Image by .faramarz via FlickrWhile every aspect of Ordinary exists or has existed somewhere on the planet, the world of Ordinary does not yet exist, as is so evident with recent events in Iran and North Korea.
People in Iran risk their lives every day to send us images of the violence they endure. The images shock the soul and tear the heart. Documented and undocumented stories abound of police, military and militia kidnappings, beatings, arrests, imprisonments, torture; of hospitals forced to turn over bodies and the wounded to be carted off by government officials to unknown destinations; of families of the dead removed from their homes and relocated to undisclosed locations; of hired thugs from foreign lands wielding clubs and axes indiscriminately on men, women, pregnant women, children.*
Image by .faramarz via FlickrIn its efforts to silence its people, the Iranian government has imprisoned journalists, foreign embassy officials and staff, politicians, professors, students, and ordinary citizens. Nightly, the government sends its militia to raid homes, tearing out and destroying their satellite dishes so the people cannot receive news from the outside world.*
Watching the government beat, torture and shoot its citizens in cold blood, I learn that this recent violence is only that. Recent. Documented stories tell of decades of imprisoned, tortured and disappeared journalists and citizens, one individual after another.
Image by .faramarz via FlickrAmong the videos tonight is one, in six segments, not of this uprising but of the public execution at six o'clock in the morning a few years ago of a sixteen year old girl, Atefah Sahaaleh, for crimes against chastity. Coerced and raped by a 51 year old man, Atefah had been sentenced to die for adultery. As they do in Iran these days, and as the story revealed with graphic examples, they hanged this young woman from an industrial crane. Her rapist received one hundred lashes. She had received many more before her death.
There are more such stories. The number seems endless. I am in a stupor of grief and shock.
All this from a country who desperately wants the nuclear bomb. Which brings me to North Korea. They already have the nuclear bomb and have trained several missiles on the United States. Of course, the bombs are not aimed only at the United States. South Korea is most at risk right now, and even China and Russia are concerned enough that they joined the United Nations in sanctions against North Korea, a rare stand for these traditional allies.
As if irreversible climate change were not already occurring, as if the world economy were not struggling to reverse a nose dive, as if water scarcity and ozone depletion did not threaten all of human kind, we ordinary citizens once again face the imminent threat of nuclear annihilation and the sure, very graphic, up close and personal images of human beings beating and slaughtering other human beings in a political power struggle.
If we choose to make ourselves aware, it is not difficult to find similar stories in Iraq, Afghanistan, Gaza, Nepal, and a host of other countries. (In fact, the United States State Department today lists travel warnings for no less than twenty-nine hot spots around the world where upheaval and violence make visitation dangerous. Where there is violence, human rights abuses are almost always found.)
Image via WikipediaAll big picture stuff, right? So how do we build Ordinary when we are faced with so much violence and threat? What can you or I possibly do to mitigate any of these situations?
Turns out there is a lot we can do in regard to human rights. We must honor the people in Iraq and elsewhere around the world who have risked their lives to show us the horrors they face and endure. We must take action, however and wherever we can. Below is a short list of organizations that work to protect and promote human rights. Several have a page of direct action you can take right now. Go to them. Find at least one action you can take today. Make a date with yourself for the next action you will take and keep it. When you do, make another date and another. Knowledge is responsibility. We no longer have the luxury of pretending we are so far isolated from these world events that we have no power to act. Please act now.
For a more comprehensive list, visit the Human Rights Web Resource Page.
That brings us to the second big issue. How to respond to the nuclear threats posed by North Korea, as well as the numerous other countries, including our own, who possess the power to destroy the world many times over? The following are a very few of the organizations that work to reduce and eliminate nuclear weapons around the world. They too have action pages.
- Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
- Abolition 2000: Global Network to Eliminate Nuclear Weapons
- Council for a Livable World
For a comprehensive list, including links to webs sites on international law, visit Nuclear Age Peace Foundation's web links page.
To the direct actions available to you on the above web pages, I add stand for peace. Standing for peace every day, even for five minutes a day, makes a difference in my personal life. It also gives me the courage to watch a few of the videos from Iran each night and broaden my personal commitment to taking action to promote peace.
Can any of this work possibly be enough? Who can say? I know I cannot continue as though I don't know the people of Iran are asking for my help and my voice. So I write this. I pray. I stand for peace. This is how I am building the world of Ordinary right now.
Please, can we talk? Just as we pile one brick on another to build a community center, so we can build a peaceful world, one non-violent action at a time. In the comments below, tell us what you are doing What single step will you take this week? What date will you make with yourself for additional action? What other ideas about making peace here and abroad can you contribute?
*With the exception of the two relatively tame images above, I have not linked to the articles, images and videos that document these events, but if you feel compelled to see and judge for yourself, you won't have far to search on YouTube or most any search engine to which you subscribe.
The Iran images in this post are used with permission under I wage peace image is courtesy Bruce Barrett.