Taking Risks for Peace

I’ve never been a fan of left-wing rhetoric, or any rhetoric for that matter. I’ve always believed that to be effective, we need to speak and write clearly and directly, use understandable language and avoid words or phrases that can turn people off.

It’s one thing to turn people off because they don’t agree with your beliefs. That’s always going to happen with some people. It’s another thing altogether to turn people off either because they don’t understand what you’re saying or because they feel you’re an extremist as a result of words that you use.

However, I’ve been consciously using the word “warmonger” for quite a while to describe the Bushites, and I’ve even used the words “fascist” and “imperialist” once or twice. And this has not happened in the heat of anger. It’s happened consciously as I’ve searched for words to best describe people like Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perle and Ashcroft and their published Project for a New American Century.

These guys really are way over the top. They are carrying out an illegal and brutal war of occupation as the first step in a plan for decades of war in the Middle East to sieze more direct control of what they consider to be their oil under those foreign sands. They are in the initial stages of preparing and implementing widespread political repression here at home to attempt to intimidate and silence those who oppose those plans. Their economic agenda is blatantly pro-rich and anti-just about everybody else.

These are bad, bad guys. A lot of people, tens of millions here in the U.S. and most of the rest of the world, know it. And we can’t forget that up until the beginning of the full-scale invasion of Iraq, even the polls, as problematic as they are, had been saying for many weeks that fully 55-60% of the American people either opposed this war or had serious questions and concerns.

Given that reality, I’m more open to using words that could be seen as rhetorical but, if explained clearly and coupled with specific examples of what I mean, can help others to grasp the immense dangers we are facing from these men with their, yes, fascist personalities and political approaches and their imperialistic global ambitions.

Ultimately, however, the key to whether or not they can re-make the U.S.A. in their hideous image is not up to them. It will be up to the American people. With all of our flawed democracy’s major problems and serious deficiencies, the individual fascists in power at present are constrained by that system. They still need to submit themselves to a popular election. Even these political mobsters, as much as they might like to, will not be able to cancel the November 2004 elections.

There is an immediate danger, however, that the so-called “support our troops” rallies taking place around the country, almost all of which are being organized by pro-Bush rightwingers, could develop into an organized, semi-fascist, pro-war movement. The emergence of such a movement would make our efforts even more difficult. We must respond accordingly.

At one recent rally in the south, a sign held by one of the participants, as seen on the front page of the New York Times, said, “Dissent equals terrorism.” At another rally in Cedar Grove, N.J., close to where I live, Veterans for Peace National Chairperson David Cline and I were surrounded and physically threatened by 30 angry men when we silently held up two signs, “Support our troops; Bring them home alive” and “Another veteran who says no to war,” just before the rally began. Ten minutes after holding up our signs we were escorted away by the local police.

A handful of the people at this rally of about 500 openly supported us as we were led away. I am certain that there were others we could reach if given the opportunity to do so. We are currently working to see if we can return to the Veterans of Foreign Wars hall where this rally was held to engage in a debate with whoever from the other side is willing to debate us.

We need to continue to take risks for peace. One form of risk-taking is acts of nonviolent direct action. Another is being out there openly showing by the buttons we wear and the signs we hold where we stand and what we believe. And we must risk verbal, emotional or even physical abuse by engaging in respectful and upfront dialogue with our fellow Americans. This will include dialogue—or heated discussions—with those who have been victimized, misinformed and negatively influenced by an often violent, racist and corporatist culture.

We must stand firm in defense of the best of our history. We are not un-American when we oppose war, imperialism and repression.

This is a country with a deeply schizophrenic past. For every act of violence directed against a person of color, whether Filipino, Iroquois, African or Mexican, there are white people who have opposed imperialism and “Manifest Destiny.” The Bill of Rights was not granted by the slaveowners, landowners and industrialists; it was won through the struggle of workers and farmers. We are currently engaged in a major battle to hold onto the democratic rights that we still have so that, over time, we can deepen and expand them.

We are fighting for our country, for a country we can be proud of. We are fighting for a new world, a world built upon justice, equality, love, and respect for our natural environment. We must hold onto this vision, and we must strive for it, with all the collective strength and wisdom we can muster.