The Ah-ha Moments of Awareness

It is not uncommon to be unaware:

What? Mitt Romney is actually the official 2012 Republican presidential candidate? I thought he was just, well, busy. And all over the news. Not really for real.

What? There is a chick named Siri who lives in iPhones? She just hangs out, waiting for you to ask her questions!?

What? Liaison is a not spelled laiason? And it is not pronounced lesion?

What? You can’t eat guitar strings? Who knew…

(Note that although the former were my own aha moments, the latter was provided by my three-year-old son).

Last week I posted this article about tomatoes grown in the USA by modern slaves. Paraphrased, the response I got was: NO WAY! Really? Dude, we got to stop that! But this week it was my turn to learn about an issue for the first time.

Today I ran into this post about a girl, Elizabeth Suda. She once worked for Coach but moved on to help the poor out of poverty in Loas. But more notably, she started seeing the current affects of our decades ago Vietnam War in South-East Asia. Specifically, we dropped a lot of bombs, many of which still have not detonated. And when they do, they hurt innocent people who are not our enemies:

Laos is the most heavily bombed country, per capita, in history. As a result of U.S. bombings from 1964-1973, around one third of the country remains contaminated with about 80 million unexploded cluster bombs that litter villages, school grounds, rice fields, roads, and other populated areas. (A Peaceful Legacy). 

Do you feel okay about this? To me, it just doesn’t seem right. I am often not a fan of war, and always joke with the plethora of government-contracted engineers I am required to be friends with that they are only allowed to design bomb-destroying robotics as opposed to the other way around. Regardless of how you feel about Vietnam and war in general, I think we should pay attention to the fact that people are still paying the cost of this war. And I know there are similar places around the globe where the same thing has happened.

Peace Bomb

One thing that is cool, though, is that there is a lot of good stuff going on in this region. Elizabeth Suda started Peace Bomb, an organization which provides jobs to local artisans to make products to sell with the remains of bombs. Peace Bomb partnered with Article 22 to sell these products internationally while partnering with a sustainable development NGO, using part of the proceeds of this craft to help the local community rise out of poverty.  They use the rest of the proceeds to actually fund clearing land of bombs.

Both of these efforts- clearing the land and ending the cycle of poverty- are essential to provide a future for the people of Laos. Its already been over thirty years, right? I hope that whatever children are born today in this country have a greater hope for their future because we finally made the effort. That we would make restitution for something we had a hand in, even if it wasn’t “personal” in the first place.

Ideas for Action

Use your purchasing power:

Buy back the bombs! Check out these bracelets, charms, or cool garden-tag spoons made from bombs. Buy them, wear them, and give them away as birthday presents or a christmas presents.

Then sign these petitions:

A Peaceful Legacy pushes the USA government to commit to cleaning up the mess they left in Laos over a ten-year time period. At the rate the United States is going now, it would take 800 years to clean up the bombs we dropped that did not detonate!

In addition, in hopes to keep messy civilian-dangerous bombs from littering the world in the future you can sign The People’s Treaty. Of course, this might be a little less effective, calling for an international effort in Just War. But here is to hoping!

Learn more:

What other countries have bombs and mines littered around in them, remaining from wars? Is there anything we can do to help? If so, let me know!

If you have a couple minutes, watch the movie below:


If you have a little longer amount of time to spare, watch the 10-minute version of the documentary which interviews some Vets: