As we in and near Asheville dedicate a new Peace Pole downtown on International Day of Peace, Friday, Sept. 21, in the Elder and Sage Community Garden, I ponder how peace and violence are interwoven into our daily lives locally.
As of July in Asheville, [eight] people had lost their lives due to violent acts, [according to Asheville Police Department statistics]. Meanwhile, angels of peace daily feed hungry bodies and provide health care to hurting persons in our community. Bruised, battered and raped women seek help from agencies like Helpmate, while Pisgah Legal Services finds peaceful solutions for people who are evicted from homes or denied needed benefits.
Working for peace, often in the midst of violence, happens every day here and all over Western North Carolina.
Nothing can be more local than peace, and many locals deserve praise for the work they do daily to bring peace into the lives of homeless, the sick, the hungry and the oppressed. Even groups like Brother Wolf bring peace into the lives of our pets.
Nevertheless, amidst so many peaceful acts in our area, programs like Low Income Energy Assistance, rural and community hospitals, Medicaid, Temporary Aid to Needy Families, food stamps and Supplemental Security Income are threatened because ever-increasing sums of our taxes are annually dumped into bottomless coffers of our military. Working for peace in our community also includes local advocacy for bringing war dollars back home to fund programs that make peace possible to thousands of people right here.
While [eight] persons this year have lost their lives in Asheville, four U.S. soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan during the same time period; 11 in Iraq. We’re glad that most of our soldiers come home alive, but even their Veterans Affairs hospitals are now threatened with privatization, which most veterans think will be detrimental to their care. North Carolina estimates that 32.9 per 100,000 veterans in North Carolina commit suicide. …
Consider this: More than half of all discretionary spending (funds in the federal budget that aren’t already obligated to be paid to fund such things as Social Security) is taken from our local communities to fund wasteful programs dictated by the military-industrial complex, that many even in the military don’t want.
For 2019, that amount is more than $717 billion, an increase of $160 billion more in the next two years than the previous budget. Imagine what Buncombe County’s share, $281.83 million would be available to pay for here at home:
Working for peace means working for a better allocation of funds in our federal budget. It means responsible budgeting for future needs and cutting our federal deficit.
• 3,804 clean energy jobs or
• 5,072 infrastructure jobs or
• 2,818 jobs with supports in high-poverty communities, or
• 31,697 Head Start slots for children, or
• 29,984 military veterans receiving VA medical care, or
• 262,748 households with wind power, or
• 71,459 adults receiving low-income healthcare, or
•162,297 households with solar electricity or
• any combination of the above (source: White House Office of Management and Budget and other federal agencies, interpreted by the National Priorities Project).
Working for peace means working for a better allocation of funds in our federal budget. It means responsible budgeting for future needs and cutting our federal deficit. …
Working for peace is about saving lives of local young men and women, of preventing ever-increasing suicides and drug overdoses here in Asheville.
Being peacemakers also means protecting our environment from the country’s worst polluter, the U.S. military. It’s about constructing for our families’ lives, not destroying our land, air, water and people.
While our own deaths from war are now very low, Consortium News estimates that 6 million people have died from war-related causes throughout the Middle East and parts of Africa since 9/11.
Our Peacemakers of the Year will be Christian Peacemaker Team members Palestinian-born Yousef Natsha and wife, American-born Rachel Joy, both of whom now live in Asheville. Yousef, a filmmaker, recently finished a documentary called Hebron.
So come observe International Day of Peace Friday, Sept. 21, 11:30 a.m. at the Elder and Sage Community Gardens on Page Avenue in downtown Asheville. Help us dedicate our new Peace Pole there, featuring the phrase “May Peace Prevail on Earth” in English, Spanish, Korean and Cherokee. Bring lawn chairs and signs telling others where you want peace in the world.
— Rachael Bliss