Tuesday, December 2, 2008

When I Am a Grownup I Will Do Something

Barbara's decades of work as a peace advocate is featured in author Kay Kennedy's new anthology-- a compilation of stories about events in history as seen through the eyes of those who lived it.

The START II Treaty (cooperative threat reduction) targeted a site near our sister city for the building of a decommissioning plant to render weaponry harmless. When a previous site in Russia had attempted to build such a facility, Russian citizens who didn’t understand the plan and were afraid of the project successfully protested and closed down the plant. (It was great to see fledgling democracy at work, but the efforts in the case of stalling a bilateral mutual weapons elimination plan were misguided due to lack of information, education and misunderstandings.)

By the time START II came along, our sister city organization already had a decade of cooperative Russian-American relationship building experience. Mutually cooperative partnerships already existed between our municipal organizations—police and firefighters, mayor and city leaders. We already had healthcare, educational, social and business bridges with frequent personnel exchanges in the oblast (section) where the plant was scheduled to be built. USAID funded our project for $250,000.

As Executive Secretary with the Sister Cities program, Barbara wrote the grant and became the grant administrator for funding the foundational social infrastructure for a cooperative effort between cities that supported building a chemical weapons decommissioning plant in her sister city region in Russia. USAID funded the project as an adjunct to the Cooperative Threat Reduction START II Treaty between the United States and Russia. Her story appears in Kay Kennedy's new anthology Looking Back.

You may read the entire story here...


“What will it feel like to be vaporized? Will it hurt? Will I know right away that I am dead? My family will be dead too. Will we all go to heaven together? What about Jody, my dog? Will she come too?” The never-ending cycle of uninvited thoughts and the heart pounding fear was a nightly ritual. I tried to shift my focus to the coolness of summer sheets and pulled the comforter up to my chin. Even in summer I insisted on a blanket or comforter. Maybe in my young mind, the extra cover or extra weight would somehow protect me. An illusion can save you sometimes, even when you’re dealing with insanity.

A few Thoughts...

When I think about it, my own life is no less rich and the living no less inspiring than my pioneering ancestors and I come from a long line of Indians and outlaws so don't ever turn your back on me!

Life is, after all, a slice of human consciousness lived from its place in human evolution. "From here to eternity" as it were-- from earth to the stars, from personal space to cyberspace, from a small local footprint to the world reduced to the size of a notebook and sitting on your lap!

As a child I lived with the perpetual and immenent threat of annihilation. That's child abuse! It wasn't a kid-friendly world and I couldn't understand why the grown-ups who were in charge weren't doing something?

So at age seven with my face in the window eyes turned up into the night sky and staring at the stars I made a vow: "When I am a grown-up, I will do something."

My writing is that something and I write to "simply change the world." If that sounds like a lack of humility it isn't because I know that one person absolutely can change the world and I've met some who have.

Kay Kennedy put together an anthology that puts the reader in the midst of history to view it from the inside out.

When I was in high school and even college, history classes were stale and boring featuring memorization and regurgitation of dates that coincided with events that had no human face, certainly no magic, and no life!

Anthologies are great fun and stores are rich remembrances. History books chronicle; stories are little narrative slices of living. History comes alive through story. I often think of my grandmother and her story, her life-- the history she lived. In her lifetime she saw humankind evolve from horse and buggy to man on the moon.

I was a sixties kid and for the youth of the sixties, turmoil, disillusionment, and revolution were everyday 'business as usual'. Like a radio perpetually on low volume, fear and death dronned on in the background. The superpowers threatened to extinguish all life on the planet, the Vietnam War was escalating and peers were being escorted home under American Flag blankets. The civil rights and equal rights movements were testing human civility, and faster than one could recover from one shock another real life hero would fall to yet another assassin. Despair was commonplace. Contrast that with a man on the moon... we could conquer space travel but couldn't make nukes or war obsolete! It was a time when youth needed hope because hope was scarce. When it was finally resurrected, it came in the form of idealism and a philosophy of brotherly and universal love. Perfect principles; imperfect execution.

For others who contributed to "Looking Back," the history is different for each because the "times" were different as well as the perspective of the individuals. The stories of human societal evolution are enlightening, heartwarming, poignant and spellbinding. They put a human face on the past.

And there are people now who are putting a face on the future...