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Stateside with Rosalea: This And That

Stateside with Rosalea

This And That

"Can you just call yourself Dom?" my companion asked as we squeezed our way through the crowds at San Francisco's huge Concourse Exhibition Center last Sunday. "Dom? Is Dom Perignon making organic champagne now?" I think to myself, proving once and for all that my ears really are just painted on.

She had said "Dame" and was referring to Anita Roddick, who was going to be giving a talk later that morning at San Francisco's second annual Green Festival. As one of the local radio stations - who'd taken a full-page colour ad in the programme booklet - says, the festivals are "helping to promote and build the sustainability of local green economies through ecological balance and social justice."

Besides a full slate of speakers in three rooms on both days of the festival, there was a kitchen table area where people could gather to discuss issues, and nearly 250 exhibitors. Again according to my dog-eared programme, "Green Festival exhibitors strive to be values-driven as well as profits-driven, focused on using their business as a tool for positive change, and committed to sustainable practices." The festival organisers screen all exhibitors for those qualities.

Anita Roddick was there to speak about trade justice, and was full of enthusiasm and hope for what she sees as a genuine global revolution against unsustainable and damaging business practices. Citing movements such as Slow Food and Slow Cities in Europe, and the resistance of local communities in countries like Brazil and South Africa against corporate ownership of such right-to-life staples as water, she said her travels have opened her eyes not just to the depth of the problems but to the courageousness and steadfastness of the people fighting for social and economic justice.

"All we're asking for," one sweatshop worker in Managua told Roddick, "is to move up from slavery to poverty." By "slavery" she means girls being locked into the building to work 10 or 12 hours a day and having to ask permission to go to the bathroom - being accompanied by security guards when they do. Wholesalers and retailers should simply refuse to do business with companies that operate that way, and consumers should simply not shop at stores that carry their products, Roddick says.

Oh. It's time for my one minute's silence at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. Today is Veterans Day, and like last year I watched the wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns. What a difference a year makes, eh? No one called out "God bless President Bush" this time. As usual, he didn't carry the wreath, but he fussed with it a bit after it had been put on its easel.

I really do wish I knew more about ceremonial matters. Why, for instance, did the military man standing at Bush's side continue to salute the Tomb of the Unknowns while the national anthem was being played instead of putting his hand on his heart, like everyone else? Is that meant to imply that love of military sacrifice is greater than love of country? Seems to make a nonsense of the rhetoric about how people enlist not for glory and acknowledgment but for their love of country.

Anyways, this is Veterans Day, which by definition is about the people who served but are still alive, and that's what Bush pushed in his speech: "most of the markers here" (at the National Cemetery) "stand over the graves of Americans who lived beyond their years of military service." In last year's speech Arlington was "a place of national mourning and national memory." The words "loss", "hurt" and "loneliness" are as close as Bush got to "mourning" this year.

Small words, but powerful. And small actions can be powerful too. Find out how to effect social change for the better at http://www.greenfestivals.com. They're hoping to get enough sponsorship to hold a Green Festival in Washington DC next October.

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