Never doubt that your efforts to “speak [or write] truth to power” can make a difference.
This past Monday – Armistice Day – I received an e-mail from Erica Smith, a Democrat who has served in the North Carolina Senate for the past four years and now is challenging US Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) for his seat in Congress. Not surprisingly, her letter was filled with the usual platitudes about thanking the men and women in uniform who have “fought for our democratic freedoms.”
Knowing full well that our freedoms cannot be gained on the battlefield of other nations, and that our civil liberties have been declining since we began our ‘wars of terror’ in 2001, I wrote to her to share my thoughts about the true meaning of Armistice Day:
Dear Erica Smith,
My husband is a Vietnam Veteran. He also serves as the president of the Triangle Chapter of Veterans for Peace, and he is among a growing number of US War veterans who ask that you please not “thank them for their service.” He asks instead that you thank them for working now to end US imperialist and racist wars. It is a fallacy to assert that these wars “protect our freedoms.” Killing innocent children in Yemen and Syria and Iran will not “protect our freedoms.” Spending trillions of our tax dollars — so badly needed at home for health care and housing and environmental protections — on war planes and drones instead does not “protect our freedoms.” It does not make us more secure. It does not keep us safe. We are “guardians of our liberties” only when we exercise and protect our right to vote and our right to dissent, and when we work to strengthen our democracy here at home. That includes working against gerrymandering and voter suppression, not killing people of color who are falsely tagged as our ‘enemies.’
I support your candidacy for U.S. Senate, but your Armistice Day message today sounds just like the one sent by Thom Tillis. If you want to win the vote of progressive voters who do not support U.S. racist militarism and expansion, I urge you to create a platform that includes cutting the military budget (not veterans’ benefits) and bringing our troops home where they can transition to jobs that build and don’t destroy.
I wish you well in your campaign.
I didn’t really expect a reply, but less than an hour after I sent that e-mail [!], I received the following response:
Thank you for your support and for the “truth to power” response from you and your husband. Everything you said is “spot on.” Those making these decisions on our imperialism are many of the ones who dodged this service themselves, and since being elected have been self serving. They have abused their power, benefiting from great healthcare and a six figure salary compliments of our tax dollars – yet they won’t promote this access for working Americans and our Veterans. Our communications team has noted your recommendations and you will see us incorporate several of these tenets in our messaging moving forward.
Writing letters, signing petitions, calling on our elected officials… all of this often seems fruitless, but sometimes – just sometimes – it’s worth the effort. Let’s not give up!
With love and in peace,