Thursday, March 26, 2009

My dream came true

I had a wonderful experience last Friday and want to share it with everyone. I (andmy family) attended the citizenship ceremony at the US District Court and witnessed 28 people become brand new American citizens.

Then I dashed outside the courtroom to the table the court had provided me, and handed out League of Women Voters pamphlet "They Represent You," a free directory of all the elected officials in our counties, and how to contact them (and vote them in or out). My husband and I gave out dozens of these.

I also offered to register the new Americans to vote. I registered 8 new Americans right then and there, and several others took the form with them to mail in later.

It was sweet--I checked over the forms to be sure they were filled in right, and had to remind a few folks to check the YES box to confirm they were American citizens!

It has always been a dream of mine to register brand new Americans, and last Friday my dream came true.

Anyone can do this (at least in my state). I went to the county Auditor's office to get the forms, I arranged a table, and brought a pile of pens.

I can't wait to do this again. The court's person said they would have another citizenship ceremony in another month or two. They'd worked hard to bring this back to our community, and I am thrilled about it.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Latin American conflicts

My thoughts are in Central America. My daughter and I will go to Costa Rica on Friday and I really need to tend to a few last-minute details. And today's entry in the Cat Lovers against the Bomb notes that 10 years ago, Guatemala's Truth Commission found that 93% of the civil war deaths were at the hands of the military.

When I was in grad school my prof for the Latin American politics class said the problem was that in Latin America, the countries are occupied by their own military. I guess Guatemala illustrates this point clearly and tragically.

Our military doesn't 'occupy' the U.S. because of some law from Reconstruction times. Plus the Bill of Rights, I think. That would be a good exercise in civics for baby boomers. Find the answer to this: why does the US military NOT meddle in domestic affairs?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

War's costs in Guatemala

The Cat Lovers Against the Bomb (thanks, Nebraskans for Peace) reminded us that ten years ago yesterday, President Clinton said US aid to Guatamalen military was wrong. I did a little looking on internet to learn more about Guatemala's recent history. I feel regret and shame my government (for the people, by the people, of the people) helped harm so many innocent people.

Then, using the CIA fact book, I compared Guatemala to Costa Rica, a nation with no military, and with USA, a nation we are most familiar with. Here are a few comparison points

Suffrage 18 & universal , except members of Active military, who are confined to barracks
Population 4.2 million
GDP (gross domestic product) $49.73B $
GDP/person $5400
Life expectancy @ birth 69.99
Infant mortality (per 1000 births) 28.79
Literacy 69.1%
%GDP spent on education 2.6

Costa Rica
Suffrage - 18, universal and compulsory

Population 13 million

GDP - 70.19B

GDP per person- $11,000

Life expectancy @ birth 77.4

Infant mortality (per 1000 births) 9.1
Literacy 94.9%
%GDP spent on education 4.9

Suffrage 18 and universal
Population 303 million
GDP $14.58T(rillion)
GDP/person $48,000
Life expectancy @ birth 78.14
Infant mortality (per 1000 births) 6.3
Literacy 99%
% GDP spent on education 5.3

Costa Rica is little but by eliminating its military, has much more $$ available for health and education than does Guatemala. Costa Rica: no wars, high literacy, higher life expectancy. Dividends of peace.

I find it sad that Guatemala's active military is confined to quarters and cannot vote on election days. Guatemala has been stable for a few years now, and I hope it lasts. Guatemala vividly illustrates the costs of war. High infant mortality, shortest life expectancy in our hemisphere, rampant poverty, incalculable impacts from human rights abuses.

Yes Mr. Clinton, the US's role in supporting the Guatemala military was wrong.