You see him on signs in our national forests and natural areas. He’s a cartoonish bare-chested bear with a wide-brimmed ranger hat and overalls, usually holding a spade. He’s Smokey Bear, one of the USA’s most widely recognized icons. Smokey is often seen in the company of forest creatures and small children. He’s the bear who says that only you can prevent forest fires and more recently, wildfires in general.
His friendly or sometimes stern patriarchal visage is designed to inculcate certain attitudes in children. Adults don’t need talking animals to instruct them about fire safety in the woods. But what was Smokey teaching us during those early years. Who wrote his lines? And why didn’t he explain how fire is essential to healthy forest and grassland eco-systems? Read more
When we think of Americans at war, we usually associate that with some far away place. We see mental images of Humvees, attack helicopters, desert camouflage, heavy backpacks and polarized sunglasses.
Perhaps we also remember the gardens of stone at Arlington National Cemetery, the place where my dad is buried to honor his military service in WWII Europe, a war he rarely talked about and which caused to him to hate war with a passion that exceeded most pacifists I know.
Perhaps we also have images of people, young and old, marching with signs that cried out for peace in places like Vietnam, Central America, Iraq and Afghanistan. We might even have mental images of a stern looking Martin Luther King, of a very young John Kerry, of Cindy Sheehan with her mother’s grief or Code Pink activist Medea Benjamin being carried off for shouting “Peace!” in a crowded room.
The new film by Chicago’s award winning Kartemquin Films does not take us to a faraway battlefield. It takes us to a war right here in the USA. It is a war on the streets of South Side Chicago and a peace movement led by people like Ameena Matthews, daughter of one of most feared gang leaders in Chicago history and Eddie Bocanegra who is still conscience stricken about a murder he had committed when he was 17 years old. The film is “The Interrupters” by Chicago’s own Kartemquin Films and the peace group is called CeaseFire.