Last night (7/23/2008) was the second dinner lecture series hosted by the Dallas Peace Center. The guest speaker was Col. Ann Wright, known for her publicly announced resignation in protest to the war in Iraq. I was unsure of what to expect, and for a while there it seemed a bit surreal. There was a feeling of displacement while I was there, like I didn't belong or something. There was a reason why I went - seeking more information, possibly direction, a purpose, a passion ... ??? Maybe I wasn't so sure.
Col. Wright has a passion. Mike Ghouse, the gentleman to my right has a passion. The woman to my left, Farhat, has a passion. An event had occurred in their lives to move them to take a stand. Is it always something tragic that has to happen to move a person to stand up and fight for change? I hope not.
Col. Wright was a solid speaker. She didn't move anyone to tears, she didn't preach, she wasn't a motivational speaker and didn't try coming off as this brave leader (which she is). She gave the audience facts. That's it. Nothing about her life, or her courage, or any hardships - she talked about other people's lives, and their braveness, their struggles. People like Robin Long, Tina Priest, and Lavina Johnston.
Long was forced to leave Canada after resisting going to war and faces a maximum penalty of 20 years. Wright stated, "Canada should be a point of refuge" and it's up to us to put "pressure on the Canadian Parliamentarians" in order to ensure their safety. Wright had just recently been in Washington and protested at the Canadian embassy. Ironically, the Canadian Embassy has a picture of Muhammad Ali, who publicly resisted going to Vietnam in 1967.
Priest and Johnston were both killed in Iraq. The military told family and press they had committed suicide, but evidence is pointing toward sexual assault and murder. Studies have been released that 1 in 3 woman have been sexually assaulted while serving in the military. I haven't been able to back up that number, but here's a start with numerous links to cases and other sources can be found here.
Wright ended her speech saying this: "How can we stay silent about what's going on and not do anything about it? We've got a lot of work to do".
Wright left the stage the way she entered - with a standing ovation.
I left with a card in my pocket from the woman sitting next to me, Farhat Chishty. She has been fighting for her son and has lost everything in doing so. Please read about her son's story and support them by joining "Justice For Haseeb Chishty" Facebook Group.
Update: Farhat and her son, Haseeb, have been featured in the Dallas Observer. Read the article for further details on their struggle and achievements.
"It's not one person. It's the system. They think I'm evil for being here, but the system is evil. They can't admit that because if they do, they admit that the system is wrong."