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ONE TWISTED SISTER: Musician Dee Snider flashes the devil's horns to the crowd at Monster Circus, a rock mecca in Vegas. Click Arts&Life or a link to story. / Photo by Ben Hansen, special contributor

Today's word on journalism

May 8, 2009

The Last WORD

The Fat Lady Sings, Off-Key, Drools

At about this time every year, like the swallows to Capistrano or the buzzards to Hinckley, Ohio, the WORD migrates to its summer musing grounds at the sanitarium —St. Mumbles Home for the Terminally Verbose.

The reason is clear, and never moreso than as this season —the WORD's 13th —peters out.

It's been a fraught year of high palaver and eye-popping transition, both good and not-so-much. An interminable presidential campaign saga finally did end, and in extraordinary and historic fashion. Meanwhile, the bottom and everything that's below the bottom fell out of the economy, with families, homes, entire industries and —of particular interest to WORDsters and the civic-minded —dozens of daily newspapers ("I don't so much mind that newspapers are dying--it's watching them commit suicide that pisses me off." --Molly Ivins). . . all evaporating. What replaces them, from the individual to the institutional to the societal? Are we looking at a future of in-depth Tweeting?

As any newsperson or firehorse knows, it's hard to turn your back on day-to-day catastrophe --we just have to look at the car wreck. But even the most deranged and driven need a rest. As philosopher Lilly Tomlin once observed, "No matter how cynical you become, it's never enough to keep up."

So this morning, as a near-frost hovered over northern Utah, the unmarked van pulled into the driveway and the gentle, soft-spoken men in the white coats rolled the WORD out of bed and into a straitjacket for the usual summer trip to St. Mumbles, where the blathering one will be assigned a hammock and fed soothing, healthy foods --like tapioca, dog biscuits and salmon --while recharging the essential muscles of cynicism, outrage, sarcasm, social engagement and high-mindedness, in preparation for the next edition.
Summer well, friends.

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Feedback and suggestions --printable and otherwise --always welcome. "There are no false opinions."

The war is over, right? Not so, say peace activists

ANTI-WAR: Peace activists gather for a meeting timed to the anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq in 2003. / Photo by Jackson Olsen

By Jackson Olsen

March 20, 2009 | Six years.

That's how long it's been since then-President George W. Bush sent American combat troops into Iraq to "liberate a fallen people" and help "win the war on terror" against an unrepentant Saddam Hussein and his Ba'ath party.

Since then much has happened, including the removal of Hussein and Bush from power, and most of the major military operations in Baghdad and surrounding provinces has ceased.

So the war is over, right?

Just ask former Staff Sgt. Marshall Thompson, an Iraq War veteran and outspoken peace activist.

"The war is not over. People are still dying. Just because the situation has improved and because we have a peace-minded president, doesn't mean it's over."

Thompson served as a military journalist from 2003 to 2007, and served a tour of duty in northern Iraq and its surrounding provinces from 2005-2006. Upon his return, Thompson decided he couldn't sit back and do nothing. He decided to become a peace activist to raise awareness of the realities of war and the possibilities of peace.

On Oct. 1, 2006, Thompson embarked on a 500-mile peace walk across his home state of Utah. He walked the entire length of the state from the Idaho/Utah border to the Utah/Arizona border. The walk lasted 30 days, and represented one day for every 100 U.S. soldiers killed in the Iraq War.

"I felt like I had to do something," Thompson said. "People had no idea what was really going on over there [in Iraq]. I wanted to help people understand the true costs of war.

His walk ended successfully, and Thompson raised eyebrows across the state and nation (including those of Stephen Colbert's, who mentioned Thompson on his nightly program, The Colbert Report). But the walk, now three years into his memory, hasn't solved the problem, according to Thompson.

"The public in general is less interested in the war now because they think it's all taken care of because they think it was a success or because we're going to be out soon," Thompson said. "The reality is that bombs are still dropping and soldiers are still dying."

Brenda Chung, another local peace activist and member of the Society of Friends (Quakers), joined Thompson in raising community awareness on yet another anniversary of the war. The Cache Valley Peace Works sponsored speakers and films to educate the public and to honor the veterans.

"We feel the war has gone down on the list of priorities because of the economy," Chung said. "Also, the fact that there's a timeline [for withdrawal] on the table has made most of the public think that the war's over. Far from it."

Chung and the CVPW hope that people will put the war back on the radar, because "it's still on the radar of the soldiers who are out there fighting. There are currently 142,000 U.S. military troops still serving in Iraq.


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