Working towards peace and sustainability

Where do the Candidates Stand on the Climate?

Where do they stand? It’s a fair question, but, unfortunately, most are not saying. As we did two years ago, Peaceworks endeavored to survey candidates for state and federal legislative seats, as well as candidates for governor, but, despite repeated attempts to reach out, share reminders and even extend our deadline, only a small minority of those running for office responded.

We are sharing links to our survey report below, but we must say we are disappointed with the unwillingness of a majority of the candidates, incumbents as well as challengers, Democrats as well as Republicans, Greens and Libertarians to respond.

We urge you as constituents to let those who seek your vote know of your concerns. Further, we encourage you to ask them where they stand on this critical set of issues. The climate crisis is real. It’s anthropogenic. And it’s an existential threat. While there clearly are many important issues, climate change is one that can’t be put on back burner and addressed in ten, twenty or thirty years. It begs immediate attention, and, since few if any candidates in Missouri are running with this being their signature issue, it’s up to us, the people, to put this issue front and center.

If you would like to read our full report, which includes the responses of 17 candidates, you can click HERE.

If you’d like to read the introduction to the report, including our methodology and the questions, click HERE.

If you’d like to see the response of four candidates running for state rep seats from Boone County, click HERE.

If you’d like to see the response of one candidate running for a state rep seat outside Boone County, click HERE.

If you’d like to see the response of one candidate running for Missouri state senate, click HERE.

If you’d like to see the responses of two candidates running for governor, click HERE.

If you’d like to see the responses of nine candidates running for U.S. House seats, click HERE.

If you find responses from candidates looking for your vote here, we hope you’ll let them know what you think. And, if you’d like to know where the candidates running who didn’t respond stand, please contact them as well.

As you likely know, Peaceworks does not support, endorse or oppose candidates for office. We do share information as to where candidates stand and this survey is shared in that light. Thanks for checking it out.

What Matters?

What a wild rollercoaster ride this year has been. And it seems there is more uncertainty today than ever before. We really don’t know what comes next. Meanwhile we are searching for how best to respond to what we face daily.

The year began with the combination of a presidential impeachment and the threat of war with Iran. Then an intense, albeit brief, presidential primary season commanded most of the public’s attention. But before that was even resolved, the Coronavirus Crisis shook the country and became all-consuming. It has been something unique in the lives of virtually everyone alive today, and it’s not over yet, not by a long shot. And now, for nearly a month, the Black Lives Matter (BLM) uprising, in the wake of the brutal police murder of George Floyd, has presented itself with an intensity unseen in 50-plus years, since the uprisings of the late 1960s.

Looking ahead, there’s great uncertainty. Will the pandemic continue to grow, or will it be slowed or stopped? How far away is a vaccine? Are projections of half a million Americans dead over the next year realistic? Is this acceptable? What are the implications for the economy?
What will become of the current BLM rebellion? Will there be meaningful progress on the policing policy front? Will there be an active, focused movement taking and holding center stage, and what will this mean for those of us who favor an intersectional approach to the issues we work on?

Which way will the electoral political winds blow over the next five months? Will Trump win a second term? Will he lose the election but refuse to yield power? If Biden wins, what will that mean for the issues we’re most concerned with?

None of these questions have easy answers. But we do have some reference points to turn to in search of answers.

What Matters is All Connected

It is easy to feel overwhelmed when we simultaneously face an unprecedented public health crisis, the ongoing malignant impact of centuries of racial injustice, and the threat of neo-fascist politics destroying the limited democracy and rule of law we must struggle to maintain. And we watch all this play out against a backdrop of growing inequality, permanent war and heightened militarism, along with the existential threats posed by climate change and nuclear weapons.

All of these concerns matter. And all are connected. While some might try to reduce everything to one dimension (e.g. race, capitalism, population, unsustainability, etc.) the reality is that they all matter and share a root cause.

Much of humanity is afflicted by a profound alienation coupled with a desire to control and dominate. This applies to our interpersonal dynamics, our economic relations, or our divisive identification with a group, team, ethnicity, religion or nationality that is perceived to be in competition with the “other.”

Racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia and other modes of systemic bias are all rooted in this us vs. them thinking, all of which encourages hate and/or fear, inflicts pain and is harmful to all parties, the hater, as well as the hated.

While there are many steps to be taken, many struggles to engage, the to-the-root bottom line is that we need a paradigm shift, away from “power-over,” and toward “shared-agency.” Those who are sitting on top of the power pyramid that goes with the present paradigm will attempt to do what they’ve done for centuries, divide and conquer.

It’s up to us to develop networks of solidarity and mutual support. Each of us is limited as to what we can do. And each organization only can do so much, as well. But we amplify our abilities when we recognize the connections between our struggles; recognize that each of these matter—that each are matters of life and death—and support each other as we work toward just solutions.

