Thursday, June 14, 2007

Take a Minute of Your Time

We are a nation of many different cultures and our people have come
from all the far corners of the world seeking freedom and living a life
as best they can, without war and condemnation. This was the ideal of
the Statue of Liberty and many of our ancestors worked hard and long
hours to provide a home for their family and food on the table.

While we are a nation of many nationalities, we are not the world's Creator
or the police service for every culture that is out there. If aid is needed or
assistance for humanitarian reasons, then yes, since we are all human
beings, we have a need to help others - but not to place military all over the
world, to interfere and cause governments to be overthrown and create
conditions for riots and upheavals.

We are the youngest nation around and therefore we do not have
all the answers to heal all the earth's wounds. In addition, we do not have the
God-given right to impose our ideals, ways, and belief systems on everyone
else. We can help but not alter. We can assist but not redo. Many of the
oldest cultures in the world have been living for centuries when we weren't
around and they did not fold up and walk away. Some cultures died out - but
these were usually the ones that tried to take over and rule over all others.

Our mandate in this sphere we live in is to help and give our friendship - not
decide what is right or wrong for everyone else. Each country has their
needs, their ways, and they do have their pride of ancestry. Who are we,
truly, to decide all the issues facing every nation, putting our soldiers and staff
in hundreds of other countries, deciding who should or should not win
elections, and if not going our way, to incite and overthrow? No one informed
the world that God died and the universe is not looking for a replacement.

We should honor the ways of others, but be there if they need food, medical
equipment, or some country has decided that their neighbor should be annihilated
and the people (the common every day man or woman) would be in pain. We
do not own or should we covet all the resources of the world. We do not have the
expertise, even though our government truly believes they do, to change
entire cultures into our image. They are not "us" and we need to have the respect
to give them the right to live as they choose, without our interference and without
giving money and indoctrination to the side we believe is right. The people of each of
the countries we interfere with are not being given the chance to run their
own lives, their land, or choose what they desire. Most assuredly, our
country should never overstep its bounds and deprive the citizens of the world
from their choices and their decisions.

Just picture another country coming here (and no, they are not on every street
corner and at every football game, as the media would have you believe),
distributing leaflets from the air about overthrowing our government, surrounding
the Great Lakes and the oceans with ships and warplanes (just military
training) and then deciding to enter our country even though we never stepped foot on
their ground or threw one bomb at them. Not only did we enter Iraq, but we do
not intend to leave. We were not there to win hearts - we wanted oil and we
wanted to control the Middle East.

Millions are being put into an embassy to house Americans in Iraq for God forever,
and now we want missile bases wherever we feel the need - even though it puts
other nations on alert and causes rifts and problems. We are the rulers of the
universe and you either are with us or against us. Hopefully, Rome, Germany,
and other great cultures can arise and warn the people what can happen when
world rule is the mandate and our way or no way is the mantra. The house of
cards will fall and then the other nations will look away because they stood by
us because of fear, not friendship. We intimidated and threatened violence so
they called themselves allies, but in the end, fear does not produce friendships.

Our infrastructure is crumbling, our families are torn to shreds, education is a by-
product and there is more violence here then ever before. Guns are being carried
as in the Old West, people shoot each other just because they are there, and crime
has become uglier and bloodier than ever in our history. More men and women are
crippled from the war and they do not get the support or medical attention they
deserve. Yet withdrawal is not an option because of pride voiced as failure. In reality,
we don't want to lose so our young give their blood and stain the ground with
their bravery.

TV shows our young that cheating and lying are part of the game, and the
commercials exploit the desire to buy more even though you don't need it. Women
are shown in clothing that has no shame, but then everyone wonders why rape
and other sexual crimes are at an all-time high. Men have lost respect for women
as women and use their strength to belittle and harm. Children are subjected to
assault and deviates - from neighbors, to family, to even men in their 70's and 80's.
Even the dead are not at peace as rowdy teens desecrate and mutiliate graves
and crypts.
There are rallies and demonstrations by "illegal aliens" and no mention is made of
the illegal actions they have taken. They demand rights here in our country not in
theirs because they know their government has washed their hands of helping their
own people because the U.S. will take care of it. We educate their children, give
them medical care, and jobs. This allows companies not to have to pay a living wage
to its own citizens because cheap labor is plentiful and cries of "No American wants
the job" brings TV cameras and newspaper interviews. The country that should be
handling these problems and making inroads for their own people do not use their
resources because the U.S. has truly taken over. We feed, clothe, educate, and
give retirement to their people while many Americans do without.

