Eyes Wide Open State Exhibit News
Dear Eyes Wide Open supporter,
Eyes Wide Open and Cost of War coordinators are in the full swing of a busy fall, displaying the exhibits across 48 states and keeping the war in Iraq in the public eye in a time when the financial bailout and the election are grabbing headlines.
Over the summer we worked to connect EWO/CoW coordinators from across the country with new tools and training to make this work a bit easier. We hosted 2 Live Meeting media trainings to help EWO coordinators get more comfortable with speaking to the press and 2 Live Meeting Cost of War powerpoint presentation trainings to introduce people to this new tool.
In addition, in response to feedback from the local coordinators we are working to connect the exhibits to other relevant issues. We organized a conference call briefing on Iran with speakers Debra Dillard and Lynn Gottlieb on thier recent travels there, and pulled together a small group to work with the Iraq program on the issue of Iraqi refugees. We also sent out 12 Veteran Suicide exhibits to augment existing EWO exhibits and created new CoW exhibits for Michigan, Colorado, Florida, Nevada and Virginia.
In this issue, you'll find reports on our exhibits at both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, and a report from Nevada,one of our newest exhibits.
Thanks so much for all your hard work and let us know what we can do to support you.
Mary Zerkel for the Eyes Wide Open Team
Cost of War and EWO: A Solemn Memorial Among Chaos or RNC
by Jeannette Raymond, EWO Minnesota Coordinator
Our Minnesota volunteer group (with a lot of AFSC staff support) organized three events around the Republican National Convention. Our activities were squarely placed in the police state bubble which enveloped the RNC. Few conventioneers wandered out of the Xcel Center into it, most local folks avoided the areas populated by the thousands of riot police, and most media people sought out the clashes between the police and protestors. Quiet memorials were not in vogue.
The preceding weekend, police started raiding homes of young activists. These actions coupled with thousands of riot police stationed in St. Paul, hundreds of activists focused on disrupting the convention, and over 800 arrests of these activists, members of the press covering these events, and others, changed the focus of press coverage and the tenor of events aimed at raising the issue of the Iraq war and its cost.
On Sunday the August 31, we set up the MN Eyes Wide Open Display for the Vets for Peace rally at the MN State Capitol Mall. Under a bright blue sky - frequently punctuated with police helicopters - hundreds of people took time to walk through the boots. We spoke with a lot of media people also, many from outside of the United States.
On a rainy breezy Tuesday, a great group of volunteers gathered to set up boots from Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and North Dakota. Hundreds of cars diverted from driving their regular route to downtown St. Paul stopped and saw the boots and shoes on the State Capitol Mall. Many jumped out to take a picture. Young people coming to Ripple Effect, a concert event designed to connect youth with positive action, walked through the boots. Some stopped to listen to a powerful closing program which featured AFSC staff Michael McConnell and Iraq Veteran Eugene Cherry, as well as Former MN State Senator and Gold Star Mother Becky Lourey and St. Paul City Council Woman Toni Carter.
Finally, we set up The Cost of War Display at Harriet Island at a Peace Picnic organized by Colleen Rowley, the former FBI agent who revealed the agency's mishandling of information related to the September 11th attacks. Even with 4-6 mini-van loads of riot police, three Coast Guard gun boats patrolling the Mississippi river on the banks of the Harriet Island, and all but one access bridge blocked off, this event was renewing for those that found their way there. At our display, people filled in COW buttons with their budget priorities, took photos of the banners, and connected or reconnected with AFSC.
Cost of War and EWO Colorado at DNC
by Sarah Gill, EWO Colorado Coordinator
During a week of sunny, hot days, AFSC Colorado participated in the Tent State Music Festival to End the War at the Democratic National Convention. Sunday through Wednesday, we set up shop at a wonderful park on the edge of downtown. Even better, we had a fabulous device to draw folks to our space: a lottery for free tickets to IVAW's Rage Against the Machine concert, which also featured local faves the Flobots, as well as the Coup and State Radio. Though they didn't stick around for as long as we'd have liked, 15,000 Rage fans walked past our booth to register for the tickets. I'm pretty certain of my assessment that many of these folks had never heard of AFSC before, and while they may have shared some of our convictions, we gave them a way to make those convictions known to others.