 Being Intersectionally Anti-Racist

Peaceworks was founded in 1982 as a Nuclear Weapons Freeze group. Over the years, we’ve primarily focused on disarmament, peace, sustainability and climate concerns. That said, we’ve long been strong supporters of social and economic justice, and allies of our fellow activists whose work focuses on these concerns.

We recognize that the power-over paradigm manifests in many forms, but is most virulent when the prism is race. Racism didn’t start with Euro-American settlement, but the combination of the genocide of indigenous people and the enslavement of African people means this nation was built on stolen land using stolen labor.

There is a strong parallel between war and racism. In both there is a dehumanizing process, whereby the “other” is regarded, and treated, as less than human. This allows anything desired by those who have power over, from murder and torture to sexual control and domination to economic exploitation.

Peaceworks recognizes the connections between struggles for human rights, for environmental sanity, for labor rights and economic justice, for gender justice and so much more. We can’t organize around all these issues, but we can be strong allies and help get the word out when our comrades are calling for support. This is the case whether we’re talking about justice for George Floyd, pressing MU not to outsource custodial and landscaping jobs, working to oppose capital punishment or fighting to maintain and expand reproductive rights, just to name a few.

Black Lives Matter

Addressing racism begins with a most basic step. We must recognize our internalized racist attitudes that are a product of the society we have been born and raised in. Then we must work to recognize the common humanity of all our fellow humans, whatever their skin color; or for that matter their ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, etc. Starting by breaking out of us/them thinking is foundational.

Beyond this, we must take our healing process from the interpersonal to the realm of public policy. We are not about to lay out here a highly specific program, but we will suggest some outlines. First of all, we who are white should begin by listening to our black and brown sisters and brothers. They have the direct experience and can inform the understandings of members of the white community.

It seems to us that these are some things that need to be addressed:

*  Ending mass incarceration. We need to end the drug war and start treating addiction as a health, not a criminal, matter. We also need to end the disenfranchisement of those who’ve been incarcerated.

*  Policing needs thorough rethinking. There have been numerous proposals from banning choke holds to abolishing or defunding police forces. We don’t have a detailed program to offer up, but recognize the need to move quickly, but thoughtfully, to reinvent public safety, using more social workers and unarmed personnel who are adept at non-violent conflict resolution. Demilitarizing police departments and abandoning the use of chemical weapons, including tear gas, are essential. Training and retraining as well as removing officers with a history of abusive behavior is also necessary.

*  Education is essential. Right now, those from poorer neighborhoods go to seriously underfunded schools, while affluent communities have far more to spend per pupil. This is backwards, and in need of serious reform. Likewise, public higher education should be available to all without tuition to enable all who wish to pursue education to do so.

*  Housing, healthcare and nutrition are human rights. We need to adequately fund programs that meet the unmet basic needs of all, including, but not limited to, people of color.

*  Reparations must be explored. We need to acknowledge the profound harm caused by centuries of racist exploitation and seek out ways to invest in developing strong, socially connected and economically vibrant communities with adequate infrastructure and investment in people as well as place.

There’s a bumper sticker that bears the message “If you want peace, work for justice,” with the quote attributed to Pope Paul VI. There’s a chant we hear in the streets these days, “No justice, no peace.” They are two sides of the same coin. We at Peaceworks sincerely want peace and justice and we are ready to work for both. We hope you are too.

Coronavirus: What it Reveals and What it Distracts From--Plus More!

As we live through unprecedented times, Peaceworks extends our wishes for good health to all, and for a speedy end to the Coronavirus Crisis. We very recently sent a newsletter out to our members sharing some of our concerns and thoughts regarding the present moment. If you've not yet seen it, we invite you to read through this newsletter by clicking HERE. We welcome your thoughts and feedback.
Above is page 1 of our four page newsletter. To read the full newsletter, please click HERE.

New War in the Midst of Impeachment Season?

We are living in perilous times. The assassination of Qasem Soleimani was a unilateral act of aggression by the Trump regime—an act of war—that was not only illegal and immoral, but it is likely to have very adverse consequences.

Some speculate that an armed conflict is desired by the administration that is on the ropes politically and facing a reelection battle this year. Most are familiar with the notion of a "Wag the Dog," scenario to distract from misconduct and get at least some voters to rally around the flag and the incumbent administration.

Whether that is the intention of the President is not as significant as are the consequences of this action. This comes on top of Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear accord, his imposition of new, draconian sanctions, followed by the escalation of fighting with Iranian allies/proxies, skirmishes in the Persian Gulf and more.

Some might not yet recognize just how important a figure Iranian Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani was. He was according to many accounts the second most important political figure in Iran, after only the Supreme Leader.

