I just finished reading an OpEd News article by Kevin Gosztola titled Now More Than Ever, The World Needs A Bold U.S. Antiwar Movement. It moved me deeply.
Ordinarily I would just enter a comment and move on, but this article struck too deep a chord because I have seen the peace movement in my area go from hot and heavy to cold and leaden. For the past two years, a core group of the Peace Network of the Ozarks has been trying to revitalize the movement, but concensus is that there is no issue hot enough to bring people out to the street corner.
We fought tooth and nail begging our fellow citizens to see that the call for war in Iraq was a smokescreen. We pointed and shouted at an emperor who had no clothes. We brought 300 people out in a snow storm in a futile attempt to get Roy Blunt to listen to reason. We read the names and wept when the American death toll reached 1,000. We fell to our knees and tore our hair out at 4,000. We tolled the bell for the tens of thousands of Iraqi dead. We marched and camped to emulate Camp Casey.
And finally, seeing that Iraq has forced a withdrawal timeline, a supposed liberal president has been elected and BushCo is finally being driven out of Washington, D.C., our flame has sputtered out. We've dropped our signs and shuffled silently home.
For two years, we have tried to find a way to fire our members back up. Tried to identify an issue that was strong enough to strike the chord that would bring them to their feet striking out once again at the injustice of the military-industrial complex.
It took Kevin Gosztola to wake me up to the fact that the issue has been here all along. Yes, we fought hard against the war in Iraq, but we let it be our focus, and that detracted from the real need. We talked about it. Many of us wrote about it, but until this pivotal point in time, it lacked the necessary component to make it a hot issue -- the potential for grabbing headlines and spearpointing a national debate.
Everyone knows the problem was first articulated by a president. Dwight Eisenhower, speaking as he left the office, told the nation about the military-industrial complex, but he failed to ignite a meaningful opposition. Since then that complex has been the driving force that kept America growing and its citizens complacently floating in a sea of cold beer, hot cars and television sets.
That complex is still the major dividing line between progressive thinking and conservatism, but as Cosztola pointed out, there has never been a better time than right now to point out its failures.
Right now - we have a president-elect in Barack Obama who won the office because the nation is sick and tired of the empty promise of triumphant military conquest.
Right now - the entire world is applauding a journalist with the guts to throw his shoes at the most reviled president in history.
Right now - Mr. Obama is wavering between his desire to expand the military effort in Afghanistan and his recognition that we lack the resources to do it.
Right now - Mr. Obama is forced to make choices between further military adventurism and fulfilling his campaign promises of increased funding for education, health care, infrastructure development and green expansion.
Right now - the American people are completely fed up with the direction the economy is taking and the results of militarism.
Right now - therefore - the peace movement is facing the hot iron of national discomfort and a burning need for change. The only question in my mind is whether that movement has the strength, wisdom and tenacity needed to strike.
If I were to take up my "Butter not Guns" sign and stand on the corner again, would you pick up your "Guns into Plowshares" sign or your "Healthcare not Warfare" sign and join me?
I believe that the Obama transition team is faced with a great many difficult decisions about priorities. I also believe that if the peace movement misses this opportunity to help them see that further support for the military-industrial complex should not be among them; that the American people value their own health and well-being over that of our corporate rulers; that the imperialistic approach of the past is a path to self-destruction; we will have failed utterly.