The following is a “prepared remarks” version of comments shared by Peaceworks Director Mark Haim at our 27th Annual Dinner, Nov. 2, 2013 (the actual talk was extemporaneous, but hit on these same themes):
Good evening and thank you all for being here. I’d like to sharewith you some thoughts on the status of our peace advocacy efforts. As many of you know, Peaceworks has been around for nearly 32 years. Thus, we are older than of many of our members and activists.
We originated as a Nuclear Weapons Freeze group at a time when the nuclear arms race was in overdrive and looking very threatening to our collective survival.
So, our founding was based upon addressing an existential threat, and yet, from the start, our organization was made up of people with vision who not just wanted to survive, but to thrive and to create a peaceful, just and sustainable future for all.
There has always been this tension within us, needing to address the symptoms, so they don’t kill the patient, but also wanting to get to the root of the problems we face.
On the peace front this has gone hand-in-hand with periods of crisis that lead to broader involvement, directing public attention to immediate symptoms, and periods of far less public focus and engagement. During the latter, however, we have the ability to focus on root causes, we need, however, to mobilize sufficient involvement to get our message heard.
During the nearly five decades I’ve been involved in peace activism, there have been four periods of broader engagement—peak periods of peace activism: The Vietnam War, the Nuclear Arms Race of the 1980s, the First Gulf War in 1991, and the Post-9/11 wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
During each of these, we mobilized to address the immediate.
Today, however, as 9/11 recedes and the number of troops committed in overseas conflicts continues to decline, there is much less active engagement than there was at the time of the U.S. invasion of Iraq under George W. Bush, or the peak years of war there, yet the need for sustained activism has not gone away.
One of the key challenges Peaceworks and our allies throughout the Peace Movement face is communicating to our members and the broader citizenry the compelling need to address the Permanent War.
The Permanent War Economy threatens us in many ways.
- It steals the resources sorely needed to fund critical investment in people and infrastructure.
- It continues to engage aggressively around the world—think Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Syria and more—and thus it costs lives and makes enemies.
- It underpins the U.S.’s nuclear arms posture and our government’s refusal to move to mutual, verifiable and universal nuclear disarmament.
- It even justifies the massive surveillance establishment that our taxes so generously fund, while we cut food stamps and funds for education, environmental protection and dozens of other essential programs.
We, in Peaceworks, need to convey all of this—and our sense of urgency—to our elected officials and our fellow citizens.
And, assuming you share our concerns, we need you to participate.
Here are just a few ways you might plug in:
- Become a consistent, vocal and visible advocate for a Peace Economy. Write letters, speak out, make your voice heard.
- Join us on Tuesday, Nov. 12, when we go to visit Congressional offices here in CoMo.
- Join us on Sunday, Nov. 24, when we have a Peace Contingent in the Holiday Parade.
- Participate, when you can, in our highly visible, weekly Rush Hour Peace Demonstration (Wednesdays 4:30-5:30 p.m. at Broadway & Providence). Become a Once-a-Monther, committing to join for at least part of the hour at least once each month.
- Join our Peaceworks Peace & Justice Committee. The next meeting is Tuesday, Dec. 10, 7:15 p.m. at the Peace Nook.
While this is not a “peak activist period” on the peace front, we really need to make it a time of growing awareness of the costs of war and militarism.
We must answer those who call for austerity in everything but the military with an impassioned call for very different priorities.
And we need to make clear that the costs of Permanent War are real and are impacting us daily. Only when the demand for a peaceful future comes out loud and clear from millions will we be able to overcome the entrenched power of the military industrial complex.
We are organized and eager to move forward. We’d love it if you could make plans to join us in building this movement for peace, for a peace economy, for real security.