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Platform 2010: A Voice Against Violence

By       Message Matt Reichel       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink

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I intentionally started my campaign for the U.S. House in Illinois's 5th District early so as to address some of the deficiencies from my effort earlier this year.


My friends, volunteers, supporters and dissuaders have given sharp praise in some domains and offered prescient criticism in others. For both, I am deeply grateful.

Among the praise I have received are compliments on my ability to articulate my message elegantly and understandably, to not waver or panic in front of a microphone or television camera, and to stand firm on the issues that mean most to me. I have also been told that I have broad appeal for someone who is unequivocally to the left, as is attested by my concerted effort to reach out to anti-war conservatives, for example.

The criticisms I have received are that often I can come off as too negative or angry. In reviewing video and images from the campaign earlier this year, I must admit that I have given off a negative aura on several occasions. I whole-heartedly agree that it is important that I don't allow my valid criticisms of mainstream politics affect my personal demeanor: that I don't let my anger at greedy bankers affect my overall composure.

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Another criticism is that I get too caught up in the individual issues and fail to package them into a coherent vision for the future of this country. In this realm, I must admit that I too often assume that people know where I am coming from. Many activists in my midst have read many of the same authors and tend to get their news from similar sources and have generally supported similar candidates and political movements. However, in running for Congress, it is necessary that I reach outside of my base and appeal to the vast majority of Americans who are not political junkies.

Rather than merely trash mainstream politicians for being shills for banks, insurance companies and military contractors, I should explain precisely what sets me apart, and what values I will espouse as an elected member of Congress:

First and foremost, I will stand for liberty and democracy, those two heralded values of the western liberal tradition. I do not believe that the western tradition was built purely around empire and conquest. While the preeminent powers most certainly committed heinous crimes in the developing world and elsewhere, I also believe they invaluable contributed social, cultural and political ideals. I believe the former was inconsistent with the latter.

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In this spirit, I will stand as an ambassador of peace. I believe that it is inconsistent with the Western liberal tradition to take peoples' lives as part of our foreign policy. I am also appalled by the seeming lack of appreciation for human life in our political elite, and increasingly throughout society. Martin Luther King Jr correctly observed that "my country is the greatest perpetrator of violence in the world." For making this observation, he was vilified and branded a "radical." In my mind, there is no clearer demonstration that our country suffers from a serious ailment of violence than when a great leader is disparaged for admonishing his country for its violent ways.

We must recognize violence as the great American epidemic. From the streets of Baghdad to the streets of Chicago, violence is a problem that is tearing this nation apart at the seams. If we do not usher in a new generation of leadership ready and willing to tackle this epidemic, we will rapidly descend into a state of thorough irrelevance.

I ask that we all take the time to reflect on this problem and internalize it: to address the inner violence, that desire to bring emotional or physical harm to others regardless of any provocation, and to conquer it, so that together we can overcome the overarching problem of our nation's domestic and military violence.

I reiterate: violence is the great American epidemic. Violence is the problem behind so many of our other problems. Violence was the problem when we attempted to repress Communism by fighting doomed proxy wars throughout the globe. Violence was so vividly the problem when we thoroughly devastated Vietnam and lost over 50,000 of our own in a useless war of aggression and Empire. Violence, too, was the problem when we attempted to expand that ill by invading Cambodia and Laos.

Violence was the problem when we decided to dictate the future of Latin America by installing murderous dictators in Chile and Guatemala, while fighting and funding violent civil wars in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Columbia. Violence has been the American mark left on Latin America: a tradition of violence rooted in this misguided sense of superiority by our political and economic Elite.

Violence, too, was the problem on 9-11, when authoritarian religious zealots brought their backward sense of vengeance down on 3,000 innocent civilians. This act continued a cycle of violence in our relationship to the Arab world, with whom the American Empire had intertwined in dangerously injurious military and economic relations for decades. In the weeks after that horrific moment in American history, we could have risen to a new level of clarity and given power to a new movement to rescind violence in all of its forms.

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Instead, the cycle continued and it perpetuates today. In 2001, we were told that the terrorists would have been defeated by now, and that we would be basking in the serenity of a perpetual peace. This is the same lie that war propagandists have shuffled around for time immemorial: that once we fight this last war, an era of peace will arrive. I see no difference between this sickly way of thinking and that of an alcoholic who assures his loved ones that tonight will be his final drink.

In order to rid our society of this malady, we must see the primary function of our lives as peace-makers. Surely, everyone must work to pay the bills, and they should undoubtedly be content in their careers. However, your prime human function on this planet is not as a paid servant of this or that employer. Your primary function is as a fellow ambassador of peace. Your essential duty is to wage peace at all opportunities, to expose and reprimand the war-makers, and to remain confident and adamant in even the most trying times. As a peace maker, you will be almost perpetually challenged: like Martin Luther King Jr, being branded a radical, you will be accused of anti-American sentiment, you will be called a coward or a Communist, and you will be disparaged and belittled.

This is why I suggested that we all cleanse the inner violence before attempting to address the outer violence. It is essential that you demonstrate your capacity to remain non-violent even when violently provoked. I have often struggled with this myself, and continue to work to overcome the internal angst.

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Platform 2010: A Voice Against Violence