“‘Why should I listen to the American people? They didn’t elect me.’ George Bush”
“Who would Jesus bomb?”
“No blood for oil”
“Not in my sister’s name” (sign carried by brother of a 9-11 victim)
The signs above and thousands more were carried by demonstrators for peace at the National Mall at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. last Saturday. Approximately 300,000 participants came from around the nation. They came from Texas, Colorado and Wisconsin. They came from Mississippi, Alabama and North Carolina. They came from Maine, Massachusetts and New York. Mothers pushing babies in strollers. Octogenarians in wheelchairs. Students with spiked hair. Businessmen in suits and cashmere scarves. Members of faith congregations. Veterans of World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the Gulf War. First-time protestors. Old hands of the peace movement. A broad cross section of America proclaiming, “yes” to peace and “no” to war. And for every person present, there were hundreds, even thousands, of others who were there in spirit.
I was among this massive throng of folks enduring sub-freezing temperatures in Washington, D.C. last Saturday, along with almost 300 of my fellow Western North Carolinians. And while some would discount the peace rally as a bunch of left-wingers who support some socialist agenda, they do so at the risk of overlooking an extraordinary phenomenon. The vast majority of the folks present at the rally were loyal citizens who were expressing their deepest personal values: they were called to be there to take a stand for the sanctity of life, for connecting with our fellow humans (rather than attacking them) and for acting out of the best of what America stands for. This is a force that, in the end, cannot be denied.
Sure, plenty of logical arguments can be made for going over and whacking an egomaniacal dictator. But we thought our way into this mess; we won’t think our way out. "We've got to get the Iraqis before they get us," is just an unsubstantiated fear, an example of how our minds can lie to us. If those who would strike Iraq preemptively know so much about the future, how come they’re not raking in millions at the racetrack? The plans being laid for a quick and bloodless (American blood, that is) war are pure fiction. The truth is that no human being knows what will transpire if we unleash our weapons in the Middle East.
Bush and his minions are driven by fear, continuously fabricating the worst-case scenario and acting on that basis. Many of us have been embroiled in this fear, enmeshed to such an extent that we would permit the slaughter of thousands of innocent Iraqi men, women and children in the naïve hope that this will somehow prevent further acts of terrorism on our soil. But a not-so-subtle shift is underway.
Last Saturday, those at the rallies declared their support for dealing with the challenges that confront us by peaceful means. Many carried signs with the message that violence on our part will only breed further violence. Thousands proclaimed that pre-emptive strikes are fundamentally un-American. Scores questioned our belief that we are the chosen people, the self-appointed rulers of the world. More than a few suggested that that only pure hubris permits politicians to believe that we can advance our will around the world through warfare.
9-11 was a big wakeup call for our nation--a call to connect with the world-at-large, a call to our humanity. The huge numbers of people at the peace demonstrations in D.C., San Francisco and elsewhere are signs that many are heeding this call. And out of this awakening a potent force for peace, justice and compassion has been unleashed. If our “leaders” fail to acknowledge this, they do so at their own peril and, perhaps, ours as well.
Copyright 2003 Bruce Mulkey