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Will The Peace Movement Survive Obama Or Will We Perish?

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Now that Obama has been elected, what will become of the Peace Movement? Will it grow or will it become trivial? The Peace Movement must take a hard look at itself to avoid the latter option.

Since the election of 2006, participation in peace demonstrations has significantly dropped off. A possible cause for this decline is that a large number of participants switched from protesting war to campaigning for the Democratic Party. And why shouldn’t this occur when, in 2006, many Democratic candidates campaigned on an antiwar platform? Add to that the emergence of Barack Obama who opposed the war from the beginning and it would make sense to think that electing Democrats would be better than protesting in ending the war. Last but not least, Bush’s policies were unfazed by the demonstrations. So many switched to electing Democrats and their efforts have paid off.

But now that they have succeeded, will they return to the Peace Movement? Will their loyalty to the Democratic Party prevent them from admitting that America’s foreign policies will need to be challenged even during an Obama Administration? If they admit that, will they feel disloyal to the Democratic Party for protesting? Will protesting during an Obama Presidency cause some to feel guilty? If Obama does disillusion some, will they simply give up because they think that they have run out of choices?

And what if the Democrats do not return to the Peace Movement? What other demographic can we tap into which will provide adequate numbers for our protests? Are there enough disenfranchised Republicans who would join the Peace Movement and if so, will they feel welcomed?

In essence, the Peace Movement is at a crossroads between becoming a trivial or major player. How can the Peace Movement rise to become a major player? Its first task is to understand what created the massive protests seen at the beginning of the war.

Part of what drove the Peace Movement during the beginning of the protests was anti-Bush sentiment. There were always protesters who mocked Bush and Cheney by wearing humorous costumes. Then there were the signs calling Bush the worst president. And there were the multiple signs that mocked Conservative Christians who were a major part of Bush’s base. Even today, conservatives can report incidences of verbal and physical abuse at the hands of some who oppose the war. In behaving this way, the Peace Movement has failed. The Peace Movement failed by making the antiwar protests a liberal vs conservative battle and thus cut itself off from a possible source of recruits-- Ron Paul proved that conservatives could protest the war.

But worse than offending possible new recruits, the Peace Movement ceased to exist and became an anti-Bush war movement. In becoming an anti-Bush war movement, those protesting the war cut themselves off from the principles taught and used by Martin Luther King. Consider the following quote:

Another thing that we had to get over was the fact that the nonviolent resister does not seek to humiliate or defeat the opponent but to win his friendship and understanding…Another basic thing we had to get over is that nonviolent resistance is also an internal matter. It not only avoids external violence or external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. And so at the center of our movement stood the philosophy of love. [1]

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Not following the above teachings of King here is perhaps the Peace Movement’s biggest failure. By neglecting his teachings, the Peace Movement became impotent at showing others how to achieve peace, it could only protest for peace. In addition, it disqualified itself from faulting Bush for resorting to violence because it was responding with a violent spirit to its opponents.

The Peace Movement could be an essential part of man’s survival. The Russell-Einstein Manifesto clearly tells us our choice:

Here, then, is the problem which we present to you, stark and dreadful and inescapable: Shall we put an end to the human race; or shall mankind renounce war? People will not face this alternative because it is so difficult to abolish war. [2]

Their manifesto was written in response to the development of the hydrogen bomb by both the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Foreseeing that any war between the two superpowers would probably result in both sides using nuclear weapons which would have no end, they stated that there would be no survivors of such a war.

How much more is their warning to a world where an ever advancing technology makes the proliferation of WMDs inevitable. In addition, future WMDs will not be limited to nuclear weapons whose manufacturing can be detected; such future weapons will include chemical and biological ordinance whose manufacturing cannot be noticed. Our choice today is between relying on the old mindset that says we can only trust whom we can control which restricts us to using either threats or force; or we learn how to make a genuine peace between opponents while resolving the toughest issues.

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The Peace Movement’s mission is to teach peace so that we can avoid a doomsday scenario. But it cannot teach peace unless it practices it and that means it must practice peace with its own immediate opponents. In addition, the Peace Movement cannot afford to play favorites with any group, it must protest violence whether it is perpetrated by a Democratic President or by some favorite group or nation. To do all of this, members of the Peace Movement must read and learn the principles taught by peacemakers like King and Gandhi.

We currently need a functioning Peace Movement because even though Bush’s Presidency is coming to an end, Obama gives no indication that he will change the imperial policies that America pursued before Bush became president. Though he rightfully criticizes President Bush’s policies, his criticisms are inadequate because they lack concern for morals and principles. In addition, he is silent on the Iraq sanctions that were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children during the Clinton Administration. Neither has Obama criticized President George H. W. Bush’s use of the military against Panama and Iraq—under President Bush, the US broke international law by attacking Iraqi civilian infrastructure. In addition, Obama says he will increase military spending and he wants to send even more troops to Afghanistan. Finally, Obama has given no indication that he will withdraw all US troops from Iraq.

[1] click here

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Curt Day is a religious flaming fundamentalist and a political extreme moderate. Curt's blogs are at http://flamingfundamentalist.blogspot.com/ and http://violenceorsurvival.blogspot.com/

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