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September, 2003

Shock And Awe At Home
By Dwayne Hunn

August 25, 2003

Daybreak. Materials and supplies were piled along the perimeter. The battalion was holstered, armed, edgy. Some stood in the big tent receiving orders, incanting prayers. Others moved near their battle stations, oblivious to pelting rain that turned their battlefield into swampy red muck. They had seven days to stifle the enemy's advance and strengthen what this nation stood for-opportunity and freedom to be all one could be. With a peppy "OhYee! " they swarmed into the heat, muck and rain.

In this one battle America rained on the enemy over 897,380 bullets, fired 13,200 artillery rounds and sprayed over 1000 gallons of liquefied gasses. Some called it a religious war. No matter the motive, the battalion hammered hard and fast.

Every year for the past 20-plus years similar smaller and larger strike forces have hit the camps of terrorists and thugs, and their myriad breeding grounds cramped with millions of poor and uneducated.

Here, however, the slammed and gunned bullets --- were nails, artillery rounds --- pieces of lumber, liquefied gasses --- gallons of paint, holsters --- carpenters aprons. Call it a religious war. Call it the Theology of the Hammer.

On the seventh day the dark side's poverty, ignorance and lack of opportunity had lost another village of 22 families to brighter opportunities hinged around more secure shelter, growth, and learning.

Despite four inches of La Grange, Georgia rain on June 7th , over 600 volunteers dug in to complete 19 homes from the foundation up in seven days. Initiated in 1984, after glib former President Jimmy Carter asked if there was anything he could do to help the rebuilding of a New York slum, opportunist Habitat Founder Millard Fuller celebrated the 20th Jimmy Carter Work Project (JCWP). This JCWP found 4,000 volunteers building homes in partnership with 92 new homeowners' families during the week of June 6 -13 in the cities of Anniston, Ala., and LaGrange and Valdosta, Ga.

There is neither a dearth of politicians preaching about the need to eradicate extremists breeding poverty nor of those calling for volunteering as the means to do it. Too often they talk the good talk, but hammer home their myopic views with costly bombs and weapons. Too often they forget the son born unto a carpenter who moved the world to do unto one's neighbor as one would have done unto oneself. Waging war wearing an apron and swinging a carpenter's hammer is, in the long run, more effective than crucifying the enemy with sharper precision bombs.

Healthy Global Village Habitat homes that replace hovels of cardboard, cow dung, and scraps surrounded by cesspools cost between $2,500 and $6,000. American Habitat homes like those built at JCWP 2003 average 1,100 square feet and cost about $50,000. These Habitat homes eradicate the extremism that costs the world incalculable warfare, grief, and money. Isn't it smarter to nip evils in the bud - in the poverty of the home, before the weeds grow?

From Habitat's inception in 1976 by Millard and Linda Fuller through July of 2003, Habitat will have built 200,000 homes. Impressive? Perhaps, until you realize that one fifth of the world (over a billion people) live on less than a dollar a day and another fifth barely doubles that income. Their shelter reflects it.

About one fourth of those 200,000 homes will have been built in the US where Habitat's motto captures the financial benefits such building adds: "Rebuilding our tax base by removing substandard housing." Impressive? Perhaps, until you remember that too many Americans live in wretched housing that poorly grooms them to compete in today's increasingly concentrated world economy.

After completing the La Grange Blitz Build, I drove my tired body down pine tree lined Highway 280 to listen to the Jimmy Carter Sunday School Sermon in Plains, Georgia. I pondered the country western song's words twanging over the radio:

"That'd be awl right. If everybody had a little bigger piece of the pie And a little lighter load to bear That'd be awl-right..."

Gun wielding marshals are often the only way to deal with crazed terrorists. But constant back-hands across other nations' faces don't build the foundation that ends terrorism and stabilizes the world economy. Disappearing hand-outs also don't work. Hand-ups people grasp and build upon.

If we would shock and awe the world with hand-ups, imagine the national security and economic growth we would generate.

Peoples' homes are the school houses to a safer world. Build good homes and that world will come.

Mill Valley consultant, writer and former Peace Corps Volunteer Dwayne Hunn, has also completed Habitat Global Village builds in Sri Lanka and Fiji.

 

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