Soleimani was revered by many. Thus this action will only stoke hatred for the U.S. not just in Iran, or Iraq, which also lost an important official--Jamal Jaafar Ibrahimi--in the attack, but throughout much of the world, especially in predominantly Muslim countries.
A portion of the massive crowd at Qasem Soleimani' funeral.
Yet the Trump administration claims this act of war was a “de-escalation” of the U.S.-Iran conflict; a step toward ending, not starting, war; one that will “save lives.” Such claims are preposterous. Yet, sadly, if Trump or his surrogates say it, there are some who’ll believe it, no matter how off the wall it might be.

Clearly, killing central figures in other countries' governments is not a path to settling conflict. In fact, it has exactly the opposite effect. To pretend otherwise will only hoodwink the extremely gullible, or those so thoroughly indoctrinated that they will believe virtually anything someone they’ve put their faith in says. It makes a fool or a liar, in the eyes of the rest of us, of anyone who makes such ridiculous assertions. And, in the process, it deepens and widens the chasm between Trump's true believers and the rest of the citizenry.

Heating a Cold War & Accelerating Nuclear Proliferation

Last Friday, an already dangerous situation in the Persian Gulf region became a much greater threat, both in the near term and looking forward. Sadly, we are likely to see the ratcheting up of a cycle of violence in which the U.S. and Iran both inflict violence, death and destruction. The U.S. is already sending thousands of additional troops to the region, while Iran is already stating they will seek revenge. It is not yet clear how much blood, or whose blood, will be shed, but this will not be pretty.

Moreover, this greatly strengthens the hand of those in Iran who favor nuclear weapons development as a deterrent to U.S. aggression. The Iranians have already announced that they will no longer be bound by the constraints agreed to in the accord. While we in Peaceworks are in favor of nuclear weapons abolition and oppose proliferation, it's hard to argue with the logic of nuclear deterrence. We all can see that countries like Iraq and Iran, which don't have nuclear weapons, are on the receiving end of U.S. attacks, while North Korea, which does, has its leader wined and dined and praised to the high heavens.
This map shows U.S. military bases thousands of miles from our shores and surrounding Iran. It helps to answer the question who is threatening whom.
 War Crimes & Justice

Some assert that Qasem Soleimani was an evil figure, guilty of many crimes, and thus he deserved his fate. While it may be true, as these defenders of the assassination assert, that he is guilty of serious crimes, we are a nation that bases our governance on the rule of law. This includes domestic and international law. If Soleimani was a war criminal, he should have been apprehended and placed in the dock at The Hague, where he could have had a fair trial, rather than face summary execution.

While our government was instrumental in bringing many of Germany and Japan’s top officials to justice after World War II—establishing the Nuremberg Principles in the process—there has been a general U.S. reluctance, in recent decades, to respect international law. For example, our government has refused to accept the legitimacy of the International Criminal Court. Further, they haves steadfastly held that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice and other architects of the crime against the peace otherwise known as the Iraq War should face no sanctions for their actions, at home or abroad.

By simultaneously denying U.S. officials are subject to facing consequences for their actions, while denying others accused of heinous acts the right to a fair trial, their actions are seriously undermining the already tattered framework of international law, and, in the process, implicitly proclaiming that might makes right. This can only lead us further down the path of having the law of the jungle replace the rule of law.

It is also worthy of note that making war on Iran is not only a violation of international law, but also has no legal justification under U.S. law. Congress has not declared war or authorized the use of military force. The authorizations passed after 9/11 and prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq do not apply to the current situation and thus, the various threats made by Trump would not be legal unless taken first to Congress and supported by both houses.

Our Actions Now Matter

This is no time to be quiet. There's way too much at stake. It's time for all of us to speak out for peace and reconciliation and to oppose a drive to war by Trump.

It’s time to be visible and demonstrate publicly our concern. There already are two weekly peace demonstrations in CoMo (Wednesdays, 4:30-5:30 p.m. at Broadway & Providence, and Saturdays, 10-11 a.m. at the CoMo Post Office on Walnut). There will be others, including injecting a peace presence at the Jan. 18 Solidarity Rally & March.

We also need to raise war and peace concerns in every arena we can, including at work, at school, in our interactions with friends, at our houses of worship, on-line and more.

We certainly should be communicating with our members of Congress, but this is really not sufficient. We are in an election year and these concerns need to be raised with all the candidates, made a key voting criterion. We, as Peaceworks, neither support nor opposed candidates for office, but we do encourage our members and supporters to engage in active citizenship, which includes, of course, registering and voting, as well as backing candidates. We hope you will take seriously both the perils of our current situation and the opportunities we face this critical election year. Please engage as you can.