In 2003, my journalism professor entered this in Society of Professional Journalist’s Annual Editorial Contest. My piece, below, took 2nd prize to the editor of Honolulu Magazine. I was an inspired 23 year old, hungry to change the world. Seven years later, I’m still ravenous.
Peace movement: From ‘concerned’ to ‘involved’
The weekend before school started, as I stood in line at a coffee shop in Kaimuki, I overheard the cashier talking with another customer about a peace march that had occurred earlier that day. The concept brought to mind the image of a bushy-haired, bleary-eyed hippy, casually burning an American flag, flaming embers surrounding him.
Surely, they couldn’t be talking about any peace march here, I’d thought. The cashier with his black spiked hair, matching black attire, and silver spiked belt looked more like an anarchist then an advocate of peace. A friend next to me mumbled, “A peace march? Here?” While another, a political science major at HPU, interjected, “I think I heard something about it.” Obviously, the boat had sailed, quite peacefully, without us and I was curious. When it was my turn to order, I initiated conversation.
Nick Tree, the cashier, had been what he called the “head agitator.” This position gave him the responsibility of controlling the crowd of 1,300 people, by keeping them enthusiastic and steering them away from hostility. “I got picked because I can yell really loud,” Tree said proudly. He’s been doing this for almost eight years now with an organization called Refuse and Resist.
Eight years? This kind of thing has happened here before? Where have I been?
Nick Tree is not his real name. “We never use our real names,” he revealed later. I made the connection that perhaps this was a measure taken as a result of the dangers protesters can face. Historically, those marching for peace have been imprisoned and even subjected to violence.
Today’s peace movement has evolved with the issues. Alternet.org reported recently that unlike efforts of the ‘60s, no static counter-culture lifestyles blur today’s message. The slogan, “Make love, not war” has been replaced with “Make peace, not war.”
Tree explained that anti-war sentiment has made its way into all walks of life. “Anarchists, communists, students, parents, grandparents, and babies in strollers were all out there. It’s not just a bunch of tree-hugging people anymore,” he said. Later, while watching local news coverage on the march, I saw a clip of my Spanish professor,Señora Tess Lane, marching along with the masses.
For someone who considered herself concerned about world issues, I was pretty lost. When had we stopped looking for Osama? When hadIraqbecome our scapegoat for the horrors of September 11? War? Wasn’t that something they were merely talking about as a measure against terrorism? With no cable at home, my only access to TV was at the gym. There are multiple screens to choose from while running on the treadmill, but I always seem to choose The Bachelorette over CNN. Of course I knew stuff was going on in the world, but how exactly did any of it pertain to me?
After talking to Tree, I decided is was time to pop my own bubble. My self-absorbed outlook left me confused about pertinent events that could affect me and all Americans, today and in the future. Sure, I knew a little about politics and the U.N., but those bits left me a couple pieces short of a complete picture. I had been reluctant to form any definite opinions about the concepts of the new war and the new peace, because really, I knew very little about either side. I realized that being “concerned” about world issues and getting involved are two very different things.
Nick Tree was the catalyst that sparked my curiosity about the new peace movement. How could I call myself an aspiring journalist, let alone an American citizen, and have such limited knowledge of current events. I decided to do some research. Tree directed me to an umbrella group called Not In Our Name. This organization has chapters in states across the country and is responsible for organizing events that bring people together for peace. The first line in its statement of conscience says: “Let it not be said that people in theUnited Statesdid nothing when their government declared a war without limit and instituted stark new measures of repression.” Well, if that’s what they see coming, then I’m with them.
From there, I typed the word “peace” in a search engine and found a multitude of organizations and groups, many of which supply tools to those trying to organize events in their area. The resources were limitless.
One particular site, www.globalexchange.org, provided a list of the top 10 reasons not to invadeIraq. The number one reason was that there is no justification for going to war. This was backed up with statements such as, “There has been no attack on theUnited States, no Iraqi threat of war, no Iraqi connection to September 11.” For me, this site solidified the importance of peace, making the issues more concrete.
Before writing this I talked to a friend and fellow HPU student about her views on the dark war cloud that looms ahead. “The idea of it terrifies me,” she said. When I asked her if she was involved in any peace groups she responded, “No, but I feel like I should be.” Like me, she was concerned. But I’m confident that given the opportunity, she’d get involved.
Advocates of the ‘60s peace movement were primarily students, horrified at the prospect of a draft that would take them to blood-drenchedVietnam. College campuses across the country were emblazoned with anti-war sentiment. Sure, shots have yet to be fired, but the peace movement has already begun. Will it take something personal to get us involved? Why should I wait until my stepfather, an officer in the army, is called to serve in theMiddle East, before I choose a side to support? It’s either war or peace. Neutrality is not for me.