The shows on Wise Women Media Radio are in depth profiles and stories that show us that women of a certain age are dynamic forces, empowered spirits and tenacious voices for creating the change we need to see in the world. We cover everything the way our Mothers and Grandmothers would; Environment, Sustainable Living, Art of all genres, Food Storage, Gardening, Crafting, once in a while Political Issues with Special Guests. These women will inspire you! There is no other radio format like this!

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Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Interview with Code Pink's Medea Benjamin--Part 1

Medea Benjamin is a petite lady, 52 years old but looks younger and a Libra; so that means a lover of love, beauty, the Arts, Truth and above all Justice. The mark that she has made for women everywhere is amazing. Her incessant energy and fearlessness during political actions and her work with her organizations, Global Exchange, Code Pink, United for Peace and Justice, the Occupation Watch International Center in Baghdad, and many other affiliations are tasks that would make a normal person exhausted and dizzy. She has definite opinions on how women can learn to live in this wasteful and corporate-dependent society and methods on what we can do to change the world we live in. We can all learn from her example.

This interview was conducted in the early evening, October 23, 2004 in the outside courtyard of Viva La Frida's Restaurant in Tampa, a place where brightly colored artwork adorns the walls; pictures of Frida Kahlo are everywhere and an ancestor altar for the Day of the Dead graces one end of the main dining room. Medea was getting ready to speak to the local chapter of Code Pink and other local groups at this open event. For the past month, here in Florida, Code Pink national organizers have been concentrating their focus on getting out the vote before Election Day.

There was a flurry of servers, people getting seated, jazz music playing in the background and a steady flow of water, draft beer and iced tea all around our table as we talked...

Anita: What was the catalyst or specific event or happening in your life that make you want to do this kind of work?

Medea: Growing up in High School during the Viet Nam War, people near my age getting drafted and coming home in body bags did not make a lot of sense, plus there were issues of race at my school. Black people were moving into the neighborhood and people trying to kill each other over various issues or nothing. So those two things were enough of a shocker for me as a young girl to realize that we need to do things differently and treat each other differently.

Anita: So what do you think of the rumors of a draft coming soon—that kind of segued right into that question, didn’t it?

Medea: I think that if Bush gets elected again, there is going to be a Draft. The more he says NO, the more the people should read YES, that if we are going to be stuck in this quagmire in Iraq, and now there is 140,000 and they are starting to all say, “not enough troops,” they are going to start adding literally hundreds of thousands of troops, there is no way they can do it without a Draft.

Anita: The Draft that is going on right now is the “poor man’s draft”—

Medea: …and women…

Anita: Yes, and women. If you don’t have money to support yourself, can’t find a job, and don’t have the money for college you are going to do what you need to do to get some money…. What was your most triumphant moment while you were in Iraq?

Medea: Well, I don’t think we had any triumphant moments because it was so sad every time I’ve been there. But I think probably one of the most intense moments was when before the war when Colin Powell was speaking in front of the United Nations. We were in Iraq at the center where all the press was, it seemed like the entire world press, hundreds and hundreds were there and we were inside the pressroom. We had searched all over the country and had found these gas nozzles and inside the room Colin Powell’s talk was about the smoking gun and were there with the gas nozzles saying “we found the smoking gun!” forcing the journalists to talk about the oil and how ridiculous the whole thing with weapons of mass destruction. And the next day, we went out with the journalists to the exact places that Colin Powell had pinpointed and saw that there was nothing there. So that was one moment, I mean there were so many that were heartbreaking, going around Iraq after the war to meet the people whose loved ones had been killed, setting up an Occupation Watch Center to establish a presence there. But I certainly would not say triumphant--it was all very heartbreaking.

Anita: How specifically was Code Pink born?

Medea: Code Pink was born after the bombing of Afghanistan and the realization that the people had been lied to about that war. They were saying it was a clean and precise war, and getting people prepared for the next war in Iraq. There were a number of women gathered at a retreat who were talking about the ridiculous color coded alerts, yellow, orange and red, and how it was based on fear and violence, and it justified violence. And that we needed a different color coded alert, and we came up with this idea of Code Pink and the idea was also that the women would take some outrageous actions, random strikes for peace and go to the heart of where the war mongers were. The Armed Services Committee when Ronald Rumsfeld testified, we got inside and unfurled banners saying “UN Inspections not US War!” or whether it is dogging Dick Cheney like we did for a year about Halliburton and the profits he was making off of war profiteering. We really as women, decided that we couldn’t be silent and we couldn’t just go to protests, that we had to do more. We did a four-month vigil outside of the White House and used it as a chance to network and mobilize women around the country to speak out against war.

Anita: What do you see for future Code Pink actions, after the election, no matter which way it goes?

Medea: Unfortunately, no matter which way it goes, it s going to be hard to end the occupation and bring the troops home. So we are going to certainly focus on the disaster of the occupation, we are going to work more with military families and the returned military vets to try to get their voices out more. We are going to do some counter-recruiting, going to high schools and community colleges, dogging recruiters, being right behind them as they go, letting them know they are lying, to students, don’t believe them, don’t be cannon fodder for this war. We are also going to focus on the issue of budget priorities, trying to get people to understand that we can’t be spending over 400 billion dollars on the military and on top of that another 2 billion dollars a week on this war and watch the basic infrastructure of this country crumble. So we are talking about doing actions that are working with students to roll back the tuition increases, and really get specific about money for Books not Bombs! I’ll work with local librarians who are saying that their budget cuts and hours are cut down, and do sit ins at libraries—BOOKS NOT BOMBS! We will certainly go back to focusing on the media, we did a lot of work around the FCC and the conglomeration of the media and anxious to go back to those issues and really force some kind of change within the FCC. If John Kerry wins and appoints a Democrat to head he FCC, it will be a lot easier to have some success there. And then there is the issue of getting off the addiction to oil. And the kind of changes we need to see in our energy policies that we as Code Pink would like to focus on--and that some both from the local level and the national level. Pushing a significant amount of our resources into solar energy, wind energy, the public transportation systems and campaigns, like the one we have working with the automobile companies to provide us with a truly fuel efficient car and in that vein there is one car that Code Pink would really like to get off the road and that is the Hummer. We hope to go back to a Hummer campaign.

Anita: This is me when a Hummer goes by! (I scratch my nose with my middle finger and start to laugh!)

Medea: (Laughing) Well, you are much nicer than me—I go straight for the driver. (Medea extends her arm with a middle finger pointing in the air!)

This is Part One of this interview. Stay tuned for Part 2 tomorrow.


Code Pink Tampa Bay

The Code Pink Site!

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