Remarks by Chris Black at Be About Peace Day Forum March 29, 2008
I am going to speak briefly about two topics: The Winter Soldier Hearing and Peace Action.
(1) Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan was a series of hearings that were held from March 13 - 16 by Iraq Veterans Against the War [IVAW] at the National Labor College in Silver Spring MD.
Testimony was heard and recorded by military participants on various aspects of the wars, including:
-- Rules of Engagement
-- Racism and War, Dehumanization of the Enemy
-- Gender and Sexuality in the MIlitary
-- Crisis In Veterans Healthcare
-- Corporate Pillaging and Military Contractors
Why should you listen to these eyewitnesses' testimony? There won't be anything that has not been available from other published sources, so why listen? The reason is that you will be hearing a real person relating his of her experiences, and not processed Q&A, or pundits trying to spin events this way or that. As each person talks for ten or fifteen minutes, you start to feel a connection to the person telling the story. While you learn the facts, already familiar to you by virtue of years of media coverage, a personality emerges that will give you a connection to the war that most Americans simply don't have. Some of the stories are heartbreaking, but we need to hear them.
You can hear them at http://www.ivaw.org/wintersoldier/testimony
Watch video on the IVAW website or Listen to audio archives at http://warcomeshome.org/content/listen-archived-testimonial-audio-winter-soldier-event>warcomeshome.org (a project of www.kpfa.org)
I have some of the testimony on MP3's on my laptop, I can give them to you on a flash drive. [I can email them too]
(2) Peace Action These are discouraging times for peace activism. In Feb 03, despite massive protest worldwide, the war commenced. In Nov. 04, despite widespread acknowledgement of the false basis for going to war, and widespread perception of Bush's incompetent prosecution of the war, he was re-elected. In Nov 06, despite the Democrats taking control of Congress, the war is larger than ever. What have we accomplished?
There is a definition of insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. But I can think of another word for working at something you know can't be realized in your lifetime -- and that is faith. Even though real peace may not be achieved in anyone's lifetime, working toward it is necessary and proper -- moral and helpful.
We heard Dan's excellent presentation on the staggering cost of the war, but outside this room, you will hear many say it's worth it. They will say no matter what the cost, we have no choice but to continue. I say we must engage those who say these things. Paul sets a great example of respectfully engaging pro-war people, and finding common ground. To have any chance of effecting change, we must realize and accept their viewpoints as valid as ours. Today was a wonderful day of fellowship, at the library and here tonight. But the real work lies outside of this room.
Chris describes the context of Be About Peace Day and the peace effort very well. Yes, Be About Peace Day was a meaningful way to reflect upon and celebrate our cause. And hopefully it will give us greater insight and energy to carry out the work that Chris reminds us has a long way to go.
Marches and Rallies Are No Longer Enough
I empathize with Mr. Black on his frustration with the effectiveness of the progressive movement. How could our citizens overwhelmingly re-elect a president who wants to tap their phones?
The challenges for progressives today as compared to the nineteen sixties is the existence now of a huge and overwhelming conservative movement. They've spent the last forty years shaping public opinion by investing hundreds of millions of dollars in think tanks, media outlets, authors, pundits, and training programs. They've draped their language over the entire political conversation so that even progressives are using conservative language when we talk about the issues. They are fervent and in your face. They know liberal history as well as a lot of liberals. Their movement has a narrative. It tells a story. A major part of that story is that a lot of what is wrong with America today is BECAUSE OF the nineteen sixties. This is the juggernaut we are up against when we dare to speak out against the injustices of this government.
A good case in point was Cindy Sheehan and the right wing group ("Not this time Cindy" sic.) that tailed her on her march. I imagine a lot of liberals were hopping for a reprieve of the sixties where her march would foster an overwhelming sea change in public opinion about the war. But it did not happen. Progressives need to know their values, speak their values, and reframe the debate. We have for too long been communicating by reciting laundry lists of issues, and it does not work.
Here's what the conservatives did:
Here's how they funded it:
Every progressive needs to go here:
and download the free handbook for progressives called Thinking Points.
Read about Framing 101, The Nation as Family, and How to Talk to Conservatives. Buy Lakoff's book Don't Think of an Elephant.
These resources provide a powerful answer to the despair in the progressive movement. Yes, we can take back America.
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