Textures of My Life: An Autoethnography on War in Conversation with my Father

By Mary Grace, World BEYOND War, April 2, 2021

Hey Dad! Thanks for attending my trials for arrests addressing injustice and war allllll the time![1] You encouraged and challenged me to study, analyze, act and evaluate, as well as pray.  I hear you are translating for the Guatemalan refugee family who just arrived. Do you put that need in the context of the legacy of colonialism and neoliberal capitalism (Harvey n.d.), and  combine it with American exploitation and military intervention against true democratization (Pablo 2020)?

Robert: Gives his tender, loving father-smile.

M: You taught me that virtually everything is connected, the local and the global. Material conditions clash with limited options for most people and the primacy of relationships for decision-making (Han 2011). My anthropology class is exploring these contact zones also in the WeiWei film, Human Flow. Individuals, cultures and communities rub against systems of power in daily life, often with deadly outcomes.

Robert: I like that term, “contact zones.” How do you see injustice in connection with your anti-war work?

M: At root is a search for security in a precarious world, the need to care for family and to create meaning. It seems a survival tactic for us to sometimes emotionally distance ourselves from systems of domination. Systemic change is impossible for an individual unless per[2] gains strength in a community where the courage, insight and skills of many unify them to act in effective numbers. Many people on this wandering panet lose hope entirely or insist on a sometimes-unrealistic hope, tethered in a harsh present.  Hope leads different people to choose differently; some decisions seem foolish to me, like taking out credit to “keep up with the Joneses” instead of paying the rent. In trying to maintain tenuous relationships by purchasing gifts for another,  it is almost like they are trying to buy a better future, but it spirals many deeper into debt (Han 2011, 25). Dr. King talked about the three evils: racism, militarism, and economic exploitation (Dr. Martin Luther King n.d.) and Eric Wolf writes about “turning names into things (Wolf 1982)” which can then be used and discarded. Thingification dismisses whole groups of humanity and allows those in power to twist the narrative, to blame the poor instead of the systemic evil pressing them down. Personally, I have a friend who should be in college, but she’s poor, and black. Another neighbor may lose her home because of gentrification and, again, a systemic push against the very idea of black people creating generational wealth to pass on to their progeny. These friends, their lives impact me. When 47% of our taxes are in military funding instead labor intensive work like solar, and rail infrastructure, my friends struggle and therefore my life is also destabilized (War Resisters League 2021).

Robert: You returned from Iraq and South Sudan with a deeper understanding of the convoluted underpinnings of war and aggression. We perennially return to the question of evil. A good military with good leaders can control people like Hitler and Pinochet…in one of the deepest conundrums of life, we use violence to destroy evil.

M (exasperated): Dad, the USA supported Pinochet and you grew up in Cuba. You know the abysmal horror of bad leaders. War involves an intentional willingness by those in power to kill for greed and power. The oppressed generally pick up arms out of desperate fear. Rarely is war based in “human rights,” it is instead resource extraction for profit’s sake  (Rock n.d.), one of my professors did an overlay of a map of the worlds large-access waterways, resources, and conflict zones…Striking.  The cost of war in money and creativity, even before the first shot, diverts funding from social uplift (War Resisters League 2021, Dr. Martin Luther King n.d.) and pits people against each other. There really is no scarcity if we just love each other. I want a world, as Buckminster Fuller said, “that works for everyone (Fuller 1981).”

Robert: Gives another quiet, tender, loving father-smile.


Works Cited

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. n.d. BrainyQuote.com. Accessed Mar 13, 2021. https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/martin_luther_king_jr_138301.

Fuller, Buckminsiter. 1981.

Han, Clara. 2011. “Symptoms of Another Life: Time, Possibility, and Domestic Relations in Chile’s Credit Economy.” Cultural Anthropology (American Anthropological Association ) 26 (1): 7-32. doi:10.1111/j..1548-1360.2010.01078.x.

Rock, Sweet Honey in the. n.d. Are My Hands Clean? Comp. Sweet Honey in the Rock. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ev733n-5r4g.

Steusse, Angela. 2014. “Automobility, Immobility, Altermobility: Surviving and Resisting the Intensification of Immigrant Policing.” City and Society (Ohio State University) 26 (1): 51–72,. doi:DOI:10.1111/ciso.12034.

War Resisters League. 2021. Where Your Income Tax Money Really Goes. NY, NY. www.warresisters.org.

Wolf, Eric. 1982. “Europe and the World Without History.” 3-7.

[1] I have been arrested for nonviolent civil dissent since 1978.

[2] “Per” is short for “person”and used as a non-gendered, singular pronoun. Introduced in Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Pierson, 1978.

One Response

  1. This quite informative and hopeful conversation [must] needs to be much longer [Smiley Face]. I was just settling in for a much longer exchange and counterpoint when it was over. My first reaction: This must have been a wonderfully close and purposful father-daughter relationship. So loving to prepare and shape the mental progressions of the next generation. Kudos to the writer.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Translate To Any Language