pain, sorrow, shame and accept her brokenness with all my heart.

And then, I had to commit to walking in mercy every day to live with peace of heart and mind so that I could find the grace to create love and joy, peace and harmony in my world.

I had to stop using what happened as an excuse to not turn up in my life today. I had to quit telling myself I was a victim or even a survivor. I was a victor and I had to don my victor’s robe of glory over adversity, beauty over pain, love over fear, mercy over judgement.

I could not stand in the light if I was constantly turning off the lights of my own magnificence. Standing in my magnificence (and not judging it as tarnished, bruised, unworthy of being seen) was essential if I was to be a light and a safe haven for myself and others.

I had to, and still have to, practice radical mercy on my heart. Because magnificence does not come with a clean slate. It arrives wrapped up in everything I am, including all the wounds and scars, darkness and fears of me, myself and I.

And accepting who I am, all of me, is the path to peace of heart.

I can know myself and live confidently as myself, but to live in the wholeness of peace of heart, I must accept not just my wisdom but also my wounds, not just my light but also my dark, and not just my beauty but also my beast.

I invite you, just for today, to practice radical mercy on yourself. Stand in  front of the mirror, look deeply into your eyes and say out loud, “I forgive you. I love you. I accept all of you in my heart.”

And so it is.

Namaste.

Let compassion be my guide

It can be easy to forget some days that we are all on this journey of life, together.

That my plan may not align with yours.

That your ideas may be different than mine.

Regardless of our point of views, or our goals or aspirations, we are all on this journey of life, together. We all share this one planet, one earth. We all breathe this same air. Bathe in the same waters. Need the same things to sustain our lives.

It can be hard to remember sometimes that just because I disagree with you, it doesn’t give me the right to judge you. To make you bad or wrong. It just makes our opinions different.

My job is to stand true in my beliefs, and to hold that delicate space between us gently and lovingly clear of my desire to make my voice heard louder than yours.

Whatever you do, my responsibility is not to change you. It is to see you. To know you and acknowledge you as you are, not as I’d like you to be. And regardless of what you say, my voice does not matter more. Talking over you will not make me heard more. It just makes both our voices become louder.

We can disagree. We can hold differing positions and points of views.

When we do, how we share our differences is a reflection of where each of us stands and what each of us values.

How I treat you is a reflection of my values and of who I am.

How you act or speak or respond is a reflection of who you are.

I may not agree, but judging you doesn’t make me ‘more right’. It just makes me part of the problem.

Let me not be ‘the problem’ today. Let me be the path to compassion, love and peace.

The Poet Boy Remembered

Remembrance Day. Lest we forget. Let us  not forget.

Their sacrifice. Their honour. Their duty to country. Their names.

Let us not forget.

My father went off to war when he was a boy. He went off and fought and came home and seldom spoke of those years again.

The following is the unedited version of a shorter Op-Ed I wrote that was published in the Calgary Herald several years ago. I share it here in memory of my father, and all the sons and daughters, boys and girls, men and women, who have gone off to war to never return. I share it here to remind me to never forget my father who was once a poet boy.

The Poet Boy

When the poet boy was sixteen, he lied about his age and ran off to war. It was a war he was too young to understand. Or know why he was fighting. When the guns were silenced and the victors and the vanquished carried off their dead and wounded, the poet boy was gone. In his stead, there stood a man. An angry man. A wounded man. The man who would become my father.

By the time of my arrival, the final note in a quartet of baby-boomer children, the poet boy was deeply buried beneath the burden of an unforgettable war and the dark moods that permeated my father’s being with the density of storm clouds blocking the sun. Occasionally, on a holiday or a walk in the woods, the sun would burst through and signs of the poet boy would seep out from beneath the burden of the past. Sometimes, like letters scrambled in a bowl of alphabet soup that momentarily made sense of a word drifting across the surface, images of the poet boy appeared in a note or a letter my father wrote me. For that one brief moment a light would be cast on what was lost and then suddenly, with the deftness of a croupier sweeping away the dice, the words would disappear as the angry man came sweeping back with the ferocity of winter rushing in from the north.

