Peace Camp 2012, and thoughts of Bolivia

In 2003, when the Bush administration began the drumbeat for war in Iraq, concerned residents of San Pedro, CA began to hold street corner vigils for peace. Their passion led them to create a nonprofit, San Pedro Neighbors for Peace and Justice, and one of their first projects was to help young people start peace clubs in local high schools as a response and act of resistance to the pervasive military recruiting on-campus.

Every summer, the adult Neighbors take more than a dozen kids for a weeklong camping trip in the Santa Monica mountains. I was so happy when Kirstin Summers got in touch a couple of weeks ago to invite me to camp. Yesterday was my third trip up to the Circle X Ranch to offer a political theatre workshop to the high school and college age participants–some theatre games and exercises, a bit of Theater of the Oppressed, and a chance for them to play around with ideas for Flash Theater skits they can use to take political theater all over town.

I loved the kids’ lively imaginations (and the extra boost to their performances from Kirstin and Neighbor Chris Venn) and it’s always fascinating to find out what issues concern the young people most. This year, they raised LGBT rights–which I might have predicted, based on past workshops; and the evils of the tobacco industry, and whether Bible study clubs should be allowed in public schools–two subjects I had not expected.

During lunch, people wanted to hear about Bolivia and the political situation there. So I babbled on a bit, but only today heard from a friend there. I had written asking about the police strike in Cochabamba and Oruro, two places I had visited in February, as it’s so hard to get reliable info here. From what my friend said, the police are quite justified in asking for a raise as they are paid so little, they can’t support their families (and, I would add, when you don’t pay your cops, you’re just asking for corruption, esp in a country where coca is grown but has tried to avoid being part of the trafficking economy). The difficulty is that any action, any criticism of the Evo Morales government ends up being used by the rightwing that has tried to undermine him and destroy the socialist government ever since he was elected. While I was there, it was clear that many people in the traditional wealthy white elite can’t accept Morales or the new constitution that guarantees equal rights regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, language, or disability. With President Fernando Lugo just deposed in a bloodless coup in Paraguay, my friend is very nervous about social unrest giving ammunition to the right in Bolivia.

My thoughts are with Bolivia tonight. Paraguay, too, of course, but in Bolivia with much loved friends.

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