At a small, informal school in the basement of
a church in Amman, many strings of colorful paper cranes bedeck walls and windows.
The school serves children whose families have fled Iraq. Older children who
come to the school understand the significance of the crane birds. Claudia Lefko,
of Northampton, Mass., who helped initiate the school, told them Sadako's story.
The Japanese child survived the bombing of Hiroshima, but suffered from radiation
sickness. In a Japanese hospital, she wanted to fold 1,000 origami crane birds,
believing that by doing so she could be granted a special wish: hers was that
no other child would ever suffer as she did. Sadako died before completing the
task she'd set for herself, but Japanese children then folded many thousands
more cranes, and the story has been told for decades in innumerable places,
making the delicate paper cranes a symbol for peace throughout the world.
On this Aug. 6, children who've recently joined the informal school in Amman
will learn Sadako's story.
Having survived war, death threats, and displacement, they may be particularly
aware of the enormous challenge represented by Sadako's wish.
Words to the song "Little Girl of Hiroshima" are on my mind today,
thinking of the Iraqi children who have not survived:
"I come and stand at every door
But none shall hear my silent tread
I knock and yet remain unseen
For I am dead, for I am dead."
The song goes on to tell of a child who needs no bread, nor even wheat, milk,
or water, for she is dead. She only asks for peace,
"So that the children of the world
can run and dance and laugh and play."
A year ago, the space where the Iraqi children gather was grim and decrepit.
The Jordanian parish priest invited volunteers from the community of Iraqis
living in the area to help create a place where their children could meet for
lessons and games. Several families responded and set about hauling debris out
of the rooms, long unused, that had once housed monks in the Eastern Orthodox
Church. Walls were sanded and painted, windows were installed, and a garden
they planted is now in full bloom. Thirty-five children gather for two hours
a day, five days a week, under the careful supervision of a few adults in the
community. It's a hopeful spot.
When I visited the school several times a week, earlier this year, two of the
children, Carom and Carla, were listless and withdrawn. In the past few weeks,
I've loved watching little Carla run to join a team playing tug-of-war, proudly
accept a marker and solve simple math problems in front of the class, and actively
engage in cooperative games. Her brother races faster than any of the other
children his age, and he fills his notebook with careful writing.
How fortunate that these two children escaped the fate of so many Iraqi children
now represented by the little girl of Hiroshima, those whose silent tread will
never be heard.
Claudia Lefko works to raise
money for the school. For every $35 dollars she raises, we might guess the Pentagon
raises $35 million. Billions, perhaps trillions will be spent to send weapons,
weapon systems, fighter jets, ammunition, and military support to the region,
fueling new arms races and raising the profits of U.S. weapon makers.
Aug. 6, Hiroshima Day, marks the time when the United States ushered the world
into an age threatened by weapons of horrific mass destruction, spawning the
terrible arms race that marked the Cold War between the United States and the
Soviet Union. Now, as the nightmare of war in Iraq steadily worsens, Aug. 6
also marks a new round of Occupation Project activities. The Occupation Project
is a campaign called for by Voices for Creative Nonviolence and endorsed by
Veterans for Peace, Code Pink, Declaration of Peace, and the National Campaign
for Nonviolent Resistance, among others.
The action involved is simple. Activists assemble in the offices of elected
representatives, prepared to read aloud or to chant the names of Iraqis and
Americans who have been killed since the U.S. invaded Iraq. They bring with
them articles that help analyze how U.S. wealth and U.S. lives are being used
to protect war profiteers and extend the arm of U.S. military might.
We can never reverse the decisions to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki,
nor can we ever adequately explain to children the vicious patterns of our ongoing
The song about "The Little Girl of Hiroshima" imagines a child who
comes and stands at every door, unheard and unseen. In reality, we can go to
the doors of elected representatives – we can be heard and seen. We can
learn from past experiences and, as we commemorate the loss of innocent lives,
bolster efforts to stop warmakers from constantly gaining the upper hand in
our lives. I can think of no better place to announce our determination than
inside the offices of those who, as elected lawmakers, can affect future military
spending. Please, if you have not already done so, visit the Voices
for Creative Nonviolence Web site and consider ways to participate in the
Occupation Project during these crucial weeks before the Senate and House of
Representatives vote on more spending for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.