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Beyond Same-Sex Marriage
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Local Calls for an End to the War
M any of the citizens in the audience were restless at a city commission meeting in Kalamazoo, Michigan this Spring. They wanted to speak in favor of a resolution that urged the president and the Michigan congressional representatives to end the war in Iraq and bring the troops home.
The resolution had been proposed by peace activists organized through the Kalamazoo Nonviolent Opponents to War (KNOW). It was the group’s latest action over the past three-and-a-half years. KNOW had been to the commission before and won approval for resolutions to prevent the war (October 2002) and for assurances over non-cooperation with the USA PATRIOT Act (October 2003).
The impetus for the resolution came from Cities for Progress (www.citiesforprogress.org) that advocates an end to the war by “unit[ing] cities and people of many political ideologies, all of which are adversely affected in some way.” CFP is a project of the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, DC that has been building a network of locallyelected officials and communitybased activists working together for social change at the local, national, and global levels on issues that affect people in their communities. In 2003 CFP managed to get 165 cities to oppose the impending war in Iraq.
The pro-war response to the peace activists’ latest effort was to question the local government’s role in national policymaking. What is most revealing in these pro-war responses is the way political loyalty and self-interest supercedes any recognition of the reasons for going to war, the cost of the war, or America’s declining reputation in the world.
“The city matters, not national politics,” said one person at the city commission meeting. “Do the job you were hired to do,” said a defeated commission hopeful who questioned the commissioners’ expertise “to make policy decisions on foreign affairs” and then complained that citizens had not been polled on this issue. Voting for the resolution would only advance commissioners’ personal opinions about the war, he argued, and this would set a dangerous precedent if other groups approach the commission on other national issues like gay marriage, immigration, and abortion.
A few other people objected to the resolution through letters to the local newspaper. One suburban reader said that officials elected for the nonpartisan city commission had campaigned for office “on local issue platforms and their views on national issues are not part of voters’ decision-making process.”
The newspaper also editorialized that, like previous resolutions proposed by local peace groups, these anti-war, anti-Administration resolutions were a “waste of the city’s time,” especially when commissioners were only able to pass “tepid resolutions that stood for very little.” Instead, the editorial advised commissioners to “buttonhole their congressperson” and speak for themselves and not for the city on “what should be done in the Middle East.”
F or their part, dozens of peace activists showed up at all three commission meetings to plead their case for the resolution. They talked about the cost of the war taking money away from local governments that were already strapped with budget cuts for reduced service and infrastructure programs. They cited CostofWar.com estimates that $44 million was lost to the city of Kalamazoo alone out of the nearly $300 billion already spent on the war.
“Everyone has a part in what happens in the United States and we must speak to the federal government,” said one pacifist. “We have a collective voice as a city commission to speak about our serious local needs like housing, recreation, youth development.” Local citizens have died as soldiers, said another person. That makes the war a local issue.
A Vietnam vet spoke about how difficult it is for military people to speak out against the war. Even generals, like four-star General Shinseki, lost his job for speaking out against plans for war. “It’s hard for politicians to say they are wrong,” said the vet, “and it’s hard to call for troops to return because they are afraid of ‘cutting and running’ and being blamed for what’s going on. So it behooves citizens to give politicians some backbone by telling them what we think. What would have happened in Vietnam in 1968 if [Secretary of Defense] McNamara had admitted the war was unwinnable? We had already lost 25,000. He said nothing and 30,000 more lives were lost and three million Vietnamese were killed.”
“Children need good examples,” said a parent. “Through this war we are teaching them violence, hate, and lies. We need to teach them the right thing. [Commissioners] are responsible to the children of the city.” Another person said, “The easiest thing in the world is to pass the buck. Democracy begins at the bottom, from the grassroots.”
When it came time for the commissioners’ response, one said he objected to peace activists taking a “You’re either with us or against us” position—a curious charge since that was the same argument President Bush used to set the tone for the post-9/11 era. Another stated that the city had precedents for making resolutions on state and national issues and that maybe the resolution could be supported with more compromising wording. Still another said that while she opposed the war, “it’s not our place” to influence national issues.
The vice mayor, who has a brother in Baghdad, admitted to being torn by his role as a commissioner and a family member. “We need to encourage our government to have an exit strategy,” he said. “We also need to address how we’re going to redirect federal funds into communities to help communities be successful.”
Another commissioner, who is a peace and social justice advocate remonstrated against the commissioners’ objections, saying, “Kalamazoo doesn’t exist in a vacuum.” He pointed out that just that night the commission had recognized the efforts of Earth Day organizers who contend that human activity at all levels is destroying the environment and affecting all of the world’s people. Furthermore, the global marketplace has caused thousands of people in the Kalamazoo community to lose their jobs after five paper plants, a national bank, a pharmaceutical company, and one auto plant either closed or moved away.
“Iraq deeply affects people in this community,” he continued, “and we must take a stand on it—and the financial burden it puts on us…. All that is required for the triumph of evil is silence. Our house is on fire and we need to speak out.”
K aren Dolan, of Cities for Progress, says that the Kalamazoo city commission experience is typical of the grassroots debate that has been going on since before the war began. Yet, she was excited about the result. “I think it is a very productive and healthy approach to civic participation,” said Dolan. “Typically, citizens feel there is no civic avenue receptive to them other than their city council. The U.S. generally has a very well educated citizenry that understands that we live in a global society in which a war ‘over there’ has direct impacts—in both human and monetary costs—on our own communities and that democracy demands our participation. I think the courage and civic engagement of the citizens and commissioners of Kalamazoo are to be applauded as the kind of patriotism that makes Kalamazoo, the U.S., and the world more decent.”
On June 6, 2006, Kalamazoo joined 100 other U.S. cities by signing the resolution.
Olga Bonfiglio is a professor of education at Kalamazoo College and the author of Heroes of a Different Stripe: How One Town Responded to the War in Iraq.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: email@example.com; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; email@example.com; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
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LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
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VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; email@example.com http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
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MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
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SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; firstname.lastname@example.org.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; email@example.com; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; email@example.com; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.