Searching for Our Untapped Sources of Power
Searching for Our Untapped Sources of Power
March 19, 2003
You’ve called your Senators and your Representatives.
Or perhaps you have called the White House (possibly many times).
You have signed petitions.
Or you have stood with groups of your neighbors on a bridge, at city hall, or on your town green, holding up a sign saying NO WAR ON IRAQ.
Perhaps you have taken your children with you to hold candles in the dark, thinking, “if it comes to war at least maybe they will feel as though they did something for peace.”
Maybe you have stared at pictures of the children of Iraq and their tired parents. You have allowed yourself to imagine what it will look like – what it will sound and feel like – when cruise missiles slam into Baghdad.
You’ve thought about young American soldiers and worried that they will come home wounded, with mysterious illnesses, or not at all.
You’ve looked ahead at the cycles of violence and retribution you believe an invasion of Iraq could unleash.
You’ve tried to focus your empathy and your fear on doing something, so that it does not overwhelm your defenses.
Maybe you’ve tried some of these things, or maybe you have felt so disillusioned by the untruths and so silenced by the corruption of politics that you have remained a quiet observer.
Whatever your efforts, whatever mine, today we see that the runaway train of the invasion of Iraq has finally pulled ahead of us. From now on, when we call or phone or march or pray we will not be trying to prevent bombing and killing, we will be pleading for it to stop.
My voice feels hoarse already; hoarse from shouting into the phone lines of democracy that are so badly damaged that my shouting is muted to a tiny whisper. Still this war is wrong and dangerous, and for me and everyone I have spoken with today it does not feel right to go on with business as usual. We are not yet ready to declare ourselves powerless.
So what now? What more can we do?
I don’t have the answer; there is no one answer. There are as many answers as there are people to ask the question. Still, this feels like a moment for new thinking, a moment to take stock of the power that we do have.
First, maybe we need to find a new place to carry our homemade signs and our little white candles. If the phone lines of our democracy are more or less out of order, then maybe we should focus some of our attention on places that do have a live connection to the Republican administration.
Where are these places with open lines to the Whitehouse and to Congress?
I am no expert, but one good place to look for an answer is The Center for Responsive Politics, a non-partisan, non-profit research group based in Washington, D.C. that tracks money in politics. In particular we should all study the data they provide (http://www.opensecrets.org/) on the top 100 campaign contributors of the past 10 years, both Democrat and Republican. If you focus on the top funders of Republicans in the past few years you will see some well known organizations that depend on us as consumers, as neighbors, and as stockholders.
Take a look at this website for yourself, but here’s a few of the notable names, to give you a flavor of the list: Phillip Morris, United Parcel Service, FedEX, RJR Nabisco, Chevron, Pfizer, Amway. You get the picture.
Maybe it is time to send these giants a message. “You helped put this administration in power. They are doing damage. We hold you responsible for that damage. We will hold our vigils in front of your plants and corporate offices. We will not buy your products. We will do this until you restrain what you helped to create.”
I don’t know how to organize a corporate campaign like this. But it can be done; it has been done for other issues, and now, today, would be a perfect time to look to the veterans of these campaigns for guidance. Let’s find ways to say “No” to war in Iraq where the message might actually be heard and transmitted.
And we don’t only have to say “No”. Goodness knows, now is a time to say no and say it loudly. But I am also aching to say yes to something, and I think that there are plenty of ways to do that.
Start with what you believe about the real causes of war with Iraq.
Do you think it is about oil? Then say “Yes” to the alternatives to dependence upon oil Say so loudly and proudly and in community with others. Carpool to work and put a sign in your car window – Carpooling for Peace. Learn to cook with a solar oven. Invest in photo-voltaics or a hybrid-electric car. Explain your actions and the connections between them and the children of Iraq as clearly and publicly as you can. Say “Yes” to solar power and wind power and bicycle power even while you say “No” to the pain and waste and unintended consequences of war.
Do you think the war is driven by American imperialism, by a need to control scarce resources by force for the good of a few who have bought control of our democracy? Then say yes to the alternatives – invest your own life energy into something besides the huge flows of capital that enrich that elite. Buy from a local farm, start a local currency, disengage from the corporate media. Say yes to what you want, and explain to anyone who asks about your odd choices how they are your response to the suffering created by the current system.
We have powers that we have not yet tapped.
Certainly we have the power to direct our message of “no war” to the giant companies that brought George Bush to the presidency. Maybe we can say so loudly enough to be heard. Certainly we have the power to say “Yes” to renewable energy and local economics and happiness that comes from something beyond consumption. Maybe we can say “Yes” loudly enough to create the beginnings of a system less vulnerable to the pressures that have corrupted our democracy to the point where our “leaders” violate international law and the interests of the citizens.
And we have a third kind of power under no control but our own. We have the power to recognize that, if it is hatred and fear and narrow minded self-interest that are launching bombs on innocents today in Iraq, then each of us can commit to embracing their opposites — love, faith in goodness, and compassion for the whole of humanity. We can avoid the temptation to hate the men who have ordered this war even as we work to make them stop. And we can practice love, compassion, and faith in goodness in every conversation we have with every relative, neighbor, acquaintance and stranger who has a different opinion about the war than our own.