Working towards peace and sustainability

Finding Our Bearings in a Turbulent Time—Finding Meaningful Engagement & Making a Difference.

Are you finding it difficult to tune in to the news? If so, you’re not alone.

Each day we are assaulted: saber-rattling with nuclear swords, complete with name-calling in the mode of junior high school bullies; repeated attempts to sabotage healthcare, throwing tens of millions off their insurance; proposals to dramatically cut the taxes of the one percent, clumsily disguised as “middle class tax cuts;” escalations of wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East, along with one deal after another to sell billions of dollars in weapons to U.S. proxies including Saudi Arabia (currently involved in a near-genocidal war in Yemen); attacks on immigrants, including the suspension of DACA and renewed push for a scantly disguised Muslim travel ban; attacks on voting rights, neo-Nazis marching in our streets and the dismantling of programs designed to reform police departments; attacks on the transgender community; the push to end all efforts to address the Climate Crisis and dramatically expand fossil fuel production; and, of course, the list goes on and on.

It seems that there is each day a new distraction. This week it’s been the attacks on athletes taking a stand (or a knee) to demonstrate concerns about racism. And, right on the heels of this, attacks on major media outlets. Instead of being concerned about illegal election ads on Facebook, Trump wants us to believe that Facebook is “anti-Trump,” along with the “fake news” outlets like the Washington Post and New York Times. And they seem to think that by telling us they doing a “great job” in Puerto Rico that it will make it so, despite the fact that millions of people are without power, food, fuel, healthcare or potable water.

So, yes, if you’re finding it difficult, you’re certainly not alone. And yet, tuning out and shutting down is no answer; or perhaps it’s the “answer” Donald Trump hopes you will choose.

We, on the other hand, urge you to redouble your efforts and to do so in ways that will allow your sustained engagement.

“Easier said than done,” you say?

Well, we didn’t say this is easy, but we do recognize it as essential. So, if you’re getting pulled in a dozen different directions, all at once, perhaps it’s time to step back, get perspective and decide what to prioritize.

This is a discernment process in which we each evaluate various variables including the potential impact of, and the likelihood of, success or failure on a given front. We each must also combine rational analysis with visceral or emotional concern we hold regarding various issues. There is likewise a matter of evaluating tactics and strategies. Some of us are more drawn to lobbying, others to demonstrating, some to doing educational outreach, still others to the electoral arena, etc. Not that these are mutually exclusive, of course.

And we each must figure out which organization or organizations are best to work with and support. Having colleagues or comrades in the work is, for most of us, essential. And group efforts generally have greater impact than we would see from the same people each working on their own.

Recognizing that “no one can do everything, but everyone can do something,” we hope you’ll find a niche and apply your time and talents to making a difference.

We, at Peaceworks are highly conscious of the connections between all the issues, and we avoid ranking the work we’re doing as top issues, more urgent than any others. We understand there are lives and basic human rights, as well as the health of our environment, which are at stake. We are all struggling, on so many fronts. We urge our members and supporters to act in solidarity with all progressive struggles. At the same time, we also recognize the need to concentrate attention in a focused way, on a particular piece, or set of pieces, of the overall jigsaw puzzle, so as to maximize our impact.

This said, Peaceworks is focusing primarily on the existential threats. We’d like to urge you to consider making Climate Action and/or peace advocacy top tier issues and here are some of the reasons why:

Where the Climate Crisis Fits in This

If you are considering options for involvement, we would like to suggest you consider actively engaging as part of the movement to address the Climate Crisis. There are several reasons for this. First of all, is the unique timeline we face on this front. While whenever there is suffering and dislocation there is a sense of urgency, the climate crisis is different in that, when certain lines are crossed, and tipping points reached, it will become humanly impossible to put the genie back in the bottle.

The scientific consensus is that this is the decade to turn things around on climate, to avoid shooting way past the absolute target of a global temperature rise of no more than two degrees Celsius (many scientists now say, and the Paris Accord acknowledges, that we’d be on much safer ground with this being no more than 1.5C). And, as an existential threat, Climate Change, if not arrested, holds the potential to make our other concerns moot points.

