Working towards peace and sustainability

Voting and Participation in Making Change

Unless you’ve been hibernating deep in a cave for many months, you’re surely aware that we are in an electoral season. You also certainly recognize that there are sharp differences between the candidates and thus the stakes are very high.

We remind you at the get-go that Peaceworks is an educational non-profit and we never endorse, support or oppose candidates for office. We do, however, encourage active citizenship, which includes voting. We hope that all reading this whom are eligible are registered to vote. If you aren’t, or if you’ve moved to another county and need to update your registration, February 17 is the deadline to register so you can vote in Missouri’s March 15 Presidential Primary.

To learn more about the candidates, click on: POSITIONS

Peaceworks was founded on the principles of participatory democracy and grassroots engagement. We see voting as an important part of citizenship, but only one part of many. If you, like us, see critical issues impacting our lives — including climate change, war and peace, economic justice and human rights, just for starters — we hope you agree that we should take every opportunity available to move things forward: increase the peace, correct injustices and heal the Earth. Voting is fast and easy and there’s really no good argument that we’ve heard not to devote the few minutes it takes to go cast your ballot.

This said, voting is to citizenship as recycling is to sustainable living. It’s necessary, but it’s certainly not sufficient. It’s basically the least we can do, and much more is needed. Happily, we can vote for a few minutes, two or three days a year and still have more than 360 days left when we don’t need to go vote and can engage in other forms of citizenship.

Of course, the electoral process involves more than voting. If you feel drawn to a candidate, you can support their campaign by volunteering and/or contributing financially. You can engage friends, neighbors, family, co-workers and others to encourage them to support the candidate. You can also use social media to boost awareness of their candidacy and issue stands.

This sort of grassroots participation is more important now than ever, as it’s a partial antidote to the pernicious role of big money in politics. But, again, it’s just one piece of the puzzle.
Also critical is helping to build and support civil society groups that educate and advocate. What is possible in electoral politics, or in the legislative process, is, at least in part, a function of what the people know, or think they know. Issue-oriented groups, including Peaceworks, have key roles to play in creating a political climate that enables meaningful change. This includes countering the self-serving myths promoted by climate change deniers, war mongers, etc. It also involves opening people’s eyes to the potential for a brighter, more sustainable and just future.

There are dozens of roles one might embrace in the social change process. Making issue concerns visible through demonstrations is important, but so is reaching out to fellow citizens through phonebanks, petition drives, door-to-door canvasses, and more. Activist groups can raise issue concerns via public meetings, speakers, films, classes and more. It takes activist volunteers to put such events together. Then, our elected officials need to hear from us, and letters to officials can also serve as letters to the editor.

Our sincere hope is that 2016 will be a year of positive new beginnings. Hope, however, is not enough. We need to vote, but this, too, is not sufficient. What is really needed—indeed sorely needed—is sustained, activist engagement. We invite and encourage your participation in our work, as well as in the broader movement. Join us, please.

Choosing Inclusion, Peace and Justice—They Go Together.

As our name clearly implies, Peaceworks advocates for peaceful resolution to conflicts. But we understand this requires more than simply opposing war. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. informed us 60 years ago, “True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it’s the presence of justice.” Essential to Peaceworks’ mission is our work for social and economic justice and the creation of a Peace Economy that works for all.

Among many justice concerns, we are now prioritizing raising the banner of inclusion and the celebration of diversity as a response to the fear-mongering over Islam and terrorism. The near-panic we have seen, since the events late last year in Paris and San Bernardino, is a threat not only to Muslims in this country, who have been subjected to numerous hate crimes, but also to peace around the world and to our very democracy. These events are unfolding at the same time that those living in this country without documents are being threatened with expulsion, a move that appears to be based in thinly veiled racism. It’s time to speak out boldly to challenge the agendas of those who exploit fear and bigotry.

The xenophobic, anti-Muslim, anti-refugee/migrant nativism that is being employed by some in the current election cycle is nothing new in American politics. There have been similar reactions to Irish, Eastern and Southern European and East Asian immigrants dating back at least to 1850. 

Today, there is a well-developed anti-Muslim network of talk show hosts, Rightwing-funded “think tanks,” pressure groups and politicians who continuously gin up fear and loathing. Ditto the anti-immigrant networks. Most susceptible are those less educated who are already insecure in a perilous economy, one in which they’ve been losing ground for many years.
To read the rest of this article, please click HERE
On December 16 Peaceworks co-sponsored "A Community Dialogue of Respect and Compassion: Countering Islamophobia.” This event, held at the Columbia Public Library brought together approximately 85 members of the community for fellowship and solidarity as well as the enhancement of mutual understanding. It is our intention to do more work along these lines in the months ahead. We invite your participation. 