I spent my lifetime looking for the words that would make the poet boy appear, but time ran out when my father’s heart gave up its fierce beat to the silence of eternity. It was a massive coronary. My mother said he was angry when the pain hit him. Angry, but unafraid. She wasn’t allowed to call an ambulance. She wasn’t allowed to call a neighbor. He drove himself to the hospital and she sat helplessly beside him. As he crossed the threshold of the emergency room, he collapsed, never to awaken again. In his death, he was lost forever, leaving behind my anger for which I had no words.

On Remembrance Day, ten years after his death, I went in search of my father at the foot of the memorial to an unnamed soldier that stands in the middle of a city park. A trumpet played “Taps”. I stood at the edge of the crowd and fingered the felt of the bright red poppy I held between my thumb and fingers. It was a blustery day. A weak November sunshine peaked out from behind sullen grey clouds.  Bundled up against the cold, the crowd, young and old, silently approached the monument and placed their poppies on a ledge beneath the soldier’s feet.

I stood and watched and held back.

I wanted to understand the war. I wanted to find the father who might have been had the poet boy not run off to fight “the good war” as a commentator had called it earlier that morning on the radio. Where is the good in war, I wondered? I thought of soldiers falling, mother’s crying and anger never dying. I thought of the past, never resting, always remembered and I thought of my father, never forgotten. The poet boy who went to war and came home an angry man. In his anger, life became the battlefield upon which he fought to retain some sense of balance amidst the memories of a world gone mad.

Perhaps it is as George Orwell wrote in his novel, Nineteen Eighty-four:

“The very word ‘war’, therefore, has become misleading.  It would probably be accurate to say that by becoming continuous war has ceased to exist… War is Peace.”

For my father, anger became the peacetime of his world until his heart ran out of time and he lost all hope of finding the poetry within him.

There is still time for me.

On that cold November morning, I approach the monument. I stand at the bottom step and look at the bright red poppies lining the gun metal grey of the concrete base of the statue. Slowly, I take the first step up and then the second. I hesitate then reach forward and place my poppy amongst the blood red row lined up along the ledge.

I wait. I don’t want to leave. I want a sign. I want to know my father sees me.

I turn and watch a white-haired grandfather approach, his gloved right hand encasing the mitten covered hand of his granddaughter. Her bright curly locks tumble from around the edges of her white furry cap. Her pink overcoat is adorned with little white bunnies leaping along the bottom edge. She skips beside him, her smile wide, blue eyes bright.

They approach the monument, climb the few steps and stop beside me. The grandfather lets go of his granddaughter’s hand and steps forward to place his poppy on the ledge.  He stands for a moment, head bowed. The little girl turns to me, the poppy clasped between her pink mittens outstretched in front of her.

“Can you lift me up?” she asks me.

“Of course,” I reply.

I pick her up, facing her towards the statue.

Carefully she places the poppy in the empty spot beside her grandfather’s.

I place her gently back on the ground.

She flashes me a toothy grin and skips away to join her grandfather where he waits at the foot of the monument. She grabs his hand.

“Do you think your daddy will know which one is mine?” she asks.

The grandfather laughs as he leads her back into the gathered throng.

“I’m sure he will,” he replies.

I watch the little girl skip away with her grandfather. The wind gently stirs the poppies lining the ledge. I feel them ripple through my memories of a poet boy who once stood his ground and fell beneath the weight of war.

My father is gone from this world. The dreams he had, the promises of his youth were forever lost on the bloody tide of war that swept the poet boy away.  In his passing, he left behind a love of words born upon the essays and letters he wrote me throughout the years. Words of encouragement. Of admonishment. Words that inspired me. Humored me. Guided me. Touched me. Words that will never fade away.

I stand at the base of the monument and look up at the soldier mounted on its pedestal.  Perhaps he was once a poet boy hurrying off to war to become a man. Perhaps he too came back from war an angry man fearful of letting the memories die lest the gift of his life be forgotten.

I turn away and leave my poppy lying at his feet. I don’t know if my father will know which is mine. I don’t know if poppies grow where he has gone. But standing at the feet of the Unknown Soldier, the wind whispering through the poppies circling him in a blood red river, I feel the roots of the poet boy stir within me. He planted the seed that became my life.

