Vote as if your life is dependent on it

In some ways, I don’t think there’s ever been a US election in this country that has more far reaching implications than the one next week.

If the Republicans gain control of the Senate next week, and maintain control of the House, they’ll have full control of the Senate, the House, and the Executive Branch of government. More importantly, if the Democrats lose control of the Senate, the Executive Branch will most likely read a message into the results: The American people support the bombing of Iraq, even if it means doing so unilaterally.

We’re in a recession, the unemployment numbers are high, and there are record numbers of people without adequate health insurance. This is in addition to depleted pension funds, fears for economic security, and a growing distrust of corporations. All of these are factors that favor a Democratic election. If the Democrats lose control of the Senate in spite of this, an interpretation can very easily be made that the issue of security is more important than issues of economics and social services.

In the last several months, our security and the invasion of Iraq have become quite heavily bound together. By voting security, or by saying to the President, “You have our full support, here’s a Senate and a House that will back you”, I’m fairly sure that there can be no chance of stopping an invasion of Iraq, even if the US can’t get support from allies and the attack becomes a unilateral invasion. I don’t want to say that President Bush is obsessed with invading Iraq, but I could comfortably say that this item is most likely the top of his agenda.

I am unhappy with the Democrats now. I am especially unhappy with the Democrats who voted to give President Bush what are essentially war powers in regards to Iraq. Among these are Jean Carnahan who is, in many ways, more semantically aligned with the Republicans than the Democrats. However, if she doesn’t win the election, Jim Talent will win and that’s one more nail in the coffin of Democratic control of the Senate.

Now is not the time to send messages to the Democratic Party that we’re unhappy with them by voting Green Party, or another party, or not voting at all. Regardless of whatever your views are in regards to so many differing issues, it’s vital now that we work to send one message, and one message only with this election: We the American people do not support an invasion of Iraq.

If nothing else, we need to send a message that we must be given time to understand the consequences of this action, and the alternatives.

Last week we watched Chechen rebels take over a theater in Russia. The end result is over 150 people dead. This in spite of Russian soldiers controlling Chechnya. Again and again we see that military action on the part of a government does not control or stop terrorism — terrorism transcends borders. If anything, military action encourages terrorism because it demonstrates to the non-extremists, those who are borderline, those who want peace but despair of ever getting it, that the only actions open to them is terrorism.

I wrote the following to Daniel Romano from the Green Party today:

Control of the Senate is up for grabs, and the race between Carnahan and Talent is incredibly close. Votes for the Green Party are pulled, as you know, from voters who would normally vote Democratic. And in a close race, this could be enough to give the election to Talent.

I know you have stated that you feel there is no difference between the two candidates, and I don’t like Carnahan either. I am extremely unhappy at her and other Democrats giving Bush what amounts to war powers. But the Democrats losing the Senate now would send a signal to the White House and Congress that issues of economics (normally the province of Dems) were not the key elements of the vote this year — that people are voting security. And this could, and in fact I believe it will, encourage our unilateral invasion of Iraq. This invasion would be disastrous, not only for the Iraqi people, but for ourselves, as well.

I know you know you don’t have a chance to win, but that you’re hoping to get enough of the vote to continue the Green Party on ballots. And normally if the threat of an invasion of Iraq wasn’t hanging over all our heads I would help — and send that clear message to the Democratic party. But now is not the time to focus on these issues. We have to do everything we can to send a message to Congress that we do not want this ‘war’.

Regardless of your political beliefs, whether you’re Republican or Democrat, Green Party, Libertarian or Independent, if you believe that a unilateral invasion of Iraq would be a mistake, and that we need to take time to think this issue through, then consider your vote next week. If you live in an area that has a hotly contested election, especially for the Senate (such as in Missouri), think about what your vote can do and say before you cast it. Then vote and send a message to the parties in your area why you voted as you did.

Vote as if your life is dependent on it, because it may very well be.


A new symbol for peace

When we protested the Vietnam war, our goals were simple, our vision united: stop the war, bring our boys home. Stop the war, bring our boys home. And in that time a simple symbol was all we needed.

Peace Sign buttons from

Today, though, our goals are muted, splintered, filtered through uncertainty, fear, frustration, and too many long standing and deep seated hatreds.

In the last few weeks, I watched a friend of mine as he agonized over the injuries and ultimate death of a close friend of his. My friend’s friend was killed because someone somewhere thought that his death was necessary, to make a point, to send a message. In their mind, they weighed my friend’s friend’s life and their cause and deemed their cause of more value. I cannot agree.

Over 150 people have died from gas used by Russian soldiers to free hostages from Chechen separatists. Some would call the Chechan’s terrorists, because they targeted innocent people. Other’s would call them freedom fighters because they moved their fight from their own homeland into the land of the oppressor. Regardless, the people are still dead.

