By Christopher Zurcher, Peacenews.org
Amy Goodman, Executive Producer of Democracy Now! and author of four books, including her most recent, “Breaking the Sound Barrier,” was in New Haven last night to receive Promoting Enduring Peace’s Gandhi Peace Award at United Church on the Green.
Those who have received the Gandhi Peace Award are distinguished by having made a significant contribution to the promotion of international peace founded on justice, self-determination, diversity, compassion and harmony, achieved, in the spirit of Gandhi, through cooperative and nonviolent means.
At the ceremony, which was also a celebration of PEP’s 60th anniversary, Goodman spoke of her determination to show the reality of war and gave an anecdote of meeting some soldiers in Iraq while covering the 2007 killing of a dozen individuals including Reuters photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen, 22, and his assistant and driver Saeed Chmagh, 40.
“Why are you covering this incident? Why are you covering this incident?” one soldier asked Goodman.
“Because we have images and video of a dozen unarmed citizens being shot to death … and I think that’s important, don’t you?” she asked.
“Yes,” he said, “but this is what we do every day. Show the images. Show the images.”
Goodman also relayed the story of the 1955 murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till.
When Till was returned to Chicago, his mother, insisted on an open casket at his public funeral service to show the world the brutality of the killing. Tens of thousands attended Till’s funeral or viewed the casket and reporters took pictures of the mutilated body that were published in newspapers and Jet and other black magazines.
“The mother of this 14-year-old boy who was brutally murdered, Goodman said, “had something to teach the media of today.”
Goodman believes that in order for there to be peace, the American people and others across the world need to see the reality of war.
“If every Tweet and every Facebook post mentioned war and every Tweet and every Facebok post showed an image of war for a week,” Goodman said, “I really do think Americans are a compassionate people and they would say ‘war is not the solution to conflict in the world.’”
But it is groups that make the difference, Goodman stressed.
“When Barack Hussein Obama was elected president of the United States a door was cracked open. The question is,” she said, “’Will that door be kicked open or slammed shut?’”
Goodman reminded us of Roosevelt’s words to labor leaders requests when he was president. “I agree with you. I want to do it. Now make me do it.”
“The challenge for 2012,” Goodman said, “isn’t about one man in the White House. It is about movements. It’s groups that make the difference .”
But not to devalue the power of the individual, “It serves no one if you don’t stand up for what you believe,” Goodman said. “You never know when that magic moment is going to happen.”
Goodman wove in stories of her own reporting with historical anecdotes about people like Emmett Till and his mother, Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, Rosa Parks, and Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian street vendor who set himself on fire Dec. 17, 2010, in protest of the confiscation of his wares and the harassment and humiliation inflicted on him by municipal officials.
Bouazizi’s action sparked the Tunisian Revolution and the wider Arab Spring, and incited demonstrations throughout Tunisia in protest of social and political issues. His death eventually led then-President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to step down on Jan. 14, 2011, after 23 years in power.
Goodman, who recently returned from the U.N., said something struck her while she was there. It was the blue curtain that covers a tapestry of Pablo Picasso’s Guernica painting that used to be displayed on the wall of the UN building in New York City, at the entrance to the Security Council room.
In 2003 the blue curtain was placed over the painting, which was created in response to the bombing of Guernica, Basque Country, Spain, by German and Italian warplanes at the behest of the Spanish Nationalist forces, in April of 1937, during the Spanish Civil War.
But some diplomats have claimed that the Bush Administration pressured U.N. officials to cover the tapestry, which shows the tragedies of war and the suffering it inflicts particularly on innocent civilians. The Spanish Republican government commissioned Picasso to create the mural for the Spanish display at the Paris International Exposition at the 1937 World’s Fair in Paris. Nelson Rockefeller commissioned the tapestry for the U.N. building.
In regaling the more than 100 people who attended last night’s event with tales of uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Madison, Wisconsin, of the Arab Spring and WikiLeaks, Goodman said, “It’s about pulling that blue curtain back” to ultimately reveal the reality of war as depicted, in this instance, by one of the world’s best known artists.
In concluding, Goodman relayed another story of her reporting on the execution of Troy Davis.
After it was announced that Troy Davis was dead, and when she and her news crew were being kicked out of the area by Georgia Department of Corrections officials, “All I could think about,” she said, “was what Mahatma Gandhi said when he was asked what he thought about Western civilization. ‘I think it would be a good idea.’”
Also speaking at the event were PEP past president, Martin Cherniack, Secretary James. C. van Pelt, WPKN’s Between the Lines producer Scott Harris.
This year’s Gandhi Peace Award medallion was forged by From War to Peace, a California group that uses recycled copper from decommissioned nuclear missile systems to create Peace Bronze, “the most precious metal in the world,” truly turning swords into plowshares. They believe that war is defeat and peace is victory and hope to see a demilitarized world in our lifetime — if need be, one weapon at a time.
For more on the Gandhi Peace Award medallion, visit www.pepeace.org.