This week, we did one of our most rewarding projects to date: beautiful gauzy scarves for the Vietnam Agent Orange Relief & Responsibility Campaign. This group — a coalition of veterans, community leaders, and Vietnamese-Americans — seeks to support the ongoing legal battle for reparations due to the victims of Agent Orange.
When we met with Susan S., the coordinator for this project, she explained to us that the scarves would be going to Vietnam as gifts. She described her work with the families who have been suffering since the war, and the struggle to hold our government accountable for reparations due. We saw haunting photographs of the ravages inflicted on innocent civilians, and for me, it felt reaffirming that the battle we wage every day in the name of social justice must carry on — it is so much bigger than all of us here Occupying. It is so much more than having low gas prices, access to education, or erasing our personal debts. The same machine that perpetuates societal problems in this country is creating unchecked devastation on a global scale, and that’s something we Occupiers still don’t talk much about.
While we bang casseroles and shout “Fuck Monsanto,” are we really keeping the whole truth of this struggle in our hearts and minds? (How many of us even know that Monsanto, along with Dow Chemical, was the corporation responsible for developing Agent Orange?) I think yes, we understand… but sometimes I think a re-focus is in order. The effects of the war in Vietnam are still unfolding, and there are no mass media spotlights on this story. Meanwhile, the unnamed battles in Syria and Iran are blooming into full scale crises, which will also have generational effects, and will also continue to go undocumented.
This project was a challenge to our technique — two colors! And that silky, crinkled material! — but it was also a challenge to our hearts and minds. It was a check-in with the ever-evolving question of Why We Occupy, and a testament to our belief in a more equitable life for everyone.
It’s amazing what a little screenprinting can do.
Note: For more information on this campaign, visit http://www.vn-agentorange.org. We hope to have updates on how the scarves were received once they cross hemispheres… we’ll be sure to post them as soon as we can!