July 13, 2006
Ava Lowery Knows Peace Takes Courage
A BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW
Sincerity, honesty, courage, and conscience -- Ava Lowery has them all. She's like a fresh breeze that blew in to replace the stale pundits and Bush administration propagandists who have pushed for war and an endless occupation of Iraq. Ava Lowery first launched her website, Peace Takes Courage, in March, 2005. Much like Cindy Sheehan's foray to Crawford a year ago, Ava's Web-based campaign for truth and peace has proven inspiring and effective. This fifteen-year-old girl, who built a Web page and created a steady stream of imagery, music, and news to fill it, is living proof that each of us can make a difference in the struggle for accountability, peace, and a political voice. She's the face of hope and someone who gives the phrase "Support Our Troops" a whole new meaning. We're pleased to share our conversation with her with you.
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BuzzFlash: How did you come to decide that you wanted to do the "Peace Takes Courage" website?
Ava Lowery: During the 2004 election, I got very interested in politics although I was already a little interested some time ago. I wanted to started a website to just try to get my opinion out there. I thought I would do something instead of just sitting home and complaining.
BuzzFlash: A lot of people are amazed that a fifteen year old can put together such a nice website and Flash animations, or slide shows. Where did you learn to do these animations?
Ava Lowery: I just got the software and started playing around with it until I figured it out.
BuzzFlash: Are you using Mac or a pc?
Ava Lowery: I’m a Windows person.
BuzzFlash: Where do you come up with these ideas? You’ve done over 70 animations. You have a special page on Peace Takes Courage with them all listed. Most recently, you did "Not Just a Number," which I assume is in response to Tony Snow, the Press Secretary, saying that when we had our twenty-five hundredth death of a G.I. in Iraq, it was just a number. When do the ideas come to you?
Ava Lowery: Usually the ideas just pop into my head. If I'm watching something, or listening to a song, or looking at a picture, I sometimes get inspired by it.
BuzzFlash: Do you have anyone else give you feedback? Or do you just edit it and post it?
Ava Lowery: My Mom is my personal critic. I let her watch it before I put it online, and she lets me know if there are any typos. I put it up online after I let her watch it.
BuzzFlash: We saw you interviewed on CNN, and the interviewer was, we thought, quite unnecessarily adversarial. She talked specifically about the video that’s become known as the baby Jesus video [wwjd], which is a very, very moving and eloquent presentation that has pictures of the young children of Iraq who have either been killed or injured, and they’re in the thousands, we know. The tune you have playing in the background is “Jesus Loves Me.” How did you decide to do that?
Ava Lowery: Well, I’m a Christian, and it angers me when the Republican Party uses Christianity to fire their agenda. And especially in this war -- we see stuff all the time about this being God’s work. That’s not God’s work at all, if you read the Bible. And that’s not what Jesus said. He was a person of love and peace, which is completely the opposite.
BuzzFlash: How did you know “Jesus Loves Me”?
Ava Lowery: When I was little, I used to sing it all the time in church.
Ava Lowery: The music is always the most important part, and I pick out the music before I do anything else. A lot of times, what will happen is that I hear songs and they give me a start. Usually I hear music and then work around it.
BuzzFlash: About how long does it take you to put an animation together?
Ava Lowery: Sometimes it will take up to two or three days. It depends on how long it is and if I’m picky enough to go back and start over and that type of thing.
BuzzFlash: You are in high school, right?
Ava Lowery: Yes, I’m in high school.
BuzzFlash: How do you find the time during the school year to do this?
Ava Lowery: Well, I home school, but in home school, I’m fortunate enough that I can do my schoolwork, but at my own pace. I have to have a certain amount done by the end of the week or else I get in trouble with my Mom.
BuzzFlash: Your Mom home schools you?
Ava Lowery: Yes. She makes sure my brother and I do our schoolwork and that type of thing.
BuzzFlash: Getting back to the CNN interview, this reporter seemed to be trying to make you out as though you were biased or something, and particularly about the Baby Jesus video. She almost implied that that’s not fair to play that hymn with the images of the Iraqi children dying and being wounded. I think many people were quite surprised at her stance. You were very poised -- much more poised than many adults in response. What do you say to people who imply, like she did, that somehow you’re representing some sort of biased viewpoint? She even implied that this was unfair to the troops and insinuated it was propaganda. There was a lot of insinuation in her questions. What do you say when people say something like that to you?
Ava Lowery: Well, if you consider the truth to be propaganda, then I guess so. You see, we’re angry also that the media isn't talking about the truth. I have an uncle in Iraq right now, and I have another uncle who has been to Iraq. To say that I don’t support the troops is completely opposite of how I feel. Supporting our troops is not just sticking a yellow ribbon on the back of your car. It’s supporting them -- you know, keeping up with what's happening to them. It’s a lot more than what they’re trying to make it out to be. To suggest that I don’t support the troops is completely wrong.
BuzzFlash: There have been some reports that you have received death threats and people have written very nasty things to you.
Ava Lowery: Yes, I have received several death threats. Most of them leave hateful responses on the Internet, and they think they’re anonymous. But some of them have been scary, and we’ve had to report those to the FBI and proper authorities.