Gentleness and manners
are few and far between, and people will kill to get that last dollar on the table. If
another has to starve, lose everything because of medical emergencies, and
children as well as families are homeless, the bottom line is that the oil billionaries
are raking it in by unheard of profits. "Me first" is on everyone's lips and children
are being told "to kick ass." Childhood sports are shouting matches for parents
and many resort to punches and even shooting of the other side. Our children
do not believe in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny but bow down to horrid
monsters representing avengers and death.Shooting and mayhem are the
rites of massage, not building castles in the sand and dreaming during warm
summer days. Childhood is losing out while miniature adults are pushed and
pulled as parents compete against each other. A child the size of a minute has
already seen more violence then many adults did in their growing years.

Holidays get in the way of jobs and sporting events, and children are no longer latch-
key but are simply alone - in their homes, in their neighborhood and even in their
hearts. People are sued if they admonish a child who may have run into the street, or
broke a window - parents intervene with lawyers and money is the solution.
Bullies make their parents proud, while the elderly are neglected
and relegated to nursing homes and facilties. School shootings are no longer a
shock. They have become items of news.

Our country needs our country to care about its people, to spend money on those
who need it within our own borders. The world will crumble and destroy us as well
as the earth if we don't do our part for the environment. Animals are becoming
extinct, urban sprawl has no limits, and noise, air, and water pollution is rampant.
Drug companies resemble drug lords, dispensing pills to wake you, put you to sleep,
let you get through your day, decide when you want to die, determine how your
children will look, and so forth. There is a pill for absolutely everything
but the clincher is that there is very little research and most of it is biased or hidden,
and the products are found to cause more medical problems and disasters.
Our food is tainted with additives and chemicals and obesity is prevalent while
video games replace exercise and outdoor play. We say there is no arms race,
yet the budget allows for better nuclear weaponry and facilities. There is no
dictatorship, yet Congress and the Senate do the bidding when the Ruler
nods his head or pats them on their wallets. We should be building fences of
friendship instead of hidden torture camps in other lands and more prisons.
We dismiss the Geneva Convention and Kyoto but we will do anything for more
oil and fuel. We show the dead and mutilated bodies of the other side, but are
adament that our dead not be disgraced. They have been in the worse way -
a war that should never had happened, and one that was brought about by lies
and falsehoods dressed up in suits and news conferences.

The Catholic Church is going bankrupt and closing parishes because of sex crimes
and lies, corruption and greed permeate our government and civil servants. Soldiers
are placed in harm's way and shoot to kill no matter the cause because of strain
and fear, but there is no coming home or an end to the war. Congress, the Senate
and your elected officials are sworn to uphold the wants of their people, yet they
do as they are told and back off of the really important issues because of "politics"
It just doesn't look good to condemn bad decisions and take a stand - instead
go where the votes are and rake in the money while you can. The party name
is all that matters because the power is the goal - not the people and true

What has happened to a concept of a country where people were going to be happy,
healthy, and lead lives that allowed everyone a share of the pie? It's out there some-
where, probably in the safe of one of the oil or drug corporations so that they can
just figure out a way to do away with it - but they can't. It is in our hearts and souls,
and while we may be in a drug stupor or fed lies three times a day and now our minds
are foggy and our decisions faulty, we will prevail. We are Americans and we won
our rights - we are all in this together - we just forgot how to do it . The people of the
other lands that inhabit earth have the same rights - to choose, decide, and live
the way they want to - without our interference, judgment, and pressure. We pay
for the government to fight the war on crime, drugs, and the terrorists - yet, it is
in the very walls of the hollowed halls of the White House.

What is the answer - we let live so we can live. We help where we can but leave
the big decisions to the nations to contend with, and to carry out. We fight only
when life and limb of people are at stake - such as AIDS, and genocide - but
we stay out of elections. We are not the brightest stars in the heavens, because
there are others who share the space. When we clean up our own back yards,
and make the repairs to ourselves and our land - then and only then are we
ready to be true guardians of the earth. When we can undo the humiliation
and pain caused by putting down the American Indians, those who spoke
against issues, and those who are in jail even though innocent, then we are
ready and all grown-up. Until then our growing pains should take up our time
and space. We will survive but we must let others survive. We will win but we
must let others run the race and score as well. We are a great nation among
many - we are equal to all human beings, we are not gods and goddesses,
and then and only then will we be truly free. We must look at our history and learn.
We must look at the world history and see the warning signs that led to failure.
Each man, woman, and child in this land is precious and should be at the forefront
of all we do - yet egoes, and agendas as well as power greed have eaten up
decency and democracy. Look inside and the answers are all there - take the
time to really open your eyes and really see what is happening.
It is not too late - but the clock is ticking. We are making enemies instead
of bonding friendships. We are using war and weaponry instead of diplomacy
and hand shakes. We are the only ones to change course - we have done it
before and we can do it again - for those before us and especially for those
here and now.

