Public Comment

Commentary: A Different Kind Of Peace Rally

By Laurence Schechtman
Friday September 14, 2007

At next Saturday’s Peoples Park Peace Rally (September 15) you and everyone else are invited to play an active role. There will be speeches and music starting at 1 PM, and at about 3:40 we will all be given a choice of participating in 11 different discussion and action circles. And you will be able to form your own discussion group if you can announce it from the stage with three people. The discussion circles planned so far are as follows: 

1. Organizing for demonstrations and actions, Iraq Moratorium (third Fridays, Sept. 21) and others.  

2. Research, Publicity and Media. Get together to prepare articles, letters to the editors, talk radio and TV. 

3. Outreach to Military and Veterans. Counter-Recruiting. Support Returning Vets. 

4. Campus Organizing. UC and elsewhere. 

5. Congressional and Electoral Action, and Impeachment. (Impeachment may want to be separate.) 

6. Religious and Spiritual Contributions to the peace movement. With churches and faith and spiritual groups. 

7. Mediation & Non-Violent Conflict Resolution. 

8. Neighborhood Food and Gardens. Permaculture. Neighborhood Sustainability. 

9. Transportation and Sustainable Energy to End the War. 

10. Homelessness and Poverty.  

11. Supporting and Organizing in Diverse Communities. And Peace Making Projects in our City Streets. Hope to discuss such projects as “Oakland Parks for Peace,” “Silence the Violence,” and other community organizing efforts. 

There will also be two other participatory events at the rally. At noon, before the mike comes on we will have a meditation followed by a discussion. And at 5, after the mike goes off, bring your instruments. We’ll play some acoustic music, and perhaps a discussion of guerrilla music and theater. 

After four and a half years of illegal war the peace movement needs a change of strategy. In February 2003 millions of people around the world, and 200,000 in San Francisco, couldn’t stop the lies or the invasion; and now the clear majority of Americans who want a definite timetable for withdrawal can’t get Congress to vote for it, or to cut off funds when the Bush administration stands in the way. Our democracy is not working. 

The peace movement, therefore, has to be a democracy movement. It is not an impossible task. Oligarchies worse than ours have fallen to the democratic people: Chile, Argentina, Brazil, and some of the Eastern European countries have become vastly more democratic. But how do we do it? 

The answer is that we work on two levels. On the institutional level we need honest elections, election reforms including campaign finance reform and instant runoff voting; and we need an independent media and controls on corporations. But we also have to realize that none of this is going to happen unless we have democracy where we live—neighborhoods, jobs, schools, everywhere. And that is up to us.  

Unless we first have a society in which people talk to each other our political opinions are irrelevant. Political democracy cannot exist without community democracy. And that is our job. 

The average American spends four hours a day watching television. Can we create a community alternative for some of that time, starting with ourselves? 

We won’t stop wars, this one and the next few they are planning, we won’t save a livable planet, and we won’t restore American democracy, by listening to speeches by movement heavies. We have to participate, each one of us in our own favorite creative community. If we can create communities which are more fun than television, and more fun than right wing church picnics, we will win. 

Not that I have anything against good speeches. Come listen to Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Dan Ellsberg (Pentagon Papers), David Hilliard (Black Panthers), and many others. And listen to the music of the “Funky Nixons,” and “Beatbeat Whisper,” and others. But always remember that a meeting or a rally is never complete until everyone has an opportunity to leave with a job to do and someone to do it with. If we stay active and keep communicating we will have a movement which is continually expanding. 


Laurence Schechtman is a Berkeley activist.