HELLO-Is Anyone Out There Listening???!!
By Charlotte Aldebron, Age 12
SPEECH: AUGUSTA PEACE RALLY, OCT. 26, 2002
I've been speaking up a lot since September 11. On February 12, I wrote an essay for school saying that we care more about the American flag than about living up to what it stands for. On March 22, I told Senator Snowe's staff in Presque Isle that you grown ups were hypocrites because you tell kids to solve problems with words, while you kill people in Afghanistan. On March 28, I said the same thing to Senator Collins in person. She told me that because we invaded Afghanistan, little girls can go to school and learn to read. Some choice: learn to read, or have a mom and a dad.
On April 3, the CommonDreams website posted my flag essay. It got lots of attention and was reprinted and read on the radio. I got 800 emails. I was surprised to get such a response because I'd started to believe that solving problems by talking was something only kids had to do, but that grownups could fight all they wanted-like they get to drink and swear, but kids can't. On May 12, I spoke at the Peace Rally in Bath. On May 20, I talked to Chellie Pingree and Tom Daschle. I suspected that Tom Daschle was not paying attention because, with a glazed look in his eyes, he stuffed my flag essay in his pocket, unread. On June 22, I spoke at the Maine Green Independent Party Convention. Now here it is October 26, and I am giving another speech. That's a really bad sign because it means we still don't have peace-in fact, we're about to go and kill even more people. Well, I'm getting a little sick of hearing my own voice! HELLO-is anyone out there listening???!!
I guess my own voice is too small to make a difference. So this time, I'll add the voices of other children, and maybe together we'll be loud enough. Children like Ali, who was three when we killed his father in the Gulf War. Ali scraped at the dirt covering his father's grave every day for three years calling out to him, "It's all right Daddy, you can come out now, the men who put you here have gone away." And Luay who was 11 at the time and was glad he didn't have to go to school or do homework. He went to bed and got up whenever he felt like it. But today he has no education and still hears the explosions in his head.
And the children in Basra, southern Iraq, who today play in the dust while air raid sirens scream around them because we keep dropping bombs. And all the children in Iraq who will never grow up because they have leukemia and cancers from the depleted uranium in our missiles, and they can't get any drugs or radiation treatment because we won't let their country have them. I don't know the names of all these children.
Can you hear our voices yet? I'll add 10-year-old Mohibollah in Afghanistan, who was out collecting firewood for his family when he found one of those bright yellow soda-can-sized cluster bomblets with parachutes. What child could resist? He ended up with mangled flesh where his left hand used to be.
President Bush asked each American child to give a dollar to help Afghani children. Here is my dollar's worth: it is the voice of 6-year-old Paliko who was carried to the hospital still wearing her party dress from the wedding that we bombed for two hours, killing her whole family-by mistake. And 2-year-old Alia, who was dug out of the rubble where her family was crushed when we blew up their village-again, by mistake. Afterward, our soldiers said they were sorry. Among themselves, they called the Afghans rag heads. Like I said in my flag essay, we are better at caring about symbols than real people.
Can you hear us yet? Our government is paying for educational theater in Afghanistan that teaches kids to fight with pen and paper, not guns, and tells them to "join the educated culture of the world." They call it the Mobile Mini Circus for Children. The performers are orphans who live just north of Kabul, in an orphanage filled with 2,000 victims of our air strikes, our greed, our comfort. When are we going to join the educated cultures of the world?
Maybe you'll hear the voices of Palestinian children: Sami, shot in the head by an Israeli soldier the day before his 12th birthday; 10-year-old Riham, killed in her schoolyard by an Israeli tank shell; and 14-year-old Faris, who told his 8-year-old brother Abdel to go home when he followed him out to buy groceries. Abdel refused, so he got to see the tank shoot his brother dead in the street. And the six Matar children, ages 2 months to 17 years-all killed when an Israeli pilot flying an American-made jet dropped a one-ton bomb on their home. The pilot was sent by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who our president calls a man of peace.
Can you hear us yet? How about the voices of Israeli children? Like 14-year-old Raaya and 2-year-old Hemda, killed with their parents by a Palestinian suicide bomber when they went out to eat pizza; 9-month-old Avia, killed by Palestinians who shot and threw grenades at cars; and the 12 teenagers killed by a suicide bomber at a nightclub. Can you hear us now?
How many more children must suffer or die before you hear us? No offense, but I really don't want to have to make another peace speech ever again!