So, we need to be reducing emissions right now and big time. However, we’ve got a climate change denier in the White House, denier officials all around him and a denier Congress. There is, therefore both a real urgency in reaching our elected officials with enough pressure to bring them around, and also to work around them, to press forward for climate action at local and state levels.

We continue to do what we can to keep the big picture climate issue front and center, generate political pressure, as we can, and to simultaneously focus on getting our local governments, including the City of Columbia, to move forward. We have urged the City Council to press for a city Climate Action Plan, which they have agreed to do, and urged that it commits to ambitious greenhouse gas emissions reductions, including the goal of zero emissions by 2050. We are still working to get the latter adopted.

Another aspect to consider, while many of our fellow citizens have embraced either doubter or denier positions, it seems likely that the recent incredible string of extreme weather events might be opening the eyes of these folks to at least considering that the climate needs our attention. This, therefore, is an excellent time to be reaching out to our neighbors. To do this successfully, however, requires more people power.

Summing it up, when it comes to the climate, we’re on deadline, folks, and we’re also operating at a moment when we have a real shot at turning public opinion in our favor.

The Challenge of Peace Advocacy

When it comes to the war and peace front, “challenge” is an appropriate term to use. Our economy has been on a wartime footing since World War II, our nation has been involved in hot wars continuously since 9/11, yet most of our fellow citizens seem unconcerned. Unlike Vietnam, it’s not them, or their kids, who are facing a draft or being sent abroad to kill and possibly die. Much of the populace has also been cowed into a profound fear of the so-called “evildoers”—the terrorists—who are out to get us, because they “hate our freedom.” Most of our fellow citizens are unaware of the role that U.S. has played in making enemies around the world.

The Afghan War, which, in about a week, will have dragged on for fully 16 years, and the struggle against ISIS—a group that traces its origins directly to the illegal 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq—are getting relatively little media attention. Likewise, most citizens seem only vaguely aware of the huge price we all pay to have a Permanent War Economy. Few know that, when it comes to the military, U.S. taxpayers are spending as much as those of the next seven biggest spending nations, combined. Or, that most of these are U.S. allies.

Present and past wars, and the preparation for more war are costing us in the range of a trillion dollars a year, and it’s hard to see how we can right our economy and get it on a path to sustainability unless we stop dumping hundreds of billions down the military rat-hole are begin a process of negotiating mutual, verifiable and incremental disarmament.

The one area, in the realm of war and peace that has been generating headlines of late is the issue that our organization was founded upon back in 1982: the threat posed by nuclear weapons. Specifically, at the moment, all eyes are on North Korea.

While the emergence of N. Korea as the world’s ninth nuclear weapons state is concerning, we, at Peaceworks, believe that we have to “get the log our of our own eye.” The U.S. for decades has flouted its commitments under the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty to work for universal nuclear disarmament. Most Americans haven’t even heard about the Ban Treaty, negotiated by 123 nations earlier this year at the United Nations, this new treaty calls for a universal ban on these doomsday devices, but the U.S. refused to even participate in the negotiations.

Peace education and advocacy are, indeed, difficult, but they are necessary. This is especially true because support for the Military-Industrial-Complex and the project of U.S. global hegemony is largely bipartisan. Every Democratic president since FDR has embraced militarism and war-making. While there are some dovish Dems, most establishment figures in the party, including their 2016 presidential nominee and our senior U.S. Senator are very hawkish.

Efforts like our weekly Rush Hour Peace Demos, seen by thousands of our fellow citizens each week, are a reminder to many that the wars drag on, and that they are not unopposed. We bear witness to the immorality of Endless War, and of the fact that these costly attempts at global domination are actually making us less secure.

And, given the existential threat that nuclear weapons present, activism on this front really does need to be ramped up and taken seriously. The “unthinkable” is clearly, under Trump, who threatens to “destroy North Korea,” a country of 25 million human beings, thinkable again. We think it is time for opposition to this insanity to be visible and vocal again.

You Can Make a Difference

If you are interested in checking out opportunities to work with us on either the climate or the war and peace fronts, please contact us. You can do this by e-mail at mail@midmopeaceworks.org or by calling us at 573-875-0539 and asking for Mark. As Joan Baez wrote in a lyric penned back in 1972:

"And we're still marching in the streets with little victories and big defeats
But there is joy and there is hope and there's a place for you."