Yesterday, another suicide bomb went off in Israel, the second in the same number of weeks. Issues of Israeli domination and suppression of the Palestine people, and Palestinian use of suicide bombers, all get a bit lost among the death of innocents.

And overlaying all of this is a very real possibility that the United States will invade Iraq.

Stanton Finley wrote several of us about finding a new symbol for peace, and providing a manifesto to accompany it. In response, David Weinberger provided the following:

All people are created equal. We all have an equal right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

All people are created different. There is value in that difference and we need to preserve it.

All people are connected. We are connected by geography and responsibility, and, if we would let it, by love

Simple and elegant, yet David and I both know that there really is no simple manifesto, or symbol, for peace today. We live in interesting times.

We can say, We all have an equal right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but too many people see happiness only at the death, or destruction, or displacement of others. How then to reconcile conflicting viewpoints of ‘happiness’?

Do we say that the assumption of “equal right” means that those who would advocate the loss of freedoms for others must suffer the penalty of the loss of those freedoms for themselves? Who then judges the actions of all? Who can we consider impartial enough to give this power to, the ability to say to one people, “You are suppressing others, and you must now lose your freedoms”?

Or do we say that people have the right to practice beliefs as they see fit as long as their beliefs cause no harm to others? This would certainly apply to the Islamic extremists, many of whom advocate the death of non-believers such as myself. But it could also apply to those religions that frown on birth control, who fight abortion, and who actively promote the birth of numerous children in a world that is badly overpopulated. After all, death from starvation is just as much an act of wanton cruelty as death from a bomb.

Years ago I would have said, “Give peace a chance. Love one another as brothers and sisters.” Today, I don’t care if my brothers and sisters love me or not, as long as they just let me live.

The era of simple symbols and slogans is gone. The days when we could look simply at an issue, even one as seemingly black and white as whether to invade Iraq or not, are over.

So, here is my proposed replacement for the peace symbol:


Give peace a chance

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Today’s anti-war rally held at the U City Loop in St. Louis unfortunately lived down to my expectations. The demonstration was poorly organized, and instead of focusing on a possible war with Iraq, those participating spoke out against everything from the treatment of Native Americans in this country, slavery, to our friendship with China and it’s policy with Tibet. Two of the speakers didn’t even mention Iraq if I remember correctly.

protest2.jpgI was especially put off by one speaker who belongs to an organization that believes in using violence to meet the group’s objectives, as long the violence “…didn’t exceed the violence committed by the US”. What was the group’s objectives? Much of the talk had to do with neo-liberalism and overcoming imperialism, and he mentioned a whole list of countries and “freedom fighters”, most of whom I’ve never heard of. He also spent a considerable amount of time talking about how to get on the group’s listserver, but to use caution, they’re being watched, and to connect from the library so the connection couldn’t be traced (but you have to give your email address — anyone else see a disconnect here?). No web sites with this group — think I should send them an email, tell them about Blogger?

(I also found his interpretation of why the Vietnam war ended to be interesting. It was because the true freedom loving Vietnamese drove the evil transgressing US soldiers from their land.)

protestThe speakers that saved the day came at the end. In particular, a woman with a baby brought up what I considered to be valid points. That invading Iraq will most likely increase terrorism rather than decrease it. That we can’t afford this fight. That we haven’t been truly successful in Afghanistan, and will be less so in Iraq. That we have serious problems at home we should be focusing on. She was followed by another woman calling herself Queen Zinia, who talked about her grandkids and her worries for their future if we continue a campaign of aggression. Queen Zinia equated the US actions with the actions of a school yard bully, and that someday, even the smallest, weakest country is going to get tired of being pushed around, and will fight back.

Following the two women (who, in my opinion, stole the show) was a quiet, older black man who asked the audience if they remembered Vietnam. There were only a few of us who could nod. He then talked about how he has fought against war since that time, and he’ll continue to fight against wars we can’t hope to win. He talked about how he’s tired of sending our people to other countries to die, and for no good reason. His quiet dignity spoke louder than all of the slogan filled hyperbole of most of the other speakers.

even the dog was unhappy(I wonder what he thought of the kid that advocated violence and celebrated all of those soldiers getting killed in Vietnam?)

The Green Party candidate, Daniel Romano was there, and talked about the debate last week, which he seemed to think he won. He was definitely more in place and outspoken in this venue, but as with so many of the other speakers, his focus was all over the board — anti-imperialism, bombs in Afghanistan, divesture in Israel, down with all forms of capitalism, and so on. I am extremely curious, now, as to what other Green Party candidates are like.

What I particularly disliked about the rally is that I felt most of the speakers could really care less about the Iraqi people. Or the American people for that matter. Each was caught up in a cause. And while I believe that most people who attended the rally did so because they are genuinely concerned about the war, too many of the organizers had too many other agendas to push.

The issue of a war with Iraq was diffused and confused and ultimately lost.

I ended up coming away, cold and saddened. I expected at the very least a group hug to warm me, and all I got was hot air instead.