The Cost of War banners were spread throughout the park, with four of them lining a much-traveled thoroughfare. As people passed our table, we'd offer them Cost of War buttons or bumper stickers-for free. Free always helps, and so we gave away ALL of the goodies we had, which numbered in the thousands. It was fascinating to hear the variety of ways visitors said they'd spend $720 million a day. Of course, healthcare and education were oft mentioned. Skate parks got a number of votes, perhaps owing to the fact that folks had to walk past Denver's great skate park on the way to the festival. When we ran out of buttons, we invited people to note their priorities on a piece of butcher paper. Two personal favorites: music instruments for kids and "shoes and chocolate". Several folks said "anything is better than spending it on war" and one clever person said he'd "buy back Congress."
Walking from the Cost of War table, past Amnesty International's replica of a Guantanamo cell and the IVAW guard tower, visitors arrived at Colorado Eyes Wide Open (just across from the lottery line). Mornings and evenings, we invited everyone at the exhibit or nearby to help us put up or take down the exhibit. If they agreed, I'd give them these instructions: As you pick up a pair of shoes or boots and place them in a bag, say the name of the person-out loud, or to yourself. Either way is fine so long as each individual is remembered. Many of these "accidental volunteers" thanked me for offering them such a moving experience. Having done it many times, I marvel that it never gets any easier.
EWO Work Expands to Nevada
by By Jim Haber, Coordinator Nevada Desert Experience,
Eyes Wide Open Nevada State Coordinator
Nevada is a large, not very populous state. It is also attracting much attention of late, since it is considered a swing state in the November elections. Many people are thinking about things global and political right now, more than usual. There is much emphasis on reading voters' minds, or swaying each other's opinions. Displaying the Eyes Wide Open/Human Cost of War boots, shoes and banners gives me a different context for dialog to engage people on a more heartfelt level than political races are able to touch. Emphasizing that we're non-partisan keeps people's attention, and holding both major parties accountable resonates with most folks. They linger a bit longer with the memorial boots and shoes.
In Las Vegas, the exhibit was recently on display, September 24 and 25, at the College of Southern Nevada's Charleston Campus. Their free speech area is a lovely, well-trafficked area in front of the Student Services/Campus Administration Building. The rocks and desert plants arranged in a circle presented an apropos backdrop for the boots and shoes and the names on their tags. The student body showed great interest in EWO. Volunteer Megan Rice, a sister of the Holy Child Jesus, commented that she was touched by how thoughtful the many students were. Jon Dennis, who worked with the exhibit one day was surprised at how grateful people were and that no one said an unkind word to him; the anticipated resentment or anger never materialized. A philosophy professor sent a class down both days. The second day, the students were on a mission: to find out what I thought the meaning of life is. They got an answer, or several, but they also got an intro to the AFSC petition about bringing the troops home and unfunding the war. They also learned about our local group, Nevada Desert Experience and the interfaith work we do against nuclear weapons.
The nature of EWO/COW is nonviolence at its core, even if it can provoke a strong reaction. Trying to understand, have compassion for, and learn from the different reactions people have is a challenge. It is an honor to play shepherd to this memorial, and it lifts my spirits because of how effective it is as a soulful mirror. It is rare that understanding, compassion and appreciation don't return because of my association with Eyes Wide Open: The Human Cost of War.
About This Newsletter
This is an update on the Eyes Wide Open State exhibits and The Cost of War exhibits. You are recieving this because you are a state coordinator or have supported the work of the National Tour and State exhibits of Eyes Wide Open. Thank you.
EWO Staff can be reached at 312.427.2533