Peaceworks Needs Your Support Now!

Please learn more: Click Here.
See pictures of Peaceworks in action: Click Here.
Donate securely on-line: Click Here.

Fool Me Once . . .

Violence, in general, is deeply disturbing. Random, senseless violence—taking the lives of innocents—is particularly troubling. Events in Paris, in which 129 people were murdered, therefore, have ricocheted wildly through our body politic, sparking fear, revulsion and heightened Islamophobia.

We’ve seen everything from governors attempting to block even thoroughly vetted Syrian refugees from being settled in their states, to calls for all out warfare and dramatic increases in military spending, troop levels and more. We’ve had presidential candidates calling for the registration of all Muslims, the closing of Mosques, and even applying a religious test, requiring Christian identity, to qualify for refugee status.

If you’re experiencing a sinking feeling of déjà vu all over again, you are not alone. We saw our fellow citizens stampeded into supporting disastrous wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq in the wake of 9/11. Neither of these wars, nor the numerous other U.S. wars in primarily Muslim nations (Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Libya, Syria, etc.) have enhanced our security. In fact, they’ve served to create far more enemies than they’ve eliminated. They’ve led to massive loss of life, primarily non-combatant civilians. They’ve dislocated millions, while thoroughly destabilizing one of the most geopolitically strategic and volatile regions in the world. And they’ve been phenomenally expensive. 

Even though the chance of dying in a domestic terror incident is infinitesimal, the need to prevent such acts has been used as a rationale legitimating a surveillance state that has resulted in unprecedented intrusions into every citizen’s privacy. And incredibly, the Right simultaneously bores down on so-called “Islamic Terrorism,” while opposing even the most modest gun safety initiatives, so all any aspiring terrorist—be they Muslim, Christian or what have you—seeking guns need do is visit a gun show.

While the self-proclaimed “Islamic State” would not be in existence if not for the U.S. invasion of Iraq, many on the Right blame President Obama for ISIS. They propose major escalation of the war, including sending in ground troops. Those with one tool, a hammer, view every situation we face, no matter how complex, as another nail.

More war will mean more death, more destruction, more fear and more enemies. Bombing ISIS sites in Iraq and Syria has been a grand game of Whack-A-Mole, with more “collateral damage” than actual attainment of objectives. Anyone thinking our nation can assume the moral high ground need only consider for a moment that, according to official documents, as reported in The Intercept, so-called “targeted killing” by drones in Afghanistan ends up killing people other than the intended target nearly 90 percent of the time.

Some might assert that “terrorists” intend to killing innocents, while the U.S. CIA and military end up doing so accidentally. The distinction loses much of its meaning, however, when U.S. officials know that their actions are regularly killing non-combatants, including women, children and the elderly, yet they continue to drop bombs from on high. While images of the victims of terror attacks in Paris are more readily seen, those dying in places like Yemen, Somalia or Pakistan are no less dead, and their loved ones no less bereft.  

Most Americans want a peaceful future. What we need to recognize is that exterminating an enemy is not a path to peace. Belligerence toward Muslims is certainly not an answer. The vast majority of Muslims are peaceful, kind and caring humans who, in my experience, are hospitable and welcoming. While there are violent extremists, the same is true for Christians, Jews, Hindus, etc. When we demonize Islam, and when our government intervenes in Muslim counties, we drive recruits to the jihadis.

We have a choice. Extend and expand the permanent war and the Military-Industrial Complex will thrive, while millions suffer the agony and dislocation of war. End the pursuit of geopolitical domination and pursue instead a ratcheting down of conflict through negotiations, arms embargos and sustainable development programs, and we will have a chance at a peaceful future.

Please consider that the Syrian conflict would never have reached the point we’re at today, were it not for the U.S. insistence, back in 2012, to exclude the Iranians from negotiations and to make the exit of Assad an à priori condition for talks. Let’s learn from these mistakes and pursue peace rather than power.

And part of manifesting peace is creating a vibrant peace economy at home. Looking at our current political reality, perhaps the greatest irony we face is that those most eager to see more money and resources devoted to weapons, militarism and making war, are also those likely most reluctant to adequately fund investments in real security.

Real Security includes protecting our climate and the balances of nature that make planet Earth habitable. The biggest cheerleaders for war also generally oppose investing in people, providing livable wages to all workers, making quality education freely available to all, assuring healthcare for everyone, etc. They obviously do not recognize that a clean, sustainable environment and a strong, healthy and well educated population are our greatest strengths. If we prudently invest the funds saved by turning away from war, we can address serious threats to our security, and this will be a true win-win.
This post was written by Peaceworks Director Mark Haim.