©Arleen M. Kaptur
June, 2007

Monday, June 4, 2007

Diamonds = Death

Ever hear of a "Blood Diamond"? Ever here of children being forced into slave labor to pan and dig for that beautiful rock on your finger? Did you know that people have had arms or hands amputated due to being accused of stealing the very diamonds they have been forced to pan for in a river? Upon learning of this, I view my diamonds differently. I wince upon the mere thought of this occurring due to something I am wearing, therefore, I am currently not wearing any diamonds and I will not, until I find out where these diamonds came from.

What I am speaking of is the Diamond Industry within Africa. According to a report from "Partnership Africa Canada" there have been approximately 50,000 Africans killed,and half the population mis-placed within Sierra Leone. The underground trade of diamonds is booming. Conflict Diamonds are valued between four percent and fifteen percent of the world total and generates annual trade revenues of 7.5 billion dollars.

In 1991 Sierra Leone's conflict over diamonds began. Early in 1992 The Revolutionary United Front (RUF), an African rebel group seized Kono which is the Diamond Mining capital of Sierra Leone. In an effort to stabilize this region the "National Provisional Ruling Council" (NPRC) became engaged in an effort to drive out the RUF. In 1996 the president, Ahmed Tejan Kabbah signed a peace agreement in Abidjan which actually gave the RUF an opportunity to become a legitimate political party. Instead of taking Mr. Kabbah up on this offer, they chose to join forces with insurgents of the Sierra Leonean army and formed the "Armed Forces Ruling Council" (AFRC) which ended up ousting Mr. Kabbah from office.

In 1988 Nigerian forces from the "Military Observer Group of the Economic Community of West African States" (ECOMOG) removed the AFRC rebels from Freetown and reinstated Mr. Kabbah. Upon this occurring, the Nigerian forces could not contain the RUF Rebels. In 1999 these RUF Rebels murdered an estimated six thousand civilians as well as mutilating many more people.
In 1999 the government of Sierra Leone was forced to sign yet another peace treaty which allowed for this RUF Rebel group to become part of the government. Upon this occurring, the RUF Rebel group seized the control of the diamond mining camp in Kono and Tongo Field. The result was thousands of Sierra Leoneans being killed and mutilated for various reasons.

"The United Nations" (UN) did not intervene until 2001. Ten years after the war began, they imposed "lenient" sanctions, which consisted of a ban on Liberian diamond sales as well as a ban on travel by Liberian officials. It was impossible for the UN to enforce these sanctions due to the fact of no international oversight of movement of diamonds. After these sanctions were imposed, an RUF official flew to Abidjan and sold eight thousand carats of diamonds to an undisclosed dealer.

In 2003, the UN finally became involved in Sierra Leone's war sending a 17,000-man force to supervise disarmment and to uphold the provisions of the "Lome agreement". This war finally was noticed internationally after the UN inspectors were denied access to the diamond mines for inspection. In 2003, the UN special court in Sierra Leone indicted several people on war crimes, crimes against humanity and violations of international humanitarian law. Not all of these RUF officials were brought to justice, in fact, their fate is unknown.

Three separate incidents which occured in Rwanda, Sudan and Sierra Leone where the RUF Rebels conducted genocides resulted in thousands being murdered. Let's not forget the slave labor which was forced upon the children and men, the squalor conditions they were forced to live in while panning for diamonds in which we all wear.

In 2003 the "Kimberly Process" was introduced to stem the flow of "Conflict Diamonds", this imposes requirements on participants to certify that shipments of rough diamonds are "Conflict Free". Where measures have finally been made to stop this procedure, there is still an underground world of illegal diamond smuggling that end up dwindling into our U.S jewelry stores as well as around the world. It is up to consumers to ask our jeweler's where their products come from and to prove to us they are indeed "Conflict Free", if they can not do this, take your business elsewhere. To cast a blind eye to this issue is promoting the blood shed and tribulations of Africans whom more than likely were forced to dig for that stone around your "woman's" neck, it's not worth it. What if it were "our" children out in those mines? What if it were our women whom were raped and murdered? Does this not bring a different perspective?

Here are some recent statistics. Only 27% of shops were able to assure the "Business and Rights Organization" that they had a policy on "Conflict Diamonds". 30% of the shops said they had a policy but were unable to produce documentation proving this. 37% of the shops visited claimed they were aware of the "Conflict Diamond Issue". Out of this 37%, 54% of them reported an inaccurate definition of the crisis. When asked if American consumers inquired about Conflict Diamonds, 83% said rarely or never. 110 shops refused to even answer questions or take the survey.

I think it's obvious of the greed within this industry. Our jewelry shops do not care how they get our diamonds, as long as you purchase the diamonds and they can profit. Let's take a stand and ask our jeweler's if they follow the "Kimberly Process", if they state yes, make them prove it with documentation. Let's ask if their diamonds are "Conflict Free". Please take a stand on this. I will state that upon learning of this situation, first and foremost, I'm ashamed of myself for not even knowing about this horrible atrocity, secondly, diamonds are no longer my best friend.