Thursday, April 26, 2007

HNT #19: Peace work

Yesterday I was busy spreading the word about the June 2nd event I am working on. Many newspapers and tv stations have community calendars online. There are many other community calendars online that even more people go to, such as craigslist, or indymedia. I was surprised to find one tv station that long had a calendar, now doesn't, but just about every other local one now does. I also discovered any non-profit can get a 30-second on-air announcement on AM Northwest if we bring 15 people to their studio audience. Hmmm.

The ways in which we connect and spread the word are rapidly changing. Some people only operate through myspace: email, calendars, connecting, advertising. I made my BPF Portland myspace a little more appealing by adding some photos. (I refuse to add music or blinky-blink backgrounds though...I can't stand that about the myspace culture.) I dug this one out from the archives for this week's HNT. This was probably 2002. November, light Portland rain, I'm the peace sign next to the creator of the costume. We were trying to draw attention to a news conference that occurred a day or two before a big march and rally. This little mini march took us in front of the Federal Building.

I'll still be there for a big march, I'll still arrange a meditation vigil for the rally space, but at this point I wonder how much it helps. We are blacked out of the media. Remember March 17, 18? That was the anniversary of the Iraq war's beginning. Did you hear about it on national tv news? Hardly a blip. It might sound like I agree with Utne Reader, who has a cover story called Protest is Dead. Yes yes yada yada, I've been hearing that from the beginning. Arguments about how we can be more effective. I think they overlook 1. that there is a concerted propaganda effort to minimize our impact (and they further it by believing it) and 2. publicly recorded reaction or change in administrative policy is not necessarily a measure of our effectiveness.

They compare today with the civil rights movement. They assume that the media's ignoring of the big march is because we haven't been doing those same sort of things the civil rights movement is doing. Umm, not exactly. It is also a bit like comparing apples and oranges. We can't sit in at a lunch counter in our own town to directly stop Iraqi civilians from being blown up on the other side of the world. There are people here doing civil disobedience. People are getting arrested for merely attempting to talk to their own governmental representatives. That hardly makes the news either. It's not dramatic enough. It's not bloody enough, and somehow that translates into not brave enough.

No, the way I see that the peace movement is succeeding is that more people are 'converting.' Big marches are useful for bringing people into the fold, getting them hooked up with a social action group of their choice. This is how I've witnessed this work here in Portland for the last 5 years. It has certainly worked to get me involved. Now here I am furthering the work of peace by connecting people to people. It doesn't appear to be anti-war work at all, but it is. Some people are reluctant to get involved in something unless they feel they know you. It's a cultural thing. Some people have a view of pacifists that makes them reluctant to get out in the streets because they don't think it's peaceful enough. It's a cultural thing. Many people will come to a non-political festival in a park. It's a cultural thing. They must make a connection, must they not, between the pacifists who are organizing it, and the stereotypical view they might have of pacifists? It's all connected. It's all interconnected. And it is all about peace.

Utne Reader's Joseph Hart says, "The first step toward building a movement is getting people's attention, which is not easy." Umm, we have been, it's just been under the radar of the corporate news networks. I don't see that we've had a continuous peace movement for the past four decades...not one that had enough people involved. What the movement is doing now is creating new hippies, new peace-for-lifers. That is hardly ineffective.


Blissfully Wed said...

This is interesting. I have a family member who is very involved in the protest movement. While I respect her (and secretly wish I was more like her), I am sometimes skeptical of the effectiveness of protests in general.

But then, they really did affect our country's exit from Vietnam, right? I sit here in my comfortable chair and wonder.


(Your word verification ends with "qkr" and I find myself thinking of Quakers.)

Blissfully Wed said...

I should add that I see and agree with your point about the effectiveness that isn't being covered by the news media.

And I do love your peace sign.

SIMPLY ME said...

I marvel at everything you do, You are one energetic woman with strong beliefs, I admire you!

Tom Paine said...

Change comes slowly and with deliberation. Don't lose your faith.

Anonymous said...

I'm a fairly involved peace activist and think it takes all kinds of people using all kinds of (non-violent) tactics to create change. Look at what the world did to end apartheid in South Africa. Look at what the Coalition of Immokalee Workers are doing right now to improve the lives of migrant laborers and their families.

otoh, I'm not clear on the value of magazine articles about what activists are or are not doing "right."