Wage Peace! Women vs. the War Machine.
How women – in fact and fiction – push back against war.
As I ship out stacks of books that celebrate the heroics of waging peace, I’m struck by how relevant and real these stories are. On the pages of Desert Song, women are rising up to keep a war culture from undermining their rights. Yesterday, in real life, I represented CodePink in testifying to a congressional commission against expanding the military draft to women. As I told the commissioners:
“Women’s equality cannot be achieved by including women in a draft system that forces civilians against their will to participate in activities (such as war) that harm others in such large numbers. When it comes to the military, we believe that women’s equality and, indeed, gender equality is better served by simply ending draft registration for everyone.”
Yesterday was a reminder of why fiction matters – and why it’s important to support peace novelists in our world. A novel about women standing up to war culture feeds our souls as we strive for equality, justice, and peace in our real world. Take Desert Song, for example: characters like Ari Ara and Mahteni model how to be strong women and mighty girls. Characters like Tala remind us that gender is more than a checkbox and that we need to include those who don’t fit into society’s boxes in our quest for justice. Characters like Tahkan teach us how men can also be feminists, and how true feminism is not about superiority of any one gender, but rather equality for all genders.
My testimony to the National Commission on National, Public, and Military Service also spoke truth to power: that the fields of peace and nonviolence have effective and pragmatic alternatives to war and violence. Our tools are viable. We deserve a seat at the table that decides how our nation will deal with conflict. Writing the stories in The Adventures of Alaren taught me this. Each story is based on a real life example of how people wage peace. Researching over 40 case studies as I wrote fictional adaptations taught me this truth: we can abolish war; we now have better tools and approaches for working towards peace. This knowledge was what gave me confidence to tell military commanders to their faces that if they want equal rights for women, the answer is not drafting us to fight their wars, but rather inviting us to craft foreign and domestic policy that is rooted in the practices from the fields of peace and nonviolence.
It was a powerful day for me. It was a powerful day for all of us. It was proof that stories matter. The fictional sheroes and heroes I write about gave me role models as I spoke. They gave me articulation of ideas and points to make. They gave me case studies and research that I drew upon. And these stories can give all these things to you, your friends, and most importantly, the young people.
Here is where to find the two newest books in Ari Ara’s Series, as well as the Whole Series if you’re new to them or want to give them as a holiday gift to a young person, school, library, teacher, or friend!
It won’t be long before our children are draft age. When the time comes, will they have the courage to resist? I hope so. I also hope this commission recommends abolishing the draft so they won’t have to wage this struggle. I choose to strive for justice now on behalf of all of them. This is the story I live; this is the story I write, as in this passage in Desert Song:
“‘It may take generations before our great-granddaughters lift their voices to demand their rightful places. If so, those young women will be exactly where we are today. They will shoulder the same burdens we face, and brave the same dangers to lift their songs. I will not wait for them. I will not let them take on such an impossible struggle because of me. I will not let my name be remembered as the woman who let our songs go silent.’ Will you? Her unspoken question hung in the air as loudly as a sand lioness’ roar. One by one, the women rose. One by one, they sang.”
If you like what I’ve written in this newsletter, you will love Desert Song and The Adventures of Alaren. Please support stories – both on the page and off – of women resisting the war machine. Our actions save lives. Literally.
Yours in the movement for peace,
PS You can read my whole statement and watch a video of it here. Also, if you wish to submit a comment to this commission, here is where to do so. For background (and to counter the disingenuous cover images on the website), this commission was court-ordered and congress appointed to study if the military draft should be expanded to women, expanded to all citizens in the form of a national mandatory service program, or abolished altogether. (Guess which option I support.)