August 20, 2009

This Is The Time For Us To Do Our Best Work

I read this in the June Veterans For Peace newsletter. Michael speaks directly from my heart and my soul. I thought I should share this with those who would take the time to read it.

We owe it to the all those who have died in war to ensure their deaths have meaning.

Executive Director’s Report

This Is The Time For Us To Do Our Best Work

Michael T. McPhearson

The June 16 passing of the $106 billion war supplemental in the U.S. House of Representatives should tells a great deal about the challenges we face as peacemakers and the importance of Veterans For Peace in this period. Democrats voted overwhelming for the bill with a majority of Republicans voting against it. However, their nay vote was not to stop further funding rather it was to protest $5 billion added to the bill for the International Monetary Fund. Responsibility for the occupations of Iraq, Afghanistan and the widening war in Pakistan now belong to both Democrats and Republicans with very little opposition.

In the April 2005 Newsletter I wrote, “The long-term challenge is to sustain the momentum to fight for change. The current administration’s outrageous actions fuel the present movement. But what happens when things return to ‘normal?’ How do we take the discomfort created by the current crisis and turn it into dissatisfaction with the status quo?”

I believe today that challenge stares us squarely in the face. Since the election of Barrack Obama, there has been confusion and soul searching. For now, the urgency and outrage of the occupations have subsided and there is uncertainty about what to do. Obama’s campaign and eventual ascendancy to the White House has sucked much of the apparent energy of the peace/anti-war movements and now it seems that many are sitting back and waiting to see what will happen next, or believe President Obama will take care of everything.

Never thinking in 2001 that we would still be resisting U.S. wars in 2009, many of us have lost faith in the struggle. In the wake of the financial collapse and subsequent economic recession, much of the public is struggling to make ends meet and fear the loss of their jobs. They are addressing concerns that are closer to home and the war has become secondary. Likewise, with Democrats in control of the legislative and executive branches, our allies have decided it is time to focus on their individual issues. Single payer healthcare, environment, housing, education, the Employee Free Choice Act, equal access to marriage and so on have moved to the front of the political dialogue pushing the occupations and war to a second or third tier issue.

What do we do? Returning to my words in 2005,

“We must do two things. First, we continue to do what we do best. Tell the truth about war. Share our experiences. Speak truth to power. Second, we must challenge others and ourselves to engage and continue in the struggle for peace.”

Four years later, I would change that just a bit.

We must keep the wars and occupations visible. The keepers of the status quo want the people to forget that our nation occupies Iraq and Afghanistan and is expanding war into Pakistan. They want us to forget about the torture, death and destruction wreaked upon the people of those countries and our service members. They want us to ignore the broken homes, PTSD and homelessness plaguing our troops and the people of the nations we have invaded. We will not let the nation forget. We will not let our political leaders distract us with the politics of the moment. We will not go away.

We must reach out and educate about the full horrors and impact of war. We must tell the stories seldom told. We must be witnesses to the waste of minds, bodies, resources and money war brings and the destructive toll it takes on our souls.

We must provide and live alternatives to war. We must become examples of conflict resolution in all aspects of our lives and building solidarity with allies in search of justice. We must help our nation and the world envision a day when war is no longer acceptable and its abolition is celebrated. Perhaps most essential, we must live at minimum the beginnings of the world we seek. This is walking the path of peace. It is not necessary to be saints as we attempt to walk this path, but if we are not intentional in our steps as peacemakers and justice seekers, we have no business critiquing others as they walk a path of war.

These three activities are at the core of what we must always do, no matter the time, no matter the political environment, no matter who controls Congress and no matter the president. The critical question is not what should we do, but how we do it? What is the tone of our message? What is the best vehicle to tell our stories? How do we reach out to our allies? How do we build strong and effective coalitions that win together in the struggle for peace and justice? How do we build a better VFP to carry on our campaigns? The answers to these questions change from period to period to meet the mood of the people. I do not have the space here to outline specifics, but this is the discussion we should all have within our chapters and with other members.

This is the time for the peace movement to do its best work. If we do not hold our government accountable on Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan who will? If we do not keep the occupations in the public eye who will? If we do not stand up to militarism and the drumbeats of war who will? The answer is no one. The peace movement, among all other movements, is the only one poised to connect allies and their struggles in an effort for a peoples’ march towards full spectrum peace and justice.

The mission of Veterans For Peace to abolish war and our voices as veterans is uniquely placed to lay a foundation for this mass movement of the people. We may not know exactly what peace looks like, but we know there is no peace with war. The realization of our mission will act as a plateau for a new era of progress for humanity. We cannot let the enormity of the challenge and the slow pace of change stop us. We owe it to the all those who have died in war to ensure their deaths have meaning. I owe a direct debt to those who died and suffered in Vietnam as I grew up in the midst of that war and its struggles. The Vietnam and civil rights struggles shaped my political awareness. I am a veteran for peace because of the movements that sprung from that time. My mother and the history of my people have taught me to never give up in the struggle. My experience with VFP has strengthened my resolve.

In time our steadfastness will prevail. We will abolish war.

Thank you for all you do.

-thanks to Veterans For Peace

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