Yesterday (Wed) afternoon, Nick Hiller–a peace activist student at WCU–said to me, “I wish I was wrong about this. I wish every day I would wake up and find out I’ve been the world’s biggest asshole about the war.” Or something close to that, anyway.
Dittos, Nick. I’ve been thinking much the same for years, but without putting it quite so directly. Those of you who think peace activists are traitors, or crazy, need to understand that we don’t do our work because we “hate the troops” or “hate our country.” We do it because we deeply believe that what our government is doing to Iraq, Afghanistan, and other places is wrong. We do it because we have faith that democratic organizing and activism can stop these injustices, and in many cases (like mine), we do it because our commitment to democracy tells us that unjust/illegal wars and occupations must be stopped.
You can’t imagine how much easier my life would be if I woke up tomorrow morning and changed my mind, if I decided that US foreign policy is exactly right and just. I could support the troops and their mission without hesitation; I could spend more time with my wife, watching baseball, talking about music and movies with my friends, petting the dog, etc, instead of writing this blog, doing research every day about policies and their implications, attending and organizing vigils/rallies/protests/teach-ins, and being kept awake at night knowing that a nation with as much democratic promise as ours is watching its soul get sold out by a small cabal of powerful people who are profiting from the devastation they bring to other people without the least concern for the harm they cause.
Pant pant pant–that’s a pretty breathless sentence…
But I won’t wake up tomorrow believing that all’s well. It just isn’t. I’m not crazy, and I’m reasonably smart. The evidence is very, very clear that our current policies and policy-makers aren’t interested in democracy or freedom (except their own freedom to exploit whoever they want for profit) at all. They’re interested in themselves and maintaining their own power. They’re interested in making sure that anybody who disagrees with them gets silenced (one way or another). They don’t (usually) snatch citizens off the street and “disappear” them, but they’ve shown they’re willing to bend the Constitution and international law far beyond its breaking point to make sure nobody can check them very easily.
Like Nick, I wish I was wrong. But we’re not. Sadly, we’re not. And that’s why we keep organizing, protesting, educating, and struggling. It’s not to prove you (people who disagree with us) “wrong”; it’s not about winning debates shouted across streets. It’s about winning the fight for democracy, putting power in the hands of people who aren’t working only in their own private interests, and taking power away from people who abuse it at the expense of everybody else.
Simple as that.