Long ago my father went off to war and became a man. His poetry was silenced but still the poppies blow, row on row. They mark the place where poet boys went off to war and never came home again.

The war is over. In loving memory of my father and those who fought beside him, I let go of anger. It is time for me to make peace.

 

 

Where’s the Love?

Black Eyed Peas did a new version of Where’s the Love?

I saw it on FB this morning — it’s powerful, provocative and, I sigh. If only we could listen. If only we would open our ears, our eyes, our hearts, our minds, we wouldn’t have to ask, Where’s the Love?

We’d be it.

Challenge is, to each of us, every 7 billion plus humans who inhabit this planet, our experience of Love is not the same thing.

And as I write that, I can hear my brother-in-law saying, “Don’t forget the animals. You can’t leave them out of a discussion about Love.”

See what I mean? Love is… whoever we are. However we are in this world.

We see Love through our perspectives, our worldview, our priorities, passions, beliefs, experiences.

I remember Thelma Box, the creator of Choices Seminars, saying once that she’d read an article on child abuse and in it, the author stated that for someone who abuses their own child, it is an expression of their love for that child. Not because that act is what Love Is. But rather, because in their mind, that is how they learned to express, get, show… Love.

Years ago, I was in the midst of a relationship that was killing me and finally found the strength to go to the police. The Detective I spoke with said as I was walking out the door, “You know, this isn’t love. Love doesn’t hurt that much.”

Intellectually, I knew he was right.

Spiritually, emotionally, I didn’t believe him.

In that relationship ‘love’ had become so warped by the abuse I was living within, I believed the pain made Love real — I also believed I didn’t deserve Love anyway, so the pain was better than nothing.

Love is…

Everything and all.

Love doesn’t have to change.

We do.

And that’s the challenge.  Love is IN everything we do because Love is all around. It’s just, we get trapped in the darkness of our expression of the pain within, so captured by our need to create the world the way we want to see it, we forget, there are 7 billion plus expressions of Love on this earth.

Where is the Love?

Love is in the father hitting his child. The mother doing drugs on the corner, leaving her children alone.

Love is in the tender touch. The gentle look. The loving words.

Love is in the soldier raping a woman because he holds the gun and she is just a spoils of war.

Love is in the soldier putting down his gun to carry a puppy out of a bombed out building.

Love is in all these things.

There is no question about where Love is.

The question is, What will you do for Love? Where are you in Love?

Are you hiding behind your pain, denying Love access by stomping on hearts, killing your own dreams?

Are you pushing your anger out into the world to keep from caving into despair?

Are you staying locked in your room, surrounded by loneliness because you are too afraid of getting hurt by venturing into the world?

Are you using your love as a weapon, as a means to get what you want, control who you can, create a world of mass destruction?

Or, are you willing to give into Love to create a world of peace, within and all around you?

Where is the Love?

It’s in you. Live it. Now.

A Cry for Peace

img_9765I cried yesterday. I sat on the ridge overlooking the river and tears spilled gently over my eyelids kissing my cheeks as softly as dew clinging to a leaf in early morning light.

I cried for the children who will go hungry tonight. For the boys who will hoist guns as long as their bodies and kill in the name of a peace they have never known. And for the little girls whose childhood’s are lost to faceless men who believe the only way to know love is to rape it from another.

I cried for mothers who weep at the gravesites of their loved ones lost to war and famine and disease and for the father’s who desperately want to teach their sons to grow into men, and do not know the way to quiet the fear within their hearts that their sons too shall never find their way to peace.

I cried for this world, this planet upon which we each rely for our existence, this planet we take for granted and treat with such disdain.

And I cried for humanity, our humanity, our human kind lost beneath our history of destroying one another in the name of God, Allah, Yaweh, Satnam, All Powerful, Vishnu, and 70 x 70 names I do not know but hear whispered upon the cries of millions of others dying to defend their right to worship at the altar of their choosing.

These were needed tears. Gentle. Cleansing. Healing. They were the words my heart could not speak out loud.

