BY ANN KIM NOVAKOWSKI
Carolyn Ho speaks clearly and confidently as she addresses community members at a NAPAWF event held in July. Her son, Lt. Ehren K. Watada, is the first commissioned officer to publicly refuse deployment to the Iraq War. He now faces trial for his refusal to participate in a war he believes to be unconstitutional. Standing before us, Ho described her reactions to Lt. Watada’s decision:
“As a mother, I have taken the first step in ‘a journey of a thousand miles.’ My son’s decision raised to my awareness the disconnect between what I had taught him and what I was really willing to have him do. Initially, the moment of truth stared me down, and I honestly could not find words to justify that self-centered, protective response that whispered, ‘Not my son … Let someone else’s son be a hero.’ Needless to say, this experience became a life-changing event.”
We have been given the profoundly important task of living. Lt. Watada has made a choice about how he will live in this world and with the decisions he has made. Lt. Watada, with the support of his family, has stood up in opposition of war at a time when many would condemn his actions as “un-American” or unpatriotic. The support of his parents has been incredible. A daunting task, Ho works long hours at her day job as a school counselor, then spends the evening hours educating herself on the issues, talking to community members, responding to e-mails and staying abreast of the details of her son’s trial.
Ho, while expressing her admiration and respect for her son, describes her agenda as “not just an Ehren agenda, but an American one.” More and more Americans have questioned our president’s reasons for going to war and the wisdom of staying the course.
Although there is growing support for bringing our troops home and ending the war in Iraq, Ho continues to drive this momentum by spending countless hours in public speaking engagements and performing other advocacy efforts to help raise awareness. “His decision has been the catalyst for me to go beyond what I do in everyday life. When I first went to Washington to be with him, the second day that I was there I was immediately asked to speak at press conferences and answer press calls. It was basically ‘get in there and do what is necessary,’ going from one event to another. It was grueling.”
At every community forum, parents have shared with Ho their stories and the trauma their loved ones suffer as a result of this war. Ho cannot express but the most profound sadness for the soldiers that have been deployed to Iraq and their families. She asks, “Who really benefits [from the Iraq War]?”
While the efforts of Lt. Watada and others have helped raise awareness of the illegality of the Iraq War, war wages on. The U.S. death toll continues to rise, as do the number of casualties among Iraqi civilians. A significant number of Americans continue to support President Bush and the war in Iraq. It is clear that dialogue must continue. Our responsibilities to self, country and the world are great. Violence cannot be tolerated and will not be tolerated as long as we speak out against it in both our public and private lives as Lt. Watada and his family have done. Said Ho about her son, “Make an impact. Make it count.”
The Seattle Chapter of NAPAWF is dedicated to forging a grassroots progressive movement for social and economic justice and the political empowerment of Asian and Pacific Islander women and girls. NAPAWF unites our diverse communities through organizing, education and advocacy. Please check our Seattle Chapter Web site at www.napawf.org for more information. If you would like to get involved in NAPAWF, send us an e-mail, [email protected] or sign up for our list serve [email protected] to receive up-to-date information about meetings, events and postings. Our mailing address is NAPAWF Seattle Chapter, P.O. Box 14115, Seattle, WA 98104.