Elizabeth MacKenzie Hebron, Michigan
I'm writing this letter so you will understand why I am against the war in Iraq. Like so many other Americans, I think, we should have negotiated, nor should we continue to keep our soldiers there. Power, oil, and greed are not good enough reasons for so many people to be killed. It's not only our soldiers who are dying; innocent Iraqi families – mothers, fathers, daughters, and sons – are being killed there every day, too.
I know the idea that our country could do something bad is hard to understand. But in this case, I believe that we are continuing to do bad things every day we keep our young men and women in Iraq. This is why everyone, even ordinary people like your Granny, must try to stop our country from doing things we will be ashamed of one day.
Some people will tell you that we are fighting terrorism with this war in Iraq. The truth is, this country is no safer from terrorist attacks than we were before we invaded Iraq.
So, ask these people how they think this war is making our country a safer place to live. Some people will tell you it is unpatriotic to criticize your own country. If those same people tell you that two plus two equals four, and that a red light means stop, you can believe them. Anything more complicated than that, you should ask questions until you are sure you understand all of the answers. If everyone keeps asking questions, we might avoid having our country continue to do bad things, and we could succeed in doing so many good things together.
When I was a teenager, this country was involved in another unjust war – the war in Viet Nam. A lot of the boys I went to school with were drafted against their will and sent to Viet Nam to fight. Many of them never came back – they died fighting in a war our country had no right to enter into in the first place. Of those who did come back, too many were never the same – they were crippled physically and emotionally for the rest of their lives. Some of them, called draft dodgers, believed so strongly that the war was wrong that they left our country and went to live in Canada.
In real life, right and wrong are not always as clear as in the fairy tales I loved to read when I was a little girl. It was easy to tell the good guys from the bad guys. In real life, good people can do bad things, and bad people can do good things. Nothing in the world is ever black and white, but many, many shades of gray. Sometimes, it can be very hard to understand the reasons why things happen, like this war in Iraq. That's why I will continue to oppose the war in Iraq, and to ask questions, and keep asking them until I am satisfied with the answers. I want to leave the world you inherit from my generation to be a better place.
Love and hugs, Granny
Peg MacIntire, Florida
Dear little one,
I do not know you. I do not even know your name. But I love you because you are my son-in-law's daughter. My daughter, Jil, passed away, childless. Your Dad went on to marry your Mom. So although you are not legally mine, you hold a very special place in my heart.
I am American, you Italian. I am Jewish, you Catholic. I live in the USA, you in Italy.
Way back in l937, my 27-year old brother, Jo Dallet, died in Spain, in a desperate losing battle against fascism. Mussolini and Gen. Franco were friends. You will learn this from your history books, when you are old enough to go to school.
Later, in l952, when my husband, Gordon McIntire, was offered a job in Rome with the Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, my first reaction was very negative. I was afraid we would be met with both religious and political prejudice, but it turned out very differently. (We had trouble with our own government, but not with yours.) We found friendship, beauty, good food, good wine, good skiing...I have wonderful memories of more than 20 years in your beautiful country. So my advice to you is: GIVE LIFE A CHANCE!
Take risks. Live passionately. Do your best at all times, seek and give cooperation, think for yourself, study hard, play hard, work hard, and love whatever you are doing. There will be peaks and depths. That's life. But in the long haul, if you make the right choices and obey your own instincts, I pray you will become an active young woman, doing your very best in every way to make a safer, happier and healthier world.
Granny Peg (96 years old on October 2, 2006)
PS October 2 is also Gandhi's birthday.
Lauretta Brandes Freeman, New Jersey
I’m so glad that you said that you’d like to see some of my life story. I’m sending you a chapter from the middle part of my life.
I was essentially a shy person. So this story is very important to me. I was really pretty scared going to talk to all my neighbors. But I had friends who supported what I was doing. And I just knew that it was right for people to live together in a friendly way.
Life does present many challenges. It feels so good to be part of something that has the possibility of working out well for so many people.
A Chapter from the Life Story of Lauretta Brandes Freeman
It was 1963. I was living in the first house owned by anyone in our family. It was on an ordinary street in the suburbs. Babies were walked in their carriages in the morning; bridge games occupied couples in the evening.
Then we started receiving the telephone calls. Neighbors asked each other “Did you get a call?” “Yes”. “Did you get a call? “Yes”. “What did they say?” We each had gotten the same call. It was from the realtor named Howell from the next town. The message was always the same. “I’ve just sold a house up the block to colored people. Don’t you want to put your house on the market, too?”
We didn’t want to move, but we had heard that property values go down when “colored people” moved onto a block. Then, I remembered reading a local magazine article about another community in New Jersey. They too, were being pressured by realtors to sell their houses. They had put signs in their windows reading “This House is Not For Sale.” I obviously needed to know more. I found the magazine and called the person mentioned in the article for information.
He told me that property values only go down when a lot of people moved out in a short length of time. In fact we discovered that property values went higher when blocks became racially desegregated because housing for minorities is scarce and they are often willing to pay higher prices for their homes.Several neighbors and I got together and took on the job of sharing our information with the others. We felt it was important to keep people from selling in a panic to enrich the realtor.
I remember going out on a rainy day. I had a new red umbrella from Paris , which I had just gotten as a present. I rang the doorbell of each of the neighbors up and down the block. We talked about how much we loved our homes. We agreed that our homes were not changing. We decided not to be forced out. Many did put up signs, “This House is Not for Sale.” Some did not. A few families even moved out in a panic.
I called the president of the NAACP and asked her to speak to local realtors. She did and they agreed not to rush in with prospects.
There are 40 houses on the block. We invited all the residents to a meeting to discuss the situation and to get to know each other. The first year we met monthly. Each person was asked to bring something important to their family.
I remember that my neighbor on my right brought one of her prizewinning roses. I brought a tomato. Having lived all my life inNew York City the fact that I could grow an edible tomato was very special to me.
Two of our new neighbors came, too. She and her husband were African Americans. She worked as a model; he was an attorney in town. They brought a picture of the Eiffel Tower which they had just visited on their summer vacation.
After the first year of monthly meetings, the group decided to choose a president family each year, done in alphabetical order.Itwas also decided to have a block party each year, the first weekend after Labor Day.
It’s been more than 40 years. All the residents look forward to the party. Each president family takes the responsibility. The whole block is closed off. The young children love to ride their trikes in the street. Each family brings food. It is wonderful. This past year we had plantains from Jamaica, dumplings from Korea, sticky rice from Iran and many other generous multiethnic delights.
Many new white families have bought homes as African Americans needed to leave. They feel that living in an integrated neighborhood is a plus for their whole family. Children growing up on our block are truly free and comfortable among all kinds of people.
Being part of making Stephen Street the “friendliest block in town” has been a highlight of my life.
Dorothy Bryant, California
In 1942, when I was just a little older than you are, Yoshio disappeared from my seventh-grade class. At recess that day about six of us stood in the schoolyard talking about him. Donny, one of the slow learners in our class, said he didn't understand what our teacher had told us. "I don't get it," he said. "Why did Yoshio have to go away?"
I was at the top of our class. I could recite everything that our teachers, our parents, and the newspapers said. I explained that, since Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor, San Francisco might be next; Japan was not a democracy like ours, it was ruled by an emperor who was worshipped as a god; this religious worship made Japanese believe they should do anything for the emperor. My classmates nodded, a little bored at hearing it all again.
All except Donny, who wrinkled up his forehead, shook his head slowly in confusion, and asked, "What has all that stuff got to do with Yoshio?"
Then someone yelled, "I found the ball," and everyone ran off to start a game.
I just stood there alone for a minute, turning hot with rage. Then I turned cold with shame. My stomach turned over with disgust-for myself. I, the smart one, had swallowed everything I was told, and then had given it back, word for word, like passing a test. Donny, the dumb one, had asked a simple question that blew my little speech apart, showed me that our government, our teachers, our neighbors, our parents-none of them bad people-were lying to us and, worse, to themselves. .