IMG_5846And when the tears were shed, when they had run their course, compassion flowed freely like the river winding its way through the valley bottom below, each passing drop changing the course of the one before.

And in their passing, I was left alone upon the hillside, sitting in the sun, cherishing the beauty of the day, savouring the gentle autumn breeze caressing my skin, the sound of the grasses whispering, the geese honking their plaintive lament as they journeyed south.

There is darkness in this world.

And there is light.

It is in the darkness the light shines brightest.

Yet, I want not to see the darkness. I want not to know its thrall, to feel its drag pulling me under. I want to steer clear of the darkness and still I know, it is only through acknowledging its presence that I will be free to shine my light fearlessly. It is only through letting go of fear of its nature I will be free to stand fearlessly in mine.

IMG_5851I cannot rid this planet of war and pain and sickness and hunger. I cannot heal the children of the world. I cannot silence the guns.

I can create beauty in my world. I can create peace around me by letting go of my fear that to witness the darkness is to let go of the light.

It is when I hold onto light for fear it will go out that darkness takes hold.

I cried yesterday. And I will cry again today. And in my tears, I find myself flowing in Love and compassion, holding onto nothing but the whole truth of who I am and all that is possible when I let go of fearing I cannot change the world.

If not me, who? If not now, when?

We are each capable of changing our worlds, of creating peace where there is discord, healing where there is pain. We are each capable of putting down our guns and holding out our arms in love, peace and forgiveness.

If not us, who? If not now, when?

(This is a repost of September 22, 2014 – Thanks FB Memories. It is as important to remember today as it was when I wrote it then.)

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau: In the name of peace.

IMG_9144
On Saturday evening, I was invited to address the crowd gathered at Civic Plaza to commemorate the devastation that rained down on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, 71 years ago. It was an evening to share our fears and hopes for nuclear disarmament, for peace on earth, for a future free of the fear of nuclear devastation.

It rained, hard, and still the people stood and listened and watched and when the moment was right, set their lanterns onto the surface of the reflecting pool and let them float into the night.

There were moments where I wanted to cry. To scream out, Stop this! Stop this suicide wish we have with our planet. We are killing ourselves and the world as we know it. Stop it.

A nuclear disaster is a real and present danger. It continues to grow in the darkness of our desire to not acknowledge it. It continues to fester in our silent voices refusing to call out for disarmament. To not stand up and demand we free ourselves from relying on war to make peace.

While Canada does not possess nuclear weapons, we have a long history of colluding with our super-power IMG_9133neighbours in fighting for the right to arm our military with weapons of mass destruction. In the name of national security we tell the Commissions and Tribunal’s when they gather to negotiate, “Our neighbours need them to deter other not so rational nations from using their weapons of mass destruction against them.” And so, in the shadow of our big brother, we do not insist they disarm. Instead, we tell ourselves the world is safer when we stand together with the nuclear super-powers and don’t make them back down from their continued demand to keep their arms and stay in the game of improving upon their prowess as creators of mass destruction.

The current presidential campaigns do not leave me feeling that safe living in the shadow of the US. I don’t feel so confident that some of the 1500 nuclear warheads they have on call will not be used indiscriminately under the misguided belief they will teach someone on the other side of the globe a lesson.

IMG_9139Fact is, there are over 15,550 nuclear warheads co-existing with us on this planet today. When the recent coup took place in Turkey, there was great concern over the safety of the airport. It is believed by many that the US has nuclear weapons stored there.

We think we are safe from the fallout. We are not.

It would only take 100 of today’s warheads, which are 20 times more powerful than the two dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, to create a cloud so dense it would block the sun for years. In the nuclear winter that would ensue, all plant life on earth would die. And so would much of life.

So this is my fervent plea, to Prime Minister Trudeau, to Premier Notley, to Mayor Nenshi who as a signatory to Mayor’s for Peace is calling for the total abolition of nuclear weapons by 2020. IMG_9151

Let’s Do It!  Let us disarm, disengage, disconnect the weapons of mass destruction and decide now to take the path to peace.

Please.

Let us choose peace.

Namaste.

In peace and the hope for a nuclear weapon free world.

 

To read the full text of my speech, please click 2016 Lantern Festival