BuzzFlash: What are they accusing you of?
Ava Lowery: They don’t really accuse anything. They just call me names and imply they want to kill me or something. But they don’t really have the sound arguments, so I’m not sure exactly what they’re accusing me of.
BuzzFlash: We’ve seen many of your animations and you’ve come across as someone who supports democracy, who supports our troops -- you’re pro-life. You think people have the right not to be victims of war and violence on any side of the equation. Why do you think that arouses such anger in people?
Ava Lowery: I think they’re angry people and they have to confront the fact that they supported this war. They supported it from the beginning, and they still are supporting it. Then they realize what’s going on over there, and they don’t want to acknowledge it and don’t want to confront it. So they just keep going, and say that we’re over there because of WMDs, and we’re fighting the Iraqis, which is completely not true. So I think the reason there is anger whenever people are confronted with the truth is because they feel guilty.
BuzzFlash: You live in Alabama in the heart of the South. We’re Yankees, Northerners, so we have our biases. How are you surviving there in red state, pro-Iraq war country?
Ava Lowery: Well, I’m just another teenaged face around here. I’m not Ava Lowery, of Peace Takes Courage, down here. But I just sort of just keep to myself when it comes to politics. I find it’s not really necessary to anger them by saying my liberal views. And no one around here really listens, because I am a teenager. To a certain point, I don’t want to disrespect adults. So I’m not really treated badly here. But when people do talk about politics with me, they do sometimes make remarks. But I think being in the South has actually really helped me form my opinions. I think it’s helped me learn how to communicate well and get through to the middle-of-the-road people.
BuzzFlash: Why do you think being in the South has helped you formulate your opinions?
Ava Lowery: First of all,the SOuth is an extremely religious place. And it’s still Southern values down here. As much as people sometimes want to trash that and disagree with it, I am a Southern values person and I am a Christian. I think the fact that I’m a true Christian has helped me form my opinions.
BuzzFlash: When you put these animations together, you do a tremendous job. You have a rhythm to the animation. You have a beginning and end. There’s a pace to it. Are you thinking of a career in working with Web video and Flash?
Ava Lowery: I do love Flash and working on my website. But I’d really, really like to get into film. I’d really like to go to film school. That’s something that my Mom and I have been looking into. I would love to make documentaries and that type of thing.
BuzzFlash: Getting back to the Flash animations -- where do you find the very strong images, photographs and animations?
Ava Lowery: All over the Net. It takes awhile to find those images, because they’re not very common. Most of the time, you’ll see a photo in an article about something that happens, and you’ll have to grab that photo or else you won’t see it again. That’s how they disappear and that’s why you don’t see those images. But since the website has gotten a little bit bigger, I also have had people who send me photos, which has really helped reduce the time I spend on that.
BuzzFlash: In your slide show for YearlyKos, you talked about how the people who want to bring our troops home and want to stop occupying Iraq, who want to save the children there and save the citizens of Iraq by ending the war -- that we’re the majority. We’re the truth-seekers. Again, there was a really very persuasive and intriguing sort of pace to your slide show. Do you map them out in advance, or do they just acquire a certain rhythm?
Ava Lowery: Sometimes I map them out and sometimes they just form themselves. I did have to map out Not just a Number, because it’s more complex. But a lot of times, I just play around and make changes and just figure out what I like. I’m not really that advanced with Flash and that type of thing, so I’d just like to clear that up.
BuzzFlash: Well, you know how to use the skills that you’ve acquired to be very persuasive. You don’t always have to have the grand finale of the fireworks show to be successful. You’re very successful at telling in a very short period of time a very persuasive story using images, words, and music, and that’s both a skill and something you’re born with. Getting back to the mainstream media -- you don’t seem at all intimidated when you’re on a national television program. Where did you acquire that poise?
Ava Lowery: That’s just an act. I’m sweating and worrying before I go on. When I go on, I just know that I have to act like I’m some poised, perfect Southern belle or something. But I’m definitely not a perfect, poised person. To a certain point, it’s just that I’m passionate about what I’m saying, and it’s true. So it’s easy for me to get the message out.
BuzzFlash: Whatever it is, it works. You’ve got that chemistry on television. Do you have a favorite animation or two?
Ava Lowery: That’s hard for me, because there are so many and they’re so different from one another. Of course, I like WWJD? Another one of my favorites is one of my earlier ones called Someone's. I try to show what's happening to both Iraqis and our soldiers, so that they are not just another casualty of the war. They’re someone’s family, someone’s friend. They’re not just another number. That’s probably my favorite out of all of them.
BuzzFlash: Do you plan to continue with your animations indefinitely?
Ava Lowery: Most likely. I definitely plan to continue until this war is over. And that’s going to be awhile. I definitely want to continue with this work because, even whenever there’s not a war going on, there’s something happening out there that people need to pay attention to. For example, what’s going on in Darfur. I definitely want to continue and try to bring people to awareness of issues that I think are important.
BuzzFlash: Congratulations. You’re doing a great job.
Ava Lowery: Thank you.
A BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW
Interview by Mark Karlin.
Peace Takes Courage home page
Ava Lowery, Wings of Justice honoree