I wish I could tell you that I went around asking Donny's question everywhere, but I was afraid to. I knew that I would just make the adults very angry at me, because, deep down, they knew they should be asking the same question: why were Americans like Yoshio and his family being put behind barbed wire in desert camps? That unasked question sank into a great silence that lasted years and years- until it was broken, leaving a terrible shame that became part of our history, yours and mine.
I never forgot Donny, and I try not to forget the lessons he taught me: that being smart is harder and deeper than filling in the blanks on a test; that smart people in the highest positions can be wrong; that asking a simple, "stupid" question takes courage, because people get angry if you catch them lying or showing their ignorance. Above all, I try to remember that there are no stupid questions; what's stupid is swallowing whatever you're told and repeating it without making sure you understand it.
If people tell you that two plus two equals four, and that a red light means STOP, you can believe them. Anything more complicated than that-ask questions until you're very sure you understand. Just asking might stir up some hidden truth, and that truth might start other people asking more questions. And if everyone keeps asking questions, we might avoid doing some bad things. We might even manage to stop someone else from doing bad things, and, best of all, succeed in doing some good things together.
Harriet Greene, New Mexico
Dear Teakkin Rain,
I was born in Canada. When I was growing up, I heard my parents talking about Hitler and how horrible Germany was. But they always said that all the German people weren't bad. Then later, watching television about the Vietnam war - terrible pictures of soldiers and ordinary people being killed - I wondered how this could happen. I lived in a peaceful country that doesn't start wars. We Canadians watched these horrible things happening from afar. It must have planted a seed in my mind about injustice.
When I was twenty-nine years old, I moved with my family to the United States because bad things were happening in Quebec between the English and the French-speaking citizens and the situation was getting worse. So we moved across the border.
Years later, when the United States declared war on Iraq I found myself crying uncontrollably because this country was at war again. I read a lot of alternative magazines and books and realized that it was all about oil and rich people's greed and had nothing to do with terrorism and the American people.
Some time later, I moved to Taos, New Mexico where most of the people are against the war and are not afraid to say so, I decided I had to do my part. I didn't feel comfortable just complaining about injustice anymore. I decided that instead of sculpting beautiful shapes in my stones or carving and printing wildlife and flowers I would carve my feelings about Peace into stone. So Grandpa and I drove down to Belen where they sell carving stones and I bought five big blocks
of marble. We drove home with our cargo of 750 pounds wondering how we were going too get them out of the back of the truck.
We placed planks of wood against the truck and slid the blocks of marble to the ground where they stayed for about two years. Then we moved the tiny valley in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and of course had to drag all my marbles with us.Grandpa has always said to me, "Why can't you do something like embroidery?"
When you were born and I looked into your beautiful face I knew then that it was time for me to do something about Peace, because everywhere in the world mothers were becoming grandmothers just like me. And what we all prayed for was Peace for our beautiful grandchildren. It was then that the idea was born in my mind and heart. I knew exactly what I had to do.
I started to read about all the courageous people who had been fighting for Peace all their lives ... Martin Luther King, Jr., Albert Einstein, Desmond MpiloTutu, Helen Keller, Oscar Arias Sanchez, Dr. Rigoberta, Menchy Tum, Leo Tolstoy, Mahatma Gandhi, Anwar el Sadat, Mother Teresa, Betty Williams, Alva Reimer Myrdal, Menachem Begin, Shirin Ebadi, John Lennon, Albert Schweitzer, Elie Wiesel, H.H. the Dalai Lama, Adlai Stevenson, Linas Pauling, Nelson Mandela, Lester B. Pearson, Arundhati Roy, Aung San Suu Kyi and thousands others. These people laid their lives on the line for Peace. I kept reading on and on and filled my marble stones with their words for Peace. And I hope that when I finish, their words will be read by everybody and will spread Peace across the world, even if it's just my neighbours who will see it, one by one.
I hope that by the time you're a big boy, there won't be any more wars, justice will rule over injustice, love will replace hate, and Peace will replace war.
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